"Tom, you needn't get me the horses.
I don't want to go," she said.
"Why not, Miss Eva?"
"These things sink into my heart,
Tom," said Eva,--"they sink into my heart," she repeated,
earnestly. "I don't want to
go;" and she turned from Tom, and went into the house.
A few days after, another woman came, in
old Prue's place, to bring the rusks; Miss Ophelia was in the kitchen.
"Lor!" said Dinah,
"what's got Prue?"
"Prue isn't coming any more,"
said the woman, mysteriously.
"Why not?" said Dinah.
"she an't dead, is she?"
"We doesn't exactly know.
She's down cellar," said the woman, glancing at Miss Ophelia.
After Miss Ophelia had taken the rusks,
Dinah followed the woman to the door.
"What _has_ got Prue, any
how?" she said.
The woman seemed desirous, yet
reluctant, to speak, and answered, in low, mysterious tone.
"Well, you mustn't tell nobody,
Prue, she got drunk agin,--and they had her down cellar,--and thar they left her
all day,--and I hearn 'em saying that the _flies had got to her_,--and _she's
Dinah held up her hands, and, turning,
saw close by her side the spirit-like form of Evangeline, her large, mystic eyes
dilated with horror, and every drop of blood driven from her lips and cheeks.
"Lor bless us!
Miss Eva's gwine to faint away! What
go us all, to let her har such talk? Her
pa'll be rail mad."
"I shan't faint, Dinah," said
the child, firmly; "and why shouldn't I hear it? It an't so much for me to hear it, as for poor Prue to suffer
"_Lor sakes_! it isn't for sweet,
delicate young ladies, like you,--these yer stories isn't; it's enough to kill
Eva sighed again, and walked up stairs
with a slow and melancholy step.
Miss Ophelia anxiously inquired the
woman's story. Dinah gave a very
garrulous version of it, to which Tom added the particulars which he had drawn
from her that morning.
"An abominable business,--perfectly
horrible!" she exclaimed, as she entered the room where St. Clare lay
reading his paper.
"Pray, what iniquity has turned up
now?" said he.
"What now? why, those folks have
whipped Prue to death!" said Miss Ophelia, going on, with great strength of
detail, into the story, and enlarging on its most shocking particulars.
"I thought it would come to that,
some time," said St. Clare,
going on with his paper.
"Thought so!--an't you going to
_do_ anything about it?" said Miss Ophelia.
"Haven't you got any _selectmen_, or anybody, to interfere and look
after such matters?"
"It's commonly supposed that the
_property_ interest is a sufficient guard in these cases.
If people choose to ruin their own possessions, I don't know what's to be
done. It seems the poor creature
was a thief and a drunkard; and so there won't be much hope to get up sympathy
"It is perfectly outrageous,--it is
horrid, Augustine! It will
certainly bring down vengeance upon you."
"My dear cousin, I didn't do it,
and I can't help it; I would, if I could. If
low-minded, brutal people will act like themselves, what am I to do? they have
absolute control; they are irresponsible despots. There would be no use in interfering; there is no law that
amounts to anything practically, for such a case. The best we can do is to shut our eyes and ears, and let it
alone. It's the only resource left
"How can you shut your eyes and
ears? How can you let such things
"My dear child, what do you expect?
Here is a whole class,--debased, uneducated, indolent, provoking,--put,
without any sort of terms or conditions, entirely into the hands of such people
as the majority in our world are; people who have neither consideration nor
self-control, who haven't even an enlightened regard to their own interest,--for
that's the case with the largest half of mankind.
Of course, in a community so organized, what can a man of honorable and
humane feelings do, but shut his eyes all he can, and harden his heart?
I can't buy every poor wretch I see.
I can't turn knight-errant, and undertake to redress every individual
case of wrong in such a city as this. The
most I can do is to try and keep out of the way of it."
St. Clare's fine countenance was for a
moment overcast; he said,
"Come, cousin, don't stand there
looking like one of the Fates; you've only seen a peep through the curtain,--a
specimen of what is going on, the world over, in some shape or other.
If we are to be prying and spying into all the dismals of life, we should
have no heart to anything. 'T is
like looking too close into the details of Dinah's kitchen;" and St. Clare
lay back on the sofa, and busied himself with his paper.
Miss Ophelia sat down, and pulled out
her knitting-work, and sat there grim with indignation. She knit and knit, but while she mused the fire burned; at
last she broke out--"I tell you, Augustine, I can't get over things so, if
you can. It's a perfect abomination
for you to defend such a system,--that's _my_ mind!"
"What now?" said St. Clare,
looking up. "At it again,
"I say it's perfectly abominable
for you to defend such a system!" said Miss Ophelia, with increasing
"_I_ defend it, my dear lady?
Who ever said I did defend it?" said St. Clare.
"Of course, you defend it,--you all
do,--all you Southerners. What do
you have slaves for, if you don't?"
