"And now, Marie," said St.
Clare, "your golden days are dawning.
Here is our practical, business-like New England cousin, who will take
the whole budget of cares off your shoulders, and give you time to refresh
yourself, and grow young and handsome. The
ceremony of delivering the keys had better come off forthwith."
This remark was made at the
breakfast-table, a few mornings after Miss Ophelia had arrived.
"I'm sure she's welcome," said
Marie, leaning her head languidly on her hand.
"I think she'll find one thing, if she does, and that is, that it's
we mistresses that are the slaves, down here."
"O, certainly, she will discover
that, and a world of wholesome truths besides, no doubt," said St. Clare.
"Talk about our keeping slaves, as
if we did it for our _convenience_," said Marie. "I'm sure, if we consulted _that_, we might let them all
go at once."
Evangeline fixed her large, serious eyes
on her mother's face, with an earnest and perplexed expression, and said,
simply, "What do you keep them for, mamma?"
"I don't know, I'm sure, except for
a plague; they are the plague of my life. I
believe that more of my ill health is caused by them than by any one thing; and
ours, I know, are the very worst that ever anybody was plagued with."
"O, come, Marie, you've got the
blues, this morning," said St. Clare.
"You know 't isn't so. There's
Mammy, the best creature living,--what could you do without her?"
"Mammy is the best I ever
knew," said Marie; "and yet Mammy, now, is selfish--dreadfully
selfish; it's the fault of the whole race."
"Selfishness _is_ a dreadful
fault," said St. Clare, gravely.
"Well, now, there's Mammy,"
said Marie, "I think it's selfish of her to sleep so sound nights; she
knows I need little attentions almost every hour, when my worst turns are on,
and yet she's so hard to wake. I
absolutely am worse, this very morning, for the efforts I had to make to wake
her last night."
"Hasn't she sat up with you a good
many nights, lately, mamma?" said Eva.
"How should you know that?"
said Marie, sharply; "she's been complaining, I suppose."
"She didn't complain; she only told
me what bad nights you'd had,--so many in succession."
"Why don't you let Jane or Rosa
take her place, a night or two," said St. Clare, "and let her
"How can you propose it?" said
Marie. "St. Clare, you really
are inconsiderate. So nervous as I
am, the least breath disturbs me; and a strange hand about me would drive me
absolutely frantic. If Mammy felt
the interest in me she ought to, she'd wake easier,--of course, she would.
I've heard of people who had such devoted servants, but it never was _my_
luck;" and Marie sighed.
Miss Ophelia had listened to this
conversation with an air of shrewd, observant gravity; and she still kept her
lips tightly compressed, as if determined fully to ascertain her longitude and
position, before she committed herself.
"Now, Mammy has a _sort_ of
goodness," said Marie; "she's smooth and respectful, but she's selfish
at heart. Now, she never will be
done fidgeting and worrying about that husband of hers.
You see, when I was married and came to live here, of course, I had to
bring her with me, and her husband my father couldn't spare.
He was a blacksmith, and, of course, very necessary; and I thought and
said, at the time, that Mammy and he had better give each other up, as it wasn't
likely to be convenient for them ever to live together again.
I wish, now, I'd insisted on it, and married Mammy to somebody else; but
I was foolish and indulgent, and didn't want to insist.
I told Mammy, at the time, that she mustn't ever expect to see him more
than once or twice in her life again, for the air of father's place doesn't
agree with my health, and I can't go there; and I advised her to take up with
somebody else; but no-- she wouldn't. Mammy
has a kind of obstinacy about her, in spots, that everybody don't see as I
"Has she children?" said Miss
"Yes; she has two."
"I suppose she feels the separation
"Well, of course, I couldn't bring
them. They were little dirty
things--I couldn't have them about; and, besides, they took up too much of her
time; but I believe that Mammy has always kept up a sort of sulkiness about
this. She won't marry anybody else;
and I do believe, now, though she knows how necessary she is to me, and how
feeble my health is, she would go back to her husband tomorrow, if she only
could. I _do_, indeed," said
Marie; "they are just so selfish, now, the best of them."
"It's distressing to reflect
upon," said St. Clare, dryly.
Miss Ophelia looked keenly at him, and
saw the flush of mortification and repressed vexation, and the sarcastic curl of
the lip, as he spoke.
"Now, Mammy has always been a pet
with me," said Marie. "I
wish some of your northern servants could look at her closets of dresses,--silks
and muslins, and one real linen cambric, she has hanging there.
I've worked sometimes whole afternoons, trimming her caps, and getting
her ready to go to a party. As to
abuse, she don't know what it is. She
never was whipped more than once or twice in her whole life.
