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Title: Dred - A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp
Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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DRED

A

TALE OF THE GREAT DISMAL SWAMP


BY

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

AUTHOR OF "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN"


     "Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds:
       His path was rugged and sore,--
     Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds,
     Through many a fen, where the serpent feeds,
       And man never trod before.

     And when on earth he sunk to sleep,
       If slumber his eyelids knew,
     He lay where the deadly vine doth weep
     Its venomous tears, that nightly steep
       The flesh with blistering dew."


[Illustration: Logo]


BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
1892


Copyright, 1856 and 1884,
BY HARRIET BEECHER STOWE


_All rights reserved._


_The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company.



PREFACE.


The writer of this book has chosen, once more, a subject from the scenes
and incidents of the slave-holding states.

The reason for such a choice is two-fold. First, in a merely artistic
point of view, there is no ground, ancient or modern, whose vivid
lights, gloomy shadows, and grotesque groupings, afford to the novelist
so wide a scope for the exercise of his powers. In the near vicinity of
modern civilization of the most matter-of-fact kind exist institutions
which carry us back to the twilight of the feudal ages, with all their
exciting possibilities of incident. Two nations, the types of two
exactly opposite styles of existence, are here struggling; and from the
intermingling of these two a third race has arisen, and the three are
interlocked in wild and singular relations, that evolve every possible
combination of romance.

Hence, if the writer's only object had been the production of a work of
art, she would have felt justified in not turning aside from that mine
whose inexhaustible stores have but begun to be developed.

But this object, however legitimate, was not the only nor the highest
one. It is the moral bearings of the subject involved which have had the
chief influence in its selection.

The issues presented by the great conflict between liberty and slavery
do not grow less important from year to year. On the contrary, their
interest increases with every step in the development of the national
career. Never has there been a crisis in the history of this nation so
momentous as the present. If ever a nation was raised up by Divine
Providence, and led forth upon a conspicuous stage, as if for the
express purpose of solving a great moral problem in the sight of all
mankind, it is this nation. God in his providence is now asking the
American people, Is the system of slavery, as set forth in the American
slave code, _right_? Is it so desirable, that you will directly
establish it over broad regions, where, till now, you have solemnly
forbidden it to enter? And this question the American people are about
to answer. Under such circumstances the writer felt that no apology was
needed for once more endeavoring to do something towards revealing to
the people the true character of that system. If the people are to
establish such a system, let them do it with their eyes open, with all
the dreadful realities before them.

One liberty has been taken which demands acknowledgment in the outset.
The writer has placed in the mouth of one of her leading characters a
judicial decision of Judge Ruffin, of North Carolina, the boldness,
clearness, and solemn eloquence of which have excited admiration both in
the Old World and the New. The author having no personal acquaintance
with that gentleman, the character to whom she attributes it is to be
considered as created merely on a principle of artistic fitness.

To maintain the unity of the story, some anachronisms with regard to the
time of the session of courts have been allowed; for works of fiction
must sometimes use some liberties in the grouping of incidents.

But as mere cold art, unquickened by sympathy with the spirit of the
age, is nothing, the author hopes that those who now are called to
struggle for all that is noble in our laws and institutions may find in
this book the response of a sympathizing heart.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.
                                    PAGE
THE MISTRESS OF CANEMA                 1

CHAPTER II.

CLAYTON                               11

CHAPTER III.

THE CLAYTON FAMILY AND SISTER ANNE    22

CHAPTER IV.

THE GORDON FAMILY                     31

CHAPTER V.

HARRY AND HIS WIFE                    50

CHAPTER VI.

THE DILEMMA                           66

CHAPTER VII.

CONSULTATION                          77

CHAPTER VIII.

OLD TIFF                              82

CHAPTER IX.

THE DEATH                            101

CHAPTER X.

THE PREPARATION                      106

CHAPTER XI.

THE LOVERS                           116

CHAPTER XII.

EXPLANATIONS                         129

CHAPTER XIII.

TOM GORDON                           145

CHAPTER XIV.

AUNT NESBIT'S LOSS                   162

CHAPTER XV.

MR. JEKYL'S OPINIONS                 172

CHAPTER XVI.

MILLY'S STORY                        178

CHAPTER XVII.

UNCLE JOHN                           193

CHAPTER XVIII.

DRED                                 205

CHAPTER XIX.

THE CONSPIRATORS                     213

CHAPTER XX.

SUMMER TALK AT CANEMA                224

CHAPTER XXI.

TIFF'S PREPARATIONS                  235

CHAPTER XXII.

THE WORSHIPPERS                      242

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE CAMP-MEETING                     255

CHAPTER XXIV.

LIFE IN THE SWAMPS                   285

CHAPTER XXV.

MORE SUMMER TALK                     293

CHAPTER XXVI.

MILLY'S RETURN                       307

CHAPTER XXVII.

THE TRIAL                            313

CHAPTER XXVIII.

MAGNOLIA GROVE                       321

CHAPTER XXIX.

THE TROUBADOUR                       336

CHAPTER XXX.

TIFF'S GARDEN                        348

CHAPTER XXXI.

THE WARNING                          357

CHAPTER XXXII.

THE MORNING STAR                     362

CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE LEGAL DECISION                   368

CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE CLOUD BURSTS                     379

CHAPTER XXXV.

THE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS          391

CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE EVENING STAR                     395

CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE TIE BREAKS                       403

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE PURPOSE                          410

CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE NEW MOTHER                       418

CHAPTER XL.

THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT                424

CHAPTER XLI.

THE CLERICAL CONFERENCE              436

CHAPTER XLII.

THE RESULT                           448

CHAPTER XLIII.

