Mr. Weston turned to the door as it opened, expecting the girls to enter; and a little impatient, too, as it was already half-past ten o'clock. The gentlemen had been punctual to their appointed hour of ten, but declared that three quarters of an hour was an unusually short time to be kept waiting by ladies. Ellen came first, her tall but well-proportioned figure arrayed in a rose-colored silk of the most costly material. She wore a necklace and bracelet of pearl, and a string of the same encircled her beautifully-arranged hair. The rich color that mantled in her cheeks deepened still more, as she acknowledged the salutation of the gentlemen; but Alice, who entered immediately after her, went at once to her uncle, and putting her hand in his, looked the inquiry, "Are you pleased with me?" No wonder the old man held her hand for a moment, deprived of the power of answering her. She stood before him glowing with health again, the coral lips parted with a smile, awaiting some word of approval. The deep-blue eyes, the ivory skin, the delicately-flushed cheeks, the oval face, the auburn curls that fell over brow and temple, and hung over the rounded and beautiful shoulders; the perfect arm, displayed in its full beauty by the short plain sleeve; the simple dress of white; the whole figure, so fair and interesting, with no ornaments to dim its youthful charms; but one flower, a lily, drooping over her bosom. The tears gathered in his large eyes, and drawing her gently towards him, he kissed her lips. "Alice, my beloved," he said, "sweetest of God's earthly gifts, you cannot be always as fair and young as you are now; but may God keep your heart as pure and childlike, until he take you to the Heaven which is your destiny." Before any one could reply, he had bowed to the rest of the company and left the room; and even Alice, accustomed as she was to his partial affection, felt solemnized at the unusual earnestness with which he had addressed her; but Mrs. Weston hurried them off to the scene of fashion and splendor which they had been anticipating.
* * * * *
Mr. Weston was about to retire, when Bacchus suddenly entered the room, preceded by a slight knock. He was very much excited, and evidently had information of great importance to communicate.
"Master," said he, without waiting to get breath, "they're all got took."
"What is the matter, Bacchus?"
"Nothing, sir, only they're all cotched, every mother's son of 'em."
"Of whom are you speaking?"
"Of them poor misguided niggers, sir, de Abolitioners got away; but they're all cotched now, and I'm sorry 'nuff for 'em. Some's gwine to be sold, and some's gwine to be put in jail; and they're all in the worst kind of trouble."
"Well, Bacchus, it serves them right; they knew they were not free, and that it was their duty to work in the condition in which God had placed them. They have nobody to blame but themselves."
"'Deed they is—'scuse me for contradictin you—but there's them as is to blame a heap. Them Abolitioners, sir, is the cause of it. They wouldn't let the poor devils rest until they 'duced them to go off. They 'lowed, they would get 'em off, and no danger of their being took agin. They had the imperance, sir, to 'suade those poor deluded niggers that they were born free, when they knowed they were born slaves. I hadn't no idea, sir, they was sich liars; but I've been up to de place whar the servants is, and its heart-breaking to hear 'em talk. Thar's Simon, that strapping big young man, as drives Mrs. Seymour's carriage; they got him off. He's a crying up thar, like a baby a month old. He's been a hidin and a dodgin for a week—he's nigh starved. And now he's cotched, and gwine to be sold. He's a raal spilt nigger: his master dressed him like a gentleman, and he had nothin to do all day but to drive de carriage; and he told me hisself, when he was out late at night wid de young ladies, at parties, he never was woke in de mornin, but was 'lowed to sleep it out, and had a good hot breakfast when he did wake. Well, they got him off. They made out he'd go to the great Norrurd, and set up a trade, or be a gentleman, may be; and like as not they told him he stood a good chance of being President one of dese days. They got him off from his good home, and now he's done for. He's gwine to be sold South to-morrow. He's a beggin young Mr. Seymour up thar not to sell him, and makin promises, but its no use; he's goin South. I bin hearin every word he said to his young master. 'Oh, Master George,' says he, 'let me off dis time. I didn't want to go till the Abolitioners told me you had no right to me, kase God had made me free; and you, they said, was no better than a thief, keepin me a slave agin natur and the Bible too.'"
"'But, Simon,' said young Mr. Seymour, 'you stole a suit of my new clothes when you went off; and you got money, too, from Mrs. Barrett, saying I had sent you for it. How came you to do that?'
"'I will 'fess it all, sir,' said Simon, 'and God knows I'm speakin truth. I took de suit of clothes. The Abolitioner, he said I'd be a gentleman when I got North, and I must have somethin ready to put on, to look like one. So he said you'd always had the use of me, and twasn't no harm for me to take de suit, for I was 'titled to it for my sarvices. He axed me if any body owed my mistis money, as I know'd of. I told him, yes, Mrs. Barrett did, and mistis often sent me after it without any order, for she know'd I'd bring it straight to her. Now, my boy, said the Abolitioner, dis money is yourn—its your wages. You've got a better right to it than ever your mistis had. You can't start on a journey without money; so you go to dis lady and tell her you was sent for money by your mistis, and you keep de money for your own use. Here's de money,' said he, 'Master George, take it to mistis, and tell her de truth.'
"'Damn the rascals,' says young Mr. Seymour, 'they're not content with man-stealing, but they're stealing money and clothes, and every thing they can lay their hands upon. So much for your Abolition friends, Simon,' says he. 'I wish you joy of them. They've brought you to a pretty pass, and lost you as good a home as ever a servant had.'
"'Oh, master,' said Simon, 'won't you take me back? Indeed I will be faithful.'
"'Can't trust you, Simon,' said Mr. Seymour; 'besides, none of your fellow-servants want you back. You have no relations. My mother bought you, when you was a little boy, because she knew your mother; and after she died you were knocked about by the other servants. My sister taught you how to read the Bible, and you have been a member of the Methodist church. If you was a poor ignorant fellow, that didn't know what was right, I would take you back; but you've done this wid your eyes open. Our servants say they wants no runaways to live 'long o' them. Now, if you can get any of your Abolition friends to buy you, and take you North, and make a gentleman of you, I'll sell you to them; but they wouldn't give a fip to keep you from starving. I am sorry its so, but I can't take you back.' He said these very words, sir. He felt mighty bad, sir; he talked husky, but he went out. Simon called after him, but he didn't even look back; so I know Simon's goin for true."
"I am really sorry for the servants, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, "but they won't take warning. I'm told that since Abolitionists have come to live in Washington, and have been going among the colored people, that it is almost impossible to employ an honest servant; it is on this account that the Irish are so much employed. Some years ago the families had no trouble with their domestics, but Abolition has ruined them. What a wretched looking class they are, too! lazy and dirty; these are the consequences of taking bad advice."
"Well, master," said Bacchus, "I wish to de Lord we could take 'em all to Virginny, and give 'em a good coat of tar and feathers; thar's all them feathers poor Aunt Peggy had in them barrels. We aint got no call for 'em at home. I wish we could put 'em to some use. I wouldn't like no better fun than to spread de tar on neat, and den stick de feathers on close and thick."
"Well, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, "its near bedtime, and I am not well; so I will retire."
"Certainly, master; you must 'scuse me, I'm afeard I've kep you up; I felt mightily for them poor creaturs, thar. Lor', master, I aint nigh so weakly as you, and think I nussed you, and used to toat you on my back when you was a little boy. You was mighty fat, I tell you—I used to think my back would bust, sometimes, but I'm pretty strong yet. 'Pears like I could toat you now, if I was to try."
"Not to-night, thank you, Bacchus. Though if any thing should occur to make it necessary, I will call you," said Mr. Weston.
Bacchus slept in a kind of closet bedroom off his master's, and he went in accordingly, but after a few moments returned, finding Mr. Weston in bed.
"Will you have any thing, sir?"
"Well, master, I was thinkin to say one thing more, and 'tis, if dese Abolitioners, dat has so much larnin, if they only had some of the Bible larnin my wife has, how much good 'twould do 'em. My wife says, 'God put her here a slave, and she's a gwine to wait for Him to set her free; if he aint ready to do so till he calls her to Heaven, she's willin to wait.' Lord, sir, my wife, she sets at de feet of Jesus, and larns her Bible. I reckon de Abolitioners aint willin to do that; they don't want to get so low down; 'pears as if they aint willin to go about doin good like Jesus did, but they must be puttin up poor slaves to sin and sorrow. Well, they've got to go to their account, any how."
Bacchus finally retired, but it was with difficulty he composed himself to sleep. He was still mentally discussing that great subject, Abolition, which, like a mighty tempest, was shaking the whole country. All at once it occurred to him "that it wouldn't do no good to worry about it," so he settled himself to sleep. A bright idea crossed his mind as he closed his eyes upon the embers that were fading on the hearth in his master's room; in another moment he was reposing, in utter oblivion of all things, whether concerning his own affairs or those of the world in general.
The next morning, just as Mr. Weston had finished his paper, Bacchus came in with a pair of boots, shining astonishingly. "I believe," said Mr. Weston, "I won't put them on yet, our ladies have not come down to breakfast, and its hardly time, for it is but half-past nine o'clock; I think it must have been morning when they came home."
"Yes sir," said Bacchus; "they aint awake yet, Aunt Marthy tells me."
"Well, let them sleep. I have breakfasted, and I will sit here and enjoy this good fire, until they come."
Bacchus lingered, and looked as if he could not enjoy any thing that morning.
"Any thing the matter, Bacchus?" said Mr. Weston.
"Well," said Bacchus, "nothin more I 'spose than what I had a right to expect of 'em. Simon's got to go. I done all I could for him, but it aint nothin, after all."
"What could you do?" said Mr. Weston.
