But, alas! they were weak and inept. The weapon they had received was two-edged. Sometimes they cut themselves; again they caught it by the blade, and those with whom they fought seized the hilt and made terrible slaughter. Then, too, they were not always wise—which was a sore fault, but not their own. Nor were they always brave, or true—which was another grievous fault; but was it to be believed that one hour of liberty would efface the scars of generations of slavery? Ah! well might they cry unto the Nation, as did Israel unto Pharaoh: "Theree is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, 'Make brick': and behold thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people." They had simply demonstrated that in the years of Grace of the nineteenth century liberty could not be maintained nor prosperity achieved by ignorance and poverty, any more than in the days of Moses adobe bricks could be made without straw. The Nation gave the power of the South into the hands of ignorance and poverty and inexperience, and then demanded of them the fruit of intelligence, the strength of riches, and the skill of experience. It put before a keen-eyed and unscrupulous minority—a minority proud, aggressive, turbulent, arrogant, and scornful of all things save their own will and pleasure—the temptation to enhance their power by seizing that held by the trembling hands of simple-minded and unskilled guardians. What wonder that it was ravished from their care?
Mollie Ainslie thought of these things with some bitterness. She did not doubt the outcome. Her faith in truth and liberty, and her proud confidence in the ultimate destiny of the grand Nation whose past she had worshiped from childhood, were too strong to permit that. She believed that some time in the future light would come out of the darkness; but between then and the present was a great gulf, whose depth of horror no man knew, in which the people to serve whom she had given herself must sink and suffer—she could not tell how long. For them there was no hope.
She did not, indeed, look for a continuance of the horrors which then prevailed. She knew that when the incentive was removed the acts would cease. There would be peace, because there would no longer be any need for violence. But she was sure there would be no real freedom, no equality of right, no certainty of justice. She did not care who ruled, but she knew that this people—she felt almost like calling them her people—needed the incentive of liberty, the inspiriting rivalry of open and fair competition, to enable them to rise. Ay, to prevent them from sinking lower and lower. She greatly feared that the words of a journal which gloried in all that had been done toward abbreviating and annulling the powers, rights, and opportunities of the recent slaves might yet become verities if these people were deprived of such incentives. She remembered how deeply-rooted in the Southern mind was the idea that slavery was a social necessity. She did not believe, as so many had insisted, that it was founded merely in greed. She believed that it was with sincere conviction that a leading journal had declared: "The evils of free society are insufferable. Free society must fail and give way to a class society—a social system old as the world, universal as man."
She knew that the leader of a would-be nation had declared: "A thousand must die as slaves or paupers in order that one gentleman may live. Yet they are cheap to any nation, even at that price."
So she feared that the victors in the post-bellum strife which was raging around her would succeed, for a time at least, in establishing this ideal "class society." While the Nation slumbered in indifference, she feared that these men, still full of the spirit of slavery, in the very name of law and order, under the pretense of decency and justice, would re-bind those whose feet had just begun to tread the path of liberty with shackles only less onerous than those which had been dashed from their limbs by red-handed war. As she thought of these things she read the following words from the pen of one who had carefully watched the process of "redemption," and had noted its results and tendency—not bitterly and angrily, as she had done, but coolly and approvingly:
"We would like to engrave a prophecy on stone, to be read of generations in the future. The Negro, in these [the Southern] States, will be slave again or cease to be. His sole refuge from extinction will be in slavery to the white man." [Footnote: Out of the numerous declarations of this conviction which have been made by the Southern press every year since the war, I have selected one from the Meridian (Miss.) Mercury of July 31st, 1880. I have done this simply to show that the sentiment is not yet dead.]
She remembered to have heard a great man say, on a memorable occasion, that "the forms of law have always been the graves of buried liberties." She feared that, under the "forms" of subverted laws, the liberties of a helpless people would indeed be buried. She had little care for the Nation. It was of those she had served and whose future she regarded with such engrossing interest that she thought. She did not dream of remedying the evil. That was beyond her power. She only thought she might save some from its scath. To that she devoted herself.
The day before, she had visited the cemetery where her brother's ashes reposed. She had long ago put a neat monument over his grave, and had herself supplemented the national appropriation for its care. It was a beautiful inclosure, walled with stone, verdant with soft turf, and ornamented with rare shrubbery. Across it ran a little stream, with green banks sloping either way. A single great elm drooped over its bubbling waters. A pleasant drive ran with easy grade and graceful curves down one low hill and up another. The iron gate opened upon a dusty highway. Beside it stood the keeper's neat brick lodge. In front, and a little to the right, lay a sleepy Southern town half hidden in embowering trees. Across the little ravine within the cemetery, upon the level plateau, were the graves, marked, in some cases, by little square white monuments of polished marble, on which was but the single word, "Unknown." A few bore the names of those who slept below. But on one side there were five long mounds, stretching away, side by side, as wide as the graves were long, and as long as four score graves. Smoothly rounded from end to end, without a break or a sign, they seemed a fit emblem of silence. Where they began, a granite pillar rose high, decked with symbols of glory interspersed with emblems of mourning. Cannon, battered and grim, the worn-out dogs of war, gaped with silent jaws up at the silent sky. No name was carved on base or capital, nor on the marble shield upon the shaft. Only, "Sacred to the memory of the unknown heroes who died—."
How quick the memory fills out the rest! There had been a military prison of the Confederacy just over the hill yonder, where the corn now grew so rank and thick. Twelve thousand men died there and were thrown into those long trenches where are now heaped-up mounds that look like giants' graves—not buried one by one, with coffin, shroud, and funeral rite, but one upon another heaped and piled, until the yawning pit would hold no more. No name was kept, no grave was marked, but in each trench was heaped one undistinguishable mass of dead humanity!
Mollie Ainslie, when she had bidden farewell to her brother's grave, looked on these piled-up trenches, scanned the silent shaft, and going into the keeper's office just at hand, read for herself the mournful record:
Known 94 Unknown 12,032 ——— Total 12,126 Died in Prison 11,700
As she wandered back to the town, she gleaned from what she had seen a lesson of charity for the people toward whom her heart had been full of hardness.
"It was thus," she said to herself, "that they treated brave foemen of their own race and people, who died, not on the battle-field, but of lingering disease in crowded prison pens, in the midst of pleasant homes and within hearing of the Sabbath chimes. None cared enough to give to each a grave, put up a simple board to mark the spot where love might come and weep—nay, not enough even to make entry of the name of the dead some heart must mourn. And if they did this to their dead foemen and kinsmen, their equals, why should we wonder that they manifest equal barbarity toward the living freedman—their recent slave, now suddenly exalted. It is the lesson and the fruitage of slavery!"
And so she made excuse both for the barbarity of war and the savagery which followed it by tracing both to their origin. She did not believe that human nature changed in an hour, but that centuries past bore fruit in centuries to come. She thought that the former master must be healed by the slow medicament of time before he could be able to recognize in all men the sanctity of manhood; as well as that the freedman must be taught to know and to defend his rights.
When she left the cemetery, she mounted Midnight for a farewell ride. The next morning, before he arose, Hesden Le Moyne heard the neigh of his old war-horse, and, springing from his bed, he ran out and found him hitched at his gate. A note was tied with a blue ribbon to his jetty forelock. He removed it, and read:
"I return your noble horse with many thanks for the long loan. May I hope that he will be known henceforth only as Midnight?
He thought he recognized the ribbon as one which he had often seen encircling the neck of the writer, and foolishly treasured it upon his heart as a keepsake.
The train bore away the teacher, and with her the wife and children who fled, not knowing their father's fate, and the lawyer who sought an owner for an estate whose heir was too honorable to hold it wrongfully.
REDEEMED OUT OF THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE.
Three months passed peacefully away in Horsford. In the "redeemed" county its "natural rulers" bore sway once more. The crops which Nimbus had cultivated were harvested by a Receiver of the Court. The families that dwelt at Red Wing awaited in sullen silence the outcome of the suits which had been instituted. Of Nimbus and Eliab not a word had been heard. Some thought they had been killed; others that they had fled. The family of Berry Lawson had disappeared from the new home which he had made near "Bre'er Rufe Patterson's," in Hanson County. Some said that they had gone South; others that they had gone East. "Bre'er Rufe" declared that he did not know where they had gone. All he knew was that he was "ober dar ob a Saturday night, an' dar dey was, Sally an' de chillen; an' den he went dar agin ob a Monday mornin' arly, an' dar dey wasn't, nary one ob' em."
