There was silence in the little room for a few moments, as the young teacher walked back and forth across the floor, and the colored woman sat and gazed in stupid hopelessness up into her face. Presently she stopped, and, looking down upon Lugena, said with impetuous fervor:
"You shall not stay, Lugena! You shall not stay! Can you stand it a few nights more?"
"Oh, yes, I kin stan' it, 'cause I'se got ter. I'se been sleepin' in de woods ebber sence, an' kin keep on at it; but I knows whar it'll end, an' so der you, Miss Mollie."
"No, it shall not, 'Gena. You are right. It is not safe for you to stay. Just hide yourself a few nights more, till I can look after things for you here, and I will take you away to the North, where there are no Ku Klux!"
"Yer don't mean it, Miss Mollie!"
"Indeed I do."
"An' de chillen?"
"They shall go too."
"God bress yer, Miss Mollie! God bress yer!"
With moans and sobs, the torrent of her tears burst forth, as the poor woman fell prone upon the floor, and catching the hem of the teacher's robe, kissed it again and again, in a transport of joy.
ANOTHER OX GORED.
There was a caller who begged to see Mr. Le Moyne for a few minutes. Descending to the sitting-room, Hesden found there Mr. Jordan Jackson, who was the white candidate for the Legislature upon the same ticket with a colored man who had left the county in fright immediately after the raid upon Red Wing. Hesden was somewhat surprised at this call, for although he had known Mr. Jackson from boyhood, yet there had never been more than a passing acquaintance between them. It is true, Mr Jackson was a neighbor, living only two or three miles from Mulberry Hill; but he belonged to such an entirely different class of society that their knowledge of each other had never ripened into anything like familiarity.
Mr. Jackson was what used to be termed a poor man. He and his father before him, as Hesden knew, had lived on a little, poor plantation, surrounded by wealthy neighbors. They owned no slaves, and lived, scantily on the products of the farm worked by themselves. The present occupant was about Hesden's own age. There being no free schools in that county, and his father having been unable, perhaps not even desiring, to educate him otherwise, he had grown up almost entirely illiterate. He had learned to sign his name, and only by strenuous exertions, after his arrival at manhood, had become able, with difficulty, to spell out words from the printed page and to write an ordinary letter in strangely-tangled hieroglyphics, in a spelling which would do credit to a phonetic reformer. He had entered the army, probably because he could not do otherwise, and being of stalwart build, and having great endurance and native courage, before the struggle was over had risen, despite his disadvantages of birth and education, to a lieutenancy.
This experience had been of advantage to him in more ways than one. Chief among these had been the opening of his eyes to the fact that he himself, although a poor man, and the scion of a poor family, was, in all the manly requisites that go to make up a soldier, always the equal, and very often the superior, of his aristocratic neighbors. Little by little, the self-respect which had been ground out of him and his family by generations of that condition of inferiority which the common-liver, the self-helper of the South, was forced to endure under the old slave regime, began to grow up in his heart. He began to feel himself a man, and prized the rank-marks on his collar as the certificate and endorsement of his manhood. As this feeling developed, he began to consider the relations between himself, his family, and others like them, and the rich neighbors by whom they were surrounded and looked down upon. And more and more, as he did so, the feeling grew upon him that he and his class had been wronged, cheated—"put upon," he phrased it—in all the past. They had been the "chinking" between the "mud" of slavery and the "house-logs" of aristocracy in the social structure of the South—a little better than the mud because of the same grain and nature as the logs; but useless and nameless except as in relation to both. He felt the bitter truth of that stinging aphorism which was current among the privates of the Confederate army, which characterized the war of Rebellion as "the poor man's war and the rich man's fight."
So, when the war was over, Lieutenant Jordan Jackson did not return easily and contentedly to the niche in the social life of his native region to which he had been born and bred. He found the habit of leadership and command very pleasant, and he determined that he would rise in the scale of Horsford society as he had risen in the army, simply because he was brave and strong. He knew that to do this he must acquire wealth, and looking about, he saw opportunities open before him which others had not noticed. Almost before the smoke of battle had cleared away, Jordan Jackson had opened trade with the invaders, and had made himself a prime favorite in the Federal camps. He coined money in those days of transition. Fortunately, he had been too poor to be in debt when the war broke out. He was independently poor, because beyond the range of credit.
He had lost nothing, for he had nothing but the few poor acres of his homestead to lose.
So he started fair, and before the period of reconstruction began he had by thrifty management accumulated quite a competency. He had bought several plantations whose aristocratic owners could no longer keep their grip upon half-worked lands, had opened a little store, and monopolized a considerable trade. Looking at affairs as they stood at that time, Jordan Jackson said to himself that the opportunity for him and his class had come. He had a profound respect for the power and authority of the Government of the United States, because it had put down the Rebellion. He had been two or three times at the North, and was astounded at its collective greatness. He said that the colored man and the poor-whites of the South ought to put themselves on the side of this great, busy North, which had opened the way of liberty and progress before them, and establish free schools and free thought and free labor in the fair, crippled, South-land. He thought he saw a great and fair future looming up before his country. He freely gave expression to these ideas, and, as he traded very largely with the colored people, soon came to be regarded by them as a leader, and by "the good people of Horsford" as a low-down white nigger, for whom no epithet was too vile.
Nevertheless, he grew in wealth, for he attended to his business himself, early and late. He answered raillery with raillery, curses with cursing, and abuse with defiance. He was elected to conventions and Legislatures, where he did many foolish, some bad, and a few wise things in the way of legislation. He knew what he wanted—it was light, liberty, education, and a "fair hack" for all men. How to get it he did not know.
He had been warned a thousand times that he must abandon this way of life. The natural rulers of the county felt that if they could neutralize his influence and that which went out from Red Wing, they could prevent the exercise of ballatorial power by a considerable portion of the majority, and by that means "redeem" the county.
They did not wish to hurt Jordan Jackson. He was a good enough man. His father had been an honest man, and an old citizen. Nobody knew a word against his wife or her family, except that they had been poor. The people who had given their hearts to the Confederate cause, remembered too, at first, his gallant service; but that had all been wiped out from their minds by his subsequent "treachery." Even after the attack on Red Wing, he had been warned by his friends to desist.
One morning, he had found on the door of his store a paper containing the following words, written inside a little sketch of a coffin:
He had answered this by a defiant, ill-spelled notice, pasted just beside it, in which he announced himself as always ready to meet any crowd of "cowards and villains who were ashamed of their own faces, at any time, night or day." His card was English prose of a most vigorous type, interspersed with so much of illiterate profanity as to satisfy any good citizen that the best people of Horsford were quite right in regarding him as a most desperate and dangerous man—one of those whose influence upon the colored people was to array them against the whites, and unless promptly put down, bring about a war of races—which the white people were determined never to have in Horsford, if they had to kill every Radical in the county in order to live in peace with their former slaves, whom they had always nourished with paternal affection and still regarded with a most tender care.
This man met Hesden as the latter came out upon the porch, and with a flushed face and a peculiar twitching about his mouth, asked if he could see him in private for a moment.
Hesden led the way to his own room. Jackson then, having first shut the door, cautiously said:
"You know me, Mr. Le Moyne?"
"An' you knew my father before me?"
"Of course. I knew old man Billy Jackson very well in my young days."
"Did you ever know anything mean or disreputable about him?"
"No, certainly not; he was a very correct man, so far as I ever heard."
"Poor but honest?"—with a sneer.
"Well, yes; a poor man, but a very correct man."
"Well, did you ever know anything disreputable about me?" keenly.
"Well—why—Mr. Jackson—you—" stammered Hesden, much confused.
"Out with it!" angrily. "I'm a Radical?"
"Yes—and—you know, your political course has rendered you very unpopular."
"Of course! A man has no right to his own political opinions."
"Well, but you know, Mr. Jackson, yours have been so peculiar and so obnoxious to our best people. Besides, you have expressed them so boldly and defiantly. I do not think our people have any ill-feeling against you, personally; but you cannot wonder that so great a change as we have had should excite many of them very greatly. You should not be so violent, Mr. Jackson."
"Violent—Hell! You'd better go and preach peace to Eliab Hill. Poor fellow! I don't reckon the man lives who ever heard him say a harsh thing to any one. He was always that mild I used to wonder the Lord didn't take him long ago. Nigger as he was, and cripple as he was, I'd ruther had his religion than that of all the mean, hypocritical, murdering aristocrats in Horsford."
"But, Mr. Jackson, you should not speak in that way of our best citizens."
"Oh, the devil! I know—but that is no matter, Mr. Le Moyne. I didn't come to argue with you. Did you ever hear anything agin' me outside of my politics?"
"I don't know that I ever did."
"If you were in a tight place, would you have confidence in Jordan Jackson as a friend?"
"You know I have reason to remember that," said Hesden, with feeling. "You helped me when I could not help myself. It's not every man that would care about his horse carrying double when he was running away from the Yanks."
"Ah! you remember that, then?" with a touch of pride in his voice.
"Yes, indeed! Jackson," said Hesden, warmly.
"Well, would you do me a good turn to pay for that?"
"Certainly—anything that—" hesitating.
"Oh, damn it, man, don't strain yourself! I didn't ask any questions when I helped you!"
"Mr. Jackson," said Hesden, with dignity, "I merely wished to say that I do not care at this time to embroil myself in politics. You know I have an old mother who is very feeble. I have long regretted that affairs are in the condition that they are in, and have wondered if something could not be done. Theoretically, you are right and those who are with you. Practically, the matter is very embarrassing. But I do not hesitate to say, Mr. Jackson, that those who commit such outrages as that perpetrated at Red Wing disgrace the name of gentleman, the county, and State, the age we live in, and the religion we profess. That I will say."
