"I have moved from where I first settled, which was in a county adjoining this. I found that my notion of just getting a plantation to settle down on, where I could make a living and be out of harm's way, wasn't the thing for this country, nohow. A man who comes here must pitch in and count for all he's worth. It's a regular ground-scuffle, open to all, and everybody choosing his own hold. Morning, noon, and night the world is awake and alive; and if a man isn't awake too, it tramps on right over him and wipes him out, just as a stampeded buffalo herd goes over a hunter's camp.
"Everybody is good-natured and in dead earnest. Every one that comes is welcome, and no questions asked. Kin and kin-in-law don't count worth a cuss. Nobody stops to ask where you come from, what's your politics, or whether you've got any religion. They don't care, if you only mean 'business.' They don't make no fuss over nobody. There ain't much of what we call 'hospitality' at the South, making a grand flourish and a big lay-out over anybody; but they just take it, as a matter of course, that you are all right and square and honest, and as good as anybody till you show up diferent. There ain't any big folks nor any little ones. Of course, there are rich folks and poor ones, but the poor are just as respectable as the rich, feel just as big, and take up just as much of the road. There ain't any crawling nor cringing here. Everybody stands up straight, and don't give nor take any sass from anybody else. The West takes right hold of every one that comes into it and makes him a part of itself, instead of keeping him outside in the cold to all eternity, as the South does the strangers who go there.
"I don't know as you'd like it; but if any one who has been kept down and put on, as poor men are at the South, can muster pluck enough to get away and come here, he'll think he's been born over again, or I'm mistaken. Nobody asks your politics. I don't reckon anybody knew mine for a year. The fact is, we're all too busy to fuss with our neighbors or cuss them about their opinions. I've heard more politics in a country store in Horsford in a day than I've heard here in Eupolia in a year—and we've got ten thousand people here, too. I moved here last year, and am doing well. I wouldn't go back and live in that d—d hornet's nest that I felt so bad about leaving—not for the whole State, with a slice of the next one throwed in.
"I've meant to tell you, a half dozen times, about that little Yankee gal that used to be at Red Wing; but I've been half afraid to, for fear you would get mad about it. My wife said that when she came away there was a heap of talk about you being sorter 'sweet' on the 'nigger-school-marm.' I knew that she was sick at your house when I was there, and so, putting the two together, I 'llowed that for once there might be some truth in a Horsford rumor. I reckon it must have been a lie, though; or else she 'kicked' you, which she wouldn't stand a speck about doing, even if you were the President, if you didn't come up to her notion. It's a mighty high notion, too, let me tell you; and the man that gits up to it'll have to climb. Bet your life on that!
"But that's all no matter. I reckon you'll be glad to know how she's gettin' on out here, anyhow. She come here not a great while after I did; but, bless your stars, she wasn't as green as I, not by any manner of means. She didn't want to hide out in a quiet part of the country, where the world didn't turn around but once in two days. No, sir! She was keen—just as keen as a razor-blade. She run her eye over the map and got inside the railroad projects somehow, blessed if I know how; and then she just went off fifty miles out of the track others was taking, and bought up all the land she could pay for, and got trusted for all the credit that that brought her; and here she is now, with Eupolia building right up on her land, and just a-busting up her quarter-sections into city lots, day after day, till you can't rest.
"Just think on't, Moyne! It's only three years ago and she was teaching a nigger school, there in Red Wing; and now, God bless you, here she is, just a queen in a city that wasn't nowhere then. I tell you, she's a team! Just as proud as Lucifer, and as wide-awake as a hornet in July. She beats anything I ever did see. She's given away enough to make two or three, and I'll be hanged if it don't seem to me that every cent she gives just brings her in a dollar. The people here just worship her, as they have a good right to; but she ain't a bit stuck up. She's got a whole lot of them Red Wing niggers here, and has settled them down and put them to work, and made them get on past all expectation. She just tells right out about her having taught a nigger school down in Horsford, and nobody seems to think a word on't. In fact, I b'lieve they rather like her better for it.
"I heard about her soon after she came here, but, to tell the truth, I thought I was a little better than a 'nigger-teacher,' if I was in Kansas. So I didn't mind anything about her till Eupolia began to grow, and I came to think about going into trading again. Then I came over, just to look around, you know. I went to see the little lady, feeling mighty 'shamed, you may bet, and more than half of the notion that she wouldn't care about owning that she'd ever seen me before. But, Lord love you! I needn't have had any fear about that. Nobody ever had a heartier welcome than she gave me, until she found that I had been living only fifty miles away for a year and hadn't let her know. Then she come down on me—Whew! I thought there was going to be a blizzard, sure enough.
"'Jordan Jackson,' said she, 'you just go home and bring that wife and them children here, where they can see something and have a rest.'
"I had to do it, and they just took to staying in Eupolia here nigh about all the time. So I thought I might as well come too; and here I am, doing right well, and would be mighty glad to see an old friend if you could make up your mind to come this way. We are all well, and remember you as the kindest of all old friends in our time of need.
"I never wrote as long a letter as this before, and never 'llow to do it again.
"Your true friend,
In due time there came to Hesden Le Moyne an envelope, containing only a quaintly-shaped card, which looked as if it had been cut from the bark of a brown-birch tree. On one side was printed, in delicate script characters,
"Miss Mollie Ainslie, Eupolia, Kansas."
On the other was written one word: "Come."
A bride came to Mulberry Hill with the May roses, and when Mrs. Le Moyne had kissed her who knelt beside her chair for a maternal benison, she placed a hand on either burning cheek, and, holding the face at arm's length, said, with that archness which never forsook her, "What am I to do about the old plantation? Hesden refuses to be my heir, and you refuse to be my devisee; must I give it to the poor?"
The summer bloomed and fruited; the autumn glowed and faded; and peace and happiness dwelt at Red Wing. But when the Christmas came, wreaths of immortelles lay upon a coffin in "Mother's Room," and Hesden and Mollie dropped their tears upon the sweet, pale face within.
So Hesden and Mollie dwelt at Red Wing. The heirs of "Red Jim" had their own, and the children of "Black Jim" were not dispossessed.
A SWEET AND BITTER FRUITAGE.
The charms of the soft, luxurious climate were peculiarly grateful to Mollie after the harshness of the Kansas winter and the sultry summer winds that swept over the heated plains. There was something, too, very pleasant in renewing her associations with that region in a relation so different from that under which she had formerly known it. As the teacher at Red Wing, her life had not been wholly unpleasant; but that which had made it pleasant had proceeded from herself and not from others. The associations which she then formed had been those of kindly charity—the affection which one has for the objects of sympathetic care. So far as the world in which she now lived was concerned—the white world and white people of Horsford—she had known nothing of them, nor they of her, but as each had regarded the other as a curious study. Their life had been shut out from her, and her life had been a matter that did not interest them. She had wondered that they did not think and feel as she did with regard to the colored people; and they, that any one having a white skin and the form of woman should come a thousand miles to become a servant of servants. The most charitable among them had deemed her a fool; the less charitable, a monster.
In the few points of contact which she had with them personally, she had found them pleasant. In the few relations which they held toward the colored people, and toward her as their friend, she had found them brutal and hateful beyond her power to conceive. Then, her life had been with those for whom she labored, so far as it was in or of the South at all. They had been the objects of her thought, her interest, and her care. Their wrongs had entered into her life, and had been the motive of her removal to the West. Out of these conditions, by a curious evolution, had grown a new life, which she vainly tried to graft upon the old without apparent disjointure.
Now, by kinship and by marriage, she belonged to one of the most respectable families of the region. It was true that Hesden. had sullied his family name by becoming a Radical; but as he had never sought official position, nor taken any active part in enforcing or promulgating the opinions which he held; had, in fact, identified himself with the party of odious principles only for the protection of the victims of persecution or the assertion of the rights of the weak—he was regarded with much more toleration and forbearance than would otherwise have been displayed toward him.
In addition to this, extravagant rumors came into the good county of Horsford respecting the wealth which Mollie Ainslie had acquired, and of the pluck and enterprise which she had displayed in the far West. It was thought very characteristic of the brave young teacher of Red Wing, only her courage was displayed there in a different manner. So they took a sort of pride in her, as if she had been one of themselves; and as they told to each other the story of her success, they said, "Ah, I knew she would make her mark! Any girl that had her pluck was too good to remain a nigger-teacher long. It was lucky for Hesden, though. By George! he made his Radicalism pay, didn't he? Well, well; as long as he don't trouble anybody, I don't see why we should not be friends with him—if he is a Radical." So they determined that they would patronize and encourage Hesden Le Moyne and his wife, in the hope that he might be won back to his original excellence, and that she might be charmed with the attractions of Southern society and forget the bias of her Yankee origin.
The occupants of Mulberry Hill, therefore, received much attention, and before the death of Hesden's mother had become prime favorites in the society of Horsford. It is true that now and then they met with some exhibition of the spirit which had existed before, but in the main their social life was pleasant; and, for a considerable time, Hesden felt that he had quite regained his original status as a "Southern gentleman," while Mollie wondered if it were possible that the people whom she now met upon such pleasant terms were those who had, by their acts of violence, painted upon her memory such horrible and vivid pictures. She began to feel as if she had done them wrong, and sought by every means in her power to identify herself with their pleasures and their interests.
At the same time, she did not forget those for whom she had before labored, and who had shown for her such true and devoted friendship. The school at Red Wing was an especial object of her care and attention. Rarely did a week pass that her carriage did not show itself in the little hamlet, and her bright face and cheerful tones brought encouragement and hope to all that dwelt there. Having learned from Hesden and Eliab the facts with regard to the disappearance of Nimbus, she for a long time shared Lugena's faith in regard to her husband, and had not yet given up hope that he was alive. Indeed, she had taken measures to discover his whereabouts; but all these had failed. Still, she would not abandon the hope that he would some time reappear, knowing how difficult it was to trace one altogether unnoted by any except his own race, who were not accustomed to be careful or inquisitive with regard to the previous life of their fellows.