"Are you such a sweet innocent as
to suppose nobody in this world ever does what they don't think is right?
Don't you, or didn't you ever, do anything that you did not think quite
"If I do, I repent of it, I
hope," said Miss Ophelia, rattling her needles with energy.
"So do I," said St. Clare,
peeling his orange; "I'm repenting of it all the time."
"What do you keep on doing it
"Didn't you ever keep on doing
wrong, after you'd repented, my good cousin?"
"Well, only when I've been very
much tempted," said Miss Ophelia.
"Well, I'm very much tempted,"
said St. Clare; "that's just my difficulty."
"But I always resolve I won't and I
try to break off."
"Well, I have been resolving I
won't, off and on, these ten years," said St. Clare; "but I haven't,
some how, got clear. Have you got
clear of all your sins, cousin?"
"Cousin Augustine," said Miss
Ophelia, seriously, and laying down her knitting-work, "I suppose I deserve
that you should reprove my short-comings. I know all you say is true enough; nobody else feels them
more than I do; but it does seem to me, after all, there is some difference
between me and you. It seems to me
I would cut off my right hand sooner than keep on, from day to day, doing what I
thought was wrong. But, then, my
conduct is so inconsistent with my profession, I don't wonder you reprove
"O, now, cousin," said
Augustine, sitting down on the floor, and laying his head back in her lap,
"don't take on so awfully serious! You
know what a good-for-nothing, saucy boy I always was. I love to poke you up,--that's all,--just to see you get
earnest. I do think you are
desperately, distressingly good; it tires me to death to think of it."
"But this is a serious subject, my
boy, Auguste," said Miss Ophelia, laying her hand on his forehead.
"Dismally so," said he;
"and I--well, I never want to talk seriously in hot weather.
What with mosquitos and all, a fellow can't get himself up to any very
sublime moral flights; and I believe," said St. Clare, suddenly rousing
himself up, "there's a theory, now! I
understand now why northern nations are always more virtuous than southern
ones,--I see into that whole subject."
"O, Augustine, you are a sad
"Am I? Well, so I am, I suppose; but for once I will be serious,
now; but you must hand me that basket of oranges;--you see, you'll have to `stay
me with flagons and comfort me with apples,' if I'm going to make this effort.
Now," said Augustine, drawing the basket up, "I'll begin:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a fellow to
hold two or three dozen of his fellow-worms in captivity, a decent regard to the
opinions of society requires--"
"I don't see that you are growing
more serious," said Miss Ophelia.
"Wait,--I'm coming on,--you'll
hear. The short of the matter is,
cousin," said he, his handsome face suddenly settling into an earnest and
serious expression, "on this abstract question of slavery there can, as I
think, be but one opinion. Planters,
who have money to make by it,--clergymen, who have planters to
please,--politicians, who want to rule by it,--may warp and bend language and
ethics to a degree that shall astonish the world at their ingenuity; they can
press nature and the Bible, and nobody knows what else, into the service; but,
after all, neither they nor the world believe in it one particle the more.
It comes from the devil, that's the short of it;--and, to my mind, it's a
pretty respectable specimen of what he can do in his own line."
Miss Ophelia stopped her knitting, and
looked surprised, and St. Clare, apparently enjoying her astonishment, went on.
"You seem to wonder; but if you
will get me fairly at it, I'll make a clean breast of it. This cursed business, accursed of God and man, what is it?
Strip it of all its ornament, run it down to the root and nucleus of the
whole, and what is it? Why, because my brother Quashy is ignorant and weak, and I am
intelligent and strong,--because I know how, and _can_ do it,--therefore, I may
steal all he has, keep it, and give him only such and so much as suits my fancy.
Whatever is too hard, too dirty, too disagreeable, for me, I may set
Quashy to doing. Because I don't like work, Quashy shall work.
Because the sun burns me, Quashy shall stay in the sun.
Quashy shall earn the money, and I will spend it.
Quashy shall lie down in every puddle, that I may walk over dry-shod.
Quashy shall do my will, and not his, all the days of his mortal life,
and have such chance of getting to heaven, at last, as I find convenient.
This I take to be about what slavery _is_.
I defy anybody on earth to read our slave-code, as it stands in our
law-books, and make anything else of it. Talk
of the _abuses_ of slavery! Humbug!
The _thing itself_ is the essence of all abuse!
And the only reason why the land don't sink under it, like Sodom and
Gomorrah, is because it is _used_ in a way infinitely better than it is.
For pity's sake, for shame's sake, because we are men born of women, and
not savage beasts, many of us do not, and dare not,--we would _scorn_ to use the
full power which our savage laws put into our hands. And he who goes the furthest, and does the worst, only uses
within limits the power that the law gives him."
St. Clare had started up, and, as his
manner was when excited, was walking, with hurried steps, up and down the floor.