The excitement with regard to the will, and her fear that Hesden was infected with the horrible virus of "Radicalism," had most alarmingly prostrated the invalid of Mulberry Hill. For a long time it was feared that her life of sufferirig was near its end. Hesden did not leave home at all, except once or twice to attend to some business as the trustee for the fugitive Jackson. Cousin Hetty had become a regular inmate of the house. All the invalid's affection for her dead daughter-in-law seemed to have been transferred to Hetty Lomax. No one could serve her so well. Even Hesden's attentions were less grateful. She spoke freely of the time when she should see Hetty in her sister's place, the mistress of Mulberry Hill. She had given up all fear of the property being claimed by others, since she had heard how small were the chances of discovering an heir whose claims were not barred; and though she had consented to forego her legal rights, she trusted that a way would be found to satisfy any who might be discovered. At any rate, she was sure that her promise would not bind her successor, and, with the usual stubbornness of the chronic invalid, she determined that the estate should not pass out of the family. In any event, she did not expect to live until the finding of an heir, should there chance to be one.
One of the good citizens of the county began to show himself in public for the first time since the raid on Red Wing. An ugly scar stretched from his forehead down along his nose and across his lips and chin. At the least excitement it became red and angry, and gave him at all times a ghastly and malevolent appearance. He was a great hero with the best citizens; was feted, admired, and praised; and was at once made a deputy sheriff under the new regime. Another most worthy citizen, the superintendent of a Sabbath-school, and altogether one of the most estimable citizens of the county, had been so seriously affected with a malignant brain-fever since that bloody night that he had not yet left his bed.
The colored men, most of whom from a foolish apprehension had slept in the woods until the election, now began to perceive that the nights were wholesome, and remained in their cabins. They seemed sullen and discontented, and sometimes whispered among themselves of ill-usage and unfair treatment; but they were not noisy and clamorous, as they had been before the work of "redemption." It was especially noted that they were much more respectful and complaisant to their superiors than they had been at any time since the Surrender. The old time "Marse" was now almost universally used, and few "niggers" presumed to speak to a white man in the country districts without removing their hats. In the towns the improvement was not so perceptible. The "sassy" ones seemed to take courage from their numbers, and there they were still sometimes "boisterous" and "obstreperous." On the whole, however, the result seemed eminently satisfactory, with a prospect of growing better every day. Labor was more manageable, and there were much fewer appeals to the law by lazy, impudent, and dissatisfied laborers. The master's word was rarely disputed upon the day of settlement, and there was every prospect of reviving hope and continued prosperity on the part of men who worked their plantations by proxy, and who had been previously very greatly annoyed and discouraged by the persistent clamor of their "hands" for payment.
There had been some ill-natured criticism of the course of Hesden Le Moyne. It was said that he had made some very imprudent remarks, both in regard to the treatment of Jordan Jackson and the affair at Red Wing. There were some, indeed, who openly declared that he had upheld and encouraged the niggers at Red Wing in their insolent and outrageous course, and had used language unworthy of a "Southern gentleman" concerning those patriotic men who had felt called upon, for the protection of their homes and property, to administer the somewhat severe lesson which had no doubt nipped disorder in the bud, saved them from the war of races which had imminently impended, and brought "redemption" to the county. Several of Hesden's personal friends called upon him and remonstrated with him upon his course. Many thought he should be "visited," and "Radicalism in the county stamped out" at once, root and branch. He received warning from the Klan to the effect that he was considered a dangerous character, and must change his tone and take heed to his footsteps. As, however, his inclination to the dangerous doctrines was generally attributed in a great measure to his unfortunate infatuation for the little "nigger-teacher," it was hoped that her absence would effect a cure. Especially was this opinion entertained when it became known that his mother was bitterly opposed to his course, and was fully determined to root the seeds of "Radicalism" from his mind. His attachment for her was well known, and it was generally believed that she might be trusted to turn him from the error of his ways, particularly as she was the owner of Red Wing, and had freely declared her intention not to leave him a foot of it unless he abandoned his absurd and vicious notions. Hesden himself, though he went abroad but little, saw that his friends had grown cool and that his enemies had greatly multiplied.
This was the situation of affairs in the good County of Horsford when, one bright morning in December—the morning of "that day whereon our Saviour's birth is celebrate"—Hesden Le Moyne rode to the depot nearest to his home, purchased two tickets to a Northern city, and, when the morning train came in, assisted his "boy" Charles to lift from a covered wagon which stood near by, the weak and pallid form of the long-lost "nigger preacher," Eliab Hill, and place him upon the train. It was noticed by the loungers about the depot that Hesden carried but half concealed a navy revolver which seemed to have seen service. There was some excitement in the little crowd over the reappearance of Eliab Hill, but he was not interfered with. In fact, the cars moved off so quickly after he was first seen that there was no time to recover from the surprise produced by the unexpected apparition. It was not until the smoke of the engine had disappeared in the distance that the wrath of the bystanders clothed itself in words.
Then the air reeked with expletives. What ought to have been done was discussed with great freedom. An excited crowd gathered around Charles as he was preparing to return home, and plied him with questions. His ignorance was phenomenal, but the look of stupefied wonder with which he regarded his questioners confirmed his words. It was not until he had proceeded a mile on his homeward way, with Midnight in leading behind the tail-board, that, having satisfied himself that there was no one within hearing, by peeping from beneath the canvas covering of the wagon, both before and behind, he tied the reins to one of the bows which upheld the cover, abandoned the mule to his own guidance, and throwing himself upon the mattress on which Eliab had lain, gave vent to roars of laughter.
"Yah, yah, yah!" he cried, as the tears rolled down his black face. "It du take Marse Hesden to wax dem fellers! Dar he war, jest ez cool an' keerless ez yer please, a'standin' roun' an' waitin' fer de train an' payin' no 'tention at all ter me an' de wagon by de platform, dar. Swar, but I war skeered nigh 'bout ter death, till I got dar an' seed him so quiet and keerless; an' Bre'er 'Liab, he war jest a-prayin' all de time—but dat's no wonder. Den, when de train whistle, Marse Hesden turn quick an' sharp an' I seed him gib dat ole pistol a jerk roun' in front, an' he come back an' sed, jest ez cool an' quiet, 'Now, Charles!' I declar' it stiddied me up jes ter hear him, an' den up comes Bre'er 'Liab in my arms. Marse Hesden helps a bit an' goes fru de crowd wid his mouf shet like a steel trap. We takes him on de cars. All aboard! Whoo-oop—puff, puff! Off she goes! an' dat crowd stan's dar a-cussin' all curration an' demselves to boot! Yah, yah, yah! 'Rah for Marse Hesden!"
IN THE CYCLONE.
Then the storm burst. Every possible story was set afloat. The more absurd it seemed the more generally was it credited. Men talked and women chattered of nothing but Hesden Le Moyne, his infamous "negro-loving Radicalism," his infatuation with the "Yankee school-marm," the anger of his mother, his ill-treatment of his cousin, Hetty Lomax; his hiding of the "nigger preacher" in the loft of the dining-room, his alliance with the Red Wing desperadoes to "burn every white house on that side of the river"—in short, his treachery, his hypocrisy, his infamy.
On the street, in the stores, at the churches—wherever men met—this was the one unfailing theme of conversation. None but those who have seen a Southern community excited over one subject or one man can imagine how much can be said about a little matter. The newspapers of that and the adjoining counties were full of it. Colored men were catechized in regard to it. His friends vied with his enemies in vituperation, lest they should be suspected of a like offense. He was accounted a monster by many, and an enemy by all who had been his former associates, and, strangely enough, was at once looked upon as a friend and ally by every colored man, and by the few white men of the county who secretly or silently held with the "Radicals." It was the baptism of fire which every Southern man must face who presumes to differ from his fellows upon political questions.
Nothing that he had previously done or said or been could excuse or palliate his conduct. The fact that he was of a good family only rendered his alliance with "niggers" against his own race and class the more infamous. The fact that he was a man of substantial means, and had sought no office or aggrandizement by the votes of colored men, made his offence the more heinous, because he could not even plead the poor excuse of self-interest. The fact that he had served the Confederacy well, and bore on his person the indubitable proof of gallant conduct on the field of battle, was a still further aggravation of his act, because it marked him as a renegade and a traitor to the cause for which he had fought. Compared with a Northern Republican he was accounted far more infamous, because of his desertion of his family, friends, comrades, and "the cause of the South"—a vague something which no man can define, but which "fires the Southern heart" with wonderful facility. Comparison with the negro was still more to his disadvantage, since he had "sinned against light and knowledge," while they did not even know their own "best friends." And so the tide of detraction ebbed and flowed while Hesden was absent, his destination unknown, his return a matter of conjecture, and his purpose a mystery.