Acting as his trustee, not by any specific authority, but through mere good-will, Hesden had managed the property, since the conclusion of the Winburn suit, so as to yield a revenue, which Lugena had carefully applied to secure a home in the West, in anticipation of her husband's return. This had necessarily brought him into close relations with the people of Red Wing, who had welcomed Mollie with an interest half proprietary in its character. Was she not their Miss Mollie? Had she not lived in the old "Or'nary," taught in their school, advised, encouraged, and helped them? They flocked around her, each reminding her of his identity by recalling some scene or incident of her past life, or saying, with evident pride, "Miss Mollie, I was one of your scholars—I was."
She did not repel their approaches, nor deny their claim to her attention. She recognized it as a duty that she should still minister to their wants, and do what she could for their elevation. And, strangely enough, the good people of Horsford did not rebel nor cast her off for so doing. The rich wife of Hesden Le Moyne, the queen of the growing Kansas town, driving in her carriage to the colored school-house, and sitting as lady patroness upon the platform, was an entirely different personage, in their eyes, from the Yankee girl who rode Midnight up and down the narrow streets, and who wielded the pedagogic sceptre in the log school-house that Nimbus had built. She could be allowed to patronize the colored school; indeed, they rather admired her for doing so, and a few of them now and then went with her, especially on occasions of public interest, and wondered at the progress that had been made by that race whose capacity they had always denied.
Every autumn Hesden and Mollie went to visit her Kansas home, to look after her interests there, help and advise her colored proteges, breathe the free air, and gather into their lives something of the busy, bustling spirit of the great North. The contrast did them good. Hesden's ideas were made broader and fuller; her heart was reinvigorated; and both returned to their Southern home full of hope and aspiration for its future.
So time wore on, and they almost forgot that they held their places in the life which was about them by sufferance and not of right; that they were allowed the privilege of associating with the "best people of Horsford," not because they were of them, or entitled to such privilege, but solely upon condition that they should submit themselves willingly to its views, and do nothing or attempt nothing to subvert its prejudices.
Since the county had been "redeemed" it had been at peace. The vast colored majority, once overcome, had been easily held in subjection. There was no longer any violence, and little show of coercion, so far as their political rights were concerned. At first it was thought necessary to discourage the eagerness with which they sought to exercise the elective franchise, by frequent reference to the evils which had already resulted therefrom. Now and then, when some ambitious colored man had endeavored to organize his people and to secure political advancement through their suffrages, he had been politely cautioned in regard to the danger, and the fate which had overwhelmed others was gently recalled to his memory. For a while, too, employers thought it necessary to exercise the power which their relations with dependent laborers gave them, to prevent the neglect of agricultural interests for the pursuit of political knowledge, and especially to prevent absence from the plantation upon the day of election. After a time, however, it was found that such care was unnecessary. The laws of the State, carefully revised by legislators wisely chosen for that purpose, had taken the power from the irresponsible hands of the masses, and placed it in the hands of the few, who had been wont to exercise it in the olden time.
That vicious idea which had first grown up on the inclement shores of Massachusetts Bay, and had been nourished and protected and spread abroad throughout the North and West as the richest heritage which sterile New England could give to the states her sons had planted; that outgrowth of absurd and fanatical ideas which had made the North free, and whose absence had enabled the South to remain "slave"—the township system, with its free discussion of all matters, even of the most trivial interest to the inhabitants; that nursery of political virtue and individual independence of character, comporting, as it did, very badly with the social and political ideas of the South—this system was swept away, or, if retained in name, was deprived of all its characteristic elements.
In the foolish fever of the reconstruction era this system had been spread over the South as the safeguard of the new ideas and new institutions then introduced. It was foolishly believed that it would produce upon the soil of the South the same beneficent results as had crowned its career at the North. So the counties were subdivided into small self-governing communities, every resident in which was entitled to a voice in the management of its domestic interests. Trustees and school commissioners and justices of the peace and constables were elected in these townships by the vote of the inhabitants. The roads and bridges and other matters of municipal finance were put directly under the control of the inhabitants of these miniature boroughs. Massachusetts was superimposed upon South Carolina. That system which had contributed more than all else to the prosperity, freedom, and intelligence of the Northern community was invoked by the political theorists of the reconstruction era as a means of like improvement there. It did not seem a dangerous experiment. One would naturally expect similar results from the same system in different sections, even though it had not been specifically calculated for both latitudes. Especially did this view seem natural, when it was remembered that wherever the township system had existed in any fullness or perfection, there slavery had withered and died without the scath of war; that wherever in all our bright land the township system had obtained a foothold and reached mature development, there intelligence and prosperity grew side by side; and that wherever this system had not prevailed, slavery had grown rank and luxuriant, ignorance had settled upon the people, and poverty had brought its gaunt hand to crush the spirit of free men and establish the dominion of class.
The astute politicians of the South saw at once the insane folly of this project. They knew that the system adapted to New England, the mainspring of Western prosperity, the safeguard of intelligence and freedom at the North, could not be adapted to the social and political elements of the South. They knew that the South had grown up a peculiar people; that for its government, in the changed state of affairs, must be devised a new and untried system of political organization, assimilated in every possible respect to the institutions which had formerly existed. It is true, those institutions and that form of government had been designed especially to promote and protect the interests of slavery and the power of caste. But they believed that the mere fact of emancipation did not at all change the necessary and essential relations between the various classes of her population, so far as her future development and prosperity were concerned.
Therefore, immediately upon the "redemption" of these states from the enforced and sporadic political ideas of the reconstruction era, they set themselves earnestly at work to root out and destroy all the pernicious elements of the township system, and to restore that organization by which the South had formerly achieved power and control in the national councils, had suppressed free thought and free speech, had degraded labor, encouraged ignorance, and established aristocracy. The first step in this measure of counter-revolution and reform was to take from the inhabitants of the township the power of electing the officers, and to greatly curtail, where they did not destroy, the power of such officers. It had been observed by these sagacious statesmen that in not a few instances incapable men had been chosen to administer the laws, as justices of the peace and as trustees of the various townships. Very often, no doubt, it happened that there was no one of sufficient capacity who would consent to act in such positions as the representatives of the majority. Sometimes, perhaps, incompetent and corrupt men had sought these places for their own advantage. School commissioners may have been chosen who were themselves unable to read. There may have been township trustees who had never yet shown sufficient enterprise to become the owners of land, and legislators whose knowledge of law had been chiefly gained by frequent occupancy of the prisoner's dock.
Such evils were not to be endured by a proud people, accustomed not only to self-control, but to the control of others. They did not stop to inquire whether there was more than one remedy for these evils. The system itself was attainted with the odor of Puritanism. It was communistic in its character, and struck at the very deepest roots of the social and political organization which had previously prevailed at the South.
So it was changed. From and after that date it was solemnly enacted that either the Governor of the State or the prevailing party in the Legislature should appoint all the justices of the peace in and for the various counties; that these in turn should appoint in each of the subdivisions which had once been denominated townships, or which had been clothed with the power of townships, school commissioners and trustees, judges of election and registrars of voters; and that in the various counties these chosen few, or the State Executive in their stead, should appoint the boards of commissioners, who were to control the county finances and have direction of all municipal affairs.
Of course, in this counter-revolution there was not any idea of propagating or confirming the power of the political party instituting it! It was done simply to protect the State against incompetent officials! The people were not wise enough to govern themselves, and could only become so by being wisely and beneficently governed by others, as in the ante-bellum era. From it, however, by a curious accident, resulted that complete control of the ballot and the ballot-box by a dominant minority so frequently observed in those states. Observe that the Legislature or the Executive appointed the justices of the peace; they in turn met in solemn conclave, a body of electors, taken wholly or in a great majority from the same party, and chose the commissioners of the county. These, again, a still more select body of electors, chose with the utmost care the trustees of the townships, the judges of election, and the registrars of voters. So that the utmost care was taken to secure entire harmony throughout the state. It mattered not how great the majority of the opposition in this county or in that; its governing officers were invariably chosen from the body of the minority.
By these means a peculiar safeguard was also extended to the ballot. All the inspectors throughout the state being appointed by the same political power, were carefully chosen to secure the results of good government. Either all or a majority of every board were of the same political complexion, and, if need be, the remaining members, placed there in order that there should be no just ground of complaint upon the part of the opposition, were unfitted by nature or education for the performance of their duty. If not blind, they were usually profound strangers to the Cadmean mystery. Thus the registration of voters and the elections were carefully devised to secure for all time the beneficent results of "redemption." It was found to be a very easy matter to allow the freedman to indulge, without let or hindrance, his wonderful eagerness for the exercise of ballotorial power, without injury to the public good.
From and after that time elections became simply a harmless amusement. There was no longer any need of violence. The peaceful paths of legislation were found much more pleasant and agreeable, as well as less obnoxious to the moral feelings of that portion of mankind who were so unfortunate as to dwell without the boundaries of these states.
In order, however, to secure entire immunity from trouble or complaint, it was in many instances provided that the ballots should be destroyed as soon as counted, and the inspectors were sworn to execute this law. In other instances, it was provided, with tender care for the rights of the citizen, that if by any chance there should be found within the ballot-box at the close of an election any excess of votes over and above the number the tally-sheet should show to have exercised that privilege at that precinct, instead of the whole result being corrupted, and the voice of the people thereby stifled, one member of the board of inspectors should be blindfolded, and in that condition should draw from the box so many ballots as were in excess of the number of voters, and that the result, whatever it might be, should be regarded and held as the voice of the people. By this means formal fraud was avoided, and the voice of the people declared free from all legal objection. It is true that when the ticket was printed upon very thin paper, in very small characters, and was very closely folded and the box duly shaken, the smaller ballots found their way to the bottom, while the larger ones remained upon the top; so that the blindfolded inspector very naturally removed these and allowed the tissue ballots to remain and be counted. It is true, also, that the actual will of the majority thus voting was thus not unfrequently overwhelmingly negatived. Yet this was the course prescribed by the law, and the inspectors of elections were necessarily guiltless of fraud.
So it had been in Horsford. The colored majority had voted when they chose. The ballots had been carefully counted and the result scrupulously ascertained and declared. Strangely enough, it was found that, whatever the number of votes cast, the majorities were quite different from those which the same voters had given in the days before the "redemption," while there did not seem to have been any great change in political sentiment. Perhaps half a dozen colored voters in the county professed allegiance to the party which they had formerly opposed; but in the main the same line still separated the races. It was all, without question, the result of wise and patriotic legislatioa!
