Frank J. Webb
Preface by Harriet Beecher Stowe
LADY NOEL BYRON
IS, BY HER KIND PERMISSION,
MOST AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED,
WITH PROFOUND RESPECT,
BY HER GRATEFUL FRIEND,
The book which now appears before the public may be of interest in relation to a question which the late agitation of the subject of slavery has raised in many thoughtful minds; viz.—Are the race at present held as slaves capable of freedom, self-government, and progress?
The author is a coloured young man, born and reared in the city of Philadelphia.
This city, standing as it does on the frontier between free and slave territory, has accumulated naturally a large population of the mixed and African race.
Being one of the nearest free cities of any considerable size to the slave territory, it has naturally been a resort of escaping fugitives, or of emancipated slaves.
In this city they form a large class—have increased in numbers, wealth, and standing—they constitute a peculiar society of their own, presenting many social peculiarities worthy of interest and attention.
The representations of their positions as to wealth and education are reliable, the incidents related are mostly true ones, woven together by a slight web of fiction.
The scenes of the mob describe incidents of a peculiar stage of excitement, which existed in the city of Philadelphia years ago, when the first agitation of the slavery question developed an intense form of opposition to the free coloured people.
Southern influence at that time stimulated scenes of mob violence in several Northern cities where the discussion was attempted. By prompt, undaunted resistance, however, this spirit was subdued, and the right of free inquiry established; so that discussion of the question, so far from being dangerous in Free States, is now begun to be allowed in the Slave States; and there are some subjects the mere discussion of which is a half-victory.
The author takes pleasure in recommending this simple and truthfully-told story to the attention and interest of the friends of progress and humanity in England.
(Signed) H.B. Stowe.
August 17, 1857.
FROM LORD BROUGHAM.
I have been requested by one who has long known the deep interest I have ever taken in the cause of Freedom, and in the elevation of the coloured race, to supply a few lines of introduction to Mr. Webb's book.
It was the intention of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe to introduce this work to the British public, but I am truly sorry to learn that a severe domestic affliction, since her return to America, has postponed the fulfilment of her promise.
I am, however, able to state her opinion of the book, expressed in a letter to one of her friends.
She says:—"There are points in the book of which I think very highly. The style is simple and unambitious—the characters, most of them faithfully drawn from real life, are quite fresh, and the incident, which is also much of it fact, is often deeply interesting.
"I shall do what I can with the preface. I would not do as much unless I thought the book of worth in itself. It shows what I long have wanted to show; what the free people of colour do attain, and what they can do in spite of all social obstacles."
I hope and trust that Mr. Webb's book will meet with all the success to which its own merit, and the great interest of the subject, so well entitle it. On this, Mrs. Stowe's authority is naturally of the greatest weight; and I can only lament that this prefatory notice does not come accompanied with her further remarks and illustrations.
4, Grafton-street, July 29, 1857.
* * * * *
Note.—Since the above was written, the preface by Mrs. Stowe has been received. It was deemed best, however, to still retain the introduction so kindly given by Lord Brougham, whose deep interest in the freedom and welfare of the African race none feel more grateful for than does the author of the following pages.
1.—In which the Reader is introduced to a Family of Peculiar Construction
2.—A Glance at the Ellis Family
4.—In which Mr. Winston finds an Old Friend
5.—The Garies decide on a Change
7.—Mrs. Thomas has her Troubles
8.—Trouble in the Ellis Family
11.—The New Home
12.—Mr. Garie's Neighbour
14.—Charlie at Warmouth
15.—Mrs. Stevens gains a Triumph
16.—Mr. Stevens makes a Discovery
18.—Mr. Stevens falls into Bad Hands
22.—An Anxious Day
23.—The Lost One Found
24.—Charlie distinguishes himself
28.—Charlie seeks Employment
29.—Clouds and Sunshine
30.—Many Years after
31.—The Thorn rankles
32.—Dear Old Ess again
33.—The Fatal Discovery
34.—"Murder will out"
36.—And the Last
In which the Reader is introduced to a Family of peculiar Construction.
It was at the close of an afternoon in May, that a party might have been seen gathered around a table covered with all those delicacies that, in the household of a rich Southern planter, are regarded as almost necessaries of life. In the centre stood a dish of ripe strawberries, their plump red sides peeping through the covering of white sugar that had been plentifully sprinkled over them. Geeche limes, almost drowned in their own rich syrup, temptingly displayed their bronze-coloured forms just above the rim of the glass that contained them. Opposite, and as if to divert the gaze from lingering too long over their luscious beauty, was a dish of peaches preserved in brandy, a never-failing article in a Southern matron's catalogues of sweets. A silver basket filled with a variety of cakes was in close proximity to a plate of corn-flappers, which were piled upon it like a mountain, and from the brown tops of which trickled tiny rivulets of butter. All these dainties, mingling their various odours with the aroma of the tea and fine old java that came steaming forth from the richly chased silver pots, could not fail to produce a very appetising effect.
There was nothing about Mr. Garie, the gentleman who sat at the head of the table, to attract more than ordinary attention. He had the ease of manner usual with persons whose education and associations have been of a highly refined character, and his countenance, on the whole, was pleasing, and indicative of habitual good temper.
Opposite to him, and presiding at the tea-tray, sat a lady of marked beauty. The first thing that would have attracted attention on seeing her were her gloriously dark eyes. They were not entirely black, but of that seemingly changeful hue so often met with in persons of African extraction, which deepens and lightens with every varying emotion. Hers wore a subdued expression that sank into the heart and at once riveted those who saw her. Her hair, of jetty black, was arranged in braids; and through her light-brown complexion the faintest tinge of carmine was visible. As she turned to take her little girl from the arms of the servant, she displayed a fine profile and perfectly moulded form. No wonder that ten years before, when she was placed upon the auction-block at Savanah, she had brought so high a price. Mr. Garie had paid two thousand dollars for her, and was the envy of all the young bucks in the neighbourhood who had competed with him at the sale. Captivated by her beauty, he had esteemed himself fortunate in becoming her purchaser; and as time developed the goodness of her heart, and her mind enlarged through the instructions he assiduously gave her, he found the connection that might have been productive of many evils, had proved a boon to both; for whilst the astonishing progress she made in her education proved her worthy of the pains he took to instruct her, she returned threefold the tenderness and affection he lavished upon her.
The little girl in her arms, and the boy at her side, showed no trace whatever of African origin. The girl had the chestnut hair and blue eyes of her father; but the boy had inherited the black hair and dark eyes of his mother. The critically learned in such matters, knowing his parentage, might have imagined they could detect the evidence of his mother's race, by the slightly mezzo-tinto expression of his eyes, and the rather African fulness of his lips; but the casual observer would have passed him by without dreaming that a drop of negro blood coursed through his veins. His face was expressive of much intelligence, and he now seemed to listen with an earnest interest to the conversation that was going on between his father and a dark-complexioned gentleman who sat beside him.
"And so you say, Winston, that they never suspected you were coloured?"
"I don't think they had the remotest idea of such a thing. At least, if they did, they must have conquered their prejudices most effectually, for they treated me with the most distinguished consideration. Old Mr. Priestly was like a father to me; and as for his daughter Clara and her aunt, they were politeness embodied. The old gentleman was so much immersed in business, that he was unable to bestow much attention upon me; so he turned me over to Miss Clara to be shown the lions. We went to the opera, the theatre, to museums, concerts, and I can't tell where all. The Sunday before I left I accompanied her to church, and after service, as we were coming out, she introduced me to Miss Van Cote and her mamma. Mrs. Van Cote was kind enough to invite me to her grand ball."
"And did you go?" interrupted Mr. Garie.
"Of course, I did—and what is more, as old Mr. Priestly has given up balls, he begged me to escort Clara and her aunt."
"Well, Winston, that is too rich," exclaimed Mr. Garie, slapping his hand on the table, and laughing till he was red in the face; "too good, by Jove! Oh! I can't keep that. I must write to them, and say I forgot to mention in my note of introduction that you were a coloured gentleman. The old man will swear till everything turns blue; and as for Clara, what will become of her? A Fifth-avenue belle escorted to church and to balls by a coloured gentleman!" Here Mr. Garie indulged in another burst of laughter so side-shaking and merry, that the contagion spread even to the little girl in Mrs. Garie's arms, who almost choked herself with the tea her mother was giving her, and who had to be hustled and shaken for some time before she could be brought round again.
"It will be a great triumph for me," said Mr. Garie. "The old man prides himself on being able to detect evidences of the least drop of African blood in any one; and makes long speeches about the natural antipathy of the Anglo-Saxon to anything with a drop of negro blood in its veins. Oh, I shall write him a glorious letter expressing my pleasure at his great change of sentiment, and my admiration of the fearless manner in which he displays his contempt for public opinion. How he will stare! I fancy I see him now, with his hair almost on end with disgust. It will do him good: it will convince him, I hope, that a man can be a gentleman even though he has African blood in his veins. I have had a series of quarrels with him," continued Mr. Garie; "I think he had his eye on me for Miss Clara, and that makes him particularly fierce about my present connection. He rather presumes on his former great intimacy with my father, and undertakes to lecture me occasionally when opportunity is afforded. He was greatly scandalized at my speaking of Emily as my wife; and seemed to think me cracked because I talked of endeavouring to procure a governess for my children, or of sending them abroad to be educated. He has a holy horror of everything approaching to amalgamation; and of all the men I ever met, cherishes the most unchristian prejudice against coloured people. He says, the existence of "a gentleman" with African blood in his veins, is a moral and physical impossibility, and that by no exertion can anything be made of that description of people. He is connected with a society for the deportation of free coloured people, and thinks they ought to be all sent to Africa, unless they are willing to become the property of some good master."