She has her strong coffee or her tea every day, with white sugar in it.
It's abominable, to be sure; but St. Clare will have high life
below-stairs, and they every one of them live just as they please.
The fact is, our servants are over-indulged.
I suppose it is partly our fault that they are selfish, and act like
spoiled children; but I've talked to St. Clare till I am tired."
"And I, too," said St. Clare,
taking up the morning paper.
Eva, the beautiful Eva, had stood
listening to her mother, with that expression of deep and mystic earnestness
which was peculiar to her. She
walked softly round to her mother's chair, and put her arms round her neck.
"Well, Eva, what now?" said
"Mamma, couldn't I take care of you
one night--just one? I know I
shouldn't make you nervous, and I shouldn't sleep.
I often lie awake nights, thinking--"
child--nonsense!" said Marie; "you are such a strange child!"
"But may I, mamma?
I think," she said, timidly, "that Mammy isn't well.
She told me her head ached all the time, lately."
"O, that's just one of Mammy's
fidgets! Mammy is just like all the
rest of them--makes such a fuss about every little headache or finger-ache;
it'll never do to encourage it--never! I'm
principled about this matter," said she, turning to Miss Ophelia;
"you'll find the necessity of it. If you encourage servants in giving way to every little
disagreeable feeling, and complaining of every little ailment, you'll have your
hands full. I never complain
myself--nobody knows what I endure. I
feel it a duty to bear it quietly, and I do."
Miss Ophelia's round eyes expressed an
undisguised amazement at this peroration, which struck St. Clare as so supremely
ludicrous, that he burst into a loud laugh.
"St. Clare always laughs when I
make the least allusion to my ill health," said Marie, with the voice of a
suffering martyr. "I only hope
the day won't come when he'll remember it!" and Marie put her handkerchief
to her eyes.
Of course, there was rather a foolish
silence. Finally, St. Clare got up,
looked at his watch, and said he had an engagement down street.
Eva tripped away after him, and Miss Ophelia and Marie remained at the
"Now, that's just like St.
Clare!" said the latter, withdrawing her handkerchief with somewhat of a
spirited flourish when the criminal to be affected by it was no longer in sight.
"He never realizes, never can, never will, what I suffer, and have,
for years. If I was one of the complaining sort, or ever made any fuss
about my ailments, there would be some reason for it. Men do get tired, naturally, of a complaining wife.
But I've kept things to myself, and borne, and borne, till St. Clare has
got in the way of thinking I can bear anything."
Miss Ophelia did not exactly know what
she was expected to answer to this.
While she was thinking what to say,
Marie gradually wiped away her tears, and smoothed her plumage in a general sort
of way, as a dove might be supposed to make toilet after a shower, and began a
housewifely chat with Miss Ophelia, concerning cupboards, closets,
linen-presses, store-rooms, and other matters, of which the latter was, by
common understanding, to assume the direction, --giving her so many cautious
directions and charges, that a head less systematic and business-like than Miss
Ophelia's would have been utterly dizzied and confounded.
"And now," said Marie, "I
believe I've told you everything; so that, when my next sick turn comes on,
you'll be able to go forward entirely, without consulting me;--only about
Eva,--she requires watching."
"She seems to be a good child,
very," said Miss Ophelia; "I never saw a better child."
"Eva's peculiar," said her
mother, "very. There are
things about her so singular; she isn't like me, now, a particle;" and
Marie sighed, as if this was a truly melancholy consideration.
Miss Ophelia in her own heart said,
"I hope she isn't," but had prudence enough to keep it down.
"Eva always was disposed to be with
servants; and I think that well enough with some children.
Now, I always played with father's little negroes--it never did me any
harm. But Eva somehow always seems
to put herself on an equality with every creature that comes near her.
It's a strange thing about the child.
I never have been able to break her of it.
St. Clare, I believe, encourages her in it.
The fact is, St. Clare indulges every creature under this roof but his
Again Miss Ophelia sat in blank silence.
"Now, there's no way with
servants," said Marie, "but to _put them down_, and keep them down.
It was always natural to me, from a child.
Eva is enough to spoil a whole house-full.
What she will do when she comes to keep house herself, I'm sure I don't
know. I hold to being _kind_ to servants--I always am; but you must
make 'em _know their place_. Eva
never does; there's no getting into the child's head the first beginning of an
idea what a servant's place is! You
heard her offering to take care of me nights, to let Mammy sleep!
That's just a specimen of the way the child would be doing all the time,
if she was left to herself."