"And that's quite enough, Mr. Le Moyne. All I wanted was to ask you to act as my trustee."
"Your trustee in what?"
"There is a deed I have just executed conveying everything I have to you, and I want you to sell it off and dispose of it the best you can, and send me the money."
"Send it to you?"
"Yes, I'm going away."
"Going away? Why? You are not in debt?"
"I don't owe a hundred dollars."
"Then why are you doing this? I don't understand."
"Mr. Le Moyne," said Jackson, coming close to him and speaking in a low intense tone, "I was whipped last night!"
"By my own neighbors, in the sight of my wife and daughter!"
"By the Ku Klux?"
"That's what they call themselves."
"My God, it cannot be!"
"Cannot?" The man's face twitched nervously, as, dropping his hat, he threw off his light coat and, opening his shirt-collar and turning away his head, showed his shoulder covered with wales, still raw and bleeding.
"My God!" cried Hesden, as he put up his hand and started back in horror. "And you a white man?"
"Yes, Mr. Le Moyne," said Jackson, turning his face, burning with shame and indignation, toward his high-bred neighbor, "and the only reason this was done—the only thing agin me—is that I was honestly in favor of giving to the colored man the rights which the law of the land says he shall have, like other men. When the war was over, Mr. Le Moyne, I didn't 'give up,' as all you rich folks talked about doing, and try to put up with what was to come afterward. I hadn't lost nothing by the war, but, on the contrary, had gained what I had no chance to git in any other way. So I jest looked things square in the face and made up my mind that it was a good thing for me, and all such as me, that the damned old Confederacy was dead. And the more I thought on't the more I couldn't help seein' and believin' that it was right and fair to free the niggers and let them have a fair show and a white man's chance—votin' and all. That's what I call a fair hack, and I swear, Mr. Le Moyne, I don't know how it may seem to you, but to my mind any man that ain't willing to let any other man have that, is a damn coward! I'm as white as anybody, and hain't no more reason to stand up for niggers than any of the rest of the white people—no, nor half as much as most of 'em, for, as fur as I know, I hain't got no relations among 'em. But I do say that if the white folks of the South can't stand up to a fair fight with the niggers at the polls, without cuttin', and murderin', and burnin', and shootin', and whippin', and Ku Kluxin', and cheatin', and swindlin', they are a damned no-'count people, and don't deserve no sort of show in the world—no more than a mean, sneakin', venomous moccasin-snake—there!"
"But you don't think—" Hesden began.
"Think? Damn it, I know!" broke in Jackson. "They said if I would quit standin' up for the niggers, they'd let me off, even after they'd got me stripped and hung up. I wouldn't do it! I didn't believe then they'd cut me up this way; but they did! An' now I'm goin'. I'd stay an' fight, but 'tain't no use; an' I couldn't look a man in the eye who I thought tuk a hand in that whippin' without killin' him. I've got to go, Le Moyne," he said with clenched fists, "or I shall commit murder before the sun goes down."
"Where are you going?"
"God knows! Somewhere where the world's free and the earth's fresh, and where it's no crime to have been born poor or to uphold and maintain the laws of the land."
"I'm sorry, Jackson, but I don't blame you. You can't live here in peace, and you are wise to go," said Hesden, extending his hand.
"Will you be my trustee?"
"God bless you!"
The angry, crushed, and outraged man broke into tears as he shook the hand he held.
There was an hour or two of close consultation, and then Hesden Le Moyne looked thoughtfully after this earnest and well-meaning man, who was compelled to flee from the land for which he had fought, simply because he had adopted the policy and principles which the conquering power had thrust into the fundamental law, and endeavored to carry them out in good faith. Like the fugitive from slavery in the olden time, he had started toward the North Pole on the quest for liberty.
BACKWARD AND FORWARD.
The task which Hesden Le Moyne undertook when he assumed the care and protection of Eliab Hill, was no trivial one, as he well understood.
He realized as fully as did Nimbus the necessity of absolute concealment, for he was well aware that the blaze of excitement which would sweep over Horsford, when the events that had occurred at Red Wing should become known, would spare no one who should harbor or conceal any of the recognized leaders of the colored men. He knew that not only that organization which had just shown its existence in the county, but the vast majority of all the white inhabitants as well, would look upon this affair as indubitable evidence of the irrepressible conflict of races, in which they all believed most devoutly.
He had looked forward to this time with great apprehension. Although he had scrupulously refrained from active participation in political life, it was not from any lack of interest in the political situation of the country. He had not only the ordinary instinct of the educated Southern man for political thought—an instinct which makes every man in that section first of all things a partisan, and constitutes politics the first and most important business of life—but besides this general interest in public affairs he had also an inherited bias of hostility to the right of secession, as well as to its policy. His father had been what was termed a "Douglas Democrat," and the son had absorbed his views. With that belief in a father's infallibility which is so general in that part of the country, Hesden, despite his own part in the war and the chagrin which defeat had brought, had looked only for evil results to come out of the present struggle, which he believed to have been uselessly precipitated.
It was in this state of mind that he had watched the new phase of the "irrepressible conflict" which supervened upon the downfall of the Rebellion In so doing, he had arrived at the following conclusions:
1. That it was a most fortunate and providential thing that the Confederacy had failed. He had begun to realize the wisdom of Washington when he referred to the dogma of "State rights" as "that bantling—I like to have said that monster."
2. That the emancipation of the slaves would ultimately prove advantageous to the white man,
3. That it was the part of honorable men fairly and honestly to carry out and give effect to all the conditions, expressed and implied, on which power, representation, and autonomy were restored to the recently rebellious States. This he believed to be a personal duty, and a failure so to do he regarded as a disgrace to every man in any way contributing to it, especially if he had been a soldier and had shared the defeat of which these conditions were a consequence.
4. He did not regard either the war or the legislation known as reconstructionary as having in any manner affected the natural relation of the races. In the old times he had never felt or believed that the slave was inherently endowed with the same rights as the master; and he did not see how the results of war could enhance his natural rights. He did not believe that the colored man had an inherent right to freedom or to self-government. Whatever right of that kind he might now have was simply by the free grace of the conqueror. He had a right to the fruit of his own labor, to the care, protection, and service of his own children, to the society and comfort of his wife, to the protection of his own person, to marriage, the ballot, possessory capacity, and all those things which distinguish the citizen from the chattel—not because of his manhood, nor because of inherent co-equality of right with the white man; but simply because the national legislation gave it to him as a condition precedent of statal rehabilitation.
These may seem to the Northern reader very narrow views; and so they are, as compared with those that underlay the spirit of resistance to rebellion, and the fever heat for human rights, which was the animating principle in the hearts of the people when they endorsed and approved those amendments which were the basis of reconstructionary legislation. It should be remembered, however, that even these views were infinitely in advance of the ideas generally entertained by his white fellow-citizens of the South. Nearly all of them regarded these matters in a very different light; and most naturally, too, as any one may understand who will lemember what had gone before, and will keep in mind that defeat does not mean a new birth, and that warfare leaves men unchanged by its results, whatever may be its effects on nations and societies.
They regretted the downfall of the Confederacy as the triumph of a lower and baser civilization—the ascendency of a false idea and an act of unrighteous and unjustifiable subversion. To their minds it was a forcible denial of their rights, and, to a large portion of them, a dishonorable violation of that contract or treaty upon which the Federal Union was based, and by which the right for which they fought had, according to their construction, been assured. As viewed by them, the result of the war had not changed these facts, nor justified the infraction of the rights of the South.
In the popular phrase of that day, they "accepted the situation"—which to their minds, simply meant that they would not fight any more for independent existence. The North understood it to mean that they would accept cheerfully and in good faith any terms and conditions which might be imposed upon them as a condition of rehabilitation.
The masses of the Southern whites regarded the emancipation of the negro simply as an arbitrary exercise of power, intended as a punishment for the act of attempted secession—which act, while many believed it to have been impolitic, few believed to be in conflict with the true theory of our government. They considered the freeing of the slave merely a piece of wanton spite, inspired, in great measure, by sheer envy of Southern superiority, in part by angry hate because of the troubles, perils, and losses of the war, and, in a very small degree, by honest though absurd fanaticism. They did not believe that it was done for the sake of the slave, to secure his liberty or to establish his rights; but they believed most devoutly that it was done solely and purposely to injure the master, to punish the rebel, and to still further cripple and impoverish the South. It was, to them, an unwarrantable measure of unrighteous retribution inspired by the lowest and basest motives.
But if, to the mass of Southern white men, emancipation was a measure born of malicious spite in the breast of the North, what should they say of that which followed—the enfranchisement of the black? It was a gratuitous insult—a causeless infamy! It was intended to humiliate, without even the mean motive of advantage to be derived. They did not for a moment believe—they do not believe to-day—that the negro was enfranchised for his own sake, or because the North believed that he was entitled to self-government, or was fit for self-government; but simply and solely because it was hoped thereby to degrade, overawe, and render powerless the white element of the Southern populations. They thought it a fraud in itself, by which the North pretended to give back to the South her place in the nation; but instead, gave her only a debased and degraded co-ordination with a race despised beyond the power of words to express.
This anger seemed—and still seems to the Northern mind—useless, absurd, and ridiculous. It appears to us as groundless and almost as laughable as the frantic and impotent rage of the Chinaman who has lost his sacred queue by the hand of the Christian spoiler. To the Northern mind the cause is entirely incommensurate with the anger displayed. One is inclined to ask, with a laugh, "Well, what of it?" Perhaps there is not a single Northern resident of the South who has not more than once offended some personal friend by smiling in his face while he raged, with white lips and glaring eyes, about this culminating ignominy. Yet it was sadly real to them. In comparison with this, all other evils seemed light and trivial, and whatever tended to prevent it, was deemed fair and just. For this reason, the Southerners felt themselves not only justified, but imperatively called upon, in every way and manner, to resist and annul all legislation having this end in view. Regarding it as inherently fraudulent, malicious, and violent, they felt no compunctions in defeating its operation by counter-fraud and violence.