His fine face, classic as that of a Greek statue, seemed actually to burn
with the fervor of his feelings. His
large blue eyes flashed, and he gestured with an unconscious eagerness.
Miss Ophelia had never seen him in this mood before, and she sat
"I declare to you," said he,
suddenly stopping before his cousin "(It's no sort of use to talk or to
feel on this subject), but I declare to you, there have been times when I have
thought, if the whole country would sink, and hide all this injustice and misery
from the light, I would willingly sink with it.
When I have been travelling up and down on our boats, or about on my
collecting tours, and reflected that every brutal, disgusting, mean, low-lived
fellow I met, was allowed by our laws to become absolute despot of as many men,
women and children, as he could cheat, steal, or gamble money enough to
buy,--when I have seen such men in actual ownership of helpless children, of
young girls and women,--I have been ready to curse my country, to curse the
"Augustine! Augustine!" said
Miss Ophelia, "I'm sure you've said enough.
I never, in my life, heard anything like this, even at the North."
"At the North!" said St.
Clare, with a sudden change of expression, and resuming something of his
habitual careless tone. "Pooh!
your northern folks are cold-blooded; you are cool in everything!
You can't begin to curse up hill and down as we can, when we get fairly
"Well, but the question is,"
said Miss Ophelia.
"O, yes, to be sure, the _question
is_,--and a deuce of a question it is! How
came _you_ in this state of sin and misery?
Well, I shall answer in the good old words you used to teach me, Sundays.
I came so by ordinary generation. My
servants were my father's, and, what is more, my mother's; and now they are
mine, they and their increase, which bids fair to be a pretty considerable item.
My father, you know, came first from New England; and he was just such
another man as your father,--a regular old Roman,--upright, energetic,
noble-minded, with an iron will. Your
father settled down in New England, to rule over rocks and stones, and to force
an existence out of Nature; and mine settled in Louisiana, to rule over men and
women, and force existence out of them. My
mother," said St. Clare, getting up and walking to a picture at the end of
the room, and gazing upward with a face fervent with veneration, "_she was
divine!_ Don't look at me so!--you
know what I mean! She probably was
of mortal birth; but, as far as ever I could observe, there was no trace of any
human weakness or error about her; and everybody that lives to remember her,
whether bond or free, servant, acquaintance, relation, all say the same.
Why, cousin, that mother has been all that has stood between me and utter
unbelief for years. She was a direct embodiment and personification of the New
Testament,--a living fact, to be accounted for, and to be accounted for in no
other way than by its truth. O, mother! mother!" said St. Clare, clasping
his hands, in a sort of transport; and then suddenly checking himself, he came
back, and seating himself on an ottoman, he went on:
"My brother and I were twins; and
they say, you know, that twins ought to resemble each other; but we were in all
points a contrast. He had black,
fiery eyes, coal-black hair, a strong, fine Roman profile, and a rich brown
complexion. I had blue eyes, golden
hair, a Greek outline, and fair complexion.
He was active and observing, I dreamy and inactive.
He was generous to his friends and equals, but proud, dominant,
overbearing, to inferiors, and utterly unmerciful to whatever set itself up
against him. Truthful we both were;
he from pride and courage, I from a sort of abstract ideality.
We loved each other about as boys generally do,--off and on, and in
general;--he was my father's pet, and I my mother's.
"There was a morbid sensitiveness
and acuteness of feeling in me on all possible subjects, of which he and my
father had no kind of understanding, and with which they could have no possible
sympathy. But mother did; and so,
when I had quarreled with Alfred, and father looked sternly on me, I used to go
off to mother's room, and sit by her. I
remember just how she used to look, with her pale cheeks, her deep, soft,
serious eyes, her white dress,--she always wore white; and I used to think of
her whenever I read in Revelations about the saints that were arrayed in fine
linen, clean and white. She had a
great deal of genius of one sort and another, particularly in music; and she
used to sit at her organ, playing fine old majestic music of the Catholic
church, and singing with a voice more like an angel than a mortal woman; and I
would lay my head down on her lap, and cry, and dream, and feel,--oh,
immeasurably!--things that I had no language to say!
"In those days, this matter of
slavery had never been canvassed as it has now; nobody dreamed of any harm in
"My father was a born aristocrat.
I think, in some preexistent state, he must have been in the higher
circles of spirits, and brought all his old court pride along with him; for it
was ingrain, bred in the bone, though he was originally of poor and not in any
way of noble family. My brother was
begotten in his image.
"Now, an aristocrat, you know, the
world over, has no human sympathies, beyond a certain line in society.
In England the line is in one place, in Burmah in another, and in America
in another; but the aristocrat of all these countries never goes over it.
What would be hardship and distress and injustice in his own class, is a
cool matter of course in another one. My
father's dividing line was that of color. _Among
his equals_, never was a man more just and generous; but he considered the
negro, through all possible gradations of color, as an intermediate link between
man and animals, and graded all his ideas of justice or generosity on this
hypothesis. I suppose, to be sure,
if anybody had asked him, plump and fair, whether they had human immortal souls,
he might have hemmed and hawed, and said yes.