"Well, master, I was nigh asleep last night, when all at once I thought 'bout dis here Abolition gentleman, Mr. Baker, that boards long wid us. Now, thinks I, he is a mighty nice kind of man, talks a heap 'bout God and the Gospel, and 'bout our duty to our fellow-creaturs. I know'd he had a sight of money, for his white servant told me he was a great man in Boston, had a grand house thar, his wife rode in elegant carriages, and his children has the best of every thing. So, I says to myself, he aint like the rest of 'em, he don't approve of stealing, and lying, and the like o' that; if he thinks the Southern gentlemen oughter set all their niggers free, why he oughter be willin to lose just a little for one man; so I went straight to his room to ask him to buy Simon."
"That was very wrong, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, sternly. "Don't you know your duty better than to be interfering in the concerns of these people? I am excessively mortified. What will this gentleman think of me?"
"Nothin', master," said Bacchus. "Don't be oneasy. I told him I come to ax him a favor on my own 'sponsibility, and that you didn't know nothin' about it. Well, he axed me if I wanted a chaw of tobacco. 'No sir,' says I, 'but I wants to ax a little advice.' 'I will give you that with pleasure,' says he.
"'Mr. Baker,' says I, 'I understands you think God made us all, white and colored, free and equal; and I knows you feels great pity for de poor slaves that toils and frets in de sun, all their lives like beasts, and lays down and dies like beasts, clean forgot like 'em too. I heard you say so to a gentleman at de door; I thought it was mighty kind of you to consider so much 'bout them of a different color from your own. I heard you say it was de duty of de gentlemen of de South to set their slaves free, if it did make 'em poor, kase Jesus Christ, he made hisself poor to set us all free. Warn't dat what you said, sir?'
"'Exactly,' says he. 'I didn't know you had such a good memory.'
"'Now, Mr. Baker,' says I, 'you're a Christian yourself, or you couldn't talk dat way. I know Christians must like to make other people happy; they're bound to, for their Master, Christ, did. Well, sir, all de poor creturs dat de Abolitionists got off is cotched—they're gwine to be sold, and thar's one young man thar, that had a good home and a good mistis, and him they 'suaded off, and now he's gwine to be sold South, whar he'll toil and sweat in de hot sun. Now, Mr. Baker, if de Southern gentlemen's duty's so plain to you, that they oughter make themselves poor, to make their slaves free and happy, surely you'll buy this one poor man who is frettin' hisself to death. It won't make you poor to buy jist this one; his master says he'll sell him to any Abolitioner who'll take him to the great Norrurd, and have him teached. Buy him, sir, for de Lord's sake—de poor fellow will be so happy; jist spend a little of your money to make dat one poor cretur happy. God gave it all to you, sir, and he aint gave none to de poor slaves, not even gave him his freedom. You set dis one poor feller free, and when you come to die, it will make you feel so good to think about it; when you come to judgment, maybe Christ may say, "You made dis poor man free, and now you may come into de kingdom and set down wid me forever." Oh! sir,' says I, 'buy him, de Lord will pay you back, you won't lose a copper by him.'"
"Well," said Mr. Weston, "what did he say?"
"Why, sir," said Bacchus, "he got up and stood by de fire, and warmed hisself, and says he, 'Ole felur, if I'd a had de teaching of you, I'd a larned you to mind your own business. I'll let you know I didn't come to Washington to buy niggers.' 'Here,' says he, to dat white nigger that waits on him, 'Next time dis feller wants me, tell him to go 'bout his business.'
"'Good mornin' sir,' says I, 'I shan't trouble you agin. May de Lord send better friends to de slaves than de like of you.'"
"Well, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, "you did very wrong, and I hope you will not again take such a liberty with any person. You see for yourself what an Abolitionist is. I wish those poor runaways had had some such experience, it would have saved them from the trouble they are now in."
"Yes, indeed, master. I've been down thar agin, to-day. I went right early; thar's an ole woman thar that tried to run away. She's gwine too, and she leaves her husband here. She aint a cryin, though, her heart's too full for tears. Oh! master," said Bacchus, sighing deeply, "I think if you'd seed her, you'd do more than the Abolitioners."
* * * * *
In the afternoon Mr. Weston usually walked out. He did not dine with the ladies at their late hour, as his complaint, dyspepsia, made it necessary for him to live lightly and regularly. Bacchus attended him in his walks, and many a person turned back to look upon the fine-looking old gentleman with his gold-headed cane, and his servant, whose appearance was as agreeable as his own. Bacchus was constantly on the lookout for his master, but he managed to see all that was going on too, and to make many criticisms on the appearance and conduct of those he met in his rambles.
Bacchus followed his master, and found that he was wending his steps to the place where the arrested runaways were confined. This was very agreeable to him, for his heart was quite softened towards the poor prisoners, and he had an idea that his master's very presence might carry a blessing with it. "Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, as they were going in, "you need not point out the servants to me. I will observe for myself, and I do not wish to be conspicuous."
There were a great many lounging about, and looking round there. Some were considering the scene as merely curious; some were blaming the slaves; some their masters, some the Abolitionists. There was confusion and constant going in and out. But though the countenances of the runaways expressed different emotions, it was evident that one feeling had settled in each breast, and that was, there was no hope that any thing would occur to relieve them from their undesirable position.
Mr. Weston easily recognized Simon, from Bacchus's description. He had a boyish expression of disappointment and irritation on his countenance, and had evidently been recently weeping. There were several men, one or two of them with bad faces, and one, a light mulatto, had a fine open countenance, and appeared to be making an effort not to show his excessive disappointment. In the corner sat the woman, on a low bench—her head was bent forward on her lap, and she was swaying her body slightly, keeping motion with her foot.
"What is the woman's name, Bacchus?" asked Mr. Weston in a low tone.
"I axed her dis mornin, sir. Its Sarah—Sarah Mills."
Mr. Weston walked up nearer to her, and was regarding her, when she suddenly looked up into his face. Finding herself observed, she made an effort to look unconcerned, but it did not succeed, for she burst into tears.
"I'm sorry to see you here, Sarah," said Mr. Weston, "you look too respectable to be in such a situation." Sarah smoothed down her apron, but did not reply. "What induced you to run away? You need not be afraid to answer me truthfully. I will not do you any harm."
"My blessed grief!" said Bacchus. "No, master couldn't do no harm to a flea."
"Hush, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston.
There was something in Mr. Weston's appearance that could not be mistaken. The woman gave him a look of perfect confidence, and said—
"I thought I could better myself, sir."
"In what respect? Had you an unkind master?" said Mr. Weston.
"No," said the woman, "but my husband I was afear'd might be sold, and I thought I could make so much money at the North, that I could soon help him to buy himself. He's a barber, sir, lives on the Avenue, and his master, when he was young, had him taught the barber's trade. Well, his master told him some time ago that he might live to himself, and pay him so much a month out o' what he made, but seemed as if he couldn't get along to do it. My husband, sir, drinks a good deal, and he couldn't do it on that account; so, a year or two ago his master sent for him, and told him that he was worthless, and unless he could buy himself in three years he would sell him. He said he might have himself for five hundred dollars, and he could have earned it, if he hadn't loved whiskey so, but 'pears as if he can't do without that. We aint got no children, thank God! so when the Abolitionists advised me to go off, and told me they would take care of me until I got out of my master's reach, and I could soon make a sight of money to buy my husband, I thought I would go; and you see, sir, what's come of it."
Sarah tried to assume the same look of unconcern, and again she wept bitterly.
"I don't mean to reproach you, now that you are in trouble," said Mr. Weston, "but you colored people in this city have got into bad hands. God has made you slaves, and you should be willing to abide by his will, especially if he give you a good master."
"Yes, sir, it was mighty hard though, to think of my poor husband's being sold,—he and I don't belong to the same person."
"So, I suppose," said Mr. Weston; "but you have only made your condition worse."
"Yes, sir; but I didn't think things would turn out so. The Abolitionists said they would see that I got off free."
"They ought to be cotched, and tied up, and have a good whaling besides," said Bacchus, indignantly.
"'Taint no use wishin 'em harm," said Sarah; "the Lord's will be done," at the same time her pale lips quivered with emotion.
Mr. Weston paused a few moments in deep thought, then went into the other room. When he returned, she was sitting as when he first entered, her face buried in her lap.
"Sarah," he said, and she looked up as before, without any doubt, in his open countenance, "are you a good worker?"
"I am, at washin and ironin. I have been makin a good deal for my master that way."
"Well," said Mr. Weston, "if I were to purchase you, so as you could be near your husband, would you conduct yourself properly; and if I wish it, endeavor to repay me what I have given for you?"
Such a thought had not entered the despairing woman's mind. She was impressed with the idea that she should never see her husband again; other things did not effect her. It was necessary, therefore, for Mr. Weston to repeat what he had said before she comprehended his meaning. When she heard and understood, every energy of her soul was aroused. Starting from her seat, she clasped her hands convulsively together; her face became deathlike with agitation.
"Would I, sir? Oh! try me! Work! what is work if I could be near my poor husband as long as I can. Buy me, sir, only for Jesus' sake, buy me. I will work day and night to pay you, and the blessing of God Almighty will pay you too, better than any money I could earn."
Bacchus, the tears rolling down his cheeks, looked earnestly at his master's face.
"Buy her, master, buy her, for the love of God," he said.
"Sarah," said Mr. Weston, "I do not like to be in a public place; do not, therefore, become excited, and say any thing that will draw observation to me. I have bought you, and I will not require you to repay me. Come to me to-night, at Willard's, and I will give you your free papers; I will see also what I can do for your husband. In the mean time, Bacchus will help you take your things from this place. Stay here though a few moments, until he gets me a carriage to go home in, and he will return to you."