"Oh, yes; it is quite a hobby of his," here interposed Mr. Winston. "He makes lengthy speeches on the subject, and has published two of them in pamphlet form. Have you seen them?"
"Yes, he sent them to me. I tried to get through one of them, but it was too heavy, I had to give it up. Besides, I had no patience with them; they abounded in mis-statements respecting the free coloured people. Why even here in the slave states—in the cities of Savanah and Charleston—they are much better situated than he describes them to be in New York; and since they can and do prosper here, where they have such tremendous difficulties to encounter, I know they cannot be in the condition he paints, in a state where they are relieved from many of the oppressions they labour under here. And, on questioning him on the subject, I found he was entirely unacquainted with coloured people; profoundly ignorant as to the real facts of their case. He had never been within a coloured church or school; did not even know that they had a literary society amongst them. Positively, I, living down here in Georgia, knew more about the character and condition of the coloured people of the Northern States, than he who lived right in the midst of them. Would you believe that beyond their laundress and a drunken negro that they occasionally employed to do odd jobs for them, they were actually unacquainted with any coloured people: and how unjust was it for him to form his opinion respecting a class numbering over twenty thousand in his own state, from the two individuals I have mentioned and the negro loafers he occasionally saw in the streets."
"It is truly unfortunate," rejoined Mr. Winston, "for he covers his prejudices with such a pretended regard for the coloured people, that a person would be the more readily led to believe his statements respecting them to be correct; and he is really so positive about it, and apparently go deaf to all argument that I did not discuss the subject with him to any extent; he was so very kind to me that I did not want to run a tilt against his favourite opinions."
"You wrote me he gave you letters to Philadelphia; was there one amongst them to the Mortons?"
"Yes. They were very civil and invited me to a grand dinner they gave to the Belgian Charge d'Affaires. I also met there one or two scions of the first families of Virginia. The Belgian minister did not seem to be aware that slavery is a tabooed subject in polite circles, and he was continually bringing it forward until slaves, slavery, and black people in general became the principal topic of conversation, relieved by occasional discussion upon some new book or pictures, and remarks in praise of the viands before us. A very amusing thing occurred during dinner. A bright-faced little coloured boy who was assisting at the table, seemed to take uncommon interest in the conversation. An animated discussion had arisen as to the antiquity of the use of salad, one party maintaining that one of the oldest of the English poets had mentioned it in a poem, and the other as stoutly denying it. At last a reverend gentleman, whose remarks respecting the intelligence of the children of Ham had been particularly disparaging, asserted that nowhere in Chaucer, Spencer, nor any of the old English poets could anything relating to it be found. At this, the little waiter became so excited that he could no longer contain himself, and, despite the frowns and nods of our hostess, exclaimed, 'Yes it can, it's in Chaucer; here,' he continued, taking out a book from the book-case, 'here is the very volume,'[*] and turning over the leaves he pointed out the passage, to the great chagrin of the reverend gentleman, and to the amusement of the guests. The Belgian minister enjoyed it immensely. 'Ah,' said he, 'the child of Ham know more than the child of Shem, dis time.' Whereupon Mrs. Morton rejoined that in this case it was not so wonderful, owing to the frequent and intimate relations into which ham and salad were brought, and with this joke the subject was dismissed. I can't say I was particularly sorry when the company broke up."
[Footnote * See Chaucer, "Flower and the Leaf."]
"Oh, George, never mind the white people," here interposed Mrs. Garie. "Never mind them; tell us about the coloured folks; they are the ones I take the most interest in. We were so delighted with your letters, and so glad that you found Mrs. Ellis. Tell us all about that."
"Oh, 'tis a long story, Em, and can't be told in a minute; it would take the whole evening to relate it all."
"Look at the children, my dear, they are half asleep," said Mr. Garie. "Call nurse and see them safe into bed, and when you come back we will have the whole story."
"Very well;" replied she, rising and calling the nurse. "Now remember, George, you are not to begin until I return, for I should be quite vexed to lose a word."
"Oh, go on with the children, my dear, I'll guarantee he shall not say a word on the subject till you come back."
With this assurance Mrs. Garie left the room, playfully shaking her finger at them as she went out, exclaiming, "Not a word, remember now, not a word."
After she left them Mr. Garie remarked, "I have not seen Em as happy as she is this afternoon for some time. I don't know what has come over her lately; she scarcely ever smiles now, and yet she used to be the most cheerful creature in the world. I wish I knew what is the matter with her; sometimes I am quite distressed about her. She goes about the house looking so lost and gloomy, and does not seem to take the least interest in anything. You saw," continued he, "how silent she has been all tea time, and yet she has been more interested in what you have been saying than in anything that has transpired for months. Well, I suppose women will be so sometimes," he concluded, applying himself to the warm cakes that had just been set upon the table.
"Perhaps she is not well," suggested Mr. Winston, "I think she looks a little pale."
"Well, possibly you may be right, but I trust it is only a temporary lowness of spirits or something of that kind. Maybe she will get over it in a day or two;" and with this remark the conversation dropped, and the gentlemen proceeded to the demolition of the sweetmeats before them. And now, my reader, whilst they are finishing their meal, I will relate to you who Mr. Winston is, and how he came to be so familiarly seated at Mr. Garie's table.
Mr. Winston had been a slave. Yes! that fine-looking gentleman seated near Mr. Garie and losing nothing by the comparison that their proximity would suggest, had been fifteen years before sold on the auction-block in the neighbouring town of Savanah—had been made to jump, show his teeth, shout to test his lungs, and had been handled and examined by professed negro traders and amateur buyers, with less gentleness and commiseration than every humane man would feel for a horse or an ox. Now do not doubt me—I mean that very gentleman, whose polished manners and irreproachable appearance might have led you to suppose him descended from a long line of illustrious ancestors. Yes—he was the offspring of a mulatto field-hand by her master. He who was now clothed in fine linen, had once rejoiced in a tow shirt that scarcely covered his nakedness, and had sustained life on a peck of corn a week, receiving the while kicks and curses from a tyrannical overseer.
The death of his master had brought him to the auction-block, from which, both he and his mother were sold to separate owners. There they took their last embrace of each other—the mother tearless, but heart-broken—the boy with all the wildest manifestations of grief.
His purchaser was a cotton broker from New Orleans, a warm-hearted, kind old man, who took a fancy to the boy's looks, and pitied him for his unfortunate separation from his mother. After paying for his new purchase, he drew him aside, and said, in a kind tone, "Come, my little man, stop crying; my boys never cry. If you behave yourself you shall have fine times with me. Stop crying now, and come with me; I am going to buy you a new suit of clothes."
"I don't want new clothes—I want my mammy," exclaimed the child, with a fresh burst of grief.
"Oh dear me!" said the fussy old gentleman, "why can't you stop—I don't want to hear you cry. Here," continued he, fumbling in his pocket—"here's a picayune."
"Will that buy mother back?" said the child brightening up.
"No, no, my little man, not quite—I wish it would. I'd purchase the old woman; but I can't—I'm not able to spare the money."
"Then I don't want it," cried the boy, throwing the money on the ground. "If it won't buy mammy, I don't want it. I want my mammy, and nothing else."
At length, by much kind language, and by the prospect of many fabulous events to occur hereafter, invented at the moment by the old gentleman, the boy was coaxed into a more quiescent state, and trudged along in the rear of Mr. Moyese—that was the name of his purchaser—to be fitted with the new suit of clothes.
The next morning they started by the stage for Augusta. George, seated on the box with the driver, found much to amuse him; and the driver's merry chat and great admiration of George's new and gaily-bedizened suit, went a great way towards reconciling that young gentleman to his new situation.
In a few days they arrived in New Orleans. There, under the kind care of Mr. Moyese, he began to exhibit great signs of intelligence. The atmosphere into which he was now thrown, the kindness of which he was hourly the recipient, called into vigour abilities that would have been stifled for ever beneath the blighting influences that surrounded him under his former master. The old gentleman had him taught to read and write, and his aptness was such as to highly gratify the kind old soul.
In course of time, the temporary absence of an out-door clerk caused George's services to be required at the office for a few days, as errand-boy. Here he made himself so useful as to induce Mr. Moyese to keep him there permanently. After this he went through all the grades from errand-boy up to chief-clerk, which post he filled to the full satisfaction of his employer. His manners and person improved with his circumstances; and at the time he occupied the chief-clerk's desk, no one would have suspected him to be a slave, and few who did not know his history would have dreamed that he had a drop of African blood in his veins. He was unremitting in his attention to the duties of his station, and gained, by his assiduity and amiable deportment, the highest regard of his employer.