"Why," said Miss Ophelia,
bluntly, "I suppose you think your servants are human creatures, and ought
to have some rest when they are tired."
"Certainly, of course.
I'm very particular in letting them have everything that comes
convenient,--anything that doesn't put one at all out of the way, you know.
Mammy can make up her sleep, some time or other; there's no difficulty
about that. She's the sleepiest
concern that ever I saw; sewing, standing, or sitting, that creature will go to
sleep, and sleep anywhere and everywhere. No
danger but Mammy gets sleep enough. But
this treating servants as if they were exotic flowers, or china vases, is really
ridiculous," said Marie, as she plunged languidly into the depths of a
voluminous and pillowy lounge, and drew towards her an elegant cut-glass
"You see," she continued, in a
faint and lady-like voice, like the last dying breath of an Arabian jessamine,
or something equally ethereal, "you see, Cousin Ophelia, I don't often
speak of myself. It isn't my
_habit_; 't isn't agreeable to me. In
fact, I haven't strength to do it. But
there are points where St. Clare and I differ.
St. Clare never understood me, never appreciated me.
I think it lies at the root of all my ill health.
St. Clare means well, I am bound to believe; but men are constitutionally
selfish and inconsiderate to woman. That,
at least, is my impression."
Miss Ophelia, who had not a small share
of the genuine New England caution, and a very particular horror of being drawn
into family difficulties, now began to foresee something of this kind impending;
so, composing her face into a grim neutrality, and drawing out of her pocket
about a yard and a quarter of stocking, which she kept as a specific against
what Dr. Watts asserts to be a personal habit of Satan when people have idle
hands, she proceeded to knit most energetically, shutting her lips together in a
way that said, as plain as words could, "You needn't try to make me speak.
I don't want anything to do with your affairs,"--in fact, she looked
about as sympathizing as a stone lion. But
Marie didn't care for that. She had
got somebody to talk to, and she felt it her duty to talk, and that was enough;
and reinforcing herself by smelling again at her vinaigrette, she went on.
"You see, I brought my own property
and servants into the connection, when I married St. Clare, and I am legally
entitled to manage them my own way. St.
Clare had his fortune and his servants, and I'm well enough content he should
manage them his way; but St. Clare will be interfering.
He has wild, extravagant notions about things, particularly about the
treatment of servants. He really does act as if he set his servants before me, and
before himself, too; for he lets them make him all sorts of trouble, and never
lifts a finger. Now, about some
things, St. Clare is really frightful--he frightens me--good-natured as he
looks, in general. Now, he has set
down his foot that, come what will, there shall not be a blow struck in this
house, except what he or I strike; and he does it in a way that I really dare
not cross him. Well, you may see
what that leads to; for St. Clare wouldn't raise his hand, if every one of them
walked over him, and I--you see how cruel it would be to require me to make the
exertion. Now, you know these
servants are nothing but grown-up children."
"I don't know anything about it,
and I thank the Lord that I don't!" said Miss Ophelia, shortly.
"Well, but you will have to know
something, and know it to your cost, if you stay here.
You don't know what a provoking, stupid, careless, unreasonable,
childish, ungrateful set of wretches they are."
Marie seemed wonderfully supported,
always, when she got upon this topic; and she now opened her eyes, and seemed
quite to forget her languor.
"You don't know, and you can't, the
daily, hourly trials that beset a housekeeper from them, everywhere and every
way. But it's no use to complain to
St. Clare. He talks the strangest
stuff. He says we have made them
what they are, and ought to bear with them.
He says their faults are all owing to us, and that it would be cruel to
make the fault and punish it too. He
says we shouldn't do any better, in their place; just as if one could reason
from them to us, you know."
"Don't you believe that the Lord
made them of one blood with us?" said Miss Ophelia, shortly.
"No, indeed not I!
A pretty story, truly! They
are a degraded race."
"Don't you think they've got
immortal souls?" said Miss Ophelia, with increasing indignation.
"O, well," said Marie,
yawning, "that, of course--nobody doubts that.
But as to putting them on any sort of equality with us, you know, as if
we could be compared, why, it's impossible!
Now, St. Clare really has talked to me as if keeping Mammy from her
husband was like keeping me from mine. There's
no comparing in this way. Mammy
couldn't have the feelings that I should. It's
a different thing altogether,-- of course, it is,--and yet St. Clare pretends
not to see it. And just as if Mammy
could love her little dirty babies as I love Eva!
Yet St. Clare once really and soberly tried to persuade me that it was my
duty, with my weak health, and all I suffer, to let Mammy go back, and take
somebody else in her place. That
was a little too much even for _me_ to bear.
