Over the mantel piece were suspended two pictures. One was a likeness of Mr. Weston, cut in paper over a black surface, with both hands behind him, and his right foot foremost; the other was a picture of the Shepherds in Pilgrim's Progress, gazing through a spy-glass at the Celestial city. Alice's first sampler, framed in a black frame, hung on one side of the room, and over it was a small sword which used to swing by Arthur's side, when receiving lessons in military science from Bacchus, who, in his own opinion, was another Bonaparte. Into this room Phillis's children gazed with wondering eyes; and those among the plantation servants who had been honored with a sight of it, declared it superior, in every respect, to their master's drawing room; holding in especial reverence a small table, covered with white, which supported the weight of Phillis's family Bible, where were registered in Arthur's and Alice's handwriting, the births of all her twelve descendants, as well as the ceremony which united her to their illustrious father.
Phillis was ironing away with a good heart, when she was interrupted by a summons to attend her master in the library. She obeyed it with very little delay, and found Mr. Weston seated in his arm-chair, looking over a note which he held in his hand.
"Come in, Phillis," he said, in a kind but grave manner. "I want to speak with you for a few moments; and as I have always found you truthful, I have no doubt you will be perfectly so on the present occasion."
"What is it, master?" Phillis said, respectfully.
"I received a note, yesterday, from Mr. Dawson, about his servant Jim, who ran away three weeks ago. He charges me with having permitted my servants to shelter him for the night, on my plantation; having certain information, that he was seen leaving it the morning after the severe storm we had about that time. If you know any thing of it, Phillis, I require you to tell it to me; I hardly think any of the other servants had opportunities of doing so, and yet I cannot believe that you would so far forget yourself as to do what is not only wrong, but calculated to involve me in serious difficulties with my neighbors."
"I hope you will not be angry with me, master?" said Phillis, "but I can't tell a lie; I let Jim stay in my room that night, and I've been mightily troubled about it; I was afeard you would be angry with me, if you heard of it, and yet, master, I could not help it when it happened."
"Could not help it! Phillis," said Mr. Weston. "What do you mean by that? Why did you not inform me of it, that I might have sent him off?"
"I couldn't find it in my heart, sir," said Phillis, the tears coming in her fine eyes. "The poor creature come in when the storm was at its worst. I had no candle lit; for the lightning was so bright that I hadn't no call for any other light. Bacchus was out in it all, and I was thinking he would be brought in dead drunk, or dead in earnest, when all at once Jim burst open the door, and asked me to let him stay there. I know'd he had run away, and at first I told him to go off, and not be gitting me into trouble; but, master, while I was sending him off such a streak of lightning come in, and such a crash of thunder, that I thought the Almighty had heard me turn him out, and would call me to account for it, when Jim and me should stand before him at the Judgment Day. I told Jim he had better go back to his master, that he wouldn't have any comfort, always hiding himself, and afeard to show his face, but he declared he would die first; and so as I couldn't persuade him to go home agin, I couldn't help myself, for I thought it would be a sin and shame, to turn a beast out in such a storm as that. As soon as the day began to break, and before, too, I woke him up, and told him never to come to my cabin again, no matter what happened. And so, master, I've told you the whole truth, and I am sure you couldn't have turned the poor wretch out to perish in that storm, no matter what would have come of it after."
Phillis had gained confidence as she proceeded, and Mr. Weston heard her without interruption.
"I can hardly blame you," he then said, "for what you have done; but, Phillis, it must never be repeated. Jim is a great rascal, and if I were his master I would be glad to be rid of him, but my plantation must not shelter runaway slaves. I am responsible for what my servants do. I should be inclined to hold other gentlemen responsible for the conduct of theirs. The laws of Virginia require the rights of the master to be respected, and though I shan't make a constable of myself, still I will not allow any such thing to be repeated. Did Bacchus know it?"
"No, indeed, sir; he hates Jim, and no good, may be, would have come of his knowing it; besides, he was asleep long after Jim went off, and there was too much whiskey in him to depend on what he'd have to say."
"That will do, Phillis; and see that such a thing never happens again," said Mr. Weston.
Phillis went back to her ironing, assured her master was not angry with her. Yet she sighed as she thought of his saying, "see that such a thing never happens again." "If it had been a clear night," she thought within herself, "he shouldn't have stayed there. But it was the Lord himself that sent the storm, and I can't see that he never sends another. Anyway its done, and can't be helped;" and Phillis busied herself with her work and her children.
I have not given Phillis's cottage as a specimen of the cabins of the negroes of the South. It is described from the house of a favorite servant. Yet are their cabins generally, healthy and airy. Interest, as well as a wish for the comfort and happiness of the slave, dictates an attention to his wants and feelings. "Slavery," says Voltaire, "is as ancient as war; war as human nature." It is to be wished that truth had some such intimate connection with human nature. Who, for instance, could read without an indignant thought, the following description from the pen of Mrs. Stowe: "They (their cabins) were rude shells, destitute of any pieces of furniture, except a heap of straw, foul with dirt, spread confusedly over the floor." "The small village was alive with no inviting sounds; hoarse, guttural voices, contending at the handmills, where their morsel of hard corn was yet to be ground into meal to fit it for the cake that was to constitute their only supper." But such statements need no denial; the very appearance of the slaves themselves show their want of truth. Look at their sound and healthy limbs, hear the odd, but sweet and musical song that arrests the traveler as he goes on his way; listen to the ready jest which is ever on his lips, and see if the slavery which God has permitted in all ages to exist, is as is here described; and judge if our fair Southern land is tenanted by such fiends as they are represented to be, by those who are trying to make still worse the condition of a mass of God's creatures, born to a life of toil, but comparative freedom from care. If it be His will that men should be born free and equal, that will is not revealed in the Bible from the time of the patriarchs to the present day. There are directions there for the master and the slave. When the period of emancipation advances, other signs of the times will herald it, besides the uncalled-for interference, and the gross misrepresentations, of the men and women of the North.
Sidney Smith said of a man, who was a great talker, that a few flashes of silence would make a great improvement in him. So of the Abolition cause, a few flashes of truth would make it decidedly more respectable.
"Come, Alice," said Mr. Barbour, "I hear, not the trump of war, but the soul-inspiring scrape of the banjo. I notice the servants always choose the warmest nights to dance in. Let us go out and see them."
"We'll go to the arbor," said Alice; "where we will be near enough to see Uncle Bacchus's professional airs. Ole Bull can't exceed him in that respect."
"Nor equal him," said Mr. Barbour. "Bacchus is a musician by nature; his time is perfect; his soul is absorbed in his twangs and flourishes."
"I must come, too," said Mr. Weston. "You are afraid of the night air, Cousin Janet?"
"Never mind me," said Cousin Janet; "I'll sit here and fan myself."
"And as I prefer music, especially the banjo, at a distance, I will stay too," said Mrs. Weston.
Aunt Phillis was smoking outside her door, her mind divided between speculations as to what had become of Jim, and observations on the servants, as they were collecting from every direction, to join in the dancing or to find a good seat to look on.
The first sound of the banjo aroused Bacchus the younger from his dreams. He bounded from his bed on the chest, regardless of the figure he cut in his very slight dishabille, and proceeded to the front door, set, as his mother would have said, on having his own way.
"Oh, mammy," he said, "dare's de banjo."
"What you doin here?" said Phillis. "Go long to bed this minute, 'fore I take a switch to you."
"Oh, mammy," said the boy, regardless of the threat in his enthusiastic state of mind, "jist listen, daddy's gwine to play 'Did you ever see the devil?'"
"Will any body listen to the boy? If you don't go to bed"—
"Oh, mammy, please lem me go. Dare's Jake, he's gwine to dance. Massa said I'd beat Jake dancin one o' dese days."
"High," said Phillis; "where's the sore foot you had this morning?"
"Its done got well. It got well a little while ago, while I was asleep."
"Bound for you; go long," said Phillis.
Bacchus was about to go, without the slightest addition to his toilet.
"Come back here," said Phillis, "you real cornfield nigger; you goin there naked?"
The boy turned back, and thrust his legs in a pair of pants, with twine for suspenders. His motions were much delayed, by his nervous state of agitation, the consequence of the music which was now going on in earnest.
He got off finally, not without a parting admonition from his mother.
"Look here," said she, "if you don't behave yourself, I'll skin you."
Allusion to this mysterious mode of punishment had the effect of sobering the boy's mind in a very slight degree. No sooner was he out of his mother's sight than his former vivacity returned.
His father, meanwhile, had turned down a barrel, and was seated on it. Every attitude, every motion of his body, told that his soul, forgetful of earth and earthly things, had withdrawn to the regions of sound. He kicked his slippers off keeping time, and his head dodged about with every turn of the quick tune. A stranger, not understanding the state of mind into which a negro gets after playing "The devil among the tailors," would have supposed he was afflicted with St. Vitus's dance. The mistake would soon have been perceived, for two of the boys having tired themselves out with manoeuvres of every kind, were obliged to sit down to get some breath, and Bacchus fell into a sentimental mood, after a little tuning up.
It was uncertain in what strain he would finally go off. First came a bar that sounded like Auld Lang Syne, then a note or two of Days of Absence, then a turn of a Methodist hymn, at last he went decidedly into "Nelly was a lady." The tune of this William had learned from Alice singing it to the piano. He begged her to teach him the words. She did so, telling him of the chorus part, in which many were to unite. Bacchus prepared an accompaniment; a number of them sang it together. William sang the solos. He had a remarkably good voice and fine taste; he therefore did justice to the sweet song. When the full but subdued chorus burst upon the ear, every heart felt the power of the simple strain; the master with his educated mind and cultivated taste, and the slave with the complete power of enjoyment with which the Creator has endowed him.
