The coachman was guiding his horses with one hand, and with the other he was endeavouring to keep a large, old-fashioned trunk from falling from the top. This was by no means an easy matter, as the horses appeared quite restive, and fully required his undivided attention. The rather unsteady motion of the carriage caused its inmate to put his head out of the window, and Mr. Garie recognized his uncle John, who lived in the north-western part of the state, on the borders of Alabama. He immediately left his desk, and hastened to the door to receive him.
"This is an unexpected visit, but none the less pleasant on that account," said Mr. Garie, his face lighting up with surprise and pleasure as uncle John alighted. "I had not the least expectation of being honoured by a visit from you. What has brought you into this part of the country? Business, of course? I can't conceive it possible that you should have ventured so far from home, at this early season, for the mere purpose of paying me a visit."
"You may take all the honour to yourself this time," smilingly replied uncle John, "for I have come over for your especial benefit; and if I accomplish the object of my journey, I shall consider the time anything but thrown away."
"Let me take your coat; and, Eph, see you to that trunk," said Mr. Garie. "You see everything is topsy-turvy with us, uncle John. We look like moving, don't we?"
"Like that or an annual house-cleaning," he replied, as he picked his way through rolls of carpet and matting, and between half-packed boxes; in doing which, he had several narrow escapes from the nails that protruded from them on all sides. "It's getting very warm; let me have something to drink," said he, wiping his face as he took his seat; "a julep—plenty of brandy and ice, and but little mint."
Eph, on receiving this order, departed in great haste in search of Mrs. Garie, as he knew that, whilst concocting one julep, she might be prevailed upon to mix another, and Eph had himself a warm liking for that peculiar Southern mixture, which liking he never lost any opportunity to gratify.
Emily hurried downstairs, on hearing of the arrival of uncle John, for he was regarded by her as a friend. She had always received from him marked kindness and respect, and upon the arrival of Mr. Garie's visitors, there was none she received with as much pleasure. Quickly mixing the drink, she carried it into the room where he and her husband were sitting. She was warmly greeted by the kind-hearted old man, who, in reply to her question if he had come to make them a farewell visit, said he hoped not: he trusted to make them many more in the same place.
"I'm afraid you won't have an opportunity," she replied. "In less than a week we expect to be on our way to New York.—I must go," continued she, "and have a room prepared for you, and hunt up the children. You'll scarcely know them, they have grown so much since you were here. I'll soon send them," and she hurried off to make uncle John's room comfortable.
"I was never more surprised in my life," said the old gentleman, depositing the glass upon the table, after draining it of its contents—"never more surprised than when I received your letter, in which you stated your intention of going to the North to live. A more ridiculous whim it is impossible to conceive—the idea is perfectly absurd! To leave a fine old place like this, where you have everything around you so nice and comfortable, to go north, and settle amongst a parcel of strange Yankees! My dear boy, you must give it up. I'm no longer your guardian—the law don't provide one for people of thirty years and upwards—so it is out of my power to say you shall not do it; but I am here to use all my powers of persuasion to induce you to relinquish the project."
"Uncle John, you don't seem to understand the matter. It is not a whim, by any means—it is a determination arising from a strict sense of duty; I feel that it is an act of justice to Emily and the children. I don't pretend to be better than most men; but my conscience will not permit me to be the owner of my own flesh and blood. I'm going north, because I wish to emancipate and educate my children—you know I can't do it here. At first I was as disinclined to favour the project as you are; but I am now convinced it is my duty, and, I must add, that my inclination runs in the same direction."
"Look here, Clarence, my boy," here interrupted uncle John; "you can't expect to live there as you do here; the prejudice against persons of colour is much stronger in some of the Northern cities than it is amongst us Southerners. You can't live with Emily there as you do here; you will be in everybody's mouth. You won't be able to sustain your old connections with your Northern friends—you'll find that they will cut you dead."
"I've looked at it well, uncle John. I've counted the cost, and have made up my mind to meet with many disagreeable things. If my old friends choose to turn their backs on me because my wife happens to belong to an oppressed race, that is not my fault. I don't feel that I have committed any sin by making the choice I have; and so their conduct or opinions won't influence my happiness much."
"Listen to me, Clary, for a moment," rejoined the old gentleman. "As long as you live here in Georgia you can sustain your present connection with impunity, and if you should ever want to break it off, you could do so by sending her and the children away; it would be no more than other men have done, and are doing every day. But go to the North, and it becomes a different thing. Your connection with Emily will inevitably become a matter of notoriety, and then you would find it difficult to shake her off there, as you could here, in case you wanted to marry another woman."
"Oh, uncle, uncle, how can you speak so indifferently about my doing such an ungenerous act; to characterize it in the very mildest terms. I feel that Emily is as much my wife in the eyes of God, as if a thousand clergymen had united us. It is not my fault that we are not legally married; it is the fault of the laws. My father did not feel that my mother was any more his wife, than I do that Emily is mine."
"Hush, hush; that is all nonsense, boy; and, besides, it is paying a very poor compliment to your mother to rank her with your mulatto mistress. I like Emily very much; she has been kind, affectionate, and faithful to you. Yet I really can't see the propriety of your making a shipwreck of your whole life on her account. Now," continued uncle John, with great earnestness, "I hoped for better things from you. You have talents and wealth; you belong to one of the oldest and best families in the State. When I am gone, you will be the last of our name; I had hoped that you would have done something to keep it from sinking into obscurity. There is no honour in the State to which you might not have aspired with a fair chance of success; but if you carry out your absurd determination, you will ruin yourself effectually."
"Well; I shall be ruined then, for I am determined to go. I feel it my duty to carry out my design," said Mr. Garie.
"Well, well, Clary," rejoined his uncle, "I've done my duty to my brother's son. I own, that although I cannot agree with you in your project, I can and do honour the unselfish motive that prompts it. You will always find me your friend under all circumstances, and now," concluded he, "it's off my mind."
The children were brought in and duly admired; a box of miniature carpenter's tools was produced; also, a wonderful man with a string through his waist—which string, when pulled, caused him to throw his arms and legs about in a most astonishing manner. The little folks were highly delighted with these presents, which, uncle John had purchased at Augusta; they scampered off, and soon had every small specimen of sable humanity on the place at their heels, in ecstatic admiration of the wonderful articles of which they had so recently acquired possession. As uncle John had absolutely refused all other refreshment than the julep before mentioned, dinner was ordered at a much earlier hour than usual. He ate very heartily, as was his custom; and, moreover, persisted in stuffing the children (as old gentlemen will do sometimes) until their mother was compelled to interfere to prevent their having a bilious attack in consequence. Whilst the gentlemen were sitting over their desert, Mr. Garie asked his uncle, if he had not a sister, with whom there was some mystery connected.
"No mystery," replied uncle John. "Your aunt made a very low marriage, and father cut her off from the family entirely. It happened when I was very young; she was the eldest of us all; there were four of us, as you know—your father, Bernard, I, and this sister of whom we are speaking. She has been dead for some years; she married a carpenter whom father employed on the place—a poor white man from New York. I have heard it said, that he was handsome, but drunken and vicious. They left one child—a boy; I believe he is alive in the North somewhere, or was, a few years since."
"And did she never make any overtures for a reconciliation?"
"She did, some years before father's death, but he was inexorable; he returned her letter, and died without seeing or forgiving her," replied uncle John.
"Poor thing; I suppose they were very poor?"
"I suppose they were. I have no sympathy for her. She deserved her fate, for marrying a greasy mechanic, in opposition to her father's commands, when she might have connected herself with any of the highest families in the State."
The gentlemen remained a long while that night, sipping their wine, smoking cigars, and discussing the probable result of the contemplated change. Uncle John seemed to have the worst forebodings as to the ultimate consequences, and gave it as his decided opinion, that they would all return to the old place in less than a year.
"You'll soon get tired of it," said he; "everything is so different there. Here you can get on well in your present relations; but mark me, you'll find nothing but disappointment and trouble where you are going."
The next morning he departed for his home; he kissed the children affectionately, and shook hands warmly with their mother. After getting into the carriage, he held out his hand again to his nephew, saying:—
"I am afraid you are going to be disappointed; but I hope you may not. Good bye, good bye—God bless you!" and his blue eyes looked very watery, as he was driven from the door.
That day, a letter arrived from Savannah, informing them that the ship in which they had engaged passage would be ready to sail in a few days; and they, therefore, determined that the first instalment of boxes and trunks should be sent to the city forthwith; and to Eph was assigned the melancholy duty of superintending their removal.
"Let me go with him, pa," begged little Clarence, who heard his father giving Eph his instructions.
"Oh, no," replied Mr. Garie; "the cart will be full of goods, there will be no room for you."
"But, pa, I can ride my pony; and, besides, you might let me go, for I shan't have many more chances to ride him—do let me go."
"Oh, yes, massa, let him go. Why dat ar chile can take care of his pony all by hissef. You should just seed dem two de oder day. You see de pony felt kinder big dat day, an' tuck a heap o' airs on hissef, an' tried to trow him—twarn't no go—Massa Clary conquered him 'pletely. Mighty smart boy, dat," continued Eph, looking at little Clarence, admiringly, "mighty smart. I let him shoot off my pistol toder day, and he pat de ball smack through de bull's eye—dat boy is gwine to be a perfect Ramrod."
"Oh, pa," laughingly interrupted little Clarence; "I've been telling him of what you read to me about Nimrod being a great hunter."