The most generally-accepted theory was that he had gone to Washington for the purpose of maliciously misrepresenting and maligning the good people of Horsford, in order to secure the stationing of soldiers in that vicinity, and their aid in arresting and bringing to trial, for various offences against the peace and persons of the colored people, some of the leading citizens of the county. In support of this they cited his intimate relations with Jordan Jackson, as well as with Nimbus and Eliab. It was soon reported that Jackson had met him at Washington; that Nimbus Desmit had also arrived there; that the whole party had been closeted with this and that leading "Radical"; and that the poor, stricken, down-trodden South—the land fairest and richest and poorest and most peaceful and most chivalric, the most submissive and the most defiant; in short, the most contradictory in its self-conferred superlatives—that this land of antipodal excellences must now look for new forms of tyranny and new measures of oppression.
The secrecy which had been preserved for three months in regard to Eliab's place of concealment made a most profound impression upon Hesden's neighbors of the County of Horsford. They spoke of it in low, horrified tones, which showed that they felt deeply in regard to it. It was ascertained that no one in his family knew of the presence of Eliab until the morning of his removal. Miss Hetty made haste to declare that in her two months and more of attendance upon the invalid she had never dreamed of such a thing. The servants stoutly denied all knowledge of it, except Charles, who could not get out of having cut the door through into the other room. It was believed that Hesden had himself taken all the care of the injured man, whose condition was not at all understood. How badly he had been hurt, or in what manner, none could tell. Many visited the house to view the place of concealment. Only the closed doors could be seen, for Hesden had taken the key with him. Some suggested that Nimbus was still concealed there, and several advised Mrs. Le Moyne to get some one to go into the room. However, as no one volunteered to go, nothing came of this advice. It was rumored, too, that Hesden had brought into the county several detectives, who had stolen into the hearts of the unsuspecting people of Horsford, and had gone Northward loaded down with information that would make trouble for some of the "best men."
It was generally believed that the old attic over the dining-room had long been a place where "Radicals" had been wont to meet in solemn conclave to "plot against the whites." A thousand things were remembered which confirmed this view. It was here that Hesden had harbored the detectives, as Rahab had hidden the spies. It was quite evident that he had for a long time been an emissary of the Government at Washington, and no one could guess what tales of outrage he might not fabricate in order to glut his appetite for inhuman revenge. The Southern man is always self-conscious. He thinks the world has him in its eye, and that he about fills the eye. This does not result from comparative depreciation of others so much as from a habit of magnifying his own image. He always poses for effect. He walks, talks, and acts "as if he felt the eyes of Europe on his tail," almost as much as the peacock.
There are times, however, when even he does not care to be seen, and it was observed that about this time there were a goodly number of the citizens of Horsford who modestly retired from the public gaze, some of them even going into remote States with some precipitation and an apparent desire to remain for a time unknown. It was even rumored that Hesden was with Nimbus, disguised as a negro, in the attack made on the Klan during the raid on Red Wing, and that, by means of the detectives, he had discovered every man engaged in that patriotic affair, as well as those concerned in others of like character. The disappearance of these men was, of course, in no way connected with this rumor. Since the "Southern people" have become the great jesters of the world, their conduct is not at all to be judged by the ordinary rules of cause and effect as applied to human action. It might have been mere buffoonery, quite as well as modesty, that possessed some of the "best citizens of Horsford" with an irrepressible desire to view the Falls of Niagara from the Canadian side in mid-winter. There is no accounting for the acts of a nation of masqueraders!
But perhaps the most generally-accepted version of Hesden's journey was that he had run away to espouse Mollie Ainslie. To her was traced his whole bias toward the colored population and "Radical" principles. Nothing evil was said of her character. She was admitted to be as good as anybody of her class could be—intelligent, bigoted, plucky, pretty, and malicious. It was a great pity that a man belonging to a good family should become infatuated by one in her station. He could never bring her home, and she would never give up her "nigger-equality notions." She had already dragged him down to what he was. Such a man as he, it was strenuously asserted, would not degrade himself to stand up for such a man as Jordan Jackson or to associate with "niggers," without some powerful extraneous influence. That influence was Mollie Ainslie, who, having inveigled him into "Radicalism," had now drawn him after her into the North and matrimony.
But nowhere did the conduct of Hesden cause more intense or conflicting feelings than at Mulberry Hill. His achievement in succoring, hiding, and finally rescuing Eliab Hill was a source of never-ending wonder, applause, and mirth in the kitchen. But Miss Hetty could not find words to express her anger and chagrin. Without being at all forward or immodest, she had desired to succeed her dead sister in the good graces of Hesden Le Moyne, as well as in the position of mistress of the Hill. It was a very natural and proper feeling. They were cousins, had always been neighbors, and Hesden's mother had encouraged the idea, almost from the time of his first wife's death. It was no wonder that she was jealous of the Yankee school-marm. Love is keen-eyed, and she really loved her cousin. She had become satisfied, during her stay at the Hill, that he was deeply attached to Mollie Ainslie, and knew him too well to hope that he would change; and such a conviction was, of course, not pleasant to her vanity. But when she was convinced that he had degraded himself and her by espousing "Radicalism" and associating with "niggers," her wrath knew no bounds. It seemed an especial insult to her that the man whom she had honored with her affection should have so demeaned himself.
Mrs. Le Moyne was at first astonished, then grieved, and finally angry. She especially sympathized with Hetty, the wreck of whose hope she saw in this revelation. If Mollie Ainslie had been "one of our people," instead of "a Northern nigger school-teacher," there would have been nothing so very bad about it. He had never professed any especial regard or tenderness for Miss Hetty, and had never given her any reason to expect a nearer relation than she had always sustained toward him. Mollie was good enough in her way, bright and pretty and—but faugh! the idea! She would not believe it! Hesden was not and could not be a "Radical." He might have sheltered Eliab—ought to have done so; that she would say. He had been a slave of the family, and had a right to look to her son for protection. But to be a "Radical!" She would not believe it. There was no use in talking to her. She remained stubbornly silent after she had gotten to the conclusive denial: "He could not do it!"
Nevertheless, she thought it well to use her power while she had any. If he was indeed a "Radical," she would never forgive him—never! So she determined to make her will. A man learned in the law was brought to the Hill, and Hester Le Moyne, in due form, by her last will and testament devised the plantation to her beloved son Hesden Le Moyne, and her affectionate cousin Hetty Lomax, jointly, and to their heirs forever, on condition that the said devisees should intermarry with each other within one year from the death of the devisor; and in case either of the said devisees should refuse to intermarry with the other, then the part of such devisee was to go to the other, who should thereafter hold the fee in severalty, free of all claim from the other.
The New York and Boston papers contained, day after day, this "personal:"
"The heirs of James Richards, deceased, formerly of Marblehead, Massachusetts, will learn something to their advantage by addressing Theron Pardee, care of James & Jones, Attorneys, at No. — Broadway, N. Y."
Mrs. Le Moyne was well aware of this, and also remembered her promise to surrender the estate, should an heir be found. But that promise had been made under the influence of Hesden's ardent zeal for the right, and she found by indirection many excuses for avoiding its performance. "Of course," she said to herself, "if heirs should be found in my lifetime, I would revoke this testament; but it is not right that I should bind those who come after me for all time to yield to his Quixotic notions. Besides, why should I be juster than the law? This property has been in the family for a long time, and ought to remain there."
Her anger at Hesden burned very fiercely, and she even talked of refusing to see him, should he return, as she had no real doubt he would. The excitement, however, prostrated her as usual, and her anger turned into querulous complainings as she grew weaker.
The return of Hesden, hardly a week after his departure, brought him to face this tide of vituperation at its flood. All that had been said and written and done in regard to himself came forthwith to his knowledge. He was amazed, astounded for a time, at the revelation. He had not expected it. He had expected anger, and was prepared to meet it with forbearance and gentleness; but he was not prepared for detraction and calumny and insult. He had not been so very much surprised at the odium which had been heaped upon Jordan Jackson. He belonged to that class of white people at the South to whom the better class owed little duty or regard. It was not so strange that they should slander that man. He could understand, too, how it was that they attributed to the colored people such incredible depravity, such capacity for evil, such impossible designs, as well as the reason why they invented for every Northern man that came among them with ideas different from their own a fictitious past, reeking with infamy.