Hardly had the cadence of the last note died away, when "Shout, shout, the devil's about," was heard from a stentorian voice. Above the peals of laughter with which the words were received, rose Jake's voice, "Come on, ole fiddler, play somefin a nigger kin kick up his heels to; what's de use of singing after dat fashion; dis aint no meetin."
"What'll you have, Jake?" said Bacchus.
"What'll I have? Why, I never dances to but one tune," and Jake started the first line of "Oh, plantation gals, can't you look at a body," while Bacchus was giving a prelude of scrapes and twangs. Jake made a circle of somersets, and come down on his head, with his heels in the air, going through flourishes that would have astonished an uninitiated observer. As it was, Jake's audience were in a high condition of enjoyment. They were in a constant state of expectation as to where he would turn up, or what would be the nature of the next caper. Now, he cut the pigeon-wing for a length of time that made the spectators hold their breath; then he would, so to speak, stand on his hands, and with his feet give a push to the barrel where Uncle Bacchus was sitting, and nearly roll the old man underneath. One moment he is dancing with every limb, making the most curious contortions of his face, rolling out his tongue, turning his eyes wrong side out. Suddenly, he stretches himself on the grass, snoring to a degree that might be heard at almost any distance. Starting up, he snaps his fingers, twirls round, first on one foot, and then on the other, till feeling the time approaching when he must give up, he strikes up again:
"Shout, shout, the devil's about; Shut the door and keep him out,"
leaps frog over two or three of the servants' shoulders, disappearing from among them in an immoderate state of conceit and perspiration.
Bacchus is forced at this crisis to put down the banjo and wipe his face with his sleeve, breathing very hard. He was thinking he wouldn't get near so tired if he had a little of the "Oh, be joyful" to keep up his spirits, but such aspirations were utterly hopeless at the present time: getting tipsy while his master, and Mr. Barbour, and Alice were looking at him, was quite out of the question. He made a merit of keeping sober, too, on the ground of setting a good example to the young servants. He consoled himself with a double-sized piece of tobacco, and rested after his efforts. His promising son danced Juba at Mr. Weston's particular request, and was rewarded by great applause.
A little courting scene was going on at this time, not far distant. Esther, Phillis's third daughter, was a neat, genteel-looking servant, entirely above associating with "common niggers," as she styled those who, being constantly employed about the field, had not the advantage of being called upon in the house, and were thus very deficient in manners and appearance from those who were so much under the eye of the family. Esther, like her mother, was a great Methodist. Reading well, she was familiar with the Bible, and had committed to memory a vast number of hymns. These, she and her sister, with William, often sung in the kitchen, or at her mother's cabin. Miss Janet declared it reminded her of the employment of the saints in heaven, more than any church music she had ever heard; especially when they sang, "There is a land of pure delight."
That heart must be steeled against the sweet influences of the Christian religion, which listens not with an earnest pleasure to the voice of the slave, singing the songs of Zion. No matter how kind his master, or how great and varied his comforts, he is a slave! His soul cannot, on earth, be animated to attain aught save the enjoyment of the passing hour. Why need he recall the past? The present does not differ from it—toil, toil, however mitigated by the voice of kindness. Need he essay to penetrate the future? it is still toil, softened though it be by the consideration which is universally shown to the feelings and weaknesses of old age. Yet has the Creator, who placed him in this state, mercifully provided for it. The slave has not the hopes of the master, but he is without many of his cares. He may not strive after wealth, yet he is always provided with comfort. Ambition, with its longings for fame, and riches, and power, never stimulates his breast; that breast is safe from its disappointments. His enjoyments, though few, equal his expectations. His occupations, though servile, resemble the mass of those around him. His eye can see the beauties of nature; his ear drinks in her harmonies; his soul content itself with what is passing in the limited world around him. Yet, he is a slave! And if he is ever elevated above his condition, it is when praising the God of the white man and the black; when, with uplifted voice, he sings the songs of the redeemed; when, looking forward to the invitation which he hopes to receive, "Come in, thou servant of the Lord."
Christian of the South, remember who it was that bore thy Saviour's cross, when, toiling, and weary, and fainting beneath it, he trod the hill of Calvary. Not one of the rich, learned, or great; not one of thine ancestors, though thou mayest boast of their wealth, and learning, and heroic acts—it was a black man who relieved him of his heavy burden; Simon of Cyrene was his name.
Christian of the North, canst thou emancipate the Southern slave? Canst thou change his employments, and elevate his condition? Impossible. Beware then, lest thou add to his burden, and tighten his bonds, and deprive him of the simple enjoyments which are now allowed him.
* * * * *
Esther, seated on the steps of a small porch attached to the side of the house, was mentally treating with great contempt the amusements of the other servants. She had her mother's disposition, and disliked any thing like noisy mirth, having an idea it was not genteel; seeing so little of it in her master's family. She was an active, cheerful girl, but free from any thing like levity in her manner.
She had a most devoted admirer in the neighborhood; no less a personage than Mrs. Kent's coachman. His name was Robert, after Mrs. Kent's father. Assuming the family name, he was known as Robert Carter. Phillis called him a harmless goose of a fellow, and this gives the best idea of his character. He understood all about horses, and nothing else, if we except the passion of love, which was the constant subject of his conversation. He had made up his mind to court Esther, and with that in view he dressed himself in full livery, as if he were going to take his mistress an airing. He asks Mrs. Kent's permission to be married, though he had not the slightest reason to suppose Esther would accept him, with a confidence and self-exultation that man in general is apt to feel when he has determined to bestow himself upon some fortunate fair one. He went his way, passing the dancers without any notice, and going straight to that part of the house where he supposed he should find Esther.
Esther received him with politeness, but with some reserve; not having a chair to offer him, and not intending him to take a seat on the steps beside her, she stood up, and leaned against the porch.
They talked a little of the weather, and the health of the different members of their respective families, during which, Robert took the opportunity to say, "His master, (Mr. Kent) had a bilious attack, and he wished to the Lord, he'd never get better of it." Finally, he undid one of the buttons of his coat, which was getting too small for him, and drawing a long breath, proceeded to lay himself (figuratively) at Esther's feet.
He did not come to the point at once, but drove round it, as if there might be some impediment in the way, which, though it could not possibly upset the whole affair, might make a little unnecessary delay. Esther thought he was only talking nonsense, as usual, but when he waxed warm and energetic in his professions, she interrupted him with, "Look here, Robert, you're out of your head, aint you?"
"No deed, Miss Esther, but I'm dying in love with you."
"The best thing you can do, is to take yourself home," said Esther. "I hope you're sober."
"I was never soberer in my life," said Robert, "but the fact is, Miss Esther, I'm tired of a bachelor's life; 'pears as if it wasn't respectable, and so I'm thinking of settling down."
"You want settling down, for true," said Esther.
"I'm mighty happy to hear you say so," said Robert, "and if you'll only mention what time it'll be agreeable to you to make me the happiest man in Virginny, I'le speak to Uncle Watty Harkins about performing the ceremony, without you prefer a white minister to tie the knot."
"Robert," said Esther, "you're a born fool; do you mean to say you want me to marry you?"
"Certainly, Esther; I shouldn't pay you no attentions, if I didn't mean to act like a gentleman by you."
"Well, I can tell you," said Esther, "I wouldn't marry you, to save your life."
"You ain't in earnest, Esther?"
"Indeed I am," said Esther, "so you better not be coming here on any such fool's errand again."
"Why, Esther," said Robert, reproachfully, "after my walking home from meeting with you, and thinking and dreaming about you, as I have for this long time, aint you going to marry me?"
"No, I aint," said Esther.
"Then I'll bid you good night; and look here, Esther, to-morrow, mistress will lose one of her most valuable servants, for I shall hang myself."
Esther went up the steps, and shut the door on him, internally marvelling at the impudence of men in general; Robert, with a strong inclination to shed tears, turned his steps homeward. He told Mrs. Kent, the next morning, that he had come to the conclusion not to be married for some time yet, women were so troublesome, and there was no knowing how things would turn out. Mrs. Kent saw he was much dejected, and concluded there were sour grapes in the question.
After due consideration, Robert determined not to commit suicide; he did something equally desperate. He married Mrs. Kent's maid, an ugly, thick-lipped girl, who had hitherto been his especial aversion. He could not though, entirely erase Esther's image from his heart—always feeling a tendency to choke, when he heard her voice in meeting.
Esther told her mother of the offer she had had, and Phillis quite agreed with her, in thinking Robert was crazy. She charged "Esther to know when she was well off, and not to bring trouble upon herself by getting married, or any such foolishness as that."
"I tell you what, Abel," said Arthur Weston, "the more I think about you Northern people, the harder it is for me to come to a conclusion as to what you are made of."
"Can't you experiment upon us, Arthur; test us chemically?"
"Don't believe you could be tested," said Arthur, "you are such a slippery set. Now here is a book I have been looking over, called Annals of Salem, by Joseph B. Felt, published in 1827. On the 109th page it says: 'Captain Pierce, of the ship Desire, belonging to this port, was commissioned to transport fifteen boys and one hundred women, of the captive Pequods, to Bermuda, and sell them as slaves. He was obliged, however, to make for Providence Island. There he disposed of the Indians. He returned from Tortugas the 26th of February following, with a cargo of cotton, tobacco, salt, and negroes.' In the edition of 1849, this interesting fact is omitted. Now, was not that trading in human bodies and souls in earnest? First they got all they could for those poor captive Pequods, and they traded the amount again for negroes, and some et ceteras. You are the very people to make a fuss about your neighbours, having been so excessively righteous yourselves. No wonder that the author left it out in a succeeding edition. I am surprised he ever put it in at all."