But my father was not a man much troubled with spiritualism; religious
sentiment he had none, beyond a veneration for God, as decidedly the head of the
"Well, my father worked some five
hundred negroes; he was an inflexible, driving, punctilious business man;
everything was to move by system,--to be sustained with unfailing accuracy and
precision. Now, if you take into
account that all this was to be worked out by a set of lazy, twaddling,
shiftless laborers, who had grown up, all their lives, in the absence of every
possible motive to learn how to do anything but `shirk,' as you Vermonters say,
and you'll see that there might naturally be, on his plantation, a great many
things that looked horrible and distressing to a sensitive child, like me.
"Besides all, he had an
overseer,--great, tall, slab-sided, two-fisted renegade son of Vermont--(begging
your pardon),--who had gone through a regular apprenticeship in hardness and
brutality and taken his degree to be admitted to practice.
My mother never could endure him, nor I; but he obtained an entire
ascendency over my father; and this man was the absolute despot of the estate.
"I was a little fellow then, but I
had the same love that I have now for all kinds of human things,--a kind of
passion for the study of humanity, come in what shape it would.
I was found in the cabins and among the field-hands a great deal, and, of
course, was a great favorite; and all sorts of complaints and grievances were
breathed in my ear; and I told them to mother, and we, between us, formed a sort
of committee for a redress of grievances. We
hindered and repressed a great deal of cruelty, and congratulated ourselves on
doing a vast deal of good, till, as often happens, my zeal overacted. Stubbs complained to my father that he couldn't manage the
hands, and must resign his position. Father
was a fond, indulgent husband, but a man that never flinched from anything that
he thought necessary; and so he put down his foot, like a rock, between us and
the field-hands. He told my mother,
in language perfectly respectful and deferential, but quite explicit, that over
the house-servants she should be entire mistress, but that with the field-hands
he could allow no interference. He
revered and respected her above all living beings; but he would have said it all
the same to the virgin Mary herself, if she had come in the way of his system.
"I used sometimes to hear my mother
reasoning cases with him,--endeavoring to excite his sympathies.
He would listen to the most pathetic appeals with the most discouraging
politeness and equanimity. `It all resolves itself into this,' he would say; `must I
part with Stubbs, or keep him? Stubbs
is the soul of punctuality, honesty, and efficiency,--a thorough business hand,
and as humane as the general run. We
can't have perfection; and if I keep him, I must sustain his administration as a
_whole_, even if there are, now and then, things that are exceptionable.
All government includes some necessary hardness.
General rules will bear hard on particular cases.'
This last maxim my father seemed to consider a settler in most alleged
cases of cruelty. After he had said
_that_, he commonly drew up his feet on the sofa, like a man that has disposed
of a business, and betook himself to a nap, or the newspaper, as the case might
"The fact is my father showed the
exact sort of talent for a statesman. He
could have divided Poland as easily as an orange, or trod on Ireland as quietly
and systematically as any man living. At last my mother gave up, in despair. It never will be known, till the last account, what noble and
sensitive natures like hers have felt, cast, utterly helpless, into what seems
to them an abyss of injustice and cruelty, and which seems so to nobody about
them. It has been an age of long
sorrow of such natures, in such a hell-begotten sort of world as ours.
What remained for her, but to train her children in her own views and
sentiments? Well, after all you say
about training, children will grow up substantially what they _are_ by nature,
and only that. From the cradle,
Alfred was an aristocrat; and as he grew up, instinctively, all his sympathies
and all his reasonings were in that line, and all mother's exhortations went to
the winds. As to me, they sunk deep
into me. She never contradicted, in
form, anything my father said, or seemed directly to differ from him; but she
impressed, burnt into my very soul, with all the force of her deep, earnest
nature, an idea of the dignity and worth of the meanest human soul.
I have looked in her face with solemn awe, when she would point up to the
stars in the evening, and say to me, `See there, Auguste! the poorest, meanest
soul on our place will be living, when all these stars are gone forever,--will
live as long as God lives!'
"She had some fine old paintings;
one, in particular, of Jesus healing a blind man.
They were very fine, and used to impress me strongly.
`See there, Auguste,' she would say; `the blind man was a beggar, poor
and loathsome; therefore, he would not heal him _afar off!_
He called him to him, and put _his hands on him!_
Remember this, my boy.' If I
had lived to grow up under her care, she might have stimulated me to I know not
what of enthusiasm. I might have
been a saint, reformer, martyr,--but, alas! alas!