He could sympathize in some degree with all of this. He had not thought, himself, that it was altogether the proper thing for the illiterate "poor-white" man, Jordan Jackson, to lead the negroes of the county in political hostility to the whites. He had felt naturally the distrust of the man of Northern birth which a century of hostility and suspicion had bred in the air of the South. He had grown up in it. He had been taught to regard the "Yankees" (which meant all Northerners) as a distinct people—sometimes generous and brave, but normally envious, mean, low-spirited, treacherous, and malignant. He admitted the exceptions, but they only proved the rule. As a class he considered them cold, calculating, selfish, greedy of power and wealth, and regardless of the means by which these were acquired. Above all things, he had been taught to regard them as animated by hatred of the South. Knowing that this had been his own bias, he could readily excuse his neighbors for the same.
But in his own case it was different. He was one of themselves. They knew him to be brave, honorable, of good family, of conservative instincts, fond of justice and fair play, and governed in his actions only by the sincerest conviction. That they should accuse him of every mean and low impossibility of act and motive, and befoul his holiest purposes and thoughts, was to him a most horrible thing. His anger grew hotter and hotter, as he listened to each new tale of infamy which a week had sufficed to set afloat. Then he heard his mother's reproaches, and saw that even her love was not proof against a mere change of political sentiment on his part. These things set him to thinking as he had never thought before. The scales fell from his eyes, and from the kindly gentle Southern man of knightly instincts and gallant achievements was born—the "pestiferous Radical." He did not hesitate to avow his conviction, and from that moment there was around him a wall of fire. He had lost his rank, degraded his caste, and fallen from his high estate. From and after that moment he was held unworthy to wear the proud appellation, "A Southern Gentleman."
However, as he took no active part in political life, and depended in no degree upon the patronage or good will of his neighbors for a livelihood, he felt the force of this feeling only in his social relations. Unaware, as yet, of the disherison which his mother had visited upon him in his absence, he continued to manage the plantation and conduct all the business pertaining to it in his own name, as he had done ever since the close of the war. At first he entertained a hope that the feeling against him would die out. But as time rolled on, and it continued still potent and virulent, he came to analyze it more closely, judging his fellows by himself, and saw that it was the natural fruit of that intolerance which slavery made necessary—which was essential to its existence. Then he no longer wondered at them, but at himself. It did not seem strange that they should feel as they did, but rather that he should so soon have escaped from the tyrannical bias of mental habit. He saw that the struggle against it must be long and bitter, and he determined not to yield his convictions to the prejudices of others.
It was a strange thing. In one part of the country—and that the greater in numbers, in wealth, in enterprise and vigor, in average intelligence and intellectual achievements—the sentiments he had espoused were professed and believed by a great party which prided itself upon its intelligence, purity, respectability, and devotion to principle. In two thirds of the country his sentiments were held to be honorable, wise, and patriotic. Every act he had performed, every principle he had reluctantly avowed, would there have been applauded of all men. Nay, the people of that portion of the country were unable to believe that any one could seriously deny those principles. Yet in the other portion, where he lived, they were esteemed an ineffaceable brand of shame, which no merit of a spotless life could hide.
The Southern Clarion, a newspaper of the County of Horsford, in referring to his conduct, said:
"Of all such an example should be made. Inaugurate social ostracism against every white man who gives any support to the Radical Party. Every true Southern man or woman should refuse to recognize as a gentleman any man belonging to that party, or having any dealings with it. Hesden Le Moyne has chosen to degrade an honored name. He has elected to go with niggers, nigger teachers, and nigger preachers; but let him forever be an outcast among the respectable and high minded white people of Horsford, whom he has betrayed and disgraced!"
A week later, it contained another paragraph:
"We understand that the purpose of Hesden Le Moyne in going to the North was not entirely to stir up Northern prejudice and hostility against our people. At least, that is what he claims. He only went, we are informed he says, to take the half-monkey negro preacher who calls himself Eliab Hill to a so-called college in the North to complete his education. We shall no doubt soon have this misshapen, malicious hypocrite paraded through the North as an evidence of Southern barbarity.
"The truth is, as we are credibly informed, that what injuries he received on the night of the raid upon Red Wing were purely accidental. There were some in the company, it seems, who were disappointed at not finding the black desperado, Nimbus Desmit, who was organizing his depraved followers to burn, kill, and ravish, and proposed to administer a moderate whipping to the fellow Eliab, who was really supposed to be at the bottom of all the other's rascality. These few hot-heads burst in the door of his cabin, but one of the oldest and coolest of the crowd rushed in and, at the imminent risk of his own life, rescued him from them. In order to bring him out into the light where he could be protected, he caught the baboon-like creature by his foot, and he was somewhat injured thereby. He is said to have been shot also, but we are assured that not a shot was fired, except by some person with a repeating rifle, who fired upon the company of white men from the woods beyond the school-house. It is probable that some of these shots struck the preacher, and it is generally believed that they were fired by Hesden Le Moyne. Several who were there have expressed the opinion that, from the manner in which the shooting was done, it must have been by a man with one arm. However, Eliab will make a good Radical show, and we shall have another dose of Puritanical, hypocritical cant about Southern barbarity. Well, we can bear it. We have got the power in Horsford, and we mean to hold it. Niggers and nigger-worshippers must take care of themselves. This is a white man's country, and white men are going to rule it, no matter whether the North whines or not."
The report given in this account of the purpose of Hesden's journey to the North was the correct one. In the three months in which the deformed man had been under his care, he had learned that a noble soul and a rare mind were shut up in that crippled form, and had determined to atone for his former coolness and doubt, as well as mark his approval of the course of this hunted victim, by giving him an opportunity to develop his powers. He accordingly placed him in a Northern college, and became responsible for the expenses of his education.
A BOLT OUT OF THE CLOUD.
A year had passed, and there had been no important change in the relations of the personages of our story. The teacher and her "obstreperous" pupils had disappeared from Horsford and had been almost forgotten. Hesden, his mother, and Cousin Hetty still led their accustomed life at Red Wing. Detraction had worn itself out upon the former, for want of a new occasion. He was still made to feel, in the little society which he saw, that he was a black sheep in an otherwise spotless fold. He did not complain. He did not account himself "ostracized," nor wonder at this treatment. He saw how natural it was, how consistent with the training and development his neighbors had received. He simply said to himself, and to the few friends who still met him kindly, "I can do without the society of others as long as they can do without mine. I can wait. This thing must end some time—if not in my day, then afterward. Our people must come out of it and rise above it. They must learn that to be Americans is better than to be 'Southern.' Then they will see that the interests and safety of the whole nation demand the freedom and political co-equality of all."
These same friends comforted him much as did those who argued with the man of Uz.
Mrs. Le Moyne's life had gone back to its old channel. Shut out from the world, she saw only the fringes of the feeling that had set so strongly against her son. Indeed, she received perhaps more attention than usual in the way of calls and short visits, since she was understood to have manifested a proper spirit of resentment at his conduct. Hesden himself was almost the only one who did not know of her will. It was thought, of course, that she was holding it over him in terrorem.
Yet he was just as tender and considerate of her as formerly, and she was apparently just as fond of him. She had not yet given up her plan of a matrimonial alliance for him with Cousin Hetty, but that young lady herself had quite abandoned the notion. In the year she had been at Mulberry Hill she had come to know Hesden better, and to esteem him more highly than ever before. She knew that he regarded her with none of the feeling his mother desired to see between them, but they had become good friends, and after a short time she was almost the only one of his relatives that had not allowed his political views to sunder their social relations. Living in the same house, it was of course impossible to maintain a constant state of siege; but she had gone farther, and had held out a flag of truce, and declared her conviction of the honesty of his views and the honorableness of his intention. She did not think as he did, but she had finally become willing to let him think for himself. People said she was in love with Hesden, and that with his mother's aid she would yet conquer his indifference. She did not think so. She sighed when she confessed the fact to herself. She did indeed hope that he had forgotten Mollie Ainslie. She could never live to see her mistress at the dear old Hill!
The term of the court was coming on at which the suits that had been brought by Winburn against the occupants of Red Wing must be tried. Many had left the place, and it was noticed that from all who desired to leave, Theron Pardee had purchased, at the full value, the titles which they held under Nimbus, and that they had all gone off somewhere out West. Others had elected to remain, with a sort of blind faith that all would come out right after a while, or from mere disinclination to leave familiar scenes—that feeling which is always so strong in the African race.
It was at this time that Pardee came one day to Mulberry Hill and announced his readiness to make report in the matter intrusted to his charge concerning the will of J. Richards.