It was thus that the elements of reconstruction affected the hearts and heads of most of the Southern whites. To admit that they were honest in holding such views as they did is only to give them the benefit of a presumption which, when applied to the acts and motives of whole peoples, becomes irrefutable. A mob may be wrong-headed, but it is always right-hearted. What it does may be infamous, but underlying its acts is always the sting of a great evil or the hope of a great good.
Thus it was, too, that to the subtler mind and less selfish heart of Hesden Le Moyne, every attempt to nullify the effect or evade the operation of the Reconstruction laws was tinged with the idea of personal dishonor. To his understanding, the terms of surrender were, not merely that he would not again fight for a separate governmental existence, but, also, that he would submit to such changes in the national polity as the conquering majority might deem necessary and desirable as conditions precedent to restored power; and would honestly and fairly, as an honorable man and a brave soldier, carry out those laws either to successful fruition or to fair and legitimate repeal.
He was not animated by any thought of advantage to himself or to his class to arise from such ideas. Unlike Jordan Jackson, and men of his type, there was nothing which his class could gain thereby, except a share in the ultimate glory and success of an enlarged and solidified nation. The self-abnegation which he had learned from three years of duty as a private soldier and almost a lifetime of patient attendance upon a loved but exacting invalid, inclined to him to study the movements of society and the world, without especial reference to himself, or the narrow circle of his family or class. To his mind, honor—that honor which he accounted the dearest birthright his native South had given—required that from and after the day of his surrender he should seek and desire, not the gratification of revenge nor the display of prejudice, but the success and glory of the great republic. He felt that the American Nation had become greater and more glorious by the very act of overcoming rebellion. He recognized that the initial right or wrong of that struggle, whatever it might have been, should be subordinated in all minds to the result—an individual Nation. It was a greater and a grander thing to be an American than to have been a Confederate! It was more honorable and knightly to be true in letter and in spirit to every law of his reunited land than to make the woes of the past an excuse for the wrongs of the present. He felt all the more scrupulous in regard to this, because those measures were not altogether such as he would have adopted, nor such as he could yet believe would prove immediately successful. He thought that every Southern man should see to it especially that, if any element of reconstruction failed, it should not be on account of any lack of honest, sincere and hearty co-operation on his part.
It was for this reason that he had taken such interest in the experiment that was going on at Red Wing in educating the colored people. He did not at first believe at all in the capacity of the negro for culture, progress, self-support, or self-government; but he believed that the experiment, having been determined on by the nation, should be fairly and honestly carried out and its success or failure completely demonstrated. He admitted frankly that, if they had such capacity, they undoubtedly had the right to use it; because he believed the right inherent and inalienable with any race or people having the capacity. He considered that it was only the lack of co-ordinate capacity that made the Africans unfit to exercise co-ordinate power with individuals of the white race.
He thought they should be encouraged by every means to develop what was in them, and readily admitted that, should the experiment succeed and all distinction of civil right and political power be successfully abolished, the strength and glory of the nation would be wonderfully enhanced. His partiality for the two chief promoters of the experiment at Red Wing had greatly increased his interest in the result, which had by no means been diminished by his acquaintance with Mollie Ainslie.
It was not, however, until he bent over his unconscious charge in the stillness of the morning, made an examination of the wounds of his old playmate by the flickering light of the lamp, and undertook the process of resuscitation and cure, that he began to realize how his ancient prejudice was giving way before the light of what he could not but regard as truth. The application of some simple remedies soon restored Eliab to consciousness, but he found that the other injuries were so serious as to demand immediate surgical attendance, and would require considerable time for their cure.
His first idea had been to keep Eliab's presence at his house entirely concealed; but as soon as he realized the extent of his injuries, he saw that this would be impossible, and concluded that the safer way would be to entrust the secret to those servants who were employed "about the lot," which includes, upon a Southern plantation, all who are not regularly engaged in the crop. He felt the more willing to do this because of the attachment felt for the sweet-tempered but deformed minister at Red Wing by all of his race in the county. He carefully impressed upon the two women and Charles, the stable-boy, the necessity of the utmost caution in regard to the matter, and arranged with them to care for his patient by turns, so as never to leave him alone. He sent to the post at Boyleston for a surgeon, whose coming chanced not to be noticed by the neighbors, as he arrived just after dark and went away before daylight to return to his duty. A comfortable cot was arranged for the wounded man, and, to make the care of him less onerous, as well as to avoid the remark which continual use of the ladder would be sure to excite, Charles was directed to cut a doorway through the other gable of the old house into one of the rooms in a newer part. Charles was one of those men found on almost every plantation, who can "turn a hand to almost anything." In a short time he had arranged a door from the chamber above "Marse Hesden's room," and the task of nursing the stricken man back to life and such health as he might thereafter have, was carried on by the faithful band of watchers in the dim light of the old attic and amid the spicy odor of the "bulks" of tobacco, which was stored there awaiting a favorable market.
Hesden was so occupied with fhis care that it was not until the next day that he became aware of Mollie's absence. As she had gone without preparation or farewell, he rightly judged that it was her intention to return. At first, he thought he would go at once to Red Wing and assure himself of her safety, but a moment's consideration showed him not only that this was probably unnecessary, but also that to do so would attract attention, and perhaps reveal the hiding-place of Eliab. Besides, he felt confident that she would not be molested, and thought it quite as well that she should not be at Mulberry Hill for a few days, until the excitement had somewhat worn away.
On the next day, Eliab inquired so pitifully for both Miss Mollie and Nimbus, that Hesden, although he knew it was a half-delirious anxiety, had sent Charles on an errand to a plantation in that vicinity, with directions to learn all he could of affairs there, if possible without communicating directly with Miss Ainslie.
This he did, and reported everything quiet—Nimbus and Berry not heard from; Eliab supposed to have been killed; the colored people greatly alarmed; and "Miss Mollie a-comfortin' an encouragin' on 'em night an' day."
Together with this anxiety came the trust confided to Hesden by Jordan Jackson, and the new, and at first somewhat arduous, duties imposed thereby. In the discharge of these he was brought into communication with a great many of the best people of the county, and did not hesitate to express his opinion freely as to the outrage at Red Wing. He was several times warned to be prudent, but he answered all warnings so firmly, and yet with so much feeling, that he was undisturbed. He stood so high, and had led so pure a life, that he could even be allowed to entertain obnoxious sentiments without personal danger, so long as he did not attempt to reduce them to practice or attempt to secure for colored people the rights to which he thought them entitled. However, a great deal of remark was occasioned by the fact of his having become trustee for the fugitive Radical, and he was freely charged with having disgraced and degraded himself and his family by taking the part of a "renegade, Radical white nigger," like Jackson. This duty took him from home during the day in a direction away from Red Wing, and a part of each night he sat by the bedside of Eliab. So that more than a week had passed, during which he had found opportunity to take but three meals with his mother, and had not yet been able to visit Red Wing.
BREASTING THE TORRENT.
To make up for the sudden loss of society occasioned by the simultaneous departure of Mollie and the unusual engrossment of Hesden in business matters of pressing moment, as he had informed her, Mrs. Le Moyne had sent for one of the sisters of her son's deceased wife, Miss Hetty Lomax, to come and visit her. It was to this young lady that Hesden had appealed when the young teacher was suddenly stricken down in his house, and who had so rudely refused. Learning that the object of her antipathy was no longer there, Miss Hetty came and made herself very entertaining to the invalid by detailing to her all the horrors, real and imagined, of the past few days. Day by day she was in the invalid's room, and it was from her that Mrs. Le Moyne had learned all that was contained in her letter to Mollie concerning the public feeling and excitement. A week had elapsed, when Miss Hetty one day appeared with a most interesting budget of news, the recital of which seemed greatly to excite Mrs. Le Moyne. At first she listened with incredulity and resentment; then conviction seemed to force itself upon her mind, and anger succeeded to astonishment. Calling her serving woman, she asked impetuously:
"Maggie, is your Master Hesden about the house?"
"Really now mistis," said the girl in some confusion, "I can't edsackly tell. He war, de las' time I seed him; but then he mout hev gone out sence dat, yer know."
"Where was he then?"
"He war in his room, ma'am, wid a strange gemmen."
"Yes," added the mistress, in a significant tone, "he seems to have a great deal of strange company lately."
The girl glanced at her quickly as she arranged the bed-clothing, and the young lady who sat in the easy chair chuckled knowingly.
So the woman answered artfully, but with seeming innocence:
"La, mistis, it certain am quare how you finds out t'ings. 'Pears like a mouse can't stir 'bout de house, but you hears it quicker nor de cat."
It was deft flattery, and the pleased mistress swallowed the bait with a smile.
"I always try to know what is going on in my own house," she responded, complacently.
"Should t'ink yer did," said the colored woman, gazing at her in admiring wonder. "I don't 'llow dar's ennybody come inter dis yer house in one while, dat yer didn't know all 'bout 'em widout settin' eyes on 'em. I wouldn't be at all s'prised, dat I wouldn't," said she to the young lady, "ter find dat she knows whose h'yer now, an' whose been h'yer ebbery day sence Marse Hesden's been so busy. La! she's a woman—she's got a headpiece, she hab!"
"Yes," said the invalid; "I know that that odious scallawag, Jordan Jackson, has been here and has been shut up with my son, consulting and planning the Lord knows what, here in this very house of mine. Pretty business for a Le Moyne and a Richards to be in! You all thought you'd keep it from me; but you couldn't."