I went from her when I was only thirteen, and I never saw her
St. Clare rested his head on his hands,
and did not speak for some minutes. After
a while, he looked up, and went on:
"What poor, mean trash this whole
business of human virtue is! A mere
matter, for the most part, of latitude and longitude, and geographical position,
acting with natural temperament. The
greater part is nothing but an accident! Your father, for example, settles in Vermont, in a town where
all are, in fact, free and equal; becomes a regular church member and deacon,
and in due time joins an Abolition society, and thinks us all little better than
heathens. Yet he is, for all the
world, in constitution and habit, a duplicate of my father. I can see it leaking out in fifty different ways,--just the
same strong, overbearing, dominant spirit.
You know very well how impossible it is to persuade some of the folks in
your village that Squire Sinclair does not feel above them.
The fact is, though he has fallen on democratic times, and embraced a
democratic theory, he is to the heart an aristocrat, as much as my father, who
ruled over five or six hundred slaves."
Miss Ophelia felt rather disposed to
cavil at this picture, and was laying down her knitting to begin, but St. Clare
"Now, I know every word you are
going to say. I do not say they
_were_ alike, in fact. One fell
into a condition where everything acted against the natural tendency, and the
other where everything acted for it; and so one turned out a pretty wilful,
stout, overbearing old democrat, and the other a wilful, stout old despot.
If both had owned plantations in Louisiana, they would have been as like
as two old bullets cast in the same mould."
"What an undutiful boy you
are!" said Miss Ophelia.
"I don't mean them any
disrespect," said St. Clare. "You
know reverence is not my forte. But, to go back to my history:
"When father died, he left the
whole property to us twin boys, to be divided as we should agree.
There does not breathe on God's earth a nobler-souled, more generous
fellow, than Alfred, in all that concerns his equals; and we got on admirably
with this property question, without a single unbrotherly word or feeling.
We undertook to work the plantation together; and Alfred, whose outward
life and capabilities had double the strength of mine, became an enthusiastic
planter, and a wonderfully successful one.
"But two years' trial satisfied me
that I could not be a partner in that matter.
To have a great gang of seven hundred, whom I could not know personally,
or feel any individual interest in, bought and driven, housed, fed, worked like
so many horned cattle, strained up to military precision,--the question of how
little of life's commonest enjoyments would keep them in working order being a
constantly recurring problem,--the necessity of drivers and overseers,--the
ever-necessary whip, first, last, and only argument,--the whole thing was
insufferably disgusting and loathsome to me; and when I thought of my mothcr's
estimate of one poor human soul, it became even frightful!
"It's all nonsense to talk to me
about slaves _enjoying_ all this! To
this day, I have no patience with the unutterable trash that some of your
patronizing Northerners have made up, as in their zeal to apologize for our
sins. We all know better.
Tell me that any man living wants to
work all his days, from day-dawn till dark, under the constant eye of a
master, without the power of putting forth one irresponsible volition, on the
same dreary, monotonous, unchanging toil, and all for two pairs of pantaloons
and a pair of shoes a year, with enough food and shelter to keep him in working
order! Any man who thinks that
human beings can, as a general thing, be made about as comfortable that way as
any other, I wish he might try it. I'd
buy the dog, and work him, with a clear conscience!"
"I always have supposed," said
Miss Ophelia, "that you, all of you, approved of these things, and thought
them _right_--according to Scripture."
"Humbug! We are not quite reduced to that yet. Alfred who is as determined a despot as ever walked, does not
pretend to this kind of defence;--no, he stands, high and haughty, on that good
old respectable ground, _the right of the strongest_; and he says, and I think
quite sensibly, that the American planter is `only doing, in another form, what
the English aristocracy and capitalists are doing by the lower classes;' that
is, I take it, _appropriating_ them, body and bone, soul and spirit, to their
use and convenience. He defends
both,--and I think, at least, _consistently_.
He says that there can be no high civilization without enslavement of the
masses, either nominal or real. There
must, he says, be a lower class, given up to physical toil and confined to an
animal nature; and a higher one thereby acquires leisure and wealth for a more
expanded intelligence and improvement, and becomes the directing soul of the
lower. So he reasons, because, as I
said, he is born an aristocrat;--so I don't believe, because I was born a
"How in the world can the two
things be compared?" said Miss Ophelia.
"The English laborer is not sold, traded, parted from his family,
"He is as much at the will of his
employer as if he were sold to him. The
slave-owner can whip his refractory slave to death,--the capitalist can starve
him to death. As to family
security, it is hard to say which is the worst,--to have one's children sold, or
see them starve to death at home."
"But it's no kind of apology for
slavery, to prove that it isn't worse than some other bad thing."
"I didn't give it for one,--nay,
I'll say, besides, that ours is the more bold and palpable infringement of human
rights; actually buying a man up, like a horse,--looking at his teeth, cracking
his joints, and trying his paces and then paying down for him,--having
speculators, breeders, traders, and brokers in human bodies and souls,--sets the
thing before the eyes of the civilized world in a more tangible form, though the
thing done be, after all, in its nature, the same; that is, appropriating one
set of human beings to the use and improvement of another without any regard to
"I never thought of the matter in
this light," said Miss Ophelia.