"It seems more like peddling with the poor devils than any thing else," said Abel. "But you must remember the spirit of the age, Arthur, as Mr. Hubbard calls it?"
"Yes," said Arthur, "I forgot that; but I wonder if Mr. Hubbard excuses the conduct of England to her colonies in consideration of the spirit of the age—that allowed taxation and all of her other forms of oppression, I suppose. It is a kind of charity that covers a multitude of sins. But I was saying," continued Arthur, "that I could not make you out. While they were carrying on two kinds of slave trade, they were discussing in Boston the propriety of women's wearing veils, having lectures about it. Let me read to you. 'Mr. Cotton, though while in England of an opposite opinion on this subject, maintained that in countries where veils were to be a sign of submission, they might be properly disused. But Mr. Endicott took different ground, and endeavored to retain it by general argument from St. Paul. Mr. Williams sided with his parishioner. Through his and others' influence, veils were worn abundantly. At the time they were the most fashionable, Mr. Cotton came to preach for Mr. Skelton. His subject was upon wearing veils. He endeavored to prove that this was a custom not to be tolerated. The consequence was, that the ladies became converts to his faith in this particular, and for a long time left off an article of dress, which indicated too great a degree of submission to the lords of creation.' Did you ever hear of such a set of old meddlers, lecturing and preaching about women's dressing. I suppose the men wore petticoats at that time themselves."
"If they did," said Abel, "I am very glad they have turned them over to the other sex since, as they are worn in the number which the present fashion requires. I should think they would be very uncomfortable. But, Arthur, I heard such a good story the other day, about Lawyer Page. He fights bravely with his tongue for other people's rights, but he daren't say his soul's his own before his wife. Well, when that affair came out about Morton's whipping his wife, as he was going to the Courthouse, Page said to old Captain Caldwell, 'Do you know, captain, that before all the facts were out in this case about Morton, they actually had it in every direction that it was I who had whipped my wife.' 'Now Page,' said the old captain, 'you know that's no such thing; for every body in New Haven is well aware that when there was any flogging going on in the matrimonial line, in your house, it was you that came off the worst.' Page did not say a word."
"I am glad I am not yoked with one of your New Haven belles, if turning a Jerry Sneak is to be the consequence," said Arthur.
"This marrying is a terrible necessity, Arthur," said Abel. "I don't know how I'll be supported under it when my time comes; but after all, I think the women get the worst of it. There were not two prettier girls in New Haven than my sisters. Julia, who has been married some eight or nine years, was really beautiful, and so animated and cheerful; now she has that wife-like look of care, forever on her countenance. Her husband is always reproaching her that that little dare devil of a son of hers does not keep his clothes clean. The other evening I was at their house, and they were having a little matrimonial discussion about it. It seems little Charlie had been picked up out of the mud in the afternoon, and brought in in such a condition, that it was sometime before he could be identified. After being immersed in a bathing tub it was ascertained that he had not a clean suit of clothes; so the young gentleman was confined to his chamber for the rest of the evening, in a night gown. This my brother-in-law considered a great hardship, and they were talking the matter over when I went in.
"'Why don't you make the boy clothes enough, Julia?' said he.
"'I am forever making and forever mending,' said Julia; 'but it is impossible to keep that young one clean. He had twelve pairs of pantaloons in the wash last week, and the girl was sick, and I had to iron them myself. I guess if you had all the trouble I have with him, you would put him to bed and make him stay there a week.'
"'I tell you what it is, good people,' said I, 'when I go courting I intend to ask the lady in the first place if she likes to make boys' clothes. If she says No, I shan't have her, no matter what other recommendations she may possess.'
"'She'll be sure to give you the mitten for your impudence,' said Julia. Then, there is my pretty sister Harriet, quilting quilts, trimming nightcaps, and spoiling her bright eyes making her wedding-clothes; after a while she'll be undergoing some of the troubles of the married state, which will lengthen her face. The men get the best of it, decidedly; for they have not all the petty annoyances a woman must encounter. What do you think about it, Arthur?"
"I hardly know," said Arthur. "I have been in love ever since I could tell my right hand from my left. I have hardly ever looked forward to marriage; my time has been so much occupied here, that when I get a few moments for reflection, my thoughts go back to Alice, and the happy years I have passed with her, rather than to anticipations of any kind. I suppose I shall find out, though, and then you may profit by my experience."
"You will have a sad experience with those niggers of yours, I am afraid, Arthur," said Abel. "Our people are determined never to let them alone. I wonder you do not employ white hands upon the plantation, and have done with any trouble about the matter."
"What would be done with the slaves in the mean time?" said Arthur.
"Set 'em free," said Abel; "colonize, or hang 'em all."
"The latter is the more practicable suggestion," said Arthur. "As to setting them free, they could not remain in Virginia afterward if I were willing to do so: there is a law against it. Colonizing them would be equally difficult, for the most of them would refuse to go to Africa; and if I have not the right to hold them slaves, I certainly have not a right to force them into another country. Some of them would be willing and glad to come to the North, but some would object. My father set a house-servant free; he was absent a year, and returned voluntarily to his old condition. Mark had got some Abolition notions in his head, and my father told him he might have his free papers, and go: I have told you the result. The fact is, Abel, you Yankees don't stand very well with our slaves. They seem to consider you a race of pedlars, who come down upon them in small bodies for their sins, to wheedle away all their little hoardings. My father has several times brought servants to New York, but they have never run away from him. I think Virginia would do well without her colored people, because her climate is moderate, and white labor could be substituted. But it is not so with the more Southern States. I would like to see a Louisiana sun shining upon your New England States for a while—how quickly you would fit out an expedition for Africa. It is the mere accident of climate that makes your States free ones."
"I suppose so," said Abel. "A great many of your slaves run away through the year, don't they?"
"No, indeed," said Arthur; "comparatively, very few. Just before I came to New Haven, I went to pass a few weeks at a plantation belonging to a family with whom we were intimate. One of the sons and I went on the river, two of the servants rowing us. I said to one of them, a large fat negro, 'What's your name, uncle?' 'Meschach, sir,' he said. 'Meschach,' said I; 'why, you ought to have two brothers, one named Shadrach and the other Abednego.' 'So I had, sir.' 'Well, what has become of them?' said I. 'Shadrach, he's dead,' he answered. 'And where is Abednego?' said I. 'He's gone, too,' he replied, in a low voice. My friend gave me a look, and told me afterwards that Abednego had ran away, and that his family considered it a disgrace, and never spoke of him. I hear of a negro boy who absconded, and when he was found and being brought home, an old washerwoman watched him as he went up the street. 'La,' said she, 'who'd a thought he'd a beginned to act bad so young,' But let us leave off Abolition and take a walk. Our cigars are out and we will resume the subject to-morrow afternoon, when we light some more."
* * * * *
"Now," said Abel, "having a couple of particularly good cigars, where did we leave off?"
"Its too warm for argument," said Arthur, watching the curling of the gray smoke as it ascended.
"We need not argue," said Abel; "I want to catechize you."
"Do you think that the African slave-trade can be defended?"
"No, assuredly not."
"Well," said Abel, "how can you defend your right to hold slaves as property in the United States?"
"Abel," said Arthur, "when a Yankee begins to question there is no reason to suppose he ever intends to stop. I shall answer your queries from the views of Governor Hammond, of Carolina. They are at least worthy of consideration. What right have you New England people to the farms you are now holding?"
"The right of owning them," said Abel.
"From whom did you get them?" asked Arthur.
"And how did they get them?"
"From the Red men, their original owners."
"Well," said Arthur, "we all know how these transactions were conducted all over the country. We wanted the lands of the Red men, and we took them. Sometimes they were purchased, sometimes they were wrested; always, the Red men were treated with injustice. They were driven off, slaughtered, and taken as slaves. Now, God as clearly gave these lands to the Red men as he gave life and freedom to the African. Both have been unjustly taken away."
"But," said Abel, "we hold property in land, you in the bodies and souls of men."
"Granted," said Arthur; "but we have as good a right to our property as you to yours—we each inherit it from our fathers. You must know that slaves were recognized as property under the constitution, John Q. Adams, speaking of the protection extended to the peculiar interests of South, makes these remarks: 'Protected by the advantage of representation on this floor, protected by the stipulation in the constitution for the recovery of fugitive slaves, protected by the guarantee in the constitution to owners of this species of property, against domestic violence.' It was considered in England as any other kind of commerce; so that you cannot deny our right to consider them as property now, as well as then."
"But can you advocate the enslaving of your fellow man?" said Abel.
"No," said Arthur, "if you put the question in that manner; but if you come to the point, and ask me if I can conscientiously hold in bondage slaves in the South, I say yes, without the slightest hesitation. I'll tell you why. You must agree with me, if the Bible allow slavery there is no sin it. Now, the Bible does allow it. You must read those letters of Governor Hammond to Clarkson, the English Abolitionist. The tenth commandment, your mother taught you, no doubt: 'thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife nor his man-servant nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.' These are the words of God, and as such, should be obeyed strictly. In the most solemn manner, the man-servant and the maid-servant are considered the property of thy neighbor. Generally the word is rendered slave. This command includes all classes of servants; there is the Hebrew-brother who shall go out in the seventh year, and the hired-servant and those 'purchased from the heathen round about,' who were to be bondmen forever. In Leviticus, speaking of the 'bondmen of the heathen which shall be round about' God says, 'And ye shall take them for an inheritance, for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession they shall be your bondmen forever.' I consider that God permitted slavery when he made laws for the master and the slave, therefore I am justified in holding slaves. In the times of our Saviour, when slavery existed in its worst form, it was regarded as one of the conditions of human society; it is evident Abolition was not shadowed forth by Christ or his apostles. 'Do unto all men as ye would have them do unto you,' is a general command, inducing charity and kindness among all classes of men; and does not authorize interference with the established customs of society. If, according to this precept of Christ, I am obliged to manumit my slaves, you are equally forced to purchase them. If I were a slave, I would have my master free me; if you were a slave, and your owner would not give you freedom, you would have some rich man to buy you. From the early ages of the world, there existed the poor and the rich, the master and the slave.