A week before a certain New-year's-day, Mr. Moyese sat musing over some presents that had just been sent home, and which he was on the morrow to distribute amongst his nephews and nieces. "Why, bless me!" he suddenly exclaimed, turning them over, "why, I've entirely forgotten George! That will never do; I must get something for him. What shall it be? He has a fine watch, and I gave him a pin and ring last year. I really don't know what will be suitable," and he sat for some time rubbing his chin, apparently in deep deliberation. "Yes, I'll do it!" he exclaimed, starting up; "I'll do it! He has been a faithful fellow, and deserves it. I'll make him a present of himself! Now, how strange it is I never thought of that before—it's just the thing;—how surprised and delighted he will be!" and the old gentleman laughed a low, gentle, happy laugh, that had in it so little of selfish pleasure, that had you only heard him you must have loved him for it.
Having made up his mind to surprise George in this agreeable manner, Mr. Moyese immediately wrote a note, which he despatched to his lawyers, Messrs. Ketchum and Lee, desiring them to make out a set of free papers for his boy George, and to have them ready for delivery on the morrow, as it was his custom to give his presents two or three days in advance of the coming year.
The note found Mr. Ketchum deep in a disputed will case, upon the decision of which depended the freedom of some half-dozen slaves, who had been emancipated by the will of their late master; by which piece of posthumous benevolence his heirs had been greatly irritated, and were in consequence endeavouring to prove him insane.
"Look at that, Lee," said he, tossing the note to his partner; "if that old Moyese isn't the most curious specimen of humanity in all New Orleans! He is going to give away clear fifteen hundred dollars as a New-year's gift!"
"To whom?" asked Mr. Lee.
"He has sent me orders," replied Mr. Ketchum, "to make out a set of free papers for his boy George."
"Well, I can't say that I see so much in that," said Lee; "how can he expect to keep him? George is almost as white as you or I, and has the manners and appearance of a gentleman. He might walk off any day without the least fear of detection."
"Very true," rejoined Ketchum, "but I don't think he would do it. He is very much attached to the old gentleman, and no doubt would remain with him as long as the old man lives. But I rather think the heirs would have to whistle for him after Moyese was put under ground. However," concluded Mr. Ketchum, "they won't have much opportunity to dispute the matter, as he will be a free man, no doubt, before he is forty-eight hours older."
A day or two after this, Mr. Moyese entertained all his nephews and nieces at dinner, and each was gratified with some appropriate gift. The old man sat happily regarding the group that crowded round him, their faces beaming with delight. The claim for the seat of honour on Uncle Moyese's knee was clamorously disputed, and the old gentleman was endeavouring to settle it to the satisfaction of all parties, when a servant entered, and delivered a portentous-looking document, tied with red tape. "Oh, the papers—now, my dears, let uncle go. Gustave, let go your hold of my leg, or I can't get up. Amy, ring the bell, dear." This operation Mr. Moyese was obliged to lift her into the chair to effect, where she remained tugging at the bell-rope until she was lifted out again by the servant, who came running in great haste to answer a summons of such unusual vigour.
"Tell George I want him," said Mr. Moyese.
"He's gone down to the office; I hearn him say suffin bout de nordern mail as he went out—but I duno what it was"—and as he finished he vanished from the apartment, and might soon after have been seen with his mouth in close contact with the drumstick of a turkey.
Mr. Moyese being now released from the children, took his way to the office, with the portentous red-tape document that was to so greatly change the condition of George Winston in his coat pocket. The old man sat down at his desk, smiling, as he balanced the papers in his hand, at the thought of the happiness he was about to confer on his favourite. He was thus engaged when the door opened, and George entered, bearing some newly-arrived orders from European correspondents, in reference to which he sought Mr. Moyese's instructions.
"I think, sir," said he, modestly, "that we had better reply at once to Ditson, and send him the advance he requires, as he will not otherwise be able to fill these;" and as he concluded he laid the papers on the table, and stood waiting orders respecting them.
Mr. Moyese laid down the packet, and after looking over the papers George had brought in, replied: "I think we had. Write to him to draw upon us for the amount he requires.—And, George," he continued, looking at him benevolently, "what would you like for a New-year's present?"
"Anything you please, sir," was the respectful reply.
"Well, George," resumed Mr. Moyese, "I have made up my mind to make you a present of——" here he paused and looked steadily at him for a few seconds; and then gravely handing him the papers, concluded, "of yourself, George! Now mind and don't throw my present away, my boy." George stood for some moments looking in a bewildered manner, first at his master, then at the papers. At last the reality of his good fortune broke fully upon him, and he sank into a chair, and unable to say more than: "God bless you, Mr. Moyese!" burst into tears.
"Now you are a pretty fellow," said the old man, sobbing himself, "it's nothing to cry about—get home as fast as you can, you stupid cry-baby, and mind you are here early in the morning, sir, for I intend to pay you five hundred dollars a-year, and I mean you to earn it," and thus speaking he bustled out of the room, followed by George's repeated "God bless you!" That "God bless you" played about his ears at night, and soothed him to sleep; in dreams he saw it written in diamond letters on a golden crown, held towards him by a hand outstretched from the azure above. He fancied the birds sang it to him in his morning walk, and that he heard it in the ripple of the little stream that flowed at the foot of his garden. So he could afford to smile when his relatives talked about his mistaken generosity, and could take refuge in that fervent "God bless you!"
Six years after this event Mr. Moyese died, leaving George a sufficient legacy to enable him to commence business on his own account. As soon as he had arranged his affairs, he started for his old home, to endeavour to gain by personal exertions what he had been unable to learn through the agency of others—a knowledge of the fate of his mother. He ascertained that she had been sold and re-sold, and had finally died in New Orleans, not more than three miles from where he had been living. He had not even the melancholy satisfaction of finding her grave. During his search for his mother he had become acquainted with Emily, the wife of Mr. Garie, and discovered that she was his cousin; and to this was owing the familiar footing on which we find him in the household where we first introduced him to our readers.
Mr. Winston had just returned from a tour through the Northern States, where he had been in search of a place in which to establish himself in business.
The introductions with which Mr. Garie had kindly favoured him, had enabled him to see enough of Northern society to convince him, that, amongst the whites, he could not form either social or business connections, should his identity with, the African race be discovered; and whilst, on the other hand, he would have found sufficiently refined associations amongst the people of colour to satisfy his social wants, he felt that he could not bear the isolation and contumely to which they were subjected. He, therefore, decided on leaving the United States, and on going to some country where, if he must struggle for success in life, he might do it without the additional embarrassments that would be thrown in his way in his native land, solely because he belonged to an oppressed race.
A Glance at the Ellis Family.
"I wish Charlie would come with that tea," exclaimed Mrs. Ellis, who sat finishing off some work, which had to go home that evening. "I wonder what can keep him so long away. He has been gone over an hour; it surely cannot take him that time to go to Watson's."
"It is a great distance, mother," said Esther Ellis, who was busily plying her needle; "and I don't think he has been quite so long as you suppose."
"Yes; he has been gone a good hour," repeated Mrs. Ellis. "It is now six o'clock, and it wanted three minutes to five when he left. I do hope he won't forget that I told him half black and half green—he is so forgetful!" And Mrs. Ellis rubbed her spectacles and looked peevishly out of the window as she concluded.—"Where can he be?" she resumed, looking in the direction in which he might be expected. "Oh, here he comes, and Caddy with him. They have just turned the corner—open the door and let them in."
Esther arose, and on opening the door was almost knocked down by Charlie's abrupt entrance into the apartment, he being rather forcibly shoved in by his sister Caroline, who appeared to be in a high state of indignation.
"Where do you think he was, mother? Where do you think I found him?"
"Well, I can't say—I really don't know; in some mischief, I'll be bound."
"He was on the lot playing marbles—and I've had such a time to get him home. Just look at his knees; they are worn through. And only think, mother, the tea was lying on the ground, and might have been carried off, if I had not happened to come that way. And then he has been fighting and struggling with me all the way home. See," continued she, baring her arm, "just look how he has scratched me," and as she spoke she held out the injured member for her mother's inspection.
"Mother," said Charlie, in his justification, "she began to beat me before all the boys, before I had said a word to her, and I wasn't going to stand that. She is always storming at me. She don't give me any peace of my life."
"Oh yes, mother," here interposed Esther; "Cad is too cross to him. I must say, that he would not be as bad as he is, if she would only let him alone."
"Esther, please hush now; you have nothing to do with their quarrels. I'll settle all their differences. You always take his part whether he be right or wrong. I shall send him to bed without his tea, and to-morrow I will take his marbles from him; and if I see his knees showing through his pants again, I'll put a red patch on them—that's what I'll do. Now, sir, go to bed, and don't let me hear of you until morning."