"Well," said Hesden, "have you found the heirs?"
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Le Moyne," said Pardee; "I have assumed a somewhat complicated relation to this matter, acting under the spirit of my instructions, which makes it desirable, perhaps almost necessary, that I should confer directly with the present owner of this plantation, and that is—?"
"My mother," said Hesden, as he paused. "I suppose it will be mine some time," he continued laughing, "but I have no present interest in it."
"Yes," said the lawyer. "And is Mrs. Le Moyne's health such as to permit her considering this matter now?"
"Oh, I think so," said Hesden. "I will see her and ascertain."
In a short time the attorney was ushered into the invalid's room, where Mrs. Le Moyne, reclining on her beautifully decorated couch, received him pleasantly, exclaiming,
"You will see how badly off I am for company, Captain Pardee, when I assure you that I am glad to see even a lawyer with such a bundle of papers as you have brought. I have literally nobody but these two children," glancing at Hesden and Hetty, "and I declare I believe I am younger and more cheerful than either of them."
"Your cheerfulness, madam," replied Pardee, "is an object of universal remark and wonder. I sincerely trust that nothing in these papers will at all affect your equanimity."
"But what have you in that bundle, Captain?" she asked. "I assure you that I am dying to know why you should insist on assailing a sick woman with such a formidable array of documents."
"Before proceeding to satisfy your very natural curiosity, madam," answered Pardee, with a glance at Miss Hetty, "permit me to say that my communication is of great moment to you as the owner of this plantation, and to your son as your heir, and is of such a character that you might desire to consider it carefully before it should come to the knowledge of other parties."
"Oh, never mind Cousin Hetty," said Mrs. Le Moyne quickly. "She has just as much interest in the matter as any one."
The lawyer glanced at Hesden, who hastened to say, "I am sure there can be nothing of interest to me which I would not be willing that my cousin should know."
The young lady rose to go, but both Hesden and Mrs. Le Moyne insisted on her remaining.
"Certainly," said Pardee, "there can be no objection on my part. I merely called your attention to the fact as a part of my duty as your legal adviser."
So Miss Hetty remained sitting upon the side of the bed, holding one of the invalid's hands. Pardee seated himself at a small table near the bed, and, having arranged his papers so that they would be convenient for reference, began:
"You will recollect, madam, that the task intrusted to me was twofold: first, to verify this will found by your son and ascertain whose testament it was, its validity or invalidity; and, in case It was valid, its effect and force. Secondly, I was directed to make all reasonable effort, in case of its validity being established, to ascertain the existence of any one entitled to take under its provisions. In this book," said he, holding up a small volume, "I have kept a diary of all that I have done in regard to the matter, with dates and places. It will give you in detail what I shall now state briefly.
"I went to Lancaster, where the will purports to have been executed, and ascertained its genuineness by proving the signatures of the attesting witnesses, and established also the fact of their death. These affidavits'—holding up a bundle of papers—"show that I also inquired as to the testator's identity; but I could learn nothing except that the descendants of one of the witnesses who had bought your ancestor's farm, upon his removal to the South, still had his deed in possession. I copied it, and took a tracing of the signature, which is identical with that which he subsequently used —James Richards, written in a heavy and somewhat sloping hand, for that time. I could learn nothing more in regard to him or his family.
"Proceeding then to Marblehead, I learned these facts. There were two parties named James Richards. They were cousins; and in order to distinguish them from each other they were called by the family and neighbors, 'Red Jim' and 'Black Jim' respectively—the one having red hair and blue eyes, and the other dark hair and black eyes."
"Yes," interrupted Mrs. Le Moyne, "I was the only blonde in my family, and I have often heard my father say that I got it from some ancestral strain, perhaps the Whidbys, and resembled his cousins."
"Yes," answered Pardee, "a Whidby was a common ancestress of your father and his cousin, 'Red Jim.' It is strange how family traits reproduce themselves in widely-separated strains of blood."
"Well," said Hesden, "did you connect him with this will?"
"Most conclusively," was the reply. "In the first place, his wife's name was Edna—Edna Goddard—before marriage, and he left an only daughter, Alice. He was older than his cousin, 'Black Jim,' to whom he was greatly attached. The latter removed to Lancaster, when about twenty-five years of age, having inherited a considerable estate in that vicinity. I had not thought of examining the record of wills while in Lancaster, but on my return I went to the Prothonotary's office, and verified this also. So there is no doubt about the 'Black Jim' of the Marblehead family being your ancestor."
"Stop! stop! Captain Pardee!" interrupted Mrs. Le Moyne quickly. "Isn't Marblehead near Cape Cod?"
"And Buzzard's Bay?"
"No wonder," said she, laughing, "that you wanted Hetty to leave before you opened your budget. Do pray run away, child, before you hear any more to our discredit. Hesden, do please escort your cousin out of the room," she added, in assumed distress.
"No indeed," laughed Miss Hetty; "I am getting interested, and as you would not let me go when I wished to, I have now determined to stay till the last horror is revealed."
"It is too late, mother," said Hesden ruefully; "fortunately, Cousin Hetty is not attainted, except collaterally, thus far."
"Well, go on, Captain," said Mrs. Le Moyne gayly. "What else? Pray what was the family occupation—'calling' I believe they say in New England. I suppose they had some calling, as they never have any 'gentlemen' in that country."
Pardee's face flushed hotly. He was born among the New Hampshire hills himself. However, he answered calmly, but with a slight emphasis,
"They were seafaring men, madam."
"Oh, my!" cried the invalid, clapping her hands. "Codfish! codfish! I knew it, Hetty! I knew it! Why didn't you go out of the room when I begged you to? Do you hear it, Hesden? That is where you get your Radicalism from. My! my!" she laughed, almost hysterically, "what a family! Codfish at one end and Radical at the other! 'And the last state of that man was worse than the first!' What would not the newspapers give to know that of you, Hesden?"
She laughed until the tears came, and her auditors laughed with her. Yet, despite her mirth, it was easy to detect the evidence of strong feeling in her manner. She carried it off bravely, however, and said,
"But, perhaps, Captain Pardee, you can relieve us a little. Perhaps they were not cod-fishers but mackerelers. I remember a song I have heard my father sing, beginning,
"When Jake came home from mack'reling, He sought his Sary Ann, And found that she, the heartless thing, Had found another man!"
"Do please say that they were mackerelers!"
"I am sorry I cannot relieve your anxiety on that point," said Pardee, but I can assure you they were a very respectable family."
"No doubt, as families go 'there," she answered, with some bitterness. "They doubtless sold good fish, and gave a hundred pounds for a quintal, or whatever it is they sell the filthy truck by."
"They were very successful and somewhat noted privateers during the Revolution," said Pardee.
"Worse and worse!" said Mrs. Le Moyne. Better they were fishermen than pirates! I wonder if they didn't bring over niggers too?"
"I should not be at all surprised," answered Pardee coolly. "This 'Red Jim' was master and owner of a vessel of some kind, and was on his way back from Charleston, where it seems he had sold both his vessel and cargo, when he executed this will."
"But how do you know that it is his will?" asked Hesden.
"Oh, there is no doubt," said Pardee. "Being a shipmaster, his signature was necessarily affixed to many papers. I have found not less than twenty of these, all identical with the signature of the will."
"That would certainly seem to be conclusive," said Hesden.
"Taken with other things, it is," answered Pardee. "Among other things is a letter from your grandfather, which was found pasted inside the cover of a Bible that belonged to Mrs. Edna Richards, in regard to the death of her husband. In it he says that his cousin visited him on his way home; went from there to Philadelphia, and was taken sick; your grandfather was notified and went on, but death had taken place before he arrived. The letter states that he had but little money and no valuable papers except such as he sent. Out of the money he had paid the funeral expenses, and would remit the balance as soon as he could make an opportunity. The tradition in 'Red Jim's' family is that he died of yellow fever in Philadelphia, on his way home with the proceeds of his sale, and was robbed of his money before the arrival of his cousin. No suspicion seems ever to have fallen on "Black Jim."
"Thank God for that!" ejaculated Hesden fervently.
"I suppose you took care to awaken none," said Mrs. Le Moyne.
"I spoke of it to but one person, to whom it became absolutely necessary to reveal it. However, it is perfectly safe, and will go no farther."
"Well, did you find any descendants of this 'Red Jim' living?" asked Mrs. Le Moyne.
"One," answered Pardee.
"Only one?" said she. "I declare. Hesden, the Richards family is not numerous if it is strong."