"It would be far better for the Southern slaves, if our institution, as regards them, were left to 'gradual mitigation and decay, which time may bring about. The course of the Abolitionists, while it does nothing to destroy this institution, greatly adds to its hardships.' Tell me that 'man-stealing' is a sin, and I will agree with you, and will insist that the Abolitionists are guilty of it. In my opinion, those who consider slavery a sin, challenge the truth of the Bible.
"Besides, Abel," continued Arthur, "what right have you to interfere? Your Northern States abolished slavery when it was their interest to do so: let us do the same. In the meantime, consider the condition of these dirty vagabonds, these free blacks, who are begging from me every time I go into the street. I met one the other day, who had a most lamentable state of things to report. He had rheumatism, and a cough, and he spit blood, and he had no tobacco, and he was hungry, and he had the toothache. I gave him twenty-five cents as a sort of panacea, and advised him to travel South and get a good master. He took the money, but not the advice."
"But, Arthur, the danger of insurrection; I should think it would interfere greatly with your comfort."
"We do not fear it," said Arthur. "Mobs of any kind are rare in the Southern country. We are not (in spite of the bad qualities ascribed to us by the Abolitionists) a fussy people. Sometimes, when an Abolitionist comes along, we have a little fun with him, the negroes enjoying it exceedingly. Slaveholders, as a general thing, desire to live a peaceful, quiet life; yet they are not willing to have their rights wrested from them."
"One great disadvantage in a slaveholding community is, that you are apt to be surrounded by uneducated people," said Abel.
"We do not educate our slaves," said Arthur; "but you do not presume to say that we do not cultivate our minds as assiduously as you do yours. Our statesmen are not inferior to yours in natural ability, nor in the improvement of it. We have far more time to improve ourselves than you, as a general thing. When you have an opportunity of judging, you will not hesitate to say, that our women can bear to be compared with yours in every respect, in their intellect, and refinement of manners and conversation. Our slaves are not left ignorant, like brutes, as has been charged upon us. Where a master feels a religious responsibility, he must and does cause to be given, all necessary knowledge to those who are dependent upon him. I must say, that though we have fewer sects at the South, we have more genuine religion. You will think I am prejudiced. Joining the church here is, in a great measure, a form. I have formed this opinion from my own observation. With us there must be a proper disregard of the customs of the world; a profession of religion implying a good deal more than a mere profession. Look at the thousand new and absurd opinions that have agitated New England, while they never have been advanced with us. There is Unitarianism, that faith that would undermine the perfect structure of the Christian religion; that says Christ is a man, when the Scriptures style him 'Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.' Why, it is hardly tolerated at the South. Have you any right to claim for yourself superior holiness? None whatever.
"There never was any thing so perfectly false (I cannot help referring to it again,) as that religion is discouraged among our slaves. It is precisely the contrary. Most of them have the same opportunities of attending worship as their owners. They generally prefer the Methodist and Baptist denominations; they worship with the whites, or they have exclusive occasions for themselves, which they prefer. They meet on the plantations for prayer, for singing, or for any religious purpose, when they choose; the ladies on the plantations instruct them in the Bible, and how to read it. Many of them are taught to write.
"Religion seems to be a necessary qualification of the female mind—I think this, because I have been so fortunate in those of our own family. My mother died soon after my birth; her friends often dwell on the early piety so beautifully developed in her character. We have a relative, an old maid, who lives with us; she forgets her own existence, laboring always for the good of others. My aunt is a noble Christian woman, and Alice has not breathed such an atmosphere in vain. We have a servant woman named Phillis, her price is far above rubies. Her industry, her honesty, her attachment to our family, exceeds every thing. I wish Abolitionists would imitate one of her virtues—humility. I know of no poetry more beautiful than the hymns she sang to me in my infancy; her whole life has been a recommendation of the religion of the Bible. I wish my chance of Heaven were half as good as hers. She is a slave here, but she is destined to be a saint hereafter."
The evening is drawing on again at Exeter, and Alice and her mother are in a little sitting room that opens on the porch. Mrs. Weston is fanning her daughter, who has been suffering during the day from headache. Miss Janet is there, too, and for a rare occurrence, is idle; looking from the window at the tall peaks of the Blue Ridge upon which she has gazed for many a year. Little Lydia stands by her side, her round eyes peering into Miss Janet's face, wondering what would happen, that she should be unemployed. They are awaiting Mr. Weston's return from an afternoon ride, to meet at the last and most sociable meal of the day.
"Miss Janet," said Lydia, "aint Miss Alice white?"
"Very pale," said Miss Janet, looking at Alice; then, with a sigh, turning to the mountains again.
"What makes her so white?" asked Lydia, in an under tone.
"She has had a headache all day. Be quiet, child," said Miss Janet.
After a moment, Lydia said, "I wish I could have de headache all de time."
"What do you say such a foolish thing as that for, Lydia?"
"'Kase I'd like to be white, like Miss Alice." Miss Janet did not reply. Again Lydia spoke, "If I was to stay all time in de house, and never go in de sun, would I git white?"
"No—no—foolish child; what gives you such ideas?"
There was another pause. Mrs. Weston fanned Alice, who, with closed eyes, laid languidly on the lounge.
"Miss Janet," said Lydia, speaking very softly, "who made de lightning-bugs?"
"God made them," said Miss Janet.
"Did God make de nanny-goats, too?"
"You know that God made every thing," said Miss Janet. "I have often told you so."
"He didn't make mammy's house, ma'am; I seed de men makin it."
"No; man makes houses, but God made all the beautiful things in nature. He made man, and trees, and rivers, and such things as man could not make."
Lydia looked up at the sky. The sun had set, and the moon was coming forth, a few stars glistened there. Long, fleecy clouds extended over the arch of heaven, and some passing ones for a moment obscured the brightness that gilded the beautiful scene.
"Miss Janet," said Lydia, "its mighty pretty there; but 'spose it was to fall."
"What was to fall?"
"De sky, ma'am."
"It cannot fall. God holds it in its place."
Another interval and Lydia said: "Miss Janet, 'spose God was to die, den de sky would broke down."
"What put such a dreadful thought into your head, child?" said Miss Janet. "God cannot die."
"Yes, ma'am, he kin," said Lydia.
"No, he cannot. Have I not often told you that God is a spirit? He created all things, but he never was made; he cannot die."
Lydia said inquiringly, "Wasn't Jesus Christ God, ma'am?"
"Yes, he was the Son of God, and he was God."
"Well, ma'am, he died onct, dat time de Jews crucified him—dat time de ground shook, and de dead people got up—dat time he was nailed to de cross. So, ma'am, if God died onct, couldn't he die agin?"
Miss Janet, arousing herself from her reverie, looked at the child. There she stood, her eyes fixed upon the sky, her soul engaged in solving this mysterious question. Her little hands hung listlessly by her side; there was no beauty in her face; the black skin, the projecting lips, the heavy features, designated her as belonging to a degraded race. Yet the soul was looking forth from its despised tenement, and eagerly essaying to grasp things beyond its reach.
"Could he die agin, Miss Janet?" asked Lydia.
Poor child! thought Miss Janet, how the soul pinioned and borne down, longs to burst its chains, and to soar through the glorious realms of light and knowledge. I thought but now that there was no more for me to do here; that tired of the rugged ascent, I stood as it were on the tops of those mountains, gazing in spirit on the celestial city, and still not called to enter in. Now, I see there is work for me to do. Thou art a slave, Lydia; yet God has called thee to the freedom of the children that he loves; thou art black, yet will thy soul be washed white in the blood of the Lamb; thou art poor, yet shalt thou be made rich through Him who, when on earth, was poor indeed. Jesus, forgive me! I murmured that I still was obliged to linger. Oh! make me the honored instrument of good to this child, and when thou callest me hence, how gladly will I obey the summons.
"Lydia," she said, "the Son of God died for us all, for you and for me, but he was then in the form of man. He died that we might live; he never will die again. He rose from the dead, and is in heaven, at the right hand of God. He loves you, because you think about him."
"He don't love me like he do Miss Alice, 'kase she's so white," said Lydia.
"He loves all who love him," said Miss Janet, "whether they are black or white. Be a good child, and he will surely love you. Be kind and obliging to everybody; be industrious and diligent in all you have to do; obey your mother and father, and your master. Be truthful and honest. God hates a liar, and a deceitful person. He will not take care of you and love you, unless you speak the truth. Sometimes you try to deceive me. God will not be your friend if you deceive any one. And now go to your mother, she will put you to bed."
Lydia made a curtsey, and said, "Good-night, ma'am." She went to Mrs. Weston, and bade her good-night too. Then turning toward Alice, she gazed wonderingly at her pale face.
"Is you got de headache now, Miss Alice?"
"Not much," said Alice, gently.