Mr. and Mrs. Ellis were at the head of a highly respectable and industrious coloured family. They had three children. Esther, the eldest, was a girl of considerable beauty, and amiable temper. Caroline, the second child, was plain in person, and of rather shrewish disposition; she was a most indefatigable housewife, and was never so happy as when in possession of a dust or scrubbing brush; she would have regarded a place where she could have lived in a perpetual state of house cleaning, as an earthly paradise. Between her and Master Charlie continued warfare existed, interrupted only by brief truces brought about by her necessity for his services as water-carrier. When a service of this character had been duly rewarded by a slice of bread and preserves, or some other dainty, hostilities would most probably be recommenced by Charlie's making an inroad upon the newly cleaned floor, and leaving the prints of his muddy boots thereon.
The fact must here be candidly stated, that Charlie was not a tidy boy. He despised mats, and seldom or never wiped his feet on entering the house; he was happiest when he could don his most dilapidated unmentionables, as he could then sit down where he pleased without the fear of his mother before his eyes, and enter upon a game of marbles with his mind perfectly free from all harassing cares growing out of any possible accident to the aforesaid garments, so that he might give that attention to the game that its importance demanded.
He was a bright-faced pretty boy, clever at his lessons, and a favourite both with tutors and scholars. He had withal a thorough boy's fondness for play, and was also characterised by all the thoughtlessness consequent thereon. He possessed a lively, affectionate disposition, and was generally at peace with all the world, his sister Caddy excepted.
Caroline had recovered her breath, and her mind being soothed by the judgment that had been pronounced on Master Charlie, she began to bustle about to prepare tea.
The shining copper tea-kettle was brought from the stove where it had been seething and singing for the last half-hour; then the tea-pot of china received its customary quantity of tea, which was set upon the stove to brew, and carefully placed behind the stove pipe that no accidental touch of the elbow might bring it to destruction. Plates, knives, and teacups came rattling forth from the closet; the butter was brought from the place where it had been placed to keep it cool, and a corn-cake was soon smoking on the table, and sending up its seducing odour into the room over-head to which Charlie had been recently banished, causing to that unfortunate young gentleman great physical discomfort.
"Now, mother," said the bustling Caddy, "it's all ready. Come now and sit down whilst the cake is hot—do put up the sewing, Esther, and come!"
Neither Esther nor her mother needed much pressing, and they were accordingly soon seated round the table on which their repast was spread.
"Put away a slice of this cake for father," said Mrs. Ellis, "for he won't be home until late; he is obliged to attend a vestry meeting to-night."
Mrs. Ellis sat for some time sipping the fragrant and refreshing tea. When the contents of two or three cups one after another had disappeared, and sundry slices of corn-bread had been deposited where much corn-bread had been deposited before, she began to think about Charlie, and to imagine that perhaps she had been rather hasty in sending him to bed without his supper.
"What had Charlie to-day in his dinner-basket to take to school with him?" she inquired of Caddy.
"Why, mother, I put in enough for a wolf; three or four slices of bread, with as many more of corn-beef, some cheese, one of those little pies, and all that bread-pudding which was left at dinner yesterday—he must have had enough."
"But, mother, you know he always gives away the best part of his dinner," interposed Esther. "He supplies two or three boys with food. There is that dirty Kinch that he is so fond of, who never takes any dinner with him, and depends entirely upon Charlie. He must be hungry; do let him come down and get his tea, mother?"
Notwithstanding the observations of Caroline that Esther was just persuading her mother to spoil the boy, that he would be worse than ever, and many other similar predictions. Esther and the tea combined won a signal triumph, and Charlie was called down from the room above, where he had been exchanging telegraphic communications with the before-mentioned Kinch, in hopes of receiving a commutation of sentence.
Charlie was soon seated at the table with an ample allowance of corn-bread and tea, and he looked so demure, and conducted himself in such an exemplary manner, that one would have scarcely thought him given to marbles and dirty company. Having eaten to his satisfaction he quite ingratiated himself with Caddy by picking up all the crumbs he had spilled during tea, and throwing them upon the dust-heap. This last act was quite a stroke of policy, as even Caddy began to regard him as capable of reformation.
The tea-things washed up and cleared away, the females busied themselves with their sewing, and Charlie immersed himself in his lessons for the morrow with a hearty goodwill and perseverance as if he had abjured marbles for ever.
The hearty supper and persevering attention to study soon began to produce their customary effect upon Charlie. He could not get on with his lessons. Many of the state capitals positively refused to be found, and he was beginning to entertain the sage notion that probably some of the legislatures had come to the conclusion to dispense with them altogether, or had had them placed in such obscure places that they could not be found. The variously coloured states began to form a vast kaleidoscope, in which the lakes and rivers had been entirely swallowed up. Ranges of mountains disappeared, and gulfs and bays and islands were entirely lost. In fact, he was sleepy, and had already had two or three narrow escapes from butting over the candles; finally he fell from his chair, crushing Caddy's newly-trimmed bonnet, to the intense grief and indignation of that young lady, who inflicted summary vengeance upon him before he was sufficiently awake to be aware of what had happened.
The work being finished, Mrs. Ellis and Caddy prepared to take it home to Mrs. Thomas, leaving Esther at home to receive her father on his return and give him his tea.
Mrs. Ellis and Caddy wended their way towards the fashionable part of the city, looking in at the various shop-windows as they went. Numberless were the great bargains they saw there displayed, and divers were the discussions they held respecting them. "Oh, isn't that a pretty calico, mother, that with the green ground?"
"'Tis pretty, but it won't wash, child; those colours always run."
"Just look at that silk though—now that's cheap, you must acknowledge—only eighty-seven and a half cents; if I only had a dress of that I should be fixed."
"Laws, Caddy!" replied Mrs. Ellis, "that stuff is as slazy as a washed cotton handkerchief, and coarse enough almost to sift sand through. It wouldn't last you any time. The silks they make now-a-days ain't worth anything; they don't wear well at all. Why," continued she, "when I was a girl they made silks that would stand on end—and one of them would last a life-time."
They had now reached Chestnut-street, which was filled with gaily-dressed people, enjoying the balmy breath of a soft May evening. Mrs. Ellis and Caddy walked briskly onward, and were soon beyond the line of shops, and entered upon the aristocratic quarter into which many of its residents had retired, that they might be out of sight of the houses in which their fathers or grandfathers had made their fortunes.
"Mother," said Caddy, "this is Mr. Grant's new house—isn't it a splendid place? They say it's like a palace inside. They are great people, them Grants. I saw in the newspaper yesterday that young Mr. Augustus Grant had been appointed an attache to the American legation at Paris; the newspapers say he is a rising man."
"Well, he ought to be," rejoined Mrs. Ellis, "for his old grand-daddy made yeast enough to raise the whole family. Many a pennyworth has he sold me. Laws! how the poor old folk do get up! I think I can see the old man now, with his sleeves rolled up, dealing out his yeast. He wore one coat for about twenty years, and used to be always bragging about it."
As they were thus talking, a door of one of the splendid mansions they were passing opened, and a fashionably-dressed young man came slowly down the steps, and walked on before them with a very measured step and peculiar gait.
"That's young Dr. Whiston, mother," whispered Caddy; "he's courting young Miss Morton."
"You don't say so!" replied the astonished Mrs. Ellis. "Why, I declare his grandfather laid her grandfather out! Old Whiston was an undertaker, and used to make the handsomest coffins of his time. And he is going to marry Miss Morton! What next, I'd like to know! He walks exactly like the old man. I used to mock him when I was a little girl. He had just that hop-and-go kind of gait, and he was the funniest man that ever lived. I've seen him at a funeral go into the parlour, and condole with the family, and talk about the dear departed until the tears rolled down his cheeks; and then he'd be down in the kitchen, eating and drinking, and laughing, and telling jokes about the corpses, before the tears were dry on his face. How he used to make money! He buried almost all the respectable people about town, and made a large fortune. He owned a burying-ground in Coates-street, and when the property in that vicinity became valuable, he turned the dead folks out, and built houses on the ground!"
"I shouldn't say it was a very pleasant place to live in, if there are such things as ghosts," said Caddy, laughing; "I for one wouldn't like to live there—but here we are at Mr. Thomas's—how short the way has seemed!"
Caroline gave a fierce rap at the door, which was opened by old Aunt Rachel, the fat cook, who had lived with the Thomases for a fabulous length of time. She was an old woman when Mrs. Ellis came as a girl into the family, and had given her many a cuff in days long past; in fact, notwithstanding Mrs. Ellis had been married many years, and had children almost as old as she herself was when she left Mr. Thomas, Aunt Rachel could never be induced to regard her otherwise than as a girl.
"Oh, it's you, is it?" said she gruffly, as she opened the door; "don't you think better break de door down at once-rapping as if you was guine to tear off de knocker—is dat de way, gal, you comes to quality's houses? You lived here long nuff to larn better dan dat—and dis is twice I've been to de door in de last half-hour—if any one else comes dere they may stay outside. Shut de door after you, and come into de kitchen, and don't keep me standin' here all night," added she, puffing and blowing as she waddled back into her sanctum.