THE SLAVE'S ARGUMENT                 457

CHAPTER XLIV.

THE DESERT                           468

CHAPTER XLV.

JEGAR SAHADUTHA                      477

CHAPTER XLVI.

FRANK RUSSEL'S OPINIONS              488

CHAPTER XLVII.

TOM GORDON'S PLANS                   497

CHAPTER XLVIII.

LYNCH LAW                            502

CHAPTER XLIX.

MORE VIOLENCE                        515

CHAPTER L.

ENGEDI                               521

CHAPTER LI.

THE SLAVE HUNT                       530

CHAPTER LII.

"ALL OVER"                           535

CHAPTER LIII.

THE BURIAL                           542

CHAPTER LIV.

THE ESCAPE                           547

CHAPTER LV.

LYNCH LAW AGAIN                      556

CHAPTER LVI.

FLIGHT                               569

CHAPTER LVII.

CLEAR SHINING AFTER RAIN             576

APPENDIX I.                          580

        II.                          587

       III.                          596



DRED.

A TALE OF THE GREAT DISMAL SWAMP.



CHAPTER I.

THE MISTRESS OF CANEMA.


"Bills, Harry?--Yes.--Dear me, where are they?--There!--No. Here?--Oh,
look!--What do you think of this scarf? Isn't it lovely?"

"Yes, Miss Nina, beautiful--but"--

"Oh, those bills!--Yes--well, here goes--here--perhaps in this box.
No--that's my opera-hat. By the bye, what do you think of that? Isn't
that bunch of silver wheat lovely? Stop a bit--you shall see it on me."

And, with these words, the slight little figure sprang up as if it had
wings, and, humming a waltzing-tune, skimmed across the room to a
looking-glass, and placed the jaunty little cap on the gay little head,
and then, turning a pirouette on one toe, said, "There, now!"

"There, now!" Ah, Harry! ah, mankind generally! the wisest of you have
been made fools of by just such dancing, glittering, fluttering little
assortments of curls, pendants, streamers, eyes, cheeks, and dimples!

The little figure, scarce the height of the Venus, rounded as that of an
infant, was shown to advantage by a coquettish morning-dress of buff
muslin, which fluttered open in front to display the embroidered skirt,
and trim little mouse of a slipper. The face was one of those provoking
ones which set criticism at defiance. The hair, waving, curling, dancing
hither and thither, seemed to have a wild, laughing grace of its own;
the brown eyes twinkled like the pendants of a chandelier; the little,
wicked nose, which bore the forbidden upward curve, seemed to assert its
right to do so with a saucy freedom; and the pendants of multiplied
brilliants that twinkled in her ears, and the nodding wreath of silver
wheat that set off her opera-hat, seemed alive with mischief and motion.

"Well, what do you think?" said a lively, imperative voice,--just the
kind of voice that you might have expected from the figure.

The young man to whom this question was addressed was a well-dressed,
gentlemanly person of about thirty-five, with dark complexion and hair,
and deep, full blue eyes. There was something marked and peculiar in the
square, high forehead, and the finely-formed features, which indicated
talent and ability; and the blue eyes had a depth and strength of color
that might cause them at first glance to appear black. The face, with
its strongly-marked expression of honesty and sense, had about it many
careworn and thoughtful lines. He looked at the little, defiant fay for
a moment with an air of the most entire deference and admiration; then a
heavy shadow crossed his face, and he answered, abstractedly, "Yes, Miss
Nina, everything you wear becomes pretty--and that is perfectly
charming."

"Isn't it, now, Harry? I thought you would think so. You see, it's my
own idea. You ought to have seen what a thing it was when I first saw it
in Mme. Le Blanche's window. There was a great hot-looking feather on
it, and two or three horrid bows. I had them out in a twinkling, and got
this wheat in--which shakes so, you know. It's perfectly lovely!--Well,
do you believe, the very night I wore it to the opera, I got engaged?"

"Engaged, Miss Nina?"

"Engaged!--Yes, to be sure! Why not?"

"It seems to me that's a very serious thing, Miss Nina."

"Serious!--ha! ha! ha!" said the little beauty, seating herself on one
arm of the sofa, and shaking the glittering hat back from her eyes.
"Well, I fancy it was--to him, at least. I made him serious, I can tell
you!"

"But is this true, Miss Nina? _Are_ you really engaged?"

"Yes, to be sure I am--to three gentlemen; and going to stay so till I
find which I like best. May be, you know, I shan't like any of them."

"Engaged to three gentlemen, Miss Nina?"

"To be sure!--Can't you understand English, Harry? I _am_ now--fact."

"Miss Nina, is that right?"

"Right?--why not? I don't know which to take--I positively don't; so I
took them all on trial, you know."

"Pray, Miss Nina, tell us who they are."

"Well, there's Mr. Carson;--he's a rich old bachelor--horridly
polite--one of those little, bobbing men, that always have such shiny
dickies and collars, and such bright boots, and such tight straps. And
he's rich--and perfectly wild about me. He wouldn't take no for an
answer, you know; so I just said yes, to have a little quiet. Besides,
he is very convenient about the opera and concerts, and such things."

"Well, and the next?"

"Well, the next is George Emmons. He's one of your pink-and-white men,
you know, who look like cream-candy, as if they were good to eat. He's a
lawyer, of a good family,--thought a good deal of, and all that. Well,
really, they say he has talents--I'm no judge. I know he always bores me
to death; asking me if I have read this or that--marking places in books
that I never read. He's your sentimental sort--writes the most romantic
notes on pink paper, and all that sort of thing."

"And the third?"