"Good night, miss," said Lydia, with another curtesy, and she softly left the room. "Oh, mammy," she said, as she entered her mother's cabin, "Miss Janet say, if I'm a good child, God will love me much as he loves Miss Alice, if I is black. Miss Alice is so white to-night; you never see'd her look as white as she do to-night."
* * * * *
Mr. Weston alighted from his horse, and hurried to the sitting-room, "Have you waited tea for me?" he said. "Why did you do so? Alice, darling, is your head better?"
"A great deal, uncle," said Alice. "Have you had a pleasant ride?"
"Yes; but my child, you look very sick. What can be the matter with you? Anna, did you send for the doctor?"
"No—Alice objected so."
"But you must send for him—I am sure she is seriously ill."
"There is nothing the matter with me, but a headache," said Alice. "After tea, I will go to bed, and will be well in the morning."
"God grant you may, my sweet one. What has come over you?"
"Tea is ready," said Cousin Janet. "Let us go in to it, and then have prayers, and all go to bed early. Why Cousin Weston, you are getting quite dissipated in your old age; coming home to tea at this hour; I suppose I shall begin such practices next."
Miss Janet's suggestion of retiring early, was followed. Phillis came in to see how Alice's head was, and recommended brown paper and vinegar. She made no comment on her appearance, but did not wonder that Lydia was struck with the expression of her countenance. There was an uneasiness that was foreign to it; not merely had the glow of health departed, there was something in its place, strange there. It was like the storm passing over the beautiful lake; the outline of rock, and tree, and surface, is to be seen, but its tranquil beauty is gone; and darkness and gloom are resting where has been the home of light, and love, and beauty.
Alice undressed and went to bed; her mother raised all the windows, put out the candle, and laid down beside her. Hoping that she would fall asleep, she did not converse, but Alice after a few minutes, called her.
"What is it, Alice?"
"Did you hear what Cousin Janet said to Lydia, to-night, mother? God hates those who deceive."
"Why think of that now, my love?"
"Because it refers to me. She did not mean it for me, but it came home to my heart."
"To your heart? That has always been truth and candor itself. Try and banish such thoughts. If you were well, fancies like these would not affect you."
"They are not fancies, they are realities," said Alice. She sighed and continued, "Am I not deceiving the kind protector and friend of my childhood? Oh, mother, if he knew all, how little would he love me! And Arthur, can it be right for me to be engaged to him, and to deceive him, too?"
"Dear Alice, how often have we talked about this, and hoped you were satisfied as to the propriety of being silent on the subject at present. Your uncle's health is very feeble; he is subject to sudden and alarming attacks of sickness, and easily thrown into a state of agitation that endangers his life. Would you run such a risk? What a grief would it be to him to know that the hopes of years were to be destroyed, and by one whom he had nursed in his own bosom as a child. Poor Arthur, too! away from home so long—trusting you with such confidence, looking forward with delight to the time of his return, could you bear thus to dash his dearest prospects to the earth?"
"But he must know it, mother. I could not marry him with a lie in my right hand."
"It will not be so, Alice; you cannot help loving Arthur, above all men, when you are with him; so noble, so generous, so gifted with all that is calculated to inspire affection, you will wonder your heart has ever wavered."
"But it has," said Alice; "and he must know all."
"Of course," said Mrs. Weston; "nothing would justify your having any reserve with him, but this is not the time for explanation. If I believed that you really and truly loved Walter, so as to make it impossible for you to forget him and return Arthur's affection; if I thought you could not one day regard Arthur as he deserves, I would not wish you to remain silent for a day. It would be an injustice, and a sin, to do so. Yet I feel assured that there is no such danger.
"A woman, Alice, rarely marries her first love, and it is well that it is so. Her feelings, rather than her judgment, are then enlisted, and both should be exercised when so fearful a thing as marriage is concerned. You have been a great deal with Walter, and have always regarded him tenderly, more so of late, because the feelings strengthen with time, and Walter's situation is such as to enlist all your sympathies; his fascinating appearance and interesting qualities have charmed your affections. You see him casting from him the best friends he has ever had, because he feels condemned of ingratitude in their society. He is going forth on the voyage of life, alone, you weep as any sister would, to see him thus. I do not blame him for loving you; but I do censure him in the highest degree, for endeavoring to win more than a sister's regard from you, in return; it was selfish and dishonorable. More than all, I blame myself for not foreseeing this. You said yesterday, you could not bear the thought of being separated from Arthur. You do not know your own heart, many a woman does not, until time has been her teacher; let it be yours. Cousin Janet has thus advised you; be guided by us, and leave this thing to rest for a while; you will have reason to rejoice in having done so. Would you leave me for Walter, Alice?"
"No, mother. How could you ask me?"
"Then trust me; I would not answer for your uncle's safety were we to speak to him on this subject. How cruel to pain him, when a few months may restore us to the hopes and happiness which have been ours! Do what is right, and leave the future to God."
"But how can I write to Arthur, when I know I am not treating him as I would wish him to treat me?"
"Write as you always have; your letters have never been very sentimental. Arthur says you write on all subjects but the one nearest his heart. If you had loved him as I thought you did, you never would have allowed another to usurp his place. But we cannot help the past. Now dear child, compose yourself; I am fatigued, but cannot sleep until you do."
Alice, restless for a while, at last fell asleep, but it was not the rest that brings refreshment and repose. Her mother watched her, as with her hand now pressed on her brow, now thrown on the pillow, she slept. Her mind, overtaxed, tried even in sleep to release itself of its burden. The wish to please, and the effort to do right, was too much for her sensitive frame. It was like the traveler unaccustomed to fatigue and change, forced to commence a journey, unassured of his way, and ignorant of his destination.
Her mother watched her—a deep hue was settled under her eyelashes, the veins in her temple were fearfully distinct, and a small crimson spot rested on her cheek. She watched her, by the moonlight that glanced over every part of the room. She listened to her heavy breathing, and lightly touched her dry and crimson lips. She stroked the long luxuriant curls, that appeared to her darker than they ever had before. She closed the nearest window, lest there should be something borne on the breath of night, to disturb the rest of the beloved one. But, mother! it will not do; the curse of God is still abroad in the world, the curse on sin. It falls, like a blighting dew, on the loveliest and dearest to our hearts. It is by our side and in our path. It is among the gay, the rich, the proud, and the gifted of the earth; among the poor, the despised, the desolate and forsaken. It darkens the way of the monarch and the cottager, of the maiden and the mother, of the master and the slave. Alas! since it poisoned the flowers in Eden, and turned the children of God from its fair walks, it is abroad in the world—the curse of God on sin.
There is a blessing, too, within the reach of all. He who bore the curse, secured the blessing. Son of God! teach us to be like thee; give us of thy spirit, that we may soften to each other the inevitable ills of life. Prepare us for that condition to which we may aspire; for that assembly where will be united the redeemed of all the earth, where will rejoice forever in thy presence those of all ages and climes, who looked up from the shadow of the curse, to the blessing which thou didst obtain, with thy latest sigh, on Calvary!
After Phillis left Mrs. Weston's room, she was on her way to her cabin, when she noticed Aunt Peggy sitting alone at the door. She was rather a homebody; yet she reproached herself with having neglected poor old Peggy, when she saw her looking so desolate and dejected. She thought to pay her a visit, and bidding her good evening, sat down on the door-step. "Time old people were in bed, Aunt Peggy," said she; "what are you settin up for, all by yourself?"
"Who's I got to set up wid me?" said Aunt Peggy.
"Why don't you go to bed, then?" asked Phillis.
"Can't sleep, can't sleep," said Aunt Peggy; "aint slep none dese two, three nights; lays awake lookin at de moon; sees people a lookin in de winder at me, people as I aint seen since I come from Guinea; hears strange noises I aint never heard in dis country, aint never hearn sence I come from Guinea."
"All notions," said Phillis. "If you go to sleep, you'll forget them all."
"Can't go to sleep," said Aunt Peggy; "somefin in me won't sleep; somefin I never felt afore. It's in my bones; mebbe Death's somewhere in the neighborhood."
"I reckon you're sick, Aunt Peggy," said Phillis; "why didn't you let me know you wasn't well?"
"Aint sick, I tell you," said Aunt Peggy, angrily; "nothin the matter wid me. 'Spose you think there's nothin bad about, 'cep what comes to me."
Phillis was astonished at her words and manner, and looked at her intently. Most of the servants on the plantation stood in awe of Aunt Peggy. Her having been brought from Africa, and the many wonders she had seen there; her gloomy, fitful temper; her tall frame, and long, skinny hands and arms; her haughty countenance, and mass of bushy, white hair. Phillis did not wonder most people were afraid of her. Besides, Peggy was thought to have the power of foresight in her old age. The servants considered her a sort of witch, and deprecated her displeasure. Phillis had too much sense for this; yet there was one thing that she had often wondered at; that was, that Aunt Peggy cared nothing about religion. When employed in the family, she had been obliged to go sometimes to church: since she had been old, and left to follow her own wishes, she had never gone. Miss Janet frequently read the Bible, and explained it to her. Alice, seated on a low stool by the old woman's side, read to her scenes in the life of Christ, upon which servants love to dwell. But as far as they could judge, there were no good impressions left on her mind. She never objected, but she gave them no encouragement. This Phillis had often thought of; and now as she sat with her, it occurred to her with overwhelming force. "Death's about somewhere," said Aunt Peggy. "I can't see him, but I feels him. There's somefin here belongs to him; he wants it, and he's gwine to have it."
"'Pears to me," said Phillis, "Death's always about. Its well to be ready for him when he 'comes; 'specially we old people."