COMING TO THE FRONT.
In an evil hour Hesden Le Moyne yielded to the solicitations of those whom he had befriended, and whose rights he honestly believed had been unlawfully subverted, and became a candidate in his county. It had been so long since he had experienced the bitterness of persecution on account of his political proclivities, and the social relations of his family had been so pleasant, that he had almost forgotten what he had once passed through; or rather, he had come to believe that the time had gone by when such weapons would be employed against one of his social grade.
The years of silence which had been imposed on him by a desire to avoid unnecessarily distressing his mother, had been years of thought, perhaps the richer and riper from the fact that he had refrained from active participation in political life. Like all his class at the South, he was, if not a politician by instinct, at least familiar from early boyhood with the subtle discussion of political subjects which is ever heard at the table and the fireside of the Southern gentleman. He had regarded the experiment of reconstruction, as he believed, with calm, unprejudiced sincerity; he had buried the past, and looked only to the future. It was not for his own sake or interest that he became a candidate; he was content always to be what he was—a quiet country gentleman. He loved his home and his plantation; he thoroughly enjoyed the pursuits of agriculture, and had no desire to be or do any great thing. His mother's long illness had given him a love for a quiet life, his books and his fireside; and it was only because he thought that he could do something to reconcile the jarring factions and bring harmony out of discord, and lead his people to see that The Nation was greater and better than The South; that its interests and prosperity were also their interest, their prosperity, and their hope—that Hesden Le Moyne consented to forego the pleasant life which he was leading and undertake a brief voyage upon the stormy sea of politics.
He did not expect that all would agree with him, but he believed that they would listen to him without prejudice and without anger. And he so fully believed in the conclusions he had arrived at that he thought no reasonable man could resist their force or avoid reaching a like result. His platform, as he called it, when he came to announce himself as a candidate at the Court House on the second day of the term of court, in accordance with immemorial custom in that county, was simply one of plain common-sense. He was not an office-holder or a politician. He did not come of an office-holding family, nor did he seek position or emolument. He offered himself for the suffrages of his fellow-citizens simply because no other man among them seemed willing to stand forth and advocate those principles which he believed to be right, expedient, and patriotic.
He was a white man, he said, and had the prejudices and feelings that were common to the white people of the South. He had not believed in the right or the policy of secession, in which he differed from some of his neighbors; but when it came to the decision of that question by force of arms he had yielded his conviction and stood side by side upon the field of battle with the fiercest fire-eaters of the land. No man could accuse him of being remiss in any duty which he owed his State or section. But all that he insisted was past. There was no longer any distinct sectional interest or principle to be maintained. The sword had decided that, whether right or wrong as an abstraction, the doctrine of secession should never be practically asserted in the government. The result of the struggle had been to establish, beyond a peradventure, what had before been an unsettled question: that the Nation had the power and the will to protect itself against any disintegrating movement. It might not have decided what was the meaning of the Constitution, and so not determined upon which side of this question lay the better reasoning; but it had settled the practical fact. This decision he accepted; he believed that they all accepted it—with only this difference, perhaps, that he believed it rendered necessary a change in many of the previous convictions of the Southern people. They had been accustomed to call themselves Southern men; after that, Americans. Hereafter it became their duty and their interest to be no longer Southern men, but Americans only.
"Having these views," he continued, "it is my sincere conviction that we ought to accept, in spirit as well as in form, the results of this struggle; not in part, but fully." The first result had been the freeing in the slave. In the main he believed that had been accepted, if not cheerfully, at least finally. The next had been the enfranchisement of the colored man. This he insisted had not been honestly accepted by the mass of the white people of the South. Every means, lawful and unlawful, had been resorted to to prevent the due operation of these laws. He did not speak of this in anger or to blame. Knowing their prejudices and feelings, he could well excuse what had been done; but he insisted that it was not, and could not be, the part of an honest, brave and intelligent people to nullify or evade any portion of the law of the land. He did not mean that it was the duty of any man to submit without opposition to a law which he believed to be wrong; but that opposition should never be manifested by unlawful violence, unmanly evasion, or cowardly fraud.
He realized that, at first, anger might over-bear both patriotism and honor, under the sting of what was regarded as unparalleled wrong, insult, and outrage; but there had been time enough for anger to cool, and for his people to look with calmness to the future that lay before, and let its hopes and duties overbalance the disappointments of the past. He freely admitted that had the question of reconstruction been submitted to him for determination, he would not have adopted the plan which had prevailed; but since it had been adopted and become an integral part of the law of the land, he believed that whoever sought to evade its fair and unhindered operation placed himself in the position of a law-breaker. They had the right, undoubtedly, by fair and open opposition to defeat any party, and to secure the amendment or repeal of any law or system of laws. But they had no right to resist law with violence, or to evade law by fraud.
The right of the colored man to exercise freely and openly his elective franchise, without threat, intimidation, or fear, was the same as that of the whitest man he addressed; and the violation of that right, or the deprivation of that privilege, was, really an assault upon the right and liberty of the white voter also. No rights were safe unless the people had that regard for law which would secure to the weakest and the humblest citizen the free and untrammeled enjoyment and exercise of every privilege which the law conferred. He characterized the laws that had been enacted in regard to the conduct of elections and the selection of local officers as unmanly and shuffling—an assertion of the right to nullify national law by fraud, which the South had failed to maintain by the sword, and had by her surrender virtually acknowledged herself in honor bound to abandon.
He did not believe, he would not believe, that his countrymen of the South, his white fellow-citizens of the good old county of Horsford, had fairly and honestly considered the position in which recent events and legislation had placed them, not only before the eyes of the country, but of the civilized world. It had always been claimed, he said, that a white man is by nature, and not merely by the adventitious circumstances of the past, innately and inherently, and he would almost add infinitely, the superior of the colored man. In intellectual culture, experience, habits of self-government and command, this was unquestionably true. Whether it were true as a natural and scientific fact was, perhaps, yet to be decided. But could it be possible that a people, a race priding itself upon its superiority, should be unwilling or afraid to see the experiment fairly tried? "Have we," he asked, "so little confidence in our moral and intellectual superiority that we dare not give the colored man an equal right with us to exercise the privilege which the Nation has conferred upon him? Are the white people of the South so poor in intellectual resources that they must resort to fraud or open violence to defeat the ignorant and weak colored man of even the least of his law-given rights?
"We claim," he continued, "that he is ignorant. It is true. Are we afraid that he will grow wiser than we? We claim that he has not the capacity to acquire or receive a like intellectual development with ourselves. Are we afraid to give him a chance to do so? Could not intelligence cope with ignorance without fraud? Boasting that we could outrun our adversary, would we hamstring him at the starting-post? It was accounted by all men, in all ages, an unmanly thing to steal, and a yet more unmanly thing to steal from the weak; so that it has passed into a proverb, 'Only a dog would steal the blind man's dinner.' And yet," he said, "we are willing to steal the vote of the ignorant, the blind, the helpless colored man!"
It was not for the sake of the colored man, he said in conclusion, that he appealed to them to pause and think. It was because the honor, the nobility, the intelligence of the white man was being degraded by the course which passion and resentment, and not reason or patriotism, had dictated. He appealed to his hearers as white men, not so much to give to the colored man the right to express his sentiments at the ballot-box, as to regard that right as sacred because it rested upon the law, which constituted the foundation and safeguard of their own rights. He would not appeal to them as Southern men, for he hoped the day was at hand when there would no more be any such distinction. But he would appeal to them as men—honest men, honorable men—and as American citizens, to honor the law and thereby honor themselves.
It had been said that the best and surest way to secure the repeal of a bad law was first to secure its unhindered operation. Especially was this true of a people who had boasted of unparalleled devotion to principle, of unbounded honor, and of the highest chivalry. How one of them, or all of them, could claim any of these attributes of which they had so long boasted, and yet be privy to depriving even a single colored man of the right which the Nation had given him, or to making the exercise of that right a mockery, he could not conceive; and he would not believe that they would do it when once the scales of prejudice and resentment had fallen from their eyes. If they had been wronged and outraged as a people, their only fit revenge was to display a manhood and a magnanimity which should attest the superiority upon which they prided themselves.
This address was received by his white hearers with surprised silence; by the colored men with half-appreciative cheers. They recognized that the speaker was their friend, and in favor of their being allowed the free exercise of the rights of citizenship. His white auditors saw that he was assailing with some bitterness and earnest indignation both their conduct and what they had been accustomed to term their principles. There was no immediate display of hostility or anger; and Hesden Le Moyne returned to his home full of hope that the time was at hand for which he had so long yearned, when the people of his native South should abandon the career of prejudice and violence into which they had been betrayed by resentment and passion.
Early the next morning some of his friends waited upon him and adjured him, for his own sake, for the sake of his family and friends, to withdraw from the canvass. This he refused to do. He said that what he advocated was the result of earnest conviction, and he should always despise himself should he abandon the course he had calmly decided to take. Whatever the result, he would continue to the end. Then they cautiously intimated to him that his course was fraught with personal danger. "What!" he cried, "do you expect me to flinch at the thought of danger? I offered my life and gave an arm for a cause in which I did not believe; shall I not brave as much in the endeavor to serve my country in a manner which my mind and conscience approve? I seek for difficulty with no one; but it may as well be understood that Hesden Le Moyne does not turn in his tracks because of any man's anger. I say to you plainly that I shall neither offer personal insult nor submit to it in this canvass."
His friends left him with heavy hearts, for they foreboded ill. It was not many days before he found that the storm of detraction and contumely through which he had once passed was but a gentle shower compared with the tornado which now came down upon his head. The newspapers overflowed with threat, denunciation, and abuse. One of them declared:
"The man who thinks that he can lead an opposition against the organized Democracy of Horsford County is not only very presumptuous, but extremely bold. Such a man will require a bodyguard of Democrats in his canvass and a Gibraltar in his rear on the day of the election."
"The Radical candidate would do well to take advice. The white men of the State desire a peaceful summer and autumn. They are wearied of heated political strife. If they are forced to vigorous action it will be exceedingly vigorous, perhaps unpleasantly so. Those who cause the trouble will suffer most from it. Bear that in mind, persons colored and white-skinned. We reiterate our advice to the reflective and argumentative Radical leader, to be careful how he goes, and not stir up the animals too freely; they have teeth and claws."