"Well, you see, I don't like _him_ a bit--I'm sure I don't. He's a
hateful creature! He isn't handsome; he's proud as Lucifer; and I'm sure
I don't know how he got me to be engaged. It was a kind of an accident.
He's real good, though--too good for me, that's a fact. But, then, I'm
afraid of him a little."

"And his name?"

"Well, his name is Clayton--Mr. Edward Clayton, at your service. He's
one of your high-and-mighty people--with such deep-set eyes--eyes that
look as if they were in a cave--and such black hair! And his eyes have a
desperate sort of sad look, sometimes--quite Byronic. He's tall, and
rather loose-jointed--has beautiful teeth; his mouth, too, is--well,
when he smiles, sometimes it really is quite fascinating; and then he's
so different from other gentlemen! He's kind--but he don't care how he
dresses; and wears the most horrid shoes. And, then, he isn't polite--he
won't jump, you know, to pick up your thread or scissors; and sometimes
he'll get into a brown study, and let you stand ten minutes before he
thinks to give you a chair, and all such provoking things. He isn't a
bit of a lady's man. Well, consequence is, as my lord won't court the
girls, the girls all court my lord--that's the way, you know; and they
seem to think it's such a feather in their cap to get attention from
him--because, you know, he's horrid sensible. So, you see, that just set
me out to see what I could do with him. Well, you see, I wouldn't court
him;--and I plagued him, and laughed at him, and spited him, and got him
gloriously wroth; and he said some spiteful things about me, and then I
said some more about him, and we had a real up-and-down quarrel;--and
then I took a penitent turn, you know, and just went gracefully down
into the valley of humiliation--as we witches can; and it took
wonderfully--brought my lord on to his knees before he knew what he was
doing. Well, really, I don't know what was the matter, just then, but he
spoke so earnest and strong that actually he got me to crying--hateful
creature!--and I promised all sorts of things, you know--said altogether
more than will bear thinking of."

"And are you corresponding with all these lovers, Miss Nina?"

"Yes--isn't it fun? Their letters, you know, can't speak. If they could,
when they come rustling together in the bag, wouldn't there be a muss?"

"Miss Nina, I think you have given your heart to this last one."

"Oh, nonsense, Harry! Haven't got any heart!--don't care two pins for
any of them! All I want is to have a good time. As to love, and all
that, I don't believe I could love any of them; I should be tired to
death of any of them in six weeks. I never liked anything that long."

"Miss Nina, you must excuse me, but I want to ask again, is it right to
trifle with the feelings of gentlemen in this way?"

"Why not?--Isn't all fair in war? Don't they trifle with us girls,
every chance they get--and sit up so pompous in their rooms, and smoke
cigars, and talk us over, as if they only had to put out their finger
and say, 'Come here,' to get any of us? I tell you, it's fun to bring
them down!--Now, there's that horrid George Emmons--I tell you, if he
didn't flirt all winter with Mary Stephens, and got everybody to
laughing about her!--it was so evident, you see, that she liked him--she
couldn't help showing it, poor little thing!--and then my lord would
settle his collar, and say he hadn't quite made up his mind to take her,
and all that. Well, I haven't made up my mind to take him, either--and
so poor Emma is avenged. As to the old bach--that smooth-dicky man--you
see, he can't be hurt; for his heart is rubbed as smooth and hard as his
dicky, with falling in love and out again. He's been turned off by three
girls, now; and his shoes squeak as brisk as ever, and he's just as
jolly. You see, he didn't use to be so rich. Lately, he's come into a
splendid property; so, if I don't take him, poor man, there are enough
that would be glad of him."

"Well, then, but as to that other one?"

"What! my lord Lofty? Oh, he wants humbling!--it wouldn't hurt him, in
the least, to be put down a little. He's good, too, and afflictions
always improve good people. I believe I was made for a means of grace to
'em all."

"Miss Nina, what if all three of them should come at once--or even two
of them?"

"What a droll idea! Wouldn't it be funny? Just to think of it! What a
commotion! What a scene! It would really be vastly entertaining."

"Now, Miss Nina, I want to speak as a friend."

"No, you shan't! it is just what people say when they are going to say
something disagreeable. I told Clayton, once for all, that I wouldn't
have him speak as a friend to me."

"Pray, how does he take all this?"

"Take it! Why, just as he must. He cares a great deal more for me than I
do for him." Here a slight little sigh escaped the fair speaker. "And I
think it fun to shock him. You know he is one of the fatherly sort, who
is always advising young girls. Let it be understood that his standard
of female character is wonderfully high, and all that. And then, to
think of his being tripped up before me!--it's _too_ funny!" The little
sprite here took off her opera-hat, and commenced waltzing a few steps,
and, stopping midwhirl, exclaimed: "Oh, do you know we girls have been
trying to learn the cachucha, and I've got some castanets? Let me
see--where are they?" And with this she proceeded to upset the trunk,
from which flew a meteoric shower of bracelets, billets-doux, French
Grammars, drawing-pencils, interspersed with confectionery of various
descriptions, and all the et ceteras of a school-girl's depository.
"There, upon my word, there are the bills you were asking for. There,
take them!" throwing a package of papers at the young man. "Take them!
Can you catch?"

"Miss Nina, these do not appear to be bills."

"Oh, bless me! those are love-letters, then. The bills are somewhere."
And the little hands went pawing among the heap making the fanciful
collection fly in every direction over the carpet. "Ah! I believe now in
this bonbon-box I did put them. Take care of your head, Harry!" And,
with the word, the gilded missile flew from the little hand, and opening
on the way, showered Harry with a profusion of crumpled papers. "Now you
have got them all, except one, that I used for curl-papers the other
night. Oh, don't look so sober about it! Indeed, I kept the pieces--here
they are. And now don't you say, Harry, don't you tell me that I never
save my bills. You don't know how particular I have been, and what
trouble I have taken. But, there--there's a letter Clayton wrote to me,
one time when we had a quarrel. Just a specimen of that creature!"

