Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, In A Two-Story White House, North.
SHOWING THAT SLAVERY'S SHADOWS FALL EVEN THERE.
by "OUR NIG."
Dedicated to Pauline Augusta Coleman Gates and Henry Louis Gates, Sr.
In Memory of Marguerite Elizabeth Howard Coleman, and Gertrude Helen Redman Gates
"I know That care has iron crowns for many brows; That Calvaries are everywhere, whereon Virtue is crucified, and nails and spears Draw guiltless blood; that sorrow sits and drinks At sweetest hearts, till all their life is dry; That gentle spirits on the rack of pain Grow faint or fierce, and pray and curse by turns; That hell's temptations, clad in heavenly guise And armed with might, lie evermore in wait Along life's path, giving assault to all."—HOLLAND.
IN offering to the public the following pages, the writer confesses her inability to minister to the refined and culti- vated, the pleasure supplied by abler pens. It is not for such these crude narrations appear. Deserted by kindred, disabled by failing health, I am forced to some experiment which shall aid me in maintaining myself and child with- out extinguishing this feeble life. I would not from these motives even palliate slavery at the South, by disclosures of its appurtenances North. My mistress was wholly imbued with SOUTHERN principles. I do not pretend to divulge every transaction in my own life, which the unprejudiced would declare unfavorable in comparison with treatment of legal bondmen; I have purposely omitted what would most provoke shame in our good anti-slavery friends at home.
My humble position and frank confession of errors will, I hope, shield me from severe criticism. Indeed, defects are so apparent it requires no skilful hand to expose them.
I sincerely appeal to my colored brethren universally for patronage, hoping they will not condemn this attempt of their sister to be erudite, but rally around me a faithful band of supporters and defenders.
H. E. W.
MAG SMITH, MY MOTHER.
Oh, Grief beyond all other griefs, when fate First leaves the young heart lone and desolate In the wide world, without that only tie For which it loved to live or feared to die; Lorn as the hung-up lute, that ne'er hath spoken Since the sad day its master-chord was broken!
LONELY MAG SMITH! See her as she walks with downcast eyes and heavy heart. It was not always thus. She HAD a loving, trusting heart. Early deprived of parental guardianship, far removed from relatives, she was left to guide her tiny boat over life's surges alone and inexperi- enced. As she merged into womanhood, unpro- tected, uncherished, uncared for, there fell on her ear the music of love, awakening an intensity of emotion long dormant. It whispered of an ele- vation before unaspired to; of ease and plenty her simple heart had never dreamed of as hers. She knew the voice of her charmer, so ravishing, sounded far above her. It seemed like an an- gel's, alluring her upward and onward. She thought she could ascend to him and become an equal. She surrendered to him a priceless gem, which he proudly garnered as a trophy, with those of other victims, and left her to her fate. The world seemed full of hateful deceivers and crushing arrogance. Conscious that the great bond of union to her former companions was sev- ered, that the disdain of others would be insup- portable, she determined to leave the few friends she possessed, and seek an asylum among strangers. Her offspring came unwelcomed, and before its nativity numbered weeks, it passed from earth, ascending to a purer and better life.
"God be thanked," ejaculated Mag, as she saw its breathing cease; "no one can taunt HER with my ruin."
Blessed release! may we all respond. How many pure, innocent children not only inherit a wicked heart of their own, claiming life-long scrutiny and restraint, but are heirs also of pa- rental disgrace and calumny, from which only long years of patient endurance in paths of recti- tude can disencumber them.
Mag's new home was soon contaminated by the publicity of her fall; she had a feeling of degradation oppressing her; but she resolved to be circumspect, and try to regain in a measure what she had lost. Then some foul tongue would jest of her shame, and averted looks and cold greetings disheartened her. She saw she could not bury in forgetfulness her misdeed, so she resolved to leave her home and seek another in the place she at first fled from.
Alas, how fearful are we to be first in extend- ing a helping hand to those who stagger in the mires of infamy; to speak the first words of hope and warning to those emerging into the sunlight of morality! Who can tell what numbers, ad- vancing just far enough to hear a cold welcome and join in the reserved converse of professed reformers, disappointed, disheartened, have cho- sen to dwell in unclean places, rather than en- counter these "holier-than-thou" of the great brotherhood of man!
Such was Mag's experience; and disdaining to ask favor or friendship from a sneering world, she resolved to shut herself up in a hovel she had often passed in better days, and which she knew to be untenanted. She vowed to ask no favors of familiar faces; to die neglected and for- gotten before she would be dependent on any. Removed from the village, she was seldom seen except as upon your introduction, gentle reader, with downcast visage, returning her work to her employer, and thus providing herself with the means of subsistence. In two years many hands craved the same avocation; foreigners who cheapened toil and clamored for a livelihood, competed with her, and she could not thus sus- tain herself. She was now above no drudgery. Occasionally old acquaintances called to be fa- vored with help of some kind, which she was glad to bestow for the sake of the money it would bring her; but the association with them was such a painful reminder of by-gones, she re- turned to her hut morose and revengeful, re- fusing all offers of a better home than she pos- sessed. Thus she lived for years, hugging her wrongs, but making no effort to escape. She had never known plenty, scarcely competency; but the present was beyond comparison with those innocent years when the coronet of virtue was hers.
Every year her melancholy increased, her means diminished. At last no one seemed to notice her, save a kind-hearted African, who often called to inquire after her health and to see if she needed any fuel, he having the responsibility of furnishing that article, and she in return mend- ing or making garments.
"How much you earn dis week, Mag?" asked he one Saturday evening.
"Little enough, Jim. Two or three days with- out any dinner. I washed for the Reeds, and did a small job for Mrs. Bellmont; that's all. I shall starve soon, unless I can get more to do. Folks seem as afraid to come here as if they expected to get some awful disease. I don't believe there is a person in the world but would be glad to have me dead and out of the way."
"No, no, Mag! don't talk so. You shan't starve so long as I have barrels to hoop. Peter Greene boards me cheap. I'll help you, if nobody else will."
A tear stood in Mag's faded eye. "I'm glad," she said, with a softer tone than before, "if there is ONE who isn't glad to see me suffer. I b'lieve all Singleton wants to see me punished, and feel as if they could tell when I've been punished long enough. It's a long day ahead they'll set it, I reckon."
After the usual supply of fuel was prepared, Jim returned home. Full of pity for Mag, he set about devising measures for her relief. "By golly!" said he to himself one day—for he had become so absorbed in Mag's interest that he had fallen into a habit of musing aloud—"By golly! I wish she'd MARRY me."
"Who?" shouted Pete Greene, suddenly start- ing from an unobserved corner of the rude shop.
"Where you come from, you sly nigger!" ex- claimed Jim.
"Come, tell me, who is't?" said Pete; "Mag Smith, you want to marry?"
"Git out, Pete! and when you come in dis shop again, let a nigger know it. Don't steal in like a thief."
Pity and love know little severance. One attends the other. Jim acknowledged the pres- ence of the former, and his efforts in Mag's behalf told also of a finer principle.
This sudden expedient which he had uninten- tionally disclosed, roused his thinking and invent- ive powers to study upon the best method of introducing the subject to Mag.
He belted his barrels, with many a scheme re- volving in his mind, none of which quite satisfied him, or seemed, on the whole, expedient. He thought of the pleasing contrast between her fair face and his own dark skin; the smooth, straight hair, which he had once, in expression of pity, kindly stroked on her now wrinkled but once fair brow. There was a tempest gathering in his heart, and at last, to ease his pent-up passion, he exclaimed aloud, "By golly!" Recollecting his former exposure, he glanced around to see if Pete was in hearing again. Satisfied on this point, he continued: "She'd be as much of a prize to me as she'd fall short of coming up to the mark with white folks. I don't care for past things. I've done things 'fore now I's 'shamed of. She's good enough for me, any how."
One more glance about the premises to be sure Pete was away.
The next Saturday night brought Jim to the hovel again. The cold was fast coming to tarry its apportioned time. Mag was nearly despairing of meeting its rigor.
"How's the wood, Mag?" asked Jim.
"All gone; and no more to cut, any how," was the reply.
"Too bad!" Jim said. His truthful reply would have been, I'm glad.
"Anything to eat in the house?" continued he.
"No," replied Mag.
"Too bad!" again, orally, with the same INWARD gratulation as before.
"Well, Mag," said Jim, after a short pause, "you's down low enough. I don't see but I've got to take care of ye. 'Sposin' we marry!"
Mag raised her eyes, full of amazement, and uttered a sonorous "What?"
Jim felt abashed for a moment. He knew well what were her objections.