"Well, I've travelled in England
some, and I've looked over a good many documents as to the state of their lower
classes; and I really think there is no denying Alfred, when he says that his
slaves are better off than a large class of the population of England.
You see, you must not infer, from what I have told you, that Alfred is
what is called a hard master; for he isn't.
He is despotic, and unmerciful to insubordination; he would shoot a
fellow down with as little remorse as he would shoot a buck, if he opposed him.
But, in general, he takes a sort of pride in having his slaves
comfortably fed and accommodated.
"When I was with him, I insisted
that he should do something for their instruction; and, to please me, he did get
a chaplain, and used to have them catechized Sunday, though, I believe, in his
heart, that he thought it would do about as much good to set a chaplain over his
dogs and horses. And the fact is,
that a mind stupefied and animalized by every bad influence from the hour of
birth, spending the whole of every week-day in unreflecting toil, cannot be done
much with by a few hours on Sunday. The
teachers of Sunday-schools among the manufacturing population of England, and
among plantation-hands in our country, could perhaps testify to the same result,
_there and here_. Yet some striking
exceptions there are among us, from the fact that the negro is naturally more
impressible to religious sentiment than the white."
"Well," said Miss Ophelia,
"how came you to give up your plantation life?"
"Well, we jogged on together some
time, till Alfred saw plainly that I was no planter. He thought it absurd, after he had reformed, and altered, and
improved everywhere, to suit my notions, that I still remained unsatisfied.
The fact was, it was, after all, the THING that I hated--the using these
men and women, the perpetuation of all this ignorance, brutality and vice,--just
to make money for me!
"Besides, I was always interfering
in the details. Being myself one of
the laziest of mortals, I had altogether too much fellow-feeling for the lazy;
and when poor, shiftless dogs put stones at the bottom of their cotton-baskets
to make them weigh heavier, or filled their sacks with dirt, with cotton at the
top, it seemed so exactly like what I should do if I were they, I couldn't and
wouldn't have them flogged for it. Well,
of course, there was an end of plantation discipline; and Alf and I came to
about the same point that I and my respected father did, years before.
So he told me that I was a womanish sentimentalist, and would never do
for business life; and advised me to take the bank-stock and the New Orleans
family mansion, and go to writing poetry, and let him manage the plantation.
So we parted, and I came here."
"But why didn't you free your
"Well, I wasn't up to that.
To hold them as tools for money-making, I could not;--have them to help
spend money, you know, didn't look quite so ugly to me.
Some of them were old house-servants, to whom I was much attached; and
the younger ones were children to the old.
All were well satisfied to be as they were."
He paused, and walked reflectively up and down the room.
"There was," said St. Clare,
"a time in my life when I had plans and hopes of doing something in this
world, more than to float and drift. I
had vague, indistinct yearnings to be a sort of emancipator,--to free my native
land from this spot and stain. All
young men have had such fever-fits, I suppose, some time,-- but then--"
"Why didn't you?" said Miss
Ophelia;--"you ought not to put your hand to the plough, and look
"O, well, things didn't go with me
as I expected, and I got the despair of living that Solomon did.
I suppose it was a necessary incident to wisdom in us both; but, some how
or other, instead of being actor and regenerator in society, I became a piece of
driftwood, and have been floating and eddying about, ever since.
Alfred scolds me, every time we meet; and he has the better of me, I
grant,--for he really does something; his life is a logical result of his
opinions and mine is a contemptible _non sequitur_."
"My dear cousin, can you be
satisfied with such a way of spending your probation?"
"Satisfied! Was I not just telling you I despised it?
But, then, to come back to this point,--we were on this liberation
business. I don't think my feelings
about slavery are peculiar. I find many men who, in their hearts, think of it just as I
do. The land groans under it; and,
bad as it is for the slave, it is worse, if anything, for the master.
It takes no spectacles to see that a great class of vicious, improvident,
degraded people, among us, are an evil to us, as well as to themselves.
The capitalist and aristocrat of England cannot feel that as we do,
because they do not mingle with the class they degrade as we do.
They are in our homes; they are the associates of our children, and they
form their minds faster than we can; for they are a race that children always
will cling to and assimilate with. If
Eva, now, was not more angel than ordinary, she would be ruined.
We might as well allow the small-pox to run among them, and think our
children would not take it, as to let them be uninstructed and vicious, and
think our children will not be affected by that.
Yet our laws positively and utterly forbid any efficient general
educational system, and they do it wisely, too; for, just begin and thoroughly
educate one generation, and the whole thing would be blown sky high.
If we did not give them liberty, they would take it."
"And what do you think will be the
end of this?" said Miss Ophelia.
"I don't know.
One thing is certain,--that there is a mustering among the masses, the
world over; and there is a _dies irae_ coming on, sooner or later.
The same thing is working in Europe, in England, and in this country. My mother used to tell me of a millennium that was coming,
when Christ should reign, and all men should be free and happy.