"La, sakes!" said the girl, with a look of relief, "yer mustn't say me. I didn't never try ter keep it. I know'd yer'd find it out."
"When do you say you saw him?"
"I jes disremembers now what time it war. Some time dis mornin' though. It mout hev been some two—free hours ago."
"Who was the gentleman with him—I hope he was a gentleman?"
"Oh la, ma'am, dat he war—right smart ob one, I should jedge, though I nebber seen his face afo' in my born days."
"And don't know his name?"
"Not de fust letter ob it, mistis."
Maggie might well say that, since none of the letters of the alphabet were known to her; but when she conveyed the idea that she did not know the name of the visitor, it was certainly a stretch of the truth; but then she did not know as "Marse Hesden" would care about his mother knowing the name of his visitor, and she had no idea of betraying anything which concerned him against his wish. So in order to be perfectly safe, she deemed it best to deceive her mistress.
"Tell your Master Hesden I wish to see him immediately, Maggie," said Mrs. Le Moyne, imperiously.
"Yes'm," said the girl, as she left the room to perform her errand.
There was a broad grin upon her face as she crossed the passage and knocked at the door of Hesden's room, thinking how she had flattered her mistress into a revelation of her own ignorance. She was demure enough, however, when Hesden himself opened the door and inquired what she wished.
"Please, sah, de mistis tole me ter ax yer ter come inter her room, right away."
"Anything the matter, Maggie?"
"Nuffin', only jes she wants ter talk wid yer 'bout sunthin', I reckon."
"Who is with her?"
"An' de mistis 'pears powerfully put out 'bout sunthin' or udder," volunteered the girl.
"Yes," repeated Hesden, absently. "Well. Maggie, say to my mother that I am very closely engaged, and I hope she will please excuse me for a few hours."
The girl returned and delivered her message.
"What!" exclaimed the sick woman, in amazement. "He must have turned Radical sure enough, to send me such an answer as that! Maggie," she continued, with severe dignity, "you must be mistaken. Return and tell my son that I am sure you are mistaken."
"Oh, dar ain't no mistake 'bout it, mistis. Dem's de berry words Marse Hesden said, shore."
"Do as I bade you, Maggie," said the mistress, quietly.
"Oh, certain, mistis, certain—only dar ain't no mistake," said the woman, as she returned with the message she was charged to deliver.
"Did you ever see such a change?" asked Mrs. Le Moyne of her companion as soon as the door was closed upon the servant. "There never was a time before when Hesden did not come the instant I called, no matter upon what he might be engaged."
"Yes," said the other, laughingly, "I used to tell Julia that it would make me awfully jealous to have a husband jump up and leave me to go and pet his mother before the honeymoon was over."
"Poor Julia!" sighed the invalid. "Hesden never appreciated her—never. He didn't feel her loss as I did."
"I should think not," replied the sister-in-law, sharply. "But he might at least have had regard enough for her memory not to have flirted so outrageously with that Yankee school-marm."
"What do you mean, Hetty!" said Mrs. Le Moyne, severely. "Please remember that it is my son of whom you are speaking."
"Oh, yes," said Miss Hetty, sharply, "we have been speaking of him all along, and—"
The door from the hall was opened quickly, and Hesden looking in, said pleasantly,
"I hope you are not suffering, mother?"
"Not more than usual, Hesden," said Mrs. Le Moyne, "but I wish to see you very particularly, my son."
"I am very busy, mother, on a most important matter; but you know I will always make everything give way for you."
So saying, he stepped into the room and stood awaiting his mother's pleasure, after bowing somewhat formally to the younger lady.
"What are these reports I hear about you, Hesden?" asked his mother, with some show of anger.
"I beg your pardon, little mother," said Hesden smiling; "but was it to make this inquiry you called me from my business?"
"Yes, indeed," was the reply; "I should like to know what there could be of more importance to you than such slanderous reports as Cousin Hetty tells me are being circulated about you."
"I have no doubt they are interesting if Cousin Hetty brings them," said Hesden; "but you will please excuse me now, as I have matters of more importance to attend to."
He bowed, and would have passed out, but the good lady cried out almost with a shriek,
"But Hesden! Hesden! Hetty says that—that—that they say—you—are a—a Radical!"
She started from her pillows, and leaned forward with one white hand uplifted, as she waited his reply.
He turned back instantly, stepped quickly to the bedside, and put his one arm caressingly about her as he said earnestly, "I am afraid, mother, if one speaks of things which have occurred in Horsford during the past few days as a man of honor ought, he must expect to be called bad names."
"But Hesden—you are not—do tell me, my son," said his mother, in a tone of entreaty, "that you are not one of those horrid Radicals!"
"There, there; do not excite yourself, mother. I will explain everything to you this evening," said he, soothingly.
"But you are not a Radical?" she cried, catching his hand.
"I am a man of honor, always," he replied, proudly.
"Then you cannot be a Radical," she said, with a happy smile.
"But he is—he is!" exclaimed the younger lady, starting forward with flushed cheeks and pointing a trembling finger at his face, as if she had detected a guilty culprit. "He is!" she repeated. "Deny it if you dare, Hesden Le Moyne!"
"Indeed, Miss Hetty," said Hesden, turning upon her with dignified severity. "May I inquire who constituted you either my judge or my accuser."
"Oh fie! Hesden," said his mother. "Isn't Hetty one of the family?"
"And has every Richards and Le Moyne on the planet a right to challenge my opinions?" asked Hesden.
"Certainly!" said his mother, with much energy, while her pale face flushed, and her upraised hand trembled—"certainly they have, my son, if they think you are about to disgrace those names. But do deny it! Do tell me you are not a Radical!" she pleaded.
"But suppose I were?" he asked, thoughtfully.
"I would disown you! I would disinherit you!" shrieked the excited woman, shrinking away from his arm as if there were contagion in the touch. "Remember, sir," she continued threateningly, "that Mulberry Hill is still mine, and it shall never go to a Radical—never!"
"There, there, mother; do not excite yourself unnecessarily," said Hesden. "It is quite possible that both these matters are beyond either your control or mine."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I simply mean that circumstances over which we have no control have formed my opinions, and others over which we have as little control may affect the ownership of this plantation."
"Why—what in the world! Hesden, are you mad? You know that it is mine by the will of my father! Who or what could interfere with my right?"
"I sincerely hope that no one may," answered Hesden; "but I shall be able to tell you more about these matters after dinner, when I promise that you shall know all, without any reservation."
There had been a calm, almost sorrowful, demeanor about Hesden during this conversation, which had held the excited women unconsciously in check. They were so astonished at the coolness of his manner and the matter-of-fact sincerity of his tones that they were quite unable to express the indignation and abhorrence they both felt that his language merited. Now, however, as he moved toward the door, the younger lady was no longer able to restrain herself,
"I knew it was so!" she said. "That miserable nigger-teacher wasn't here for nothing! The mean, low hussy! I should think he would have been ashamed to bring her here anyhow—under his mother's very nose!"
Hesden had almost reached the door of the room when these words fell upon his ear. He turned and strode across the room until he stood face to face with his mother once more. There was no lack of excitement about him now. His face was pale as death, his eyes blazed, and his voice trembled.
"Mother," said he, "I have often told you that I would never bring to you a wife whom you did not approve. I hope never to do so; but I wish to say one thing: Miss Ainslie is a pure and lovely woman. None of us have ever known her superior. She is worthy of any man's devotion. I would not have said this but for what has been spoken here. But now I say, that if I ever hear that anyone having a single drop of our blood in her veins has spoken ill of her—ay, or if her name is linked with mine in any slighting manner, even by the breath of public rumor—I will make her my wife if she will accept my hand, whatever your wishes. And further, if any one speaks slightingly of her, I will resent it as if she were my wife, so help me God!"
He turned upon his heel, and strode out of the room.
He had not once looked or spoken to the lady whose words had given the offense. The mother and cousin were overwhelmed with astonishment at the intensity of the usually quiet and complaisant Hesden. Miss Hetty soon made excuses for returning to her home, and Mrs. Le Moyne waited in dull wonder for the revelation which the evening was to bring. It seemed to her as if the world had lost its bearings and everything must be afloat, now that Hesden had been so transformed as to speak thus harshly to the mother for whom his devotion had become proverbial all the country around.
THE PRICE OF HONOR.
When Hesden came to his mother's room that night, his countenance wore an unusually sad and thoughtful expression. His mother had not yet recovered from the shock of the morning's interview. The more she thought of it, the less she could understand either his language or his manner. That he would once think of allying himself in political thought with those who were trying to degrade and humiliate their people by putting them upon a level with the negro, she did not for a moment believe, despite what he had said. Neither did she imagine, even then, that he had any feeling for Mollie Ainslie other than mere gratitude for the service she had rendered, but supposed that his outburst was owing merely to anger at the slighting language used toward her by Cousin Hetty. Yet she felt a dim premonition of something dreadful about to happen, and was ill at ease during the evening meal. When it was over, the table cleared, and the servant had retired, Hesden sat quiet for a long time, and then said, slowly and tenderly:
"Mother, I am very sorry that all these sad things should come up at this time—so soon after our loss. I know your heart, as well as mine, is sore, and I wish you to be sure that I have not, and cannot have, one unkind thought of you. Do not cry," he added, as he saw the tears pouring down her face, which was turned to him with a look of helpless woe upon it—"do not cry, little mother, for we shall both of us have need of all our strength."
"Oh, Hesden," she moaned, "if you only would not—"
"Please do not interrupt me," he said, checking her with a motion of his hand; "I have a long story to tell, and after that we will speak of what now troubles you. But first, I wish to ask you some questions. Did you ever hear of such a person as Edna Richards?"