"You's had trial of white folks any how. They run off and left ye, and now none of 'em come near ye to see if you's dead or alive. I's black outside, I know, but I's got a white heart inside. Which you rather have, a black heart in a white skin, or a white heart in a black one?"
"Oh, dear!" sighed Mag; "Nobody on earth cares for ME—"
"I do," interrupted Jim.
"I can do but two things," said she, "beg my living, or get it from you."
"Take me, Mag. I can give you a better home than this, and not let you suffer so."
He prevailed; they married. You can philos- ophize, gentle reader, upon the impropriety of such unions, and preach dozens of sermons on the evils of amalgamation. Want is a more power- ful philosopher and preacher. Poor Mag. She has sundered another bond which held her to her fellows. She has descended another step down the ladder of infamy.
MY FATHER'S DEATH.
Misery! we have known each other, Like a sister and a brother, Living in the same lone home Many years—we must live some Hours or ages yet to come. SHELLEY.
JIM, proud of his treasure,—a white wife,— tried hard to fulfil his promises; and furnished her with a more comfortable dwelling, diet, and apparel. It was comparatively a comfortable winter she passed after her marriage. When Jim could work, all went on well. Industrious, and fond of Mag, he was determined she should not regret her union to him. Time levied an additional charge upon him, in the form of two pretty mulattos, whose infantile pranks amply repaid the additional toil. A few years, and a severe cough and pain in his side compelled him to be an idler for weeks together, and Mag had thus a reminder of by-gones. She cared for him only as a means to subserve her own comfort; yet she nursed him faithfully and true to mar- riage vows till death released her. He became the victim of consumption. He loved Mag to the last. So long as life continued, he stifled his sensibility to pain, and toiled for her sustenance long after he was able to do so.
A few expressive wishes for her welfare; a hope of better days for her; an anxiety lest they should not all go to the "good place;" brief advice about their children; a hope ex- pressed that Mag would not be neglected as she used to be; the manifestation of Christian pa- tience; these were ALL the legacy of miserable Mag. A feeling of cold desolation came over her, as she turned from the grave of one who had been truly faithful to her.
She was now expelled from companionship with white people; this last step—her union with a black—was the climax of repulsion.
Seth Shipley, a partner in Jim's business, wished her to remain in her present home; but she declined, and returned to her hovel again, with obstacles threefold more insurmountable than before. Seth accompanied her, giving her a weekly allowance which furnished most of the food necessary for the four inmates. After a time, work failed; their means were reduced.
How Mag toiled and suffered, yielding to fits of desperation, bursts of anger, and uttering curses too fearful to repeat. When both were supplied with work, they prospered; if idle, they were hungry together. In this way their inter- ests became united; they planned for the future together. Mag had lived an outcast for years. She had ceased to feel the gushings of peni- tence; she had crushed the sharp agonies of an awakened conscience. She had no longings for a purer heart, a better life. Far easier to descend lower. She entered the darkness of perpetual infamy. She asked not the rite of civilization or Christianity. Her will made her the wife of Seth. Soon followed scenes familiar and trying.
"It's no use," said Seth one day; "we must give the children away, and try to get work in some other place."
"Who'll take the black devils?" snarled Mag.
"They're none of mine," said Seth; "what you growling about?"
"Nobody will want any thing of mine, or yours either," she replied.
"We'll make 'em, p'r'aps," he said. "There's Frado's six years old, and pretty, if she is yours, and white folks'll say so. She'd be a prize somewhere," he continued, tipping his chair back against the wall, and placing his feet upon the rounds, as if he had much more to say when in the right position.
Frado, as they called one of Mag's children, was a beautiful mulatto, with long, curly black hair, and handsome, roguish eyes, sparkling with an exuberance of spirit almost beyond restraint.
Hearing her name mentioned, she looked up from her play, to see what Seth had to say of her.
"Wouldn't the Bellmonts take her?" asked Seth.
"Bellmonts?" shouted Mag. "His wife is a right she-devil! and if—"
"Hadn't they better be all together?" inter- rupted Seth, reminding her of a like epithet used in reference to her little ones.
Without seeming to notice him, she continued, "She can't keep a girl in the house over a week; and Mr. Bellmont wants to hire a boy to work for him, but he can't find one that will live in the house with her; she's so ugly, they can't."
"Well, we've got to make a move soon," answered Seth; "if you go with me, we shall go right off. Had you rather spare the other one?" asked Seth, after a short pause.
"One's as bad as t'other," replied Mag. "Frado is such a wild, frolicky thing, and means to do jest as she's a mind to; she won't go if she don't want to. I don't want to tell her she is to be given away."
"I will," said Seth. "Come here, Frado?"
The child seemed to have some dim fore- shadowing of evil, and declined.
"Come here," he continued; "I want to tell you something."
She came reluctantly. He took her hand and said: "We're going to move, by-'m-bye; will you go?"
"No!" screamed she; and giving a sudden jerk which destroyed Seth's equilibrium, left him sprawling on the floor, while she escaped through the open door.
"She's a hard one," said Seth, brushing his patched coat sleeve. "I'd risk her at Bell- mont's."
They discussed the expediency of a speedy departure. Seth would first seek employment, and then return for Mag. They would take with them what they could carry, and leave the rest with Pete Greene, and come for them when they were wanted. They were long in arrang- ing affairs satisfactorily, and were not a little startled at the close of their conference to find Frado missing. They thought approaching night would bring her. Twilight passed into dark- ness, and she did not come. They thought she had understood their plans, and had, perhaps, permanently withdrawn. They could not rest without making some effort to ascertain her retreat. Seth went in pursuit, and returned without her. They rallied others when they dis- covered that another little colored girl was miss- ing, a favorite playmate of Frado's. All effort proved unavailing. Mag felt sure her fears were realized, and that she might never see her again. Before her anxieties became realities, both were safely returned, and from them and their attendant they learned that they went to walk, and not minding the direction soon found themselves lost. They had climbed fences and walls, passed through thickets and marshes, and when night approached selected a thick cluster of shrubbery as a covert for the night. They were discovered by the person who now restored them, chatting of their prospects, Frado attempt- ing to banish the childish fears of her com- panion. As they were some miles from home, they were kindly cared for until morning. Mag was relieved to know her child was not driven to desperation by their intentions to relieve themselves of her, and she was inclined to think severe restraint would be healthful.
The removal was all arranged; the few days necessary for such migrations passed quickly, and one bright summer morning they bade fare- well to their Singleton hovel, and with budgets and bundles commenced their weary march. As they neared the village, they heard the merry shouts of children gathered around the schoolroom, awaiting the coming of their teacher.
"Halloo!" screamed one, "Black, white and yeller!" "Black, white and yeller," echoed a dozen voices.
It did not grate so harshly on poor Mag as once it would. She did not even turn her head to look at them. She had passed into an insen- sibility no childish taunt could penetrate, else she would have reproached herself as she passed familiar scenes, for extending the separation once so easily annihilated by steadfast integrity. Two miles beyond lived the Bellmonts, in a large, old fashioned, two-story white house, en- vironed by fruitful acres, and embellished by shrubbery and shade trees. Years ago a youth- ful couple consecrated it as home; and after many little feet had worn paths to favorite fruit trees, and over its green hills, and mingled at last with brother man in the race which belongs neither to the swift or strong, the sire became grey-haired and decrepit, and went to his last repose. His aged consort soon followed him. The old homestead thus passed into the hands of a son, to whose wife Mag had applied the epithet "she-devil," as may be remembered. John, the son, had not in his family arrange- ments departed from the example of the father. The pastimes of his boyhood were ever freshly revived by witnessing the games of his own sons as they rallied about the same goal his youthful feet had often won; as well as by the amuse- ments of his daughters in their imitations of maternal duties.
At the time we introduce them, however, John is wearing the badge of age. Most of his children were from home; some seeking em- ployment; some were already settled in homes of their own. A maiden sister shared with him the estate on which he resided, and occupied a portion of the house.
Within sight of the house, Seth seated himself with his bundles and the child he had been lead- ing, while Mag walked onward to the house leading Frado. A knock at the door brought Mrs. Bellmont, and Mag asked if she would be willing to let that child stop there while she went to the Reed's house to wash, and when she came back she would call and get her. It seemed a novel request, but she consented. Why the impetuous child entered the house, we cannot tell; the door closed, and Mag hastily departed. Frado waited for the close of day, which was to bring back her mother. Alas! it never came. It was the last time she ever saw or heard of her mother.
A NEW HOME FOR ME.