"Why do you say 'strong,' mother?"
"Oh, codfish and Radicals, you know!"
"Oh, if you hate to hear about it, why don't you quit the dirty crowd and be a gentleman again. Or is it your new-found cousin you feel so bad for? By the way, Captain, is it a boy or girl, and is it old or young?"
"It is a lady, madam, some twenty years of age or thereabout."
"A lady? Well, I suppose that is what they call them there. Married or single?"
"What a pity you are getting so old, Hesden! You might make a match and settle her claim in that way. Though I don't suppose she has any in law."
"On the contrary, madam," said Pardee, "her title is perfect. She can recover not only this plantation but every rood of the original tract."
"You don't say!" exclaimed the invalid. "It would make her one of the richest women in the State!"
"Oh, it cannot be, Captain Pardee!" exclaimed Miss Hetty. "It cannot be!"
"There can be no doubt about it," said Pardee. "She is the great-grand-daughter of 'Red Jim,' and his only lineal descendant. His daughter Alice, to whom this is bequeathed, married before arriving at the age of eighteen, and died in wedlock, leaving an only daughter, who also married before she became of age, and also died in wedlock, leaving a son and daughter surviving. The son died without heirs of his body, and only the daughter is left. There has never been an hour when the action of the statute was not barred."
"Have you seen her?" asked Mrs. Le Moyne.
"Does she know her good luck?"
"She is fully informed of her rights."
"Indeed? You told her, I suppose?"
"I found her already aware of them."
"Why, how could that be?"
"I am sure I do not know," said Pardee, glancing sharply at Hesden.
"What," said Hesden, with a start; "what did you say is the name of the heir?"
"I did not say," said Pardee coolly. Hesden sprang to his feet, and going across the room stood gazing out of the window.
"Why don't you tell us the name of the heir, Captain? You must know we are dying to hear all about our new cousin," said Mrs. Le Moyne bitterly. "Is she long or short, fat or lean, dark or fair? Do tell us all about her?"
"In appearance, madam," said Pardee carelessly, "I should say she much resembled yourself at her age."
"Oh, Captain, you flatter me, I'm sure," she answered, with just a hint of a sneer. "Well, what is her name, and when does she wish to take possession?"
"Her name, madam, you must excuse me if I withhold for the present. I am the bearer of a proposition of compromise from her, which, if accepted, will, I hope, avoid all trouble. If not accepted, I shall find myself under the necessity of asking to be relieved from further responsibility in this matter."
"Come here, Hesden," said his mother, "and hear what terms your new cousin wants for Mulberry Hill. I hope we won't have to move out till spring. It would be mighty bad to be out of doors all winter. Go on, Captain Pardee, Hesden is ready now. This is what comes of your silly idea about doing justice to some low-down Yankee. It's a pity you hadn't sense enough to burn the will up. It would have been better all round. The wealth will turn the girl's head, and the loss of my home will kill me," she continued fiercely to her son.
"As to the young lady, you need have no fear," said Pardee. "She is not one of the kind that lose their heads.
"Ah, you seem to be quite an admirer of her?"
"I am, madam."
"If we do not accept her proposal, you will no doubt become her attorney?"
"I am such already."
"You don't say so? Well, you are making good speed. I should think you might have waited till you had dropped us before picking her up. But then, it will be a good thing to be the attorney of such an heiress, and we shall be poor indeed after she gets her own—as you say it is."
"Madam," said Pardee seriously, "I shall expect you to apologize both to me and to my client when you have heard her proposition."
"I shall be very likely to, Mr. Pardee," she said, with a dry laugh. "I come of an apologetic race. Old Jim Richards was full of apologies. He liked to have died of them, numberless times. But what is your proposal?"
"As I said," remarked Pardee, "my client—I beg pardon—the great-grand-daughter of 'Red Jim' Richards, instructs me to say that she does not desire to stain her family name or injure your feelings by exposing the fraud of your ancestor, 'Black Jim' Richards.
"What, sir!" said Mrs. Le Moyne sharply. "Fraud! You had better measure your words, sir, when you speak of my father. Do you hear that, Hesden? Have you lost all spirit since you became a Radical?" she continued, while her eyes flashed angrily.
"I am sorry to say that I do not see what milder term could be used," said Hesden calmly. "Go on with your proposition, sir."
"Well, as I said," continued the lawyer, "this young lady, desiring to save the family name and your feelings from the shock of exposure, has instructed me to say: First, that she does not wish to disturb any of those rights which have been obtained by purchase from your ancestor; and second, that she understands that there is a dispute in regard to the title of a portion of it—the tract generally known as Red Wing—neither of the parties claiming which have any title as against her. She understands that the title held by Winburn is technically good against that of the colored man, Nimbus Desmit, providing hers is not set up.
"Now she proposes that if you will satisfy Winburn and obtain a quit-claim from him to Desmit, she will make a deed in fee to Mrs. Le Moyne of the whole tract; and as you hold by inheritance from one who purported to convey the fee, the title will thereafter be estopped, and all rights held under the deeds of 'Black Jim' Richards will be confirmed."
"Well, what else?" asked Mrs. Le Moyne breathlessly, as he paused.
"There is nothing more."
"Nothing more! Why, does the girl propose to give away all this magnificent property for nothing?" she asked in astonishment.
"Absolutely nothing to her own comfort or advantage," answered the attorney.
"Well, now, that is kind—that is kind!" said the invalid. "I am sorry for what I have said of her, Captain Pardee."
"I thought you would be, madam," he replied.
"You must attend to that Red Wing matter immediately, Hesden," she said, thoughtfully.
"You accept the proposal then?" asked Pardee.
"Accept, man? Of course we do!" said Mrs. Le Moyne.
"Stop, mother!" said Hesden. "You may accept for yourself, but not for me. Is this woman able to give away such a fortune?" he asked of Pardee.
"She is not rich. She has been a teacher, and has some property—enough, she insists, for comfort," was the answer.
"If she had offered to sell, I would have bought at any possible price, but I cannot take such a gift!"
"Do you accept the terms?" asked Pardee of Mrs. Le Moyne.
"I do," she answered doggedly, but with a face flushing with shame.
"Then, madam, let me say that I have already shown the proofs in confidence to Winburn's attorney. He agrees that they have no chance, and is willing to sell the interest he represents for five hundred dollars. That I have already paid, and have taken a quit-claim to Desmit. Upon the payment of that, and my bill for services, I stand ready to deliver to you the title."
The whole amount was soon ascertained and a check given to Pardee for the sum. Thereupon he handed over to Mrs. Le Moyne a deed in fee-simple, duly executed, covering the entire tract, except that about Red Wing, which was conveyed to Nimbus in a deed directly to him. Mrs. Le Moyne unfolded the deed, and turning quickly to the last page read the name of the donor:
"What!" she exclaimed, "not the little nigger teacher at Red Wing?"
"The same, madam," said Pardee, with a smile and a bow.
The announcement was too much for the long-excited invalid. She fell back fainting upon her pillow, and while Cousin Hetty devoted herself to restoring her relative to consciousness, Pardee gathered up his papers and withdrew. Hesden followed him, presently, and asked where Miss Ainslie was.
"I am directed," said Pardee, "not to disclose her residence, but will at any time forward any communication you may desire to make."
AN UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER.
The next day Mr. Pardee received a note from Mrs. Le Moyne, requesting him to come to Mulberry Hill at his earliest convenience. Being at the time disengaged, he returned with the messenger. Upon being ushered again into the invalid's room, he found Miss Hetty Lomax with a flushed face standing by the bedside. Both the ladies greeted him with some appearance of embarrassment.
"Cousin Hetty," said the invalid, "will you ask Hesden to come here for a moment?"
Miss Hetty left the room, and returned a moment afterward in company with Hesden.
"Hesden," said Mrs. Le Moyne, "were you in earnest in what you said yesterday in regard to receiving any benefits under this deed?"
"Certainly, mother," replied Hesden; "I could never consent to do so."
"Very well, my son," said the invalid; "you are perhaps right; but I wish you to know that I had heretofore made my will, giving to you and Cousin Hetty a joint interest in my estate. You know the feeling which induced me to do so. I am in the confessional to-day, and may as well admit that I was hasty and perhaps unjust in so doing. In justice to Cousin Hetty I wish also to say—"
"Oh, please, Mrs. Le Moyne," interrupted Hetty, blushing deeply.
