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OR, The Slaveholder's Daughter.
"An honest tale speeds best being plainly told."
NEW YORK AND AUBURN:
IN presenting this work to the public, we are fully conscious of the grave charges of misrepresenting society, and misconstruing facts, which will be made by our friends of the South, and its very peculiar institution; but earnestly do we enjoin all such champions of "things as they are," to read and well digest what is here set before them, believing that they will find the TRUTH even "stranger than fiction." And, as an incentive to the noble exertions of those, either North or South, who would rid our country of its "darkest, foulest blot," we would say, that our attempt has been to give a true picture of Southern society in its various aspects, and that, in our judgment, the institution of Slavery is directly chargeable with the various moral, social and political evils detailed in OUR WORLD.
I. Marston's Plantation, II. How a Night was spent on Marston's Plantation III. Things not so bright as they seem IV. An Unexpected Confession V. The Marooning Party VI. Another Scene in Southern Life VII. "Buckra-Man very Uncertain," VIII. A Cloud of Misfortune hangs over the Plantation IX. Who is Safe against the Power? X. Another Shade of the Picture, XI. Mrs. Rosebrook's Project, XII. Elder Pemberton Praiseworthy Changes his Business, XIII. A Father tries to be a Father, XIV. In which Extremes are Presented, XV. A Scene of Many Lights, XVI. Another Phase of the Picture, XVII. Pleasant Dealings with Human Property, XVIII. A not uncommon Scene slightly changed, XIX. They are going to be Sold, XX. Let us follow poor Human Nature to the Man Shambles, XXI. A Father's Trials, XXII. We Change with Fortune, XXIII. The Vicissitudes of a Preacher, XXIV. How we Manufacture Political Faith, XXV. Mr. M'Fadden sees Shadows of the Future, XXVI. How they stole the Preacher, XXVII. Competition in Human Things, XXVIII. The Pretty Children are to be Sold, XXIX. Nature Shames Itself, XXX. The Vision of Death is Past, XXXI. A Friend is Woman, XXXII. Marston in Prison, XXXIII. Venders of Human Property are not Responsible for its Mental Caprices, XXXIV. A Common Incident shortly told, XXXV. The Children are Improving, XXXVI. Workings of the Slave System, XXXVII. An Item in the Common Calendar, XXXVIII. In which Regrets are shown of little Worth, XXXIX. How we should all be Forgiving, XL. Containing Various Matters, XLI. Nicholas's Simple Story, XLII. He would Deliver her from Bondage, XLIII. Other Phases of the Subject, XLIV. How Daddy Bob Departed, XLV. How Slaveholders Fear each other, XLVI. Southern Administration of Justice, XLVII. Prosperity the Result of Justice, XLVIII. In which the Fate of Franconia is seen, XLIX. In which is a Sad Recognition, L. In which a Dangerous Principle is Illustrated, LI. A Continuation of the Last Chapter, LII. In which are Pleasures and Disappointments, LIII. A Familiar Scene, in which Pringle Blowers has Business, LIV. In which are Discoveries and Pleasant Scenes, LV. In which is a Happy Meeting, some Curious Facts Developed, and Clotild History Disclosed, LVI. In which a Plot is Disclosed, and the Man-Seller made to Pay the Penalty of his Crimes,
ON the left bank of the Ashly River, in the State of South Carolina, and a few miles from its principal city, is a plantation once the property of Hugh Marston. It was near this spot, the brave Huguenots, fleeing religious and political persecution, founded their first American colony-invoked Heaven to guard their liberties-sought a refuge in a new world! And it was here the pious Huguenot forgot his appeals to high heaven-forgot what had driven him from his fatherland, and-unlike the pilgrim fathers who planted their standard on "New England's happy shore,"-became the first to oppress. It was here, against a fierce tyranny, the gallant Yamassee,
A tribe of faithful and heroic Indians. loyal to his professed friend, struggled and died for his liberty. It was here the last remnant of his tribe fought the fierce battle of right over might! It was here, in this domain, destined to be the great and powerful of nations-the asylum of an old world's shelter seeking poor, and the proud embodiment of a people's sovereignty,-liberty was first betrayed! It was here men deceived themselves, and freedom proclaimers became freedom destroyers. And, too, it was here Spanish cupidity, murderous in its search for gold, turned a deaf ear to humanity's cries, slaughtered the friendly Indian, and drenched the soil with his innocent blood. And it is here, at this moment, slavery-fierce monster, threatening the peace of a happy people-runs riot in all its savage vicissitudes, denying man his commonest birthright.
If history did but record the barbarous scenes yet enacted on the banks of this lovely stream, the contrast with its calm surface sweeping gently onward to mingle its waters with the great deep, would be strange indeed. How mellowed by the calm beauty of a summer evening, the one!-how stained with scenes of misery, torment, and death, the other!
Let us beg the reader to follow us back to the time when Marston is found in possession of the plantation, and view it as it is when his friends gather round him to enjoy his bounteous hospitality.
We have ascended the Ashly on a bright spring morning, and are at a jut covered with dark jungle, where the river, about twenty rods wide, sweeps slowly round ;-flowering brakes, waving their tops to and fro in the breeze, bedeck the river banks, and far in the distance, on the left, opens the broad area of the plantation. As we near it, a beautifully undulating slope presents itself, bounded on its upper edge by a long line of sombre-looking pines. Again we emerge beneath clustering foliage overhanging the river; and from out this-sovereign of a southern clime-the wild azalia and fair magnolia diffuse their fragrance to perfume the air. From the pine ridge the slope recedes till it reaches a line of jungle, or hedge, that separates it from the marshy bottom, extending to the river, against which it is protected by a dyke. Most of the slope is under a high state of cultivation, and on its upper edge is a newly cleared patch of ground, which negroes are preparing for the cotton-seed.
Smoking piles burn here and there, burned stumps and trees point their black peaks upward in the murky atmosphere, half-clad negroes in coarse osnaburgs are busy among the smoke and fire: the scene presents a smouldering volcano inhabited by semi-devils. Among the sombre denizens are women, their only clothing being osnaburg frocks, made loose at the neck and tied about the waist with a string: with hoes they work upon the "top surface," gather charred wood into piles, and waddle along as if time were a drug upon life.
Far away to the right the young corn shoots its green sprouts in a square plat, where a few negroes are quietly engaged at the first hoeing. Being tasked, they work with system, and expect, if they never receive, a share of the fruits. All love and respect Marston, for he is generous and kind to them; but system in business is at variance with his nature. His overseer, however, is just the reverse: he is a sharp fellow, has an unbending will, is proud of his office, and has long been reckoned among the very best in the county. Full well he knows what sort of negro makes the best driver; and where nature is ignorant of itself, the accomplishment is valuable. That he watches Marston's welfare, no one doubts; that he never forgets his own, is equally certain. From near mid-distance of the slope we see him approaching on a bay-coloured horse. The sun's rays are fiercely hot, and, though his features are browned and haggard, he holds a huge umbrella in one hand and the inseparable whip in the other. The former is his protector; the latter, his sceptre. John Ryan, for such is his name, is a tall, athletic man, whose very look excites terror. Some say he was born in Limerick, on the Emerald Isle, and only left it because his proud spirit would not succumb to the unbending rod England held over his poor bleeding country.
Running along the centre of the slope is a line of cotton-fields, in which the young plants, sickly in spots, have reached a stage when they require much nursing. Among them are men, women, and children, crouched on the ground like so many sable spectres, picking and pulling at the roots to give them strength. John Ryan has been keeping a sharp eye on them. He will salute you with an air of independence, tell you how he hated oppression and loved freedom, and how, at the present day, he is a great democrat. Now, whether John left his country for his country's good, is a question; but certain it is he dearly delights to ply the lash,-to whip mankind merely for amusement's sake. In a word, John has a good Irish heart within him, and he always lays particular emphasis on the good, when he tells us of its qualities; but let us rather charge to the State that spare use he makes of its gentler parts.
John Ryan, his face indicating tyranny stereotyped, has just been placing drivers over each gang of workmen. How careful he was to select a trustworthy negro, whose vanity he has excited, and who views his position as dearly important. Our driver not unfrequently is the monster tyrant of his circle; but whether from inclination to serve the interests of his master, or a knowledge of the fierce system that holds him alike abject, we know not. At times he is more than obedient to his master's will.
Excuse, reader, this distant view of the plantation at early spring, and follow us back to the Ashly. Here we will still continue along the river-bank, pass borders of thick jungle, flowering vines, and rows of stately pines, their tops moaning in the wind,-and soon find we have reached Marston's landing. This is situated at the termination of an elevated plat extending from thence to the mansion, nearly a mile distant. Three negroes lay basking on the bank; they were sent to wait our coming. Tonio! Murel! Pompe!-they ejaculate, calling one another, as we surprise them. They are cheerful and polite, are dressed in striped shirts and trousers, receive us with great suavity of manner, present master's compliments, tell us with an air of welcome that master will be "right glad" to see us, and conclude by making sundry inquiries about our passage and our "Missuses." Pompe, the "most important nigger" of the three, expresses great solicitude lest we get our feet in the mud. Black as Afric's purest, and with a face of great good nature, Pompe, in curious jargon, apologises for the bad state of the landing, tells us he often reminds Mas'r how necessary it is to have it look genteel. Pompe, more than master, is deeply concerned lest the dignity of the plantation suffer.