Sarah perfectly understood that Mr. Weston wanted no thanks at that time. With streaming eyes, now raised to heaven—now to her benefactor, she held her peace. Mr. Weston gladly left the dreadful place. Bacchus assisted him to a hack, and then came back to fulfil his directions as regards the woman.
Oh! noble heart, not here thy reward! Thy weak and trembling frame attests too well that the scene is too trying to afford thee pleasure. The All-seeing Eye is bent upon thee, and thine own ear will hear the commendation from the lips of Christ: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Nor thou alone! Many a generous act is done by the slaveholder to the slave. God will remember them, though here they be forgotten or unknown.
We need not dwell on the unhoped-for meeting between Sarah and her husband, nor on Bacchus's description of it to his master. It suffices to close the relation of this incident by saying, that at night Sarah came to receive directions from Mr. Weston; but in their place he gave her the necessary free papers. "You are your own mistress, now, Sarah," said he. "I hope you will prove yourself worthy to be so. You can assist your husband to pay for himself. If you are honest and industrious, you cannot fail to do well."
Sarah's heart overflowed with unlooked-for happiness. She thanked Mr. Weston over and over again, until, fearing to be troublesome, she withdrew. Bacchus went as far as the corner, and promised to look in upon herself and husband, repeatedly; which he did. He impressed his new acquaintances with a proper sense of his own importance. With the exception of one grand spree that he and Sarah's husband had together, the three enjoyed a very pleasant and harmonious intercourse during the remainder of the Westons' stay at Washington.
* * * * *
The gay winter had passed, and spring had replaced it; but night after night saw the votaries of fashion assembled, though many of them looked rather the worse for wear. Ellen and Alice tired of scenes which varied so little, yet having no regular employment, they hardly knew how to cease the round of amusements that occupied them. Ellen said, "Never mind, Alice, we will have plenty of time for repentance, and we might as well quaff to the last drop the cup of pleasure, which may never be offered to our lips again." Very soon they were to return to Virginia, and now they proposed visiting places of interest in the neighborhood of the city.
One morning, after a gay party, and at a later hour than usual, the three ladies entered the breakfast-room. Mr. Weston was waiting for them. "Well, young ladies," he said, "I have read my paper, and now I am ready to hear you give an account of your last evening's triumphs. The winter's campaign is closing; every little skirmish is then of the greatest importance. How do you all feel?"
"I do not know how I feel, uncle," said Alice, languidly.
"Alice has expressed my feelings exactly, and Mrs. Weston's too, I fancy," said Ellen.
Mr. Weston smiled, but said he should not excuse them from their promise of giving him a faithful description of the scene.
"Well, my dear sir," said Ellen, "I have a decided talent for description; but remember, Mrs. Weston, my genius must not be cramped. Do not break the thread of my discourse by 'Ellen, do not talk so!' A Washington party is what you have called it, Mr. Weston, a skirmish. You remember how the wind blew last night. When we reached Mr. ——'s front door, the people had collected in such crowds in the hall, to get a little air, that it was fully ten minutes before we could get in. We had the benefit of a strong harsh breeze playing about our undefended necks and shoulders. As soon as we were fairly in, though, we were recompensed for our sufferings in this respect. We went from the arctic to the torrid zone; it was like an August day at two o'clock.
"We tried to make our way to the lady of the house, but understood, after a long search, that she had been pushed by the crowd to the third story; and being a very fat person, was seen, at the last accounts, seated in a rocking-chair, fanning herself violently, and calling in vain for ice-cream. After a while we reached the dancing-room, where, in a very confined circle, a number were waltzing and Polka-ing. As this is a forbidden dance to Alice and me, we had a fine opportunity of taking notes. Mrs. S. was making a great exhibition of herself; she puffed and blew as if she had the asthma; her ringlets streamed, and her flounces flew. I was immensely anxious for the little lieutenant her partner. He was invisible several times; lost in the ringlets and the flounces. There were people of all sizes and ages dancing for a wager. I thought of what our good bishop once said: 'It was very pretty to see the young lambs gambolling about; but when the old sheep began to caper too, he'd rather not look on.' There was poor old Mr. K., with his red face and his white hair, and his heels flying in every direction. (I am ashamed of you for laughing at Mr. K., Mrs. Weston, when I am trying to impress upon Alice's mind the folly of such a scene.) I dare say Mr. K.'s wife was at that very moment, five hundred miles off, darning her children's stockings.
"All the people did not dance the Polka," continued Ellen; "and I was dazzled with the pretty faces, and the wise-looking heads. Mr. Webster was there, with his deep voice, and solemn brow, and cavernous eyes; and close up to him, where she could not move or breathe, there was a young face, beautiful and innocent as a cherub's, looking with unfeigned astonishment upon the scene. There was Gen. Scott, towering above everybody; and Mr. Douglass, edging his way, looking kindly and pleasantly at every one. There were artists and courtiers; soldiers and sailors; foolish men, beautiful women, and sensible women; though I do not know what they wanted there. There were specimens of every kind in this menagerie of men and women. Dear Mr. Weston, I have not quite done. There was a lady writer, with a faded pink scarf, and some old artificial flowers in her hair. There was a she Abolitionist too; yes, a genuine female Abolitionist. She writes for the Abolition papers. She considers Southerners heathens; looks pityingly at the waiters as they hand her ice-cream. She wants Frederick Douglass to be the next President, and advocates amalgamation. I am quite out of breath; but I must tell you that I looked at her and thought Uncle Bacchus would just suit her, with his airs and graces; but I do not think she is stylish enough for him."
"But, my dear," said Mrs. Weston, "you forget Bacchus has a wife and twelve children."
"That is not of the least consequence, my dear madam," said Ellen; "I can imagine, when a woman approves of amalgamation, she is so lost to every sense of propriety that it makes no difference to her whether a man is married or not. Now, Alice, I resign my post; and if you have any thing to say I will give you the chair, while I run up to my room and write aunt a good long letter."
"The afternoon is so delightful," said Mr. Weston, "that we had better take our ride to the Congress burial ground. Your time is short, young ladies; you cannot afford to lose any of it, if all your plans are to be carried out."
The ladies gladly agreed to go, and were not long in their preparation. Mark was a perfect prince of a driver. When the ladies had occasion to go into the country, he entreated them to hire a carriage, but he was always ready to display his handsome equipage and horses in the city, especially on the Avenue.
He drove slowly this afternoon, and Mrs. Weston remembered, as she approached Harper's, that she had one or two purchases to make. Fearing it might be late on their return, she proposed getting out for a few moments.
A stream of gayly-dressed people crowded the pavements. The exquisite weather had drawn them out. Belles with their ringlets and sun-shades, and beaux with canes and curled moustaches. Irish women in tawdry finery, and ladies of color with every variety of ornament, and ridiculous imitation of fashion. Now and then a respectable-looking negro would pass, turning out of the way, instead of jostling along.
"Truly," said Mr. Weston, "Pennsylvania Avenue is the great bazaar of America. Here are senators and members—three and four walking arm in arm. Here are gay young men, dressed in the latest style; here is the army and navy button; old people and young children with their nurses; foreigners and natives; people of every shade and hue. There is our President, walking unattended, as a republican president should walk. And see! there are a number of Indians, noble-looking men, and a white boy throwing a stone at them. I wish I had the young rascal. On our right, in their carriages, are the wives and children of the rich; while, scattered about, right and left, are the representatives of the poor. But what is this, coming along the side-walk?"
The girls put their heads out of the window, and saw a colored man, sauntering along in an impudent, dont-carish manner. His dress—indeed his whole appearance—was absurd. He wore a stylish, shiny black hat; the rim slightly turned up in front, following the direction of the wearer's nose, which had "set its affections on things above." His whiskers were immense; so were his moustaches, and that other hairy trimming which it is the fashion to wear about the jaws and chin; and for which I know no better name than that which the children give—goatee; a tremendous shirt collar; brass studs in his bosom; a neck handkerchief of many colors, the ends of which stood out like the extended wings of a butterfly; a gorgeous watch chain; white kid gloves; pantaloons of a large-sized plaid, and fitting so very tightly that it was with the greatest difficulty he could put out his feet; patent leather gaiter-boots, and a cane that he flourished right and left with such determined strokes, that the children kept carefully out of his way. Several persons looked back to wonder and laugh at this strange figure, the drollery of which was greatly enhanced by his limber style of walking, and a certain expression of the whole outer man, which said, "Who says I am not as good as anybody on this avenue; Mr. Fillmore, or any one else?"
Now it happened, that walking from the other direction toward this representative of the much-injured colored race, was a stranger, who had come to Washington to look about him. He was from Philadelphia, but not thinking a great deal of what he saw in our capital on a former visit, he had quite made up his mind that there was nothing to make it worth his while to come again; but hearing of the convalescing turn the city had taken since the immortal supporters of the Compromise and the Fugitive Slave law had brought comparative harmony and peace, where there had been nought but disorder and confusion, he suddenly fancied to come and see for himself. He was not an Abolitionist, nor a Secessionist, nor one of those unfortunate, restless people, who are forever stirring up old difficulties. He had an idea that the Union ought to be preserved in the first place; and then, whatever else could be done to advance the interests of the human race in general, without injury to our national interests, should be attended to. He was always a good-tempered man, and was particularly pleasant this afternoon, having on an entire new suit of clothes, each article, even the shirt-collar, fitting in the most faultless manner.
As he walked along, he noticed the colored man advancing towards him, and observed, too, what I forgot to mention, that he held a cigar, and every now and then put it to his mouth, emitting afterwards a perfect cloud of smoke.
The thought occurred to him that the man did not intend to turn out of the way for anybody, and as they were in a line, he determined not to deviate one way or the other, but just observe what this favorite of fashion would do. They walked on, and in a minute came up to each other, the colored man not giving way in the least, but bumping, hat, goatee, cane, cigar, and all, against our Philadelphian, who, with the greatest coolness and presence of mind, doubled up his fist and giving the colored Adonis two blows with it, (precisely on the middle brass stud which confined his frilled shirt-bosom,) laid him full length upon the pavement.