I don't often show my feelings, I make it a principle to endure
everything in silence; it's a wife's hard lot, and I bear it.
But I did break out, that time; so that he has never alluded to the
subject since. But I know by his
looks, and little things that he says, that he thinks so as much as ever; and
it's so trying, so provoking!"
Miss Ophelia looked very much as if she
was afraid she should say something; but she rattled away with her needles in a
way that had volumes of meaning in it, if Marie could only have understood it.
"So, you just see," she
continued, "what you've got to manage.
A household without any rule; where servants have it all their own way,
do what they please, and have what they please, except so far as I, with my
feeble health, have kept up government. I
keep my cowhide about, and sometimes I do lay it on; but the exertion is always
too much for me. If St. Clare would
only have this thing done as others do--"
"And how's that?"
"Why, send them to the calaboose,
or some of the other places to be flogged.
That's the only way. If I
wasn't such a poor, feeble piece, I believe I should manage with twice the
energy that St. Clare does."
"And how does St. Clare contrive to
manage?" said Miss Ophelia. "You
say he never strikes a blow."
"Well, men have a more commanding
way, you know; it is easier for them; besides, if you ever looked full in his
eye, it's peculiar,--that eye,--and if he speaks decidedly, there's a kind of
flash. I'm afraid of it, myself;
and the servants know they must mind. I
couldn't do as much by a regular storm and scolding as St. Clare can by one turn
of his eye, if once he is in earnest. O,
there's no trouble about St. Clare; that's the reason he's no more feeling for
me. But you'll find, when you come
to manage, that there's no getting along without severity,--they are so bad, so
deceitful, so lazy".
"The old tune," said St.
Clare, sauntering in. "What an
awful account these wicked creatures will have to settle, at last, especially
for being lazy! You see,
cousin," said he, as he stretched himself at full length on a lounge
opposite to Marie, "it's wholly inexcusable in them, in the light of the
example that Marie and I set them,--this laziness."
"Come, now, St. Clare, you are too
bad!" said Marie.
"Am I, now? Why, I thought I was talking good, quite remarkably for me.
I try to enforce your remarks, Marie, always."
"You know you meant no such thing,
St. Clare," said Marie.
"O, I must have been mistaken,
then. Thank you, my dear, for
setting me right."
"You do really try to be
provoking," said Marie.
"O, come, Marie, the day is growing
warm, and I have just had a long quarrel with Dolph, which has fatigued me
excessively; so, pray be agreeable, now, and let a fellow repose in the light of
"What's the matter about
Dolph?" said Marie. "That
fellow's impudence has been growing to a point that is perfectly intolerable to
me. I only wish I had the
undisputed management of him a while. I'd
bring him down!"
"What you say, my dear, is marked
with your usual acuteness and good sense," said St. Clare.
"As to Dolph, the case is this: that he has so long been engaged in
imitating my graces and perfections, that he has, at last, really mistaken
himself for his master; and I have been obliged to give him a little insight
into his mistake."
"How?" said Marie.
"Why, I was obliged to let him
understand explicitly that I preferred to keep _some_ of my clothes for my own
personal wearing; also, I put his magnificence upon an allowance of
cologne-water, and actually was so cruel as to restrict him to one dozen of my
cambric handkerchiefs. Dolph was
particularly huffy about it, and I had to talk to him like a father, to bring
"O! St. Clare, when will you learn
how to treat your servants? It's
abominable, the way you indulge them!" said Marie.
"Why, after all, what's the harm of
the poor dog's wanting to be like his master; and if I haven't brought him up
any better than to find his chief good in cologne and cambric handkerchiefs, why
shouldn't I give them to him?"
"And why haven't you brought him up
better?" said Miss Ophelia, with blunt determination.
"Too much trouble,--laziness,
cousin, laziness,--which ruins more souls than you can shake a stick at.
If it weren't for laziness, I should have been a perfect angel, myself.
I'm inclined to think that laziness is what your old Dr. Botherem, up in
Vermont, used to call the `essence of moral evil.'
It's an awful consideration, certainly."
"I think you slaveholders have an
awful responsibility upon you," said Miss Ophelia.
"I wouldn't have it, for a thousand worlds.
You ought to educate your slaves, and treat them like reasonable
creatures,--like immortal creatures, that you've got to stand before the bar of
God with. That's my mind," said the good lady, breaking suddenly
out with a tide of zeal that had been gaining strength in her mind all the
"O! come, come," said St.
Clare, getting up quickly; "what do you know about us?"
And he sat down to the piano, and rattled a lively piece of music.