Planks and slabs are lain from the water's edge to the high ground on the ridge, upon which we ascend to the crown, a piece of natural soil rising into a beautiful convex of about six rods wide, extending to the garden gate. We wend our way to the mansion, leaving Pompe and his assistants in charge of our luggage, which they will see safely landed. The ridge forms a level walk, sequestered by long lines of huge oaks, their massive branches forming an arch of foliage, with long trailing moss hanging like mourning drapery to enhance its rural beauty. At the extreme of this festooned walk the mansion is seen dwindling into an almost imperceptible perspective. There is something grand and impressive in the still arch above us-something which revives our sense of the beauty of nature. Through the trunks of the trees, on our right and left, extensive rice fields are seen stretching far into the distance. The young blades are shooting above the surface of the water, giving it the appearance of a frozen sheet clothed with green, and protected from the river by a serpentine embankment. How beautiful the expanse viewed from beneath these hoary-headed oaks!
On the surface and along the banks of the river aligators are sporting; moccason snakes twist their way along, and scouring kingfishers croak in the balmy air. If a venerable rattlesnake warn us we need not fear-being an honourable snake partaking of the old southerner's affected chivalry;-he will not approach disguised;-no! he will politely give us warning. But we have emerged from the mossy walk and reached a slab fence, dilapidated and broken, which encloses an area of an acre of ground, in the centre of which stands the mansion: the area seems to have been a garden, which, in former days, may have been cultivated with great care. At present it only presents a few beds rank with weeds. We are told the gardener has been dismissed in consideration of his more lucrative services in the corn-field. That the place is not entirely neglected, we have only to add that Marston's hogs are exercising an independent right to till the soil according to their own system. The mansion is a quadrangular building, about sixty feet long by fifty wide, built of wood, two stories high, having upper and lower verandas.
We pass the dilapidated gate, and reach it by a narrow passage through the garden, on each side of which is a piece of antique statuary, broken and defaced. Entering the lower veranda, we pace the quadrangle, viewing innumerable cuttings and carvings upon the posts: they are initials and full names, cut to please the vanity of those anxious to leave the Marston family a memento. Again we arrive at the back of the mansion where the quadrangle opens a courtyard filled with broken vines, blackened cedars, and venerable-looking leaks;-they were once much valued by the ancient and very respectable Marston family. A few yards from the left wing of the mansion are the "yard houses"-little, comely cabins, about twelve feet by twenty, and proportionately high. One is the kitchen: it has a dingy look, the smoke issuing from its chinks regardless of the chimney; while from its door, sable denizens, ragged and greasy, and straining their curious faces, issue forth. The polished black cook, with her ample figure, is foaming with excitement, lest the feast she is preparing for master's guests may fail to sustain her celebrity. Conspicuous among these cabins are two presenting a much neater appearance: they are brightly whitewashed, and the little windows are decorated with flowering plants. Within them there is an air of simple neatness and freshness we have seldom seen surpassed; the meagre furniture seems to have been arranged by some careful hand, and presents an air of cheerfulness in strange contrast with the dingy cabins around. In each there is a neatly arranged bed, spread over with a white cover, and by its side a piece of soft carpet. It is from these we shall draw forth the principal characters of our story.
Upon a brick foundation, about twenty rods from the right wing of the mansion, stands a wood cottage, occupied by the overseer. Mr. John Ryan not being blessed with family, when Marston is not honoured with company takes his meals at the mansion. In the distance, to the left, is seen a long line of humble huts, standing upon piles, and occupied by promiscuous negro families:—we say promiscuous, for the marriage-tie is of little value to the master, nor does it give forth specific claim to parentage. The sable occupants are beings of uncertainty; their toil is for a life-time-a weary waste of hope and disappointment. Yes! their dreary life is a heritage, the conditions of which no man would share willingly. Victors of husbandry, they share not of the spoils; nor is the sweat of their brows repaid with justice.
Near these cabins, mere specks in the distance, are two large sheds, under which are primitive mills, wherein negroes grind corn for their humble meal. Returning from the field at night, hungry and fatigued, he who gets a turn at the mill first is the luckiest fellow. Now that the workpeople are busily engaged on the plantation, the cabins are in charge of two nurses, matronly-looking old bodies, who are vainly endeavouring to keep in order numerous growing specimens of the race too young to destroy a grub at the root of a cotton plant. The task is indeed a difficult one, they being as unruly as an excited Congress. They gambol round the door, make pert faces at old mamma, and seem as happy as snakes in the spring sun. Some are in a nude state, others have bits of frocks covering hapless portions of their bodies; they are imps of mischief personified, yet our heart bounds with sympathy for them. Alive with comicality, they move us, almost unconsciously, to fondle them. And yet we know not why we would fondle the sable "rascals." One knot is larking on the grass, running, toddling, yelling, and hooting; another, ankle-deep in mud, clench together and roll among the ducks, work their clawy fingers through the tufts of each other's crispy hair, and enjoy their childish sports with an air of genial happiness; while a third sit in a circle beside an oak tree, playing with "Dash," whose tail they pull without stint. "Dash" is the faithful and favourite dog; he rather likes a saucy young "nigger," and, while feeling himself equal to the very best in the clan, will permit the small fry, without resenting the injury, to pull his tail.
It being "ration day," we must describe the serving, that being an interesting phase of plantation life. Negroes have gathered into motley groups around two weatherbeaten store-houses—the overseer has retired to his apartment-when they wait the signal from the head driver, who figures as master of ceremonies. One sings:—-"Jim Crack corn, an' I don't care, Fo'h mas'r's gone away! way! way!" Another is croaking over the time he saved on his task, a third is trying to play a trick with the driver (come the possum over him), and a third unfolds the scheme by which the extra for whiskey and molasses was raised. Presenting a sable pot pourri, they jibber and croak among themselves, laugh and whistle, go through the antics of the "break-down" dance, make the very air echo with the music of their incomprehensible jargon. We are well nigh deafened by it, and yet it excites our joy. We are amused and instructed; we laugh because they laugh, our feelings vibrate with theirs, their quaint humour forces itself into our very soul, and our sympathy glows with their happy anticipations. The philosophy of their jargon is catching to our senses; we listen that we may know their natures, and learn good from their simplicity. He is a strange mortal who cannot learn something from a fool!
The happy moment has arrived: "Ho, boys!" is sounded,-the doors open, the negroes stop their antics and their jargon; stores are exposed, and with one dinning mutter all press into a half-circle at the doors, in one of which stands the huge figure of Balam, the head driver. He gives a scanning look at the circle of anxious faces; he would have us think the importance of the plantation centred in his glowing black face. There he stands-a measure in his hand-while another driver, with an air of less dignity, cries out, with a stentorian voice, the names of the heads of families, and the number of children belonging thereto. Thus, one by one, the name being announced in muddled accents, they step forward, and receive their corn, or rice, as may be. In pans and pails they receive it, pass it to the younger members of the family; with running and scampering, they carry the coarse allotment to their cabin with seeming cheerfulness. Marston, esteemed a good master, always gives bacon, and to receive this the negroes will gather round the store a second time. In this, the all-fascinating bacon is concealed, for which the children evince more concern; their eyes begin to shine brighter, their watchfulness becomes more intent. Presently a negro begins to withdraw the meat, and as he commences action the jargon gets louder, until we are deafened, and would fain move beyond it. Just then, the important driver, with hand extended, commands,-"Order!" at the very top of his loud voice. All is again still; the man returns to his duty. The meat is somewhat oily and rancid, but Balam cuts it as if it were choice and scarce. Another driver weighs it in a pair of scales he holds in his hands; while still another, cutting the same as before, throws it upon some chaff at the door, as if it were a bone thrown to a hungry dog. How humbly the recipient picks it up and carries it to his or her cabin! Not unfrequently the young "imps" will scramble for it, string it upon skewers, and with great nonchalance throw it over their shoulders, and walk off. If it bathe their backs with grease so much more the comfort. Those little necessaries which add so much to the negro's comfort, and of which he is so fond, must be purchased with the result of his extra energy. Even this allowance may serve the boasted hospitality; but the impression that there is a pennyworth of generosity for every pound of parsimony, forces itself upon us. On his little spot, by moonlight or starlight, the negro must cultivate for himself, that his family may enjoy a few of those fruits of which master has many. How miserable is the man without a spark of generosity in his soul; and how much more miserable the man who will not return good for good's worth! To the negro, kindness is a mite inspiring the impulses of a simple heart, and bringing forth great good.
Let us again beg the reader to return with us to those conspicuous cottages near the court-yard, and in which we will find several of our characters.
We cross the threshold of one, and are accosted by a female who, speaking in musical accents, invites us to sit down. She has none of Afric's blood in her veins;-no! her features are beautifully olive, and the intonation of her voice discovers a different origin. Her figure is tall and well-formed; she has delicately-formed hands and feet, long, tapering fingers, well-rounded limbs, and an oval face, shaded with melancholy. How reserved she seems, and yet how quickly she moves her graceful figure! Now she places her right hand upon her finely-arched forehead, parts the heavy folds of glossy hair that hang carelessly over her brown shoulders, and with a half-suppressed smile answers our salutation. We are welcome in her humble cabin; but her dark, languishing eyes, so full of intensity, watch us with irresistible suspicion. They are the symbols of her inward soul; they speak through that melancholy pervading her countenance! The deep purple of her cheek is softened by it, while it adds to her face that calm beauty which moves the gentle of our nature. How like a woman born to fill a loftier sphere than that to which a cruel law subjects her, she seems!
Neither a field nor a house servant, the uninitiated may be at a loss to know what sphere on the plantation is her's? She is the mother of Annette, a little girl of remarkable beauty, sitting at her side, playing with her left hand. Annette is fair, has light auburn hair-not the first tinge of her mother's olive invades her features. Her little cheerful face is lit up with a smile, and while toying with the rings on her mother's fingers, asks questions that person does not seem inclined to answer. Vivacious and sprightly, she chatters and lisps until we become eager for her history. "It's only a child's history," some would say. But the mother displays so much fondness for it; and yet we become more and more excited by the strange manner in which she tries to suppress an outward display of her feelings. At times she pats it gently on the head, runs her hands through its hair, and twists the ends into tiny ringlets.