"Now," said the Philadelphian, "you've had a lesson; the next time you see a gentleman coming along, turn out of the way for him, and you'll save your new clothes." Without another glance at the discomfited beau, who was brushing his plaid pantaloons with his pocket-handkerchief, and muttering some equivocal language that would not do here, he went on his way to see the improvements about the City Hall.
Mark's low laugh was heard from the driver's seat, and Bacchus, who was waiting to open the carriage door for Mr. Weston, stood on the first step, and touching his hat, said, with a broad grin, "Dat's de best thing we've seen sence we come to Washington. Dat beats Ole Virginny."
Mrs. Weston came from the store at the same moment, and Bacchus gallantly let down the steps, and, after securing the door, took his place beside Mark, with the agility of a boy of sixteen.
Mr. Weston, much amused, described the scene. Mrs. Weston declared "it served him right; for that the negroes were getting intolerable."
"I can hardly believe," she said, "the change that has been made in their appearance and conduct. They think, to obtain respect they must be impertinent. This is the effect of Abolition."
"Yes," said Mr. Weston, "this is Abolition. I have thought a great deal on the condition of the negroes in our country, of late. I would like to see every man and woman that God has made, free, could it be accomplished to their advantage. I see the evils of slavery, it is sometimes a curse on the master as well as the slave.
"When I purchased Sarah; when I saw those grieving, throbbing souls, my own was overwhelmed with sympathy for them. This is slavery, I said to myself. Poor creatures, though you have done wrong, how severe your punishment; to be separated from all that your life has had to make it pleasant, or even tolerable. This is slavery indeed, and where is the man, come from God, who will show us a remedy? I look at the free blacks of the North and South. I say again, this is Abolition! How worthless, how degraded they are, after they imbibe these ridiculous notions. When I behold the Southern country, and am convinced that it is impossible to manumit the slaves, I conclude that here, at least, they are in their natural condition. Heretofore, I feel that I have only done my duty in retaining mine, while I give them every means of comfort, and innocent enjoyment, that is in my power. Now I have seen the result of the Abolition efforts, I am more convinced that my duty has been, and will be, as I have said. Could they be colonized from Virginia, I would willingly consent to it, as in our climate, white labor would answer; but farther South, only the negro can labor, and this is an unanswerable objection to our Southern States becoming free. Those servants that are free, the benevolent and generous Abolitionists ought to take North, build them colleges, and make good to them all the promises they held out as baits to allure them from their owners and their duties."
Mr. Weston found he had not two very attentive listeners in the young ladies, for they were returning the many salutations they received, and making remarks on their numerous acquaintances. The carriage began slowly to ascend Capitol Hill, and they all remarked the beautiful prospect, to which Washingtonians are so much accustomed that they are too apt not to notice it. Their ride was delightful. It was one of those lovely spring days when the air is still fresh and balmy, and the promise of a summer's sun lights up nature so joyfully.
There were many visitors at the burial-ground, and there had been several funerals that day. A woman stood at the door of the house, at the entrance of the cemetery, with a baby in her arms; and another child of two years old was playing around a large bier, that had been left there until it should be wanted again.
Mrs. Weston met with an acquaintance, soon after they entered the ground, and they stopped to converse, while Mr. Weston and the younger ladies walked on. Near a large vault they stopped a moment, surprised to see two or three little boys playing at marbles. They were ruddy, healthy-looking boys, marking out places in the gravel path for the game; shooting, laughing, and winning, and so much occupied that if death himself had come along on his pale horse, they would have asked him to wait a while till they could let him pass, if indeed they had seen him at all. Mr. Weston tried to address them several times, but they could not attend to him until the game was completed, when one of them sprang upon the vault and began to count over his marbles, and the others sat down on a low monument to rest.
"Boys," said Mr. Weston, "I am very sorry to see you playing marbles in a burial-ground. Don't you see all these graves around you?"
"We don't go on the dead people," said an honest-faced little fellow. "You see the grass is wet there; we play here in the walk, where its nice and dry."
"But you ought to play outside," said Mr. Weston. "This is too sacred a place to be made the scene of your amusements."
"We don't hurt any body," said the largest boy. "When people are dead they don't hear nothin; where's the harm?"
"Well," said Mr. Weston, "there's one thing certain, none of you have any friends buried here. If you had, you would not treat them so unkindly."
"My mother is buried over yonder," said the boy on the vault; "and if I thought there was any thing unkind in it, I would never come here to play again."
"You are a good boy," said Mr. Weston. "I hope you will keep your word. If you were buried there, I am sure your mother would be very sad and quiet by your grave."
The boy drew the string to his bag, and walked off without looking back.
"I wish," said Mr. Weston, "you would all follow his example. We should always be respectful in our conduct, when we are in a burial-ground."
As soon as they were gone, the boys laughed and marked out another game.
Mrs. Weston joined her party, and they went towards the new portion of the cemetery that is so beautifully situated, near the river.
"I think," said Mr. Weston, "this scene should remind us of our conversation this morning. If Washington be the meeting-place of all living, it is the grand cemetery of the dead. Look around us here! We see monuments to Senators and Members; graves of foreigners and strangers; names of the great, the rich, the powerful, men of genius and ambition. Strewed along are the poor, the lowly, the unlearned, the infant, and the little child.
"Read the inscriptions—death has come at last, watched and waited for; or he has come suddenly, unexpected, and undesired. There lies an author, a bride, a statesman, side by side. A little farther off is that simple, but beautiful monument."
They approached, and Alice read the line that was inscribed around a cross sculptured in it, "Other refuge have I none!" Underneath was her name, "Angeline."
"How beautiful, how much more so in its simplicity than if it had been ornamented, and a labored epitaph written upon it," said Mr. Weston. "Here too are members of families, assembled in one great family. As we walk along, we pass mothers, and husbands, and children; but in life, they who lie here together, were possibly all strangers."
"What is that large vault open to-day for?" said Ellen, to a man who seemed to have some charge in the place.
"That is the public receptacle," said the man. "We are obliged to air it very often, else we could never go in and out with the coffins we put there. There's a good many in there now."
"Who is there?" said Mr. Weston.
"Well," said the man, "Mrs. Madison is there, for one, and there are some other people, who are going to be moved soon. Mrs. Madison, she's going to be moved, too, some time or another, but I don't know when."
Ellen stooped down and looked in, but arose quickly and turned away. Two gentlemen were standing near observing her, and one of them smiled as she stepped back from the vault. Mr. Weston knew this person by sight; he was a clergyman of great talent, and almost equal eccentricity, and often gave offence by harshness of manner, when he was only anxious to do good to the cause in which his heart was absorbed.
"Ah! young ladies," he said, looking kindly at them both, "this is a good place for you to come to. You are both beautiful, and it may be wealthy; and I doubt not, in the enjoyments of the passing season, you have forgotten all about death and the grave. But, look you! in there, lies the mortal remains of Mrs. Madison. What an influence she had in this gay society, which you have doubtless adorned. Her presence was the guarantee of propriety, as well as of social and fashionable enjoyment; the very contrast that she presented to her husband made her more charming. Always anxious to please, she was constantly making others happy. She gave assistance and encouragement to all, when it was in her power. She had more political influence than any woman in our country has had, before or since. But think of her now! You could not bear to approach the coffin that contains her remains. Where is her beauty—and her grace and talent? Ah! young ladies," he continued, "did she rightly use those talents?"
"It is hardly a fair question to ask now," said Mr. Weston. "Let us tread lightly o'er the ashes of the dead."
"Let the living learn a lesson from the dead," said the clergyman, sternly. "You are leading, it may be, a heartless life of pleasure, but, young ladies, forget not this grave. She could not escape it, nor will you. Pause from your balls, and your theatres, and your gay doings, and ask, what is the end of it all. Trifle not with the inestimable gift of life. Be not dead while you live. Anticipate not the great destroyer. Hear the appeal of one who was once the idol of every heart; she speaks to you from the grave, 'Even as I am, shalt thou be!'"
He turned from them, and wandered over the ground. Mr. Weston led the way to the carriage, and Ellen and Alice thought, that if a lesson of life was to be learned in the gay ball of the night before, a still more necessary one was found in the cemetery which they were now leaving, as the shadows of the evening were on the simple monument and the sculptured slab, and their silent tenants slept on, undisturbed by the gambols of thoughtless children, or the conversation of the many who came to visit their abode.
* * * * *
The next morning, Bacchus brought no letter for Mr. Weston, but one for each lady; for Ellen from her aunt, for Alice from Arthur, and Cousin Janet's handwriting was easily recognized on the outside of Mrs. Weston's. Hardly had the girls arisen from the table to take theirs' to their rooms for a quiet perusal, when an exclamation from Mrs. Weston, detained them.
"Is anything the matter at home, Anna?" said Mr. Weston, "Is Cousin Janet—?"
"Cousin Janet is well, my dear brother," said Mrs. Weston. "I was very thoughtless, but our dear neighbor, Mrs. Kent, is no more."
"Can it be possible?" said Mr. Weston, much agitated. "Read the letter aloud."
Mrs. Weston, turned to the beginning, and read aloud,
"MY DEAR ANNA:
"The time is near which will bring you all in health and happiness, I trust, to your home; and could you see how lovely it looks, I think you would be tempted to fix upon an earlier day. You see how selfish I am, but I confess that I quite count the days, as a child does to Christmas, and am ashamed of my impatience.