Still another said:
"Will our people suffer a covert danger to rankle in their midst until it gains strength to burst into an open enemy? Will they tamely submit while Hesden Le Moyne rallies the colored men to his standard and hands over Horsford to the enemy? Will they stand idly and supinely, and witness the consummation of such an infamous conspiracy? No! a thousand times, No! Awake! stir up your clubs; let the shout go up; put on your red shirts and let the ride begin. Let the young men take the van, or we shall be sold into political slavery."
Another sounded the key-note of hostility in these words:
"Every white man who dares to avow himself a Radical should be promptly branded as the bitter and malignant enemy of the South; every man who presumes to aspire to office through Republican votes should be saturated with stench. As for the negroes, let them amuse themselves, if they will, by voting the Radical ticket. We have the count. We have a thousand good and true men in Horsford whose brave ballots will be found equal to those of five thousand vile Radicals."
One of his opponents, in a most virulent speech, called attention to the example of a celebrated Confederate general. "He, too," said the impassioned orator, "served the Confederacy as bravely as Hesden Le Moyne, and far more ably. But he became impregnated with the virus of Radicalism; he abandoned and betrayed the cause for which he fought; he deserted the Southern people in the hour of need and joined their enemies. He was begged and implored not to persevere in his course, but he drifted on and on, and floundered deeper and deeper into the mire, until he landed fast in the slough where he sticks to-day. And what has he gained? Scorn, ostracism, odiurn, ill-will—worse than all, the contempt of the men who stood by him in the shower of death and destruction. Let Hesden Le Moyne take warning by his example."
And so it went on, day after day. Personal affront was studiously avoided, but in general terms he was held up to the scorn and contempt of all honest men as a renegade and a traitor. Those who had seemed his friends fell away from him; the home which had been crowded with pleasant associates was desolate, or frequented only by those who came to remonstrate or to threaten. He saw his mistake, but he knew that anger was worse than useless. He did not seek to enrage, but to convince. Failing in this, he simply performed the duty which he had undertaken, as he said he would do it—fearlessly, openly, and faithfully.
The election came, and the result—was what he should have been wise enough to foresee. Nevertheless, it was a great and grievous disappointment to Hesden Le Moyne. Not that he cared about a seat in the Legislature; but it was a demonstration to him that in his estimate of the people of whom he had been so proud he had erred upon the side of charity. He had believed them better than they had shown themselves. The fair future which he had hoped was so near at hand seemed more remote than ever. His hope for his people and his State was crushed, and apprehension of unspeakable evil in the future forced itself upon his heart.
THE SHUTTLECOCK OF FATE.
"Marse Hesden, Marse Hesden!" There was a timorous rap upon the window of Hesden Le Moyne's sleeping-room in the middle of the night, and, waking, he heard his name called in a low, cautious voice.
"Who is there?" he asked.
"Sh—sh! Don't talk so loud, Marse Hesden. Please come out h'yer a minnit, won't yer?"
The voice was evidently that of a colored man, and Hesden had no apprehension or hesitancy in complying with the request. In fact, his position as a recognized friend of the colored race had made such appeals to his kindness and protection by no means unusual. He rose at once, and stepped out upon the porch. He was absent for a little while, and when he returned his voice was full of emotion as he said to his wife,
"Mollie, there is a man here who is hungry and weary. I do not wish the servants to know of his presence. Can you get him something to eat without making any stir?"
"Why, what—" began Mollie.
"It will be best not to stop for any questions," said Hesden hurriedly, as he lighted a lamp and, pouring some liquor into a glass, started to return. "Get whatever you can at once, and bring it to the room above. I will go and make up a fire."
Mollie rose, and, throwing on a wrapper, proceeded to comply with her husband's request. But a few moments had elapsed when she went up the stairs bearing a well-laden tray. Her slippered feet made no noise, and when she reached the chamber-door she saw her husband kneeling before the fire, which was just beginning to burn brightly. The light shone also upon a colored man of powerful frame who sat upon a chair a little way back, his hat upon the floor beside him, his gray head inclined upon his breast, and his whole attitude indicating exhaustion.
"Here it is, Hesden," she said quietly, as she stepped into the room.
The colored man raised his head wearily as she spoke, and turned toward her a gaunt face half hidden by a gray, scraggly beard. No sooner did his eyes rest upon her than they opened wide in amazement. He sprang from his chair, put his hand to his head, as if to assure himself that he was not dreaming, and said,
"What!—yer ain't—'fore God it must be—Miss Mollie!"
"Oh, Nimbus!" cried Mollie, with a shriek. Her face was pale as ashes, and she would have fallen had not Hesden sprang to her side and supported her with his arm, while he said,
"Hush! hush! You must not speak so loud. I did not expect you so soon or I would have told you."
The colored man fell upon his knees, and gazed in wonder on the scene.
"Oh, Marse Hesden!" he cried, "is it—can it be our Miss Mollie, or has Nimbus gone clean crazy wid de rest ob his misfortins?"
"No, indeed!" said Hesden. "It is really Miss Mollie, only I have stolen her away from her old friends and made her mine."
"There is no mistake about it, Nimbus," said Mollie, as she extended her hand, which the colored man clasped in both his own and covered with tears and kisses, while he said, between his sobs,
"Tank God! T'ank God! Nimbus don't keer now! He ain't afeared ob nuffin' no mo', now he's seen de little angel dat use ter watch ober him, an' dat he's been a-dreamin' on all dese yeahs! Bress God, she's alive! Dar ain't no need ter ax fer 'Gena ner de little ones now; I knows dey's all right! Miss Mollie's done tuk keer o' dem, else she wouldn't be h'yer now. Bress de Lord, I sees de deah little lamb once mo'."
"There, there!" said Mollie gently. "You must not talk any more now. I have brought you something to eat. You are tired and hungry. You must eat now. Everything is all right. 'Gena and the children are well, and have been looking for you every day since you went away."
"Bress God! Bress God! I don't want nuffin' mo' !" said Nimbus. He would have gone on, in a wild rhapsody of delight, but both Hesden and Mollie interposed and compelled him to desist and eat. Ah! it was a royal meal that the poor fugitive had spread before him. Mollie brought some milk. A coffee-pot was placed upon the fire, and while he ate they told him of some of the changes that had taken place. When at length Hesden took him into the room where Eliab had remained concealed so long, and closed the door and locked it upon him, they could still hear the low tones of thankful prayer coming from within. Hesden knocked upon the door to enjoin silence, and they returned to their room, wondering at the Providence which had justified the faith of the long-widowed colored wife.
The next day Hesden went to the Court House to ascertain what charges there were against Nimbus. He found there were none. The old prosecution for seducing the laborers of Mr. Sykes had long ago been discontinued. Strangely enough, no others had been instituted against him. For some reason the law had not been appealed to to avenge the injuries of the marauders who had devastated Red Wing. On his return, Hesden came by way of Red Wing and brought Eliab home with him.
The meeting between the two old friends was very affecting. Since the disappearance of Nimbus, Eliab had grown more self-reliant. His two years and more of attendance at a Northern school had widened and deepened his manhood as well as increased his knowledge, and the charge of the school at Red Wing had completed the work there begun. His self-consciousness had diminished, and it no longer required the spur of intense excitement to make him forget his affliction. His last injuries had made him even more helpless, when separated from his rolling-chair, but his life had been too full to enable him to dwell upon his weakness so constantly as formerly.
In Nimbus there was a change even more apparent. Gray hairs, a bowed form, a furrowed face, and that sort of furtive wildness which characterizes the man long hunted by his enemies, had taken the place of his former unfearing, bull-fronted ruggedness. His spirit was broken. He no longer looked to the future with abounding hope, careless of its dangers.
"Yer's growed away from me, Bre'er 'Liab," he said at length, when they had held each other's hands and looked into each other's faces for a long time. "Yer wouldn't know how ter take a holt o' Nimbus ter hev him tote yer roun', now. Yer's growed away from him—clean away," he added sadly.
"You, too, have changed, Brother Nimbus," said Eliab soothingly.
"Yes, I'se changed, ob co'se; but not as you hez, Bre'er 'Liab. Dis h'yer ole shell hez changed. Nimbus couldn't tote yer roun' like he used. I'se hed a hard time—a hard time, 'Liab, an' I ain't nuffin' like de man, I used ter be; but I hain't changed inside like you hez. I'se jes de same ole Nimbus dat I allus wuz—jes de same, only kinder broke down in sperrit, Bre'er 'Liab. I hain't growed ez you hev. I hain't no mo' man dan I was den—not so much, in fac'. I don't keer now no mo' 'bout what's a-gwine ter be. I'se an' ole man, 'Liab—an' ole man, of I is young."
That night he told his story to a breathless auditory.
"Yes, Bre'er 'Liab, dar's a heap o' t'ings happened sence dat ar mornin' I lef' you h'yer wid Marse Hesden. Yer see, I went back fust whar I'd lef Berry, an' we tuk an' druv de mule an' carry-all inter a big pine thicket, down by de ribber, an' dar we stays all day mighty close; only once, when I went out by de road an' sees Miss Mollie ridin' by. I calls out to her jest ez loudez I dared to; but, la sakes! she didn't h'year me."
"Was that you, Nimbus?" asked Mollie, turning from a bright-eyed successor to little Hildreth, whom she had been proudly caressing. "I thought I heard some one call me, but did not think of its being you. I am so sorry! I stopped and looked, but could see nothing."
"No, you didn't see me, Miss Mollie, but it done me a power o' good ter see you. I knowed yer was gwine ter Red Wing, an' yer'd take keer on an' advise dem ez wuz left dar. Wal, dat night we went back an' got the 'backer out o' de barn. I tuk a look roun' de house, an' went ter de smoke-house, an' got a ham of meat an' some other t'ings. I 'llowed dat 'Gena'd know I'd been dar, but didn't dare ter say nuffin' ter nobody, fer fear de sheriff's folks mout be a watchin' roun'. I 'llowed dey'd hev out a warrant for me, an' p'raps fer Berry too, on account o' what we'd done de night afo'."
"They never did," said Hesden.
"Yer don't tell me!" exclaimed Nimbus, in surprise.
"No. There has never been any criminal process against you, except for enticing Berry away from old Granville Sykes," said Hesden.
"Wal," responded Nimbus, "t'was all de same. I t'ought dey would. De udder wuz 'nough, dough. Ef dey could once cotch me on dat, I reckon dey could hev hung me fer nuffin', fer dat matter."
"It was a very wise thing in you to leave the country," said Hesden. "There is no doubt of that."
"T'ank ye, Marse Hesden, t'ank ye," said Nimbus. "I'se glad ter know I hain't been a fool allus, ef I is now. But now I t'inks on't, Marse Hesden, I'd like ter know what come of dem men dat 'Gena an' me put our marks on dat night."
"One of them died a year or two afterward—was never well after that night—and the other is here, alive and well, with a queer seam down the middle of his face," said Hesden.
"Died, yer say?" said Nimbus. "Wal, I'se right sorry, but he lived a heap longer nor Bre'er 'Liab would, ef I hadn't come in jest about dat time."
"Yes, indeed," said Eliab, as he extended his hand to his old friend.
"Wal," continued Nimbus, "we went on ter Wellsboro, an' dar we sold de 'backer. Den we kinder divided up. I tuk most o' de money an' went on South, an' Berry tuk de mule an' carry-all an' started fer his home in Hanson County. I tuk de cars an' went on, a-stoppin' at one place an' anodder, an' a wukkin' a little h'yer an' dar, but jest a-'spectin' ebbery minnit ter be gobbled up by a officer an' brought back h'yer. I'd heard dat Texas wuz a good place fer dem ter go ter dat didn't want nobody ter find 'em; so I sot out ter go dar. When I got ez fur ez Fairfax, in Louisiana, I was tuk down wid de fever, an' fer nigh 'bout six month I wa'ant ob no account whatebber. An' who yer tink tuk keer ob me den, Marse Hesden?"
"I am sure I don't know," was the reply.
"No, yer wouldn't nebber guess," said Nimbus; "but twa'n't nobody else but my old mammy, Lorency."
"You don't say! Well, that was strange," said Hesden.
"It was quare, Marse Hesden. She was gittin' on to be a old woman den. She's dead sence. Yer see, she knowed me by my name, an' she tuk keer on me, else I'd nebber been here ter tell on't. Atter I got better like, she sorter persuaded me ter stay dar. I wuz powerful homesick, an' wanted ter h'year from 'Gena an' de chillen, an' ef I'd hed money 'nough left, I'd a come straight back h'yer; but what with travellin' an' doctors' bills, an' de like, I hadn't nary cent. Den I couldn't leave my ole mammy, nuther. She'd hed a hard time sence de wah, a-wukkin' fer herself all alone, an' I wuz boun' ter help her all I could. I got a man to write ter Miss Mollie; but de letter come back sayin' she wa'n't h'yer no mo'. Den I got him to write ter whar she'd been afo' she come South; but that come back too."
"Why did you not write to me?" said Hesden.
"Wal," said Nimbus, with some confusion, "I wuz afeared ter do it, Marse Hesden. I wuz afeared yer mout hev turned agin me. I dunno why 'twuz, but I wuz mighty skeered ob enny white folks, 'ceptin' Miss Mollie h'yer. So I made it up wid mammy, dat we should wuk on till we'd got 'nough ter come back; an' den we'd come, an' I'd stop at some place whar I wa'n't knowed, an' let her come h'yer an' see how t'ings wuz.
"I'd jest about got ter dat pint, when I hed anodder pull-back. Yer see, dar wuz two men, both claimed ter be sheriff o' dat parish. Dat was—let me see, dat was jes de tenth yeah atter de S'render, fo' years alter I left h'yer. One on 'em, ez near ez I could make out, was app'inted by de Guv'ner, an' t'odder by a man dat claimed ter be Guv'ner. De fust one called on de cullu'd men ter help him hold de Court House an' keep t'ings a-gwine on right; an' de t'odder, he raised a little army an' come agin' us. I'd been a sojer, yer know, an' I t'ought I wuz bound ter stan' up fer de guv'ment. So I went in ter fight wid de rest. We t'rew up some bres'wuks, an' when dey druv us outen dem we fell back inter de Court House. Den dar come a boat load o' white folks down from Sweevepo't, an' we hed a hard time a-fightin' on 'em. Lots ob us got killed, an' some o' dem. We hadn't many guns ner much ammunition. It war powerful hot, an' water wuz skeerce.
"So, atter a while, we sent a flag o' truce, an' 'greed ter s'render ebberyting, on condition dat dey wouldn't hurt us no mo'. Jest ez quick ez we gib up dey tuk us all pris'ners. Dar was twenty-sebben in de squad I wuz wid. 'Long a while atter dark, dey tuk us out an' marched us off, wid a guard on each side. We hadn't gone more'n two or t'ree hundred yards afo' de guard begun ter shoot at us. Dey hit me in t'ree places, an' I fell down an' rolled inter a ditch by de roadside, kinder under de weeds like. Atter a while I sorter come ter myself an' crawled off fru de weeds ter de bushes. Nex' day I got a chance ter send word ter mammy, an' she come an' nussed me till we managed ter slip away from dar."
"Poor Nimbus!" said Mollie, weeping. "You have had a hard time indeed!"
"Not so bad as de odders," was the reply. "Dar wuz only two on us dat got away at all. The rest wuz all killed."
"Yes," said Hesden, "I remember that affair. It was a horrible thing. When will our Southern people learn wisdom!"
"I dunno dat, Marse Hesden," said Nimbus, "but I do know dat de cullu'd folks is larnin' enough ter git outen dat. You jes mark my words, ef dese t'ings keep a-gwine on, niggers'll be skeerce in dis kentry purty soon. We can't be worse off, go whar we will, an' I jes count a cullu'd man a fool dat don't pole out an' git away jest ez soon ez he finds a road cut out dat he kin trabbel on."
"But that was three years ago, Nimbus," said Hesden. "Where have you been since?"
"Wal, yer see, atter dat," said Nimbus, "we wuz afeared ter stay dar any mo'. So we went ober inter Miss'ippi, mammy an' me, an' went ter wuk agin. I wasn't berry strong, but we wukked hard an' libbed hard ter git money ter come back wid. Mammy wuz powerful anxious ter git back h'yer afo' she died. We got along tollable-like, till de cotting wuz about all picked, an' hadn't drawed no wages at all, to speak on. Den, one day, de boss man on de plantation, he picked a quarrel wid mammy 'bout de wuk, an' presently hit her ober her ole gray head wid his cane. I couldn't stan' dat, nohow, so I struck him, an' we hed a fight. I warn't nuffin' ter what I war once, but dar war a power o' strength in me yet, ez he found out.
"Dey tuk me up an' carried me ter jail, an' when de court come on, my ole mammy wuz dead; so I couldn't prove she war my mammy, an' I don't 'llow 'twould hev made enny difference ef I had. The jury said I war guilty, an' de judge fined me a hundred dollars an' de costs, an' sed I wuz ter be hired out at auction ter pay de fine, an' costs, an' sech like. So I wuz auctioned off, an' brought twenty-five cents a day. 'Cordin' ter de law, I hed ter wuk two days ter make up my keep fer ebbery one I lost. I war sick an' low-sperrited, an' hadn't no heart ter wuk, so I lost a heap o' days. Den I run away once or twice, but dey cotch me, an' brought me back. So I kep' losin' time, an' didn't git clean away till 'bout four months ago. Sence den I'se been wukkin' my way back, jes dat skeery dat I dassent hardly walk de roads fer fear I'd be tuk up agin. But I felt jes like my ole mammy dat wanted ter come back h'yer ter die."
"But you are not going to die," said Mollie, smiling through her tears. "Your plantation is all right. We will send for 'Gena and the children, and you and Eliab can live again at Red Wing and be happy."
"I don't want ter lib dar, Miss Mollie," said Nimbus. "I ain't a-gwine ter die, ez you say; but I don't want ter lib h'yer, ner don't want my chillen ter. I want 'em ter lib whar dey kin be free, an' hev 'bout half a white man's chance, ennyhow."
"But what about Red Wing?" asked Hesden.
"I'd like ter see it once mo'," said the broken-hearted man, while the tears ran down his face. "I 'llowed once that I'd hab a heap o' comfort dar in my ole days. But dat's all passed an' gone, now—passed an' gone! I'll tell yer what, Marse Hesden, I allus 'llowed fer Bre'er 'Liab ter hev half o' dat plantation. Now yer jes makes out de papers an' let him hev de whole on't, an' I goes ter Kansas wid 'Gena."
"No, no, Nimbus," said Eliab; "I could not consent—"
"Yes yer kin, 'Liab," said Nimbus quickly, with some of his old-time arrogance. "Yer kin an' yer will. You kin use dat er trac' o' lan' an' make it wuth sunthin' ter our people, an' I can't. So, yer sees, I'll jes be a-doin' my sheer, an' I'll allus t'ink, when I hears how yer's gittin' along an' a-doin' good, dat I'se a pardner wid ye in de wuk o' gibbin' light ter our people, so dat dey'll know how ter be free an' keep free forebber an' ebber. Amen!"
The listeners echoed his "amen," and Eliab, flinging himself into the arms of Nimbus, by whom he had been sitting, and whose hand he had held during the entire narrative, buried his face upon his breast and wept.
Hesden and Mollie were on their way homeward from Eupolia, where they had inspected their property and had seen Nimbus united with his family and settled for a new and more hopeful start in life. They had reached that wonderful young city of seventy-seven hills which faces toward free Kansas and reluctantly bears the ban which slavery put upon Missouri. While they waited for their train in the crowded depot in which the great ever-welcoming far West meets and first shakes hands with ever-swarming East, they strolled about among the shifting crowd.
Soon they came upon a dusky group whose bags and bundles, variegated attire, and unmistakable speech showed that they were a party of those misguided creatures who were abandoning the delights of the South for the untried horrors of a life upon the plains of Kansas. These were of all ages, from the infant in arms to the decrepit patriarch, and of every shade of color, from Saxon fairness with blue eyes and brown hair to ebon blackness. They were telling their stories to a circle of curious listeners. There was no lack of variety of incident, but a wonderful similarity of motive assigned for the exodus they had undertaken.
There were ninety-four of them, and they came from five different States—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. They had started without preconcert, and were unacquainted with each other until they had collected into one body as the lines of travel converged on the route to Kansas. A few of the younger ones said that they had come because they had heard that Kansas was a country where there was plenty of work and good wages, and where a colored man could get pay for what he did. Others told strange tales of injustice and privation. Some, in explanation of their evident poverty, showed the contracts under which they had labored. Some told of personal outrage, of rights withheld, and of law curiously diverted from the ends of justice to the promotion of wrong. By far the greater number of them, however, declared their purpose to be to find a place where their children could grow up free, receive education, and have "a white man's chance" in the struggle of life. They did not expect ease or affluence themselves, but for their offspring they craved liberty, knowledge, and a fair start.
While Hesden and Mollie stood watching this group, with the interest one always feels in that which reminds him of home, seeing in these people the forerunners of a movement which promised to assume astounding proportions in the near future, they were startled by an exclamation from one of the party:
"Wall, I declar'! Ef dar ain't Miss Mollie—an' 'fore God, Marse Hesden, too!" Stumbling over the scattered bundles in his way, and pushing aside those who stood around, Berry Lawson scrambled into the presence of the travelers, bowing and scraping, and chuckling with delight; a battered wool hat in one hand, a shocking assortment of dilapidated clothing upon his person, but his face glowing with honest good-nature, and his tones resonant of fun, as if care and he had always been strangers.
"How d'ye, Miss Mollie—sah'vent, Marse Hesden. I 'llow I must be gittin' putty nigh ter de promised lan' when I sees you once mo'. Yah, yah! Yer hain't done forgot Berry, I s'pose? Kase ef yer hez, I'll jes hev ter whistle a chune ter call myself ter mind. Jes, fer instance now, like dis h'yer."
Then raising his hands and swaying his body in easy accompaniment, he began to imitate the mocking-bird in his mimicry of his feathered companions. He was very proud of this accomplishment, and his performance soon drew attention from all parts of the crowded depot. Noticing this, Hesden said,
"There, there, Berry; that will do. There is no doubt as to your identity. We both believe that nobody but Berry Lawson could do that, and are very glad to see you." Mollie smiled assent.
"T'ank ye, sah. Much obleeged fer de compliment. Hope I see yer well, an' Miss Mollie de same. Yer do me proud, both on yer," said Berry, bowing and scraping again, making a ball of his old hat, sidling restlessly back and forth, and displaying all the limpsy litheness of his figure, in his embarrassed attempts to show his enjoyment. "'Pears like yer's trabblin' in company," he added, with a glance at Mollie's hand resting on Hesden's arm.
"Yes," said Hesden good-naturedly; "Miss Mollie is Mrs. Le Moyne now."
"Yer don't say!" said Berry, in surprise. "Der Lo'd an' der nation, what will happen next? Miss Mollie an' Marse Hesden done married an' a-meetin' up wid Berry out h'yer on de berry edge o' de kingdom! Jest ez soon hab expected to a' seen de vanguard o' de resurrection. Yer orter be mighty proud, Marse Hesden. We used ter t'ink, 'bout Red Wing, dat dar wa'n't nary man dat ebber cast a shadder good 'nough fer Miss Mollie."
"And so there isn't," said Hesden, laughing, "But we can't stand here and talk all day. Where are you from?"
"Whar's I frum? Ebbery place on de green yairth, Marse Hesden, 'ceptin' dis one, whar dey hez ter shoe de goats fer ter help 'em climb de bluffs; an' please de Lo'd I'll be from h'yer jest es soon ez de train come's 'long dat's 'boun' fer de happy land of Canaan.'"
"We shall have to stop over, dear," said Hesden to his wife. "There's no doing anything with Berry in the time we have between the trains. Have you any baggage?" he asked of Berry,
"Baggage? Dat I hab—a whole handkercher full o' clean clo'es—jest ez soon ez dey's been washed, yer know. Yah, yah!"
"Where are you going?"
"Whar's I gwine? Gwine West, ter grow up wid de kentry, Marse Hesden." "There, there, take your bundle and come along."
"All right, Marse Hesden. Jest ez soon wuk fer you ez ennybody. Good-by, folkses," said he, waving his hat to his late traveling companions. "I'se mighty sorry to leave yer, but biz is biz, yer know, an' I'se got a job. Wish yer good luck, all on yer. Jes let 'em know I'm on der way, will yer?
Ef yo' gits dar afo' I do, Jes tell 'em I'se a-comin' too,"
he sang, as he followed Hesden and Mollie out of the depot, amid the laughter of the crowd which had gathered about them. Their baggage was soon removed from the platform, and, with Berry on the seat with the driver, they went to the hotel. Then, taking him down the busy street that winds around between the sharp hills as though it had crawled up, inch by inch, from the river-bottom below, Hesden procured him some new clothes and a valise, which Berry persisted in calling a "have'em-bag," and took him back to the hotel as his servant. As Hesden started to his room, the rejuvenated fugitive inquired,
"Please, Marse Hesden, does yer know ennyt'ing what's a come ob—ob my Sally an' de chillen. It's been a powerful time sence I seed 'em, Marse Hesden. I 'llow ter send fer 'em jest ez quick ez I find whar dey is, an' gits de money, yer know."
"They are all right, Berry. You may come to my room in half an hour, and we will tell you all about them," answered Hesden.
Hardly had he reached his room when he heard the footsteps of Berry without. Going to the door he was met by Berry with the explanation,
"Beg parding, Marse Hesden. I knowed 'twa'n't de time fer me ter come yit, but somehow I'llowed it would git on pearter ef I wuz somewhar nigh you an' Miss Mollie. I'se half afeared I'se ies been dreamin' ennyhow."
"Well, come in," said Hesden. Berry entered the room, and sat in unwonted silence while Mollie and her husband told him what the reader already knows about his family and friends. The poor fellow's tears flowed freely, but he did not interrupt, save to ask now and then a question. When they had concluded, he sat a while in silence, and then said,
"Bress de Lo'd! Berry won't nebber hab no mo' doubt 'bout de Lo'd takin' keer ob ebberybody—speshully niggas an' fools. H'yer I'se been a-feelin' mighty hard kase de Ole Marster 'llowed Berry ter be boxed roun', h'yer an' dar, fus' dis way an' now dat, an' let him be run off from his wife an' chillen dat he t'ought der couldn't nobody take keer on but hissef; an' h'yer all de time de good Lo'd hez been a-lookin' atter 'em an' a-nussin' 'em like little lambs, widout my knowin' ennyt'ing about it, er even axin' fer him ter do it. Berry!" he continued, speaking to himself, "yer's jest a gran' rascal, an' desarve ter be whacked roun' an' go hungry fer—"
"Berry," interrupted Mollie, "have you had your breakfast?"
"Brekfas', Miss Mollie?" said Berry, "what Berry want ob any brekfas'? Ain't what yer's been a-tellin' on him brekfas' an' dinner an' supper ter him? Brekfas' don't matter ter him now. He's jes dat full o' good t'ings dat he won't need no mo' for a week at de berry least."
"Tell the truth, Berry; when did you eat last?"
"Wal, I 'clar, Miss Mollie, ef Berry don't make no mistake, he bed a squar meal night afo' las', afo' we leave Saint Lewy. De yemergrant train runs mighty slow, an' Berry wa'n't patronizin' none o' dem cheap shops 'long de way—not much; yah, yah!"
Hesden soon arranged to relieve his discomfort, and that night he told them where he had been and what had befallen him in the mean time.
"Yer see, atter I lef Bre'er Nimbus, I went back down inter Hanson County; but I wuz jes dat bad skeered dat I darn't show myse'f in de daytime at all. So I jes' tuk Sally an' de chillen in de carry-all dat Nimbus lent me wid de mule, an' started on furder down east. 'Clar, I jes hev ter pay Nimbus fer dat mule an' carry-all, de berry fus' money I gits out h'yer in Kansas. It certain war a gret help ter Berry. Jest as long ez I hed dat tertrabbel wid, I knowed I war safe; kase nobody wouldn't nebber'spect I was runnin' away in dat sort ob style. Wal, I went way down east, an' denex' spring went ter crappin' on sheers on a cotting plantation. Sally 'n' me we jes made up ourminds dat we wouldn't draw no rations from de boss man. ner ax him fer ary cent ob money de whole yeah, an' den, yer know, dar wouldn't be nary 'count agin us when de year wuz ober. So Sally, she 'llowed dat she'd wuk fer de bread an' meat an' take keer ob de chillen, wid de few days' help I might spar' outen de crap. De boss man, he war boun' by de writin's ter feed de mule. Dat's de way we sot in.
"We got 'long mighty peart like till some time atter de crap wuz laid by, 'long bout roastin'-ear-time. Den Sally tuk sick, an' de fus' dat I knowed we wuz out o' meat. Sally wuz powerful sot agin my goih' ter de boss man fer enny orders on destore, kase we knowed how dat wukked afo'. Den I sez, 'See h'yer, Sally, I'se done got it. Dar's dat piece ob corn dar, below de house, is jest a-gittin' good fer roastin-yeahs, Now, we'll jes pick offen de outside rows, an' I'll be dod-dinged ef we can't git 'long wid dat till de crap comes off; an' I'll jes tell Maise Hooper—dat wuz de name o' de man what owned de plantation—dat I'll take dem rows inter my sheer.' So it went on fer a week er two, an' I t'ought I wuz jes gittin' on like a quarter hoss. Sally wuz nigh 'bout well, an' 'llowed she'd be ready ter go ter wuk de nex' week; when one mo'nin' I tuk the basket an' went down ter pick some corn. Jest ez I'd got de basket nigh 'bout full, who should start up dar, outen de bushes, on'y jes Marse Hooper; an' he sez, mighty brisk-like, 'So? I 'llowed I'd cotch yer 'fore I got fru! Stealin' corn, is yer?'
"Den I jes larfed right out, an' sez I, 'Dat's de fus' time I ebber heerd ob ennybody a-stealin' corn out ob his own field! Yah! yah!' Jes so-like. 'Ain't dis yer my crap, Marse Hooper? Didn't I make it, jest a-payin' ter you one third on't for de rent?' T'ought I hed him, yer know. But, law sakes, he didn't hev no sech notion, not much. So he sez, sez he:
"'No yer don't! Dat mout a' done once, when de Radikils wuz in power, but de legislatur las' winter dey made a diff'rent sort ob a law, slightually. Dey sed dat ef a renter tuk away enny o' de crap afo' it wuz all harvested an' diwided, widout de leave o' de owner, got afo' hand, he was guilty o' stealin' '—larsininy, he called it, but its all de same. An' he sed, sez he, 'Dar ain't no use now, Berry Lawson. Yer's jes got yer choice. Yer kin jes git up an' git, er else I hez yer 'dicted an' sent ter State prison fer not less ner one year nor more'n twenty—dat's 'cordin' ter de law.' "Den I begun ter be skeered-like, an' I sez, sez I, 'Arn't yer gwine ter let me stay an' gether my crap?'
"'Damn de crap,' sez he (axin' yer parding, Miss Mollie, fer usin' cuss-words), 'I'll take keer o' de crap; don't yer be afeared o' dat. Yer t'ought yer was damn smart, didn't yer, not takin' enny store orders, an' a-tryin' to fo'ce me ter pay yer cash in de lump? But now I'se got yer. Dis Lan'lo'd an' Tenant Act war made fer jes sech cussed smart niggers ez you is.'
"'Marse Hooper,' sez I, 'is dat de law?'
"'Sartin,' sez he, 'jes you come long wid me ober ter Squar Tice's, an' ef he don't say so I'll quit—dat's all.'
"So we went ober ter Squar Tice's, an' he sed Marse Hooper war right—dat it war stealin' all de same, even ef it war my own crap. Den I seed dat Marse Hooper hed me close, an' I begun ter beg off, kase I knowed it war a heap easier ter feed him soft corn dan ter fight him in de law, when I wuz boun' ter git whipped. De Squar war a good sort ob man, an' he kinder 'suaded Marse Hooper ter 'comp' de matter wid me; an' dat's what we did finally. He gin me twenty dollahs an' I signed away all my right ter de crap. Den he turned in an' wanted ter hire me fer de nex yeah; but de Squar, he tuk me out an' sed I'd better git away from dar, kase ennybody could bring de matter up agin me an' git me put in de penitentiary fer it, atter all dat hed been sed an' done. So we geared up, an' moved on. Sally felt mighty bad, an' it did seem hard; but I tried ter chirk her up, yer know, an' tole her dat, rough ez it war, it war better nor we'd ebber done afo', kase we hed twenty dollahs an' didn't owe nuffin'.
"I 'llowed we'd git clean away dat time, an' we didn't stop till we'd got inter anodder State."
"Wal, dar I sot in ter wuk a cotting crap agin. Dis time I 'llowed I'd jes take de odder way; an' so I tuk up all de orders on de sto' dat de boss man would let me hev, kase I 'llowed ter git what I could ez I went 'long, yer know. So, atter de cotting wuz all picked, an' de 'counts all settled up, dar warn't only jest one little bag ob lint a comin' ter Berry. I tuk dat inter de town one Saturday in de ebenin', an' went roun' h'yer an' dar, a-tryin' ter git de biggest price 'mong de buyers dat I could.
"It happened dat I done forgot al 'bout it's comin' on late, an' jest a little atter sun-down, I struck on a man dat offered me 'bout a cent a poun' more'n ennybody else hed done, an' I traded wid him. Den I druv de mule roun', an' hed jes got de cotting out ob de carry-all an' inter de sto', when, fust I knowed, 'long come a p'liceman an' tuk me up for selling cotting atter sun-down. I tole him dat it was my own cotting, what I'd done raised myself, but he sed ez how it didn't make no sort of diff'rence at all. He 'clared dat de law sed ez how ennybody ez sold er offered fer sale any cotting atter sundown an' afore sun-up, should be sent ter jail jes de same ez ef he'd done stole it. Den I axed de man dat bought de cotting ter gib it back ter me, but he wouldn't do dat, nohow, nor de money for it nuther. So dey jes' toted me off ter jail.
"I knowed der warn't no use in savin' nuffin' den. So when Sally come in I tole her ter jes take dat ar mule an' carry-all an' sell 'em off jest ez quick ez she could, so dat nobody wouldn't git hold ob dem. But when she tried ter do it, de boss man stopped her from it, kase he hed a mortgage on 'em fer de contract; an' he sed ez how I hedn't kep' my bargain kase I'd gone an' got put in jail afo' de yeah was out. So she couldn't git no money ter pay a lawyer, an' I don't s'pose 'twould hev done enny good ef she hed. I tole her not ter mind no mo' 'bout me, but jes ter come back ter Red Wing an' see ef Miss Mollie couldn't help her out enny, Yer see I was jes shore dey'd put me in de chain-gang, an' I didn't want her ner de chillen ter be whar dey'd see me a totin' 'roun' a ball an' chain.
"Shore 'nough, when de court come on, dey tried me an' fotch me in guilty o' sellin' cotting alter sundown. De jedge, he lectured me powerful fer a while, an' den he ax me what I'd got ter say 'bout it. Dat's de way I understood him ter say, ennyhow. So, ez he wuz dat kind ez ter ax me ter speak in meetin', I 'llowed twa'n't no mo' dan polite fer me ter say a few words, yer know. I told him squar out dat I t'ought 'twas a mighty quare law an' a mighty mean one, too, dat put a man in de chain-gang jes kase he sold his own cotting atter sundown, when dey let ennybody buy it an' not pay fer it at all. I tole him dat dey let 'em sell whisky an' terbacker an' calico and sto' clo'es an' ebbery t'ing dat a nigger hed ter buy, jest all times o' day an' night; an' I jest bleeved dat de whole t'ing war jest a white man's trick ter git niggas in de chain-gang. Den de jedge he tried ter set down on me an' tole me ter stop, but I wuz dat mad dat when I got a-gwine dar warn't no stoppin' me till de sheriff he jes grabbed me by de scruff o' de neck, an' sot me down jest ennyway—all in a heap, yer know. Den de jedge passed sentence, yer know, an' he sed dat he gib me one year fer de stealin' an' one year fer sassin' de Court.
"So dey tuk me back ter jail, but, Lor' bress ye, dey didn't git me inter de chain-gang, nohow. 'Fore de mo'nin' come I'd jes bid good-by ter dat jail an' was a pintin' outen dat kentry, in my weak way, ez de ministers say, jest ez fast ez I could git ober de groun'.
"Den I jes clean gib up. I couldn't take my back trac nowhar, fer fear I'd be tuk up. I t'ought it all ober while I wuz a trabblin' 'long; an' I swar ter God, Marse Hesden, I jes did peg out ob all hope. I couldn't go back ter Sallie an' de chillen, ner couldn't do 'em enny good ef I did; ner I couldn't send fer dem ter come ter me, kase I hedn't nuffin' ter fotch 'em wid. So I jes kinder gin out, an' went a-sloshin' roun', not a-keerin' what I done er what was ter come on me. I kep' a'sendin' letters ter Sally h'yer an' dar, but, bress yer soul, I nebber heard nuffin' on 'em atterwards. Den I t'ought I'd try an' git money ter go an' hunt 'em up, but it was jes' ez it was afo'. I dunno how, but de harder I wuk de porer I got, till finally I jes started off afoot an' alone ter go ter Kansas; an' h'yer I is, ready ter grow up wid de kentry, Marse Hesden, jest ez soon ez I gits ter Sally an' de chillen."
"I'm glad you have not had any political trouble," said Hesden.
"P'litical trouble?" said Berry. "Wal, Marse Hesden, yer knows dat Berry is jes too good-natered ter do ennyt'ing but wuk an' larf, an' do a little whistlin' an banjo-pickin' by way ob a change; but I be dinged ef it don't 'pear ter me dat it's all p'litical trouble. Who's Berry ebber hurt? What's he ebber done, I'd like ter know, ter be debbled roun' dis yer way? I use ter vote, ob co'se. T'ought I hed a right ter, an' dat it war my duty ter de kentry dat hed gib me so much. But I don't do dat no mo'. Two year ago I quit dat sort o' foolishness. What's de use? I see'd 'em count de votes, Marse Hesden, an' den I knowed dar warn't no mo' use ob votin' gin dat. Yer know, dey 'pints all de jedges ob de 'lection derselves, an' so count de votes jest ez dey wants 'em. Dar in our precinct war two right good white men, but dey 'pinted nary one o' dem ter count de votes. Oh no, not ter speak on! Dey puts on de Board a good-'nough old cullu'd man dat didn't know 'B' from a bull's foot. Wal, our white men 'ranges de t'ing so dat dey counts our men ez dey goes up ter de box an' dey gibs out de tickets dereselves. Now, dar wuz six hundred an' odd ob our tickets went inter dat box. Dat's shore. But dar wa'n't t'ree hundred come out. I pertended ter be drunk, an' laid down by de chimbly whar dar was a peep-hole inter dat room, an' seed dat countin' done. When dey fust opened de box one on 'em sez, sez he,
"'Lord God! what a lot o' votes!' Den dey all look an' 'llowed dar war a heap mo' votes than dey'd got names. So they all turned in ter count de votes. Dar wuz two kinds on 'em. One wuz little bits ob slick, shiny fellers, and de odders jes common big ones. When dey'd got 'em all counted they done some figurin,' an' sed dey'd hev ter draw out 'bout t'ree hundred an' fifty votes. So dey put 'em all back in de box, all folded up jest ez dey wuz at de start, an' den dey shuck it an' shuck it an' shuck it, till it seemed ter me 'em little fellers wuz boun' ter slip fru de bottom. Den one on 'em wuz blindfolded, an' he drew outen de box till he got out de right number—mostly all on 'em de big tickets, mind ye, kase dey wuz on top, yer know. Den dey count de rest an' make up de papers, an' burns all de tickets.
"Now what's de use o' votin' agin dat? I can't see what fer dey put de tickets in de box at all. 'Tain't half ez fa'r ez a lottery I seed one time in Melton; kase dar dey kep turnin' ober de wheel, an' all de tickets hed a fa'r show. No, Marse Hesden, I nebber does no mo' votin' till I t'inks dar's a leetle chance o' habbin' my vote counted jest ez I drops it inter de box, 'long wid de rest. I don't see no use in it."