Oh! did we but know of the shadows so nigh, The world would indeed be a prison of gloom; All light would be quenched in youth's eloquent eye, And the prayer-lisping infant would ask for the tomb.
For if Hope be a star that may lead us astray, And "deceiveth the heart," as the aged ones preach; Yet 'twas Mercy that gave it, to beacon our way, Though its halo illumes where it never can reach.
As the day closed and Mag did not appear, surmises were expressed by the family that she never intended to return. Mr. Bellmont was a kind, humane man, who would not grudge hospi- tality to the poorest wanderer, nor fail to sym- pathize with any sufferer, however humble. The child's desertion by her mother appealed to his sympathy, and he felt inclined to succor her. To do this in opposition to Mrs. Bellmont's wishes, would be like encountering a whirlwind charged with fire, daggers and spikes. She was not as susceptible of fine emotions as her spouse. Mag's opinion of her was not without founda- tion. She was self-willed, haughty, undisciplined, arbitrary and severe. In common parlance, she was a SCOLD, a thorough one. Mr. B. remained silent during the consultation which follows, engaged in by mother, Mary and John, or Jack, as he was familiarly called.
"Send her to the County House," said Mary, in reply to the query what should be done with her, in a tone which indicated self-importance in the speaker. She was indeed the idol of her mother, and more nearly resembled her in dis- position and manners than the others.
Jane, an invalid daughter, the eldest of those at home, was reclining on a sofa apparently un- interested.
"Keep her," said Jack. "She's real hand- some and bright, and not very black, either."
"Yes," rejoined Mary; "that's just like you, Jack. She'll be of no use at all these three years, right under foot all the time."
"Poh! Miss Mary; if she should stay, it wouldn't be two days before you would be telling the girls about OUR nig, OUR nig!" retorted Jack.
"I don't want a nigger 'round ME, do you, mother?" asked Mary.
"I don't mind the nigger in the child. I should like a dozen better than one," replied her mother. "If I could make her do my work in a few years, I would keep her. I have so much trouble with girls I hire, I am almost persuaded if I have one to train up in my way from a child, I shall be able to keep them awhile. I am tired of changing every few months."
"Where could she sleep?" asked Mary. "I don't want her near me."
"In the L chamber," answered the mother.
"How'll she get there?" asked Jack. "She'll be afraid to go through that dark passage, and she can't climb the ladder safely."
"She'll have to go there; it's good enough for a nigger," was the reply.
Jack was sent on horseback to ascertain if Mag was at her home. He returned with the testimony of Pete Greene that they were fairly departed, and that the child was intentionally thrust upon their family.
The imposition was not at all relished by Mrs. B., or the pert, haughty Mary, who had just glided into her teens.
"Show the child to bed, Jack," said his mother. "You seem most pleased with the little nigger, so you may introduce her to her room."
He went to the kitchen, and, taking Frado gently by the hand, told her he would put her in bed now; perhaps her mother would come the next night after her.
It was not yet quite dark, so they ascended the stairs without any light, passing through nicely furnished rooms, which were a source of great amazement to the child. He opened the door which connected with her room by a dark, unfinished passage-way. "Don't bump your head," said Jack, and stepped before to open the door leading into her apartment,—an unfin- ished chamber over the kitchen, the roof slant- ing nearly to the floor, so that the bed could stand only in the middle of the room. A small half window furnished light and air. Jack returned to the sitting room with the remark that the child would soon outgrow those quarters.
"When she DOES, she'll outgrow the house," remarked the mother.
"What can she do to help you?" asked Mary. "She came just in the right time, didn't she? Just the very day after Bridget left," continued she.
"I'll see what she can do in the morning," was the answer.
While this conversation was passing below, Frado lay, revolving in her little mind whether she would remain or not until her mother's return. She was of wilful, determined nature, a stranger to fear, and would not hesitate to wander away should she decide to. She remem- bered the conversation of her mother with Seth, the words "given away" which she heard used in reference to herself; and though she did not know their full import, she thought she should, by remaining, be in some relation to white people she was never favored with before. So she resolved to tarry, with the hope that mother would come and get her some time. The hot sun had penetrated her room, and it was long before a cooling breeze reduced the temperature so that she could sleep.
Frado was called early in the morning by her new mistress. Her first work was to feed the hens. She was shown how it was ALWAYS to be done, and in no other way; any departure from this rule to be punished by a whipping. She was then accompanied by Jack to drive the cows to pasture, so she might learn the way. Upon her return she was allowed to eat her breakfast, consisting of a bowl of skimmed milk, with brown bread crusts, which she was told to eat, standing, by the kitchen table, and must not be over ten minutes about it. Meanwhile the family were taking their morning meal in the dining-room. This over, she was placed on a cricket to wash the common dishes; she was to be in waiting always to bring wood and chips, to run hither and thither from room to room.
A large amount of dish-washing for small hands followed dinner. Then the same after tea and going after the cows finished her first day's work. It was a new discipline to the child. She found some attractions about the place, and she retired to rest at night more willing to remain. The same routine followed day after day, with slight variation; adding a little more work, and spicing the toil with "words that burn," and fre- quent blows on her head. These were great annoyances to Frado, and had she known where her mother was, she would have gone at once to her. She was often greatly wearied, and silently wept over her sad fate. At first she wept aloud, which Mrs. Bellmont noticed by applying a raw- hide, always at hand in the kitchen. It was a symptom of discontent and complaining which must be "nipped in the bud," she said.
Thus passed a year. No intelligence of Mag. It was now certain Frado was to become a per- manent member of the family. Her labors were multiplied; she was quite indispensable, although but seven years old. She had never learned to read, never heard of a school until her residence in the family.
Mrs. Bellmont was in doubt about the utility of attempting to educate people of color, who were incapable of elevation. This subject occa- sioned a lengthy discussion in the family. Mr. Bellmont, Jane and Jack arguing for Frado's education; Mary and her mother objecting. At last Mr. Bellmont declared decisively that she SHOULD go to school. He was a man who seldom decided controversies at home. The word once spoken admitted of no appeal; so, notwithstand- ing Mary's objection that she would have to attend the same school she did, the word became law.
It was to be a new scene to Frado, and Jack had many queries and conjectures to answer. He was himself too far advanced to attend the summer school, which Frado regretted, having had too many opportunities of witnessing Miss Mary's temper to feel safe in her company alone.
The opening day of school came. Frado sauntered on far in the rear of Mary, who was ashamed to be seen "walking with a nigger." As soon as she appeared, with scanty clothing and bared feet, the children assembled, noisily published her approach: "See that nigger," shouted one. "Look! look!" cried another. "I won't play with her," said one little girl. "Nor I neither," replied another.
Mary evidently relished these sharp attacks, and saw a fair prospect of lowering Nig where, according to her views, she belonged. Poor Frado, chagrined and grieved, felt that her an- ticipations of pleasure at such a place were far from being realized. She was just deciding to return home, and never come there again, when the teacher appeared, and observing the downcast looks of the child, took her by the hand, and led her into the school-room. All fol- lowed, and, after the bustle of securing seats was over, Miss Marsh inquired if the children knew "any cause for the sorrow of that little girl?" pointing to Frado. It was soon all told. She then reminded them of their duties to the poor and friendless; their cowardice in attack- ing a young innocent child; referred them to one who looks not on outward appearances, but on the heart. "She looks like a good girl; I think I shall love her, so lay aside all prejudice, and vie with each other in shewing kindness and good-will to one who seems different from you," were the closing remarks of the kind lady. Those kind words! The most agreeable sound which ever meets the ear of sorrowing, griev- ing childhood.
Example rendered her words efficacious. Day by day there was a manifest change of de- portment towards "Nig." Her speeches often drew merriment from the children; no one could do more to enliven their favorite pastimes than Frado. Mary could not endure to see her thus noticed, yet knew not how to prevent it. She could not influence her schoolmates as she wished. She had not gained their affections by winning ways and yielding points of con- troversy. On the contrary, she was self-willed, domineering; every day reported "mad" by some of her companions. She availed herself of the only alternative, abuse and taunts, as they returned from school. This was not satis- factory; she wanted to use physical force "to subdue her," to "keep her down."
There was, on their way home, a field inter- sected by a stream over which a single plank was placed for a crossing. It occurred to Ma- ry that it would be a punishment to Nig to compel her to cross over; so she dragged her to the edge, and told her authoritatively to go over. Nig hesitated, resisted. Mary placed herself behind the child, and, in the struggle to force her over, lost her footing and plunged into the stream. Some of the larger scholars being in sight, ran, and thus prevented Mary from drowning and Frado from falling. Nig scampered home fast as possible, and Mary went to the nearest house, dripping, to procure a change of garments. She came loitering home, half crying, exclaiming, "Nig pushed me into the stream!" She then related the particulars. Nig was called from the kitchen. Mary stood with anger flashing in her eyes. Mr. Bellmont sat quietly reading his paper. He had wit- nessed too many of Miss Mary's outbreaks to be startled. Mrs. Bellmont interrogated Nig.