In the next cabin we meet the shortish figure of a tawny female, whose Indian features stand boldly out. Her high cheek bones, long glossy black hair, and flashing eyes, are the indexes of her pedigree. "My master says I am a slave:" in broken accents she answers our question. As she sits in her chair near the fire-place of bricks, a male issue of the mixed blood toddles round and round her, tossing her long coarse hair every time he makes a circut. The little boy is much fairer than the brawny daughter who seems his mother. Playful, and even mischievous, he delights in pulling the hair which curls over his head; and when the woman calls him he answers with a childish heedlessness, and runs for the door. Reader! this woman's name is Ellen Juvarna; she has youth on her side, and though she retains the name of her ancient sire, is proud of being master's mistress. She tells us how comfortable she is; how Nicholas, for such is his name, resembles his father, how he loves him, but how he fails to acknowledge him. A feud, with its consequences, is kept up between the two cabins; and while she makes many insinuations about her rival, tells us she knows her features have few charms. Meanwhile, she assures us that neither good looks nor sweet smiles make good mothers. "Nicholas!" she exclaims, "come here; the gentlemen want to know all about papa." And, as she extends her hand, the child answers the summons, runs across the room, fondles his head in his mother's lap,-seems ashamed!
HOW A NIGHT WAS SPENT ON MARSTON'S PLANTATION.
EARTH is mantled with richest verdure; far away to the west and south of the mansion the scene stretches out in calm grandeur. The sun sinks beneath glowing clouds that crimson the horizon and spread refulgent shadows on the distant hills, as darkness slowly steals its way on the mellow landscape.
Motley groups of negroes are returned from the field, fires are lighted in and about the cabins, and men mutter their curious jargon while moving to prepare the coarse meal. Their anxious countenances form a picture wild and deeply interesting.
Entering Marston's mansion, we find its interior neater than its weather-stained and paintless sides portended. Through the centre runs a broad passage, and on the left and right are large parlours, comfortably furnished, divided by folding doors of carved walnut. We are ushered into the one on the right by a yellow servant, who, neatly dressed in black, has prepared his politeness for the occasion. With great suavity, accompanied by a figurative grin, he informs us that master will pay his respects presently. Pieces of singularly antique furniture are arranged round the room, of which, he adds, master is proud indeed. Two plaster figures, standing in dingy niches, he tells us are wonders of the white man's genius. In his own random style he gives us an essay on the arts, adding a word here and there to remind us of master's exquisite taste, and anxiously waits our confirmation of what he says.
A large open fire-place, with fancifully carved framework and mantel-pieces, in Italian marble of polished blackness, upon which stood massive silver candlesticks, in chased work, denotes the ancient character of the mansion. It has many years been the home of the ever-hospitable Marston family.
In another part of the room is a mahogany side-board of antique pattern, upon which stand sundry bottles and glasses, indicative of Marston having entertained company in the morning. While we are contemplating the furniture around us, and somewhat disappointed at the want of taste displayed in its arrangement, the door opens, and Sam, the yellow servant, bows Marston in with a gracious smile. It is in the south where the polite part is played by the negro. Deacon Rosebrook and Elder Pemberton Praiseworthy, a man of the world, follow Marston into the room. Marston is rather tall of figure, robust, and frank of countenance. A florid face, and an extremely large nose bordering on the red, at times give him an aldermanic air. He rubs his fingers through the short, sandy-coloured hair that bristles over a low forehead (Tom, the barber, has just fritted it) smiles, and introduces us to his friends. He is vain-vanity belongs to the slave world-is sorry his eyes are grey, but adds an assurance every now and then that his blood is of the very best stock. Lest a doubt should hang upon our mind, he asserts, with great confidence, that grey eyes indicate pure Norman birth. As for phrenology! he never believed in a single bump, and cites his own contracted forehead as the very strongest proof against the theory. Indeed, there is nothing remarkable in our host's countenance, if we except its floridness; but a blunt nose protruding over a wide mouth and flat chin gives the contour of his face an expression not the most prepossessing. He has been heard to say, "A man who didn't love himself wasn't worth loving:" and, to show his belief in this principle of nature, he adorns his face with thick red whiskers, not the most pleasing to those unaccustomed to the hairy follies of a fashionable southron.
Times are prosperous; the plantation puts forth its bounties, and Marston withholds nothing that can make time pass pleasantly with those who honour him with a visit. He is dressed in an elaborately cut black coat, with sweeping skirts, a white vest, fancy-coloured pantaloons, and bright boots. About his neck is an enormous shirt collar, turned carelessly over, and secured with a plain black ribbon. Elder Praiseworthy is of lean figure, with sharp, craven features. The people of the parish have a doubtful opinion of him. Some say he will preach sermons setting forth the divine right of slavery, or any other institution that has freedom for its foe, provided always there is no lack of pay. As a divine, he is particularly sensitive lest anything should be said disparagingly against the institution he lends his aid to protect. That all institutions founded in patriarchal usage are of God's creation, he holds to be indisputable; and that working for their overthrow is a great crime, as well as an unpardonable sin, he never had the slightest doubt. He is careful of his clerical dress, which is of smoothest black; and remembering how essential are gold-framed spectacles, arranges and re-arranges his with greatest care. He is a great admirer of large books with gilt edges and very expensive bindings. They show to best advantage in the southern parlour library, where books are rarely opened. To say the Elder is not a man of great parts, is to circulate a libel of the first magnitude. Indeed, he liked big books for their solidity; they reminded him of great thoughts well preserved, and sound principles more firmly established. At times he had thought they were like modern democratic rights, linked to huge comprehending faculties, such as was his good fortune to use when expounding state rights and federal obligations.
Deacon Rosebrook is a comely, fair-faced man, a moderate thinker, a charitable Christian, a very good man, who lets his deeds of kindness speak of him. He is not a politician-no! he is a better quality of man, has filled higher stations. Nor is he of the modernly pious-that is, as piety professes itself in our democratic world, where men use it more as a necessary appliance to subdue the mind than a means to improve civilization. But he was always cautious in giving expression to his sentiments, knowing the delicate sensibilities of those he had to deal with, and fearing lest he might spring a democratic mine of very illiberal indignation.
"Come, gentlemen guests, you are as welcome as the showers," says Marston, in a stentorious voice: "Be seated; you are at home under my roof. Yes, the hospitality of my plantation is at your service." The yellow man removes a table that stood in the centre of the room, places chairs around it, and each takes his seat.
"Pardon me, my dear Marston, you live with the comfort of a nabob. Wealth seems to spring up on all sides," returns the Deacon, good-naturedly.
"And so I think," joins the Elder: "the pleasures of the plantation are manifold, swimming along from day to day; but I fear there is one thing our friend has not yet considered."
"Pray what is that? Let us hear it; let us hear it. Perhaps it is the very piety of nonsense," rejoined Marston, quickly. "Dead men and devils are always haunting us." The Elder draws his spectacles from his pocket, wipes them with his silk handkerchief, adjusts them on his nose, and replies with some effort, "The Future."
"Nothing more?" Marston inquires, quaintly: "Never contented; riches all around us, favourable prospects for the next crop, prices stiff, markets good, advices from abroad exciting. Let the future take care of itself; you are like all preachers, Elder, borrowing darkness when you can't see light."
"The Elder, so full of allegory!" whispers the Deacon. "He means a moral condition, which we all esteem as a source of riches laid up in store for the future."
"I discover; but it never troubles me while I take care of others. I pray for my negro property-pray loudly and long. And then, their piety is a charge of great magnitude; but when I need your assistance in looking after it, be assured you will receive an extra fee."
"That's personal-personal, decidedly personal."
"Quite the reverse," returns Marston, suddenly smiling, and, placing his elbows on the table, rests his face on his hands. "Religion is well in its place, good on simple minds; just the thing to keep vassals in their places: that's why I pay to have it talked to my property. Elder, I get the worth of my money in seeing the excitement my fellows get into by hearing you preach that old worn-out sermon. You've preached it to them so long, they have got it by heart. Only impress the rascals that it's God's will they should labour for a life, and they'll stick to it like Trojans: they are just like pigs, sir."
"You don't comprehend me, my friend Marston: I mean that you should prepare-it's a rule applicable to all-to meet the terrible that may come upon us at any moment." The Elder is fearful that he is not quite explicit enough. He continues: "Well, there is something to be considered;"-he is not quite certain that we should curtail the pleasures of this life by binding ourselves with the dread of what is to come. "Seems as if we owed a common duty to ourselves," he ejaculates.
The conversation became more exciting, Marston facetiously attempting to be humorous at the Elder's expense: "It isn't the pleasure, my dear fellow, it's the contentment. We were all born to an end; and if that end be to labour through life for others, it must be right. Everything is right that custom has established right."
"Marston, give us your hand, my friend. 'Twould do to plead so if we had no enemies, but enemies are upon us, watching our movements through partizans' eyes, full of fierceness, and evil to misconstruct."
"I care not," interrupts Marston. "My slaves are my property-I shall do with them as it pleases me; no insinuations about morality, or I shall mark you on an old score. Do you sound? Good Elders should be good men; but they, as well as planters, have their frailties; it would not do to tell them all, lest high heaven should cry out." Marston points his finger, and laughs heartily. "I wish we had seven lives to live, and they were all as happy as most of our planters could desire to make them."