"That's quite a mistake, Eph," said Mr. Garie, joining in the laugh. "Well, I knowed it was suffin," said Eph, scratching his head; "suffin with a rod to it; I was all right on that pint—but you'r gwine to let him go, ain't yer, massa?"
"I suppose, I must," replied Mr. Garie; "but mind now that no accident occurs to young Ramrod."
"I'll take care o' dat," said Eph, who hastened off to prepare the horses, followed by the delighted Clarence.
That evening, after his return from Savannah, Clarence kept his little sister's eyes expanded to an unprecedented extent by his narration of the wonderful occurrences attendant on his trip to town, and also of what he had seen in the vessel. He produced an immense orange, also a vast store of almonds and raisins, which had been given him by the good-natured steward. "But Em," said he, "we are going to sleep in such funny little places; even pa and mamma have got to sleep on little shelves stuck up against the wall; and they've got a thing that swings from the ceiling that they keep the tumblers and wine-glasses in—every glass has got a little hole for itself. Oh, it's so nice!"
"And have they got any nice shady trees on the ship?" asked the wondering little Em.
"Oh, no—what nonsense!" answered Clarence, swelling with the importance conferred by his superior knowledge. "Why, no, Em; who ever heard of such a thing as trees on a ship? they couldn't have trees on a ship if they wanted—there's no earth for them to grow in. But I'll tell you what they've got—they've got masts a great deal higher than any tree, and I'm going to climb clear up to the top when we go to live on the ship."
"I wouldn't," said Em; "you might fall down like Ben did from the tree, and then you'd have to have your head sewed up as he had."
The probability that an occurrence of this nature might be the result of his attempt to climb the mast seemed to have considerable weight with Master Clarence, so he relieved his sister's mind at once by relinquishing the project.
The morning for departure at length arrived. Eph brought the carriage to the door at an early hour, and sat upon the box the picture of despair. He did not descend from his eminence to assist in any of the little arrangements for the journey, being very fearful that the seat he occupied might be resumed by its rightful owner, he having had a lengthy contest with the sable official who acted as coachman, and who had striven manfully, on this occasion, to take possession of his usual elevated station on the family equipage. This, Eph would by no means permit, as he declared, "He was gwine to let nobody drive Massa dat day but hissef."
It was a mournful parting. The slaves crowded around the carriage kissing and embracing the children, and forcing upon them little tokens of remembrance. Blind Jacob, the patriarch of the place, came and passed his hands over the face of little Em for the last time, as he had done almost every week since her birth, that, to use his own language, "he might see how de piccaninny growed." His bleared and sightless eyes were turned to heaven to ask a blessing on the little ones and their parents.
"Why, daddy Jake, you should not take it so hard," said Mr. Garie, with an attempt at cheerfulness. "You'll see us all again some day."
"No, no, massa, I'se feared I won't; I'se gettin' mighty old, massa, and I'se gwine home soon. I hopes I'll meet you all up yonder," said he, pointing heavenward. "I don't 'spect to see any of you here agin."
Many of the slaves were in tears, and all deeply lamented the departure of their master and his family, for Mr. Garie had always been the kindest of owners, and Mrs. Garie was, if possible, more beloved than himself. She was first at every sick-bed, and had been comforter-general to all the afflicted and distressed in the place.
At last the carriage rolled away, and in a few hours they reached Savannah, and immediately went on board the vessel.
Mrs. Ellis had been for some time engaged in arranging and replenishing Charlie's wardrobe, preparatory to his journey to Warmouth with Mrs. Bird. An entire new suit of grey cloth had been ordered of the tailor, to whom Mrs. Ellis gave strict injunctions not to make them too small. Notwithstanding the unfavourable results of several experiments, Mrs. Ellis adhered with wonderful tenacity to the idea that a boy's clothes could never be made too large, and, therefore, when Charlie had a new suit, it always appeared as if it had been made for some portly gentleman, and sent home to Charlie by mistake.
This last suit formed no exception to the others, and Charlie surveyed with dismay its ample dimensions as it hung from the back of the chair. "Oh, gemini!" said he, "but that jacket is a rouser! I tell you what, mother, you'll have to get out a search-warrant to find me in that jacket; now, mind, I tell you!"
"Nonsense!" replied Mrs. Ellis, "it don't look a bit too large; put it on."
Charlie took up the coat, and in a twinkling had it on over his other. His hands were almost completely lost in the excessively long sleeves, which hung down so far that the tips of his fingers were barely visible. "Oh, mother!" he exclaimed, "just look at these sleeves—if such a thing were to happen that any one were to offer me a half dollar, they would change their mind before I could get my hand out to take it; and it will almost go twice round me, it is so large in the waist."
"Oh, you can turn the sleeves up; and as for the waist—you'll soon grow to it; it will be tight enough for you before long, I'll warrant," said Mrs. Ellis.
"But, mother," rejoined Charlie, "that is just what you said about the other blue suit, and it was entirely worn out before you had let down the tucks in the trowsers."
"Never mind the blue suit," persisted Mrs. Ellis, entirely unbiassed by this statement of facts. "You'll grow faster this time—you're going into the country, you must remember—boys always grow fast in the country; go into the other room and try on the trowsers."
Charlie retired into another room with the trowsers in question. Here he was joined by Kinch, who went into fits of laughter over Charlie's pea-jacket, as he offensively called the new coat.
"Why, Charlie," said he, "it fits you like a shirt on a bean-pole, or rather it's like a sentry's box—it don't touch you any where. But get into these pants," said he, almost choking with the laughter that Charlie's vexed look caused him to suppress—"get into the pants;" at the same time tying a string round Charlie's neck.
"What are you doing that for?" exclaimed Charlie, in an irritated tone; "I shouldn't have thought you would make fun of me!"
"Oh," said Kinch, assuming a solemn look, "don't they always tie a rope round a man's body when they are going to lower him into a pit? and how on earth do you ever expect we shall find you in the legs of them trowsers, unless something is fastened to you?" Here Charlie was obliged to join in the laugh that Kinch could no longer restrain.
"Stop that playing, boys," cried Mrs. Ellis, as their noisy mirth reached her in the adjoining room; "you forget I am waiting for you."
Charlie hastily drew on the trousers, and found that their dimensions fully justified the precaution Kinch was desirous of taking to secure him from sinking into oblivion.
"Oh, I can't wear these things," said Charlie, tears of vexation starting from his eyes. "Why, they are so large I can't even keep them up; and just look at the legs, will you—they'll have to be turned up a quarter of a yard at least."
"Here," said Kinch, seizing a large pillow, "I'll stuff this in. Oh, golly, how you look! if you ain't a sight to see!" and he shouted with laughter as he surveyed Charlie, to whom the pillow had imparted the appearance of a London alderman. "If you don't look like Squire Baker now, I'll give it up. You are as big as old Daddy Downhill. You are a regular Daniel Lambert!"
The idea of looking like Squire Baker and Daddy Downhill, who were the "fat men" of their acquaintance, amused Charlie as much as it did his companion, and making the house ring with their mirth, they entered the room where Mr. Ellis and the girls had joined Mrs. Ellis.
"What on earth is the matter with the child?" exclaimed Mr. Ellis, as he gazed upon the grotesque figure Charlie presented. "What has the boy been doing to himself?" Hereupon Kinch explained how matters stood, to the infinite amusement of all parties.
"Oh, Ellen," said Mr. Ellis, "you must have them altered; they're a mile too big for him. I really believe they would fit me."
"They do look rather large," said Mrs. Ellis, reluctantly; "but it seems such a waste to take them in, as he grows so fast."
"He would not grow enough in two years to fill that suit," rejoined Mr. Ellis; "and he will have worn them out in less than six months;" and so, to the infinite satisfaction of Charlie, it was concluded that they should be sent back to the tailor's for the evidently necessary alterations.
The day for Charlie's departure at last arrived.
Kinch, who had been up since two o'clock in the morning, was found by Caddy at the early hour of five waiting upon the door-step to accompany his friend to the wharf. Beside him lay a bag, in which there appeared to be some living object.
"What have you got in here?" asked Caddy, as she gave the bag a punch with the broom she was using. "It's a present for Charlie," replied Kinch, opening the bag, and displaying, to the astonished gaze of Caddy, a very young pig.
"Why," said she, laughing, "you don't expect he can take that with him, do you?"
"Why not?" asked Kinch, taking up the bag and carrying it into the house. "It's just the thing to take into the country; Charlie can fatten him and sell him for a lot of money."
It was as much as Mrs. Ellis could do to convince Charlie and Kinch of the impracticability of their scheme of carrying off to Warmouth the pig in question. She suggested, as it was the exclusive property of Kinch, and he was so exceedingly anxious to make Charlie a parting gift, that she should purchase it, which she did, on the spot; and Kinch invested all the money in a large cross-bow, wherewith Charlie was to shoot game sufficient to supply both Kinch and his own parents. Had Charlie been on his way to the scaffold, he could not have been followed by a more solemn face than that presented by Kinch as he trudged on with him in the rear the porter who carried the trunk.
"I wish you were not going," said he, as he put his arm affectionately over Charlie's shoulder, "I shall be so lonesome when you are gone; and what is more, I know I shall get licked every day in school, for who will help me with my sums?"
"Oh, any of the boys will, they all like you, Kinch; and if you only study a little harder, you can do them yourself," was Charlie's encouraging reply.
On arriving at the boat, they found. Mrs. Bird waiting for them; so Charlie hastily kissed his mother and sisters, and made endless promises not to be mischievous, and, above all, to be as tidy as possible. Then tearing himself away from them, and turning to Kinch, he exclaimed, "I'll be back to see you all again soon, so don't cry old fellow;" and at the same time thrusting his hand into his pocket, he drew out a number of marbles, which he gave him, his own lips quivering all the while. At last his attempts to suppress his tears and look like a man grew entirely futile, and he cried heartily as Mrs. Bird took his hand and drew him on board the steamer.
As it slowly moved from the pier and glided up the river, Charlie stood looking with tearful eyes at his mother and sisters, who, with Kinch, waved their handkerchiefs as long as they could distinguish him, and then he saw them move away with the crowd.
Mrs. Bird, who had been conversing with a lady who accompanied her a short distance on her journey, came and took her little protege by the hand, and led him to a seat near her in the after part of the boat, informing him, as she did so, that they would shortly exchange the steamer for the cars, and she thought he had better remain near her.
After some time they approached the little town where the passengers took the train for New York. Mrs. Bird, who had taken leave of her friend, held Charlie fast by the hand, and they entered the cars together. He looked a little pale and weak from the excitement of parting and the novelty of his situation. Mrs. Bird, observing his pallid look, placed him on a seat, and propped him up with shawls and cushions, making him as comfortable as possible.
The train had not long started, when the conductor came through to inspect the tickets, and quite started with surprise at seeing Charlie stretched at full length upon the velvet cushion. "What are you doing here?" exclaimed he, at the same time shaking him roughly, to arouse him from the slight slumber into which he had fallen. "Come, get up: you must go out of this."
"What do you mean by such conduct?" asked Mrs. Bird, very much surprised. "Don't wake him; I've got his ticket; the child is sick."
"I don't care whether he's sick or well—he can't ride in here. We don't allow niggers to ride in this car, no how you can fix it—so come, youngster," said he, gruffly, to the now aroused boy, "you must travel out of this."
"He shall do no such thing," replied Mrs. Bird, in a decided tone; "I've paid fall price for his ticket, and he shall ride here; you have no legal right to eject him."
"I've got no time to jaw about rights, legal or illegal—all I care to know is, that I've my orders not to let niggers ride in these cars, and I expect to obey, so you see there is no use to make any fuss about it."
"Charlie," said Mrs. Bird, "sit here;" and she moved aside, so as to seat him between herself and the window. "Now," said she, "move him if you think best."
"I'll tell you what it is, old woman," doggedly remarked the conductor: "you can't play that game with me. I've made up my mind that no more niggers shall ride in this car, and I'll have him out of here, cost what it may."
The passengers now began to cluster around the contending parties, and to take sides in the controversy. In the end, the conductor stopped the train, and called in one or two of the Irish brake-men to assist him, if necessary, in enforcing his orders.
"You had better let the boy go into the negro car, madam," said one of the gentlemen, respectfully; "it is perfectly useless to contend with these ruffians. I saw a coloured man ejected from here last week, and severely injured; and, in the present state of public feeling, if anything happened to you or the child, you would be entirely without redress. The directors of this railroad control the State; and there is no such thing as justice to be obtained in any of the State courts in a matter in which they are concerned. If you will accept of my arm, I will accompany you to the other car—if you will not permit the child to go there alone, you had better go quietly with him."
"Oh, what is the use of so much talk about it? Why don't you hustle the old thing out," remarked a bystander, the respectability of whose appearance contrasted broadly with his manners; "she is some crack-brained abolitionist. Making so much fuss about a little nigger! Let her go into the nigger car—she'll be more at home there."
Mrs. Bird, seeing the uselessness of contention, accepted the proffered escort of the gentleman before mentioned, and was followed out of the cars by the conductor and his blackguard assistants, all of them highly elated by the victory they had won over a defenceless old woman and a feeble little boy.
Mrs. Bird shrunk back, as they opened the door of the car that had been set apart for coloured persons, and such objectionable whites as were not admitted to the first-class cars. "Oh, what a wretched place!" she exclaimed, as she surveyed the rough pine timbers and dirty floor; "I would not force a dog to ride in such a filthy place."
"Oh, don't stay here, ma'am; never mind me—I shall get on by myself well enough, I dare say," said Charlie; "it is too nasty a place for you to stay in."
"No, my child," she replied; "I'll remain with you. I could not think of permitting you to be alone in your present state of health. I declare," she continued, "it's enough to make any one an abolitionist, or anything else of the kind, to see how inoffensive coloured people are treated!"
That evening they went on board the steamer that was to convey them to Warmouth, where they arrived very early the following morning.
Charlie was charmed with the appearance of the pretty little town, as they rode through it in Mrs. Bird's carriage, which awaited them at the landing. At the door of her residence they were met by two cherry-faced maids, who seemed highly delighted at the arrival of their mistress.
"Now, Charlie," said Mrs. Bird, as she sat down in her large arm-chair, and looked round her snug little parlour with an air of great satisfaction—"now we are at home, and you must try and make yourself as happy as possible. Betsey," said she, turning to one of the women, "here is a nice little fellow, whom I have brought with me to remain during the summer, of whom I want you to take the best care; for," continued she, looking at him compassionately, "the poor child has had the misfortune to break his arm recently, and he has not been strong since. The physician thought the country would be the best place for him, and so I've brought him here to stay with us. Tell Reuben to carry his trunk into the little maple chamber, and by-and-by, after I have rested, I will take a walk over the place with him."
"Here are two letters for you," said Betsey, taking them from the mantelpiece, and handing them to her mistress.
Mrs. Bird opened one, of which she read a part, and then laid it down, as being apparently of no importance. The other, however, seemed to have a great effect upon her, as she exclaimed, hurriedly, "Tell Reuben not to unharness the horses—I must go to Francisville immediately—dear Mrs. Hinton is very ill, and not expected to recover. You must take good care of Charlie until I return. If I do not come back to-night, you will know that she is worse, and that I am compelled to remain there;" and, on the carriage being brought to the door, she departed in haste to visit her sick friend.
The New Home.
When Mrs. Garie embarked, she entertained the idea so prevalent among fresh-water sailors, that she was to be an exception to the rule of Father Neptune, in accordance with which all who intrude for the first time upon his domain are compelled to pay tribute to his greatness, and humbly bow in acknowledgment of his power.
Mrs. Garie had determined not to be sea-sick upon any account whatever, being fully persuaded she could brave the ocean with impunity, and was, accordingly, very brisk and blithe-looking, as she walked up and down upon the deck of the vessel. In the course of a few hours they sailed out of the harbour, and were soon in the open sea. She began to find out how mistaken she had been, as unmistakable symptoms convinced her of the vanity of all human calculations. "Why, you are not going to be ill, Em, after all your valiant declarations!" exclaimed Mr. Garie, supporting her unsteady steps, as they paced to and fro.
"Oh, no, no!" said she, in a firm tone; "I don't intend to give up to any such nonsense. I believe that people can keep up if they try. I do feel a little fatigued and nervous; it's caused, no doubt, by the long drive of this morning—although I think it singular that a drive should affect me in this manner." Thus speaking, she sat down by the bulwarks of the vessel, and a despairing look gradually crept over her face. At last she suddenly rose, to look at the water, as we may imagine. The effect of her scrutiny, however, was, that she asked feebly to be assisted to her state-room, where she remained until their arrival in the harbour of New York. The children suffered only for a short time, and as their father escaped entirely, he was able to watch that they got into no mischief. They were both great favourites with the captain and steward, and, between the two, were so stuffed and crammed with sweets as to place their health in considerable jeopardy.
It was a delightful morning when they sailed into the harbour of New York. The waters were dancing and rippling in the morning sun, and the gaily-painted ferry-boats were skimming swiftly across its surface in their trips to and from the city, which was just awaking to its daily life of bustling toil.
"What an immense city it is!" said Mrs. Garie—"how full of life and bustle! Why there are more ships at one pier here than there are in the whole port of Savanah!"
"Yes, dear," rejoined her husband; "and what is more, there always will be. Our folks in Georgia are not waked up yet; and when they do arouse themselves from their slumber, it will be too late. But we don't see half the shipping from here—this is only one side of the city—there is much more on the other. Look over there," continued he, pointing to Jersey city,—"that is where we take the cars for Philadelphia; and if we get up to dock in three or four hours, we shall be in time for the mid-day train."
In less time than they anticipated they were alongside the wharf; the trunks were brought up, and all things for present use were safely packed together and despatched, under the steward's care, to the office of the railroad.
Mr. and Mrs. Garie, after bidding good-bye to the captain, followed with the children, who were thrown into a great state of excitement by the noise and bustle of the crowded thoroughfare.
"How this whirl and confusion distracts me," said Mrs. Garie, looking out of the carriage-window. "I hope Philadelphia is not as noisy a place as this."
"Oh, no," replied Mr. Garie; "it is one of the most quiet and clean cities in the world, whilst this is the noisiest and dirtiest. I always hurry out of New York; it is to me such a disagreeable place, with its extortionate hackmen and filthy streets."
On arriving at the little steamer in which they crossed the ferry, they found it about to start, and therefore had to hurry on board with all possible speed.
Under the circumstances, the hackman felt that it would be flying in the face of Providence if he did not extort a large fare, and he therefore charged an extravagant price. Mr. Garie paid him, as he had no time to parley, and barely succeeded in slipping a douceur into the steward's hand, when the boat pushed off from the pier.
In a few moments they had crossed the river, and were soon comfortably seated in the cars whirling over the track to Philadelphia.
As the conductor came through to examine the tickets, he paused for a moment before Mrs. Garie and the children. As he passed on, his assistant inquired, "Isn't that a nigger?"
"Yes, a half-white one," was the reply.
"Why don't you order her out, then?—she has no business to ride in here," continued the first speaker.
"I guess we had better let her alone," suggested the conductor, "particularly as no one has complained; and there might be a row if she turned out to be the nurse to those children. The whole party are Southerners, that's clear; and these Southerners are mighty touchy about their niggers sometimes, and kick and cut like the devil about them. I guess we had better let her alone, unless some one complains about her being there."
As they drove through the streets of Philadelphia on the way to their new home, Mrs. Garie gave rent to many expressions of delight at the appearance of the city. "Oh, what a sweet place! everything is so bright and fresh-looking; why the pavement and doorsteps look as if they were cleaned twice a day. Just look at that house, how spotless it is; I hope ours resembles that. Ours is a new house, is it not?" she inquired. "Not entirely; it has been occupied before, but only for a short time, I believe," was her husband's reply.
It had grown quite dark by the time they arrived at Winter-street, where Caddy had been anxiously holding watch and ward in company with the servants who had been procured for them. A bright light was burning in the entry as the coachman stopped at the door.
"This is No. 27," said he, opening the door of the carriage, "shall I ring?"
"Yes, do," replied Mr. Garie; but whilst he was endeavouring to open the gate of the little garden in front, Caddy, who had heard the carriage stop, bounded out to welcome them. "This is Mr. Garie, I suppose," said she, as he alighted.
"Yes, I am; and you, I suppose, are the daughter of Mr. Ellis?"
"Yes, sir; I'm sorry mother is not here to welcome you; she was here until very late last night expecting your arrival, and was here again this morning," said Caddy, taking at the same time one of the little carpet bags. "Give me the little girl, I can take care of her too," she continued; and with little Em on one arm and the carpet bag on the other, she led the way into the house.
"We did not make up any fire," said she, "the weather is very warm to us. I don't know how it may feel to you, though."
"It is a little chilly," replied Mrs. Garie, as she sat down upon the sofa, and looked round the room with a smile of pleasure, and added, "All this place wants, to make it the most bewitching of rooms, is a little fire."
Caddy hurried the new servants from place to place remorselessly, and set them to prepare the table and get the things ready for tea. She waylaid a party of labourers, who chanced to be coming that way, and hired them to carry all the luggage upstairs—had the desired fire made—mixed up some corn-bread, and had tea on the table in a twinkling. They all ate very heartily, and Caddy was greatly praised for her activity.
"You are quite a housekeeper," said Mrs. Garie to Caddy. "Do you like it?"
"Oh, yes," she replied. "I see to the house at home almost entirely; mother and Esther are so much engaged in sewing, that they are glad enough to leave it in my hands, and I'd much rather do that than sew."
"I hope," said Mrs. Garie, "that your mother will permit you to remain with us until we get entirely settled."
"I know she will," confidently replied Caddy. "She will be up here in the morning. She will know you have arrived by my not having gone home this evening."
The children had now fallen asleep with their heads in close proximity to their plates, and Mrs. Garie declared that she felt very much fatigued and slightly indisposed, and thought the sooner she retired the better it would be for her. She accordingly went up to the room, which she had already seen and greatly admired, and was soon in the land of dreams.
As is always the case on such occasions, the children's night-dresses could not be found. Clarence was put to bed in one of his father's shirts, in which he was almost lost, and little Em was temporarily accommodated with a calico short gown of Caddy's, and, in default of a nightcap, had her head tied up in a Madras handkerchief, which gave her, when her back was turned, very much the air of an old Creole who had been by some mysterious means deprived of her due growth.
The next morning Mrs. Garie was so much indisposed at to be unable to rise, and took her breakfast in bed. Her husband had finished his meal, and was sitting in the parlour, when he observed a middle-aged coloured lady coming into the garden.
"Look, Caddy," cried he, "isn't this your mother?"
"Oh, yes, that is she," replied Caddy, and ran and opened the door, exclaiming, "Oh, mother, they're come;" and as she spoke, Mr. Garie came into the entry and shook hands heartily with her. "I'm so much indebted to you," said he, "for arranging everything so nicely for us—there is not a thing we would wish to alter."
"I am very glad you are pleased; we did our best to make it comfortable," was her reply.
"And you succeeded beyond our expectation; but do come up," continued he, "Emily will be delighted to see you. She is quite unwell this morning; has not even got up yet;" and leading the way upstairs, he ushered Mrs. Ellis into the bedroom.
"Why, can this be you?" said she, surveying Emily with surprise and pleasure. "If I had met you anywhere, I should never have known you. How you have altered! You were not so tall as my Caddy when I saw you last; and here you are with two children—and pretty little things they are too!" said she, kissing little Em, who was seated on the bed with her brother, and sharing with him the remains of her mother's chocolate.
"And you look much younger that I expected to see you," replied Mrs. Garie. "Draw a chair up to the bed, and let us have a talk about old times. You must excuse my lying down; I don't intend to get up to-day; I feel quite indisposed."
Mrs. Ellis took off her bonnet, and prepared for a long chat; whilst Mr. Garie, looking at his watch, declared it was getting late, and started for down town, where he had to transact some business.
"You can scarcely think, Ellen, how much I feel indebted to you for all you have done for us; and we are so distressed to hear about Charlie's accident. You must have had a great deal of trouble."
"Oh, no, none to speak of—and had it been ever so much, I should have been just as pleased to have done it; I was so glad you were coming. What did put it in your heads to come here to live?" continued Mrs. Ellis.
"Oh, cousin George Winston praised the place so highly, and you know how disagreeable Georgia is to live in. My mind was never at rest there respecting these," said she, pointing to the children; "so that I fairly teased Garie into it. Did you recognize George?"
"No, I didn't remember much about him. I should never have taken him for a coloured man; had I met him in the street, I should have supposed him to be a wealthy white Southerner. What a gentleman he is in his appearance and manners," said Mrs. Ellis.
"Yes, he is all that—my husband thinks there is no one like him. But we won't talk about him now; I want you to tell me all about yourself and family, and then I'll tell you everything respecting my own fortunes." Hereupon ensued long narratives from both parties, which occupied the greater part of the morning.
Mr. Garie, on leaving the house, slowly wended his way to the residence of Mr. Walters. As he passed into the lower part of the city, his attention was arrested by the number of coloured children he saw skipping merrily along with their bags of books on their arms.
"This," said he to himself, "don't much resemble Georgia."[*]
[Footnote *: It is a penal offence in Georgia to teach coloured children to read.]
After walking some distance he took out a card, and read, 257, Easton-street; and on inquiry found himself in the very street. He proceeded to inspect the numbers, and was quite perplexed by their confusion and irregularity.
A coloured boy happening to pass at the time, he asked him: "Which way do the numbers run, my little man?"
The boy looked up waggishly, and replied: "They don't run at all; they are permanently affixed to each door."
"But," said Mr. Garie, half-provoked, yet compelled to smile at the boy's pompous wit, "you know what I mean; I cannot find the number I wish; the street is not correctly numbered."
"The street is not numbered at all," rejoined the boy, "but the houses are," and he skipped lightly away.
Mr. Garie was finally set right about the numbers, and found himself at length before the door of Mr. Walters's house. "Quite a handsome residence," said he, as he surveyed the stately house, with its spotless marble steps and shining silver door-plate.
On ringing, his summons was quickly answered by a well-dressed servant, who informed him that Mr. Walters was at home, and ushered him into the parlour. The elegance of the room took Mr. Garie completely by surprise, as its furniture indicated not only great wealth, but cultivated taste and refined habits. The richly-papered walls were adorned by paintings from the hands of well-known foreign and native artists. Rich vases and well-executed bronzes were placed in the most favourable situations in the apartment; the elegantly-carved walnut table was covered with those charming little bijoux which the French only are capable of conceiving, and which are only at the command of such purchasers as are possessed of more money than they otherwise can conveniently spend.
Mr. Garie threw himself into a luxuriously-cushioned chair, and was soon so absorbed in contemplating the likeness of a negro officer which hung opposite, that he did not hear the soft tread of Mr. Walters as he entered the room. The latter, stepping slowly forward, caught the eye of Mr. Garie, who started up, astonished at the commanding figure before him.
"Mr. Garie, I presume?" said Mr. Walters.
"Yes," he replied, and added, as he extended his hand; "I have the pleasure of addressing Mr. Walters, I suppose?"
Mr. Walters bowed low as he accepted the proffered hand, and courteously requested his visitor to be seated.
As Mr. Garie resumed his seat, he could not repress a look of surprise, which Mr. Walters apparently perceived, for a smile slightly curled his lip as he also took a seat opposite his visitor.
Mr. Walters was above six feet in height, and exceedingly well-proportioned; of jet-black complexion, and smooth glossy skin. His head was covered with a quantity of woolly hair, which was combed back from a broad but not very high forehead. His eyes were small, black, and piercing, and set deep in his head. His aquiline nose, thin lips, and broad chin, were the very reverse of African in their shape, and gave his face a very singular appearance. In repose, his countenance was severe in its expression; but when engaged in agreeable conversation, the thin sarcastic-looking lips would part, displaying a set of dazzlingly white teeth, and the small black eyes would sparkle with animation. The neatness and care with which he was dressed added to the attractiveness of his appearance. His linen was the perfection of whiteness, and his snowy vest lost nothing by its contact therewith. A long black frock coat, black pants, and highly-polished boots, completed his attire.
"I hope," said he, "your house suits you; it is one of my own, and has never been rented except for a short time to a careful tenant, who was waiting for his own house to be finished. I think you will find it comfortable."
"Oh, perfectly so, I am quite sure. I must thank you for the prompt manner in which you have arranged everything for us. It seems more like coming to an old home than to a new residence," replied Mr. Garie.
"I am delighted to hear you say so," said Mr. Walters. "I shall be most happy to call and pay my respects to Mrs. Garie when agreeable to her. Depend upon it, we will do all in our power to make our quiet city pleasant to you both."
Mr. Garie thanked him, and after some further conversation, rose to depart.
As he was leaving the room, he stopped before the picture which had so engaged his attention, when Mr. Walters entered.
"So you, too, are attracted by that picture," said Mr. Walters, with a smile. "All white men look at it with interest. A black man in the uniform of a general officer is something so unusual that they cannot pass it with a glance." "It is, indeed, rather a novelty," replied Mr. Garie, "particularly to a person from my part of the country. Who is it?"
"That is Toussaint l'Ouverture," replied Mr. Walters; "and I have every reason to believe it to be a correct likeness. It was presented to an American merchant by Toussaint himself—a present in return for some kindness shown him. This merchant's son, not having the regard for the picture that his father entertained for it, sold it to me. That," continued Mr. Walters, "looks like a man of intelligence. It is entirely different from any likeness I ever saw of him. The portraits generally represent him as a monkey-faced person, with a handkerchief about his head."
"This," said Mr. Garie, "gives me an idea of the man that accords with his actions."
Thus speaking, he continued looking at the picture for a short time, and then took his departure, after requesting Mr. Walters to call upon him at an early opportunity.
Mr. Garie's Neighbour.
We must now introduce our readers into the back parlour of the house belonging to Mr. Garie's next-door neighbour, Mr. Thomas Stevens.
We find this gentleman standing at a window that overlooked his garden, enjoying a fragrant Havannah. His appearance was not by any means prepossessing; he was rather above than below the middle height, with round shoulders, and long, thin arms, finished off by disagreeable-looking hands. His head was bald on the top, and the thin greyish-red hair, that grew more thickly about his ears, was coaxed up to that quarter, where an attempt had been made to effect such a union between the cords of the hair from each side as should cover the place in question.
The object, however, remained unaccomplished; as the hair was either very obstinate and would not be induced to lie as desired, or from extreme modesty objected to such an elevated position, and, in consequence, stopped half-way, as if undecided whether to lie flat or remain erect, producing the effect that would have been presented had he been decorated with a pair of horns. His baldness might have given an air of benevolence to his face, but for the shaggy eyebrows that over-shadowed his cunning-looking grey eyes. His cheekbones were high, and the cadaverous skin was so tightly drawn across them, as to give it a very parchment-like appearance. Around his thin compressed lips there was a continual nervous twitching, that added greatly to the sinister aspect of his face.
On the whole, he was a person from whom you would instinctively shrink; and had he been president or director of a bank in which you had money deposited, his general aspect would not have given you additional confidence in the stable character or just administration of its affairs.
Mr. George Stevens was a pettifogging attorney, who derived a tolerable income from a rather disreputable legal practice picked up among the courts that held their sessions in the various halls of the State-house. He was known in the profession as Slippery George, from the easy manner in which he glided out of scrapes that would have been fatal to the reputation of any other lawyer. Did a man break into a house, and escape without being actually caught on the spot with the goods in his possession, Stevens was always able to prove an alibi by a long array of witnesses. In fact, he was considered by the swell gentry of the city as their especial friend and protector, and by the members of the bar generally as anything but an ornament to the profession.
He had had rather a fatiguing day's labour, and on the evening of which we write, was indulging in his usual cigar, and amusing himself at the same time by observing the gambols of Clarence and little Em, who were enjoying a romp in their father's garden.
"Come here, Jule," said he, "and look at our new neighbour's children—rather pretty, ain't they?"
He was joined by a diminutive red-faced woman, with hair and eyes very much like his own, and a face that wore a peevish, pinched expression.
"Rather good-looking," she replied, after observing them for a few minutes, and then added, "Have you seen their parents?"
"No, not yet," was the reply. "I met Walters in the street this morning, who informed me they are from the South, and very rich; we must try and cultivate them—ask the children in to play with ours, and strike up an intimacy in that way, the rest will follow naturally, you know. By the way, Jule," continued he, "how I hate that nigger Walters, with his grand airs. I wanted some money of him the other day on rather ticklish securities for a client of mine, and the black wretch kept me standing in his hall for at least five minutes, and then refused me, with some not very complimentary remarks upon my assurance in offering him such securities. It made me so mad I could have choked him—it is bad enough to be treated with hauteur by a white man, but contempt from a nigger is almost unendurable."
"Why didn't you resent it in some way? I never would have submitted to anything of the kind from him," interrupted Mrs. Stevens.
"Oh, I don't dare to just now; I have to be as mild as milk with him. You forget about the mortgage; don't you know he has me in a tight place there, and I don't see how to get out of it either. If I am called Slippery George, I tell you what, Jule, there's not a better man of business in the whole of Philadelphia than that same Walters, nigger as he is; and no one offends him without paying dear for it in some way or other. I'll tell you something he did last week. He went up to Trenton on business, and at the hotel they refused to give him dinner because of his colour, and told him they did not permit niggers to eat at their tables. What does he do but buy the house over the landlord's head. The lease had just expired, and the landlord was anxious to negotiate another; he was also making some arrangements with his creditors, which could not be effected unless he was enabled to renew the lease of the premises he occupied. On learning that the house had been sold, he came down to the city to negotiate with the new owner, and to his astonishment found him to be the very man he had refused a meal to the week before. Blunt happened to be in Walters's office at the time the fellow called. Walters, he says, drew himself up to his full height, and looked like an ebony statue.
"Sir," said he, "I came to your house and asked for a meal, for which I was able to pay; you not only refused it to me, but heaped upon me words such as fall only from the lips of blackguards. You refuse to have me in your house—I object to have you in mine: you will, therefore, quit the premises immediately." The fellow sneaked out quite crestfallen, and his creditors have broken him up completely.
"I tell you what, Jule, if I was a black," continued he, "living in a country like this, I'd sacrifice conscience and everything else to the acquisition of wealth."
As he concluded, he turned from the window and sat down by a small table, upon which a lighted lamp had been placed, and where a few law papers were awaiting a perusal.
A little boy and girl were sitting opposite to him. The boy was playing with a small fly-trap, wherein he had already imprisoned a vast number of buzzing sufferers. In appearance he bore a close resemblance to his father; he had the same red hair and sallow complexion, but his grey eyes had a dull leaden hue.
"Do let them go, George, do!" said the little girl, in a pleading tone. "You'll kill them, shut up there."
"I don't care if I do," replied he, doggedly; "I can catch more—look here;" and as he spoke he permitted a few of the imprisoned insects to creep partly out, and then brought the lid down upon them with a force that completely demolished them.
The little girl shuddered at this wanton exhibition of cruelty, and offered him a paper of candy if he would liberate his prisoners, which he did rather reluctantly, but promising himself to replenish the box at the first opportunity.
"Ah!" said he, in a tone of exultation, "father took me with him to the jail to-day, and I saw all the people locked up. I mean to be a jailer some of these days. Wouldn't you like to keep a jail, Liz?" continued he, his leaden eyes receiving a slight accession of brightness at the idea.
"Oh, no!" replied she; "I would let all the people go, if I kept the jail."
A more complete contrast than this little girl presented to her parents and brother, cannot be imagined. She had very dark chestnut hair, and mild blue eyes, and a round, full face, which, in expression, was sweetness itself. She was about six years old, and her brother's junior by an equal number of years.
Her mother loved her, but thought her tame and spiritless in her disposition; and her father cherished as much affection for her as he was capable of feeling for any one but himself.
Mrs. Stevens, however, doted on their eldest hope, who was as disagreeable as a thoroughly spoiled and naturally evil-disposed boy could be.
As the evenings had now become quite warm, Mr. Garie frequently took a chair and enjoyed his evening cigar upon the door-step of his house; and as Mr. Stevens thought his steps equally suited to this purpose, it was very natural he should resort there with the same object.
Mr. Stevens found no difficulty in frequently bringing about short neighbourly conversations with Mr. Garie. The little folk, taking their cue from their parents, soon became intimate, and ran in and out of each other's houses in the most familiar manner possible. Lizzy Stevens and little Em joined hearts immediately, and their intimacy had already been cemented by frequent consultations on the various ailments wherewith they supposed their dolls afflicted.
Clarence got on only tolerably with George Stevens; he entertained for him that deference that one boy always has for another who is his superior in any boyish pastime; but there was little affection lost between them—they cared very little for each other's society.
Mrs. Garie, since her arrival, had been much confined to her room, in consequence of her protracted indisposition. Mrs. Stevens had several times intimated to Mr. Garie her intention of paying his wife a visit; but never having received any very decided encouragement, she had not pressed the matter, though her curiosity was aroused, and she was desirous of seeing what kind of person Mrs. Garie could be.
Her son George in his visits had never been permitted farther than the front parlour; and all the information that could be drawn from little Lizzy, who was frequently in Mrs. Garie's bedroom, was that "she was a pretty lady, with great large eyes." One evening, when Mr. Garie was occupying his accustomed seat, he was accosted from the other side by Mrs. Stevens, who, as usual, was very particular in her inquiries after the state of his wife's health; and on learning that she was so much improved as to be down-stairs, suggested that, perhaps, she would be willing to receive her.
"No doubt she will," rejoined Mr. Garie; and he immediately entered the house to announce the intended visit. The lamps were not lighted when Mrs. Stevens was introduced, and faces could not, therefore, be clearly distinguished.
"My dear," said Mr. Garie, "this is our neighbour, Mrs. Stevens."
"Will you excuse me for not rising?" said Mrs. Garie, extending her hand to her visitor. "I have been quite ill, or I should have been most happy to have received you before. My little folks are in your house a great deal—I hope you do not find them troublesome."
"Oh, by no means! I quite dote on your little Emily, she is such a sweet child—so very affectionate. It is a great comfort to have such a child near for my own to associate with—they have got quite intimate, as I hope we soon shall be."
Mrs. Garie thanked her for the kindness implied in the wish, and said she trusted they should be so.
"And how do you like your house?" asked Mrs. Stevens; "it is on the same plan as ours, and we find ours very convenient. They both formerly belonged to Walters; my husband purchased of him. Do you intend to buy?"
"It is very probable we shall, if we continue to like Philadelphia," answered Mr. Garie.
"I'm delighted to hear that," rejoined she—"very glad, indeed. It quite relieves my mind about one thing: ever since Mr. Stevens purchased our house we have been tormented with the suspicion that Walters would put a family of niggers in this; and if there is one thing in this world I detest more than another, it is coloured people, I think."
Mr. Garie here interrupted her by making some remark quite foreign to the subject, with the intention, no doubt, of drawing her off this topic. The attempt was, however, an utter failure, for she continued—"I think all those that are not slaves ought to be sent out of the country back to Africa, where they belong: they are, without exception, the most ignorant, idle, miserable set I ever saw."
"I think," said Mr. Garie, "I can show you at least one exception, and that too without much trouble. Sarah," he cried, "bring me a light."
"Oh," said Mrs. Stevens, "I suppose you refer to Walters—it is true he is an exception; but he is the only coloured person I ever saw that could make the least pretension to anything like refinement or respectability.
"Let me show you another," said Mr. Garie, as he took the lamp from the servant and placed it upon the table near his wife.
As the light fell on her face, their visitor saw that she belonged to the very class that she had been abusing in such unmeasured terms and so petrified was she with confusion at the faux pas she had committed, that she was entirely unable to improvise the slightest apology.
Mrs. Garie, who had been reclining on the lounge, partially raised herself and gave Mrs. Stevens a withering look. "I presume, madam," said she, in a hurried and agitated tone, "that you are very ignorant of the people upon whom you have just been heaping such unmerited abuse, and therefore I shall not think so hardly of you as I should, did I deem your language dictated by pure hatred; but, be its origin what it may, it is quite evident that our farther acquaintance could be productive of no pleasure to either of us—you will, therefore, permit me," continued she, rising with great dignity, "to wish you good evening;" and thus speaking, she left the room.
Mrs. Stevens was completely demolished by this unexpected denouement of her long-meditated visit, and could only feebly remark to Mr. Garie that it was getting late, and she would go; and rising, she suffered herself to be politely bowed out of the house. In her intense anxiety to relate to her husband the scene which had just occurred, she could not take time to go round and through the gate, but leaped lightly over the low fence that divided the gardens, and rushed precipitately into the presence of her husband.
"Good heavens! George, what do you think?" she exclaimed; "I've had such a surprise!"
"I should think that you had, judging from appearances," replied he. "Why, your eyes are almost starting out of your head! What on earth has happened?" he asked, as he took the shade off the lamp to get a better view of his amiable partner.
"You would not guess in a year," she rejoined; "I never would have dreamed it—I never was so struck in my life!"
"Struck with what? Do talk sensibly, Jule, and say what all this is about," interrupted her husband, in an impatient manner. "Come, out with it—what has happened?"
"Why, would you have thought it," said she; "Mrs. Garie is a nigger woman—a real nigger—she would be known as such anywhere?"
It was now Mr. Stevens's turn to be surprised. "Why, Jule," he exclaimed, "you astonish me! Come, now, you're joking—you don't mean a real black nigger?"
"Oh, no, not jet black—but she's dark enough. She is as dark as that Sarah we employed as cook some time ago."
"You don't say so! Wonders will never cease—and he such a gentleman, too!" resumed her husband.
"Yes; and it's completely sickening," continued Mrs. Stevens, "to see them together; he calls her my dear, and is as tender and affectionate to her as if she was a Circassian—and she nothing but a nigger—faugh! it's disgusting."
Little Clarence had been standing near, unnoticed by either of them during this conversation, and they were therefore greatly surprised when he exclaimed, with a burst of tears, "My mother is not a nigger any more than you are! How dare you call her such a bad name? I'll tell my father!"
Mr. Stevens gave a low whistle, and looking at his wife, pointed to the door. Mrs. Stevens laid her hand on the shoulder of Clarence, and led him to the door, saying, as she did so, "Don't come in here any more—I don't wish you to come into my house;" and then closing it, returned to her husband.
"You know, George," said she, "that I went in to pay her a short visit. I hadn't the remotest idea that she was a coloured woman, and I commenced giving my opinion respecting niggers very freely, when suddenly her husband called for a light, and I then saw to whom I had been talking. You may imagine my astonishment—I was completely dumb—and it would have done you good to have seen the air with which she left the room, after as good as telling me to leave the house."
"Well," said Mr. Stevens, "this is what may be safely termed an unexpected event. But, Jule," he continued, "you had better pack these young folks off to bed, and then you can tell me the rest of it."
Clarence stood for some time on the steps of the house from which he had been so unkindly ejected, with his little heart swelling with indignation. He had often heard the term nigger used in its reproachful sense, but never before had it been applied to him or his, at least in his presence. It was the first blow the child received from the prejudice whose relentless hand was destined to crush him in after-years.
It was his custom, when any little grief pressed upon his childish heart, to go and pour out his troubles on the breast of his mother; but he instinctively shrunk from confiding this to her; for, child as he was, he knew it would make her very unhappy. He therefore gently stole into the house, crept quietly up to his room, lay down, and sobbed himself to sleep.
To Emily Winston we have always accorded the title of Mrs. Garie; whilst, in reality, she had no legal claim to it whatever.
Previous to their emigration from Georgia, Mr. Garie had, on one or two occasions, attempted, but without success, to make her legally his wife.
He ascertained that, even if he could have found a clergyman willing to expose himself to persecution by marrying them, the ceremony itself would have no legal weight, as a marriage between a white and a mulatto was not recognized as valid by the laws of the state; and he had, therefore, been compelled to dismiss the matter from his mind, until an opportunity should offer for the accomplishment of their wishes.
Now, however, that they had removed to the north, where they would have no legal difficulties to encounter, he determined to put his former intention into execution. Although Emily had always maintained a studied silence on the subject, he knew that it was the darling wish of her heart to be legally united to him; so he unhesitatingly proceeded to arrange matters for the consummation of what he felt assured would promote the happiness of both. He therefore wrote to Dr. Blackly, a distinguished clergyman of the city, requesting him to perform the ceremony, and received from him an assurance that he would be present at the appointed time.
Matters having progressed thus far, he thought it time to inform Emily of what he had done. On the evening succeeding the receipt of an answer from the Rev. Dr. Blackly—after the children had been sent to bed—he called her to him, and, taking her hand, sat down beside her on the sofa.
"Emily," said he, as he drew her closer to him, "my dear, faithful Emily! I am about to do you an act of justice—one, too, that I feel will increase the happiness of us both. I am going to marry you, my darling! I am about to give you a lawful claim to what you have already won by your faithfulness and devotion. You know I tried, more than once, whilst in the south, to accomplish this, but, owing to the cruel and unjust laws existing there, I was unsuccessful. But now, love, no such difficulty exists; and here," continued he, "is an answer to the note I have written to Dr. Blackly, asking him to come next Wednesday night, and perform the ceremony.—You are willing, are you not, Emily?" he asked.
"Willing!" she exclaimed, in a voice tremulous with emotion—"willing! Oh, God! if you only knew how I have longed for it! It has been my earnest desire for years!" and, bursting into tears, she leaned, sobbing, on his shoulder.
After a few moments she raised her head, and, looking searchingly in his face, she asked: "But do you do this after full reflection on the consequences to ensue? Are you willing to sustain all the odium, to endure all the contumely, to which your acknowledged union with one of my unfortunate race will subject you? Clarence! it will be a severe trial—a greater one than any you have yet endured for me—and one for which I fear my love will prove but a poor recompense! I have thought more of these things lately; I am older now in years and experience. There was a time when I was vain enough to think that my affection was all that was necessary for your happiness; but men, I know, require more to fill their cup of content than the undivided affection of a woman, no matter how fervently beloved. You have talents, and, I have sometimes thought, ambition. Oh, Clarence! how it would grieve me, in after-years, to know that you regretted that for me you had sacrificed all those views and hopes that are cherished by the generality of your sex! Have you weighed it well?"
"Yes, Emily—well," replied Mr. Garie; "and you know the conclusion. My past should be a guarantee for the future. I had the world before me, and chose you—and with, you I am contented to share my lot; and feel that I receive, in your affection, a full reward for any of the so-called sacrifices I may make. So, dry your tears, my dear," concluded he, "and let us hope for nothing but an increase of happiness as the result."
After a few moments of silence, he resumed: "It will be necessary, Emily, to have a couple of witnesses. Now, whom would you prefer? I would suggest Mrs. Ellis and her husband. They are old friends, and persons on whose prudence we can rely. It would not do to have the matter talked about, as it would expose us to disagreeable comments."
Mrs. Garie agreed perfectly with him as to the selection of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis; and immediately despatched a note to Mrs. Ellis, asking her to call at their house on the morrow.
When she came, Emily informed her, with some confusion of manner, of the intended marriage, and asked her attendance as witness, at the same time informing her of the high opinion her husband entertained of their prudence in any future discussion of the matter.
"I am really glad he is going to marry you, Emily," replied Mrs. Ellis, "and depend upon it we will do all in our power to aid it. Only yesterday, that inquisitive Mrs. Tiddy was at our house, and, in conversation respecting you, asked if I knew you to be married to Mr. Garie. I turned the conversation somehow, without giving her a direct answer. Mr. Garie, I must say, does act nobly towards you. He must love you, Emily, for not one white man in a thousand would make such a sacrifice for a coloured woman. You can't tell how we all like him—he is so amiable, so kind in his manner, and makes everyone so much at ease in his company. It's real good in him, I declare, and I shall begin to have some faith in white folks, after all.—Wednesday night," continued she; "very well—we shall be here, if the Lord spare us;" and, kissing Emily, she hurried off, to impart the joyful intelligence to her husband.
The anxiously looked for Wednesday evening at last arrived, and Emily arrayed herself in a plain white dress for the occasion. Her long black hair had been arranged in ringlets by Mrs. Ellis, who stood by, gazing admiringly at her.
"How sweet you look, Emily—you only want a wreath of orange blossoms to complete your appearance. Don't you feel a little nervous?" asked her friend.
"A little excited," she answered, and her hand shook as she put back one of the curls that had fallen across her face. Just then a loud ringing at the door announced the arrival of Dr. Blackly, who was shown into the front parlour.
Emily and Mrs. Ellis came down into the room where Mr. Garie was waiting for them, whilst Mr. Ellis brought in Dr. Blackly. The reverend gentleman gazed with some surprise at the party assembled. Mr. Garie was so thoroughly Saxon in appearance, that no one could doubt to what race he belonged, and it was equally evident that Emily, Mrs. Ellis, and her husband, were coloured persons.
Dr. Blackly looked from one to the other with evident embarrassment, and then said to Mr. Garie, in a low, hesitating tone:—
"I think there has been some mistake here—will you do me the favour to step into another room?"
Mr. Garie mechanically complied, and stood waiting to learn the cause of Dr. Blackly's strange conduct.
"You are a white man, I believe?" at last stammered forth the doctor.
"Yes, sir; I presume my appearance is a sufficient guarantee of that," answered Mr. Garie.
"Oh yes, I do not doubt it, and for that reason you must not be surprised if I decline to proceed with the ceremony."
"I do not see how my being a white man can act as a barrier to its performance," remarked Mr. Garie in reply. "It would not, sir, if all the parties were of one complexion; but I do not believe in the propriety of amalgamation, and on no consideration could I be induced to assist in the union of a white man or woman with a person who has the slightest infusion of African blood in their veins. I believe the negro race," he continued, "to be marked out by the hand of God for servitude; and you must pardon me if I express my surprise that a gentleman of your evident intelligence should seek such a connection—you must be labouring under some horrible infatuation."
"Enough, sir," replied Mr. Garie, proudly; "I only regret that I did not know it was necessary to relate every circumstance of appearance, complexion, &c. I wished to obtain a marriage certificate, not a passport. I mistook you for a Christian minister, which mistake you will please to consider as my apology for having troubled you;" and thus speaking, he bowed Dr. Blackly out of the house. Mr. Garie stepped back to the door of the parlour and called out Mr. Ellis.
"We are placed in a very difficult dilemma," said he, as he was joined by the latter. "Would you believe it? that prejudiced old sinner has actually refused to marry us."
"It is no more than you might have expected of him—he's a thorough nigger-hater—keeps a pew behind the organ of his church for coloured people, and will not permit them to receive the sacrament until all the white members of his congregation are served. Why, I don't see what on earth induced you to send for him."
"I knew nothing of his sentiments respecting coloured people. I did not for a moment have an idea that he would hesitate to marry us. There is no law here that forbids it. What can we do?" said Mr. Garie, despairingly.
"I know a minister who will marry you with pleasure, if I can only catch him at home; he is so much engaged in visiting the sick and other pastoral duties."
"Do go—hunt him up, Ellis. It will be a great favour to me, if you can induce him to come. Poor Emily—what a disappointment this will be to her," said he, as he entered the room where she was sitting.
"What is the matter, dear?" she asked, as she observed Garie's anxious face. "I hope there is no new difficulty."
Mr. Garie briefly explained what had just occurred, and informed her, in addition, of Mr. Ellis having gone to see if he could get Father Banks, as the venerable old minister was called.
"It seems, dear," said she, despondingly, "as if Providence looked unfavourably on our design; for every time you have attempted it, we have been in some way thwarted;" and the tears chased one another down her face, which had grown pale in the excitement of the moment.
"Oh, don't grieve about it, dear; it is only a temporary disappointment. I can't think all the clergymen in the city are like Dr. Blackly. Some one amongst them will certainly oblige us. We won't despair; at least not until Ellis comes back."
They had not very long to wait; for soon after this conversation footsteps were heard in the garden, and Mr. Ellis entered, followed by the clergyman.
In a very short space of time they were united by Father Banks, who seemed much affected as he pronounced his blessing upon them.
"My children," he said, tremulously, "you are entering upon a path which, to the most favoured, is full of disappointment, care, and anxieties; but to you who have come together under such peculiar circumstances, in the face of so many difficulties, and in direct opposition to the prejudices of society, it will be fraught with more danger, and open to more annoyances, than if you were both of one race. But if men revile you, revile not again; bear it patiently for the sake of Him who has borne so much for you. God bless you, my children," said he, and after shaking hands with them all, he departed.
Mr. and Mrs. Ellis took their leave soon after, and then Mrs. Garie stole upstairs alone into the room where the children were sleeping. It seemed to her that night that they were more beautiful than ever, as they lay in their little beds quietly slumbering. She knelt beside them, and earnestly prayed their heavenly Father that the union which had just been consummated in the face of so many difficulties might prove a boon to them all.
"Where have you been, you runaway?" exclaimed her husband as she re-entered the parlour. "You stayed away so long, I began to have all sorts of frightful ideas—I thought of the 'mistletoe hung in the castle hall,' and of old oak chests, and all kind of terrible things. I've been sitting here alone ever since the Ellises went: where have you been?"
"Oh, I've been upstairs looking at the children. Bless their young hearts! they looked so sweet and happy—and how they grow! Clarence is getting to be quite a little man; don't you think it time, dear, that he was sent to school? I have so much more to occupy my mind here than I had in Georgia, so many household duties to attend to, that I am unable to give that attention to his lessons which I feel is requisite. Besides, being so much at home, he has associated with that wretched boy of the Stevens's, and is growing rude and noisy; don't you think he had better be sent to school?"
"Oh yes, Emily, if you wish it," was Mr. Garie's reply. "I will search out a school to-morrow, or next day;" and taking out his watch, he continued, "it is near twelve o'clock—how the night has flown away—we must be off to bed. After the excitement of the evening, and your exertions of to-day, I fear that you will be indisposed to-morrow."
Clarence, although over nine years old, was so backward in learning, that they were obliged to send him to a small primary school which had recently been opened in the neighbourhood; and as it was one for children of both sexes, it was deemed advisable to send little Em with him.
"I do so dislike to have her go," said her mother, as her husband proposed that she should accompany Clarence; "she seems so small to be sent to school. I'm afraid she won't be happy."
"Oh! don't give yourself the least uneasiness about her not being happy there, for a more cheerful set of little folks I never beheld. You would be astonished to see how exceedingly young some of them are."
"What kind of a person is the teacher?" asked Mrs. Garie.
"Oh! she's a charming little creature; the very embodiment of cheerfulness and good humour. She has sparkling black eyes, a round rosy face, and can't be more than sixteen, if she is that old. Had I had such a teacher when a boy, I should have got on charmingly; but mine was a cross old widow, who wore spectacles and took an amazing quantity of snuff, and used to flog upon the slightest pretence. I went into her presence with fear and trembling. I could never learn anything from her, and that must be my excuse for my present literary short-comings. But you need have no fear respecting Em getting on with Miss Jordan: I don't believe she could be unkind to any one, least of all to our little darling."
"Then you will take them down in the morning," suggested Mrs. Garie; "but on no account leave Emily unless she wishes to stay."
Charlie at Warmouth.
After the departure of Mrs. Bird to visit her sick friend, Betsey turned to Charlie and bid him follow her into the kitchen. "I suppose you haven't been to breakfast," said she, in a patronizing manner; "if you haven't, you are just in time, as we will be done ours in a little while, and then you can have yours."