"Pray tell us about it, Miss Nina," said the young man, with his eyes
fixed admiringly on the little person, while he was smoothing and
arranging the crumpled documents.

"Why, you see, it was just this way. You know, these men--how provoking
they are! They'll go and read all sorts of books--no matter what _they_
read!--and then they are so dreadfully particular about us girls. Do you
know, Harry, this always made me angry?"

"Well, so, you see, one evening Sophy Elliot quoted some poetry from Don
Juan,--I never read it, but it seems folks call it a bad book,--and my
lord Clayton immediately fixed his eyes upon her in such an appalling
way, and says, 'Have you read Don Juan, Miss Elliot?' Then, you know,
as girls always do in such cases, she blushed and stammered, and said
her brother had read some extracts from it to her. I was vexed, and
said, 'And, pray, what's the harm if she did read it? _I_ mean to read
it, the very first chance I get!'

"Oh! everybody looked so shocked. Why, dear me! if I had said I was
going to commit murder, Clayton could not have looked more concerned. So
he put on that very edifying air of his, and said, 'Miss Nina, I
_trust_, as your friend, that you will not read that book. I should lose
all respect for a lady friend who had read that.'

"'Have you read it, Mr. Clayton?' said I.

"'Yes, Miss Nina,' said he, quite piously.

"'What makes you read such bad books?' said I, very innocently.

"Then there followed a general fuss and talk; and the gentlemen, you
know, would not have their wives or their sisters read anything naughty,
for the world. They wanted us all to be like snow-flakes, and all that.
And they were quite high, telling they wouldn't marry this, and they
wouldn't marry that, till at last I made them a curtsey, and said,
'Gentlemen, we ladies are infinitely obliged to you, but _we_ don't
intend to marry people that read naughty books, either. Of course you
know snow-flakes don't like smut!'

"Now, I really didn't mean anything by it, except to put down these men,
and stand up for my sex. But Clayton took it in real earnest. He grew
red and grew pale, and was just as angry as he could be. Well, the
quarrel raged about three days. Then, do you know, I made him give up,
and own that he was in the wrong. There, I think he was, too,--don't
you? Don't you think men ought to be _as_ good as we are, any way?"

"Miss Nina, I should think you would be afraid to express yourself so
positively."

"Oh, if I cared a sou for any of them, perhaps I should. But there isn't
one of the train that I would give _that_ for!" said she, flirting a
shower of peanut-shells into the air.

"Yes, but, Miss Nina, some time or other you must marry somebody. You
need somebody to take care of the property and place."

"Oh, that's it, is it? You are tired of keeping accounts, are you, with
me to spend the money? Well, I don't wonder. How I pity anybody that
keeps accounts! Isn't it horrid, Harry? Those awful books! Do you know
that Mme. Ardaine set out that 'we girls' should keep account of our
expenses? I just tried it two weeks. I had a headache and weak eyes, and
actually it nearly ruined my constitution. Somehow or other, they gave
it up, it gave them so much trouble. And what's the use? When money's
spent, it's _spent_; and keeping accounts ever so strict won't get it
back. I am very careful about my expenses. I never get anything that I
can do without."

"For instance," said Harry, rather roguishly, "this bill of one hundred
dollars for confectionery."

"Well, you know just how it is, Harry. It's so horrid to have to study!
Girls must have something. And you know I didn't get it all for myself;
I gave it round to all the girls. Then they used to ask me for it, and I
couldn't refuse--and so it went."

"I didn't presume to comment, Miss Nina. What have we here?--Mme. Les
Cartes, $450?"

"Oh, Harry, that horrid Mme. Les Cartes! You never saw anything like
her! Positively it is not my fault. She puts down things I never got: I
know she does. Nothing in the world but because she is from Paris.
Everybody is complaining of her. But, then, nobody gets anything
anywhere else. So what can one do, you know? I assure you, Harry, I am
economical."

The young man, who had been summing up the accounts, now burst out into
such a hearty laugh as somewhat disconcerted the fair rhetorician.

She colored to her temples.

"Harry, now, for shame! Positively, you aren't respectful!"

"Oh, Miss Nina, on my knees I beg pardon!" still continuing to laugh;
"but, indeed, you must excuse me. I am positively delighted to hear of
your economy, Miss Nina."

"Well, now, Harry, you may look at the bills and see. Haven't I ripped
up all my silk dresses and had them colored over, just to economize? You
can see the dyer's bill, there; and Mme. Carteau told me she always
expected to turn my dresses twice, at least. Oh, yes, I have been very
economical."

"I have heard of old dresses turned costing more than new ones, Miss
Nina."

"Oh, nonsense, Harry! What should you know of girls' things? But I'll
tell you one thing I've got, Harry, and that is a gold watch for you.
There it is," throwing a case carelessly towards him; "and there's a
silk dress for your wife," throwing him a little parcel. "I have sense
enough to know what a good fellow you are, at any rate. I couldn't go on
as I do, if you didn't rack your poor head fifty ways to keep things
going straight here at home for me."

A host of conflicting emotions seemed to cross the young man's face,
like a shadow of clouds over a field, as he silently undid the packages.
His hands trembled, his lips quivered, but he said nothing.

"Come, Harry, don't this suit you? I thought it would."

"Miss Nina, you are too kind."