The Elder understood the delicate hint, but desiring to avoid placing himself in an awkward position before the Deacon, began to change the conversation, criticising the merits of several old pictures hung upon the walls. They were much valued by Marston, as mementoes of his ancestry: of this the Elder attempted in vain to make a point. During this conversation, so disguised in meaning, the mulatto servant stood at the door waiting Marston's commands. Soon, wine and refreshments were brought in, and spread out in old plantation style. The company had scarcely filled glasses, when a rap sounded at the hall door: a servant hastened to announce a carriage; and in another minute was ushered into the room the graceful figure of a young lady whose sweet and joyous countenance bespoke the absence of care. She was followed by a genteelly-dressed young man of straight person and placid features.
"Oh! Franconia," said Marston, rising from his seat, grasping her hand affectionately, and bestowing a kiss on her fair cheek, for it was fair indeed.
Taking her right hand in his left, he added, "My niece, gentlemen; my brother's only daughter, and nearly spoiled with attentions." A pleasant smile stole over her face, as gracefully she acknowledged the compliment. In another minute three or four old negroes, moved by the exuberance of their affection for her, gathered about her, contending with anxious faces for the honour of seeing her comfortable.
"I love her!" continued Marston; "and, as well as she could a father, she loves me, making time pass pleasantly with her cheerfulness." She was the child of his affections; and as he spoke his face glowed with animation. Scarce seventeen summers had bloomed upon his fair niece, who, though well developed in form, was of a delicate constitution, and had inherited that sensitiveness so peculiar to the child of the South, especially she who has been cradled in the nursery of ease and refinement. As she spoke, smiled, and raised her jewelled fingers, the grace accompanying the words was expressive of love and tenderness. Turning to the gentleman who accompanied her, "My friend!" she added, simply, with a frolicsome laugh. A dozen anxious black faces were now watching in the hall, ready to scamper round her ere she made her appearance to say, "How de'h!" to young Missus, and get a glimpse at her stranger friend. After receiving a happy salute from the old servants, she re-enters the room. "Uncle's always drinking wine when I come;-but Uncle forgets me; he has not so much as once asked me to join him!" She lays her hand on his arm playfully, smiles cunningly, points reproachfully at the Elder, and takes a seat at her uncle's side. The wine has seized the Elder's mind; he stares at her through his spectacles, and holds his glass with his left hand.
"Come, Dandy," said Marston, addressing himself to the mulatto attendant, "bring a glass; she shall join us." The glass is brought, Marston fills it, she bows, they drink to her and to the buoyant spirits of the noble southern lady. "I don't admire the habit; but I do like to please so," she whispers, and, excusing herself, skips into the parlour on the right, where she is again beset by the old servants, who rush to her, shake her hand, cling playfully to her dress: some present various new-plucked flowers others are become noisy with their chattering jargon. At length she is so beset with the display of their affection as to be compelled to break away from them, and call for Clotilda. "I must have Clotilda!" she says: "Tell her to come soon, Dandy: she alone can arrange my dress." Thus saying, she disappeared up a winding stair leading from the hall into the second story.
We were anxious to know who Clotilda was, and why Franconia should summon her with so much solicitude. Presently a door opened: Franconia appeared at the top of the stairs, her face glowing with vivacity, her hair dishevelled waving in beautiful confusion, giving a fascination to her person. "I do wish she would come, I do!" she mutters, resting her hands upon the banisters, and looking intently into the passage: "she thinks more of fussing over Annette's hair, than she does about taking care of mine. Well, I won't get cross-I won't! Poor Clotilda, I do like her; I can't help it; it is no more than natural that she should evince so much solicitude for her child: we would do the same." Scarcely had she uttered these words, when the beautiful female we have described in the foregoing chapter ran from her cabin, across the yard, into the mansion. "Where is young Miss Franconia?" she inquires; looks hastily around, ascends the stairs, greets Franconia with a fervent shake of the hand, commences adjusting her hair. There is a marked similarity in their countenances: it awakens our reflections. Had Clotilda exhibited that exactness of toilet for which Franconia is become celebrated, she would excel in her attractions. There was the same oval face, the same arched brows; there was the same Grecian contour of features, the same sharply lined nose; there was the same delicately cut mouth, disclosing white, pearly teeth; the same eyes, now glowing with sentiment, and again pensive, indicating thought and tenderness; there was the same classically moulded bust, a shoulder slightly converging, of beautiful olive, enriched by a dark mole.
Clotilda would fain have kissed Franconia, but she dare not. "Clotilda, you must take good care of me while I make my visit. Only do my hair nicely, and I will see that Uncle gets a new dress for you when he goes to the city. If Uncle would only get married, how much happier it would be," says Franconia, looking at Clotilda the while.
"And me, too,-I would be happier!" Clotilda replies, resting her arms on the back of Franconia's lolling chair, as her eyes assumed a melancholy glare. She heaved a sigh.
"You could not be happier than you are; you are well cared for; Uncle will never see you want; but you must be cheerful when I come, Clotilda,-you must! To see you unhappy makes me feel unhappy."
"Cheerful!-its better said than felt. Can he or she be cheerful who is forced to sin against God and himself? There is little to be cheerful with, where the nature is not its own. Why should I be the despised wretch at your Uncle's feet: did God, the great God, make me a slave to his licentiousness?"
"Suppress such feelings, Clotilda; do not let them get the better of you. God ordains all things: it is well to abide by His will, for it is sinful to be discontented, especially where everything is so well provided. Why, Uncle has learned you to read, and even to write."
"Ah! that's just what gave me light; through it I knew that I had a life, and a soul beyond that, as valuable to me as yours is to you."
"Be careful, Clotilda," she interrupts; "remember there is a wide difference between us. Do not cross Uncle; he is kind, but he may get a freak into his head, and sell you."
Clotilda's cheeks brightened; she frowned at the word, and, giving her black hair a toss from her shoulder, muttered, "To sell me!-Had you measured the depth of pain in that word, Franconia, your lips had never given it utterance. To sell me!-'tis that. The difference is wide indeed, but the point is sharpest. Was it my mother who made that point so sharp? It could not! a mother would not entail such misery on her offspring. That name, so full of associations dear to me-so full of a mother's love and tenderness,-could not reflect pain. Nay; her affections were bestowed upon me,-I love to treasure them, I do. To tell me that a mother would entail misery without an end, is to tell me that the spirit of love is without good!"
"Do not make yourself unhappy, Clotilda. Perhaps you are as well with us as you would be elsewhere. Even at the free north, in happy New England, ladies would not take the notice of you we do: many of your class have died there, poor and wretched, among the most miserable creatures ever born to a sad end. And you are not black-"
"All is not truth that is told for such," Clotilda interrupts Franconia. "If I were black, my life would have but one stream: now it is terrible with uncertainty. As I am, my hopes and affections are blasted."
"Sit down, Clotilda," rejoins Franconia, quickly.
Clotilda, having lavished her skill on Franconia's hair, seats herself by her side. Franconia affectionately takes her tapering hand and presses it with her jewelled fingers. "Remember, Clotilda," she continues, "all the negroes on the plantation become unhappy at seeing you fretful. It is well to seem happy, for its influence on others. Uncle will always provide for Annette and you; and he is kind. If he pays more attention to Ellen at times, take no notice of it. Ellen Juvarna is Indian, moved to peculiarities by the instincts of her race. Uncle is imprudent, I admit; but society is not with us as it is elsewhere!"
"I care not so much for myself," speaks the woman, in a desponding voice; "it is Annette; and when you spoke of her you touched the chord of all my troubles. I can endure the sin forced upon myself; but, O heavens! how can I butcher my very thoughts with the unhappy life that is before her? My poor mother's words haunt me. I know her feelings now, because I can judge them by my own-can see how her broken heart was crushed into the grave! She kissed my hand, and said, 'Clotilda, my child, you are born to a cruel death. Give me but a heart to meet my friends in judgment!'"
The child with the flaxen hair, humming a tune, came scampering up the stairs into the room. It recognises Franconia, and, with a sportive laugh, runs to her and fondles in her lap; then, turning to its mother, seems anxious to divide its affections between them. Its features resembled Franconia's-the similarity was unmistakeable; and although she fondled it, talked with it, and smoothed its little locks, she resisted its attempts to climb on her knee: she was cold.
"Mother says I look like you, and so does old Aunt Rachel, Miss Franconia-they do," whispers the child, shyly, as it twisted its fingers round the rings on Franconia's hand. Franconia blushed, and cast an inquiring look at Clotilda.
"You must not be naughty," she says; "those black imps you play with around Aunt Rachel's cabin teach you wrong. You must be careful with her, Clotilda; never allow her to such things to white people: she may use such expressions before strangers,-which would be extremely painful-"
"It seems too plain: if there be no social sin, why fear the degradation?" she quietly interrupts. "You cannot keep it from the child. O, how I should like to know my strange history, Franconia,-to know if it can be that I was born to such cruel misfortunes, such bitter heart-achings, such gloomy forebodings. If I were, then am I content with my lot."