"Throughout the winter I had no care. My kind friends did all the housekeeping, and the servants in the house, and on the plantation, were so faithful, that I feel indebted to all who have made my time so easy; and your absence has not, I am sure, been attended with any ill effects, without you find me a little cross and complaining, and Mr. Barbour out of his senses with joy, on your return. Good Mr. Barbour! he has superintended and encouraged the servants, and visited us forlorn ladies frequently, so that he must come in for a portion of our thanks too.
"You will perhaps think I ought only to write you cheerful news, but it is best to let you know as well as I can, the condition that you will find us in, on your return. Phillis is the only one of us, whose concerns are of any immediate importance, but I am sorry to have to tell you that she is now seriously indisposed. Her cough has never really yielded—her other symptoms have varied; but for the last few weeks, her disease has not only progressed, but assumed a certain form. She is in consumption, and has no doubt inherited the disease from her mother.
"I have, throughout the winter, felt great anxiety about her, and have not permitted her to work, though sometimes I found it hard to prevent her. Her children have been constantly with her; indeed, I have passed a great deal of my own time in her cabin, which, under Martha's superintendence, is so neat and comfortable.
"You will all perhaps blame me that I have not been thus plain with you before, but Dr. Lawton said it was not necessary, as she has never been in any immediate danger, and Phillis would not consent to my doing so. She wanted you to enjoy yourselves, and Alice to have a good chance to regain her health. 'No doubt, Miss Janet,' she said, 'the Lord will spare me to see them yet, and I have every thing I want now—they couldn't stop my pains any more than you, and I feel that I am in the Lord's hands, and I am content to be.' She has not been confined to her bed, but is fast losing strength, though from my window now I see her tying up her roses, that are beginning to bud. Some other hand than hers will care for them when another Spring shall come.
"Her nights are very restless, and she is much exhausted from constant spitting of blood; the last week of pleasant weather has been of service to her, and the prospect of seeing you all at home gives her the most unfeigned pleasure.
"I have even more painful intelligence to give you. Our young neighbor, Mrs. Kent, has done with all her trials, and I trust they sanctified her, in preparation for the early and unexpected death which has been her lot. You are not yet aware of the extent of her trials. A fortnight ago her little boy was attacked with scarlet fever, in its most violent form. From the first moment of his illness his case was hopeless, and he only suffered twenty-four hours. I went over as soon as I heard of his death; the poor mother's condition was really pitiable. She was helpless in her sorrow, which was so unexpected as to deprive her at first of the power of reason. The Good Shepherd though, had not forgotten her—he told her that he had taken her little lamb, and had gently folded it in his bosom, and that he would wander with it in the lovely pastures of Paradise. She was soon perfectly reconciled to the sad dispensation; sad indeed, for the child was her only earthly solace. Victim of an unhappy marriage, the dear engaging little boy was a great consolation to her, and his amusement and instruction occupied her mind, and passed away happily many a weary hour.
"She insisted upon attending the funeral, and I accompanied her. Mr. Kent was with her, too, much distressed, for this hard man loved his child, and keenly felt his loss.
"She got out of the carriage to hear the funeral service read, and was calm until they took up the coffin to lower it into the grave. Then it was impossible to control her. Placing her arms upon it, she looked around appealingly to the men; and so affected were they, that they turned from her to wipe away their own tears. Her strength gave way under the excitement, and she was carried, insensible, to the carriage, and taken home.
"I found her very feverish, and did not like to leave her, thinking it probable that she might also have the disease which had carried off her child. Before night she became really ill, and Dr. Lawton pronounced her complaint scarlet fever. The disease was fearfully rapid, and soon ended her life. She was, I think, well prepared to go. Her solemn and affectionate farewell to her husband cannot fail to make an impression upon him.
"I shall have a great deal to tell you of her when you return. The past winter has been a sad one; a constant coolness existing between her and her husband. A short time ago he was brutally striking that faithful old man of her father's, Robert, and Mrs. Kent interfered, insisting upon Robert's returning to his cabin, and in his presence forbidding Mr. Kent again to raise his hand against one servant on the plantation; Mr. Carter's will, allowing Mr. Kent no authority over his servants, and commending them to his daughter's kindness and care, showed great discrimination of character. This, though, has been a constant source of irritation to Mr. Kent, and he has never been kind to the people. Mrs. Kent, usually so timid, was roused into anger by his treatment of Robert, and interfered, as I have related to you. She told me of this, and said how unhappy it had made her, though she could not blame herself. Since then there has only been a formal politeness between them; Mr. Kent not forgiving his wife for the part she took against him. Poor little woman! Robert had been her father's faithful nurse in his long illness, and I do not wonder at her feelings on seeing him struck.
"Yesterday the will was read, and Dr. Lawton, who was present, informed us of the result. Mrs. Kent has left most of her property to her husband, but her servants free! The plantation is to be sold, and the proceeds expended in preparing those who are willing to go to Liberia, or where they choose; as they cannot, manumitted, remain in Virginia. The older servants, who prefer staying in Virginia as they are, she has left to you, with an allowance for their support, considering you as a kind of guardian; for in no other way could she have provided for their staying here, which they will like better.
"Who would have thought she could have made so wise a will?
"Dr. Lawton says that Mr. Kent showed extreme anger on hearing it read. He intends returning to the North, and his $30,000 will be a clear gain, for I am told he had not a cent when he married her.
"Write me when you have fixed the time for your return, and believe me, with love to all,
"Your affectionate relative, JANET WILMER."
Bacchus entered in time to hear the latter part of this letter. He had his master's boots in his hands. When Mrs. Weston stopped reading, he said, "That's good; bound for Mister Kent. I'm glad he's gwine, like Judas, to his own place."
The carriage was slowly ascending the road to the old church, a familiar and dear object to each member of the Weston family. A village churchyard fills up so gradually, that one is not startled with a sudden change. Mr. Weston looked from the window at the ivy, and the gothic windows, and the family vault, where many of his name reposed.
The inmates of the carriage had been conversing cheerfully, but as they approached the point where they would see home, each one was occupied with his or her musings. Occasionally, a pleasant word was exchanged, on the appearance of the well-known neighborhood, the balmy air, and the many shades of green that the trees presented; some of them loaded with white and pink blossoms, promising still better things when the season should advance.
Alice leaned from the window, watching for the first glimpse of the well-remembered house. She greeted every tree they passed with a lively look, and smiled gaily as the porter's lodge presented itself. The gates of it flew open as the carriage approached, and Exeter in its beauty met their view. "Oh, uncle," she said, turning from the window, "look! look! Is there any place in the world like this?"
"No, indeed, Alice;" and he took a survey of the home which had been so blessed to him. "How beautiful every thing looks! and how we will enjoy it, after a crowded, noisy hotel. Anna, you are not sorry to see its familiar face again. Ellen, my darling, we have not forgotten you—Exeter is your home, too; you are as welcome as any of us. Why, you look sober; not regretting Washington already?"
"No sir," said Ellen, "I was thinking of other things."
"Well," said Mrs. Weston, "we must look very happy this evening. I wonder, Ellen, Mr. Barbour has not met us."
"I suppose," said Alice, laughing, "he is too much agitated at the thought of meeting Ellen again—he will be over this evening, I dare say."
"I am sorry I can't keep my word with Mr. Barbour," said Ellen, "but I have concluded to marry Abel Johnson, on Arthur's recommendation, and I ought not to give good Mr. Barbour any false expectations."
"You must know, dear uncle," said Alice, "that Ellen and Arthur have been carrying on a postscript correspondence in my letters, and Arthur has turned matchmaker, and has been recommending Abel Johnson to Ellen. They have fallen in love with each other, without having met, and that was the reason Ellen was so hard-hearted last winter."
"Ah! that is the reason. But you must take care of these Yankee husbands, Miss Ellen, if Mr. Kent be a specimen," said Mrs. Weston.
"I am quite sure," said Alice, "Arthur would not have such a friend."
Mr. Weston smiled, and looked out again at home. They were rapidly approaching the gates, and a crowd of little darkies were holding them open on each side. "I wish Arthur were here," said he. "How long he has been away! I associate him with every object about the place."
Alice did not answer; Arthur was in her thoughts. This was his home, every object with which she was surrounded breathed of him. She had thought of it as her home, but she had no right here—she was really only a guest. The thought was new and painful to her. Could the whole of her past existence have been dreamed away?—had she indeed no claim to the place she loved best on earth—was she dependant on the will of others for all the gay and joyous emotions that a few moments before filled her breast? She thought again of Arthur, of his handsome appearance, his good and generous heart, his talents, and his unchanging love to her—of Walter, and of all with which he had had to contend in the springtime of his life. Of his faults, his sin, and his banishment; of his love to her, too, and the delusion under which she had labored, of her returning it. Arthur would, ere long, know it all, and though he might forgive, her proud spirit rebelled at the idea that he would also blame.
She looked at her uncle, whose happy face was fixed on the home of his youth and his old age—a sense of his protecting care and affection came over her. What might the short summer bring? His displeasure, too—then there would be no more for her, but to leave Exeter with all its happiness.
Poor child! for, at nearly nineteen, Alice was only a child. The possibility overpowered her, she leant against her uncle's bosom, and wept suddenly and violently.
"Alice, what is the matter?" said her mother. "Are you ill?"
"What is the matter?" said her uncle, putting his arm around her, and looking alarmed.
"Nothing at all," said Alice, trying to control herself. "I was only thinking of all your goodness to me, and how I love you."
"Is that all," said Mr. Weston, pressing her more closely to his bosom. "Why, the sight of home has turned your little head. Come, dry up your tears, for my old eyes can distinguish the hall door, and the servants about the house collecting to meet us."
"I can see dear Cousin Janet, standing within—how happy she will be," said Mrs. Weston.
"Well," said Ellen, "I hope Abel will make a fuss over me, for nobody else ever has."