"Always ole people," said Aunt Peggy, "you want to make out that Death's always arter ole people. No such thing. Look at the churchyard, yonder. See any little graves thar? Plenty. Death's always arter babies; 'pears like he loves 'em best of all."
"Yes," said Phillis, "young people die as well as old, but 'taint no harm to be ready. You know, Aunt Peggy, we aint never ready till our sins is repented of, and our souls is washed in the blood of Jesus. People ought to think of that, old and young, but they don't."
"Death loves young people," said Aunt Peggy; "always arter 'em. See how he took young Mr. William Jones, thar, in town, and he healthy and strong, wid his young bride; and his father and mother old like me. See how he took little George Mason, not long ago, that Uncle Geoffrey used to bring home wid him from town, setting on de horse, before him. Didn't touch his ole grandmother; she's here yet. Tell you, Death loves 'em wid de red cheeks and bright eyes."
Phillis did not reply, and the old woman talked on as if to herself.
"Thinks thar's nothin bad but what comes to niggers; aint I had nuff trouble widout Death. I aint forgot de time I was hauled away from home. Cuss him, 'twas a black man done it; he told me he'd smash my brains out if I made a sound. Dragged along till I come to de river; thar he sold me. I was pushed in long wid all de rest of 'em, crying and howlin—gwine away for good and all. Thar we was, chained and squeezed together; dead or live, all one. Tied me to a woman, and den untied me to fling her into de sea—dead all night, and I tied to her. Come long, cross de great sea; more died, more flung to de sharks. No wonder it thundered and lightened, and de waves splashed in, and de captain prayed. Lord above! de captain prayed, when he was stealin and murderin of his fellow-creeturs. We didn't go down, we got safe across. Some went here, some went thar, and I come long wid de rest to Virginny. Ever sence, workin and slavin; ever sence, sweatin and drivin; workin all day, workin all night."
"You never worked a bit in the night time, Aunt Peggy," said Phillis; "and you know it."
"Worked all time," said Aunt Peggy, "niggers aint made for nothin else. Now, kase Death's somewhar, wantin somefin, thinks it must be me."
"I didn't say 'twas you, Aunt Peggy," said Phillis.
"Wants somefin," said Aunt Peggy. "Tell you what, Phillis," and she laughed, "wants Miss Alice."
"What's come over you?" said Phillis, looking at her, terrified. "There's nothing the matter with Miss Alice but a headache."
"Headache!" said Aunt Peggy, "that's all?" and she laughed again. "Think I didn't see her yesterday? Whars the red cheeks?—white about her lips, black about her eyes; jist like Mistis when she was gwine fast, and de young baby on her arm. Death wants Miss Alice—aint arter me."
"Aint you ashamed to talk so about Miss Alice, when she's always coming to you, bringing you something, and trying to do something for you?" said Phillis. "You might as well sit here and talk bad of one of the angels above."
"Aint talking bad of her," said Aunt Peggy; "aint wishin her no harm. If there is any angels she's as good as any of 'em; but it's her Death's arter, not me; look here at my arms—stronger than yourn—" and she held out her sinewy, tough arm, grasping her cane, to go in the house.
Phillis saw she was not wanted there, and looking in to be assured that Nancy (Aunt Peggy's grand-daughter, who lived with her to take care of her,) was there, went home and thought to go to bed. But she found no disposition to sleep within her. Accustomed, as she was, to Aunt Peggy's fault finding, and her strange way of talking, she was particularly impressed with it to-night. 'Twas so strange, Phillis thought, that she should have talked about being stolen away from Guinea, and things that happened almost a hundred years ago. Then her saying, so often that, "Death was about." Phillis was no more nervous than her iron tea-kettle, but now she could not feel right. She sat down by the door, and tried to compose herself. Every one on the plantation was quiet; it seemed to her the night got brighter and brighter, and the heavens more crowded with stars than she had ever seen them. She looked at her children to see if they all were well, and then gave a glance at old Bacchus, who was snoring loud enough to wake the dead. She shook him heartily and told him to hush his clatter, but she might as well have told a twenty-four pounder to go off without making a noise. Then she sat down again and looked at Alice's window, and could not avoid seeing Aunt Peggy's house when she turned in that direction; thus she was reminded of her saying, "Death was about and arter somefin." Wondering what had come over her, she shut the door and laid down without undressing herself.
She slept heavily for several hours, and waked with the thought of Aunt Peggy's strange talk pressing upon her. She determined not to go to bed again, but opened the door and fixed the old rush-bottomed chair within it. Bacchus, always a very early riser, except on Sunday, was still asleep; having had some sharp twinges of the rheumatism the day before, Phillis hoped he might sleep them off; her own mind was still burdened with an unaccountable weight. She was glad to see the dawning of "another blue day."
Before her towered, in their majestic glory, Miss Janet's favorite mountains, yet were the peaks alone distinctly visible; the twilight only strong enough to disclose the mass of heavy fog that enveloped them. The stars had nearly all disappeared, those that lingered were sadly paling away. How solemn was the stillness! She thought of the words of Jacob, "Surely God is here!"—the clouds were flying swiftly beneath the arch of Heaven, as if from God's presence. Many thoughts were suggested to her by the grandeur of the scene, for my reader must remember, that an admiration of the glories of nature is not unfrequently a characteristic of an uneducated mind. Many verses of Scripture occurred to her, "From the rising of the sun, unto the going down of the same, the Lord's name be praised. The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high? Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in Heaven, and in the earth." The soul of the slave-woman rejoiced in the Lord, her Maker and her Redeemer.
Gradually a soft light arose above the mountains; the fog became transparent through its influence. A red hue gilded the top of the mist, and slowly descended toward it, as it sank away. All the shadows of the night were disappearing, at the command once given, "Let there be light," and re-obeyed at the birth of every day. Phillis's heart warmed with gratitude to God who had given to her a knowledge of himself. She thought of her many mercies, her health, her comforts, and the comparative happiness of each member of her family; of the kindness of her master and the ladies; all these considerations affected her as they never had before, for gratitude and love to God ever inspires us with love and kindness to our fellow creatures.
Her thoughts returned to Alice, but all superstitious dread was gone; Aunt Peggy's strange wanderings no longer oppressed her; her mind was in its usual healthy state. "The good Lord is above us all," she said, "and Miss Alice is one of his children." She saw the house door open, and William coming toward her on his way to the stable. It was without any agitation that she asked what was the matter? "Miss Alice is very sick," said William, "and I am going for the doctor."
"I am glad I happened to be here," said Phillis, "may be they want me."
"You better not go in now," said William, "for she's asleep. Miss Anna told me to walk very easy, for she would not have her waked for all the world."
So Phillis, seeing Aunt Peggy's door open, thought she would step over and find out if the old lady had slept off her notions.
Aunt Peggy's cabin had two rooms, in one of which, she and her granddaughter slept, in the other Nancy cooked and washed, and occupied herself with various little matters. Nancy had been up a short time and was mixing some Indian bread for their breakfast. She looked surprised, at having so early a visitor.
"How is your grandmother, child?" said Phillis; "did she sleep well?"
"Mighty well," said Nancy. "She aint coughed at all as I heard, since she went to bed."
"Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Phillis, "for I thought she was going to be sick, she was so curious last night."
"She didn't complain, any way," said Nancy, going on with her breadmaking, so Phillis got up to go home. As she passed the door of the other room, she could but stop to look in at the hard, iron features of the old creature, as she lay in slumber. Her long black face contrasted most remarkably with the white pillow on which it was supported, her hair making her head look double its actual size, standing off from her ears and head. One long black arm lay extended, the hand holding to the side of the bed. Something impelled Phillis to approach. At first she thought of her grumbling disposition, her bitter resentment for injuries, most of which were fanciful, her uncompromising dislike to the servants on the plantation. She almost got angry when she thought "the more you do for her, the more she complains." Then she recalled her talk the night before; of her being torn away from her mother, and sold off, tied to a dead woman, and the storm and the sharks; a feeling of the sincerest pity took the place of her first reflections, and well they did—for the next idea—Phillis' knees knocked together, and her heart beat audibly, for what was before her?
What but death! with all his grimness and despair, looking forth from the white balls that were only partially covered with the dark lids—showing his power in the cold hands whose unyielding grasp had closed in the struggle with him. Setting his seal on brow and lips, lengthening the extended form, that never would rouse itself from the position in which the mighty conqueror had left it, when he knew his victory was accomplished. What but death, indeed! For the heart and the pulse were still forever, and the life that had once regulated their beatings, had gone back to the Giver of life.
The two slave women were alone together. She who had been, had gone with all her years, her wrongs, and her sins, to answer at the bar of her Maker. The fierce and bitter contest with life, the mysterious curse, the dealings of a God with the children of men. Think of it, Oh! Christian! as you gaze upon her. The other slave woman is with the dead. She is trembling, as in the presence of God. She knows he is everywhere, even in the room of death. She is redeemed from the slavery of sin, and her regenerate soul looks forward to the rest that remaineth to the people of God. She "submits herself to an earthly master," knowing that the dispensation of God has placed her in a state of servitude. Yet she trusts in a Heavenly Master with childlike faith, and says, "May I be ready when he comes and calls for me."
Phillis was perfectly self-possessed when she went back to the kitchen. "Nancy," she said, "didn't you think it was strange your grandmother slept so quiet, and laid so late this morning? She always gets up so early."
"I didn't think nothin about it," said Nancy, "for I was 'sleep myself."
"Well there's no use putting it off," said Phillis. "I might as well tell you, first as last. She's dead."
"Dead, what do you mean?" said Nancy.
"I mean she's dead," said Phillis, "and cold, and very likely has been so, for most of the night. Don't be frightened and make a noise, for Miss Alice is very sick, and you're so near the house."