Franconia listened attentively, saw the anguish that was bursting the bounds of the unhappy woman's feelings, and interrupted by saying, "Speak of it no more, Clotilda. Take your child; go to your cabin. I shall stay a few days: to-morrow I will visit you there." As she spoke, she waved her hand, bid Clotilda good night, kissing Annette as she was led down stairs. Now alone, she begins to contemplate the subject more deeply. "It must be wrong," she says to herself: "but few are brought to feel it who have the power to remove it. The poor creature seems so unhappy; and my feelings are pained when they tell me how much she looks like me—and it must be so; for when she sat by my side, looking in the glass the portrait of similarity touched my feelings deeply. 'Tis not the thing for Uncle to live in this way. Here am I, loved and beloved, with the luxury of wealth, and friends at my pleasure; I am caressed: she is but born a wretch to serve my Uncle's vanity; and, too, were I to reproach him, he would laugh at what he calls our folly, our sickly sensitiveness; he would tell me of the pleasures of southern life, southern scenery, southern chivalry, southern refinement;—yes, he would tell me how it were best to credit the whole to southern liberality of custom:—so it continues! There is a principle to be served after all: he says we are not sent into the world to excommune ourselves from its pleasures. This may be good logic, for I own I don't believe with those who want the world screwed up into a religious vice; but pleasure is divided into so many different qualities, one hardly knows which suits best now-a-days. Philosophers say we should avoid making pleasure of that which can give pain to others; but philosophers say so many things, and give so much advice that we never think of following. Uncle has a standard of his own. I do, however, wish southern society would be more circumspect, looking upon morality in its proper light. Its all doubtful! doubtful! doubtful! There is Elder Pemberton Praiseworthy; he preaches, preaches, preaches!—his preaching is to live, not to die by. I do pity those poor negroes, who, notwithstanding their impenetrable heads, are bored to death every Sunday with that selfsame sermon. Such preaching, such strained effort, such machinery to make men pious,—it's as soulless as a well. I don't wonder the world has got to be so very wicked, when the wickedness of the slavery church has become so sublime. And there's Uncle, too,—he's been affected just in that way; hearing pious discourses to uphold that which in his soul he knew to be the heaviest wickedness the world groaned under, he has come to look upon religion as if it were a commodity too stale for him. He sees the minister of God's Word a mere machine of task, paid to do a certain amount of talking to negroes, endeavouring to impress their simple minds with the belief that it is God's will they should be slaves. And this is all for necessity's sake!" In this musing mood she sits rocking in her chair, until at length, overcome with the heat, she reclines her head against the cushion, resigning herself to the soothing embrace of sweet sleep.
The moon's silver rays were playing on the calm surface of the river, the foliage on its banks seemed bathed in quiet repose, the gentle breeze, bearing its balmy odours, wafted through the arbour of oaks, as if to fan her crimson cheeks; the azalia and magnolia combined their fragrance, impregnating the dew falling over the scene, as if to mantle it with beauty. She slept, a picture of southern beauty; her auburn tresses in undulating richness playing to and fro upon her swelling bosom,-how developed in all its delicacy!-her sensitive nature made more lovely by the warmth and generosity of her heart. Still she slept, her youthful mind overflowing with joy and buoyancy: about her there was a ravishing simplicity more than earthly: a blush upon her cheek became deeper,-it was the blush of love flashing in a dream, that tells its tale in nervous vibrations, adding enchantment to sleeping voluptuousness;-and yet all was sacred, an envied object no rude hand dare touch!
Franconia had been educated at the north, in a land where—God bless the name—Puritanism is not quite extinct; and through the force of principles there inculcated had outgrown much of that feeling which at the south admits to be right what is basely wrong. She hesitated to reproach Marston with the bad effect of his life, but resolved on endeavouring to enlist Clotilda's confidence, and learn how far her degraded condition affected her feelings. She saw her with the same proud spirit that burned in her own bosom; the same tenderness, the same affection for her child, the same hopes and expectations for the future, and its rewards. The question was, what could be done for Clotilda? Was it better to reason with her,-to, if possible, make her happy in her condition? Custom had sanctioned many unrighteous inconsistencies: they were southern, nothing more! She would intercede with her Uncle, she would have him sign free papers for Clotilda and her child; she saw a relationship which the law could not disguise, though it might crush out the natural affections. With these thoughts passing in her mind, her imagination wandered until she dropped into the sleep we have described.
There she slept, the blushes suffusing her cheeks, until old Aunt Rachel, puffing and blowing like an exhausting engine, entered the room. Aunty is the pink of a plantation mother: she is as black as the blackest, has a face embodying all the good-nature of the plantation, boasts of her dimensions, which she says are six feet, well as anybody proportioned. Her head is done up in a flashy bandana, the points nicely crosslain, and extending an elaborate distance beyond her ears, nearly covering the immense circular rings that hang from them. Her gingham dress, starched just so, her whitest white apron, never worn before missus come, sets her off to great advantage. Aunty is a good piece of property-tells us how many hundred dollars there is in her-feels that she has been promoted because Mas'r told somebody he would not take a dollar less for her. She can superintend the domestic affairs of the mansion just as well as anybody. In one hand she bears a cup of orange-grove coffee, in the other a fan, made of palmetto-leaves.
"Gi'h-e-you!" she exclaimed. "If young missus aint nappin' just so nice! I likes to cotch 'em just so;" and setting her tray upon a stand, she views Franconia intently, and in the exuberance of her feelings seats herself in front of her chair, fanning her with the palmetto. The inquisitive and affectionate nature of the good old slave was here presented in its purity. Nothing can be stronger, nothing show the existence of happy associations more forcibly. The old servant's attachment is proverbial,-his enthusiasm knows no bounds,-Mas'r's comfort absorbs all his thoughts. Here, Aunt Rachel's feelings rose beyond her power of restraint: she gazed on her young missus with admiration, laughed, fanned her more and more; then grasping her little jewelled hand, pressed it to her spacious mouth and kissed it. "Young Missus! Franconia, I does lub ye so!" she whispers.
"Why, Aunt Rachel!" ejaculated Franconia, starting suddenly: "I am glad you wakened me, for I dreamed of trouble: it made me weak-nervous. Where is Clotilda?" And she stared vacantly round the room, as if unconscious of her position. "Guess 'e aint 'bout nowhere. Ye see, Miss, how she don't take no care on ye,-takes dis child to stir up de old cook, when ye comes to see us." And stepping to the stand she brings the salver; and in her excitement to serve Missus, forgets that the coffee is cold. "Da'h he is; just as nice as 'em get in de city. Rachel made 'em!"
"I want Clotilda, Rachel; you must bring her to me. I was dreaming of her and Annette; and she can tell dreams-"
The old slave interrupts her. "If Miss Franconia hab had dream, 'e bad, sartin. Old Mas'r spoil dat gal, Clotilda,-make her tink she lady, anyhow. She mos' white, fo'h true; but aint no better den oder nigger on de plantation," she returns. Franconia sips her coffee, takes a waf from the plate as the old servant holds it before her, and orders Dandy to summon Clotilda.
THINGS ARE NOT SO BRIGHT AS THEY SEEM.
THE following morning broke forth bright and serene. Marston and his guests, after passing a pleasant night, were early at breakfast. When over, they joined him for a stroll over the plantation, to hear him descant upon the prospects of the coming crop. Nothing could be more certain, to his mind, than a bountiful harvest. The rice, cotton, and corn grounds had been well prepared, the weather was most favourable, he had plenty of help, a good overseer, and faithful drivers. "We have plenty,-we live easy, you see, and our people are contented," he says, directing his conversation to the young Englishman, who was suspected of being Franconia's friend. "We do things different from what you do in your country. Your countrymen will not learn to grow cotton: they manufacture it, and hence we are connected in firm bonds. Cotton connects many things, even men's minds and souls. You would like to be a planter, I know you would: who would not, seeing how we live? Here is the Elder, as happy a fellow as you'll find in forty. He can be as jolly as an Englishman over a good dinner: he can think with anybody, preach with anybody!" Touching the Elder on the shoulder, he smiles, and with an insinuating leer, smooths his beard. "I am at your service," replies the Elder, folding his arms.
"I pay him to preach for my nigger property,-I pay him to teach them to be good. He preaches just as I wants him to. My boys think him a little man, but a great divine. You would like to hear the Elder on Sunday; he's funny then, and has a very funny sermon, which you may get by heart without much exertion." The young man seems indifferent to the conversation. He had not been taught to realise how easy it was to bring religion into contempt.
"Make no grave charges against me, Marston; you carry your practical jokes a little too far, Sir. I am a quiet man, but the feelings of quiet men may be disturbed." The Elder speaks moodily, as if considering whether it were best to resent Marston's trifling sarcasm. Deacon Rosebrook now interceded by saying, with unruffled countenance, that the Elder had but one thing funny about him,-his dignity on Sundays: that he was, at times, half inclined to believe it the dignity of cogniac, instead of pious sentiment.
"I preach my sermon,-who can do more?" the Elder rejoins, with seeming concern for his honour. "I thought we came to view the plantation?"
"Yes, true; but our little repartee cannot stop our sight. You preach your sermon, Elder,—that is, you preach what there is left of it. It is one of the best-used sermons ever manufactured. It would serve as a model for the most stale Oxonian. Do you think you could write another like it? It has lasted seven years, and served the means of propitiating the gospel on seven manors. Can they beat that in your country?" says Marston, again turning to the young Englishmam, and laughing at the Elder, who was deliberately taking off his glasses to wipe the perspiration from his forehead.
"Our ministers have a different way of patching up old sermons; but I'm not quite sure about their mode of getting them," the young man replies, takes Deacon Rosebrook's arm, and walks ahead.
"The Elder must conform to the doctrines of the South; but they say he bets at the race-course, which is not an uncommon thing for our divines," rejoins the Deacon, facetiously.
The Elder, becoming seriously inclined, thinks gentlemen had better avoid personalities. Personalities are not tolerated in the South, where gentlemen are removed far above common people, and protect themselves by the code duello. He will expose Marston.
Marston's good capon sides are proof against jokes. He may crack on, that individual says.
"My friend," interposed the Elder, "you desired me to preach to your niggers in one style and for one purpose,-according to the rule of labour and submission. Just such an one as your niggers would think the right stripe, I preached, and it made your niggers wonder and gape. I'll pledge you my religious faith I can preach a different-"
"Oh! oh! oh! Elder," interrupted Marston, "pledge something valuable."
"To me, my faith is the most sacred thing in the world. I will-as I was going to say-preach to your moulding and necessities. Pay for it, and, on my word, it shall be in the cause of the South! With the landmarks from my planter customers, I will follow to their liking," continues Elder Pemberton Praiseworthy, not a smile on his hard face.