"I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" answered Nig, passionately, and then related the occur- rence truthfully.
The discrepancy greatly enraged Mrs. Bell- mont. With loud accusations and angry ges- tures she approached the child. Turning to her husband, she asked,
"Will you sit still, there, and hear that black nigger call Mary a liar?"
"How do we know but she has told the truth? I shall not punish her," he re- plied, and left the house, as he usually did when a tempest threatened to envelop him. No sooner was he out of sight than Mrs. B. and Mary commenced beating her inhumanly; then propping her mouth open with a piece of wood, shut her up in a dark room, with- out any supper. For employment, while the tempest raged within, Mr. Bellmont went for the cows, a task belonging to Frado, and thus unintentionally prolonged her pain. At dark Jack came in, and seeing Mary, accosted her with, "So you thought you'd vent your spite on Nig, did you? Why can't you let her alone? It was good enough for you to get a ducking, only you did not stay in half long enough."
"Stop!" said his mother. "You shall never talk so before me. You would have that little nigger trample on Mary, would you? She came home with a lie; it made Mary's story false."
"What was Mary's story?" asked Jack.
It was related.
"Now," said Jack, sallying into a chair, "the school-children happened to see it all, and they tell the same story Nig does. Which is most likely to be true, what a dozen agree they saw, or the contrary?"
"It is very strange you will believe what others say against your sister," retorted his mother, with flashing eye. "I think it is time your father subdued you."
"Father is a sensible man," argued Jack. "He would not wrong a dog. Where IS Frado?" he continued.
"Mother gave her a good whipping and shut her up," replied Mary.
Just then Mr. Bellmont entered, and asked if Frado was "shut up yet."
The knowledge of her innocence, the perfidy of his sister, worked fearfully on Jack. He bounded from his chair, searched every room till he found the child; her mouth wedged apart, her face swollen, and full of pain.
How Jack pitied her! He relieved her jaws, brought her some supper, took her to her room, comforted her as well as he knew how, sat by her till she fell asleep, and then left for the sitting room. As he passed his mother, he remarked, "If that was the way Frado was to be treated, he hoped she would never wake again!" He then imparted her situation to his father, who seemed untouched, till a glance at Jack exposed a tear- ful eye. Jack went early to her next morning. She awoke sad, but refreshed. After breakfast Jack took her with him to the field, and kept her through the day. But it could not be so generally. She must return to school, to her household duties. He resolved to do what he could to protect her from Mary and his mother. He bought her a dog, which became a great favorite with both. The invalid, Jane, would gladly befriend her; but she had not the strength to brave the iron will of her mother. Kind words and affectionate glances were the only expressions of sympathy she could safely indulge in. The men employed on the farm were always glad to hear her prattle; she was a great favorite with them. Mrs. Bellmont al- lowed them the privilege of talking with her in the kitchen. She did not fear but she should have ample opportunity of subduing her when they were away. Three months of schooling, summer and winter, she enjoyed for three years. Her winter over-dress was a cast-off overcoat, once worn by Jack, and a sun-bonnet. It was a source of great merriment to the scholars, but Nig's retorts were so mirthful, and their satisfac- tion so evident in attributing the selection to "Old Granny Bellmont," that it was not painful to Nig or pleasurable to Mary. Her jollity was not to be quenched by whipping or scolding. In Mrs. Bellmont's presence she was under re- straint; but in the kitchen, and among her schoolmates, the pent up fires burst forth. She was ever at some sly prank when unseen by her teacher, in school hours; not unfrequently some outburst of merriment, of which she was the original, was charged upon some innocent mate, and punishment inflicted which she merited. They enjoyed her antics so fully that any of them would suffer wrongfully to keep open the avenues of mirth. She would venture far be- yond propriety, thus shielded and countenanced.
The teacher's desk was supplied with drawers, in which were stored his books and other et ceteras of the profession. The children observed Nig very busy there one morning before school, as they flitted in occasionally from their play outside. The master came; called the children to order; opened a drawer to take the book the occasion required; when out poured a volume of smoke. "Fire! fire!" screamed he, at the top of his voice. By this time he had become suf- ficiently acquainted with the peculiar odor, to know he was imposed upon. The scholars shouted with laughter to see the terror of the dupe, who, feeling abashed at the needless fright, made no very strict investigation, and Nig once more escaped punishment. She had provided herself with cigars, and puffing, puffing away at the crack of the drawer, had filled it with smoke, and then closed it tightly to deceive the teacher, and amuse the scholars. The interim of terms was filled up with a variety of duties new and peculiar. At home, no matter how powerful the heat when sent to rake hay or guard the grazing herd, she was never permitted to shield her skin from the sun. She was not many shades darker than Mary now; what a calamity it would be ever to hear the contrast spoken of. Mrs. Bellmont was determined the sun should have full power to darken the shade which nature had first bestowed upon her as best befitting.
A FRIEND FOR NIG.
"Hours of my youth! when nurtured in my breast, To love a stranger, friendship made me blest:— Friendship, the dear peculiar bond of youth, When every artless bosom throbs with truth; Untaught by worldly wisdom how to feign; And check each impulse with prudential reign; When all we feel our honest souls disclose— In love to friends, in open hate to foes; No varnished tales the lips of youth repeat, No dear-bought knowledge purchased by deceit." BYRON.
WITH what differing emotions have the deni- zens of earth awaited the approach of to-day. Some sufferer has counted the vibrations of the pendulum impatient for its dawn, who, now that it has arrived, is anxious for its close. The vo- tary of pleasure, conscious of yesterday's void, wishes for power to arrest time's haste till a few more hours of mirth shall be enjoyed. The un- fortunate are yet gazing in vain for golden- edged clouds they fancied would appear in their horizon. The good man feels that he has accom- plished too little for the Master, and sighs that another day must so soon close. Innocent child- hood, weary of its stay, longs for another mor- row; busy manhood cries, hold! hold! and pur- sues it to another's dawn. All are dissatisfied. All crave some good not yet possessed, which time is expected to bring with all its morrows.
Was it strange that, to a disconsolate child, three years should seem a long, long time? During school time she had rest from Mrs. Bell- mont's tyranny. She was now nine years old; time, her mistress said, such privileges should cease.
She could now read and spell, and knew the elementary steps in grammar, arithmetic, and writing. Her education completed, as SHE said, Mrs. Bellmont felt that her time and person belonged solely to her. She was under her in every sense of the word. What an opportunity to indulge her vixen nature! No matter what occurred to ruffle her, or from what source provocation came, real or fancied, a few blows on Nig seemed to relieve her of a portion of ill-will.
These were days when Fido was the entire confidant of Frado. She told him her griefs as though he were human; and he sat so still, and listened so attentively, she really believed he knew her sorrows. All the leisure moments she could gain were used in teaching him some feat of dog-agility, so that Jack pronounced him very knowing, and was truly gratified to know he had furnished her with a gift answering his intentions.
Fido was the constant attendant of Frado, when sent from the house on errands, going and returning with the cows, out in the fields, to the village. If ever she forgot her hardships it was in his company.
Spring was now retiring. James, one of the absent sons, was expected home on a visit. He had never seen the last acquisition to the family. Jack had written faithfully of all the merits of his colored protege, and hinted plainly that mother did not always treat her just right. Many were the preparations to make the visit pleasant, and as the day approached when he was to arrive, great exertions were made to cook the favorite viands, to prepare the choicest table-fare.
The morning of the arrival day was a busy one. Frado knew not who would be of so much importance; her feet were speeding hither and thither so unsparingly. Mrs. Bellmont seemed a trifle fatigued, and her shoes which had, early in the morning, a methodic squeak, altered to an irregular, peevish snap.
"Get some little wood to make the fire burn," said Mrs. Bellmont, in a sharp tone. Frado obeyed, bringing the smallest she could find.
Mrs. Bellmont approached her, and, giving her a box on her ear, reiterated the command.
The first the child brought was the smallest to be found; of course, the second must be a trifle larger. She well knew it was, as she threw it into a box on the hearth. To Mrs. Bellmont it was a greater affront, as well as larger wood, so she "taught her" with the raw-hide, and sent her the third time for "little wood."