Waiting until the irate old cook had recovered her breath, Mrs. Ellis modestly inquired if Mrs. Thomas was at home. "Go up and see," was the surly response. "You've been up stars often enuff to know de way—go long wid you, gal, and don't be botherin' me, 'case I don't feel like bein' bothered—now, mind I tell yer.—Here, you Cad, set down on dis stool, and let that cat alone; I don't let any one play with my cat," continued she, "and you'll jest let him alone, if you please, or I'll make you go sit in de entry till your mother's ready to go. I don't see what she has you brats tugging after her for whenever she comes here—she might jest as well leave yer at home to darn your stockings—I 'spect dey want it."
Poor Caddy was boiling over with wrath; but deeming prudence the better part of valour, she did not venture upon any wordy contest with Aunt Rachel, but sat down upon the stool by the fire-place, in which a bright fire was blazing. Up the chimney an old smoke-jack was clicking, whirling, and making the most dismal noise imaginable. This old smoke-jack was Aunt Rachel's especial protege, and she obstinately and successfully defended it against all comers. She turned up her nose at all modern inventions designed for the same use as entirely beneath her notice. She had been accustomed to hearing its rattle for the last forty years, and would as soon have thought of committing suicide as consenting to its removal.
She and her cat were admirably matched; he was as snappish and cross as she, and resented with distended claws and elevated back all attempts on the part of strangers to cultivate amicable relations with him. In fact, Tom's pugnacious disposition was clearly evidenced by his appearance; one side of his face having a very battered aspect, and the fur being torn off his back in several places.
Caddy sat for some time surveying the old woman and her cat, in evident awe of both. She regarded also with great admiration the scrupulously clean and shining kitchen tins that garnished the walls and reflected the red light of the blazing fire. The wooden dresser was a miracle of whiteness, and ranged thereon was a set of old-fashioned blue china, on which was displayed the usual number of those unearthly figures which none but the Chinese can create. Tick, tick, went the old Dutch clock in the corner, and the smoke-jack kept up its whirring noise. Old Tom and Aunt Rachel were both napping; and so Caddy, having no other resource, went to sleep also.
Mrs. Ellis found her way without any difficulty to Mrs. Thomas's room. Her gentle tap upon the door quite flurried that good lady, who (we speak it softly) was dressing her wig, a task she entrusted to no other mortal hands. She peeped out, and seeing who it was, immediately opened the door without hesitation.
"Oh, it's you, is it? Come in, Ellen," said she; "I don't mind you."
"I've brought the night-dresses home," said Mrs. Ellis, laying her bundle upon the table,—"I hope they'll suit."
"Oh, no doubt they will. Did you bring the bill?" asked Mrs. Thomas.
The bill was produced, and Mrs. Ellis sat down, whilst Mrs. Thomas counted out the money. This having been duly effected, and the bill carefully placed on the file, Mrs. Thomas also sat down, and commenced her usual lamentation over the state of her nerves, and the extravagance of the younger members of the family. On the latter subject she spoke very feelingly. "Such goings on, Ellen, are enough to set me crazy—so many nurses—and then we have to keep four horses—and it's company, company from Monday morning until Saturday night; the house is kept upside-down continually—money, money for everything—all going out, and nothing coming in!"—and the unfortunate Mrs. Thomas whined and groaned as if she had not at that moment an income of clear fifteen thousand dollars a year, and a sister who might die any day and leave her half as much more.
Mrs. Thomas was the daughter of the respectable old gentleman whom Dr. Whiston's grandfather had prepared for his final resting-place. Her daughter had married into a once wealthy, but now decayed, Carolina family. In consideration of the wealth bequeathed by her grandfather (who was a maker of leather breeches, and speculator in general), Miss Thomas had received the offer of the poverty-stricken hand of Mr. Morton, and had accepted it with evident pleasure, as he was undoubtedly a member of one of the first families of the South, and could prove a distant connection with one of the noble families of England.
They had several children, and their incessant wants had rendered it necessary that another servant should be kept. Now Mrs. Thomas had long had her eye on Charlie, with a view of incorporating him with the Thomas establishment, and thought this would be a favourable time to broach the subject to his mother: she therefore commenced by inquiring—
"How have you got through the winter, Ellen? Everything has been so dear that even we have felt the effect of the high prices."
"Oh, tolerably well, I thank you. Husband's business, it is true, has not been as brisk as usual, but we ought not to complain; now that we have got the house paid for, and the girls do so much sewing, we get on very nicely."
"I should think three children must be something of a burthen—must be hard to provide for."
"Oh no, not at all," rejoined Mrs. Ellis, who seemed rather surprised at Mrs. Thomas's uncommon solicitude respecting them. "We have never found the children a burthen, thank God—they're rather a comfort and a pleasure than otherwise."
"I'm glad to hear you say so, Ellen—very glad, indeed, for I have been quite disturbed in mind respecting you during the winter. I really several times thought of sending to take Charlie off your hands: by-the-way, what is he doing now?"
"He goes to school regularly—he hasn't missed a day all winter. You should just see his writing," continued Mrs. Ellis, warming up with a mother's pride in her only son—"he won't let the girls make out any of the bills, but does it all himself—he made out yours."
Mrs. Thomas took down the file and looked at the bill again. "It's very neatly written, very neatly written, indeed; isn't it about time that he left school—don't you think he has education enough?" she inquired.
"His father don't. He intends sending him to another school, after vacation, where they teach Latin and Greek, and a number of other branches."
"Nonsense, nonsense, Ellen! If I were you, I wouldn't hear of it. There won't be a particle of good result to the child from any such acquirements. It isn't as though he was a white child. What use can Latin or Greek be to a coloured boy? None in the world—he'll have to be a common mechanic, or, perhaps, a servant, or barber, or something of that kind, and then what use would all his fine education be to him? Take my advice, Ellen, and don't have him taught things that will make him feel above the situation he, in all probability, will have to fill. Now," continued she, "I have a proposal to make to you: let him come and live with me awhile—I'll pay you well, and take good care of him; besides, he will be learning something here, good manners, &c. Not that he is not a well-mannered child; but, you know, Ellen, there is something every one learns by coming in daily contact with refined and educated people that cannot but be beneficial—come now, make up your mind to leave him with me, at least until the winter, when the schools again commence, and then, if his father is still resolved to send him back to school, why he can do so. Let me have him for the summer at least."
Mrs. Ellis, who had always been accustomed to regard Mrs. Thomas as a miracle of wisdom, was, of course, greatly impressed with what she had said. She had lived many years in her family, and had left it to marry Mr. Ellis, a thrifty mechanic, who came from Savanah, her native city. She had great reverence for any opinion Mrs. Thomas expressed; and, after some further conversation on the subject, made up her mind to consent to the proposal, and left her with the intention of converting her husband to her way of thinking.
On descending to the kitchen she awoke Caddy from a delicious dream, in which she had been presented with the black silk that they had seen in the shop window marked eighty-seven and a half cents a yard. In the dream she had determined to make it up with tight sleeves and infant waist, that being the most approved style at that period.
"Five breadths are not enough for the skirt, and if I take six I must skimp the waist and cape," murmured she in her sleep.
"Wake up, girl! What are you thinking about?" said her mother, giving her another shake.
"Oh!" said Caddy, with a wild and disappointed look—"I was dreaming, wasn't I? I declare I thought I had that silk frock in the window."
"The girls' heads are always running on finery—wake up, and come along, I'm going home."
Caddy followed her mother out, leaving Aunt Rachel and Tom nodding at each other as they dozed before the fire.
That night Mr. Ellis and his wife had a long conversation upon the proposal of Mrs. Thomas; and after divers objections raised by him, and set aside by her, it was decided that Charlie should be permitted to go there for the holidays at least; after which, his father resolved he should be sent to school again.
Charlie, the next morning, looked very blank on being informed of his approaching fate. Caddy undertook with great alacrity to break the dismal tidings to him, and enlarged in a glowing manner upon what times he might expect from Aunt Rachel.
"I guess she'll keep you straight;—you'll see sights up there! She is cross as sin—she'll make you wipe your feet when you go in and out, if no one else can."
"Let him alone, Caddy," gently interposed Esther; "it is bad enough to be compelled to live in a house with that frightful old woman, without being annoyed about it beforehand. If I could help it, Charlie, you should not go."
"I know you'd keep me home if you could—but old Cad, here, she always rejoices if anything happens to me. I'll be hanged if I stay there," said he. "I won't live at service—I'd rather be a sweep, or sell apples on the dock. I'm not going to be stuck up behind their carriage, dressed up like a monkey in a tail coat—I'll cut off my own head first." And with this sanguinary threat he left the house, with his school-books under his arm, intending to lay the case before his friend and adviser, the redoubtable and sympathising Kinch.
Charlie started for school with a heavy heart. Had it not been for his impending doom of service in Mr. Thomas's family, he would have been the happiest boy that ever carried a school-bag.
It did not require a great deal to render this young gentleman happy. All that was necessary to make up a day of perfect joyfulness with him, was a dozen marbles, permission to wear his worst inexpressibles, and to be thoroughly up in his lessons. To-day he was possessed of all these requisites, but there was also in the perspective along array of skirmishes with Aunt Rachel, who, he knew, looked on him with an evil eye, and who had frequently expressed herself regarding him, in his presence, in terms by no means complimentary or affectionate; and the manner in which she had intimated her desire, on one or two occasions, to have an opportunity of reforming his personal habits, were by no means calculated to produce a happy frame of mind, now that the opportunity was about to be afforded her.