"If you are to be married," said Alice, smiling through her tears, "you must have his name changed, or always call him Mr. Johnson."
"Never," said Ellen. "I have a perfect passion for the name of Abel. There was a picture in my room of Abel lying down, and Cain standing, holding the club over him. Whenever I got into a passion when I was a child, mammy used to take me to the picture and say, 'Look there, honey, if you don't learn how to get the better of your temper, one of these days you will get in a passion like Cain and kill somebody. Just look at him, how ugly he is—because he's in such a rage.' But I always looked at Abel, who was so much prettier. I have no doubt Abel Johnson looks just as he does in the picture."
They were about to pass through the gates leading to the grounds; some of the servants approached the carriage, and respectfully bowing, said, 'Welcome home, master,' but passed on without waiting to have the salutation returned. Mrs. Weston guessed the cause of there not being a general outbreak on the occasion of their return. Miss Janet had spoken to a number of the servants, telling them how unable Mr. Weston was to bear any excitement, and that he would take the earliest opportunity of seeing them all at their cabins. As he was much attached to them and might feel a good deal at the meeting after so long a separation, it would be better not to give him a noisy welcome.
She had, however, excepted the children in this prohibition, for Miss Janet had one excellent principle in the management of children, she never forbade them doing what she knew they could not help doing. Thus, as the carriage passed the lodge, a noisy group of small-sized darkies were making a public demonstration. "Massa's come home," says one. "I sees Miss Alice," says another. "I sees Miss Anna, too," said a third, though, as yet, not a face was visible to one of them. They put their heads out of the carriage, notwithstanding, to speak to them, and Alice emptied a good-sized basket of sugar-plums, which she had bought for the purpose, over their heads.
"Take care, Mark," said Mr. Weston, "don't cut about with that whip, while all these children are so near."
"If I didn't, sir," said Mark, "some of 'em would a been scrunched under the carriage wheels 'fore now. These little niggers," he muttered between his teeth, "they're always in the way. I wish some of 'em would get run over." Mark's wife was not a very amiable character, and she had never had any children.
"Hurrah! daddy, is that you?" said an unmistakeable voice proceeding from the lungs of Bacchus the younger. "I been dansin juba dis hole blessed day—I so glad you come. Ask mammy if I aint?"
"How is your mother, Bacchus?" said Mr. Weston, looking out the window.
"Mammy, she's well," said the young gentleman; "how's you, master?"
"Very well, I thank you, sir," said Mr. Weston. "Go down there and help pick up the sugar-plums."
Bacchus the elder, now slid down from the seat by Mark, and took a short cut over to his cabin.
"Poor Aunt Phillis!" said Mrs. Weston, looking after him, "I hope she will get well."
"Ah!" said Mr. Weston, "I had forgotten Phillis on this happy day. There is something, you see, Anna, to make us sigh, even in our happiest moments.
"But you shall not sigh, dearest uncle," said Alice, kissing his hand, "for Aunt Phillis will get well now that we are all back. Oh, there is Cousin Janet, and little Lydia—I wish the carriage would stop."
"You are the most perfect child I ever saw, Alice," said Mrs. Weston. "I think you are out of your senses at the idea of getting home."
The carriage wheeled round, and William let down the steps, with a face bright as a sunflower. Miss Janet stood at the top of the portico steps, in her dove-colored gown, and her three-cornered handkerchief, with open arms. Alice bounded like a deer, and was clasped within them. Then Mrs. Weston, then Ellen; and afterwards, the aged relatives warmly embraced each other. Little Lydia was not forgotten, they all shook hands with her, but Alice, who stooped to kiss her smooth, black cheek. William was then regularly shaken hands with, and the family entered the large, airy hall, and were indeed at home.
Here were collected all the servants employed about the house, each in a Sunday dress, each greeted with a kind word. Alice shook hands with them two or three times over, then pointing to the family pictures, which were arranged along the hall, "Look at them, uncle," said she; "did you ever see them so smiling before?"
They went to the drawing-room, all but Alice, who flew off in another direction.
"She is gone to see Phillis," said Mr. Weston, gazing after her. "Well, I will rest a few moments, and then go too."
Never did mother hold to her heart a child dearer to her, than Phillis, when she pressed Alice to her bosom. Alice had almost lived with her, when she, and Walter, and Arthur were children. Mrs. Weston knew that she could not be in better hands than under the care of so faithful and respectable a servant. Phillis had a large, old clothes' basket, where she kept the toys, all the little plates and cups with which they played dinner-party, the dolls without noses, and the trumpets that would not blow. Her children were not allowed to touch them when the owners were not there, but they took a conspicuous part in the play, being the waiters and ladies' maids and coach-drivers of the little gentlemen and Alice. After Walter and Arthur went away, Alice was still a great deal with Phillis, and she, regarding her as Arthur's future wife, loved her for him as well as for herself. Alice loved Phillis, too, and all her children, and they considered her as a little above mortality. Bacchus used to insist, when she was a child, that she never would live, she was too good. When, during her severe illness, Phillis would go to her cabin to look around, Bacchus would greet her with a very long face, and say, "I told you so. I know'd Miss Alice would be took from us all." Since her recovery, he had stopped prophesying about her.
"Aunt Phillis," said Alice, "you don't look very sick. I reckon you will work when you ought not. Now I intend to watch you, and make you mind, so that you will soon be well."
"I am a great deal better than I was, Miss Alice, but there's no knowing; howsomever, I thank the Lord that he has spared me to see you once more. I want to give Master time to talk to Miss Janet a little while, then I am going in to see him and Miss Anna."
"Oh! come now," said Alice, "or he will be over here."
Phillis got up, and walked slowly to the house, Alice at her side, and Bacchus stumping after her. As they went in, Alice tripped on first, and opened the drawing-room door, making way for Phillis, who looked with a happy expression of face towards her master.
"Is this you, Phillis?" said Mr. Weston, coming forward, and taking her hand most kindly. Mrs. Weston and Ellen got up to shake hands with her, too. "I am very glad to find you so much better than I expected," continued Mr. Weston; "you are thin, but your countenance is good. I hope you will get perfectly well, now that we are going to have summer weather."
"Thank you, sir," said Phillis. "I am a great deal better. Thank God, you all look so well, Miss Anna and all. Miss Janet began to be mighty lonesome. I've been a great trouble to her."
"No, you have not," said Miss Janet; "you never were a trouble to any one."
"Master," said Bacchus, "I think the old ooman looks right well. She aint nigh so bad as we all thought. I reckon she couldn't stand my bein away so long; she hadn't nobody to trouble her."
"You will never give her any more trouble," said Alice. "Aunt Phillis, you don't know how steady Uncle Bacchus has been; he is getting quite a temperance man."
"Old Nick got the better of me twice, though," said Bacchus. "I did think, master, of tryin to make Phillis b'lieve I hadn't drank nothin dis winter; but she'd sure to find me out. There's somefin in her goes agin a lie."
"But that was doing very well," said Alice; "don't you think so, Aunt Phillis? Only twice all through the winter."
"Its an improvement, honey," said Phillis; "but what's the use of getting drunk at all? When we are thirsty water is better than any thing else; and when we aint thirsty, what's the use of drinking?"
Phillis had been sitting in an arm-chair, that Mrs. Weston had placed for her. When she first came in, her face was a little flushed from pleasure, and the glow might have been mistaken as an indication of health. The emotion passed, Mrs. Weston perceived there was a great change in her. She was excessively emaciated; her cheek-bones prominent, her eyes large and bright. The whiteness of her teeth struck them all. These symptoms, and the difficulty with which she breathed, were tokens of her disease. She became much fatigued and Miss Janet advised her to go home and lie down. "They shan't tell you of their grand doings to-night, Phillis," she said; "for you have been excited, and must keep quiet. In the morning you will be able to listen to them. Don't tell any long stories, Bacchus," she continued. "Dr. Lawton wants her to keep from any excitement at night, for fear she should not sleep well after it. All you travelers had better go to bed early, and wake up bright in the morning."
Alice went home with Phillis, and came back to welcome Mr. Barbour, who had just arrived. The happy evening glided away; home was delightful to the returned family.
Bacchus gave glowing descriptions of scenes, in which he figured largely, to the servants; and Bacchus the younger devoutly believed there had not been so distinguished a visitor to the metropolis that winter, as his respected father.
Dr. Lawton came regularly to see Phillis, who frequently rallied. Her cheerfulness made her appear stronger than she was; but when Alice would tell her how well she looked, and that the sight of Arthur would complete her recovery, she invariably answered, "I want to see him mightily, child; but about my gettin well, there's no telling. God only knows."
"Do sit down, my dear cousin," said Miss Janet to Mr. Weston, who was walking up and down the drawing-room. "Here, in August, instead of being quiet and trying to keep cool, you are fussing about, and heating yourself so uselessly."
"I will try," said Mr. Weston, smiling, and seating himself on the sofa; but you must recollect that for three years I have not seen my only son, and that now he is coming home to stay. I cannot realize it; it is too much happiness. We are so blessed, Cousin Janet, we have so much of this world's good, I sometimes tremble lest God should intend me to have my portion here."
"It is very wrong to feel so," said Cousin Janet; "even in this world, He can give his beloved rest."
"But am I one of the beloved?" asked Mr. Weston, thoughtfully.
"I trust so," said Cousin Janet. "I do not doubt it. How lamentable would be your situation and mine, if, while so near the grave, we were deprived of that hope, which takes from it all its gloom."
"Are you talking of gloom?" said Mrs. Weston, "and Arthur within a few miles of us? It is a poor compliment to him. I never saw so many happy faces. The servants have all availed themselves of their afternoon's holiday to dress; they look so respectable. Esther says they have gone to the outer gate to welcome Arthur first; Bacchus went an hour ago. Even poor Aunt Phillis has brightened up. She has on a head-handkerchief and apron white as snow, and looks quite comfortable, propped up by two or three pillows.