"Hush, my child," said the invalid tenderly; "I must be just to you as well as to others. Hetty," she continued, turning her eyes upon Hesden, who stood looking in wonder from one to the other, "has long tried to persuade me to revoke that instrument. I have at length determined to cancel and destroy it, and shall proceed to make a new one, which I desire that both of you shall witness when it has been drawn."
Being thus dismissed, Hesden and his cousin withdrew, while Pardee seated himself at the little table by the bedside, on which writing materials had already been placed, and proceeded to receive instructions and prepare the will as she directed. When it had been completed and read over to her, she said, wearily,
"That is right."
The attorney called Hesden and his cousin, who, having witnessed the will by her request, again withdrew.
"Now Mr. Pardee," said Mrs. Le Moyne sadly, "I believe that I have done my duty as well as Hesden has done his. It is hard, very hard, for me to give up projects which I have cherished so long. As I have constituted you my executor, I desire that you will keep this will, and allow no person to know its contents unless directed by me to do so, until my death."
"Your wishes shall be strictly complied with, madam," said Pardee, as he folded the instrument and placed it in his pocket.
"I have still another favor to request of you, Mr. Pardee," she said. "I have written this note to Miss Ainslie, which I wish you to read and then transmit to her. No, no," she continued, as she saw him about to seal the letter which she had given him, without reading it; "you must read it. You know something of what it has cost me to write it, and will be a better judge than I as to whether it contains all that I should say."
Thus adjured, Pardee opened the letter and read:
"MULBERRY HILL Saturday, Oct. 8, 1871.
"MY DEAR MISS AINSLIE:
"Captain Pardee informed us yesterday of your nobly disinterested action in regard to the estate rightfully belonging to you. Words cannot express my gratitude for the consideration you have shown to our feelings in thus shielding the memory of the dead. Mr. Pardee will transmit to you with this the papers, showing that we have complied with your request. Pardon me if I do not write as warmly as I ought. One as old and proud as I cannot easily adapt herself to so new and strange a role. I hope that time will enable me to think more calmly and speak more freely of this matter.
"Hoping you will forgive my constraint, and believe that it arises from no lack of appreciation of your magnanimity, but only springs from my own weakness; and asking your pardon for all unkindness of thought, word, or act in the past, I remain,
"HESTER RICHARDS LE MOYNE."
"My dear Mrs. Le Moyne," said Pardee, as he extended his hand and grasped that of the suffering woman, "I am sure Miss Ainslie would never require any such painful acknowledgment at your hands."
"I know she would not," was the reply; "it is not she that requires it, but myself—my honor, Mr. Pardee. You must not suppose, nor must she believe, that the wife of a Le Moyne can forget the obligations of justice, though her father may have unfortunately done so."
"But I am sure it will cause her pain," said Pardee.
"Would it cause her less were I to refuse what she has so delicately given?"
"No, indeed," said the attorney.
"Then I see no other way."
"Perhaps there is none," said Pardee thoughtfully.
"You think I have said enough?" she asked.
"You could not say more," was the reply. After a moment's pause he continued, "Are you willing that I should give Miss Ainslie any statement I may choose of this matter?"
"I should prefer," she answered, "that nothing more be said; unless," she added, with a smile, "you conceive that your duty imperatively demands it."
"And Hesden?" he began.
"Pardon me, sir," she said, with dignity; "I will not conceal from you that my son's course has given me great pain; indeed, you are already aware of that fact. Since yesterday, I have for the first time admitted to myself that in abandoning the cause of the Southern people he has acted from a sense of duty. My own inclination, after sober second thought," she added, as a slight flush overspread her pale face, "would have been to refuse, as he has done, this bounty from the hands of a stranger; more particularly from one in the position which Miss Ainslie has occupied; but I feel also that her unexpected delicacy demands the fullest recognition at our hands. Hesden will take such course as his own sense of honor may dictate."
"Am I at liberty to inform him of the nature of the testament which you have made?"
"I prefer not."
"Well," said Pardee, "if there is nothing more to be done I will bid you good-evening, hoping that time may yet bring a pleasant result out of these painful circumstances."
After the lawyer had retired, Mrs. Le Moyne summoned her son to her bedside and said,
"I hope you will forgive me, Hesden, for all—"
"Stop, mother," said he, playfully laying his hand over her mouth; "I can listen to no such language from you. When I was a boy you used to stop my confessions of wrong-doing with a kiss; how much more ought silence to be sufficient between us now."
He knelt by her side and pressed his lips to hers.
"Oh, my son, my son!" said the weeping woman, as she pushed back the hair above his forehead and looked into his eyes; "only give your mother time—you know it is so hard—so hard. I am trying, Hesden; and you must be very kind to me, very gentle. It will not be for long, but we must be alone—all alone—as we were before all these things came about. Only," she added sobbingly, "only little Hildreth is not here now."
"Believe me, mother," said he, and the tears fell upon the gentle face over which he bent, "I will do nothing to cause you pain. My opinions I cannot renounce, because I believe them right."
"I know, I know, my son," she said; "but it is so hard—so hard—to think that we must lose the place which we have always held in the esteem of—all those about us."
There was silence for a time, and then she continued, "Hetty thinks it is best—that—that she—should—not remain here longer at this time. She is perhaps right, my son. You must not blame her for anything that has occurred; indeed—indeed she is not at fault. In fact," she added, "she has done much toward showing me my duty. Of course it is hard for her, as it is for me, to be under obligations to—to—such a one as Miss Ainslie. It is very hard to believe that she could have done as she has without some—some unworthy motive."
"Mother!" said Hesden earnestly, raising his head and gazing reproachfully at her.
"Don't—don't, my son! I am trying—believe me, I am trying; but it is so hard. Why should she give up all this for our sakes?"
"Not for ours mother—not for ours alone; for her own as well."
"Oh, my son, what does she know of family pride?"
"Mother," said he gravely, "she is prouder than we ever were. Oh, I know it,"—seeing the look of incredulity upon her face;—"prouder than any Richards or Le Moyne that ever lived; only it is a different kind of pride. She would starve, mother," he continued impetuously; "she would work her fingers to the bone rather than touch one penny of that estate."
"Oh, why—why, Hesden, should she do that? Just to shield my father's name?"
"Not alone for that," said Hesden. "Partly to show that she can give you pride for pride, mother."
"Do you think so, Hesden?"
"I am sure of it."
"Will you promise me one thing?"
"Whatever you shall ask."
"Do not write to her, nor in any way communicate with her, except at my request."
"As you wish."
SOME OLD LETTERS.
"RED WING, Saturday, Feb. 15, 1873.
"MISS MOLLIE AINSLIE:
"I avail myself of your kind permission to address you a letter through Captain Pardee, to whom I will forward this to-morrow. I would have written to you before, because I knew you must be anxious to learn how things are at this place, where you labored so long; but I was very busy—and, to tell you the truth, I felt somewhat hurt that you should withhold from me for so long a time the knowledge even of where you were. It is true, I have known that you were somewhere in Kansas; but I could see no reason why you should not wish it to be known exactly where; nor can I now. I was so foolish as to think, at first, that it was because you did not wish the people where you now live to know that you had ever been a teacher in a colored school.
"When I returned here, however, and learned something of your kindness to our people—how you had saved the property of my dear lost brother Nimbus, and provided for his wife and children, and the wife and children of poor Berry, and so many others of those who once lived at Red Wing; and when I heard Captain Pardee read one of your letters to our people, saying that you had not forgotten us, I was ashamed that I had ever had such a thought. I know that you must have some good reason, and will never seek to know more than you may choose to tell me in regard to it. You may think it strange that I should have had this feeling at all; but you must remember that people afflicted as I am become very sensitive—morbid, perhaps—and are very apt to be influenced by mere imagination rather than by reason.
"After completing my course at the college, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful to Mr. Hesden, I thought at first that I would write to you and see if I could not obtain work among some of my people in the West. Before I concluded to do so, however, the President of the college showed me a letter asking him to recommend some one for a colored school in one of the Northern States. He said he would be willing to recommend me for that position. Of course I felt very grateful to him, and very proud of the confidence he showed in my poor ability. Before I had accepted, however, I received a letter from Mr. Hesden, saying that he had rebuilt the school-house at Red Wing, that the same kind people who furnished it before had furnished it again, and that he wished the school to be re-opened, and desired me to come back and teach here. At first I thought I could not come; for the memory of that terrible night—the last night that I was here—came before me whenever I thought of it; and I was so weak as to think I could not ever come here again. Then I thought of Mr. Hesden, and all that he had done for me, and felt that I would be making a very bad return for his kindness should I refuse any request he might make. So I came, and am very glad that I did.