St. Clare had a decided genius for music.
His touch was brilliant and firm, and his fingers flew over the keys with
a rapid and bird-like motion, airy, and yet decided.
He played piece after piece, like a man who is trying to play himself
into a good humor. After pushing
the music aside, he rose up, and said, gayly, "Well, now, cousin, you've
given us a good talk and done your duty; on the whole, I think the better of you
for it. I make no manner of doubt
that you threw a very diamond of truth at me, though you see it hit me so
directly in the face that it wasn't exactly appreciated, at first."
"For my part, I don't see any use
in such sort of talk," said Marie. "I'm
sure, if anybody does more for servants than we do, I'd like to know who; and it
don't do 'em a bit good,--not a particle,--they get worse and worse.
As to talking to them, or anything like that, I'm sure I have talked till
I was tired and hoarse, telling them their duty, and all that; and I'm sure they
can go to church when they like, though they don't understand a word of the
sermon, more than so many pigs,--so it isn't of any great use for them to go, as
I see; but they do go, and so they have every chance; but, as I said before,
they are a degraded race, and always will be, and there isn't any help for them;
you can't make anything of them, if you try.
You see, Cousin Ophelia, I've tried, and you haven't; I was born and bred
among them, and I know."
Miss Ophelia thought she had said
enough, and therefore sat silent. St.
Clare whistled a tune.
"St. Clare, I wish you wouldn't
whistle," said Marie; "it makes my head worse."
"I won't," said St. Clare.
"Is there anything else you wouldn't wish me to do?"
"I wish you _would_ have some kind
of sympathy for my trials; you never have any feeling for me."
"My dear accusing angel!" said
"It's provoking to be talked to in
"Then, how will you be talked to?
I'll talk to order,--any way you'll mention,--only to give
A gay laugh from the court rang through
the silken curtains of the verandah. St.
Clare stepped out, and lifting up the curtain, laughed too.
"What is it?" said Miss
Ophelia, coming to the railing.
There sat Tom, on a little mossy seat in
the court, every one of his button-holes stuck full of cape jessamines, and Eva,
gayly laughing, was hanging a wreath of roses round his neck; and then she sat
down on his knee, like a chip-sparrow, still laughing.
"O, Tom, you look so funny!"
Tom had a sober, benevolent smile, and
seemed, in his quiet way, to be enjoying the fun quite as much as his little
mistress. He lifted his eyes, when
he saw his master, with a half-deprecating, apologetic air.
"How can you let her?" said
"Why not?" said St. Clare.
"Why, I don't know, it seems so
"You would think no harm in a
child's caressing a large dog, even if he was black; but a creature that can
think, and reason, and feel, and is immortal, you shudder at; confess it,
cousin. I know the feeling among
some of you northerners well enough. Not
that there is a particle of virtue in our not having it; but custom with us does
what Christianity ought to do,--obliterates the feeling of personal prejudice.
I have often noticed, in my travels north, how much stronger this was
with you than with us. You loathe them as you would a snake or a toad, yet you are
indignant at their wrongs. You
would not have them abused; but you don't want to have anything to do with them
yourselves. You would send them to
Africa, out of your sight and smell, and then send a missionary or two to do up
all the self-denial of elevating them compendiously. Isn't that it?"
"Well, cousin," said Miss
Ophelia, thoughtfully, "there may be some truth in this."
"What would the poor and lowly do,
without children?" said St. Clare, leaning on the railing, and watching
Eva, as she tripped off, leading Tom with her.
"Your little child is your only true democrat.
Tom, now is a hero to Eva; his stories are wonders in her eyes, his songs
and Methodist hymns are better than an opera, and the traps and little bits of
trash in his pocket a mine of jewels, and he the most wonderful Tom that ever
wore a black skin. This is one of the roses of Eden that the Lord has dropped
down expressly for the poor and lowly, who get few enough of any other
"It's strange, cousin," said
Miss Ophelia, "one might almost think you were a _professor_, to hear you
"A professor?" said St. Clare.
"Yes; a professor of
"Not at all; not a professor, as
your town-folks have it; and, what is worse, I'm afraid, not a _practiser_,
"What makes you talk so,
"Nothing is easier than
talking," said St. Clare. "I
believe Shakespeare makes somebody say, `I could sooner show twenty what were
good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow my own showing.'
Nothing like division of labor. My
forte lies in talking, and yours, cousin, lies in doing."
 _The Merchant
of Venice_, Act 1, scene 2, lines 17-18.