"Arthur will be sadly distressed to see Phillis, though he will not realize her condition at first. The nearer her disease approaches its consummation, the brighter she looks."
"It seems but yesterday," said Mr. Weston, "that Phillis sat at her cabin door, with Arthur (a baby) in her arms, and her own child, almost the same age, in the cradle near them. She has been no eye-servant. Faithfully has she done her duty, and now she is going to receive her reward. I never can forget the look of sympathy which was in her face, when I used to go to her cabin to see my motherless child. She always gave Arthur the preference, putting her own infant aside to attend to his wants. Phillis is by nature a conscientious woman; but nothing but the grace of God could have given her the constant and firm principle that has actuated her life. But this example of Christian excellence will soon be taken from us; her days are numbered. Her days here are numbered; but how blessed the eternity! Sometimes, I have almost reproached myself that I have retained a woman like Phillis as a slave. She deserves every thing from me: I have always felt under obligations to her."
"You have discharged them," said Mrs. Weston. "Phillis, though a slave, has had a very happy life; she frequently says so. This is owing, in a great measure, to her own disposition and rectitude of character. Yet she has had every thing she needed, and a great deal more. You have nothing with which to reproach yourself."
"I trust not," said Mr. Weston. "I have endeavored, in my dealings with my servants, to remember the All-seeing eye was upon me, and that to Him who placed these human beings in a dependant position, would I have to render my account. Ah! here are the girls. Alice, we had almost forgotten Arthur; you and Ellen remind us of him."
"Really," said Ellen, "I am very unhappy; I have no lover to expect. You see that I am arrayed in a plain black silk, to show my chagrin because Mr. Johnson could not come now. Alice has decked herself so that Arthur can read her every thought at the first glance. She has on her blue barege dress, which implies her unvarying constancy. Then—"
"I did not think of that," said Alice, blushing deeply, and looking down at her dress; "I only—"
"Miss Alice," said Lydia, "I hears somethin."
"No, no," said Miss Janet, looking from the window, "there is nothing—"
"Deed the is," said Lydia. "Its Mas' Arthur's horse, I know."
Mr. Weston went out on the porch, and the ladies stood at the windows. The voices of the servants could be distinctly heard. From the nature of the sound, there was no doubt they were giving a noisy welcome to their young master.
"He is coming," said Miss Janet, much agitated; "the servants would not make that noise were he not in sight."
"I hear the horses, too," said Ellen; "we will soon see him where the road turns."
"There he comes," said Mrs. Weston. "It must be Arthur. William is with him; he took a horse for Arthur to the stage house."
The father stood looking forward, the wind gently lifting the thin white hair from his temples; his cheek flushed, his clear blue eye beaming with delight. The horseman approached. The old man could not distinguish his face, yet there was no mistaking his gay and gallant bearing. The spirited and handsome animal that bore him flew over the gravelled avenue. Only a few minutes elapsed from the time he was first seen to the moment when the father laid his head upon his son's shoulder; and while he was clasped to that youthful and manly heart experienced sensations of joy such as are not often felt here.
Alice had known, too, that it was he. But when we long to be assured of happiness, we are often slow to believe. It was not until her eyes could distinguish every feature that her heart said, "It is Arthur." Then all was forgotten—all timidity, all reserve—all, save that he was the dearly loved brother of her childhood; the being with whom her destiny had long been associated. She passed from the drawing-room to the porch as he alighted from his horse, and when his father released him from a long embrace, Arthur's eyes fell upon the dear and unchanged countenance, fixed upon him with a look of welcome that said more than a thousand words.
* * * * *
"Aunt," said Arthur, a week after his return, as he sat with Mrs. Weston and Alice in the arbor, "before you came, Alice had been trying to persuade me that she had been in love with Walter; but I can't believe it."
"I never did believe it for a moment. She thought she was, and she was seized with such a panic of truth and honor that she made a great commotion; insisted on writing to you, and making a full confession; wanted to tell her uncle, and worry him to death; doing all sorts of desperate things. She actually worked herself into a fever. It was all a fancy."
"I have too good an opinion of myself to believe it," said Arthur.
"I am sorry," said Alice, "for it is true. It is a pity your vanity cannot be a little diminished."
"Why, the fact is Alice, I remember Uncle Bacchus's story about General Washington and his servant, when the general's horse fell dead, or rather the exclamation made by the servant after relating the incident: 'Master, he thinks of everything.' I do too. When we were children, no matter how bad Walter was, you took his part. I remember once he gave William such a blow because he stumbled over a wagon that he had been making, and broke it. I asked him if he were not ashamed to do so, and you said, 'Hush, Arthur, he feels bad; if you felt as sorry as he does, you would behave just in the same way.' So, the fact is, last summer you saw he felt bad, and your tender heart inundated with sympathy."
"That was it," said Mrs. Weston; "it was a complete inundation."
"You are not in love with him now, are you, Alice?" said Arthur, smiling.
"No, indeed," said Alice, "I am not in love with him, or you either—if being in love is what it is described in novels. I never have palpitation of the heart, never faint away, and am not at all fond of poetry. I should make a sad heroine, I am such a matter-of-fact person."
"So as you make a good wife," said Arthur, "no matter about being a heroine."
"A planter's wife has little occasion for romance," said Mrs. Weston; "her duties are too many and too important. She must care for the health and comfort of her family, and of her servants. After all, a hundred servants are like so many children to look after."
"Ellen would make an elegant heroine," said Alice. "She was left an orphan when very young; had an exacting uncle and aunt; was the belle of the metropolis; had gay and gallant lovers; is an heiress—and has fallen in love with a man she never saw. To crown all, he is not rich, so Ellen can give him her large fortune to show her devotion, and they can go all over the world together, and revel in romance and novelty."
"Well," said Arthur, "I will take you all over the world if you wish it. When will you set out, and how will you travel? If that is all you complain of in your destiny, I can easily change it."
"I do not complain of my destiny," said Alice, gaily. "I was only contrasting it with Ellen's. I shall be satisfied never to leave Exeter, and my migrations need not be more extended than were Mrs. Primroses's, 'from the green room to the brown.' Poor Walter! I wish he would fall in love with some beautiful Italian, and be as happy as we are."
"Do not fear for Walter," said Mrs. Weston. "He will take care of himself; his last letter to Cousin Janet was very cheerful. I shall have to diminish your vanity, Alice, by telling you Walter will never 'die for love of Alice Weston.' He will be captivated some day with a more dashy lady, if not an Italian countess. I have no doubt he will eventually become a resident of Europe. A life of repentance will not be too much for a man whose hands are stained with the blood of his fellowman. The day is past in our country, and I rejoice to say it, when a duellist can be tolerated. I always shudder when in the presence of one, though I never saw but one."
Mr. Weston now entered, much depressed from a recent interview with Phillis. This faithful and honored servant was near her departure. Angels were waiting at the throne of the Eternal, for his command to bear her purified spirit home.
* * * * *
The master and the slave were alone. No eye save their Maker's looked upon them; no ear save his, heard what passed between them.
Mr. Weston was seated in the easy chair, which had been removed from the other room, and in which his wife had died.
Phillis was extended on a bed of death. Her thin hands crossed on her bosom, her eyes fearfully bright, a hectic glow upon her cheek.
"Master," she said, "you have no occasion to feel uneasy about that. I have never had a want, I nor the children. There was a time, sir, when I was restless about being a slave. When I went with you and Miss Anna away from home, and heard the people saying colored people ought to be free, it made me feel bad. I thought then that God did not mean one of his creatures to be a slave; when I came home and considered about it, I would often be put out, and discontented. It was wicked, I know, but I could not help it for a while.
"I saw my husband and children doing well and happy, but I used to say to myself, they are slaves, and so am I. So I went about my work with a heavy heart. When my children was born, I would think 'what comfort is it to give birth to a child when I know its a slave.' I struggled hard though, with these feelings, sir, and God gave me grace to get the better of them, for I could not read my Bible without seeing there was nothing agin slavery there; and that God had told the master his duty, and the slave his duty. You've done your duty by me and mine, sir; and I hope where I have come short you will forgive me, for I couldn't die in peace, without I thought you and I was all right together."
"Forgive you, Phillis," said Mr. Weston, much affected. "What have I to forgive? Rather do I thank you for all you have done for me. You were a friend and nurse to my wife, and a mother to my only child. Was ever servant or friend so faithful as you have been!"
Phillis smiled and looked very happy. "Thank you, master," she said, "from my heart. How good the Lord is to me, to make my dying bed so easy. It puts me in mind of the hymn Esther sings. She's got a pleasant voice, hasn't she, sir?
'And while I feel my heart-strings break, How sweet the moments roll! A mortal paleness on my cheek And glory in my soul.'
"Oh! master, its sweet for me to die, for Jesus is my friend; he makes all about me friends too, for it seems to me that you and Miss Janet, and all of you are my friends. Poor Bacchus! he takes on sadly about me; he always was a tender-hearted soul. Master, when I am gone, I know you will be good to him and comfort him, but, please sir, do something else. Talk to him, and pray for him, and read the blessed Book to him! Oh! if he would only give up liquor! I trust in the Lord he will live and die a sober man, else I know we'll never meet again. We won't be on the same side at the Judgment Seat. There's no drunkards in that happy place where I am going fast. No drunkards in the light of God's face—no drunkards at the blessed feet of Jesus."
"I think Bacchus has perfectly reformed," said Mr. Weston, "and you may feel assured that we will do every thing for his soul as well as his body, that we can. But, Phillis, have you no wishes to express, as regards your children?"