Deacon Rosebrook thinks it is well said. Pay is the great desideratum in everything. The Elder, though not an uncommon southern clergyman, is the most versatile preacher to be met with in a day's walk. Having a wonderful opinion of nigger knowledge, he preaches to it in accordance, receiving good pay and having no objection to the wine.
"Well, Gentlemen," Marston remarks, coolly, "I think the Elder has borne our jokes well; we will now go and moisten our lips. The elder likes my old Madeira-always passes the highest compliments upon it." Having sallied about the plantation, we return to the mansion, where Dandy, Enoch, and Sam-three well-dressed mulattoes-their hair frizzed and their white aprons looking so bright, meet us at the veranda, and bow us back into the parlour, as we bear our willing testimony of the prospects of the crop. With scraping of feet, grins, and bows, they welcome us back, smother us with compliments, and seem overwilling to lavish their kindness. From the parlour they bow us into a long room in the right wing, its walls being plain boarded, and well ventilated with open seams. A table is spread with substantial edibles,-such as ham, bacon, mutton, and fish. These represent the southern planter's fare, to which he seldom adds those pastry delicacies with which the New Englander is prone to decorate his table. The party become seated as Franconia graces the festive board with her presence, which, being an incentive of gallantry, preserves the nicest decorum, smooths the conversation. The wine-cup flows freely; the Elder dips deeply-as he declares it choice. Temperance being unpopular in the south, it is little regarded at Marston's mansion. As for Marston himself, he is merely preparing the way to play facetious jokes on the Elder, whose arm he touches every few minutes, reminding him how backward he is in replenishing his glass.
Not at all backward in such matters, the Elder fills up, asks the pleasure of drinking his very good health, and empties the liquid into the safest place nearest at hand. Repeated courses have their effect; Marston is pleased, the Elder is mellow. With muddled sensibilities his eyes glare wildly about the table, and at every fresh invitation to drink he begs pardon for having neglected his duty, fingers the ends of his cravat, and deposits another glass,-certainly the very last. Franconia, perceiving her uncle's motive, begs to be excused, and is escorted out of the room. Mr. Praiseworthy, attempting to get a last glass of wine to his lips without spilling, is quite surprised that the lady should leave. He commences descanting on his own fierce enmity to infidelity and catholicism. He would that everybody rose up and trampled them into the dust; both are ruinous to negro property.
Marston coolly suggests that the Elder is decidedly uncatholicised.
"Elder," interrupted Deacon Rosebrook, touching him on the shoulder, "you are modestly undone-that is, very respectably sold to your wine."
"Yes," rejoined Marston; "I would give an extra ten dollars to hear him preach a sermon to my niggers at this moment."
"Villainous inconsistency!" exclaimed the Elder, in an indistinct voice, his eyes half closed, and the spectacles gradually falling from his nose. "You are scandalising my excellent character, which can't be replaced with gold." Making another attempt to raise a glass of wine to his lips, as he concluded, he unconsciously let the contents flow into his bosom, instead of his mouth.
"Well, my opinion is, Elder, that if you get my nigger property into heaven with your preaching, there'll be a chance for the likes of me," said Marston, watching the Elder intently. It was now evident the party were all becoming pretty deeply tinctured. Rosebrook thought a minister of the gospel, to get in such a condition, and then refer to religious matters, must have a soul empty to the very core. There could be no better proof of how easily true religion could be brought into contempt. The Elder foreclosed with the spirit, considered himself unsafe in the chair, and was about to relieve it, when Dandy caught him in his arms like a lifeless mass, and carried him to a settee, upon which he spread him, like a substance to be bleached in the sun.
"Gentlemen! the Elder is completely unreverenced,-he is the most versatile individual that ever wore black cloth. I reverence him for his qualities," says Marston: then, turning to Maxwell, he continued, "you must excuse this little joviality; it occurs but seldom, and the southern people take it for what it is worth, excusing, or forgetting its effects."
"Don't speak of it-it's not unlike our English do at times-nor do our ministers form exceptions; but they do such things under a monster protection, without reckoning the effect," the Englishman replied, looking round as if he missed the presence of Franconia.
The Elder, soon in a profound sleep, was beset by swarms of mosquitoes preying upon his haggard face, as if it were good food. "He's a pretty picture," says Marston, looking upon the sleeping Elder with a frown, and then working his fingers through his crispy red hair. "A hard subject for the student's knife he'll make, won't he?" To add to the comical appearance of the reverend gentleman, Marston, rising from his seat, approached him, drew the spectacles from his pocket, and placed them on the tip of his nose, adding piquancy to his already indescribable physiognomy.
"Don't you think this is carrying the joke a point too far?" asked Deacon Rosebrook, who had been some time silently watching the prostrate condition of Elder Pemberton Praiseworthy.
Marston shrugs his shoulders, whispers a word or two in the ear of his friend Maxwell, twirls his glass upon the table. He is somewhat cautious how he gives an opinion on such matters, having previously read one or two law books; but believes it does'nt portray all things just right. He has studied ideal good-at least he tells us so-if he never practises it; finally, he is constrained to admit that this 'ere's all very well once in a while, but becomes tiresome—especially when kept up as strong as the Elder does it. He is free to confess that southern mankind is curiously constituted, too often giving license to revelries, but condemning those who fall by them. He feels quite right about the Elder's preaching being just the chime for his nigger property; but, were he a professing Christian, it would'nt suit him by fifty per cent. There is something between the mind of a "nigger" and the mind of a white man,—something he can't exactly analyse, though he is certain it is wonderfully different; and though such preaching can do niggers no harm, he would just as soon think of listening to Infidelity. Painful as it was to acknowledge the fact, he only appeared at the "Meet'n House" on Sundays for the looks of the thing, and in the hope that it might have some influence with his nigger property. Several times he had been heard to say it was mere machine-preaching-made according to pattern, delivered according to price, by persons whose heads and hearts had no sympathy with the downcast.
"There's my prime fellow Harry; a right good fellow, worth nine hundred, nothing short, and he is a Christian in conscience. He has got a kind of a notion into his head about being a divine. He thinks, in the consequence of his black noddle, that he can preach just as well as anybody; and, believe me, he can't read a letter in the book,—at least, I don't see how he can. True, he has heard the Elder's sermon so often that he has committed every word of it to memory,—can say it off like a plantation song, and no mistake." Thus Marston discoursed. And yet he declared that nobody could fool him with the idea of "niggers" having souls: they were only mortal,—he would produce abundant proof, if required.
Deacon Rosebrook listened attentively to this part of Marston's discourse. "The task of proving your theory would be rendered difficult if you were to transcend upon the scale of blood," he replied, getting up and spreading his handkerchief over the Elder's face, to keep off the mosquitoes.
"When our most learned divines and philosophers are the stringent supporters of the principle, what should make the task difficult? Nevertheless, I admit, if my fellow Harry could do the preaching for our plantation, no objections would be interposed by me; on the contrary, I could make a good speculation by it. Harry would be worth two common niggers then. Nigger property, christianised, is the most valuable of property. You may distinguish a christianised nigger in a moment; and piety takes the stubborn out of their composition better than all the cowhides you can employ; and, too, it's a saving of time, considering that it subdues so much quicker," says Marston, stretching back in his chair, as he orders Dandy to bring Harry into his presence. He will tell them what he knows about preaching, the Elder's sermon, and the Bible!
Maxwell smiles at such singularly out of place remarks on religion. They are not uncommon in the south, notwithstanding.
A few minutes elapsed, when Dandy opened the door, and entered the room, followed by a creature-a piece of property!-in which the right of a soul had been disputed, not alone by Marston, but by southern ministers and southern philosophers. The thing was very good- looking, very black;-it had straight features, differing from the common African, and stood very erect. We have said he differed from the common African-we mean, as he is recognised through our prejudices. His forehead was bold and well-developed-his hair short, thick and crispy, eyes keen and piercing, cheeks regularly declining into a well-shaped mouth and chin. Dejected and forlorn, the wretch of chance stood before them, the fires of a burning soul glaring forth from his quick, wandering eyes. "There!" exclaimed Marston. "See that," pointing at his extremes; "he has foot enough for a brick-maker, and a head equal to a deacon-no insinuation, my friend," bowing to Deacon Rosebrook. "They say it takes a big head to get into Congress; but I'm afraid, Harry, I'd never get there."
The door again opened, and another clever-looking old negro, anxious to say "how de do" to mas'r and his visitors, made his appearance, bowing, and keeping time with his foot. "Oh, here's my old daddy-old Daddy Bob, one of the best old niggers on the plantation; Harry and Bob are my deacons. There,—stand there, Harry; tell these gentlemen,—they are right glad to see you,—what you know about Elder Praiseworthy's sermon, and what you can do in the way of preaching," says Marston, laughing good-naturedly.
"Rather a rough piece of property to make a preacher of," muttered Maxwell.
The poor fellow's feet were encrusted as hard as an alligator's back; and there he stood, a picture upon which the sympathies of Christendom were enlisted-a human object without the rights of man, in a free republic. He held a red cap in his left hand, a pair of coarse osnaburg trousers reached a few inches below his knees, and, together with a ragged shirt of the same material, constituted his covering.
"You might have dressed yourself before you appeared before gentlemen from abroad-at least, put on your new jacket," said Marston.
"Why, mas'r, t'ant de clothes. God neber make Christian wid'e his clothes on;-den, mas'r, I gin' my new jacket to Daddy Bob. But neber mind him, mas'r-you wants I to tell you what I tinks ob de Lor. I tink great site ob the Bible, mas'r, but me don' tink much ob Elder's sermon, mas'r."