"Edna Richards—Edna Richards?" said Mrs. Le Moyne, wiping away her tears and speaking between her sobs. "It seems as if I had, but—I—I can't remember, my son. I am so weak and nervous."
"Calm yourself, little mother; perhaps it will come to your mind if I ask you some other questions. Our grandfather, James Richards, came here from Pennsylvania, did he not?"
"Certainly, from about Lancaster. He always promised to take me to see our relatives there, but he never did. You know, son, I was his youngest child, and he was well past fifty when I was born. So he was an old man when I was grown up, and could not travel very much. He took me to the North twice, but each time, before we got around to our Pennsylvania friends, he was so tired out that he had to come straight home."
"Did you ever know anything about his family there?"
"Not much—nothing except what he told me in his last days. He used to talk about them a great deal then, but there was something that seemed to grieve and trouble him so much that I always did all I could to draw his mind away from the subject. Especially was this the case after the boys, your uncles, died. They led rough lives, and it hurt him terribly."
"Do you know whether he ever corresponded with any of our relatives at the North?"
"I think not. I am sure he did not after I was grown. He often spoke of it, but I am afraid there was some family trouble or disagreement which kept him from doing so. I remember in his last years he used frequently to speak of a cousin to whom he seemed to have been very much attached. He had the same name as father, who used to call him 'Red Jim.'"
"Was he then alive?"
"I suppose so—at least when father last heard from him. I think he lived in Massachusetts. Let me see, what was the name of the town. I don't remember," after a pause.
"Was it Marblehead?" asked the son, with some eagerness.
"That's it, dear—Marblehead. How funny that you should strike upon the very name?"
"You think he never wrote?"
"Oh, I am sure not. He mourned about it, every now and then, to the very last."
"Was my grandfather a bachelor when he came here?"
"Of course, and quite an old bachelor, too. I think he was about thirty when he married your grandmother in 1794."
"She was a Lomax—Margaret Lomax, I believe?'
"Yes; that's how we come to be akin to all the Lomax connection."
"Just so. You are sure he had never married before?"
"Sure? Why, yes, certainly. How could he? Why, Hesden, what do you mean? Why do you ask all these questions? You do not—you cannot—Oh, Hesden!" she exclaimed, leaning forward and trembling with apprehension.
"Be calm, mother. I am not asking these questions without good cause," he answered, very gravely.
After a moment, when she had recovered herself a little, he continued, holding toward her a slip of paper, as he asked:
"Did you ever see that signature before?"
His mother took the paper, and, having wiped her glasses, adjusted them carefully and glanced at the paper. As she did so a cry burst from her lips, and she said,
"Oh, Hesden, Hesden, where did you get it? Oh, dear! oh, dear!"
"Why, mother, what is it?" cried Hesden in alarm, springing up and going quickly to her side.
"That—that horrid thing, Hesden! Where did you get it? Do you know it was that which made that terrible quarrel between your grandfather and Uncle John, when he struck him that—that last night, before John's body was found in the river. He was drowned crossing the ford, you know. I don't know what it was all about; but there was a terrible quarrel, and John wrote that on a sheet of paper and held it before your grandfather's face and said something to him—I don't know what. I was only a little girl then, but, ah me! I remember it as if it was but yesterday. And then father struck him with his cane. John fell as if he were dead. I was looking in at the window, not thinking any harm, and saw it all. I thought he had killed John, and ran away, determined not to tell. I never breathed a lisp of it before, son, and nobody ever knew of that quarrel, only your grandfather and me. I know it troubled him greatly after John died. Oh, I can see that awful paper, as John held it up to the light, as plain as this one in my hand now."
The slip of paper which she held contained only the following apparently unintelligible scrawl:
"And you never saw it but once?" asked Hesden, thoughtfully.
"Never but once before to-night, dear."
"It was not Uncle John's usual signature, then?"
"No, indeed. Is it a signature? She glanced curiously at the paper while Hesden pointed out the letters,
"That is what I take it to be, at least," he said. "Sure enough," said Mrs. Le Moyne, "and that might stand for John Richards or James Richards. It might be Uncle John or your grandfather, either, child." "True, but grandfather always wrote his name plainly, J. RICHARDS. I have seen a thousand of his signatures, I reckon. Besides, Uncle John was not alive in 1790."
"Of course not. But what has that to do with the matter? What does it all mean anyhow? There must be some horrid secret about it, I am sure."
"I do not know what it means, mother, but I am determined to find out. That is what I have been at all day, and I will not stop until I know all about it."
"But how did you come to find it? What makes you think there is anything to be known about it?"
"This is the way it occurred, mother. The other day it became necessary to cut a door from the chamber over my room into the attic of the old kitchen, where I have been storing the tobacco. You know the part containing the dining-room was the original house, and was at first built of hewed logs. It was, in fact, two houses, with a double chimney in the middle. Afterward, the two parts were made into one, the rude stairs torn away, and the whole thing ceiled within and covered with thick pine siding without. In cutting through this, Charles found between two of the old logs and next to the chinking put in on each side to keep the wall flush and smooth, a pocketbook, carefully tied up in a piece of coarse linen, and containing a yellow, dingy paper, which, although creased and soiled, was still clearly legible. The writing was of that heavy round character which marked the legal hand of the old time, and the ink, though its color had somewhat changed by time, seemed to show by contrast with the dull hue of the page even more clearly than it could have done when first written. The paper proved to be a will, drawn up in legal form and signed with the peculiar scrawl of which you hold a tracing. It purported to have been made and published in December, 1789, at Lancaster, in the State of Pennsylvania, and to have been witnessed by James Adiger and Johan Welliker of that town."
"How very strange!" exclaimed Mrs. Le Moyne. "I suppose it must have been the will of your grandfather's father."
"That was what first occurred to me," answered Hesden, "but on closer inspection it proved to be the will of James Richards, as stated in the caption, of Marblehead, in the State of Massachusetts, giving and bequeathing all of his estate, both real and personal, after some slight bequests, to his beloved wife Edna, except—"
"Stop, my son," said Mrs. Le Moyne, quickly, "I remember now. Edna was the name of the wife of father's cousin James—"Red Jim," he called him. It was about writing to her he was always talking toward the last. So I suppose he must have been dead."
"I had come to much the same conclusion," said Hesden, "though I never heard that grandfather had a cousin James until to-night. I should never have thought any more of the document, however, except as an old relic, if it had not gone on to bequeath particularly 'my estate in Carolina to my beloved daughter, Alice E., when she shall arrive at the age of eighteen years,' and to provide for the succession in case of her death prior to that time."
"That is strange," said Mrs. Le Moyne. "I never knew that we had any relatives in the State upon that side."
"That is what I thought," said the son. "I wondered where the estate was which had belonged to this James Richards, who was not our ancestor, and, looking further, I found it described with considerable particlarity. It was called Stillwater, and was said to be located on the waters of the Hyco, in Williams County."
"But the Hyco is not in Williams County," said his listener.
"No, mother, but it was then," he replied. "You know that county has been many times subdivided."
"Yes, I had forgotten that," she said. "But what then?"
"It went on," contined Hesden, "to say that he held this land by virtue of a grant from the State which was recorded in Registry of Deeds in Williams County, in Book A, page 391."
"It is an easy matter to find where it was, then, I suppose," said the mother.
"I have already done that," he replied, "and that is the strange and unpleasant part of what I had to tell you."
"I do hope," she said, smiling, "that you have not made us out cousins of any low-down family."
"As to that I cannot tell, mother; but I am afraid I have found something discreditable in our own family history."
"Oh, I hope not, Hesden," she said, plaintively. "It is so unpleasant to look back upon one's ancestors and not feel that they were strictly honorable. Don't tell me, please. I had rather not hear it."
"I wish you might not," said he; "but the fact which you referred to to-day—that you are, under the will of my grandfather, the owner of Mulberry Hill, makes it necessary that you should."
"Please, Hesden, don't mention that. I was angry then. Please forget it. What can that have to do with this horrid matter?"
"It has this to do with it, mother," he replied. "The boundaries of that grant, as shown by the record, are identical with the record of the grant under which our grandfather claimed the estate of which this is a part, and which is one of the first entered upon the records of Horsford County."
"What do you say, Hesden? I don't understand you," said his mother, anxiously.
"Simply that the land bequeathed in this will of J. Richards, is the same as that afterward claimed and held by my grandfather, James Richards, and in part now belonging to you."
"It cannot be, Hesden, it cannot be! There must be some mistake!" she exclaimed, impatiently.
"I wish there were," he answered, "but I fear there is not. The will names as executor, 'my beloved cousin James Richards, of the borough of Lancaster, in the State of Pennsylvania.' I presume this to have been my grandfather. I have had the records of both counties searched and find no record of any administration upon this will."
"You do not think a Richards could have been so dishonorable as to rob his cousin's orphans?"
"Alas! mother, I only know that we have always claimed title under that very grant. The grant itself is among your papers in my desk, and is dated in 1789. I have always understood that grandfather married soon after coming here."
"Oh, yes, dear," was the reply, "I have heard mother tell of it a hundred times."
"And that was in 1794?"
"Yes, yes; but he might have been here before, child."
"That is true, and I hope it may all turn out to have been only a strange mistake."
"But if it does not, Hesden?" said his mother, after a moment's thought. "What do you mean to do?"
"I mean first to go to the bottom of this matter and discover the truth."
"And then—if—if there was—anything wrong?"
"Then the wrong must be righted."
"But that—why, Hesden, it might turn us out of doors! It might make us beggars!"
"We should at least be honest ones."
"But Hesden, think of me—think—" she began.