Phillis hesitated—"My children are well off," she said; "they have a good master; if they serve him and God faithfully they will be sure to do well."
"If there is any thing on your mind," said Mr. Weston, "speak it without fear. The distinction between you and me as master and slave, I consider no longer existing. You are near being redeemed from my power, and the power of death alone divides you from your Saviour's presence. That Saviour whose example you have tried to follow, whose blood has washed your soul from all its sin. I am much older than you, and I live in momentary expectation of my summons. We shall soon meet, I hope, in that happy place, where the distinctions of this world will be forgotten. I have thought of you a great deal, lately, and have been anxious to relieve your mind of every care. It is natural that a mother, about to leave such a family as you have, should have some wishes regarding them.
"I have thought several times," continued Mr. Weston, "of offering to set your children free at my death, and I will do so if you wish. You must be aware that they could not remain in Virginia after they were manumitted. In the Middle and Northern states free blacks are in a degraded condition. There is no sympathy for or with them. They have no more rights than they have as slaves with us, and they have no one to care for them when they are sick or in trouble. You have seen a good deal of this in your occasional visits to the North. In Washington, since the Abolitionists have intermeddled there, the free blacks have become intolerable; they live from day to day in discomfort and idleness. I mean as a general thing; there are, of course, occasional exceptions. Bacchus is too old to take care of himself; he would not be happy away from Exeter. Consider what I say to you, and I will be guided by your wishes as regards your children.
"They might go to Liberia; some of them would be willing, no doubt. I have talked to William, he says he would not go. Under these circumstances they would be separated, and it is doubtful whether I would be doing you or them a favour by freeing them. Be perfectly candid, and let me know your wishes."
"As long as you, or Master Arthur and Miss Alice live, they would be better off as they are," said Phillis.
"I believe they would," said Mr. Weston, "but life and death cannot be too much considered in connection with each other. I must soon go. I am only lingering at the close of a long journey. Arthur will then have control, and will, I am certain, make his servants as happy as he can. My family is very small; you are aware I have no near relations. I have made my will, and should Arthur and Alice die without children, I have left all my servants free. Your children I have thus provided for. At my death they are free, but I would not feel justified in turning them into the world without some provision. The older children can take care of themselves; they are useful and have good principles. I have willed each one of them to be free at the age of twenty years. Thus, you see, most of them will soon be free, while none will have to wait very long. In the mean time they will be well taught and cared for. My will is made, and all the forms of law attended to. Arthur and Alice are very much pleased with it. Your older children know it; they are very happy, but they declare they will never leave Exeter as long as there is a Weston upon it.[B] And now, Phillis, are you satisfied? I shall experience great pleasure in having been able to relieve you of any anxiety while you have so much pain to bear."
"Oh! master," said Phillis, "what shall I say to you? I haven't no learning. I am only a poor, ignorant woman. I can't thank you, master, as I ought. My heart is nigh to bursting. What have I done that the Lord is so good to me. He has put it into your heart to make me so happy; Thank you, master, and God for ever bless you."
The tears streamed down her cheeks, as Mr. Weston arose to go. Esther had come to see if her mother wanted any thing.
"Master," said Phillis, "wait one moment—there's nothing between me and Heaven now. Oh! sir, I shall soon be redeemed from all sin and sorrow. I think I see the glory that shines about the heavenly gates. I have never felt myself ready to go until now, but there is nothing to keep me. The Lord make your dying bed as easy as you have mine."
Mr. Weston endeavored to compose himself, but was much agitated. "Phillis," he said, "you have deserved more than I could ever do for you. If any thing should occur to you that I have not thought of, let me know, it shall, if possible, be done. Would you like again to see Mr. Caldwell, and receive the communion?"
"No, master, I thank you. You and Miss Janet, and Miss Anna, and poor Bacchus, took it with me last week, and I shall soon be where there will be no more need to remind me of the Lamb that was slain; for I shall be with him; I shall see him as he is. And, master, we will all meet there. We will praise him together."
Esther was weeping; and Mr. Weston, quite overcome, left the room.
"Esther, child," said Phillis, "don't do so. There's nothing but glory and peace. There's no occasion for tears. God will take care of you all here, and will, I hope and pray, bring you to heaven at last. Poor master! To think he is so distressed parting with me. I thought I should have stood by his dying bed. The Lord knows best."
"Mother," said Esther, "will you take this medicine—it is time?"
"No, honey. No more medicine; it won't do me no good. I don't want medicine. Jesus is what I want. He is all in all."
* * * * *
Reader! have you ever stood by the dying bed of a slave? It may be not. There are those who are often there. The angels of God, and One who is above the angels. One who died for all. He is here now. Here, where stand weeping friends—here, where all is silence. You may almost hear the angel's wings as they wait to bear the redeemed spirit to its heavenly abode. Here, where the form is almost senseless, the soul fluttering between earth and heaven. Here, where the Spirit of God is over-shadowing the scene.
"Master," said Phillis, "all is peace. Jesus is here. I am going home. You will soon be there, and Miss Janet can't be long. Miss Anna too. Bacchus, the good Lord will bring you there. I trust in Him to save you. My children, God bless them, little Lydia and all."
"Master Arthur," said she, as Arthur bent over her, "give my love to Master Walter. You and Miss Alice will soon be married. The Lord make you happy. God bless you, Miss Ellen, and make you his child. Keep close, children to Jesus. Seems as if we wasn't safe when we can't see him. I see him now; he is beckoning me to come. Blessed Jesus! take me—take me home."
Kind master, weep not. She will bear, even at the throne of God, witness to thy faithfulness. Through thee she learned the way to heaven, and it may be soon she will stand by thee again, though thou see her not. She may be one of those who will guide thee to the Celestial City; to the company of the redeemed, where will be joy forever. Weep not, but see in what peace a Christian can die. Watch the last gleams of thought which stream from her dying eyes. Do you see any thing like apprehension? The world, it is true, begins to shut in. The shadows of evening collect around her senses. A dark mist thickens, and rests upon the objects which have hitherto engaged her observation. The countenances of her friends become more and more indistinct. The sweet expressions of love and friendship are no longer intelligible. Her ear wakes no more at the well-known voice of her children, and the soothing accents of tender affection die away unheard upon her decaying senses. To her the spectacle of human life is drawing to its close, and the curtain is descending which shuts out this earth, its actors, and its scenes. She is no longer interested in all that is done under the sun. Oh! that I could now open to you the recesses of her soul, that I could reveal to you the light which darts into the chambers of her understanding. She approaches that world which she has so long seen in faith. The imagination now collects its diminished strength, and the eye of faith opens wide.
"Friends! do not stand thus fixed in sorrow around this bed of death. Why are you so still and silent? Fear not to move; you cannot disturb the visions that enchant this holy spirit. She heeds you not; already she sees the spirits of the just advancing together to receive a kindred soul. She is going to add another to the myriads of the just, that are every moment crowding into the portals of heaven. She is entering on a noble life. Already she cries to you from the regions of bliss. Will you not join her there? Will you not taste the sublime joys of faith? There are seats for you in the assembly of the just made perfect, in the innumerable company of angels, where is Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and God, the Judge of all."
I must be allowed to quote the words of Mrs. Harriet B. Stowe:
"The writer has often been (or will be) inquired of by correspondents from different parts of the country, whether this narrative is a true one; and to these inquiries she will give one general answer. The separate incidents that compose the narrative are to a very great extent authentic, occurring, many of them, either under her own observation, or that of her personal friends. She or her friends have observed characters the counterpart of almost all that are here introduced; and many of the sayings are word for word as heard herself, or reported to her."
Of the planter Legree, (and, with the exception of Prof. Webster, such a wretch never darkened humanity,) she says:
"Of him her brother wrote, he actually made me feel of his fist, which was like a blacksmith's hammer or a nodule of iron, telling me that it was calloused with knocking down niggers."
Now as a parallel to this, I will state a fact communicated to me by a clergyman, (a man of great talent, and goodness of character, and undoubted veracity,) that a superintendent of Irishmen, who were engaged on a Northern railroad, told him he did not hesitate to knock any man down that gave him the least trouble; and although the clergyman did not "examine his fist and pronounce it like a blacksmith's hammer," yet, I have not the slightest doubt it was "calloused with knocking down Irishmen." At any rate, I take the license of the writers of the day, and say it was.
Mrs. Stowe goes on to say, "That the tragical fate of Tom also has too many times had its parallel, there are living witnesses all over our land to testify." Now it would take the smallest portion of common sense to know that there is no witness, dead or living, who could testify to such a fact, save a false witness. This whole history is an absurdity. No master would be fool enough to sell the best hand on his estate; one who directed, and saved, and managed for him. No master would be brutish enough to sell the man who had nursed him and his children, who loved him like a son, even for urgent debt, had he another article of property in the wide world. But Mr. Shelby does so, according to Mrs. Stowe, though he has a great many other servants, besides houses and lands, &c. Preposterous!
And such a saint as Uncle Tom was, too! One would have thought his master, with the opinion he had of his religious qualifications, would have kept him until he died, and then have sold him bone after bone to the Roman Catholics. Why, every tooth in his head would have brought its price. St. Paul was nothing but a common man compared with him, for St. Paul had been wicked once; and even after his miraculous conversion, he felt that sin was still impelling him to do what he would not. But not so with Uncle Tom! He was the very perfection of a saint. Well might St. Clare have proposed using him for a family chaplain, or suggested to himself the idea of ascending to heaven by Tom's skirts. Mrs. Stowe should have carried out one of her ideas in his history, and have made him Bishop of Carthage. I have never heard or read of so perfect a character. All the saints and martyrs that ever came to unnatural deaths, could not show such an amount of excellence. I only wonder he managed to stay so long in this world of sin.