"How is that, Harry?" interrupted the deacon.
"Why, Mas'r Deacon, ye sees how when ye preaches de good tings ob de Lor', ye mus'nt 'dulge in 'e wicked tings on 'arth. A'h done want say Mas'r Elder do dem tings-but 'e seem to me t' warn't right wen 'e join de wickedness ob de world, and preach so ebery Sunday. He may know de varse, and de chapter, but 'e done preach what de Lor' say, nohow."
"Then you don't believe in a one-sided sermon, Harry?" returned the deacon, while Marston and Maxwell sat enjoying the negro's simple opinion of the Elder's sermon.
"No, mas'r. What the Bible teach me is to lob de Lor'-be good myself, and set example fo'h oders. I an't what big white Christian say must be good, wen 'e neber practice him,—but I good in me heart when me tink what de Lor' say be good. Why, mas'r, Elder preach dat sarmon so many Sundays, dat a' forgot him three times, since me know 'im ebery word," said Harry; and his face began to fill with animation and fervency.
"Well, now, Harry, I think you are a little too severe on the Elder's sermon; but if you know so much about it, give these gentlemen a small portion of it, just to amuse them while the Elder is taking a nap," said Marston.
"Ay, mas'r, be nap dat way too often for pious man what say he lobe de Lor'," replied Harry; and drawing himself into a tragic attitude, making sundry gesticulations, and putting his hand to his forehead, commenced with the opening portion of the Elder's sermon. "And it was said-Servants obey your masters, for that is right in the sight of the Lord," and with a style of native eloquence, and rich cantation, he continued for about ten minutes, giving every word, seriatim, of the Elder's sermon; and would have kept it up, in word and action, to the end, had he not been stopped by Marston. All seemed astonished at his power of memory. Maxwell begged that he might be allowed to proceed.
"He's a valuable fellow, that-eh?" said Marston. "He'll be worth three-sixteenths of a rise on cotton to all the planters in the neighbourhood, by-and-by. He's larned to read, somehow, on the sly-isn't it so, Harry? come, talk up!"
"Yes, mas'r, I larn dat when you sleepin'; do Lor' tell me his spirit warn't in dat sarmon what de Elder preach,—dat me must sarch de good book, and make me own tinking valuable. Mas'r tink ignorant nigger lob him best, but t'ant so, mas'r. Good book make heart good, and make nigger love de Lor', and love mas'r too."
"I'll bet the rascal's got a Bible, or a Prayer-book, hid up somewhere. He and old Daddy Bob are worse on religion than two old coons on a fowl-yard," said Marston. Here old Aunt Rachel entered the room to fuss around a little, and have a pleasant meeting with mas'r's guests. Harry smiled at Marston's remark, and turned his eyes upward, as much as to say, "a day will come when God's Word will not thus be turned into ridicule!"
"And he's made such a good old Christian of this dark sinner, Aunt Rachel, that I wouldn't take two thousand dollars for her. I expect she'll be turning preacher next, and going north to join the abolitionists."
"Mas'r," said Rachel, "'t wouldn't do to mind what you say. Neber mind, you get old one ob dese days; den you don't make so much fun ob old Rachel."
"Shut up your corn-trap," Marston says, smiling; and turning to his guests, continues-"You hear that, gentlemen; she talks just as she pleases, directs my household as if she were governor." Again, Aunt Rachel, summoning her dignity, retorts,
"Not so, Mas'r Deacon, (turning to Deacon Rosebrook,) "'t won't square t' believe all old Boss tell, dat it won't! Mas'r take care ob de two cabins in de yard yonder, while I tends de big house." Rachel was more than a match for Marston; she could beat him in quick retort. The party, recognising Aunt Rachel's insinuation, joined in a hearty laugh. The conversation was a little too pointed for Marston, who, changing the subject, turned to Harry, saying, "now, my old boy, we'll have a little more of your wisdom on religious matters." Harry had been standing the while like a forlorn image, with a red cap in his hand.
"I can preach, mas'r; I can do dat, fo'h true," he replied quickly. "But mas'r, nigger got to preach against his colour; Buckra tink nigger preachin' ain't good, cus he black."
"Never mind that, Harry," interrupts Marston: "We'll forget the nigger, and listen just as if it were all white. Give us the very best specimen of it. Daddy Bob, my old patriarch, must help you; and after you get through, he must lift out by telling us all about the time when General Washington landed in the city; and how the people spread carpets, at the landing, for him to walk upon." The entertainment was, in Marston's estimation, quite a recherch concern: that his guests should be the better pleased, the venerable old Daddy Bob, his head white with goodly years of toil, and full of genuine negro humour, steps forward to perform his part. He makes his best bows, his best scrapes, his best laughs; and says, "Bob ready to do anything to please mas'r." He pulls the sleeves of his jacket, looks vacantly at Harry, is proud to be in the presence of mas'r's guests. He tells them he is a better nigger "den" Harry, points to his extremes, which are decorated with a pair of new russet broghans.
"Daddy's worth his weight in gold," continues Marston, "and can do as much work as any nigger on the plantation, if he is old."
"No, no, mas'r; I ain't so good what I was. Bob can't tote so much wid de hoe now. I work first-rate once, mas'r, but 'a done gone now!"
"Now, Bob, I want you to tell me the truth,—niggers will lie, but you are an exception, Bob; and can tell the truth when there's no bacon in the way."
"Gih! Mas'r, I do dat sartin," replied Bob, laughing heartily, and pulling up the little piece of shirt that peeped out above the collar of his jacket.
"How did Harry and you come by so much knowledge of the Bible? you got one somewhere, hav'n't you?" enquired Marston, laconically.
This was rather a "poser" on Bob; and, after stammering and mumbling for some time-looking at Harry slyly, then at Marston, and again dropping his eyes on the floor, he ejaculated,
"Well, mas'r, 'spose I might as well own 'im. Harry and me got one, for sartin!"
"Ah, you black rascals, I knew you had one somewhere. Where did you get it? That's some of Miss Franconia's doings."
"Can't tell you, mas'r, whar I got him; but he don't stop my hoein' corn, for' true."
Franconia had observed Harry's tractableness, and heard him wish for a Bible, that he might learn to read from it,—and she had secretly supplied him with one. Two years Harry and Daddy Bob had spent hours of the night in communion over it; the latter had learned to read from it, the former had imbibed its great truths. The artless girl had given it to them in confidence, knowing its consolatory influences and that they, with a peculiar firmness in such cases, would never betray her trust. Bob would not have refused his master any other request; but he would never disclose the secret of Miss Franconia giving it.
"Well, my old faithful," said Marston, "we want you to put the sprit into Harry; we want to hear a sample of his preaching. Now, Harry, you can begin; give it big eloquence, none of the new fashion preaching, give us the old plantation break-down style."
The negro's countenance assumed a look indicative of more than his lips dare speak. Looking upward pensively, he replied,—"Can't do dat, mas'r; he ain't what do God justice; but there is something in de text,—where shall I take 'em from?"
"Ministers should choose their own; I always do," interrupted Deacon Rosebrook.
Daddy Bob, touching Harry on the arm, looks up innocently, interposes his knowledge of Scripture. "D'ar, Harry, I tells you what text to gin 'em. Gin 'em dat one from de fourt' chapter of Ephes: dat one whar de Lor' say:—'Great mas'r led captivity captive, and gin gifts unto men.' And whar he say, 'Till we come unto a unity of the faith of the knowledge of the son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lay in wait to deceive.'"
"And you tink dat 'll do,—eh, Daddy?" Harry replies, looking at the old man, as if to say, were he anything but a slave he would follow the advice.
"Den, dars t' oder one, away 'long yonder, where 'e say in Isaiah, fifty-eight chapter—'Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness." The old man seemed perfectly at home on matters of Scripture; he had studied it in stolen moments.
The young Englishman seemed surprised at such a show of talent. He saw the humble position of the old man, his want of early instruction, and his anxiety to be enlightened. "How singular!" he ejaculated, "to hear property preach, and know so much of the Bible, too! People in my country would open their eyes with surprise." The young man had been educated in an atmosphere where religion was prized-where it was held as a sacred element for the good of man. His feelings were tenderly susceptible; the scene before him awakened his better nature, struck deep into his mind. He viewed it as a cruel mockery of Christianity, a torture of innocent nature, for which man had no shame. He saw the struggling spirit of the old negro contending against wrong,—his yearnings for the teachings of Christianity, his solicitude for Marston's good. And he saw how man had cut down the unoffending image of himself-how Christian ministers had become the tyrant's hand-fellow in the work of oppression. It incited him to resolution; a project sprung up in his mind, which, from that day forward, as if it had been a new discovery in the rights of man, he determined to carry out in future, for the freedom of his fellows.
Harry, in accordance with Bob's advice, chose the latter text. For some minutes he expounded the power of divine inspiration, in his simple but impressive manner, being several times interrupted by the Deacon, who assumed the right of correcting his philosophy. At length, Marston interrupted, reminding him that he had lost the "plantation gauge." "You must preach according to the Elder's rule," said he.