"No, I'm not, Harry; I am a selfish little concern, that's a fact," said
she, turning away, and pretending not to see the feeling which agitated
him.

"But, Harry, wasn't it droll, this morning, when all our people came up
to get their presents! There was Aunt Sue, and Aunt Tike, and Aunt Kate,
each one got a new sack pattern, in which they are going to make up the
prints I brought them. In about two days our place will be flaming with
aprons and sacks. And _did_ you see Aunt Rose in that pink bonnet, with
the flowers? You could see every tooth in her head! Of course, now
they'll be taken with a very pious streak, to go to some camp-meeting or
other, to show their finery. Why don't you laugh, Harry?"

"I do, don't I, Miss Nina?"

"You only laugh on your face. You don't laugh deep down. What's the
matter? I don't believe it's good for you to read and study so much.
Papa used to say that he didn't think it was good for"--

She stopped, checked by the expression on the face of her listener.

"For _servants_, Miss Nina, your papa said, I suppose."

With the quick tact of her sex, Nina perceived that she had struck some
disagreeable chord in the mind of her faithful attendant, and she
hastened to change the subject, in her careless, rattling way.

"Why, yes, Harry, study is horrid for you, or me either, or anybody
else, except musty old people, who don't know how to do anything else.
Did ever anybody look out of doors, such a pleasant day as this, and
want to study? Think of a bird's studying, now, or a bee! They don't
study--they live. Now, I don't want to study--I want to live. So now,
Harry, if you'll just get the ponies and go in the woods, I want to get
some jessamines, and spring beauties, and wild honeysuckles, and all the
rest of the flowers that I used to get before I went to school."



CHAPTER II.

CLAYTON.


The curtain rises on our next scene, and discovers a tranquil library,
illuminated by the slant rays of the afternoon's sun. On one side the
room opened by long glass windows on to a garden, from whence the air
came in perfumed with the breath of roses and honeysuckles. The floor
covered with white matting, the couches and sofas robed in smooth glazed
linen, gave an air of freshness and coolness to the apartment. The walls
were hung with prints of the great masterpieces of European art, while
bronzes and plaster-casts, distributed with taste and skill, gave
evidence of artistic culture in the general arrangement. Two young men
were sitting together near the opened window at a small table, which
displayed an antique coffee-set of silver, and a silver tray of ices and
fruits. One of these has already been introduced to the notice of our
readers, in the description of our heroine in the last chapter.

Edward Clayton, the only son of Judge Clayton, and representative of one
of the oldest and most distinguished families of North Carolina, was in
personal appearance much what our lively young friend had
sketched--tall, slender, with a sort of loose-jointedness and
carelessness of dress, which might have produced an impression of
clownishness, had it not been relieved by a refined and intellectual
expression on the head and face. The upper part of the face gave the
impression of thoughtfulness and strength, with a shadowing of
melancholy earnestness, and there was about the eye, in conversation,
that occasional gleam of troubled wildness which betrays the
hypochondriac temperament. The mouth was even feminine in the delicacy
and beauty of its lines, and the smile which sometimes played around it
had a peculiar fascination. It seemed to be a smile of but half the
man's nature; for it never rose as high as the eyes, or seemed to
disturb the dark stillness of their thoughtfulness.

The other speaker was in many respects a contrast; and we will
introduce him to our readers by the name of Frank Russel. Furthermore,
for their benefit, we will premise that he was the only son of a once
distinguished and wealthy, but now almost decayed, family of Virginia.

It is supposed by many that friendship is best founded upon similarity
of nature; but observation teaches that it is more common by a union of
opposites, in which each party is attracted by something wanting in
itself. In Clayton, the great preponderance of those faculties which
draw a man inward, and impair the efficiency of the outward life,
inclined him to overvalue the active and practical faculties, because he
saw them constantly attended with a kind of success which he fully
appreciated, but was unable to attain. Perfect ease of manner, ready
presence of mind under all social exigencies, adroitness in making the
most of passing occurrences, are qualities which are seldom the gift of
sensitive and deeply-thoughtful natures, and which for this very reason
they are often disposed to overvalue. Russel was one of those men who
have just enough of all the higher faculties to appreciate their
existence in others, and not enough of any one to disturb the perfect
availability of his own mind. Everything in his mental furnishing was
always completely under his own control, and on hand for use at a
moment's notice. From infancy he was noted for quick tact and ready
reply. At school he was the universal factotum, the "good fellow" of the
ring, heading all the mischief among the boys, and yet walking with
exemplary gravity on the blind side of the master. Many a scrape had he
rescued Clayton from, into which he had fallen from a more fastidious
moral sense, a more scrupulous honor, than is for worldly profit either
in the boy's or man's sphere; and Clayton, superior as he was, could not
help loving and depending on him.

The diviner part of man is often shamefaced and self-distrustful, ill at
home in this world, and standing in awe of nothing so much as what is
called common sense; and yet common sense very often, by its own
keenness, is able to see that these unavailable currencies of another's
mind are of more worth, if the world only knew it, than the ready coin
of its own; and so the practical and the ideal nature are drawn
together.

So Clayton and Russel had been friends from boyhood; had roomed
together their four years in college; and, though instruments of a
vastly different quality, had hitherto played the concerts of life with
scarce a discord.

In person, Russel was of about the medium size, with a well-knit,
elastic frame, all whose movements were characterized by sprightliness
and energy. He had a frank, open countenance, clear blue eyes, a high
forehead shaded by clusters of curling brown hair; his flexible lips
wore a good-natured yet half-sarcastic smile. His feelings, though not
inconveniently deep, were easily touched; he could be moved to tears or
to smiles, with the varying humor of a friend; but never so far as to
lose his equipoise--or, as he phrased it, forget what he was about.