"So I will, little mother, of you and for you till the last hour of your life or of mine. But mother, I would rather you should leave all and suffer all, and that we should both die of starvation, than that we should live bounteously on the fruit of another's wrong." He bent over her and kissed her tenderly again and again. "Never fear, mother," he said, "we may lose all else by the acts of others, but we can only lose honor by our own. I would give my life for you or to save your honor."
She looked proudly upon him, and reached up her thin white hand to caress his face, as she said with overflowing eyes:
"You are right, my son! If others of our name have done wrong, there is all the more need that we should do right and atone for it."
Mollie Ainslie had made all her preparations to leave Red Wing. She had investigated the grounds of the suit brought by Winburn against Nimbus and others. Indeed, she found herself named among the "others," as well as all those who had purchased from Nimbus or were living on the tract by virtue of license from him. Captain Pardee had soon informed her that the title of Nimbus was, in fact, only a life-estate, which had fallen in by the death of the life tenant, while Winburn claimed to have bought up the interests of the reversioners. He intimated that it was possible that Winburn had done this while acting as the agent of Colonel Desmit, but this was probably not susceptible of proof, on account of the death of Desmit. He only stated it as a conjecture at best.
At the same time, he informed her that the small tract about the old ordinary, which had come to Nimbus by purchase, and which was all that she occupied, was not included in the life-estate, but was held in fee by Walter Greer. She had therefore instructed him to defend for her upon Nimbus's title, more for the sake of asserting his right than on account of the value of the premises. The suit was for possession and damages for detention and injury of the property, and an attachment had been taken out against Nimbus's property, on the claim for damages, as a non-resident debtor. As there seemed to be no good ground for defense on the part of those who had purchased under Nimbus, the attorney advised that resistance to the suit would be useless. Thus they lost at once the labor of their whole life of freedom, and were compelled to begin again where slavery had left them. This, taken in connection with the burning of the church, the breaking up of the school, and the absence of Eliab and Nimbus, had made the once happy and busy little village most desolate and forlorn.
The days which Mollie Ainslie had passed in the old hostel since she left Mulberry Hill had been days of sorrow. Tears and moans and tales of anxious fear had been in her ears continually. All over the county, the process of "redemption" was being carried on. The very air was full of horrors. Men with bleeding backs, women with scarred and mutilated forms, came to her to seek advice and consolation. Night after night, devoted men, who did not dare to sleep in their own homes, kept watch around her, in order that her slumbers might be undisturbed. It seemed as if all law had been forgotten, and only a secret Klan had power in the land. She did not dare, brave as she was, to ride alone outside of the little village. She did not really think she would be harmed, yet she trembled when the night came, and every crackling twig sent her heart into her mouth in fear lest the chivalric masqueraders should come to fulfil their vague threats against herself. But her heart bled for the people she had served, and whom she saw bowed down under the burden of a terrible, haunting fear.
If she failed to make due allowance for that savageness of nature which generations of slavery are sure to beget in the master, let us not blame her. She was only a woman, and saw only what was before her. She did not see how the past injected itself into the present, and gave it tone and color. She reasoned only from what met her sight. It is not strange that she felt bitterly toward those who had committed such seemingly vandal acts. No wonder she spoke bitterly, wrote hard things to her Northern friends, and denied the civilization and Christianity of those who could harry, oppress, and destroy the poor, the ignorant, and the weak. It is not surprising that she sneered at the "Southern Gentleman," or that she wrote him down in very black characters in the book and volume of her memory. She was not a philosopher nor a politician, and she had never speculated on the question as to how near of kin virtue and vice may be. She had never considered how narrow a space it is that very often divides the hero from the criminal, the patriot from the assassin, the gentleman from the ruffian, the Christian saint from the red-handed savage. Her heart was hot with wrath and her tongue was tipped with bitterness.
For the first time she blushed at the thought of her native land. That the great, free, unmatched Republic should permit these things, should shut its eyes and turn its back upon its helpless allies in their hour of peril, was a most astounding and benumbing fact to her mind. What she had loved with all that tenacity of devotion which every Northern heart has for the flag and the country, was covered with ignominy by these late events. She blushed with shame as she thought of the weak, vacillating nation which had given the promise of freedom to the ears of four millions of weak but trustful allies, and broken it to their hearts. She knew that the country had appealed to them in its hour of mortal agony, and they had answered with their blood. She knew that again it had appealed to them for aid to write the golden words of Freedom in its Constitution, words before unwritten, in order that they might not be continued in slavery, and they had heard and answered by their votes; and then, while the world still echoed with boastings of these achievements, it had taken away the protecting hand and said to those whose hearts were full of hate, "Stay not thine hand."
She thought, too, that the men who did these things—the midnight masqueraders—were rebels still in their hearts. She called them so in hers at least—enemies of the country, striving dishonorably to subvert its laws. She did not keep in mind that to every Southern man and woman, save those whom the national act brought forth to civil life, the Nation is a thing remote and secondary. To them the State is first, and always so far first as to make the country a dim, distant cloud, to be watched with suspicion or aversion as a something hostile to their State or section. The Northern mind thinks of the Nation first. The love of country centers there. His pride in his native State is as a part of the whole. As a Northerner, he has no feeling at all. He never speaks of his section except awkwardly, and when reference to it is made absolutely necessary by circumstances. He may be from the East or the West or the Middle, from Maine or Minnesota, but he is first of all things an American. Mollie thought that the result of the war—defeat and destruction—ought to have made the white people of the South just such Americans. In fact it never occurred to her simple heart but that they had always been such. In truth, she did not conceive that they could have been otherwise. She had never dreamed that there were any Americans with whom it was not the first and ever-present thought that they were Americans.
She might have known, if she had thought so far, that in that mystically-bounded region known as "the South," the people were first of all "Southerners;" next "Georgians," or "Virginians," or whatever it might be; and last and lowest in the scale of political being, "Americans." She might have known this had she but noted how the word "Southern" leaps into prominence as soon as the old "Mason and Dixon's line" is crossed. There are "Southern" hotels and "Southern" railroads, "Southern" steamboats, "Southern" stage-coaches, "Southern" express companies, "Southern" books, "Southern" newspapers, "Southern" patent-medicines, "Southern" churches, "Southern" manners, "Southern" gentlemen, "Southern" ladies, "Southern" restaurants, "Southern" bar-rooms, "Southern" whisky, "Southern" gambling-hells, "Southern" principles, "Southern" everything! Big or little, good or bad, everything that courts popularity, patronage or applause, makes haste to brand itself as distinctively and especially "Southern."
Then she might have remembered that in all the North—the great, busy, bustling, over-confident, giantly Great-heart of the continent—there is not to be found a single "Northern" hotel, steamer, railway, stage-coach, bar-room, restaurant, school, university, school-book, or any other "Northern" institution. The word "Northern" is no master-key to patronage or approval. There is no "Northern" clannishness, and no distinctive "Northern" sentiment that prides itself on being such. The "Northern" man may be "Eastern" or "Western." He may be "Knickerbocker," "Pennamite," "Buckeye," or "Hoosier;" but above all things, and first of all things in his allegiance and his citizenship, he is an American. The "Southern" man is proud of the Nation chiefly because it contains his section and State; the "Northern" man is proud of his section and State chiefly because it is a part of the Nation.
But Mollie Ainslie did not stop to think of these differences, or of the bias which habit gives to the noblest mind; and so her heart was full of wrath and much bitterness. She had forgiven coldness, neglect, and aspersion of herself, but she could not forgive brutality and violence toward the weak and helpless. She saw the futility of hope of aid from the Nation that had deserted its allies. She felt, on the other hand, the folly of expecting any change in a people steeped in intolerance and gloating in the triumph of lawless violence over obnoxious law. She thought she saw that there was but little hope for that people for whom she had toiled so faithfully to grow to the full stature of the free man in the region where they had been slaves. She was short-sighted and impatient, but she was earnest and intense. She had done much thinking in the sorrowful days just past, and had made up her mind that whatsoever others might do, she, Mollie Ainslie, would do her duty.
The path seemed plain to her. She had been, as it seemed to her, mysteriously led, step by step, along the way of life, always with blindfolded eyes and feet that sought not to go in the way they were constrained to take. Her father and mother dead, her brother's illness brought her to the South; there his wish detained her; a seeming chance brought her to Red Wing; duties and cares had multiplied with her capacity; the cup of love, after one sweet draught, had been dashed from her lips; desolation and destruction had come upon the scene of her labors, impoverishment and woe upon those with whom she had been associated, and a hopeless fate upon all the race to which they belonged in the land wherein they were born.
She did not propose to change these things. She did not aspire to set on foot any great movement or do any great deed, but she felt that she was able to succor a few of the oppressed race. Those who most needed help and best deserved it, among the denizens of Red Wing, she determined to aid in going to a region where thought at least was free. It seemed to her altogether providential that at this time she had still, altogether untouched, the few thousands which Oscar had given her of his army earnings, and also the little homestead on the Massachusetts hills, toward which a little town had been rapidly growing during the years of unwonted prosperity succeeding the war, until now its value was greatly increased from what it was but a few years before. She found she was quite an heiress when she came to take an inventory of her estate, and made up her mind that she would use this estate to carry out her new idea. She did not yet know the how or the where, but she had got it into her simple brain that somewhere and somehow this money might be invested so as to afford a harbor of refuge for these poor colored people, and still not leave herself unprovided for. She had not arranged the method, but she had fully determined on the undertaking.