And she taught me, when I was a boy, to pray, `thy kingdom come.'
Sometimes I think all this sighing, and groaning, and stirring among the
dry bones foretells what she used to tell me was coming.
But who may abide the day of His appearing?"
"Augustine, sometimes I think you
are not far from the kingdom," said Miss Ophelia, laying down her knitting,
and looking anxiously at her cousin.
"Thank you for your good opinion,
but it's up and down with me,--up to heaven's gate in theory, down in earth's
dust in practice. But there's the
teabell,--do let's go,--and don't say, now, I haven't had one downright serious
talk, for once in my life."
At table, Marie alluded to the incident
of Prue. "I suppose you'll
think, cousin," she said, "that we are all barbarians."
"I think that's a barbarous
thing," said Miss Ophelia, "but I don't think you are all
"Well, now," said Marie,
"I know it's impossible to get along with some of these creatures.
They are so bad they ought not to live.
I don't feel a particle of sympathy for such cases.
If they'd only behave themselves, it would not happen."
"But, mamma," said Eva,
"the poor creature was unhappy; that's what made her drink."
"O, fiddlestick! as if that were
any excuse! I'm unhappy, very
often. I presume," she said,
pensively, "that I've had greater trials than ever she had. It's just because they are so bad. There's some of them that you cannot break in by any kind of
severity. I remember father had a
man that was so lazy he would run away just to get rid of work, and lie round in
the swamps, stealing and doing all sorts of horrid things.
That man was caught and whipped, time and again, and it never did him any
good; and the last time he crawled off, though he couldn't but just go, and died
in the swamp. There was no sort of reason for it, for father's hands were
always treated kindly."
"I broke a fellow in, once,"
said St. Clare, "that all the overseers and masters had tried their hands
on in vain."
"You!" said Marie; "well,
I'd be glad to know when _you_ ever did anything of the sort."
"Well, he was a powerful, gigantic
fellow,--a native-born African; and he appeared to have the rude instinct of
freedom in him to an uncommon degree. He
was a regular African lion. They
called him Scipio. Nobody could do
anything with him; and he was sold round from overseer to overseer, till at last
Alfred bought him, because he thought he could manage him.
Well, one day he knocked down the overseer, and was fairly off into the
swamps. I was on a visit to Alf's
plantation, for it was after we had dissolved partnership.
Alfred was greatly exasperated; but I told him that it was his own fault,
and laid him any wager that I could break the man; and finally it was agreed
that, if I caught him, I should have him to experiment on.
So they mustered out a party of some six or seven, with guns and dogs,
for the hunt. People, you know, can
get up as much enthusiasm in hunting a man as a deer, if it is only customary;
in fact, I got a little excited myself, though I had only put in as a sort of
mediator, in case he was caught.
"Well, the dogs bayed and howled,
and we rode and scampered, and finally we started him. He ran and bounded like a buck, and kept us well in the rear
for some time; but at last he got caught in an impenetrable thicket of cane;
then he turned to bay, and I tell you he fought the dogs right gallantly.
He dashed them to right and left, and actually killed three of them with
only his naked fists, when a shot from a gun brought him down, and he fell,
wounded and bleeding, almost at my feet. The
poor fellow looked up at me with manhood and despair both in his eye.
I kept back the dogs and the party, as they came pressing up, and claimed
him as my prisoner. It was all I
could do to keep them from shooting him, in the flush of success; but I
persisted in my bargain, and Alfred sold him to me.
Well, I took him in hand, and in one fortnight I had him tamed down as
submissive and tractable as heart could desire."
"What in the world did you do to
him?" said Marie.
"Well, it was quite a simple
process. I took him to my own room,
had a good bed made for him, dressed his wounds, and tended him myself, until he
got fairly on his feet again. And,
in process of time, I had free papers made out for him, and told him he might go
where he liked."
"And did he go?" said Miss
The foolish fellow tore the paper in two, and absolutely refused to leave
me. I never had a braver, better
fellow,--trusty and true as steel. He
embraced Christianity afterwards, and became as gentle as a child.
He used to oversee my place on the lake, and did it capitally, too.
I lost him the first cholera season.
In fact, he laid down his life for me.
For I was sick, almost to death; and when, through the panic, everybody
else fled, Scipio worked for me like a giant, and actually brought me back into
life again. But, poor fellow! he
was taken, right after, and there was no saving him.
I never felt anybody's loss more."
Eva had come gradually nearer and nearer
to her father, as he told the story,--her small lips apart, her eyes wide and
earnest with absorbing interest.
As he finished, she suddenly threw her
arms around his neck, burst into tears, and sobbed convulsively.
"Eva, dear child! what is the
matter?" said St. Clare, as the child's small frame trembled and shook with
the violence of her feelings. "This
child," he added, "ought not to hear any of this kind of thing,--she's
"No, papa, I'm not nervous,"
said Eva, controlling herself, suddenly, with a strength of resolution singular
in such a child. "I'm not
nervous, but these things _sink into my heart_."