Charlie sauntered on until he came to a lumber-yard, where he stopped and examined a corner of the fence very attentively. "Not gone by yet. I must wait for him," said he; and forthwith he commenced climbing the highest pile of boards, the top of which he reached at the imminent risk of his neck. Here he sat awaiting the advent of his friend Kinch, the absence of death's head and cross bones from the corner of the fence being a clear indication that he had not yet passed on his way to school.
Soon, however, he was espied in the distance, and as he was quite a character in his way, we must describe him. His most prominent feature was a capacious hungry-looking mouth, within which glistened a row of perfect teeth. He had the merriest twinkling black eyes, and a nose so small and flat that it would have been a prize to any editor living, as it would have been a physical impossibility to have pulled it, no matter what outrage he had committed. His complexion was of a ruddy brown, and his hair, entirely innocent of a comb, was decorated with divers feathery tokens of his last night's rest. A cap with the front torn off, jauntily set on one side of his head, gave him a rakish and wide-awake air, his clothes were patched and torn in several places, and his shoes were already in an advanced stage of decay. As he approached the fence he took a piece of chalk from his pocket, and commenced to sketch the accustomed startling illustration which was to convey to Charlie the intelligence that he had already passed there on his way to school, when a quantity of sawdust came down in a shower on his head. As soon as the blinding storm had ceased, Kinch looked up and intimated to Charlie that it was quite late, and that there was a probability of their being after time at school.
This information caused Charlie to make rather a hasty descent, in doing which his dinner-basket was upset, and its contents displayed at the feet of the voracious Kinch.
"Now I'll be even with you for that sawdust," cried he, as he pocketed two boiled eggs, and bit an immense piece out of an apple-tart, which he would have demolished completely but for the prompt interposition of its owner.
"Oh! my golly! Charlie, your mother makes good pies!" he exclaimed with rapture, as soon as he could get his mouth sufficiently clear to speak. "Give us another bite,—only a nibble."
But Charlie knew by experience what Kinch's "nibbles" were, and he very wisely declined, saying sadly as he did so, "You won't get many more dinners from me, Kinch. I'm going to leave school." "No! you ain't though, are you?" asked the astonished Kinch. "You are not going, are you, really?"
"Yes, really," replied Charlie, with a doleful look; "mother is going to put me out at service."
"And do you intend to go?" asked Kinch, looking at him incredulously.
"Why of course," was the reply. "How can I help going if father and mother say I must?"
"I tell you what I should do," said Kinch, "if it was me. I should act so bad that the people would be glad to get rid of me. They hired me out to live once, and I led the people they put me with such a dance, that they was glad enough to send me home again."
This observation brought them to the school-house, which was but a trifling distance from the residence of Mrs. Ellis.
They entered the school at the last moment of grace, and Mr. Dicker looked at them severely as they took their seats. "Just saved ourselves," whispered Kinch; "a minute later and we would have been done for;" and with this closing remark he applied himself to his grammar, a very judicious move on his part, for he had not looked at his lesson, and there were but ten minutes to elapse before the class would be called.
The lessons were droned through as lessons usually are at school. There was the average amount of flogging performed; cakes, nuts, and candy, confiscated; little boys on the back seats punched one another as little boys on the back seats always will do, and were flogged in consequence. Then the boy who never knew his lessons was graced with the fool's cap, and was pointed and stared at until the arrival of the play-hour relieved him from his disagreeable situation.
"What kind of folks are these Thomases?" asked Kinch, as he sat beside Charlie in the playground munching the last of the apple-tart; "what kind of folks are they? Tell me that, and I can give you some good advice, may-be."
"Old Mrs. Thomas is a little dried-up old woman, who wears spectacles and a wig. She isn't of much account—I don't mind her. She's not the trouble; it's of old Aunt Rachel, I'm thinking. Why, she has threatened to whip me when I've been there with mother, and she even talks to her sometimes as if she was a little girl. Lord only knows what she'll do to me when she has me there by myself. You should just see her and her cat. I really don't know," continued Charlie, "which is the worst looking. I hate them both like poison," and as he concluded, he bit into a piece of bread as fiercely as if he were already engaged in a desperate battle with aunt Rachel, and was biting her in self-defence.
"Well," said Kinch, with the air of a person of vast experience in difficult cases, "I should drown the cat—I'd do that at once—as soon as I got there; then, let me ask you, has Aunt Rachel got corns?"
"Corns! I wish you could see her shoes," replied Charlie. "Why you could sail down the river in 'em, they are so large. Yes, she has got corns, bunions, and rheumatism, and everything else."
"Ah! then," said Kinch, "your way is clear enough if she has got corns. I should confine myself to operating on them. I should give my whole attention to her feet. When she attempts to take hold of you, do you jist come down on her corns, fling your shins about kinder wild, you know, and let her have it on both feet. You see I've tried that plan, and know by experience that it works well. Don't you see, you can pass that off as an accident, and it don't look well to be scratching and biting. As for the lady of the house, old Mrs. what's-her-name, do you just manage to knock her wig off before some company, and they'll send you home at once—they'll hardly give you time to get your hat."
Charlie laid these directions aside in his mind for future application, and asked,
"What did you do, Kinch, to get away from the people you were with?"
"Don't ask me," said Kinch, laughing; "don't, boy, don't ask me—my conscience troubles me awful about it sometimes. I fell up stairs with dishes, and I fell down stairs with dishes. I spilled oil on the carpet, and broke a looking-glass; but it was all accidental—entirely accidental—they found I was too ''spensive,' and so they sent me home."
"Oh, I wouldn't do anything like that—I wouldn't destroy anything—but I've made up my mind that I won't stay there at any rate. I don't mind work—I want to do something to assist father and mother; but I don't want to be any one's servant. I wish I was big enough to work at the shop."
"How did your mother come to think of putting you there?" asked Kinch.
"The Lord alone knows," was the reply. "I suppose old Mrs. Thomas told her it was the best thing that could be done for me, and mother thinks what she says is law and gospel. I believe old Mrs. Thomas thinks a coloured person can't get to Heaven, without first living at service a little while."
The school bell ringing put an end to this important conversation, and the boys recommenced their lessons.
When Charlie returned from school, the first person he saw on entering the house was Robberts, Mrs. Thomas's chief functionary, and the presiding genius of the wine cellar—when he was trusted with the key. Charlie learned, to his horror and dismay, that he had been sent by Mrs. Thomas to inquire into the possibility of obtaining his services immediately, as they were going to have a series of dinner parties, and it was thought that he could be rendered quite useful.
"And must I go, mother?" he asked.
"Yes, my son; I've told Robberts that you shall come up in the morning," replied Mrs. Ellis. Then turning to Robberts, she inquired, "How is Aunt Rachel?"
At this question, the liveried gentleman from Mrs. Thomas's shook his head dismally, and answered: "Don't ask me, woman; don't ask me, if you please. That old sinner gets worse and worse every day she lives. These dinners we're 'spectin to have has just set her wild—she is mad as fury 'bout 'em—and she snaps me up just as if I was to blame. That is an awful old woman, now mind I tell you."
As Mr. Robberts concluded, he took his hat and departed, giving Charlie the cheering intelligence that he should expect him early next morning.
Charlie quite lost his appetite for supper in consequence of his approaching trials, and, laying aside his books with a sigh of regret, sat listlessly regarding his sisters; enlivened now and then by some cheerful remark from Caddy, such as:—
"You'll have to keep your feet cleaner up there than you do at home, or you'll have aunt Rach in your wool half a dozen times a day. And you mustn't throw your cap and coat down where you please, on the chairs or tables—she'll bring you out of all that in a short time. I expect you'll have two or three bastings before you have been there a week, for she don't put up with any nonsense. Ah, boy," she concluded, chuckling, "you'll have a time of it—I don't envy you!"
With these and similar enlivening anticipations, Caddy whiled away the time until it was the hour for Charlie to retire for the night, which he, did with a heavy heart.
Early the following morning he was awakened by the indefatigable Caddy, and he found a small bundle of necessaries prepared, until his trunk of apparel could be sent to his new home. "Oh, Cad," he exclaimed, rubbing his eyes, "how I do hate to go up there! I'd rather take a good whipping than go."
"Well, it is too late now to talk about it; hurry and get your clothes on—it is quite late—you ought to have been off an hour ago."
When he came down stairs prepared to go, his mother "hoped that he was going to behave like a man," which exhortation had the effect of setting him crying at once; and then he had to be caressed by the tearful Esther, and, finally, started away with very red eyes, followed to the door by his mother and the girls, who stood looking after him for some moments.
So hurried and unexpected had been his departure, that he had been unable to communicate with his friend Kinch. This weighed very heavily on his spirits, and he occupied the time on his way to Mrs. Thomas's in devising various plans to effect that object.
On arriving, he gave a faint rap, that was responded to by Aunt Rachel, who saluted him with—
"Oh, yer's come, has yer—wipe your feet, child, and come in quick. Shut the door after yer."
"What shall I do with this?" timidly asked he, holding up his package of clothes.