This was the thought of Mollie Ainslie as she sat in her room at the old ordinary, one afternoon, nearly two weeks after her departure from the Le Moyne mansion. She had quite given up all thought of seeing Hesden again. She did not rave or moan over her disappointment. It had been a sharp and bitter experience when she waked out of the one sweet dream of her life. She saw that it was but a dream, foolish and wild; but she had no idea of dying of a broken heart. Indeed, she did not know that her heart was broken. She had loved a man whom she had fancied as brave and gentle as she could desire her other self to be. She had neither proffered her love to him nor concealed it. She was not ashamed that she loved nor ashamed that he should know it, as she believed he did. She thought he must have known it, even though she did not herself realize it at the time. If he had been that ideal man whom she loved, he would have come before, claimed her love, and declared his own. That man could never have let her go alone into desolation and danger without following at once to inquire after her. It was not that she needed his protection, but she had desired—nay, expected as a certainty—that he would come and proffer it. The ideal of her love would have done so. If Hesden Le Moyne had come then, she would have given her life into his keeping forever after, without the reservation of a thought. That he did not come only showed that he was not her ideal, not the one she had loved, but only the dim likeness of that one. It was so much the worse for Mr. Hesden Le Moyne, but none the worse for Mollie Ainslie. She still loved her ideal, but knew now that it was only an ideal.
Thus she mused, although less explicitly, as the autumn afternoon drew to its close. She watched the sun sinking to his rest, and reflected that she would see him set but once more over the pines that skirted Red Wing. There was but little more to be done—a few things to pack up, a few sad farewells to be said, and then she would turn her face towards the new life she had set her heart upon.
There was a step upon the path. She heard her own name spoken and heard the reply of the colored woman, who was sitting on the porch. Her heart stopped beating as the footsteps approached her door. She thought her face flushed burning red, but in reality it was of a hard, pallid gray as she looked up and saw Hesden Le Moyne standing in the doorway.
FACE ANSWERETH TO FACE.
"How do you do, Miss Mollie?"
She caught her breath as she heard his ringing, tone and noted his expectant air. Oh, if he had only come before! If he had not left her to face alone—he knew not what peril! But he had done so, and she could not forget it. So she went forward, and, extending her hand, took his without a throb as she said, demurely,
"I am very well, Mr. Le Moyne. How are you, and how have you left all at home?"
She led the way back to the table and pointed to a chair opposite her own as she spoke.
Hesden Le Moyne had grown to love Mollie Ainslie almost as unconsciously as she had given her heart to him. The loss of his son had been a sore affliction. While he had known no passionate love for his cousin-wife, he yet had had the utmost respect for her, and had never dreamed that there were in his heart deeper depths of love still unexplored. After her death, his mother and his child seemed easily and naturally to fill his heart. He had admired Mollie Ainslie from the first. His attention had been first particularly directed to her accomplishments and attractions by the casual conversation with Pardee in reference to her, and by the fact that the horse she rode was his old favorite. He had watched her at first critically, then admiringly, and finally with an unconscious yearning which he did not define.
The incident of the storm and the bright picture she made in his somewhat somber home had opened his eyes as to his real feelings. At the same time had come the knowledge that there was a wide gulf between them, but he would have bridged it long before now had it not been for his affliction, which, while it drew him nearer to the object of his devotion than he had ever been before, also raised an imperative barrier against words of love. Then the time of trial came. He found himself likely to be stripped of all hope of wealth, and he had been goaded into declaring to others his love for Mollie, although he had never whispered a word of it to her.
Since that time, however, despite his somewhat dismal prospects, he had allowed his fancy greater play. He had permitted himself to dream that some time and somehow he might be permitted to call Mollie Ainslie his wife. She seemed so near to him! There was such a calm in her presence!
He had never doubted that his passion was reciprocated. He thought that he had looked down into her heart through the soft, gray eyes, and seen himself. She had never manifested any consciousness of love, but in those dear days at the Hill she had seemed to come so close to him that he thought of her love as a matter of course, as much so as if it had been already plighted. He felt too that her instinct had been as keen as his own, and that she must have discovered the love he had taken no pains to conceal. But the events which had occurred since she went to Red Wing had to his mind forbidden any further expression of this feeling. For her sake as well as for his own honor it must be put aside. He had no wish to conceal or deny it. The fact that he must give her up was the hardest element of the sacrifice which the newly discovered will might require at his hands.
So he had come to tell her all, and he hoped that she would see where honor led him, and would hold him excused from saying, "I love you. Will you be my wife?" He believed that she would, and that they would part without distrust and with unabated esteem for each other. Never, until this moment, had he thought otherwise. Perhaps he was not without hope still, but it was not such as could be allowed to control his action. He could not say now why it was; he could not tell what was lacking, but somehow there seemed to have been a change. She was so far away—so intangible. It was the same lithe form, the same bright face, the same pleasant voice; but the life, the soul, seemed to have gone out of the familiar presence.
He sat and watched her keenly, wonderingly, as they chatted for a moment of his mother. Then he said:
"We have had strange happenings at Mulberry Hill since you left us, Miss Mollie."
"You don't tell me!" she said laughingly. "I cannot conceive such a thing possible. Dear me! How strange to think of anything out of the common happening there!"
The tone and the laugh hurt him.
"Indeed," said he, gravely, "except for that I should have made my appearance here long ago."
"You are very kind. And I assure you, I am grateful that you did not entirely forget me." Her tone was mocking, but her look was so guileless as almost to make him disbelieve his ears.
"I assure you, Miss Mollie," said he, earnestly, "you do me injustice. I was so closely engaged that I was not even aware of your departure until the second day afterward."
He meant this to show how serious were the matters which claimed his attention. To him it was the strongest possible proof of their urgency. But she remembered her exultant ride to Red Wing, and said to-herself, "And he did not think of me for two whole days!" As she listened to his voice, her heart had been growing soft despite her; but it was hard enough now. So she smiled artlessly, and said:
"Only two days? Why, Mr. Le Moyne, I thought it was two weeks. That was how I excused you. Charles said you were too busy to ride with me; your mother wrote that you were too busy to ask after me; and I supposed you had been too busy to think of me, ever since."
"Now, Miss Mollie," said he, in a tone of earnest remonstrance, "please do not speak in that way. Things of the utmost importance have occurred, and I came over this evening to tell you of them. You, perhaps, think that I have been neglectful."
"I had no right to demand anything from Mr. Le Moyne."
"Yes, you had, Miss Ainslie," said he, rising and going around the table until he stood close beside her. "You know that only the most pressing necessity could excuse me for allowing you to leave my house unattended."
"That is the way I went there," she interrupted, as she looked up at him, laughing saucily.
"But that was before you had, at my request, risked your life in behalf of my child. Let us not hide the truth, Miss Ainslie. We can never go back to the relation of mere acquaintanceship we held before that night. If you had gone away the next morning it might have been different, but every hour afterward increased my obligations to you. I came here to tell you why I had seemed to neglect them. Will you allow me to do so?"
"It is quite needless, because there is no obligation—none in the least—unless it be to you for generous hospitality and care and a pleasant respite from tedious duty."
"Why do you say that? You cannot think it is so," he said, impetuously. "You know it was my duty to have attended you hither, to have offered my services in that trying time, and by my presence and counsel saved you such annoyance as I might. You know that I could not have been unaware of this duty, and you dare not deny that you expected me to follow you very speedily after your departure."
"Mr. Le Moyne," she said, rising, with flushed cheeks and flashing eyes, "you have no right to address such language to me! It was bad enough to leave me to face danger and trouble and horror alone; but not so bad as to come here and say such things. But I am not ashamed to let you know that you are right. I did expect you, Hesden Le Moyne. As I came along the road and thought of the terrors which the night might bring, I said to myself that before the sun went down you would be here, and would counsel and protect the girl who had not shrunk from danger when you asked her to face it, and who had come to look upon you as the type of chivalry. Because I thought you better and braver and nobler than you are, I am not ashamed to confess what I expected. I know it was foolish. I might have known better. I might have known that the man who would fight for a cause he hated rather than be sneered at by his neighbors, would not care to face public scorn for the sake of a 'nigger-teacher'—no matter what his obligations to her."
She stood before him with quivering nostrils and flashing eyes. He staggered back, raising his hand to check the torrent of her wrath.
"Don't, Miss Ainslie, don't!" he said, in confused surprise.
"Oh, yes!" she continued bitterly, "you no doubt feel very much surprised that a 'Yankee nigger-teacher' should dare to resent such conduct. You thought you could come to me, now that the danger and excitement have subsided, and resume the relations we held before. I know you and despise you, Hesden Le Moyne! I have more respect for one of those who made Red Wing a scene of horror and destruction than for you. Is that enough, sir? Do you understand me now?" "Oh, entirely, Miss Ainslie," said Hesden, in a quick, husky tone, taking his hat from the table as he spoke. "But in justice to myself I must be allowed to state some facts which, though perhaps not sufficient, in your opinion, to justify my conduct, will I hope show you that you have misjudged me in part. Will you hear me?"
"Oh, yes, I will hear anything," she said, as she sat down. "Though nothing can be said that will restore the past."
"Unfortunately, I am aware of that. There is one thing, however, that I prize even more than that, and that is my honor. Do not take the trouble to sneer. Say, what I call my honor, if it pleases you better, and I will not leave a stain upon that, even in your mind, if I can help it."
"Yes, I hear," she said, as he paused a moment. "Your honor, I believe you said."
"Yes, Miss Ainslie," he replied with dignity; "my honor requires that I should say to you now what I had felt forbidden to say before—that, however exalted the opinion you may have formed of me, it could not have equalled that which I cherished for you—not for what you did, but for what you were—and this feeling, whatever you may think, is still unchanged."
Mollie started with amazement. Her face, which had been pale, was all aflame as she glanced up at Hesden with a frightened look, while he went on.