But we linger too long in description. We had better let the reader hear
the _dramatis personæ_, and judge for himself.

"Well, now, Clayton," said Russel, as he leaned back in a stuffed
leather chair, with a cigar between his fingers, "how considerate of
them to go off on that marooning party, and leave us to ourselves, here!
I say, old boy, how goes the world now?--Reading law, hey?--booked to be
Judge Clayton the second! Now, my dear fellow, if _I_ had the
opportunities that you have--only to step into my father's shoes--I
should be a lucky fellow."

"Well, you are welcome to all my chances," said Clayton, throwing
himself on one of the lounges; "for I begin to see that I shall make
very little of them."

"Why, what's the matter?--Don't you like the study?"

"The study, perhaps, well enough--but not the practice. Reading the
theory is always magnificent and grand. 'Law hath her seat in the bosom
of God; her voice is the harmony of the world.' You remember we used to
declaim that. But, then, come to the practice of it, and what do you
find? Are legal examinations anything like searching after truth? Does
not an advocate commit himself to one-sided views of his subject, and
habitually ignore all the truth on the other side? Why, if I practised
law according to my conscience, I should be chased out of court in a
week."

"There you are, again, Clayton, with your everlasting conscience, which
has been my plague ever since you were a boy, and I have never been
able to convince you what a humbug it is! It's what I call a _crotchety_
conscience--always in the way of your doing anything like anybody else.
I suppose, then, of course, you won't go into political life.--Great
pity, too. You'd make a very imposing figure as senator. You have
exactly the cut for a conscript father--one of the old Viri Romæ."

"And what do you think the old Viri Romæ would do in Washington? What
sort of a figure do you think Regulus, or Quintus Curtius, or Mucius
Scævola, would make there?"

"Well, to be sure, the style of political action has altered somewhat
since those days. If political duties were what they were then,--if a
gulf would open in Washington, for example,--you would be the fellow to
plunge in, horse and all, for the good of the republic; or, if anything
was to be done by putting your right hand in the fire and burning it
off--or, if there were any Carthaginians who would cut off your eyelids,
or roll you down hill in a barrel of nails, for truth and your country's
sake,--you would be on hand for any such matter. That's the sort of
foreign embassy that you would be after. All these old-fashioned goings
on would suit you to a T; but as to figuring in purple and fine linen,
in Paris or London, as American minister, you would make a dismal
business of it. But still, I thought you might practise law in a
wholesome, sensible way,--take fees, make pleas with abundance of
classical allusions, show off your scholarship, marry a rich wife, and
make your children princes in the gates--all without treading on the
toes of your too sensitive moral what-d'-ye-call-ems. But you've done
one thing like other folks, at least, if all 's true that I've heard."

"And what is that, pray?"

"What's that? Hear the fellow, now! How innocent we are! I suppose you
think I haven't heard of your campaign in New York--carrying off that
princess of little flirts, Miss Gordon."

Clayton responded to the charge only with a slight shrug and a smile, in
which not only his lips but his eyes took part, while the color mounted
to his forehead.

"Now, do you know, Clayton," continued Russel, "I _like_ that. Do you
know I always thought I should detest the woman that you should fall in
love with? It seemed to me that such a portentous combination of all the
virtues as you were planning for would be something like a comet--an
alarming spectacle. Do you remember (I should like to know, if you do)
just what that woman was to be?--was to have all the learning of a man,
all the graces of a woman (I think I have it by heart); she was to be
practical, poetical, pious, and everything else that begins with a _p_;
she was to be elegant and earnest; take deep and extensive views of
life; and there was to be a certain air about her, half Madonna, half
Venus, made of every creature's best. Ah, bless us! what poor creatures
we are! Here comes along our little coquette, flirting, tossing her fan;
picks you up like a great solid chip, as you are, and throws you into
her chip-basket of beaux, and goes on dancing and flirting as before.
Aren't you ashamed of it, now?"

"No. I am really much like the minister in our town, where we fitted for
college, who married a pretty Polly Peters in his sixtieth year, and,
when the elders came to inquire if she had the requisite qualifications
for a pastor's lady, he told them that he didn't think she had. 'But the
fact is, brethren,' said he, 'though I don't pretend she is a saint, she
is a very pretty little sinner, _and I love her_.' That's just my case."

"Very sensibly said; and, do you know, as I told you before, I'm
perfectly delighted with it, because it is acting like other folks. But
then, my dear fellow, do you think you have come to anything really
solid with this little Venus of the sea-foam? Isn't it much the same as
being engaged to a cloud, or a butterfly? One wants a little _streak_ of
reality about a person that one must take for better or for worse. You
have a deep nature, Clayton. You really want a wife who will have some
glimmering perception of the difference between you and the other things
that walk and wear coats, and are called men."

"Well, then, really," said Clayton, rousing himself, and speaking with
energy, "I'll tell you just what it is: Nina Gordon is a flirt and a
coquette--a spoiled child, if you will. She is not at all the person I
ever expected would obtain any power over me. She has no culture, no
reading, no habits of reflection; but she has, after all, a certain tone
and quality to her, a certain '_timbre_,' as the French say of voices,
which suits me. There is about her a mixture of energy, individuality,
and shrewdness, which makes her, all uninformed as she is, more piquant
and attractive than any woman I ever fell in with. She never reads; it
is almost impossible to get her to read; but, if you can catch her ear
for five minutes, her literary judgments have a peculiar freshness and
truth. And so with her judgment on all other subjects, if you can stop
her long enough to give you an opinion. As to heart, I think she has yet
a wholly unawakened nature. She has lived only in the world of
sensation, and that is so abundant and so buoyant in her that the deeper
part still sleeps. It is only two or three times that I have seen a
flash of this under nature look from her eyes, and color her voice and
intonation. And I believe--I'm quite sure--that I am the only person in
the world that ever touched it at all. I'm not at all sure that she
loves me _now_; but I'm almost equally sure that she will."

"They say," said Russel, carelessly, "that she is generally engaged to
two or three at a time."

"That may be also," said Clayton, indolently. "I rather suspect it to be
the case now, but it gives me no concern. I've seen all the men by whom
she is surrounded, and I know perfectly well there's not one of them
that she cares a rush for."

"Well, but, my dear fellow, how can your extra fastidious moral notions
stand the idea of her practising this system of deception?"

"Why, of course, it isn't a thing to my taste; but then, like the old
parson, if I love the 'little sinner,' what am I to do? I suppose you
think it a lover's paradox; yet I assure you, though she deceives, she
is not deceitful; though she acts selfishly, she is not selfish. The
fact is, the child has grown up, _motherless_ and an heiress, among
servants. She has, I believe, a sort of an aunt, or some such relative,
who nominally represents the head of the family to the eye of the world.
But I fancy little madam has had full sway. Then she has been to a
fashionable New York boarding-school, and that has developed the talent
of shirking lessons, and evading rules, with a taste for sidewalk
flirtation. These are all the attainments that I ever heard of being got
at a fashionable boarding-school, unless it be a hatred of books, and a
general dread of literary culture."

"And her estates are"--

"Nothing very considerable. Managed nominally by an old uncle of hers;
really by a very clever quadroon servant, who was left her by her
father, and who has received an education, and has talents very superior
to what are common to those in his class. He is, in fact, the overseer
of her plantation, and I believe the most loyal, devoted creature
breathing."

"Clayton," said his companion, "this affair might not be much to one who
takes the world as I do, but for you it may be a little too serious.
Don't get in beyond your depth."

"You are too late, Russel, for that--I _am_ in."

"Well, then, good luck to you, my dear fellow! And now, as we are about
it, I may as well tell you that I'm _in_ for it, too. I suppose you have
heard of Miss Benoir, of Baltimore. Well, she is my fate."

"And are you really engaged?"

"All signed and sealed, and to be delivered next Christmas."

"Let's hear about her."

"Well, she is of a good height (I always said I shouldn't marry a short
woman),--not handsome, but reasonably well-looking--very fine
manners--knows the world--plays and sings handsomely--has a snug little
fortune. Now, you know I never held to marrying for money and nothing
else; but then, as I'm situated, I could not have fallen in love without
that requisite. Some people call this heartless. I don't think it is. If
I had met Mary Benoir, and had known that she hadn't anything, why, I
should have known that it wouldn't do for me at all to cultivate any
particular intimacy; but, knowing she had fortune, I looked a little
further, and found she had other things too. Now, if that's marrying for
money, so be it. Yours, Clayton, is a genuine case of falling in love.
But, as for me, I walked in with my eyes wide open."

"And what are _you_ going to do with yourself in the world, Russel?"

"I must get into practice, and get some foothold there, you know; and
then, hey for Washington!--I'm to be president, like every other
adventurer in these United States. Why not I, as well as another man?"

"I don't know, certainly," said Clayton, "if you want it, and are
willing to work hard enough and long enough, and pay all the price. I
would as soon spend my life walking the drawn sword which they say is
the bridge to Mahomet's paradise."

"Ah! ah! I fancy I see you doing it! What a figure you'd make, my dear
fellow, balancing and posturing on the sword-blade, and making horrid
wry faces! Yet I know you'd be as comfortable there as you would in
political life. And yet, after all, you are greatly superior to me in
every respect. It would be a thousand pities if such a man as you
couldn't have the management of things. But our national ship has to be
navigated by second-rate fellows, Jerry-go-nimbles, like me, simply
because we are good in dodging and turning. But that's the way. Sharp's
the word, and the sharpest wins."

"For my part," said Clayton, "I shall never be what the _world_ calls a
_successful_ man. There seems to be one inscription written over every
passage of success in life, as far as I've seen,--'What shall it profit
a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'"

"I don't understand you, Clayton."

"Why, it seems to me just this. As matters are going on now in our
country, I must either lower my standard of right and honor, and sear my
soul in all its nobler sensibilities, or I must be what the world calls
an unsuccessful man. There is no path in life, that I know of, where
humbuggery and fraud and deceit are not essential to success,--none
where a man can make the purity of his moral nature the first object. I
see Satan standing in every avenue, saying, 'All these things will I
give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.'"

"Why don't you take to the ministry, then, Clayton, at once, and put up
a pulpit-cushion and big Bible between you and the fiery darts of the
devil?"

"I'm afraid I should meet him there, too. I could not gain a right to
speak in any pulpit without some profession or pledge to speak this or
that, that would be a snare to my conscience by and by. At the door of
every pulpit I must swear always to find truth in a certain formula; and
living, prosperity, success, reputation, will all be pledged on my
finding it there. I tell you I should, if I followed my own conscience,
preach myself out of pulpits quicker than I should plead out at the
bar."

"Lord help you, Clayton! What _will_ you do? Will you settle down on
your plantation, and raise cotton and sell niggers? I'm expecting to
hear, every minute, that you've subscribed for the 'Liberator,' and are
going to turn Abolitionist."