Nig, weeping, knew not what to do. She had carried the smallest; none left would suit her mistress; of course further punishment await- ed her; so she gathered up whatever came first, and threw it down on the hearth. As she ex- pected, Mrs. Bellmont, enraged, approached her, and kicked her so forcibly as to throw her upon the floor. Before she could rise, another foiled the attempt, and then followed kick after kick in quick succession and power, till she reached the door. Mr. Bellmont and Aunt Abby, hearing the noise, rushed in, just in time to see the last of the performance. Nig jumped up, and rushed from the house, out of sight.
Aunt Abby returned to her apartment, fol- lowed by John, who was muttering to himself.
"What were you saying?" asked Aunt Abby.
"I said I hoped the child never would come into the house again."
"What would become of her? You cannot mean THAT," continued his sister.
"I do mean it. The child does as much work as a woman ought to; and just see how she is kicked about!"
"Why do you have it so, John?" asked his sister.
"How am I to help it? Women rule the earth, and all in it."
"I think I should rule my own house, John,"—
"And live in hell meantime," added Mr. Bellmont.
John now sauntered out to the barn to await the quieting of the storm.
Aunt Abby had a glimpse of Nig as she passed out of the yard; but to arrest her, or shew her that SHE would shelter her, in Mrs. Bellmont's presence, would only bring reserved wrath on her defenceless head. Her sister-in- law had great prejudices against her. One cause of the alienation was that she did not give her right in the homestead to John, and leave it forever; another was that she was a professor of religion, (so was Mrs. Bellmont;) but Nab, as she called her, did not live accord- ing to her profession; another, that she WOULD sometimes give Nig cake and pie, which she was never allowed to have at home. Mary had often noticed and spoken of her inconsistencies.
The dinner hour passed. Frado had not ap- peared. Mrs. B. made no inquiry or search. Aunt Abby looked long, and found her con- cealed in an outbuilding. "Come into the house with me," implored Aunt Abby.
"I ain't going in any more," sobbed the child.
"What will you do?" asked Aunt Abby.
"I've got to stay out here and die. I ha'n't got no mother, no home. I wish I was dead."
"Poor thing," muttered Aunt Abby; and slyly providing her with some dinner, left her to her grief.
Jane went to confer with her Aunt about the affair; and learned from her the retreat. She would gladly have concealed her in her own chamber, and ministered to her wants; but she was dependent on Mary and her mother for care, and any displeasure caused by attention to Nig, was seriously felt.
Toward night the coach brought James. A time of general greeting, inquiries for absent members of the family, a visit to Aunt Abby's room, undoing a few delicacies for Jane, brought them to the tea hour.
"Where's Frado?" asked Mr. Bellmont, ob- serving she was not in her usual place, behind her mistress' chair.
"I don't know, and I don't care. If she makes her appearance again, I'll take the skin from her body," replied his wife.
James, a fine looking young man, with a pleasant countenance, placid, and yet decidedly serious, yet not stern, looked up confounded. He was no stranger to his mother's nature; but years of absence had erased the occurrences once so familiar, and he asked, "Is this that pretty little Nig, Jack writes to me about, that you are so severe upon, mother?"
"I'll not leave much of her beauty to be seen, if she comes in sight; and now, John," said Mrs. B., turning to her husband, "you need not think you are going to learn her to treat me in this way; just see how saucy she was this morning. She shall learn her place."
Mr. Bellmont raised his calm, determined eye full upon her, and said, in a decisive manner: "You shall not strike, or scald, or skin her, as you call it, if she comes back again. Remember!" and he brought his hand down upon the table. "I have searched an hour for her now, and she is not to be found on the premises. Do YOU know where she is? Is she YOUR prisoner?"
"No! I have just told you I did not know where she was. Nab has her hid somewhere, I suppose. Oh, dear! I did not think it would come to this; that my own husband would treat me so." Then came fast flowing tears, which no one but Mary seemed to notice. Jane crept into Aunt Abby's room; Mr. Bellmont and James went out of doors, and Mary remained to condole with her parent.
"Do you know where Frado is?" asked Jane of her aunt.
"No," she replied. "I have hunted every- where. She has left her first hiding-place. I cannot think what has become of her. There comes Jack and Fido; perhaps he knows;" and she walked to a window near, where James and his father were conversing together.
The two brothers exchanged a hearty greet- ing, and then Mr. Bellmont told Jack to eat his supper; afterward he wished to send him away. He immediately went in. Accustomed to all the phases of indoor storms, from a whine to thunder and lightning, he saw at a glance marks of disturbance. He had been absent through the day, with the hired men.
"What's the fuss?" asked he, rushing into Aunt Abby's.
"Eat your supper," said Jane; "go home, Jack."
Back again through the dining-room, and out to his father.
"What's the fuss?" again inquired he of his father.
"Eat your supper, Jack, and see if you can find Frado. She's not been seen since morning, and then she was kicked out of the house."
"I shan't eat my supper till I find her," said Jack, indignantly. "Come, James, and see the little creature mother treats so."
They started, calling, searching, coaxing, all their way along. No Frado. They returned to the house to consult. James and Jack declared they would not sleep till she was found.
Mrs. Bellmont attempted to dissuade them from the search. "It was a shame a little NIGGER should make so much trouble."
Just then Fido came running up, and Jack exclaimed, "Fido knows where she is, I'll bet."
"So I believe," said his father; "but we shall not be wiser unless we can outwit him. He will not do what his mistress forbids him."
"I know how to fix him," said Jack. Taking a plate from the table, which was still waiting, he called, "Fido! Fido! Frado wants some sup- per. Come!" Jack started, the dog followed, and soon capered on before, far, far into the fields, over walls and through fences, into a piece of swampy land. Jack followed close, and soon appeared to James, who was quite in the rear, coaxing and forcing Frado along with him.
A frail child, driven from shelter by the cru- elty of his mother, was an object of interest to James. They persuaded her to go home with them, warmed her by the kitchen fire, gave her a good supper, and took her with them into the sitting-room.
"Take that nigger out of my sight," was Mrs. Bellmont's command, before they could be seated.
James led her into Aunt Abby's, where he knew they were welcome. They chatted awhile until Frado seemed cheerful; then James led her to her room, and waited until she retired.
"Are you glad I've come home?" asked James.
"Yes; if you won't let me be whipped to- morrow."
"You won't be whipped. You must try to be a good girl," counselled James.
"If I do, I get whipped," sobbed the child. "They won't believe what I say. Oh, I wish I had my mother back; then I should not be kicked and whipped so. Who made me so?"
"God," answered James.
"Did God make you?"
"Who made Aunt Abby?"
"Who made your mother?"
"Did the same God that made her make me?"
"Well, then, I don't like him."
"Because he made her white, and me black. Why didn't he make us BOTH white?"
"I don't know; try to go to sleep, and you will feel better in the morning," was all the re- ply he could make to her knotty queries. It was a long time before she fell asleep; and a number of days before James felt in a mood to visit and entertain old associates and friends.
CHAPTER V. DEPARTURES.
Life is a strange avenue of various trees and flowers; Lightsome at commencement, but darkening to its end in a distant, massy portal. It beginneth as a little path, edged with the violet and primrose, A little path of lawny grass and soft to tiny feet. Soon, spring thistles in the way. TUPPER.
JAMES' visit concluded. Frado had become greatly attached to him, and with sorrow she listened and joined in the farewells which pre- ceded his exit. The remembrance of his kind- ness cheered her through many a weary month, and an occasional word to her in letters to Jack, were like "cold waters to a thirsty soul." In- telligence came that James would soon marry; Frado hoped he would, and remove her from such severe treatment as she was subject to. There had been additional burdens laid on her since his return. She must now MILK the cows, she had then only to drive. Flocks of sheep had been added to the farm, which daily claimed a portion of her time. In the absence of the men, she must harness the horse for Mary and her mother to ride, go to mill, in short, do the work of a boy, could one be procured to endure the tirades of Mrs. Bellmont. She was first up in the morning, doing what she could towards breakfast. Occasionally, she would utter some funny thing for Jack's benefit, while she was waiting on the table, provoking a sharp look from his mother, or expulsion from the room.