In Tom's external situation, at this
time, there was, as the world says, nothing to complain of Little Eva's fancy
for him--the instinctive gratitude and loveliness of a noble nature--had led her
to petition her father that he might be her especial attendant, whenever she
needed the escort of a servant, in her walks or rides; and Tom had general
orders to let everything else go, and attend to Miss Eva whenever she wanted
him,--orders which our readers may fancy were far from disagreeable to him.
He was kept well dressed, for St. Clare was fastidiously particular on
this point. His stable services were merely a sinecure, and consisted
simply in a daily care and inspection, and directing an under-servant in his
duties; for Marie St. Clare declared that she could not have any smell of the
horses about him when he came near her, and that he must positively not be put
to any service that would make him unpleasant to her, as her nervous system was
entirely inadequate to any trial of that nature; one snuff of anything
disagreeable being, according to her account, quite sufficient to close the
scene, and put an end to all her earthly trials at once.
Tom, therefore, in his well-brushed broadcloth suit, smooth beaver,
glossy boots, faultless wristbands and collar, with his grave, good-natured
black face, looked respectable enough to be a Bishop of Carthage, as men of his
color were, in other ages.
Then, too, he was in a beautiful place,
a consideration to which his sensitive race was never indifferent; and he did
enjoy with a quiet joy the birds, the flowers, the fountains, the perfume, and
light and beauty of the court, the silken hangings, and pictures, and lustres,
and statuettes, and gilding, that made the parlors within a kind of Aladdin's
palace to him.
If ever Africa shall show an elevated
and cultivated race,--and come it must, some time, her turn to figure in the
great drama of human improvement.--life will awake there with a gorgeousness and
splendor of which our cold western tribes faintly have conceived.
In that far-off mystic land of gold, and gems, and spices, and waving
palms, and wondrous flowers, and miraculous fertility, will awake new forms of
art, new styles of splendor; and the negro race, no longer despised and trodden
down, will, perhaps, show forth some of the latest and most magnificent
revelations of human life. Certainly
they will, in their gentleness, their lowly docility of heart, their aptitude to
repose on a superior mind and rest on a higher power, their childlike simplicity
of affection, and facility of forgiveness.
In all these they will exhibit the highest form of the peculiarly
_Christian life_, and, perhaps, as God chasteneth whom he loveth, he hath chosen
poor Africa in the furnace of affliction, to make her the highest and noblest in
that kingdom which he will set up, when every other kingdom has been tried, and
failed; for the first shall be last, and the last first.
Was this what Marie St. Clare was
thinking of, as she stood, gorgeously dressed, on the verandah, on Sunday
morning, clasping a diamond bracelet on her slender wrist? Most likely it was. Or,
if it wasn't that, it was something else; for Marie patronized good things, and
she was going now, in full force,--diamonds, silk, and lace, and jewels, and
all,--to a fashionable church, to be very religious. Marie always made a point to be very pious on Sundays.
There she stood, so slender, so elegant, so airy and undulating in all
her motions, her lace scarf enveloping her like a mist.
She looked a graceful creature, and she felt very good and very elegant
indeed. Miss Ophelia stood at her side, a perfect contrast.
It was not that she had not as handsome a silk dress and shawl, and as
fine a pocket-handkerchief; but stiffness and squareness, and bolt-uprightness,
enveloped her with as indefinite yet appreciable a presence as did grace her
elegant neighbor; not the grace of God, however,--that is quite another thing!
"Where's Eva?" said Marie.
"The child stopped on the stairs,
to say something to Mammy."
And what was Eva saying to Mammy on the
stairs? Listen, reader, and you
will hear, though Marie does not.
"Dear Mammy, I know your head is
"Lord bless you, Miss Eva! my head
allers aches lately. You don't need
"Well, I'm glad you're going out;
and here,"--and the little girl threw her arms around her,--"Mammy,
you shall take my vinaigrette."
"What! your beautiful gold thing,
thar, with them diamonds! Lor,
Miss, 't wouldn't be proper, no ways."
"Why not? You need it, and I don't.
Mamma always uses it for headache, and it'll make you feel better.
No, you shall take it, to please me, now."
"Do hear the darlin talk!"
said Mammy, as Eva thrust it into her bosom, and kissing her, ran down stairs to
"What were you stopping for?"
"I was just stopping to give Mammy
my vinaigrette, to take to church with her."
"Eva" said Marie, stamping
impatiently,--"your gold vinaigrette to _Mammy!_ When will you learn what's _proper_? Go right and take it back this moment!"
Eva looked downcast and aggrieved, and
"I say, Marie, let the child alone;
she shall do as she pleases," said St. Clare.