"I do not believe that you would intentionally be unjust. So, if you will permit me, I will ask you one question. If you knew that on the day of your departure, and for several succeeding days, a human life was absolutely dependent upon my care and watchfulness, would you consider me excusable for failure to learn of your unannounced departure, or for not immediately following you hither on learning that fact?" He paused, evidently expecting a reply.
"Surely, Mr. Le Moyne," she said, looking up at him in wide-eyed wonder, "you know I would."
"And would you believe my word if I assured you that this was the fact?"
"Of course I would."
"I am very glad. Such was the case; and that alone prevented my following you and insisting on your immediate return."
"I did not know your mother had been so ill," she said, with some contrition in her voice.
"It was not my mother. I am sorry, but I cannot tell you now who it was. You will know all about it some time. And more than that," he continued, "on the fourth day after you had gone, one who had saved my life in battle came and asked me to acknowledge my debt by performing an important service for him, which has required nearly all my time since that."
"Oh, Mr. Le Moyne!" she said, as the tears came into her eyes, "please forgive my anger and injustice."
"I have nothing to forgive," he said. "You were not unjust—only ignorant of the facts, and your anger was but natural."
"Yet I should have known better. I should have trusted you more," said she, sobbing.
"Well, do not mind it," he said, soothingly. "But if my explanation is thus far sufficient, will you allow me to sit down while I tell you the rest? The story is a somewhat long one."
"Oh, pray do, Mr. Le Moyne. Excuse my rudeness as well as my anger. Please be seated and let me take your hat."
She took the hat and laid it on a table at the side of the room, and then returned and listened to his story. He told her all that he had told his mother the night before, explaining such things as he thought she might not fully understand. Then he showed her the pocket-book and the will, which he had brought with him for that purpose.
At first she listened to what he said with a constrained and embarrassed air. He had not proceeded far, however, before she began to manifest a lively interest in his words. She leaned forward and gazed into his face with an absorbed earnestness that awakened his surprise. Two or three times she reached out her hand, and her lips moved, as though she would interrupt him. He stopped; but, without speaking, she nodded for him to go on. When he handed her the pocket-book and the will, she took them with a trembling hand and examined them with the utmost care. The student-lamp had been lighted before his story was ended. Her face was in the soft light which came through the porcelain shade, but her hands were in the circle of bright light that escaped beneath it. He noticed that they trembled so that they could scarcely hold the paper she was trying to read. He asked if he should not read it for her. She handed him the will, but kept the pocketbook tightly clasped in both hands, with the rude scrawl,
in full view. She listened nervously to the reading, never once looking up. When he had finished, she said,
"And you say the land mentioned there is the plantation you now occupy?"
"It embraces my mother's plantation and much more. Indeed, this very plantation of Red Wing, except the little tract around the house here, is a part of it. The Red Wing Ordinary tract is mentioned as one of those which adjoins it upon the west. This is the west line, and the house at Mulberry Hill is very near the eastern edge. It is a narrow tract, running down on this side the river until it comes to the big bend near the ford, which it crosses, and keeps on to the eastward.
"It is a large belt, though I do not suppose it was then of any great value—perhaps not worth more than a shilling an acre. It is almost impossible to realize how cheap land was in this region at that time. A man of moderate wealth might have secured almost a county. Especially was that the case with men who bought up what was termed "Land Scrip" at depreciated rates, and then entered lands and paid for them with it at par."
"Was that the way this was bought?" she asked.
"I cannot tell," he replied. "I immediately employed Mr. Pardee to look the matter up, and it seems from the records that an entry had been made some time before, by one Paul Cresson, which was by him assigned to James Richards. I am inclined to think that it was a part of the Crown grant to Lord Granville, which had not been alienated before the Revolution, and of which the State claimed the fee afterward by reason of his adhesion to the Crown. The question of the right of such alien enemies to hold under Crown grants was not then determined, and I suppose the lands were rated very low by reason of this uncertainty in the title."
"Do you think—that—that this will is genuine?" she asked, with her white fingers knotted about the brown old pocket-book.
"I have no doubt about its proving to be genuine. That is evident upon its face. I hope there may be something to show that my grandfather did not act dishonorably," he replied.
"But suppose—suppose there should not be; what would be the effect?"
"Legally, Mr. Pardee says, there is little chance that any valid claim can be set up under it. The probabilities are, he says, that the lapse of time will bar any such claim. He also says that it is quite possible that the devisee may have died before coming of age to take under the will, and the widow, also, before that time; in which case, under the terms of the will, it would have fallen to my grandfather."
"You are not likely to lose by it then, in any event?"
"If it should prove that there are living heirs whose claims are not barred by time, then, of course, they will hold, not only our plantation, but also the whole tract. In that case, I shall make it the business of my life to acquire enough to reimburse those who have purchased of my grandfather, and who will lose by this discovery."
"But you are not bound to do that?" she asked, in surprise.
"Not legally. Neither are we bound to give up the plantation if the heir is legally estopped. But I think, and my mother agrees with me, that if heirs are found who cannot recover the land by reason of the lapse of time, even then, honor requires the surrender of what we hold."
"And you would give up your home?"
"I should gladly do so, if I might thereby right a wrong committed by an ancestor."
"But your mother, Hesden, what of her?"
"She would rather die than do a dishonorable thing."
"Yes—yes; but—you know—"
"Yes, I know that she is old and an invalid, and that I am young and—and unfortunate; but I will find a way to maintain her without keeping what we had never any right to hold."
"You have never known the hardship of self-support!" she said.
"I shall soon learn," he answered, with a shrug.
She sprang up and walked quickly across the room. Her hands were clasped in front of her, the backs upward and the nails digging into the white flesh. Hesden wondered a little at her excitement.
"Thank God! thank God!" she exclaimed at last, as she sank again into her chair, and pressed her clasped hands over her eyes.
"Why do you say that?" he asked, curiously.
"Because you—because I—I hardly know," she stammered.
She looked at him a moment, her face flushing and paling by turns, and stretching out her hand to him suddenly across the table, she said, looking him squarely in the face:
"Hesden Le Moyne, you are a brave man!"
He took the hand in his own and pressed it to his lips, which trembled as they touched it.
"Miss Mollie," he said, tenderly, "will you forgive my not coming before?"
"If you will pardon my lack of faith in you."
"You see," he said, "that my duty for the present is to my mother and the name I bear.
"And mine," she answered, "is to the poor people whose wrongs I have witnessed."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I mean that I will give myself to the task of finding a refuge for those who have suffered such terrible evils as we have witnessed here at Red Wing."
"You will leave here, then?"
"In a day or two."
Their hands were still clasped across the narrow table. He looked into her eyes, and saw only calm, unflinching resolution. It piqued his self-love that she should be so unmoved. Warmly as he really loved her, self-sacrificing as he felt himself to be in giving her up, he could not yet rid himself of the thought of her Northern birth, and felt annoyed that she should excel him in the gentle quality of self control. He had no idea that he would ever meet her again. He had made up his mind to leave her out of his life forever, though he could not cast her out of his heart. And yet, although he had no right to expect it, he somehow felt disappointed that she showed no more regret. He had not quite looked for her to be so calm, and he was almost annoyed by it; so dropping her hand, he said, weakly,
"Shall I never see you again?"
"When you are willing to acknowledge yourself proud of me because of the work in which I have been engaged! Hesden Le Moyne," she continued, rising, and standing before him, "you are a brave man and a proud one. You are so brave that you would not hesitate to acknowledge your regard for me, despite the fact that I am a 'nigger-teacher.' It is a noble act, and I honor you for it. But I am as proud as you, and have good reason to be, as you will know some day; and I say to you that I would not prize any man's esteem which coupled itself with an apology for the work in which I have been engaged. I count that work my highest honor, and am more jealous of its renown than of even my own good name. When you can say to me, 'I am as proud of your work as of my own honor—so proud that I wish it to be known of all men, and that all men should know that I approve,' then you may come to me. Till then, farewell!"
She held out her hand. He pressed it an instant, took his hat from the table, and went out into the night, dazed and blinded by the brightness he had left behind.
HOW SLEEP THE BRAVE?
Two days afterward, Mollie Ainslie took the train for the North, accompanied by Lugena and her children. At the same time went Captain Pardee, under instructions from Hesden Le Moyne to verify the will, discover who the testator really was, and then ascertain whether he had any living heirs.
To Mollie Ainslie the departure was a sad farewell to a life which she had entered upon so full of abounding hope and charity, so full of love for God and man, that she could not believe that all her bright hopes had withered and only ashes remained. The way was dark. The path was hedged up. The South was "redeemed."
The poor, ignorant white man had been unable to perceive that liberty for the slave meant elevation to him also. The poor, ignorant colored man had shown himself, as might well have been anticipated, unable to cope with intelligence, wealth, and the subtle power of the best trained political intellects of the nation; and it was not strange. They were all alone, and their allies were either as poor and weak as themselves, or were handicapped with the brand of Northern birth. These were their allies—not from choice, but from necessity. Few, indeed, were there of the highest and the best of those who had fought the nation in war as they had fought against the tide of liberty before the war began—who would accept the terms on which the nation gave re-established and greatly-increased power to the States of the South.
So there were ignorance and poverty and a hated race upon one side, and, upon the other, intelligence, wealth, and pride. The former outnumbered the latter; but the latter, as compared with the former, were a Grecian phalanx matched against a scattered horde of Scythian bowmen. The Nation gave the jewel of liberty into the hands of the former, armed them with the weapons of self-government, and said: "Ye are many; protect what ye have received." Then it took away its hand, turned away its eyes, closed its ears to every cry of protest or of agony, and said: "We will not aid you nor protect you. Though you are ignorant, from you will we demand the works of wisdom. Though you are weak, great things shall be required at your hands." Like the ancient taskmaster, the Nation said: "There shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks."