Life passes, with us all, a day at a time; so it passed with
our friend Tom, till two years were gone. Though
parted from all his soul held dear, and though often yearning for what lay
beyond, still was he never positively and consciously miserable; for, so well is
the harp of human feeling strung, that nothing but a crash that breaks every
string can wholly mar its harmony; and, on looking back to seasons which in
review appear to us as those of deprivation and trial, we can remember that each
hour, as it glided, brought its diversions and alleviations, so that, though not
happy wholly, we were not, either, wholly miserable.
Tom read, in his only literary cabinet,
of one who had "learned in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be
content." It seemed to him
good and reasonable doctrine, and accorded well with the settled and thoughtful
habit which he had acquired from the reading of that same book.
His letter homeward, as we related in
the last chapter, was in due time answered by Master George, in a good, round,
school-boy hand, that Tom said might be read "most acrost the room."
It contained various refreshing items of home intelligence, with which our
reader is fully acquainted: stated how Aunt Chloe had been hired out to a
confectioner in Louisville, where her skill in the pastry line was gaining
wonderful sums of money, all of which, Tom was informed, was to be laid up to go
to make up the sum of his redemption money; Mose and Pete were thriving, and the
baby was trotting all about the house, under the care of Sally and the family
Tom's cabin was shut up for the present;
but George expatiated brilliantly on ornaments and additions to be made to it
when Tom came back.
The rest of this letter gave a list of
George's school studies, each one headed by a flourishing capital; and also told
the names of four new colts that appeared on the premises since Tom left; and
stated, in the same connection, that father and mother were well.
The style of the letter was decidedly concise and terse; but Tom thought
it the most wonderful specimen of composition that had appeared in modern times.
He was never tired of looking at it, and even held a council with Eva on
the expediency of getting it framed, to hang up in his room.
Nothing but the difficulty of arranging it so that both sides of the page
would show at once stood in the way of this undertaking.
The friendship between Tom and Eva had
grown with the child's growth. It
would be hard to say what place she held in the soft, impressible heart of her
faithful attendant. He loved her as
something frail and earthly, yet almost worshipped her as something heavenly and
divine. He gazed on her as the
Italian sailor gazes on his image of the child Jesus,--with a mixture of
reverence and tenderness; and to humor her graceful fancies, and meet those
thousand simple wants which invest childhood like a many-colored rainbow, was
Tom's chief delight. In the market,
at morning, his eyes were always on the flower-stalls for rare bouquets for her,
and the choicest peach or orange was slipped into his pocket to give to her when
he came back; and the sight that pleased him most was her sunny head looking out
the gate for his distant approach, and her childish questions,--"Well,
Uncle Tom, what have you got for me today?"
Nor was Eva less zealous in kind
offices, in return. Though a child,
she was a beautiful reader;--a fine musical ear, a quick poetic fancy, and an
instinctive sympathy with what's grand and noble, made her such a reader of the
Bible as Tom had never before heard. At
first, she read to please her humble friend; but soon her own earnest nature
threw out its tendrils, and wound itself around the majestic book; and Eva loved
it, because it woke in her strange yearnings, and strong, dim emotions, such as
impassioned, imaginative children love to feel.
The parts that pleased her most were the
Revelations and the Prophecies,--parts whose dim and wondrous imagery, and
fervent language, impressed her the more, that she questioned vainly of their
meaning;--and she and her simple friend, the old child and the young one, felt
just alike about it. All that they
knew was, that they spoke of a glory to be revealed,--a wondrous something yet
to come, wherein their soul rejoiced, yet knew not why; and though it be not so
in the physical, yet in moral science that which cannot be understood is not
always profitless. For the soul
awakes, a trembling stranger, between two dim eternities,--the eternal past, the
eternal future. The light shines
only on a small space around her; therefore, she needs must yearn towards the
unknown; and the voices and shadowy movings which come to her from out the
cloudy pillar of inspiration have each one echoes and answers in her own
expecting nature. Its mystic
imagery are so many talismans and gems inscribed with unknown hieroglyphics; she
folds them in her bosom, and expects to read them when she passes beyond the
At this time in our story, the whole St.
Clare establishment is, for the time being, removed to their villa on Lake
Pontchartrain. The heats of summer
had driven all who were able to leave the sultry and unhealthy city, to seek the
shores of the lake, and its cool sea-breezes.
St. Clare's villa was an East Indian
cottage, surrounded by light verandahs of bamboo-work, and opening on all sides
into gardens and pleasure-grounds. The
common sitting-room opened on to a large garden, fragrant with every picturesque
plant and flower of the tropics, where winding paths ran down to the very shores
of the lake, whose silvery sheet of water lay there, rising and falling in the
sunbeams,--a picture never for an hour the same, yet every hour more beautiful.
It is now one of those intensely golden
sunsets which kindles the whole horizon into one blaze of glory, and makes the
water another sky. The lake lay in
rosy or golden streaks, save where white-winged vessels glided hither and
thither, like so many spirits, and little golden stars twinkled through the
glow, and looked down at themselves as they trembled in the water.
Tom and Eva were seated on a little
mossy seat, in an arbor, at the foot of the garden.
It was Sunday evening, and Eva's Bible lay open on her knee.
She read,--"And I saw a sea of glass, mingled with fire."
"Tom," said Eva, suddenly
stopping, and pointing to the lake, "there 't is."
"What, Miss Eva?"
"Don't you see,--there?" said
the child, pointing to the glassy water, which, as it rose and fell, reflected
the golden glow of the sky. "There's
a `sea of glass, mingled with fire.'"
"True enough, Miss Eva," said
Tom; and Tom sang--
"O, had I the wings of the morning, I'd
fly away to Canaan's shore;
Bright angels should convey me home,
To the new Jerusalem."
"Where do you suppose new Jerusalem is, Uncle Tom?"
"O, up in the clouds, Miss
"Then I think I see it," said
Eva. "Look in those
clouds!--they look like great gates of pearl; and you can see beyond them--far,
far off--it's all gold. Tom, sing
about `spirits bright.'"
Tom sung the words of a well-known
"I see a band of spirits bright, That
taste the glories there; They
all are robed in spotless white,
And conquering palms they bear."
"Uncle Tom, I've seen _them_," said Eva.
Tom had no doubt of it at all; it did
not surprise him in the least. If
Eva had told him she had been to heaven, he would have thought it entirely
"They come to me sometimes in my
sleep, those spirits;" and Eva's eyes grew dreamy, and she hummed, in a low
"They are all robed in spotless white, And
conquering palms they bear."
"Uncle Tom," said Eva, "I'm going there."
"Where, Miss Eva?"
The child rose, and pointed her little
hand to the sky; the glow of evening lit her golden hair and flushed cheek with
a kind of unearthly radiance, and her eyes were bent earnestly on the skies.
"I'm going _there_," she said,
"to the spirits bright, Tom; _I'm going, before long_."
The faithful old heart felt a sudden
thrust; and Tom thought how often he had noticed, within six months, that Eva's
little hands had grown thinner, and her skin more transparent, and her breath
shorter; and how, when she ran or played in the garden, as she once could for
hours, she became soon so tired and languid.
He had heard Miss Ophelia speak often of a cough, that all her
medicaments could not cure; and even now that fervent cheek and little hand were
burning with hectic fever; and yet the thought that Eva's words suggested had
never come to him till now.
Has there ever been a child like Eva?
Yes, there have been; but their names are always on grave-stones, and
their sweet smiles, their heavenly eyes, their singular words and ways, are
among the buried treasures of yearning hearts.
In how many families do you hear the legend that all the goodness and
graces of the living are nothing to the peculiar charms of one who _is not_.
It is as if heaven had an especial band of angels, whose office it was to
sojourn for a season here, and endear to them the wayward human heart, that they
might bear it upward with them in their homeward flight.
When you see that deep, spiritual light in the eye,--when the little soul
reveals itself in words sweeter and wiser than the ordinary words of
children,--hope not to retain that child; for the seal of heaven is on it, and
the light of immortality looks out from its eyes.
Even so, beloved Eva! fair star of thy
dwelling! Thou are passing away;
but they that love thee dearest know it not.
The colloquy between Tom and Eva was
interrupted by a hasty call from Miss Ophelia.
"Eva--Eva!--why, child, the dew is
falling; you mustn't be out there!"
Eva and Tom hastened in.
Miss Ophelia was old, and skilled in the
tactics of nursing. She was from
New England, and knew well the first guileful footsteps of that soft, insidious
disease, which sweeps away so many of the fairest and loveliest, and, before one
fibre of life seems broken, seals them irrevocably for death.
She had noted the slight, dry cough, the
daily brightening cheek; nor could the lustre of the eye, and the airy buoyancy
born of fever, deceive her.
She tried to communicate her fears to
St. Clare; but he threw back her suggestions with a restless petulance, unlike
his usual careless good-humor.
"Don't be croaking, Cousin,--I hate
it!" he would say; "don't you see that the child is only growing.
Children always lose strength when they grow fast."
"But she has that cough!"
"O! nonsense of that cough!--it is
not anything. She has taken a
little cold, perhaps."
"Well, that was just the way Eliza
Jane was taken, and Ellen and Maria Sanders."
"O! stop these hobgoblin' nurse
legends. You old hands got so wise,
that a child cannot cough, or sneeze, but you see desperation and ruin at hand.
Only take care of the child, keep her from the night air, and don't let
her play too hard, and she'll do well enough."
So St. Clare said; but he grew nervous
and restless. He watched Eva
feverishly day by day, as might be told by the frequency with which he repeated
over that "the child was quite well"--that there wasn't anything in
that cough,--it was only some little stomach affection, such as children often
had. But he kept by her more than
before, took her oftener to ride with him, brought home every few days some
receipt or strengthening mixture,--"not," he said, "that the
child _needed_ it, but then it would not do her any harm."
If it must be told, the thing that
struck a deeper pang to his heart than anything else was the daily increasing
maturity of the child's mind and feelings.
While still retaining all a child's fanciful graces, yet she often
dropped, unconsciously, words of such a reach of thought, and strange unworldly
wisdom, that they seemed to be an inspiration.
At such times, St. Clare would feel a sudden thrill, and clasp her in his
arms, as if that fond clasp could save her; and his heart rose up with wild
determination to keep her, never to let her go.
The child's whole heart and soul seemed
absorbed in works of love and kindness. Impulsively
generous she had always been; but there was a touching and womanly
thoughtfulness about her now, that every one noticed.
She still loved to play with Topsy, and the various colored children; but
she now seemed rather a spectator than an actor of their plays, and she would
sit for half an hour at a time, laughing at the odd tricks of Topsy,--and then a
shadow would seem to pass across her face, her eyes grew misty, and her thoughts
"Mamma," she said, suddenly,
to her mother, one day, "why don't we teach our servants to read?"
"What a question child!
People never do."
"Why don't they?" said Eva.
"Because it is no use for them to
read. It don't help them to work
any better, and they are not made for anything else."
"But they ought to read the Bible,
mamma, to learn God's will."
"O! they can get that read to them
all _they_ need."
"It seems to me, mamma, the Bible
is for every one to read themselves. They
need it a great many times when there is nobody to read it."
"Eva, you are an odd child,"
said her mother.
"Miss Ophelia has taught Topsy to
read," continued Eva.
"Yes, and you see how much good it
does. Topsy is the worst creature I
"Here's poor Mammy!" said Eva.
"She does love the Bible so much, and wishes so she could read!
And what will she do when I can't read to her?"
Marie was busy, turning over the
contents of a drawer, as she answered,
"Well, of course, by and by, Eva,
you will have other things to think of besides reading the Bible round to
servants. Not but that is very
proper; I've done it myself, when I had health.
But when you come to be dressing and going into company, you won't have
time. See here!" she added,
"these jewels I'm going to give you when you come out.
I wore them to my first ball. I
can tell you, Eva, I made a sensation."
Eva took the jewel-case, and lifted from
it a diamond necklace. Her large,
thoughtful eyes rested on them, but it was plain her thoughts were elsewhere.
"How sober you look child!"
"Are these worth a great deal of
"To be sure, they are.
Father sent to France for them. They
are worth a small fortune."
"I wish I had them," said Eva,
"to do what I pleased with!"
"What would you do with them?"
"I'd sell them, and buy a place in
the free states, and take all our people there, and hire teachers, to teach them
to read and write."
Eva was cut short by her mother's
"Set up a boarding-school!
Wouldn't you teach them to play on the piano, and paint on velvet?"
"I'd teach them to read their own
Bible, and write their own letters, and read letters that are written to
them," said Eva, steadily. "I
know, mamma, it does come very hard on them that they can't do these things.
Tom feels it--Mammy does,--a great many of them do.
I think it's wrong."
"Come, come, Eva; you are only a
child! You don't know anything
about these things," said Marie; "besides, your talking makes my head
Marie always had a headache on hand for
any conversation that did not exactly suit her.
Eva stole away; but after that, she
assiduously gave Mammy reading lessons.