"St. Clare, how will she ever get
along in the world?" said Marie.
"The Lord knows," said St.
Clare, "but she'll get along in heaven better than you or I."
"O, papa, don't," said Eva,
softly touching his elbow; "it troubles mother."
"Well, cousin, are you ready to go
to meeting?" said Miss Ophelia, turning square about on St. Clare.
"I'm not going, thank you."
"I do wish St. Clare ever would go
to church," said Marie; "but he hasn't a particle of religion about
him. It really isn't
"I know it," said St. Clare.
"You ladies go to church to learn how to get along in the world, I
suppose, and your piety sheds respectability on us.
If I did go at all, I would go where Mammy goes; there's something to
keep a fellow awake there, at least."
"What! those shouting Methodists?
Horrible!" said Marie.
"Anything but the dead sea of your
respectable churches, Marie. Positively,
it's too much to ask of a man. Eva, do you like to go?
Come, stay at home and play with me."
"Thank you, papa; but I'd rather go
"Isn't it dreadful tiresome?"
said St. Clare.
"I think it is tiresome,
some," said Eva, "and I am sleepy, too, but I try to keep awake."
"What do you go for, then?"
"Why, you know, papa," she
said, in a whisper, "cousin told me that God wants to have us; and he gives
us everything, you know; and it isn't much to do it, if he wants us to.
It isn't so very tiresome after all."
"You sweet, little obliging
soul!" said St. Clare, kissing her; "go along, that's a good girl, and
pray for me."
"Certainly, I always do," said
the child, as she sprang after her mother into the carriage.
St. Clare stood on the steps and kissed
his hand to her, as the carriage drove away; large tears were in his eyes.
"O, Evangeline! rightly
named," he said; "hath not God made thee an evangel to me?"
So he felt a moment; and then he smoked
a cigar, and read the Picayune, and forgot his little gospel.
Was he much unlike other folks?
"You see, Evangeline," said
her mother, "it's always right and proper to be kind to servants, but it
isn't proper to treat them _just_ as we would our relations, or people in our
own class of life. Now, if Mammy
was sick, you wouldn't want to put her in your own bed."
"I should feel just like it,
mamma," said Eva, "because then it would be handier to take care of
her, and because, you know, my bed is better than hers."
Marie was in utter despair at the entire
want of moral perception evinced in this reply.
"What can I do to make this child
understand me?" she said.
"Nothing," said Miss Ophelia,
Eva looked sorry and disconcerted for a
moment; but children, luckily, do not keep to one impression long, and in a few
moments she was merrily laughing at various things which she saw from the
coach-windows, as it rattled along.
* * *
"Well, ladies," said St.
Clare, as they were comfortably seated at the dinner-table, "and what was
the bill of fare at church today?"
"O, Dr. G---- preached a splendid
sermon," said Marie. "It
was just such a sermon as you ought to hear; it expressed all my views
"It must have been very
improving," said St. Clare. "The
subject must have been an extensive one."
"Well, I mean all my views about
society, and such things," said Marie.
"The text was, `He hath made everything beautiful in its season;'
and he showed how all the orders and distinctions in society came from God; and
that it was so appropriate, you know, and beautiful, that some should be high
and some low, and that some were born to rule and some to serve, and all that,
you know; and he applied it so well to all this ridiculous fuss that is made
about slavery, and he proved distinctly that the Bible was on our side, and
supported all our institutions so convincingly. I only wish you'd heard him."
"O, I didn't need it," said
St. Clare. "I can learn what
does me as much good as that from the Picayune, any time, and smoke a cigar
besides; which I can't do, you know, in a church."
"Why," said Miss Ophelia,
"don't you believe in these views?"
"Who,--I? You know I'm such a graceless dog that these religious
aspects of such subjects don't edify me much.
If I was to say anything on this slavery matter, I would say out, fair
and square, `We're in for it; we've got 'em, and mean to keep 'em,--it's for our
convenience and our interest;' for that's the long and short of it,--that's just
the whole of what all this sanctified stuff amounts to, after all; and I think
that it will be intelligible to everybody, everywhere."
"I do think, Augustine, you are so
irreverent!" said Marie. "I
think it's shocking to hear you talk."
"Shocking! it's the truth.
This religious talk on such matters,--why don't they carry it a little
further, and show the beauty, in its season, of a fellow's taking a glass too
much, and sitting a little too late over his cards, and various providential
arrangements of that sort, which are pretty frequent among us young men;--we'd
like to hear that those are right and godly, too."
"Well," said Miss Ophelia,
"do you think slavery right or wrong?"