Charlie silently followed her down into the kitchen, where a man-servant and the younger maid were already at breakfast; the latter arose, and was placing another plate upon the table, when Betsey frowned and nodded disapprovingly to her. "Let him wait," whispered she; "I'm not going to eat with niggers."
"Oh! he's such a nice little fellow," replied Eliza, in an undertone; "let him eat with us."
Betsey here suggested to Charlie that he had better go up to the maple chamber, wash his face, and take his things out of his trunk, and that when his breakfast was ready she would call him.
"What on earth can induce you to want to eat with a nigger?" asked Betsey, as soon as Charlie was out of hearing. "I couldn't do it; my victuals would turn on my stomach. I never ate at the same table with a nigger in my life."
"Nor I neither," rejoined Eliza; "but I see no reason why I should not. The child appears to have good manners, he is neat and good-looking, and because God has curled his hair more than he has ours, and made his skin a little darker than yours or mine, that is no reason we should treat him as if he was not a human being." Alfred, the gardener, had set down his saucer and appeared very much astonished at this declaration of sentiment on the part of Eliza, and sneeringly remarked, "You're an Abolitionist, I suppose."
"No, I am not," replied she, reddening; "but I've been taught that God made all alike; one no better than the other. You know the Bible says God is no respecter of persons."
"Well, if it does," rejoined Alfred, with a stolid-look, "it don't say that man isn't to be either, does it? When I see anything in my Bible that tells me I'm to eat and drink with niggers, I'll do it, and not before. I suppose you think that all the slaves ought to be free, and all the rest of the darned stuff these Abolitionists are preaching. Now if you want to eat with the nigger, you can; nobody wants to hinder you. Perhaps he may marry you when he grows up—don't you think you had better set your cap at him?"
Eliza made no reply to this low taunt, but ate her breakfast in silence.
"I don't see what Mrs. Bird brought him here for; she says he is sick,—had a broken arm or something; I can't imagine what use she intends to make of him," remarked Betsey.
"I don't think she intends him to be a servant here, at any rate," said Eliza; "or why should she have him put in the maple chamber, when there are empty rooms enough in the garret?"
"Well, I guess I know what she brought him for," interposed Alfred. "I asked her before she went away to get a little boy to help me do odd jobs, now that Reuben is about to leave; we shall want a boy to clean the boots, run on errands, drive up the cows, and do other little chores.[*] I'm glad he's a black boy; I can order him round more, you know, than if he was white, and he won't get his back up half as often either. You may depend upon it, that's what Mrs. Bird has brought him here for." The gardener, having convinced himself that his view of the matter was the correct one, went into the garden for his day's labour, and two or three things that he had intended doing he left unfinished, with the benevolent intention of setting Charlie at them the next morning.
[Footnote *: A Yankeeism, meaning little jobs about a farm.]
Charlie, after bathing his face and arranging his hair, looked from the window at the wide expanse of country spread out before him, all bright and glowing in the warm summer sunlight. Broad well-cultivated fields stretched away from the foot of the garden to the river beyond, and the noise of the waterfall, which was but a short distance off, was distinctly heard, and the sparkling spray was clearly visible through the openings of the trees. "What a beautiful place,—what grand fields to run in; an orchard, too, full of blossoming fruit-trees! Well, this is nice," exclaimed Charlie, as his eye ran over the prospect; but in the midst of his rapture came rushing back upon him the remembrance of the cavalier treatment he had met with below-stairs, and he said with a sigh, as the tears sprang to his eyes, "But it is not home, after all." Just at this moment he heard his name called by Betsey, and he hastily descended into the kitchen. At one end of the partially-cleared table a clean plate and knife and fork had been placed, and he was speedily helped to the remains of what the servants had been eating.
"You mustn't be long," said Betsey, "for to-day is ironing day, and we want the table as soon as possible."
The food was plentiful and good, but Charlie could not eat; his heart was full and heavy,—the child felt his degradation. "Even the servants refuse to eat with me because I am coloured," thought he. "Oh! I wish I was at home!"
"Why don't you eat?" asked Betsey.
"I don't think I want any breakfast; I'm not hungry," was the reply.
"I hope you are not sulky," she rejoined; "we don't like sulky boys here; why don't you eat?" she repeated.
The sharp, cold tones of her voice struck a chill into the child's heart, and his lip quivered as he stammered something farther about not being hungry; and he hurried away into the garden, where he calmed his feelings and allayed his home-sickness by a hearty burst of tears. After this was over, he wandered through the garden and fields until dinner; then, by reading his book and by another walk, he managed to get through the day.
The following morning, as he was coming down stairs, he was met by Alfred, who accosted him with, "Oh! you're up, are you; I was just going to call you." And looking at Charlie from head to foot, he inquired, "Is that your best suit?"
"No, it's my worst," replied Charlie. "I have two suits better than this;" and thinking that Mrs. Bird had arrived, he continued, "I'll put on my best if Mrs. Bird wants me."
"No, she ain't home," was the reply; "it's me that wants you; come down here; I've got a little job for you. Take this," said he, handing him a dirty tow apron, "and tie it around your neck; it will keep the blacking off your clothes, you know. Now," continued he, "I want you to clean these boots; these two pairs are Mr. Tyndall's—them you need not be particular with; but this pair is mine, and I want 'em polished up high,—now mind, I tell you. I'm going to wear a new pair of pants to meetin' to-morrow, and I expect to cut a dash, so you'll do 'em up slick, now won't you?"
"I'll do my best," said Charlie, who, although he did not dislike work, could not relish the idea of cleaning the servants' boots. "I'm afraid I shall find this a queer place," thought he. "I shall not like living here, I know—wait for my meals until the servants have finished, and clean their boots into the bargain. This is worse than being with Mrs. Thomas."
Charlie, however, went at it with a will, and was busily engaged in putting the finishing touches on Alfred's boots, when he heard his name called, and on looking up, saw Mrs. Bird upon the piazza above. "Why, bless me! child, what are you about?—whose boots are those, and why are you cleaning them?"
"Oh!" he replied, his face brightening up at the sight of Mrs. Bird, "I'm so glad you're come; those are Mr. Tyndall's boots, and these," he continued, holding up the boots on which he was engaged, "are the gardener's."
"And who, pray, instructed you to clean them?"
"The gardener," replied Charlie.
"He did, did he?" said Mrs. Bird, indignantly. "Very well; now do you take off that apron and come to me immediately; before you do, however, tell Alfred I want him."
Charlie quickly divested himself of the tow apron, and after having informed the gardener that Mrs. Bird desired his presence in the parlour, he ran up there himself. Alfred came lumbering up stairs, after giving his boots an unusual scraping and cleansing preparatory to entering upon that part of the premises which to him was generally forbidden ground.
"By whose direction did you set the child at that dirty work?" asked Mrs. Bird, after he had entered the room.
"I hadn't anybody's direction to set him to work, but I thought you brought him here to do odd jobs. You know, ma'am, I asked you some time ago to get a boy, and I thought this was the one."
"And if he had been, you would have taken a great liberty in assigning him any duties without first consulting me. But he is not a servant here, nor do I intend him to be such; and let me inform you, that instead of his cleaning your boots, it will be your duty henceforth to clean his. Now," continued she, "you know his position here, let me see that you remember yours. You can go." This was said in so peremptory a manner, as to leave no room for discussion or rejoinder, and Alfred, with a chagrined look, went muttering down stairs.
"Things have come to a pretty pass," grumbled he. "I'm to wait on niggers, black their boots, and drive them out, too, I suppose. I'd leave at once if it wasn't such a good situation. Drat the old picture—what has come over her I wonder—she'll be asking old Aunt Charity, the black washerwoman to dine with her next. She has either gone crazy or turned abolitionist, I don't know which; something has happened to her, that's certain."
"Now, Charlie," said Mrs. Bird, as the door closed upon the crest-fallen gardener, "go to your room and dress yourself nicely. After I've eaten my breakfast, I am going to visit a friend, and I want you to accompany me; don't be long."
"Can't I eat mine first, Mrs. Bird?" he asked, in reply.
"I thought you had had yours, long ago," rejoined she.
"The others hadn't finished theirs when you called me, and I don't get mine until they have done," said Charlie.
"Until they have done; how happens that?" asked Mrs. Bird.
"I think they don't like to eat with me, because I'm coloured," was Charlie's hesitating reply.
"That is too much," exclaimed Mrs. Bird; "if it were not so very ridiculous, I should be angry. It remains for me, then," continued she, "to set them an example. I've not eaten my breakfast yet—come, sit down with me, and we'll have it together."
Charlie followed Mrs. Bird into the breakfast-room, and took the seat pointed out by her. Eliza, when she entered with the tea-urn, opened her eyes wide with astonishment at the singular spectacle she beheld. Her mistress sitting down to breakfast vis-a-vis to a little coloured boy! Depositing the urn upon the table, she hastened back to the kitchen to report upon the startling events that were occurring in the breakfast-room.
"Well, I never," said she; "that beats anything I ever did see; why, Mrs. Bird must have turned abolitionist. Charlie is actually sitting at the same table with her, eating his breakfast as natural and unconcerned as if he was as white as snow! Wonders never will cease. You see I'm right though. I said that child wasn't brought here for a servant—we've done it for ourselves now—only think how mad she'll be when she finds he was made to wait for his meals until we have done. I'm glad I wasn't the one who refused to eat with him."