Nancy went with her to the other room. A child would have known there was no mistake about death's being there, if the idea had been suggested to it. Nancy was in a moment satisfied that such was the case, but she shed very few tears. She was quite worn out taking care of the old woman, and the other servants were not willing to take their turns. They said they "couldn't abide the cross, ill-natured old thing."
Phillis went home for a few moments, and returned to perform the last offices. All was order and neatness under her superintendence; and they who avoided the sight of Aunt Peggy when alive, stood with a solemn awe beside her and gazed, now that she was dead.
All but the children. Aunt Peggy was dead! She who had been a kind of scarecrow in life, how terrible was the thought of her now! The severest threat to an unruly child was, "I will give you to Aunt Peggy, and let her keep you." But to think of Aunt Peggy in connection with darkness, and silence, and the grave, was dreadful indeed. All day the thought of her kept them awed and quiet; but as evening drew on, they crept close to their mothers' side, turning from every shadow, lest she should come forth from it. Little Lydia, deprived of Miss Janet's company in consequence of Alice's sickness, listened to the pervading subject of conversation all day, and at night dreamed that the old woman had carried her off to the top of the highest of the mountains that stood before them; and there she sat scowling upon her, and there, they were to be forever.
When the next afternoon had come, and the body was buried, and all had returned from the funeral, Phillis locked up the vacant cabin. Nancy was to be employed in the house, and sleep in the servants' wing. Then Phillis realized that death had been there, and she remembered once more, Aunt Peggy's words, "He's arter somefin, wants it, and he's gwine to have it; but it ain't me."
There is one thing concerning death in which we are apt to be sceptical, and that is, "Does he want me?"
Aunt Peggy's funeral was conducted quietly, but with that respect to the dead which is universal on Southern plantations. There was no hurry, no confusion. Two young women remained with the corpse during the night preceding the burial; the servants throughout the plantation had holiday, that they might attend. At Mr. Weston's request, the clergyman of the Episcopal church in X read the service for the dead. He addressed the servants in a solemn and appropriate manner. Mr. Weston was one of the audience. Alice's sickness had become serious; Miss Janet and her mother were detained with her. The negroes sung one of their favorite hymns,
"Life is the time to serve the Lord,"
their fine voices blending in perfect harmony. Mr. Caldwell took for his text the 12th verse of the 2d chapter of Thessalonians, "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and his glory."
He explained to them in the most affectionate and beautiful manner, that they were called unto the kingdom and glory of Christ. He dwelt on the glories of that kingdom, as existing in the heart of the believer, inciting him to a faithful performance of the duties of life; as in the world, promoting the happiness and welfare of all mankind, and completed in heaven, where will be the consummation of all the glorious things that the humble believer in Jesus has enjoyed by faith, while surrounded by the temptations and enduring the trials of the world. He told them they were all called. Christ died for all; every human being that had heard of Jesus and his atonement, was called unto salvation. He dwelt on the efficacy of that atonement on the solemn occasion when it was made, on the perfect peace and reconciliation of the believer. He spoke of the will of God, which had placed them in a condition of bondage to an earthly master; who had given them equal hope of eternal redemption with that master. He reminded them that Christ had chosen his lot among the poor of this world; that he had refused all earthly honor and advantage. He charged them to profit by the present occasion, to bring home to their hearts the unwelcome truth that death was inevitable. He pointed to the coffin that contained the remains of one who had attained so great an age, as to make her an object of wonder in the neighborhood. Yet her time had come, like a thief in the night. There was no sickness, no sudden failing, nothing unusual in her appearance, to intimate the presence of death. God had given her a long time of health to prepare for the great change; he had given her every opportunity to repent, and he had called her to her account. He charged them to make their preparation now closing, by bringing before their minds that great day when the Judge of the earth would summon before him every soul he had made. None could escape his all-piercing eye; the king and his subject, the rich and the poor the strong and the weak, the learned and the ignorant the white and the colored, the master and his slave! each to render his or her account for the deeds done in the body.
The servants were extremely attentive, listening with breathless interest as he enlarged upon the awful events of the Judgment. Many a tear fell, many a heart throbbed, many a soul stretched forth her wings toward the kingdom and glory which had been the clergyman's theme.
After he concluded, their attention was absorbed by the preparation to remove the body to its final resting place. The face was looked upon, then covered; the coffin lid screwed down; strong arms lifting and bearing it to the bier. Nancy and Isaac, her only relatives, were near the coffin, and Mr. Weston and the clergyman followed them. The rest formed in long procession. With measured step and appropriate thought they passed their cabins toward the place used for the interment of the slaves on the plantation.
They had gone a little way, when a full, rich female voice gently broke in upon the stillness; it was Phillis's. Though the first line was sung in a low tone, every one heard it.
"Alas! and did my Saviour bleed!"
They joined in, following the remains of their fellow-servant, and commemorating the sufferings of one who became as a servant, that He might exalt all who trust in Him.
It might be there was little hope for the dead, but not less sufficient the Atonement on Calvary, not less true that for each and all "did he devote that sacred head;" that for pity which he felt for all,
"He hung upon the tree: Amazing pity, grace unknown! And love beyond degree!"
While the voices swept through the air, a tribute of lowly hearts ascended to God.
They had now reached the burial ground; all was in readiness, and the men deposited their burden in the earth. Deep and solemn thought was portrayed on every face; music had softened their feelings, and the reflections suggested by the hymn prepared them for kind sentiments toward the dead, though no one had loved her in life. The first hard clod that rattled on the coffin, opened the fountain of their tears; she who had been the object of their aversion was gone from them forever; they could not now show her any kindness. How many a heart reproached itself with a sneering word, hasty anger, and disdainful laugh. But what was she now? dust and ashes. They wept as they saw her hidden from their eyes, turning from the grave with a better sense of their duties.
Reader, it is well for the soul to ponder on the great mystery, Death! Is there not a charm in it? The mystery of so many opposite memories, the strange union of adverse ideas. The young, the old, the gay, the proud, the beautiful, the poor, and the sorrowful. Silence, darkness, repose, happiness, woe, heaven and hell. Oh! they should come now with a startling solemnity upon us all, for while I write, the solemn tolling of the bells warns me of a nation's grief; it calls to millions—its sad resonance is echoed in every heart.
HENRY CLAY IS DEAD! Well may the words pass from lip to lip in the thronged street. The child repeats it with a dim consciousness of some great woe; it knows not, to its full extent, the burden of the words it utters. The youth passes along the solemn sentence; there is a throb in his energetic heart, for he has seen the enfeebled form of the statesman as it glided among the multitude, and has heard his voice raised for his country's good; he is assured that the heart that has ceased to beat glowed with all that was great and noble.
The politician utters, too, the oft-repeated sound—Henry Clay is dead! Well may he bare his breast and say, for what is my voice raised where his has been heard? Is it for my country, or for my party and myself? Men of business and mechanics in the land, they know that one who ever defended their interests is gone, and who shall take his place? The mother—tears burst from her eyes, when looking into her child's face, she says, Henry Clay is dead! for a nation's freedom is woman's incalculable blessing. She thinks with grief and gratitude of him who never ceased to contend for that which gives to her, social and religious rights.
Henry Clay is dead! His body no longer animated with life; his spirit gone to God. How like a torrent thought rushes on, in swift review, of his wonderful and glorious career. His gifted youth, what if it were attended with the errors that almost invariably accompany genius like his! Has he in the wide world an enemy who can bring aught against him? Look at his patriotism, his benevolence, his noble acts. Recall his energy, his calmness, his constant devotion to the interests of his country. Look, above all, at his patience, his humility, as the great scenes of life were receding from his view, and futurity was opening before him. Hear of the childlike submission with which he bowed to the Will that ordained for him a death-bed, protracted and painful. "Lead me," he said to a friend, "where I want to go, to the feet of Jesus."
Listen to the simplicity with which he commended his body to his friends, and his spirit, through faith in Jesus Christ, to his God. Regard him in all his varied relations of Christian, patriot, statesman, husband, father, master, and friend, and answer if the sigh that is now rending the heart of his country is not well merited.
Yes! reader, thoughts of death are useful to us all, whether it be by the grave of the poor and humble, or when listening to the tolling of the bell which announces to all that one who was mighty in the land has been summoned to the judgment seat of God.
Mr. Weston and Phillis returned to the sick-room from the funeral. Fever was doing its work with the fair being, the beloved of many hearts, who was unconscious of aught that was passing around her. There was a startling light from the depths of her blue eyes; their natural softness of expression gone. The crimson glow had flushed into a hectic; the hot breath from her parted lips was drying away their moisture. The rich, mournful tones of her voice echoed in sad wailing through the chambers; it constantly and plaintively said Mother! though that mother answered in vain to its appeal. The air circulated through the room, bearing the odor of the woods, but for her it had no reviving power; it could not stay the beatings of her pulse, nor relieve the oppression of her panting bosom. Oh! what beauty was about that bed of sickness. The perfect shape of every feature, the graceful turn of the head, the luxuriant auburn hair, the contour of her rounded limbs. There was no vacancy in her face. Alas! visions of sorrow were passing in her mind. A sad intelligence was expressed in every glance, but not to the objects about her. The soul, subdued by the suffering of its tenement, was wandering afar off, perchance endeavoring to dive into the future, perchance essaying to forget the past.
What says that vision of languishing and loveliness to the old man whose eyes are fixed in grief upon it? "Thou seest, O Christian! the uselessness of laying up thy treasures here. Where are now the hopes of half thy lifetime, where the consummation of all thy anxious plans? She who has been like an angel by thy side, how wearily throbs her young heart! Will she perpetuate the name of thy race? Will she close thine eyes with her loving hand? Will she drop upon thy breast a daughter's tear?"