On one such occasion, they found her on the roof of the barn. Some repairs having been necessary, a staging had been erected, and was not wholly removed. Availing herself of lad- ders, she was mounted in high glee on the top- most board. Mr. Bellmont called sternly for her to come down; poor Jane nearly fainted from fear. Mrs. B. and Mary did not care if she "broke her neck," while Jack and the men laughed at her fearlessness. Strange, one spark of playfulness could remain amid such constant toil; but her natural temperament was in a high degree mirthful, and the encouragement she received from Jack and the hired men, con- stantly nurtured the inclination. When she had none of the family around to be merry with, she would amuse herself with the animals. Among the sheep was a willful leader, who al- ways persisted in being first served, and many times in his fury he had thrown down Nig, till, provoked, she resolved to punish him. The pas- ture in which the sheep grazed was founded on three sides by a wide stream, which flowed on one side at the base of precipitous banks. The first spare moments at her command, she ran to the pasture with a dish in her hand, and mount- ing the highest point of land nearest the stream, called the flock to their mock repast. Mr. Bell- mont, with his laborers, were in sight, though unseen by Frado. They paused to see what she was about to do. Should she by any mishap lose her footing, she must roll into the stream, and, without aid, must drown. They thought of shouting; but they feared an unexpected salute might startle her, and thus ensure what they were anxious to prevent. They watched in breathless silence. The willful sheep came furi- ously leaping and bounding far in advance of the flock. Just as he leaped for the dish, she suddenly jumped to one side, when down he rolled into the river, and swimming across, remained alone till night. The men lay down, convulsed with laughter at the trick, and guessed at once its object. Mr. Bellmont talked seriously to the child for exposing herself to such danger; but she hopped about on her toes, and with laugha- ble grimaces replied, she knew she was quick enough to "give him a slide."
But to return. James married a Baltimorean lady of wealthy parentage, an indispensable requisite, his mother had always taught him. He did not marry her wealth, though; he loved HER, sincerely. She was not unlike his sister Jane, who had a social, gentle, loving nature, rather TOO yielding, her brother thought. His Susan had a firmness which Jane needed to complete her character, but which her ill health may in a measure have failed to produce. Al- though an invalid, she was not excluded from society. Was it strange SHE should seem a desir- able companion, a treasure as a wife?
Two young men seemed desirous of possess- ing her. One was a neighbor, Henry Reed, a tall, spare young man, with sandy hair, and blue, sinister eyes. He seemed to appreciate her wants, and watch with interest her improvement or decay. His kindness she received, and by it was almost won. Her mother wished her to en- courage his attentions. She had counted the acres which were to be transmitted to an only son; she knew there was silver in the purse; she would not have Jane too sentimental.
The eagerness with which he amassed wealth, was repulsive to Jane; he did not spare his per- son or beasts in its pursuit. She felt that to such a man she should be considered an incum- brance; she doubted if he would desire her, if he did not know she would bring a handsome patrimony. Her mother, full in favor with the parents of Henry, commanded her to accept him. She engaged herself, yielding to her mother's wishes, because she had not strength to oppose them; and sometimes, when witness of her mother's and Mary's tyranny, she felt any change would be preferable, even such a one as this. She knew her husband should be the man of her own selecting, one she was conscious of preferring before all others. She could not say this of Henry.
In this dilemma, a visitor came to Aunt Abby's; one of her boy-favorites, George Means, from an adjoining State. Sensible, plain looking, agreeable, talented, he could not long be a stranger to any one who wished to know him. Jane was accustomed to sit much with Aunt Abby always; her presence now seemed neces- sary to assist in entertaining this youthful friend. Jane was more pleased with him each day, and silently wished Henry possessed more refinement, and the polished manners of George. She felt dissatisfied with her relation to him. His calls while George was there, brought their opposing qualities vividly before her, and she found it disagreeable to force herself into those atten- tions belonging to him. She received him ap- parently only as a neighbor.
George returned home, and Jane endeavored to stifle the risings of dissatisfaction, and had nearly succeeded, when a letter came which needed but one glance to assure her of its birth- place; and she retired for its perusal. Well was it for her that her mother's suspicion was not aroused, or her curiosity startled to inquire who it came from. After reading it, she glided into Aunt Abby's, and placed it in her hands, who was no stranger to Jane's trials.
George could not rest after his return, he wrote, until he had communicated to Jane the emotions her presence awakened, and his desire to love and possess her as his own. He begged to know if his affections were reciprocated, or could be; if she would permit him to write to her; if she was free from all obligation to another.
"What would mother say?" queried Jane, as she received the letter from her aunt.
"Not much to comfort you."
"Now, aunt, George is just such a man as I could really love, I think, from all I have seen of him; you know I never could say that of Henry"—
"Then don't marry him," interrupted Aunt Abby.
"Mother will make me."
"Your father won't."
"Well, aunt, what can I do? Would you answer the letter, or not?"
"Yes, answer it. Tell him your situation."
"I shall not tell him all my feelings."
Jane answered that she had enjoyed his com- pany much; she had seen nothing offensive in his manner or appearance; that she was under no obligations which forbade her receiving let- ters from him as a friend and acquaintance. George was puzzled by the reply. He wrote to Aunt Abby, and from her learned all. He could not see Jane thus sacrificed, without mak- ing an effort to rescue her. Another visit fol- lowed. George heard Jane say she preferred HIM. He then conferred with Henry at his home. It was not a pleasant subject to talk upon. To be thus supplanted, was not to be thought of. He would sacrifice everything but his inheritance to secure his betrothed.
"And so you are the cause of her late cold- ness towards me. Leave! I will talk no more about it; the business is settled between us; there it will remain," said Henry.
"Have you no wish to know the real state of Jane's affections towards you?" asked George.
"No! Go, I say! go!" and Henry opened the door for him to pass out.
He retired to Aunt Abby's. Henry soon fol- lowed, and presented his cause to Mrs. Bellmont.
Provoked, surprised, indignant, she summoned Jane to her presence, and after a lengthy tirade upon Nab, and her satanic influence, told her she could not break the bonds which held her to Henry; she should not. George Means was rightly named; he was, truly, mean enough; she knew his family of old; his father had four wives, and five times as many children.
"Go to your room, Miss Jane," she continued. "Don't let me know of your being in Nab's for one while."
The storm was now visible to all beholders. Mr. Bellmont sought Jane. She told him her ob- jections to Henry; showed him George's letter; told her answer, the occasion of his visit. He bade her not make herself sick; he would see that she was not compelled to violate her free choice in so important a transaction. He then sought the two young men; told them he could not as a father see his child compelled to an un- congenial union; a free, voluntary choice was of such importance to one of her health. She must be left free to her own choice.
Jane sent Henry a letter of dismission; he her one of a legal bearing, in which he balanced his disappointment by a few hundreds.
To brave her mother's fury, nearly overcame her, but the consolation of a kind father and aunt cheered her on. After a suitable interval she was married to George, and removed to his home in Vermont. Thus another light disap- peared from Nig's horizon. Another was soon to follow. Jack was anxious to try his skill in pro- viding for his own support; so a situation as clerk in a store was procured in a Western city, and six months after Jane's departure, was Nig abandoned to the tender mercies of Mary and her mother. As if to remove the last vestige of earthly joy, Mrs. Bellmont sold the companion and pet of Frado, the dog Fido.
"Hard are life's early steps; and but that youth is buoyant, con- fident, and strong in hope, men would behold its threshold and despair."
THE sorrow of Frado was very great for her pet, and Mr. Bellmont by great exertion obtained it again, much to the relief of the child. To be thus deprived of all her sources of pleasure was a sure way to exalt their worth, and Fido became, in her estimation, a more valuable presence than the human beings who surrounded her.
James had now been married a number of years, and frequent requests for a visit from the family were at last accepted, and Mrs. Bellmont made great preparations for a fall sojourn in Baltimore. Mary was installed housekeeper—in name merely, for Nig was the only moving power in the house. Although suffering from their joint severity, she felt safer than to be thrown wholly upon an ardent, passionate, unrestrained young lady, whom she always hated and felt it hard to be obliged to obey. The trial she must meet. Were Jack or Jane at home she would have some refuge; one only remained; good Aunt Abby was still in the house.
She saw the fast receding coach which con- veyed her master and mistress with regret, and begged for one favor only, that James would send for her when they returned, a hope she had confidently cherished all these five years.
She was now able to do all the washing, iron- ing, baking, and the common et cetera of house- hold duties, though but fourteen. Mary left all for her to do, though she affected great responsi- bility. She would show herself in the kitchen long enough to relieve herself of some command, better withheld; or insist upon some compliance to her wishes in some department which she was very imperfectly acquainted with, very much less than the person she was addressing; and so im- petuous till her orders were obeyed, that to escape the turmoil, Nig would often go contrary to her own knowledge to gain a respite.
Nig was taken sick! What could be done The WORK, certainly, but not by Miss Mary. So Nig would work while she could remain erect, then sink down upon the floor, or a chair, till she could rally for a fresh effort. Mary would look in upon her, chide her for her laziness, threaten to tell mother when she came home, and so forth.