"Oh, dem's yer rags is dey—fling 'em anywhere, but don't bring 'em in my kitchen," said she. "Dere is enuff things in dere now—put 'em down here on this entry table, or dere, long side de knife-Board—any wheres but in de kitchen."
Charlie mechanically obeyed, and then followed her into her sanctuary.
"Have you had your breakfast?" she asked, in a surly tone. "'Cause if you haven't, you must eat quick, or you won't get any. I can't keep the breakfast things standing here all day."
Charlie, to whom the long walk had given a good appetite, immediately sat down and ate a prodigious quantity of bread and butter, together with several slices of cold ham, washed down by two cups of tea; after which he rested his knife and fork, and informed Aunt Rachel that he had done.
"Well, I think it's high time," responded she. "Why, boy, you'll breed a famine in de house if you stay here long enough. You'll have to do a heap of work to earn what you'll eat, if yer breakfast is a sample of yer dinner. Come, get up, child! and shell dese 'ere pease—time you get 'em done, old Mrs. Thomas will be down stairs."
Charlie was thus engaged when Mrs. Thomas entered the kitchen. "Well, Charles—good morning," said she, in a bland voice. "I'm glad to see you here so soon. Has he had his breakfast, Aunt Rachel?"
"Yes; and he eat like a wild animal—I never see'd a child eat more in my life," was Aunt Rachel's abrupt answer.
"I'm glad he has a good appetite," said Mrs. Thomas, "it shows he has good health. Boys will eat; you can't expect them to work if they don't. But it is time I was at those custards. Charlie, put down those peas and go into the other room, and bring me a basket of eggs you will find on the table."
"And be sure to overset the milk that's 'long side of it—yer hear?" added Aunt Rachel.
Charlie thought to himself that he would like to accommodate her, but he denied himself that pleasure; on the ground that it might not be safe to do it.
Mrs. Thomas was a housekeeper of the old school, and had a scientific knowledge of the manner in which all sorts of pies and puddings were compounded. She was so learned in custards and preserves that even Aunt Rachel sometimes deferred to her superior judgment in these matters. Carefully breaking the eggs, she skilfully separated the whites from the yolks, and gave the latter to Charlie to beat. At first he thought it great fun, and he hummed some of the popular melodies of the day, and kept time with his foot and the spatula. But pretty soon he exhausted his stock of tunes, and then the performances did not go off so well. His arm commenced aching, and he came to the sage conclusion, before he was relieved from his task, that those who eat the custards are much better off than those who prepare them.
This task finished, he was pressed into service by Aunt Rachel, to pick and stone some raisins which she gave him, with the injunction either to sing or whistle all the time he was "at 'em;" and that if he stopped for a moment she should know he was eating them, and in that case she would visit him with condign punishment on the spot, for she didn't care a fig whose child he was.
Thus, in the performance of first one little job and then another, the day wore away; and as the hour approached at which the guests were invited, Charlie, after being taken into the dining-room by Robberts, where he was greatly amazed at the display of silver, cut glass, and elegant china, was posted at the door to relieve the guests of their coats and hats, which duty he performed to the entire satisfaction of all parties concerned.
At dinner, however, he was not so fortunate. He upset a plate of soup into a gentleman's lap, and damaged beyond repair one of the elegant china vegetable dishes. He took rather too deep an interest in the conversation for a person in his station; and, in fact, the bright boy alluded to by Mr. Winston, as having corrected the reverend gentleman respecting the quotation from Chaucer, was no other than our friend Charlie Ellis.
In the evening, when the guests were departing, Charlie handed Mr. Winston his coat, admiring the texture and cut of it very much as he did so. Mr. Winston, amused at the boy's manner, asked—
"What is your name, my little man?"
"Charles Ellis," was the prompt reply. "I'm named after my father."
"And where did your father come from, Charlie?" he asked, looking very much interested.
"From Savanah, sir. Now tell me where you came from," replied Charles.
"I came from New Orleans," said Mr. Winston, with a smile. "Now tell me," he continued, "where do you live when you are with your parents? I should like to see your father." Charlie quickly put his interrogator in possession of the desired information, after which Mr. Winston departed, soon followed by the other guests.
Charlie lay for some time that night on his little cot before he could get to sleep; and amongst the many matters that so agitated his mind, was his wonder what one of Mrs. Thomas's guests could want with his father. Being unable however, to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion respecting it, he turned over and went to sleep.
In which Mr. Winston finds an old Friend.
In the early part of Mr. Winston's career, when he worked as a boy on the plantation of his father, he had frequently received great kindness at the hands of one Charles Ellis, who was often employed as carpenter about the premises.
On one occasion, as a great favour, he had been permitted to accompany Ellis to his home in Savanah, which was but a few miles distant, where he remained during the Christmas holidays. This kindness he had never forgotten; and on his return to Georgia from New Orleans he sought for his old friend, and found he had removed to the North, but to which particular city he could not ascertain.
As he walked homewards, the strong likeness of little Charlie to his old friend forced itself upon him, and the more he reflected upon it the more likely it appeared that the boy might be his child; and the identity of name and occupation between the father of Charlie and his old friend led to the belief that he was about to make some discovery respecting him.
On his way to his hotel he passed the old State House, the bell of which was just striking ten. "It's too late to go to-night," said he, "it shall be the first thing I attend to in the morning;" and after walking on a short distance farther, he found himself at the door of his domicile.
As he passed through the little knot of waiters who were gathered about the doors, one of them turning to another, asked, "Ain't that man a Southerner, and ain't he in your rooms, Ben?"
"I think he's a Southerner," was the reply of Ben. "But why do you ask, Allen?" he enquired. "Because it's time he had subscribed something," replied Mr. Allen. "The funds of the Vigilance Committee are very low indeed; in fact, the four that we helped through last week have completely drained us. We must make a raise from some quarter, and we might as well try it on him."
Mr. Winston was waiting for a light that he might retire to his room, and was quickly served by the individual who had been so confidentially talking with Mr. Allen.
After giving Mr. Winston the light, Ben followed him into his room and busied himself in doing little nothings about the stove and wash-stand. "Let me unbutton your straps, sir," said he, stooping down and commencing on the buttons, which he was rather long in unclosing. "I know, sir, dat you Southern gentlemen ain't used to doing dese yer things for youself. I allus makes it a pint to show Southerners more 'tention dan I does to dese yer Northern folk, 'cause yer see I knows dey'r used to it, and can't get on widout it."
"I am not one of that kind," said Winston, as Ben slowly unbuttoned the last strap. "I have been long accustomed to wait upon myself. I'll only trouble you to bring me up a glass of fresh water, and then I shall have done with you for the night."
"Better let me make you up a little fire, the nights is werry cool," continued Ben. "I know you must feel 'em; I does myself; I'm from the South, too."
"Are you?" replied Mr. Winston, with some interest; "from what part!"
"From Tuckahoe county, Virginia; nice place dat."
"Never having been there I can't say," rejoined Mr. Winston, smiling; "and how do you like the North? I suppose you are a runaway," continued he.
"Oh, no sir! no sir!" replied Ben, "I was sot free—and I often wish," he added in a whining tone, "dat I was back agin on the old place—hain't got no kind marster to look after me here, and I has to work drefful hard sometimes. Ah," he concluded, drawing a long sigh, "if I was only back on de old place!" "I heartily wish you were!" said Mr. Winston, indignantly, "and wish moreover that you were to be tied up and whipped once a day for the rest of your life. Any man that prefers slavery to freedom deserves to be a slave—you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Go out of the room, sir, as quick as possible!"
"Phew!" said the astonished and chagrined Ben, as he descended the stairs; "that was certainly a great miss," continued he, talking as correct English, and with as pure Northern an accent as any one could boast.
"We have made a great mistake this time; a very queer kind of Southerner that is. I'm afraid we took the wrong pig by the ear;" and as he concluded, he betook himself to the group of white-aproned gentlemen before mentioned, to whom he related the incident that had just occurred.
"Quite a severe fall that, I should say," remarked Mr. Allen. "Perhaps we have made a mistake and he is not a Southerner after all. Well he is registered from New Orleans, and I thought he was a good one to try it on."
"It's a clear case we've missed it this time," exclaimed one of the party, "and I hope, Ben, when you found he was on the other side of the fence, you did not say too much."
"Laws, no!" rejoined Ben, "do you think I'm a fool? As soon as I heard him say what he did, I was glad to get off—I felt cheap enough, now mind, I tell you any one could have bought me for a shilling."
Now it must be here related that most of the waiters employed in this hotel were also connected with the Vigilance Committee of the Under-ground Railroad Company—a society formed for the assistance of fugitive slaves; by their efforts, and by the timely information it was often in their power to give, many a poor slave was enabled to escape from the clutches of his pursuers.
The house in which they were employed was the great resort of Southerners, who occasionally brought with them their slippery property; and it frequently happened that these disappeared from the premises to parts unknown, aided in their flight by the very waiters who would afterwards exhibit the most profound ignorance as to their whereabouts. Such of the Southerners as brought no servants with them were made to contribute, unconsciously and most amusingly, to the escape of those of their friends.