What does the vision say to thee, oh! aged woman? "There is still more for thee to do, more for thee to suffer. It is not yet enough of this mortal strife! Thou mayest again see a fair flower crushed by the rude wind of death; perchance she may precede thee, to open for thine entrance the eternal gates!"
And what to thee, thou faithful servant?
"There are tears in thine eye, and for me. For me! Whom thou thoughtest above a touch of aught that could bring sorrow or pain. Thou seest, not alone on thy doomed race rests a curse; the fierce anger of God, denounced against sin—the curse, falls upon his dearest children. I must, like you, abide by God's dealing with the children of men. But we shall be redeemed."
What to thee, oh, mother? Thou canst not read the interpretation—a cloud of darkness sweeps by thy soul's vision. Will it pass, or will it rest upon thee forever?
Yet the voice of God speaks to each one; faintly it may be to the mother, but even to her. There is a rainbow of hope in the deluge of her sorrow; she sees death in the multitude that passes her sight, but there is another there, one whose form is like unto the Son of God. She remembers how He wept over Lazarus, and raised him from the dead; oh! what comfort to place her case in his pitying bosom!
Many were the friends who wept, and hoped, and prayed with them. Full of grief were the affectionate servants, but most of all, Phillis.
It was useless to try and persuade her to take her usual rest, to remind her of her children, and her cares; to offer her the choice morsel to tempt her appetite, the refreshing drink she so much required. She wanted nothing but to weep with those who wept—nor rest, nor food, nor refreshing.
* * * * *
It is universal, the consideration that is shown to the servants at the South, as regards their times of eating and of rest. Whatever may have occurred, whatever fatigue the different members of the family may feel obliged to undergo, a servant is rarely called upon for extra attendance. In the Northern country the whole labor of a family is frequently performed by one female, while five or six will do the same amount of work in the South. A servant at the South is rarely called upon at night; only in cases of absolute necessity. Negroes are naturally sleepy-headed—they like to sit up late at night,—in winter, over a large fire, nodding and bumping their heads against each other, or in summer, out of doors; but they take many a nap before they can get courage to undress and go regularly to bed. They may be much interested in a conversation going on, but it is no violation of their code of etiquette to smoke themselves to sleep while listening. Few of the most faithful servants can keep awake well enough to be of real service in cases of sickness. There is a feeling among their owners, that they work hard during the day and should be allowed more rest than those who are not obliged to labor. "Do not disturb servants when they are eating," is the frequent charge of a Southern mother, "they have not a great many pleasures within their reach; never do any thing that will lessen their comforts in the slightest degree." Mrs. Weston, even in her own deep sorrow, was not unmindful of others; she frequently tried to induce Phillis to go home, knowing that she must be much fatigued. "I cannot feel tired, Phillis; a mother could not sleep with her only child as Alice is; I do not require the rest that you do."
"You needs it more, Miss Anna, though you don't think so now. I can take care of myself. Unless you drive me away, I shan't go until God's will be done, for life or death."
Miss Janet often laid down and slept for an hour or two, and returned refreshed to the sick chamber. Her voice retained its cheerfulness and kept Mrs. Weston's heart from failing. "Hope on, Anna," she would say, "as long as she breathes we must not give her up; how many have been thought entirely gone, and then revived. We must hope, and God will do the rest."
This "hoping on" was one great cause of Cousin Janet's usefulness during a long life; religion and reason alike demand it of us. Many grand and noble actions have been done in the world, that never could have been accomplished without hoping on. When we become discouraged, how heavy the task before us; it is like drooping the eyes, and feebly putting forth the hands to find the way, when all appears to us darkness; but let the eye be lifted and the heart hope on, and there is found a glimmering of light which enables the trembling one to penetrate the gloom. Alice's symptoms had been so violent from the first, her disease had progressed so rapidly, that her condition was almost hopeless; ere Mr. Weston thought of the propriety of informing Arthur of her condition. The first time it occurred to him, he felt convinced that he ought not to delay. He knew that Arthur never could be consoled, if Alice, his dearly loved, his affianced wife, should die without his having the consolation of a parting word or look. He asked Cousin Janet her opinion.
She recalled all that had passed previous to Alice's illness. As she looked into Mr. Weston's grieved and honest face, the question suggested itself,—Is it right thus, to keep him in ignorance? She only wavered a moment. Already the traces of agitation caused by his niece's illness, were visible in his flushed face and nervous frame; what then might be the result of laying before him a subject in which his happiness was so nearly concerned? Besides, she felt convinced that even should Alice improve, the suffering which had been one cause of her sickness, might be renewed with double force if suggested by Arthur's presence.
"I know, my dear cousin," she said, "it will be a terrible grief to Arthur, should Alice be taken from us, yet I think you had better not write. Dr. Lawton says, that a very short time must decide her case; and were the worst we fear to occur, Arthur could not reach here in time to see her with any satisfaction. If he lose her, it will probably be better for him to remember her in health and beauty."
Mr. Weston trembled, and burst into tears. "Try and not give way," said Miss Janet again; "we are doing all we can. We must hope and pray. I feel a great deal of hope. God is so merciful, he will not bring this stroke upon you in your old age, unless it is necessary. Why do you judge for him? He is mighty to save. 'The Lord on high, is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.' Think of His mercy and power to save, and trust in Him."
In these most trying scenes of life, how little do we sympathize with the physician. How much oppressed he must feel, with the charge upon him. He is the adviser—to him is left the direction of the potions which may be the healing medicine or the deadly poison. He may select a remedy powerful to cure, he may prescribe one fatal to the invalid. How is he to draw the nice line of distinction? he must consider the disease, the constitution, the probable causes of the attack. His reputation is at stake—his happiness—for many eyes are turned to him, to read an opinion he may not choose to give in words.
If he would be like the great Healer, he thinks not only of the bodily sufferings that he is anxious to assuage, but of the immortal soul on the verge of the great Interview, deciding its eternal destiny. He trembles to think, should he fail, it may be hurried to its account. If he be a friend, how do the ties of association add to his burden. Here is one whom he has loved, whose voice he is accustomed to hear; shall he, through neglect or mismanagement, make a void in many hearts? Shall he, from want of skill, bring weeping and desolation to a house where health and joy have been? Alice was very dear to Dr. Lawton, she was the companion of his daughters; he had been accustomed to regard her as one of them; he was untiring in his attendance, but from the first, had feared the result. Mrs. Weston had concealed nothing from him, she knew that he considered a physician bound in honour to know the affairs of a family only among themselves—she had no reserves, thus giving him every assistance in her power, in conducting the case. She detailed to him, explicitly, all that might have contributed to produce it.
"You know, my dear madam," the doctor said, "that at this season we have, even in our healthy country, severe fevers. Alice's is one of the usual nature; it could have been produced by natural causes. We cannot say, it may be that the circumstances you have been kind enough to confide to me, have had a bad effect upon her. The effort to do right, and the fear lest she should err, may have strained her sensitive mind. She must have felt much distress in parting with Walter, whom she has always loved as a brother. You have only done your duty. I should not like to see a daughter of mine interested in that young man. I fear he inherits his father's violent passions, yet his early training may bring the promised blessing. Alice has that sort of mind, that is always influenced by what is passing at the time; remember what a child she was when Arthur left. There are no more broken hearts now-a-days—sometimes they bend a little, but they can be straightened again. If Alice gets well, you need not fear the future; though you know I disapprove of cousins marrying."
"Doctor," said Mrs. Weston, "I know you have not given her up!"
"I never give anybody up," said the doctor. "Who will say what God intends to do? I trust she will struggle through. Many a storm assails the fair ship on her first voyage over the seas. She may be sadly tossed about with the wind and waves; but may breast it gallantly, and come back safe, after all. We must do what we can, and hope for the best." These words strengthened the mother's heart to watch and hope.
The doctor laid down to sleep for an hour or two in the afternoon. Cousin Janet, Mrs. Weston, and Phillis kept their watch in silence. The latter gently fanned Alice, who lay gazing, but unconscious; now looking inquiringly into her mother's face, now closing her eyes to every thing. There was no tossing or excitement about her, that was over. Her cheek was pale, and her eyes languid and faded. One would not have believed, to have looked upon her, how high the fever still raged. Suddenly she repeated the word that had often been on her lips—"Mother." Then, with an effort to raise herself, she sank back upon her pillow, exhausted. A sorrowful look, like death, suffused itself over her countenance. Ah! how throbbed those hearts! Was the dreaded messenger here?
"Miss Anna," whispered Phillis, "she is not gone, her pulse is no lower; it is the same."
"Is it the same? are you sure?" said Mrs. Weston, who, for a few moments, had been unable to speak, or even to place her finger on the pulse.
"It is no worse, if you'll believe me," said Phillis; "it may be a little better, but it is no worse."
"Had I not better wake the doctor?" said Mrs. Weston, who hardly knew what to believe.
Miss Janet gently touched the wrist of the invalid.
"Do not wake him, my dear; Phillis is right in saying she is no worse; it was a fainting, which is passing away. See! she looks as usual. Give her the medicine, it is time; and leave her quiet, the doctor may be disturbed to-night."
The night had passed, and the morning was just visible, as symptoms of the same nature affected the patient. Dr. Lawton had seen her very late at night, and had requested them to awaken him should there be any change in her appearance or condition. Oh, how these anxious hearts feared and hoped through this night. What might it bring forth; joy or endless weeping?