"What do you mean, Eva?"
"I can't tell you, papa, I think a
great many thoughts. Perhaps some
day I shall tell you."
"Well, think away, dear,--only
don't cry and worry your papa," said St. Clare, "Look here,--see what
a beautiful peach I have got for you."
Eva took it and smiled, though there was
still a nervous twiching about the corners of her mouth.
"Come, look at the gold-fish,"
said St. Clare, taking her hand and stepping on to the verandah.
A few moments, and merry laughs were heard through the silken curtains,
as Eva and St. Clare were pelting each other with roses, and chasing each other
among the alleys of the court.
There is danger that our humble friend Tom be neglected
amid the adventures of the higher born; but, if our readers will
accompany us up to a little loft over the stable, they may, perhaps, learn a
little of his affairs. It was a
decent room, containing a bed, a chair, and a small, rough stand, where lay
Tom's Bible and hymn-book; and where he sits, at present, with his slate before
him, intent on something that seems to cost him a great deal of anxious thought.
The fact was, that Tom's home-yearnings
had become so strong that he had begged a sheet of writing-paper of Eva, and,
mustering up all his small stock of literary attainment acquired by Mas'r
George's instructions, he conceived the bold idea of writing a letter; and he
was busy now, on his slate, getting out his first draft.
Tom was in a good deal of trouble, for the forms of some of the letters
he had forgotten entirely; and of what he did remember, he did not know exactly
which to use. And while he was working, and breathing very hard, in his
earnestness, Eva alighted, like a bird, on the round of his chair behind him,
and peeped over his shoulder.
"O, Uncle Tom! what funny things
you _are_ making, there!"
"I'm trying to write to my poor old
woman, Miss Eva, and my little chil'en," said Tom, drawing the back of his
hand over his eyes; "but, some how, I'm feard I shan't make it out."
"I wish I could help you, Tom!
I've learnt to write some. Last
year I could make all the letters, but I'm afraid I've forgotten."
So Eva put her golden head close to his,
and the two commenced a grave and anxious discussion, each one equally earnest,
and about equally ignorant; and, with a deal of consulting and advising over
every word, the composition began, as they both felt very sanguine, to look
quite like writing.
"Yes, Uncle Tom, it really begins
to look beautiful," said Eva, gazing delightedly on it.
"How pleased your wife'll be, and the poor little children!
O, it's a shame you ever had to go away from them!
I mean to ask papa to let you go back, some time."
"Missis said that she would send
down money for me, as soon as they could get it together," said Tom.
"I'm 'spectin, she will. Young
Mas'r George, he said he'd come for me; and he gave me this yer dollar as a
sign;" and Tom drew from under his clothes the precious dollar.
"O, he'll certainly come,
then!" said Eva. "I'm so
"And I wanted to send a letter, you
know, to let 'em know whar I was, and tell poor Chloe that I was well
off,--cause she felt so drefful, poor soul!"
"I say Tom!" said St. Clare's
voice, coming in the door at this moment.
Tom and Eva both started.
"What's here?" said St. Clare,
coming up and looking at the slate.
"O, it's Tom's letter.
I'm helping him to write it," said Eva; "isn't it nice?"
"I wouldn't discourage either of
you," said St. Clare,
"but I rather think, Tom, you'd better get me to write your letter for you.
I'll do it, when I come home from my ride."
"It's very important he should
write," said Eva, "because his mistress is going to send down money to
redeem him, you know, papa; he told me they told him so."
St. Clare thought, in his heart, that
this was probably only one of those things which good-natured owners say to
their servants, to alleviate their horror of being sold, without any intention
of fulfilling the expectation thus excited.
But he did not make any audible comment upon it,--only ordered Tom to get
the horses out for a ride.
Tom's letter was written in due form for
him that evening, and safely lodged in the post-office.
Miss Ophelia still persevered in her
labors in the housekeeping line. It
was universally agreed, among all the household, from Dinah down to the youngest
urchin, that Miss Ophelia was decidedly "curis,"--a term by which a
southern servant implies that his or her betters don't exactly suit them.
The higher circle in the family--to wit,
Adolph, Jane and Rosa--agreed that she was no lady; ladies never keep working
about as she did,--that she had no _air_ at all; and they were surprised that
she should be any relation of the St. Clares.
Even Marie declared that it was absolutely fatiguing to see Cousin
Ophelia always so busy. And, in
fact, Miss Ophelia's industry was so incessant as to lay some foundation for the
complaint. She sewed and stitched
away, from daylight till dark, with the energy of one who is pressed on by some
immediate urgency; and then, when the light faded, and the work was folded away,
with one turn out came the ever-ready knitting-work, and there she was again,
going on as briskly as ever. It
really was a labor to see her.