I'm not going to have any of your horrid
New England directness, cousin," said St. Clare, gayly.
"If I answer that question, I know you'll be at me with half a dozen
others, each one harder than the last; and I'm not a going to define my
position. I am one of the sort that
lives by throwing stones at other people's glass houses, but I never mean to put
up one for them to stone."
"That's just the way he's always
talking," said Marie; "you can't get any satisfaction out of him.
I believe it's just because he don't like religion, that he's always
running out in this way he's been doing."
"Religion!" said St. Clare, in
a tone that made both ladies look at him. "Religion! Is
what you hear at church, religion? Is
that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase
of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is
that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less
considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature?
No! When I look for a
religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath."
"Then you don't believe that the
Bible justifies slavery," said Miss Ophelia.
"The Bible was my _mother's_
book," said St. Clare. "By
it she lived and died, and I would be very sorry to think it did.
I'd as soon desire to have it proved that my mother could drink brandy,
chew tobacco, and swear, by way of satisfying me that I did right in doing the
same. It wouldn't make me at all
more satisfied with these things in myself, and it would take from me the
comfort of respecting her; and it really is a comfort, in this world, to have
anything one can respect. In short, you see," said he, suddenly resuming his gay
tone, "all I want is that different things be kept in different boxes.
The whole frame-work of society, both in Europe and America, is made up
of various things which will not stand the scrutiny of any very ideal standard
of morality. It's pretty generally
understood that men don't aspire after the absolute right, but only to do about
as well as the rest of the world. Now,
when any one speaks up, like a man, and says slavery is necessary to us, we
can't get along without it, we should be beggared if we give it up, and, of
course, we mean to hold on to it,--this is strong, clear, well-defined language;
it has the respectability of truth to it; and, if we may judge by their
practice, the majority of the world will bear us out in it.
But when he begins to put on a long face, and snuffle, and quote
Scripture, I incline to think he isn't much better than he should be."
"You are very uncharitable,"
"Well," said St. Clare,
"suppose that something should bring down the price of cotton once and
forever, and make the whole slave property a drug in the market, don't you think
we should soon have another version of the Scripture doctrine?
What a flood of light would pour into the church, all at once, and how
immediately it would be discovered that everything in the Bible and reason went
the other way!"
"Well, at any rate," said
Marie, as she reclined herself on a lounge, "I'm thankful I'm born where
slavery exists; and I believe it's right,--indeed, I feel it must be; and, at
any rate, I'm sure I couldn't get along without it."
"I say, what do you think,
Pussy?" said her father to Eva, who came in at this moment, with a flower
in her hand.
"What about, papa?"
"Why, which do you like the
best,--to live as they do at your uncle's, up in Vermont, or to have a
house-full of servants, as we do?"
"O, of course, our way is the
pleasantest," said Eva.
"Why so?" said St. Clare,
stroking her head.
"Why, it makes so many more round
you to love, you know," said Eva, looking up earnestly.
"Now, that's just like Eva,"
said Marie; "just one of her odd speeches."
"Is it an odd speech, papa?"
said Eva, whisperingly, as she got upon his knee.
"Rather, as this world goes,
Pussy," said St. Clare. "But
where has my little Eva been, all dinner-time?"
"O, I've been up in Tom's room,
hearing him sing, and Aunt Dinah gave me my dinner."
"Hearing Tom sing, hey?"
"O, yes! he sings such beautiful
things about the New Jerusalem, and bright angels, and the land of Canaan."
"I dare say; it's better than the
opera, isn't it?"
"Yes, and he's going to teach them
"Singing lessons, hey?--you _are_
"Yes, he sings for me, and I read
to him in my Bible; and he explains what it means, you know."
"On my word," said Marie,
laughing, "that is the latest joke of the season."
"Tom isn't a bad hand, now, at
explaining Scripture, I'll dare swear," said St. Clare.
"Tom has a natural genius for religion.
I wanted the horses out early, this morning, and I stole up to Tom's
cubiculum there, over the stables, and there I heard him holding a meeting by
himself; and, in fact, I haven't heard anything quite so savory as Tom's prayer,
this some time. He put in for me,
with a zeal that was quite apostolic."
"Perhaps he guessed you were
listening. I've heard of that trick
"If he did, he wasn't very polite;
for he gave the Lord his opinion of me, pretty freely. Tom seemed to think there was decidedly room for improvement
in me, and seemed very earnest that I should be converted."
"I hope you'll lay it to
heart," said Miss Ophelia.
"I suppose you are much of the same
opinion," said St. Clare. "Well,
we shall see,--shan't we, Eva?"