When a gentleman presented himself at the bar wearing boots entirely too small for him, with his hat so far down upon his forehead as almost to obscure his eyes, and whose mouth was filled with oaths and tobacco, he was generally looked upon as a favourable specimen to operate upon; and if he cursed the waiters, addressed any old man amongst them as "boy," and was continually drinking cock-tails and mint-juleps, they were sure of their man; and then would tell him the most astonishing and distressing tales of their destitution, expressing, almost with tears in their eyes, their deep desire to return to their former masters; whilst perhaps the person from whose mouth this tale of woe proceeded had been born in a neighbouring street, and had never been south of Mason and Dixon's[*] line. This flattering testimony in favour of "the peculiar institution" generally had the effect of extracting a dollar or two from the purse of the sympathetic Southerner; which money went immediately into the coffers of the Vigilance Committee.
[Footnote *: The line dividing the free from the slave states.]
It was this course of conduct they were about to pursue with Mr. Winston; not because he exhibited in person or manners any of the before-mentioned peculiarities, but from his being registered from New Orleans.
The following morning, as soon as he had breakfasted, he started in search of Mr. Ellis. The address was 18, Little Green-street; and, by diligently inquiring, he at length discovered the required place.
After climbing up a long flight of stairs on the outside of an old wooden building, he found himself before a door on which was written, "Charles Ellis, carpenter and joiner." On opening it, he ushered himself into the presence of an elderly coloured man, who was busily engaged in planing off a plank. As soon as Mr. Winston saw his face fully, he recognized him as his old friend. The hair had grown grey, and the form was also a trifle bent, but he would have known him amongst a thousand. Springing forward, he grasped his hand, exclaiming, "My dear old friend, don't you know me?" Mr. Ellis shaded his eyes with his hand, and looked at him intently for a few moments, but seemed no wiser from his scrutiny. The tears started to Mr. Winston's eyes as he said, "Many a kind word I'm indebted to you for—I am George Winston—don't you remember little George that used to live on the Carter estate?"
"Why, bless me! it can't be that you are the little fellow that used to go home with me sometimes to Savanah, and that was sold to go to New Orleans?"
"Yes, the same boy; I've been through a variety of changes since then."
"I should think you had," smilingly replied Mr. Ellis; "and, judging from appearances, very favourable ones! Why, I took you for a white man—and you are a white man, as far as complexion is concerned. Laws, child!" he continued, laying his hand familiarly on Winston's shoulders, "how you have changed—I should never have known you! The last time I saw you, you were quite a shaver, running about in a long tow shirt, and regarding a hat and shoes as articles of luxury far beyond your reach. And now," said Mr. Ellis, gazing at him with admiring eyes, "just to look at you! Why, you are as fine a looking man as one would wish to see in a day's travel. I've often thought of you. It was only the other day I was talking to my wife, and wondering what had become of you. She, although a great deal older than your cousin Emily, used to be a sort of playmate of hers. Poor Emily! we heard she was sold at public sale in Savanah—did you ever learn what became of her?" "Oh, yes; I saw her about two months since, when on my way from New Orleans. You remember old Colonel Garie? Well, his son bought her, and is living with her. They have two children—she is very happy. I really love him; he is the most kind and affectionate fellow in the world; there is nothing he would not do to make her happy. Emily will be so delighted to know that I have seen your wife—but who is Mrs. Ellis?—any one that I know?"
"I do not know that you are acquainted with her, but you should remember her mother, old Nanny Tobert, as she was called; she kept a little confectionery—almost every one in Savanah knew her."
"I can't say I do," replied Winston, reflectively.
"She came here," continued Mr. Ellis, "some years ago, and died soon after her arrival. Her daughter went to live with the Thomases, an old Philadelphia family, and it was from their house I married her."
"Thomases?" repeated Mr. Winston; "that is where I saw your boy—he is the image of you."
"And how came you there?" asked Ellis, with a look of surprise.
"In the most natural manner possible. I was invited there to dinner yesterday—the bright face of your boy attracted my attention—so I inquired his name, and that led to the discovery of yourself."
"And do the Thomases know you are a coloured man?" asked Mr. Ellis, almost speechless with astonishment.
"I rather think not," laughingly rejoined Mr. Winston.
"It is a great risk you run to be passing for white in that way," said Mr. Ellis, with a grave look. "But how did you manage to get introduced to that set? They are our very first people."
"It is a long story," was Winston's reply; and he then, as briefly as he could, related all that had occurred to himself since they last met. "And now," continued he, as he finished his recital, "I want to know all about you and your family; and I also want to see something of the coloured people. Since I've been in the North I've met none but whites. I'm not going to return to New Orleans to remain. I'm here in search of a home. I wish to find some place to settle down in for life, where I shall not labour under as many disadvantages as I must struggle against in the South."
"One thing I must tell you," rejoined Mr. Ellis; "if you should settle down here, you'll have to be either one thing or other—white or coloured. Either you must live exclusively amongst coloured people, or go to the whites and remain with them. But to do the latter, you must bear in mind that it must never be known that you have a drop of African blood in your veins, or you would be shunned as if you were a pestilence; no matter how fair in complexion or how white you may be."
"I have not as yet decided on trying the experiment, and I hardly think it probable I shall," rejoined Winston. As he said this he took out his watch, and was astonished to find how very long his visit had been. He therefore gave his hand to Mr. Ellis, and promised to return at six o'clock and accompany him home to visit his family.
As he was leaving the shop, Mr. Ellis remarked: "George, you have not said a word respecting your mother." His face flushed, and the tears started in his eyes, as he replied, in a broken voice, "She's dead! Only think, Ellis, she died within a stone's throw of me, and I searching for her all the while. I never speak of it unless compelled; it is too harrowing. It was a great trial to me; it almost broke my heart to think that she perished miserably so near me, whilst I was in the enjoyment of every luxury. Oh, if she could only have lived to see me as I am now!" continued he; "but He ordered it otherwise, and we must bow. 'Twas God's will it should be so. Good bye till evening. I shall see you again at six."
Great was the surprise of Mrs. Ellis and her daughters on learning from Mr. Ellis, when he came home to dinner, of the events of the morning; and great was the agitation caused by the announcement of the fact, that his friend was to be their guest in the evening.
Mrs. Ellis proposed inviting some of their acquaintances to meet him; but to this project her husband objected, saying he wanted to have a quiet evening with him, and to talk over old times; and that persons who were entire strangers to him would only be a restraint upon them.
Caddy seemed quite put out by the announcement of the intended visit. She declared that nothing was fit to be seen, that the house was in a state of disorder shocking to behold, and that there was scarce a place in it fit to sit down in; and she forthwith began to prepare for an afternoon's vigorous scrubbing and cleaning.
"Just let things remain as they are, will you, Caddy dear," said her father. "Please be quiet until I get out of the house," he continued, as she began to make unmistakeable demonstrations towards raising a dust. "In a few moments you shall have the house to yourself, only give me time to finish my dinner in peace."
Esther, her mother, and their sewing were summarily banished to an upstairs room, whilst Caddy took undivided possession of the little parlour, which she soon brought into an astonishing state of cleanliness. The ornaments were arranged at exact distances from the corners of the mantelpiece, the looking-glass was polished, until it appeared to be without spot or blemish, and its gilt frame was newly adorned with cut paper to protect it from the flies. The best china was brought out, carefully dusted, and set upon the waiter, and all things within doors placed in a state of forwardness to receive their expected guest. The door-steps were, however, not as white and clean as they might be, and that circumstance pressed upon Caddy's mind. She therefore determined to give them a hasty wipe before retiring to dress for the evening.
Having done this, and dressed herself to her satisfaction, she came down stairs to prepare the refreshments for tea. In doing this, she continually found herself exposing her new silk dress to great risks. She therefore donned an old petticoat over her skirt, and tied an old silk handkerchief over her head to protect her hair from flying particles of dust; and thus arrayed she passed the time in a state of great excitement, frequently looking out of the window to see if her father and their guest were approaching.
In one of these excursions, she, to her intense indignation, found a beggar boy endeavouring to draw, with a piece of charcoal, an illustration of a horse-race upon her so recently cleaned door-steps.
"You young villain," she almost screamed, "go away from there. How dare you make those marks upon the steps? Go off at once, or I'll give you to a constable." To these behests the daring young gentleman only returned a contemptuous laugh, and put his thumb to his nose in the most provoking manner. "Ain't you going?" continued the irate Caddy, almost choked with wrath at the sight of the steps, over which she had so recently toiled, scored in every direction with black marks.
"Just wait till I come down, I'll give it to you, you audacious villain, you," she cried, as she closed the window; "I'll see if I can't move you!" Caddy hastily seized a broom, and descended the stairs with the intention of inflicting summary vengeance upon the dirty delinquent who had so rashly made himself liable to her wrath. Stealing softly down the alley beside the house, she sprang suddenly forward, and brought the broom with all her energy down upon the head of Mr. Winston, who was standing on the place just left by the beggar. She struck with such force as to completely crush his hat down over his eyes, and was about to repeat the blow, when her father caught her arm, and she became aware of the awful mistake she had made.