"It does not seem like the old Red Wing, Miss Mollie. There are not near so many people here, and the school is small in comparison with what it used to be. Somehow the life and hope seem to have gone out of our people, and they do not look forward to the future with that confident expectation which they used to have. It reminds me very much of the dull, plodding hopelessness of the old slave time. It is true, they are no longer subject to the terrible cruelties which were for a while visited upon them; but they feel, as they did in the old time, that their rights are withheld from them, and they see no hope of regaining them. With their own poverty and ignorance and the prejudices of the white people to contend with, it does indeed seem a hopeless task for them to attempt to be anything more, or anything better, than they are now. I am even surprised that they do not go backward instead of forward under the difficulties they have to encounter.
"I am learning to be more charitable than I used to be, Miss Mollie, or ever would have been had I not returned here. It seems to me now that the white people are not so much to be blamed for what has been done and suffered since the war, as pitied for that prejudice which has made them unconsciously almost as much slaves as my people were before the war. I see, too, that these things cannot be remedied at once. It will be a long, sad time of waiting, which I fear our people will not endure as well as they did the tiresome waiting for freedom. I used to think that the law could give us our rights and make us free. I now see, more clearly than ever before, that we must not only make ourselves free, but must overcome all that prejudice which slavery created against our race in the hearts of the white people. It is a long way to look ahead, and I don't wonder that so many despair of its ever being accomplished. I know it can only be done through the attainment of knowledge and the power which that gives.
"I do not blame for giving way to despair those who are laboring for a mere pittance, and perhaps not receiving that; who have wives and children to support, and see their children growing up as poor and ignorant as themselves. If I were one of those, Miss Mollie, and whole and sound, I wouldn't stay in this country another day. I would go somewhere where my children would have a chance to learn what it is to be free, whatever hardship I might have to face in doing so, for their sake. But I know that they cannot go—at least not all of them, nor many of them; and I think the Lord has dealt with me as he has in order that I might be willing to stay here and help them, and share with them the blessed knowledge which kind friends have given to me.
"Mr. Hesden comes over to see the school very often, and is very much interested in it. I have been over to Mulberry Hill once, and saw the dear old 'Mistress.' She has failed a great deal, Miss Mollie, and it does seem as if her life of pain was drawing to an end. She was very kind to me, asked all about my studies, how I was getting on, and inquired very kindly of you. She seemed very much surprised when I told her that I did not know where you were, only that you were in the West. It is no wonder that she looks worn and troubled, for Mr. Hesden has certainly had a hard time. I do not think it is as bad now as it has been, and some of the white people, even, say that he has been badly treated. But, Miss Mollie, you can't imagine the abuse he has had to suffer because he befriended me, and is what they call a 'Radical.'
"There is one thing that I cannot understand. I can see why the white people of the South should be so angry about colored people being allowed to vote. I can understand, too, why they should abuse Mr. Hesden, and the few like him, because they wish to see the colored people have their rights and become capable of exercising them. It is because they have always believed that we are an inferior race, and think that the attempt to elevate us is intended to drag them down. But I cannot see why the people of the North should think so ill of such men as Mr. Hesden. It would be a disgrace for any man there to say that he was opposed to the colored man having the rights of a citizen, or having a fair show in any manner. But they seem to think that if a man living at the South advocates those rights, or says a word in our favor, he is a low-down, mean man. If we had a few men like Mr, Hesden in every county, I think it would soon be better; but if it takes as long to get each one as it has to get him, I am afraid a good many generations will live and die before that good time will come.
"I meant to have said more about the school, Miss Mollie; but I have written so much that I will wait until the next time for that. Hoping that you will have time to write to me, I remain
"Your very grateful pupil,
"MULBERRY HILL, Wednesday, March 5, 1873.
"Miss MOLLIE AINSLIE:
"Through the kindness of our good friend, Captain Pardee, I send you this letter, together with an instrument, the date of which you will observe is the same as that of my former letter. You will see that I have regarded myself only as a trustee and a beneficiary, during life, of your self-denying generosity. The day after I received your gift, I gave the plantation back to you, reserving only the pleasing privilege of holding it as my own while I lived. The opportunity which I then hoped might some time come has now arrived. I can write to you now without constraint or bitterness. My pride has not gone; but I am proud of you, as a relative proud as myself, and far braver and more resolute than I have ever been.
"My end is near, and I am anxious to see you once more. The dear old plantation is just putting on its spring garment of beauty. Will you not come and look upon your gift in its glory, and gladden the heart of an old woman whose eyes long to look upon your face before they see the brightness of the upper world?
"Come, and let me say to the people of Horsford that you are one of us—a Richards worthier than the worthiest they have known!
"Yours, with sincerest love,
"HESTER RICHARDS LE MOYNE.
"P. S.—I ought to say that, although Hesden is one of the witnesses to my will, he knows nothing of its contents. He does not know that I have written to you, but I am sure he will be glad to see you.
"H. R. LE M."
Mrs. Le Moyne received the following letter in reply: "March 15, 1873.
"MY DEAR MRS. LE MOYNB:
"Your letter gave me far greater pleasure than you can imagine. But you give me much more credit for doing what I did than I have any right to receive. While I know that I would do the same now, to give you pleasure and save you pain, as readily as I did it then from a worse motive, I must confess to you that I did it, almost solely I fear, to show you that a Yankee girl, even though a teacher of a colored school, could be as proud as a Southern lady. I did it to humiliate you. Please forgive me; but it is true, and I cannot bear to receive your praise for what really deserves censure. I have been ashamed of myself very many times for this unworthy motive for an act which was in itself a good one, but which I am glad to have done, even so unworthily.
"I thank you for your love, which I hope I may better deserve hereafter. I inclose the paper which you sent me, and hope you will destroy it at once. I could not take the property you have so kindly devised to me, and you can readily see what trouble I should have in bestowing it where it should descend as an inheritance.
"Do not think that I need it at all. I had a few thousands which I invested in the great West when I left the South, three years ago, in order to aid those poor colored people at Red Wing, whose sufferings appealed so strongly to my sympathies. By good fortune a railroad has come near me, a town has been built up near by and grown into a city, as in a moment, so that my venture has been blessed; and though I have given away some, the remainder has increased in value until I feel myself almost rich. My life has been very pleasant, and I hope not altogether useless to others. "I am sorry that I cannot do as you wish. I know that you will believe that I do not now act from any un-worthy motive, of from any lack of appreciation of your kindness, or doubt of your sincerity. Thanking you again for your kind words and hearty though undeserved praises, I remain,
"Yours very truly,
"Hesden," said Mrs. Le Moyne to her son, as he sat by her bedside while she read this letter, "will you not write to Miss Ainslie?"
"What!" said he, looking up from his book in surprise. "Do you mean it?"
"Indeed I do, my son," she answered, with a glance of tenderness. "I tried to prepare you a surprise, and wrote for her to come and visit us; but she will not come at my request. I am afraid you are the only one who can overcome her stubbornness.
"I fear that I should have no better success," he answered.
Nevertheless, he went to his desk, and, laying out some paper, he placed upon it, to hold it in place while he wrote, a great black hoof with a silver shoe, bearing on the band about its crown the word "Midnight." After many attempts he wrote as follows:
"Miss MOLLIE AINSLIE:
"Will you permit me to come and see you, upon the conditions imposed when I saw you last?
"HESDEN LE MOYNE."
While Hesden waited for an answer to this letter, which had been forwarded through Captain Pardee, he received one from Jordan Jackson. It was somewhat badly spelled, but he made it out to be as follows:
"EUPOLIA, KANSAS, Sunday, March 23, 1873.
"MY DEAR LE MOYNE:
"I have been intending to write to you for a long time, but have been too busy. You never saw such a busy country as this. It just took me off my legs when I first came out here. I thought I knew what it meant to 'git up and git.' Nobody ever counted me hard to start or slow to move, down in that country; but here—God bless you, Le Moyne, I found I wasn't half awake! Work? Lord! Lord! how these folks do work and tear around! It don't seem so very hard either, because when they have anything to do they don't do nothing else, and when have nothing to do they make a business of that, too.
"Then, they use all sorts of machinery, and never do anything by hand-power that a horse can be made to do, in any possible way. The horses do all the ploughing, sowing, hoeing, harvesting, and, in fact, pretty much all the farm-work; while the man sits up on a sulky-seat and fans himself with a palm-leaf hat. So that, according to my reckoning, one man here counts for about as much as four in our country.