With a submissive stare, Harry replied: "Mas'r, a man what lives fo'h dis world only is a slave to himself; but God says, he dat lives fo'h de world to come, is the light of life coming forth to enjoy the pleasures of eternity;" and again he burst into a rhapsody of eloquence, to the astonishment and admiration of Maxwell, and even touching the feelings of Marston, who was seldom moved by such displays. Seeing the man in the thing of merchandise, he inclined to look upon him as a being worthy of immortality; and yet it seemed next to impossible that he should bring his natural feelings to realise the simple nobleness that stood before him,—the man beyond the increase of dollars and cents in his person! The coloured winter's hand leaned against the mantel-piece, watching the changes in Marston's countenance, as Daddy stood at Harry's side, in patriarchal muteness. A tear stealing down Maxwell's cheek told of the sensation produced; while Marston, setting his elbow on the table, supported his head in his hands, and listened. The Deacon, good man that he was, filled his glass,—as if to say, "I don't stand nigger preaching." As for the Elder, his pishes and painful gurglings, while he slept, were a source of much annoyance. Awaking suddenly-raising himself to a half-bent position-he rubs his little eyes, adjusts his spectacles on his nose, stares at Harry with surprise, and then, with quizzical demeanour, leaves us to infer what sort of a protest he is about to enter. He, however, thinks it better to say nothing.
"Stop, Harry," says Marston, interrupting him in a point of his discourse: then turning to his guests, he inquired, with a look of ridicule, "Gentlemen, what have you got to say against such preaching? Elder, you old snoring Christian, you have lost all the best of it. Why didn't you wake up before?"
"Verri-ly, truly! ah, indeed: you have been giving us a monkey-show with your nigger, I suppose. I thought I'd lost nothing; you should remember, Marston, there's a future," said the Elder, winking and blinking sardonically.
"Yes, old boosey," Marston replies, with an air of indifference, "and you should remember there's a present, which you may lose your way in. That venerable sermon won't keep you straight-"
The Elder is extremely sensitive on this particular point-anything but speak disparagingly of that sermon. It has been his stock in trade for numerous years. He begs they will listen to him for a minute, excuse this little trifling variation, charge it to the susceptibility of his constitution. He is willing to admit there is capital in his example which may be used for bad purposes, and says, "Somehow, when I take a little, it don't seem to go right." Again he gives a vacant look at his friends, gets up, resting his hands on the table, endeavours to keep a perpendicular, but declares himself so debilitated by his sleep that he must wait a little longer. Sinking back upon the settee, he exclaims, "You had better send that nigger to his cabin." This was carrying the amusement a little beyond Marston's own "gauge," and it being declared time to adjourn, preparations were made to take care of the Elder, who was soon placed horizontally in a waggon and driven away for his home. "The Elder is gone beyond himself, beyond everything," said Marston, as they carried him out of the door. "You can go, Harry, I like your preaching; bring it down to the right system for my property, and I'll make a dollar or two out of it yet," he whispers, shaking his head, as Harry, bowing submissively, leaves the door.
Just as they were making preparations to retire, a carriage drove to the gate, and in the next minute a dashing young fellow came rushing into the house, apparently in great anxiety. He was followed by a well-dressed man, whose countenance and sharp features, full of sternness, indicated much mechanical study. He hesitated as the young man advanced, took Marston by the hand, nervously, led him aside, whispered something in his ear. Taking a few steps towards a window, the intruder, for such he seemed, stood almost motionless, with his eyes firmly and watchfully fixed upon them, a paper in his right hand. "It is too often, Lorenzo; these things may prove fatal," said Marston, giving an inquiring glance at the man, still standing at the window.
"I pledge you my honour, uncle, it shall be the last time," said the young stranger. "Uncle, I have not forgotten your advice." Marston, much excited, exhibited changes of countenance peculiar to a man labouring under the effect of sudden disappointment. Apologising to his guests, he dismissed them-with the exception of Maxwell-ordered pen and ink, drew a chair to the table, and without asking the stranger to be seated, signed his name to a paper. While this was being done, the man who had waited in silence stepped to the door and admitted two gentlemanly-looking men, who approached Marston and authenticated the instrument. It was evident there was something of deep importance associated with Marston's signature. No sooner had his pen fulfilled the mission, than Lorenzo's face, which had just before exhibited the most watchful anxiety, lighted up with joy, as if it had dismantled its care for some new scene of worldly prosperity.
AN UNEXPECTED CONFESSION.
HAVING executed the document, Marston ordered one of the servants to show Maxwell his room. The persons who had acted the part of justices, authenticating the instrument, withdrew without further conversation; while the person who had followed Lorenzo, for such was the young man's name, remained as if requiring some further negotiation with Marston. He approached the table sullenly, and with one hand resting upon it, and the other adjusted in his vest, deliberately waited the moment to interrupt the conversation. This man, reader, is Marco Graspum, an immense dealer in human flesh,—great in that dealing in the flesh and blood of mankind which brings with it all the wickedness of the demon. It is almost impossible to conceive the suddenness with which that species of trade changes man into a craving creature, restless for the dross of the world. There he was, the heartless dealer in human flesh, dressed in the garb of a gentleman, and by many would have been taken as such. Care and anxiety sat upon his countenance; he watched the chances of the flesh market, stood ready to ensnare the careless youth, to take advantage of the frailer portions of a Southerner's noble nature. "A word or two with you, Mr. Marston," said he.
"Sit down, Graspum, sit down," Marston rejoined, ordering Dandy to give him a chair; which being done he seats himself in front of Marston, and commences dilating upon his leniency. "You may take me for an importune feller, in coming this time o'night, but the fact is I've been-you know my feelings for helpin' everybody-good-naturedly drawn into a very bad scrape with this careless young nephew of yourn: he's a dashing devil, and you don't know it, he is. But I've stood it so long that I was compelled to make myself sure. This nephew of yourn," said he, turning to Lorenzo, "thinks my money is made for his gambling propensities, and if he has used your name improperly, you should have known of it before." At this Lorenzo's fine open countenance assumed a glow of indignation, and turning to his uncle, with a nervous tremor, he said, "Uncle, he has led me into this trouble. You know not the snares of city life; and were I to tell you him-this monster-yea, I say monster, for he has drawn me into a snare like one who was seeking to devour my life-that document, uncle, which he now holds in his hand saves me from a shame and disgrace which I never could have withstood before the world."
"Ah! you are just like all gamblers: never consider yourself in the light of bringing yourself into trouble. Take my advice, young man; there is a step in a gambler's life to which it is dangerous to descend, and if you have brought your father and uncle into trouble, blame neither me nor my money," returned Graspum.
"You do not say that there is forgery connected with this affair, do you?" inquired Marston, grasping Lorenzo by the arm.
"I wish it were otherwise, uncle," replied Lorenzo, leaning forward upon the table and covering his face with his hands. "It was my folly, and the flattery of this man, which have driven me to it," he continued.
"Oh! cursed inconsistency: and you have now fallen back upon the last resource, to save a name that, once gone, cannot reinstate itself. Tell me, Marco Graspum; are you not implicated in this affair? Your name stands full of dark implications; are you not following up one of those avenues through which you make so many victims? What is the amount?" returned Marston.
"You will know that to-morrow. He has given paper in your name to an uncertain extent. You should have known this before. Your nephew has been leading a reckless gambler's life-spending whatsoever money came into his possession, and at length giving bills purporting to be drawn by you and his father. You must now honour them, or dishonour him. You see, I am straightforward in business: all my transactions are conducted with promptness; but I must have what is due to me. I have a purpose in all my transactions, and I pursue them to the end. You know the purport of this document, Marston; save yourself trouble, and do not allow me to call too often." Thus saying, he took his hat and left the room.
Uncle," said Lorenzo, as soon as Graspum had left, "I have been led into difficulty. First led away by fashionable associations, into the allurements with which our city is filled, from small vices I have been hurried onward, step by step, deeper and deeper, until now I have arrived at the dark abyss. Those who have watched me through each sin, been my supposed friends, and hurried me onwards to this sad climax, have proved my worst enemies. I have but just learned the great virtue of human nature,—mistrust him who would make pleasure of vice. I have ruined my father, and have involved you by the very act which you have committed for my relief to-night. In my vain struggle to relieve myself from the odium which must attach to my transactions, I have only added to your sorrows. I cannot ask you to forgive me, nor can I disclose all my errors-they are manifold."
"This is an unexpected blow-one which I was not prepared to meet. I am ready to save your honour, but there is something beyond this which the voice of rumour will soon spread. You know our society, and the strange manner in which it countenances certain things, yet shuts out those who fall by them. But what is to be done? Although we may discharge the obligation with Graspum, it does not follow that he retains the stigma in his own breast. Tell me, Lorenzo, what is the amount?" inquired Marston, anxiously.
"My father has already discharged a secret debt of fourteen thousand dollars for me, and there cannot be less than thirty thousand remaining. Uncle, do not let it worry you; I will leave the country, bear the stigma with me, and you can repudiate the obligation," said he, pleading nervously, as he grasped his uncle's hand firmer and firmer.
Among the many vices of the south, spreading their corrupting influence through the social body, that of gambling stands first. Confined to no one grade of society, it may be found working ruin among rich and poor, old and young. Labour being disreputable, one class of men affect to consider themselves born gentlemen, while the planter is ever ready to indulge his sons with some profession they seldom practise, and which too often results in idleness and its attendants. This, coupled to a want of proper society with which the young may mix for social elevation, finds gratification in drinking saloons, fashionable billiard rooms, and at the card table. In the first, gentlemen of all professions meet and revel away the night in suppers and wine. They must keep up appearances, or fall doubtful visitors of these fashionable stepping-stones to ruin. Like a furnace to devour its victims, the drinking saloon first opens its gorgeous doors, and when the burning liquid has inflamed the mental and physical man, soon hurries him onward into those fascinating habitations where vice and voluptuousness mingle their degrading powers. Once in these whirlpools of sin, the young man finds himself borne away by every species of vicious allurement-his feelings become unrestrained, until at length that last spark of filial advice which had hovered round his consciousness dies out. When this is gone, vice becomes the great charmer, and with its thousand snares and resplendent workers never fails to hold out a hope with each temptation; but while the victim now and then asks hope to be his guardian, he seldom thinks how surely he is sinking faster and faster to an irretrievable depth.