"Nig!" screamed Mary, one of her sickest days, "come here, and sweep these threads from the carpet." She attempted to drag her weary limbs along, using the broom as support. Impa- tient of delay, she called again, but with a differ- ent request. "Bring me some wood, you lazy jade, quick." Nig rested the broom against the wall, and started on the fresh behest.
Too long gone. Flushed with anger, she rose and greeted her with, "What are you gone so long for? Bring it in quick, I say."
"I am coming as quick as I can," she replied, entering the door.
"Saucy, impudent nigger, you! is this the way you answer me?" and taking a large carving knife from the table, she hurled it, in her rage, at the defenceless girl.
Dodging quickly, it fastened in the ceiling a few inches from where she stood. There rushed on Mary's mental vision a picture of bloodshed, in which she was the perpetrator, and the sad consequences of what was so nearly an actual occurrence.
"Tell anybody of this, if you dare. If you tell Aunt Abby, I'll certainly kill you," said she, terrified. She returned to her room, brushed her threads herself; was for a day or two more guarded, and so escaped deserved and merited penalty.
Oh, how long the weeks seemed which held Nig in subjection to Mary; but they passed like all earth's sorrows and joys. Mr. and Mrs. B. returned delighted with their visit, and laden with rich presents for Mary. No word of hope for Nig. James was quite unwell, and would come home the next spring for a visit.
This, thought Nig, will be my time of release. I shall go back with him.
From early dawn until after all were retired, was she toiling, overworked, disheartened, long- ing for relief.
Exposure from heat to cold, or the reverse, often destroyed her health for short intervals. She wore no shoes until after frost, and snow even, appeared; and bared her feet again before the last vestige of winter disappeared. These sudden changes she was so illy guarded against, nearly conquered her physical system. Any word of complaint was severely repulsed or cru- elly punished.
She was told she had much more than she deserved. So that manual labor was not in reality her only burden; but such an incessant torrent of scolding and boxing and threatening, was enough to deter one of maturer years from remaining within sound of the strife.
It is impossible to give an impression of the manifest enjoyment of Mrs. B. in these kitchen scenes. It was her favorite exercise to enter the apartment noisily, vociferate orders, give a few sudden blows to quicken Nig's pace, then return to the sitting room with SUCH a satis- fied expression, congratulating herself upon her thorough house-keeping qualities.
She usually rose in the morning at the ring- ing of the bell for breakfast; if she were heard stirring before that time, Nig knew well there was an extra amount of scolding to be borne.
No one now stood between herself and Frado, but Aunt Abby. And if SHE dared to interfere in the least, she was ordered back to her "own quarters." Nig would creep slyly into her room, learn what she could of her regarding the absent, and thus gain some light in the thick gloom of care and toil and sorrow in which she was immersed.
The first of spring a letter came from James, announcing declining health. He must try northern air as a restorative; so Frado joyfully prepared for this agreeable increase of the family, this addition to her cares.
He arrived feeble, lame, from his disease, so changed Frado wept at his appearance, fearing he would be removed from her forever. He kindly greeted her, took her to the parlor to see his wife and child, and said many things to kindle smiles on her sad face.
Frado felt so happy in his presence, so safe from maltreatment! He was to her a shelter. He observed, silently, the ways of the house a few days; Nig still took her meals in the same manner as formerly, having the same allowance of food. He, one day, bade her not remove the food, but sit down to the table and eat.
"She WILL, mother," said he, calmly, but impera- tively; I'm determined; she works hard; I've watched her. Now, while I stay, she is going to sit down HERE, and eat such food as we eat."
A few sparks from the mother's black eyes were the only reply; she feared to oppose where she knew she could not prevail. So Nig's stand- ing attitude, and selected diet vanished.
Her clothing was yet poor and scanty; she was not blessed with a Sunday attire; for she was never permitted to attend church with her mis- tress. "Religion was not meant for niggers," SHE said; when the husband and brothers were absent, she would drive Mrs. B. and Mary there, then return, and go for them at the close of the service, but never remain. Aunt Abby would take her to evening meetings, held in the neigh- borhood, which Mrs. B. never attended; and im- part to her lessons of truth and grace as they walked to the place of prayer.
Many of less piety would scorn to present so doleful a figure; Mrs. B. had shaved her glossy ringlets; and, in her coarse cloth gown and an- cient bonnet, she was anything but an enticing object. But Aunt Abby looked within. She saw a soul to save, an immortality of happi- ness to secure.
These evenings were eagerly anticipated by Nig; it was such a pleasant release from labor.
Such perfect contrast in the melody and pray- ers of these good people to the harsh tones which fell on her ears during the day.
Soon she had all their sacred songs at com- mand, and enlivened her toil by accompanying it with this melody.
James encouraged his aunt in her efforts. He had found the SAVIOUR, he wished to have Frado's desolate heart gladdened, quieted, sustained, by HIS presence. He felt sure there were elements in her heart which, transformed and purified by the gospel, would make her worthy the esteem and friendship of the world. A kind, affection- ate heart, native wit, and common sense, and the pertness she sometimes exhibited, he felt if restrained properly, might become useful in originating a self-reliance which would be of ser- vice to her in after years.
Yet it was not possible to compass all this, while she remained where she was. He wished to be cautious about pressing too closely her claims on his mother, as it would increase the burdened one he so anxiously wished to relieve. He cheered her on with the hope of returning with his family, when he recovered sufficiently.
Nig seemed awakened to new hopes and aspirations, and realized a longing for the future, hitherto unknown.
To complete Nig's enjoyment, Jack arrived unexpectedly. His greeting was as hearty to herself as to any of the family.
"Where are your curls, Fra?" asked Jack, after the usual salutation.
"Your mother cut them off."
"Thought you were getting handsome, did she? Same old story, is it; knocks and bumps? Better times coming; never fear, Nig."
How different this appellative sounded from him; he said it in such a tone, with such a rogueish look!
She laughed, and replied that he had better take her West for a housekeeper.
Jack was pleased with James's innovations of table discipline, and would often tarry in the dining-room, to see Nig in her new place at the family table. As he was thus sitting one day, after the family had finished dinner, Frado seated herself in her mistress' chair, and was just reaching for a clean dessert plate which was on the table, when her mistress entered.
"Put that plate down; you shall not have a clean one; eat from mine," continued she. Nig hesitated. To eat after James, his wife or Jack, would have been pleasant; but to be command- ed to do what was disagreeable by her mistress, BECAUSE it was disagreeable, was trying. Quickly looking about, she took the plate, called Fido to wash it, which he did to the best of his ability; then, wiping her knife and fork on the cloth, she proceeded to eat her dinner.
Nig never looked toward her mistress during the process. She had Jack near; she did not fear her now.
Insulted, full of rage, Mrs. Bellmont rushed to her husband, and commanded him to notice this insult; to whip that child; if he would not do it, James ought.
James came to hear the kitchen version of the affair. Jack was boiling over with laughter. He related all the circumstances to James, and pulling a bright, silver half-dollar from his pocket, he threw it at Nig, saying, "There, take that; 'twas worth paying for."
James sought his mother; told her he "would not excuse or palliate Nig's impudence; but she should not be whipped or be punished at all. You have not treated her, mother, so as to gain her love; she is only exhibiting your remissness in this matter."
She only smothered her resentment until a convenient opportunity offered. The first time she was left alone with Nig, she gave her a thorough beating, to bring up arrearages; and threatened, if she ever exposed her to James, she would "cut her tongue out."
James found her, upon his return, sobbing; but fearful of revenge, she dared not answer his queries. He guessed their cause, and longed for returning health to take her under his pro- tection.
SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF NIG.
"What are our joys but dreams? and what our hopes But goodly shadows in the summer cloud?" H. K. W.
JAMES did not improve as was hoped. Month after month passed away, and brought no pros- pect of returning health. He could not walk far from the house for want of strength; but he loved to sit with Aunt Abby in her quiet room, talking of unseen glories, and heart-experiences, while planning for the spiritual benefit of those around them. In these confidential interviews, Frado was never omitted. They would discuss the prevalent opinion of the public, that people of color are really inferior; incapable of cultiva- tion and refinement. They would glance at the qualities of Nig, which promised so much if rightly directed. "I wish you would take her, James, when you are well, home with YOU," said Aunt Abby, in one of these seasons.
"Just what I am longing to do, Aunt Abby. Susan is just of my mind, and we intend to take her; I have been wishing to do so for years."
"She seems much affected by what she hears at the evening meetings, and asks me many questions on serious things; seems to love to read the Bible; I feel hopes of her."