"You are quite right, Berry," said Hesden; "but what do you say is the reason you have come away from the South?"
"Jest kase a poor man dat hain't got no larnin' is wuss off dar dan a cat in hell widout claws; he can't fight ner he can't climb. I'se wukked hard an' been honest ebber sence de S'render an' I hed ter walk an' beg my rations ter git h'yer. [Footnote: The actual words used by a colored man well-known to the writer in giving his reason for joining the "exodus," in a conversation in the depot at Kansas City, in February last.] Dat's de reason!" said Berry, springing to his feet and speaking excitedly.
"Yes, Berry, you have been unfortunate, but I know all are not so badly off."
"T'ank God fer dat!" said Berry. "Yer see I'd a' got' long well 'nough ef I'd hed a fa'r shake an' hed knowd' all 'bout de law, er ef de law hadn't been made ter cotch jes sech ez me. I didn't ebber 'spect nuffin' but jest a tollable libbin', only a bit ob larnin, fer my chillen. I tried mighty hard, an' dis is jes what's come on't. I don't pertend ter say what's de matter, but sunthin' is wrong, or else sunthin' hez been wrong, an' dis that we hez now is jest de fruits on't—I dunno which. I can't understand it, nohow. I don't hate nobody, an' I don't know ez dar's enny way out, but only jes ter wait an' wait ez we did in slave times fer de good time ter come. I wuz jes dat tuckered out a-tryin,' dat I t'ought I'd come out h'yer an' wait an' see ef I couldn't grow up wid de kentry, yer know. Yah, yah!"
The next morning the light-hearted exodian departed, with a ticket for Eupolia and a note to his white fellow-fugitive from the evils which a dark past has bequeathed to the South—Jordan Jackson, now the agent of Hesden and Mollie in the management of their interests at that place. Hesden and Mollie continued their homeward journey, stopping for a few days in Washington on their way.
WHAT SHALL THE END BE?
Two men sat upon one of the benches in the shade of a spreading elm in the shadow of the National Capitol, as the sun declined toward his setting. They had been walking and talking as only earnest, thoughtful men are wont to talk. They had forgotten each other and themselves in the endeavor to forecast the future of the country after a consideration of its past.
One was tall, broad, and of full habit, with a clear blue eye, high, noble forehead, and brown beard and hair just beginning to be flecked with gray, and of a light complexion inclining to floridness. He was a magnificent type of the Northern man. He had been the shaper of his own destiny, and had risen to high position, with the aid only of that self-reliant manhood which constitutes the life and glory of the great free North. He was the child of the North-west, but his ancestral roots struck deep into the rugged hills of New England. The West had made him broader and fuller and freer than the stock from which he sprang, without impairing his earnestness of purpose or intensity of conviction.
The other, more slender, dark, with something of sallowness in his sedate features, with hair and beard of dark brown clinging close to the finely-chiseled head and face, with an empty sleeve pinned across his breast, showed more of litheness and subtlety, and scarcely less of strength, than the one on whom he gazed, and was an equally perfect type of the Southern-born American. The one was the Honorable Washington Goodspeed, M.C., and the other was Hesden Le Moyne.
"Well, Mr. Le Moyne," said the former, after a long and thoughtful pause, "is there any remedy for these things? Can the South and the North ever be made one people in thought, spirit, and purpose? It is evident that they have not been in the past; can they become so in the future? Wisdom and patriotism have thus far developed no cure for this evil; they seem, indeed, to have proved inadequate to the elucidation of the problem. Have you any solution to offer?"
"I think," replied Le Moyne, speaking slowly and thoughtfully, "that there is a solution lying just at our hand, the very simplicity of which, perhaps, has hitherto prevented us from fully appreciating its effectiveness."
"Ah!" said Goodspeed, with some eagerness, "and what may that be?"
"Education!" was the reply.
"Oh, yes," said the other, with a smile. "You have adopted, then, the Fourth of July remedy for all national ills?"
"If you mean by 'Fourth of July remedy,'" replied Hesdeu with some tartness, "that it is an idea born of patriotic feeling alone, I can most sincerely answer, Yes. You will please to recollect that every bias of my mind and life has been toward the Southern view of all things. I doubt if any man of the North can appreciate the full force and effect of that bias upon the minds and hearts of those exposed to its operation. When the war ended I had no reason or motive for considering the question of rebuilding the national prosperity and power upon a firmer and broader basis than before. That was left entirely to you gentlemen of the North. It was not until you, the representatives of the national power, had acted—ay, it was not until your action had resulted in apparent failure—that I began to consider this question at all. I did so without any selfish bias or hope, beyond that which every man ought to have in behalf of the Nation which he is a part, and in which he expects his children to remain. So that I think I may safely say that my idea of the remedy does spring from a patriotism as deep and earnest as ever finds expression upon the national holiday."
"Oh, I did not mean that," was the half-apologetic rejoinder; "I did not mean to question your sincerity at all; but the truth is, there has been so much impracticable theorizing upon this subject that one who looks for results can scarcely restrain an expression of impatience when that answer is dogmatically given to such an inquiry."
"Without entirely indorsing your view as to the impracticality of what has been said and written upon this subject," answered Le Moyne, "I must confess that I have never yet seen it formulated in a manner entirely satisfactory to myself. For my part, I am thoroughly satisfied that it is not only practicable, but is also the sole practicable method of curing the ills of which we have been speaking. It seems to me also perfectly apparent why the remedy has not previously been applied—why the patriotism and wisdom of the past has failed to hit upon this simple remedy."
"Well, why was it?"
"The difference between the North and the South before the war," said Le Moyne, "was twofold; both the political and the social organizations of the South were utterly different from those of the North, and could not be harmonized with them. The characteristics of the social organization you, in common with the intelligent masses of the North, no doubt comprehend as fully and clearly as is possible for one who has not personally investigated its phenomena. Your Northern social system was builded upon the idea of inherent equality—that is, of equality and opportunity; so that the only inequality which could exist was that which resulted from the accident of wealth or difference of capacity in the individual.
"The social system of the South was opposed to this in its very elements. At the very outset it was based upon a wide distinction, never overlooked or forgotten for a single moment. Under no circumstances could a colored man, of whatever rank or grade of intellectual power, in any respect, for a single instant overstep the gulf which separated him from the Caucasian, however humble, impoverished, or degraded the latter might be. This rendered easy and natural the establishment of other social grades and ideas, which tended to separate still farther the Northern from the Southern social system. The very fact of the African being thus degraded led, by natural association, to the degradation of those forms of labor most frequently delegated to the slave. By this means free labor became gradually to be considered more and more disreputable, and self-support to be considered less and less honorable. The necessities of slavery, as well as the constantly growing pride of class, tended very rapidly toward the subversion of free thought and free speech; so that, even with the white man of any and every class, the right to hold and express opinions different from those entertained by the bulk of the master-class with reference to all those subjects related to the social system of the South soon came to be questioned, and eventually utterly denied. All these facts the North—that is, the Northern people, Northern statesmen, Northern thinkers—have comprehended as facts. Their influence and bearings, I may be allowed to say, they have little understood, because they have not sufficiently realized their influence upon the minds of those subjected, generation after generation, to their sway.
"On the other hand, the wide difference between the political systems of the North and the South seems never to have affected the Northern mind at all. The Northern statesmen and political writers seem always to have proceeded upon the assumption that the removal of slavery, the changing of the legal status of the African, resulting in the withdrawal of one of the props which supported the social system of the South, would of itself overthrow not only that system, but the political system which had grown up along with it, and which was skillfully designed for its maintenance and support. Of the absolute difference between the political systems of the South and the North, and of the fact that the social and political systems stood to each other in the mutual relation of cause and effect, the North seems ever to have been profoundly ignorant."
"Well," said Mr. Goodspeed, "I must confess that I cannot understand what difference there is, except what arose out of slavery."
"The questien is not," said Le Moyne, "whether it arose out of slavery, but whether it would of necessity fall with the extinction of slavery as a legal status. It is, perhaps, impossible for any one to say exactly how much of the political system of the South grew out of slavery, and how much of slavery and its consequences were due to the Southern political system."
"I do not catch your meaning," said Goodspeed. "Except for the system of slavery and the exclusion of the blacks from the exercise and enjoyment of poitical rights and privileges, I cannot see that the political system of the South differed materially from that of the North."
"Precisely so," said Le Moyne. "Your inability to perceive my meaning very clearly illustrates to my mind the fact which I am endeavoring to impress upon you. If you will consider for a moment the history of the country, you will observe that a system prevailed in the nou-slaveholding States which was unknown, either in name or essential attributes, throughout the slaveholding part of the country."
"Yes?" said the other inquiringly. "What may that have been?"
"In one word," said Le Moyne—"the 'township' system."
"Oh, yes," laughed the Congressman lightly; "the Yankee town-meeting."
"Exactly," responded Le Moyne; "yet I venture to say that the presence and absence of the town-meeting—the township system or its equivalent—in the North and in the South, constituted a difference not less vital and important than that of slavery itself. In fact, sir, I sincerely believe that it is to the township system that the North owes the fact that it is not to-day as much slave territory as the South was before the war."
"What!" said the Northerner, with surprise, "you do not mean to say that the North owes its freedom, its prosperity, and its intelligence—the three things in which it differs from the South most materially—entirely to the Yankee town-meeting?"
"Perhaps not entirely," said Le Moyne; "but in the main I think it does. And there are certain facts connected with our history which I think, when you consider them carefully, will incline you to the same belief."
"Indeed; I should be glad to know them."
"The first of these," continued Le Moyne, "is the fact that in every state in which the township system really prevailed, slavery was abolished without recourse to arms, without civil discord or perceptible evil results. The next is that in the states in which the township system did not prevail in fact as well as name, the public school system did not exist, or had only a nominal existence; and the proportion of illiteracy in those states as a consequence was, among the whites alone, something like four times as great as in those states in which the township system flourished. And this, too, notwithstanding almost the entire bulk of the ignorant immigration from the old world entered into the composition of the Northern populations. And, thirdly, there resulted a difference which I admit to be composite in its causes—that is, the difference in average wealth. Leaving out of consideration the capital invested in slaves, the per capita valuation of the states having the township system was something more than three times the average in those where it was unknown."