"I hope she IS thoughtful; no one has a kinder heart, one capable of loving more devotedly. But to think how prejudiced the world are to- wards her people; that she must be reared in such ignorance as to drown all the finer feelings. When I think of what she might be, of what she will be, I feel like grasping time till opinions change, and thousands like her rise into a noble freedom. I have seen Frado's grief, because she is black, amount to agony. It makes me sick to recall these scenes. Mother pretends to think she don't know enough to sorrow for anything; but if she could see her as I have, when she sup- posed herself entirely alone, except her little dog Fido, lamenting her loneliness and complexion, I think, if she is not past feeling, she would retract. In the summer I was walking near the barn, and as I stood I heard sobs. 'Oh! oh!' I heard, 'why was I made? why can't I die? Oh, what have I to live for? No one cares for me only to get my work. And I feel sick; who cares for that? Work as long as I can stand, and then fall down and lay there till I can get up. No mother, father, brother or sister to care for me, and then it is, You lazy nigger, lazy nigger—all because I am black! Oh, if I could die!'
"I stepped into the barn, where I could see her. She was crouched down by the hay with her faithful friend Fido, and as she ceased speak- ing, buried her face in her hands, and cried bit- terly; then, patting Fido, she kissed him, saying, 'You love me, Fido, don't you? but we must go work in the field.' She started on her mission; I called her to me, and told her she need not go, the hay was doing well.
"She has such confidence in me that she will do just as I tell her; so we found a seat under a shady tree, and there I took the opportunity to combat the notions she seemed to entertain respecting the loneliness of her condition and want of sympathizing friends. I assured her that mother's views were by no means general; that in our part of the country there were thousands upon thousands who favored the elevation of her race, disapproving of oppression in all its forms; that she was not unpitied, friendless, and utterly despised; that she might hope for better things in the future. Having spoken these words of comfort, I rose with the resolution that if I recovered my health I would take her home with me, whether mother was willing or not."
"I don't know what your mother would do without her; still, I wish she was away."
Susan now came for her long absent husband, and they returned home to their room.
The month of November was one of great anxiety on James's account. He was rapidly wasting away.
A celebrated physician was called, and per- formed a surgical operation, as a last means. Should this fail, there was no hope. Of course he was confined wholly to his room, mostly to his bed. With all his bodily suffering, all his anxiety for his family, whom he might not live to protect, he did not forget Frado. He shielded her from many beatings, and every day imparted religious instructions. No one, but his wife, could move him so easily as Frado; so that in addition to her daily toil she was often deprived of her rest at night.
Yet she insisted on being called; she wished to show her love for one who had been such a friend to her. Her anxiety and grief increased as the probabilities of his recovery became doubtful.
Mrs. Bellmont found her weeping on his ac- count, shut her up, and whipped her with the raw-hide, adding an injunction never to be seen snivelling again because she had a little work to do. She was very careful never to shed tears on his account, in her presence, afterwards.
VISITOR AND DEPARTURE.
—"Other cares engross me, and my tired soul with emulative haste, Looks to its God."
THE brother associated with James in business, in Baltimore, was sent for to confer with one who might never be able to see him there.
James began to speak of life as closing; of heaven, as of a place in immediate prospect; of aspirations, which waited for fruition in glory. His brother, Lewis by name, was an especial fa- vorite of sister Mary; more like her, in disposi- tion and preferences than James or Jack.
He arrived as soon as possible after the re- quest, and saw with regret the sure indications of fatality in his sick brother, and listened to his admonitions—admonitions to a Christian life— with tears, and uttered some promises of atten- tion to the subject so dear to the heart of James.
How gladly he would have extended healing aid. But, alas! it was not in his power; so, after listening to his wishes and arrangements for his family and business, he decided to return home.
Anxious for company home, he persuaded his father and mother to permit Mary to attend him. She was not at all needed in the sick room; she did not choose to be useful in the kitchen, and then she was fully determined to go.
So all the trunks were assembled and cram- med with the best selections from the wardrobe of herself and mother, where the last-mentioned articles could be appropriated.
"Nig was never so helpful before," Mary re- marked, and wondered what had induced such a change in place of former sullenness.
Nig was looking further than the present, and congratulating herself upon some days of peace, for Mary never lost opportunity of informing her mother of Nig's delinquencies, were she otherwise ignorant.
Was it strange if she were officious, with such relief in prospect?
The parting from the sick brother was tearful and sad. James prayed in their presence for their renewal in holiness; and urged their im- mediate attention to eternal realities, and gained a promise that Susan and Charlie should share their kindest regards.
No sooner were they on their way, than Nig slyly crept round to Aunt Abby's room, and tip- toeing and twisting herself into all shapes, she exclaimed,—
"She's gone, Aunt Abby, she's gone, fairly gone;" and jumped up and down, till Aunt Abby feared she would attract the notice of her mistress by such demonstrations.
"Well, she's gone, gone, Aunt Abby. I hope she'll never come back again."
"No! no! Frado, that's wrong! you would be wishing her dead; that won't do."
"Well, I'll bet she'll never come back again; somehow, I feel as though she wouldn't."
"She is James's sister," remonstrated Aunt Abby.
"So is our cross sheep just as much, that I ducked in the river; I'd like to try my hand at curing HER too."
"But you forget what our good minister told us last week, about doing good to those that hate us."
"Didn't I do good, Aunt Abby, when I washed and ironed and packed her old duds to get rid of her, and helped her pack her trunks, and run here and there for her?"
"Well, well, Frado; you must go finish your work, or your mistress will be after you, and remind you severely of Miss Mary, and some others beside."
Nig went as she was told, and her clear voice was heard as she went, singing in joyous notes the relief she felt at the removal of one of her tormentors.
Day by day the quiet of the sick man's room was increased. He was helpless and nervous; and often wished change of position, thereby hoping to gain momentary relief. The calls upon Frado were consequently more frequent, her nights less tranquil. Her health was im- paired by lifting the sick man, and by drudgery in the kitchen. Her ill health she endeavored to conceal from James, fearing he might have less repose if there should be a change of at- tendants; and Mrs. Bellmont, she well knew, would have no sympathy for her. She was at last so much reduced as to be unable to stand erect for any great length of time. She would SIT at the table to wash her dishes; if she heard the well-known step of her mistress, she would rise till she returned to her room, and then sink down for further rest. Of course she was longer than usual in completing the services assigned her. This was a subject of complaint to Mrs. Bellmont; and Frado endeavored to throw off all appearance of sickness in her presence.
But it was increasing upon her, and she could no longer hide her indisposition. Her mistress entered one day, and finding her seated, com- manded her to go to work. "I am sick," replied Frado, rising and walking slowly to her unfin- ished task, "and cannot stand long, I feel so bad."
Angry that she should venture a reply to her command, she suddenly inflicted a blow which lay the tottering girl prostrate on the floor. Ex- cited by so much indulgence of a dangerous pas- sion, she seemed left to unrestrained malice; and snatching a towel, stuffed the mouth of the suf- ferer, and beat her cruelly.
Frado hoped she would end her misery by whipping her to death. She bore it with the hope of a martyr, that her misery would soon close. Though her mouth was muffled, and the sounds much stifled, there was a sensible com- motion, which James' quick ear detected.
"Call Frado to come here," he said faintly, "I have not seen her to-day."
Susan retired with the request to the kitchen, where it was evident some brutal scene had just been enacted.
Mrs. Bellmont replied that she had "some work to do just now; when that was done, she might come."
Susan's appearance confirmed her husband's fears, and he requested his father, who sat by the bedside, to go for her. This was a messen- ger, as James well knew, who could not be de- nied; and the girl entered the room, sobbing and faint with anguish.
James called her to him, and inquired the cause of her sorrow. She was afraid to expose the cruel author of her misery, lest she should provoke new attacks. But after much entreaty, she told him all, much which had escaped his watchful ear. Poor James shut his eyes in silence, as if pained to forgetfulness by the re- cital. Then turning to Susan, he asked her to take Charlie, and walk out; "she needed the fresh air," he said. "And say to mother I wish Frado to sit by me till you return. I think you are fading, from staying so long in this sick room." Mr. B. also left, and Frado was thus left alone with her friend. Aunt Abby came in to make her daily visit, and seeing the sick coun- tenance of the attendant, took her home with her to administer some cordial. She soon re- turned, however, and James kept her with him the rest of the day; and a comfortable night's repose following, she was enabled to continue, as usual, her labors. James insisted on her attend- ing religious meetings in the vicinity with Aunt Abby.