"I do mean to settle down on my plantation, but not to _raise_ cotton or
negroes as a chief end of man. I do take the 'Liberator,' because I'm a
free man, and have a right to take what I have a mind to. I don't agree
with Garrison, because I think I know more about the matter, where I
stand, than he does, or can, where he stands. But it's his _right_, as
an honest man, to say what he thinks; and I should use it in his place.
If I saw things as he does, I _should_ be an Abolitionist. But I don't."

"That's a mercy, at least," said Russel, "to a man with your taste for
martyrdom. But what are you going to do?"

"What any Christian man should do who finds four hundred odd of his
fellow men and women placed in a state of absolute dependence on him.
I'm going to educate and fit them for freedom. There isn't a sublimer
power on earth than God has given to us, masters. The law gives us
absolute and unlimited control. A plantation such as a plantation might
be would be 'a light to lighten the Gentiles.' There is a wonderful and
beautiful development locked up in this Ethiopian race, and it is worth
being a life-object to unlock it. The raising of cotton is to be the
least of the thing. I regard my plantation as a sphere for raising _men
and women_, and demonstrating the capabilities of a race."

"Selah!" said Russel.

Clayton looked angry.

"I beg your pardon, Clayton. This is all superb, sublime! There is just
one objection to it--it is wholly impossible."

"Every good and great thing has been called impossible before it is
done."

"Well, let me tell you, Clayton, just how it will be. You will be a mark
for arrows, both sides. You will offend all your neighbors by doing
better than they do. You will bring your negroes up to a point in which
they will meet the current of the whole community against them, and
meanwhile you will get no credit with the Abolitionists. They will call
you a cutthroat, pirate, sheep-stealer, and all the rest of their
elegant little list of embellishments, all the same. You'll get a state
of things that nobody can manage but yourself, and you by the hardest;
and then you'll die, and it'll all run to the devil faster than you run
it up. Now, if you would do the thing by halves, it wouldn't be so bad;
but I know you of old. You won't be satisfied with teaching a catechism
and a few hymns, parrot-wise, which I think is a respectable religious
amusement for our women. You'll teach 'em all to read, and write, and
think, and speak. I shouldn't wonder to hear of an importation of
black-boards and spelling-books. You'll want a lyceum and debating
society. Pray, what does sister Anne say to all this? Anne is a sensible
girl now, but I'll warrant you've got her to go in for it."

"Anne is as much interested as I, but her practical tact is greater than
mine, and she is of use in detecting difficulties that I do not see. I
have an excellent man, who enters fully into my views, who takes charge
of the business interests of the plantation, instead of one of these
scoundrel overseers. There is to be a graduated system of work and wages
introduced--a system that shall teach the nature and rights of property
and train to habits of industry and frugality, by making every man's
acquirements equal to his industry and good conduct."

"And what sort of a support do _you_ expect to make out of all this? Are
you going to live for them, or they for you?"

"I shall set them the example of living for _them_, and trust to awaken
the good that is in them, in return. The strong ought to live for the
weak--the cultivated for the ignorant."

"Well, Clayton, the Lord help you! I'm in earnest now--fact! Though I
know you won't do it, yet I wish you could. It's a pity, Clayton, you
were born in this world. It isn't you, but our planet and planetary
ways, that are in fault. Your mind is a splendid storehouse--gold and
gems of Ophir--but they are all up in the fifth story, and no staircase
to get 'em down into common life. Now I've just enough appreciation of
the sort of thing that 's in you, not to laugh at you. Nine out of ten
would. To tell you the truth, if I were already set up in life, and had
as definite a position as you have,--family, friends, influence, and
means,--why, perhaps I might afford to cultivate this style of thing.
But I tell you what it is, Clayton, such a conscience as yours is
cursedly expensive to keep. It's like a carriage--a fellow mustn't set
it up unless he can afford it. It's one of the luxuries."

"It's a _necessary_ of life, with me," said Clayton, dryly.

"Well, that's your nature. I can't afford it. I've got my way to make.
_I must succeed_, and with your ultra notions I couldn't succeed. So
there it is. After all, I can be as religious as dozens of your most
respectable men, who have taken their seats in the night-train for
Paradise, and keep the daylight for their own business."

"I dare say you can."

"Yes, and I shall get all I aim at; and you, Clayton, will be always an
unhappy, dissatisfied aspirant after something too high for mortality.
There's just the difference between us."

The conversation was here interrupted by the return of the family party.



CHAPTER III.

THE CLAYTON FAMILY AND SISTER ANNE.


The family party, which was now ushered in, consisted of Clayton's
father, mother, and sister. Judge Clayton was a tall, dignified, elderly
personage, in whom one recognized, at a glance, the gentleman of the old
school. His hair, snowy white, formed a singular contrast with the
brightness of his blue eyes, whose peculiar acuteness of glance might
remind one of a falcon. There was something stately in the position of
the head and the carriage of the figure, and a punctilious exactness in
the whole air and manner, that gave one a slight impression of
sternness. The clear, sharp blue of his eye seemed to be that of a calm
and decided intellect, of a logical severity of thought; and contrasted
with the silvery hair with that same expression of cold beauty that is
given by the contrast of snow mountains cutting into the keen, metallic
blue of an Alpine sky. One should apprehend much to fear from such a
man's reason--little to hope from any outburst of his emotional nature.
Yet, as a man, perhaps injustice was done to Judge Clayton by this first
impression; for there was, deep beneath this external coldness, a
severely-repressed nature, of the most fiery and passionate vehemence.
His family affections were strong and tender, seldom manifested in
words, but always by the most exact appreciation and consideration for
all who came within his sphere. He was strictly and impartially just in
all the little minutiæ of social and domestic life, never hesitating to
speak a truth or acknowledge an error.

Mrs. Clayton was a high-bred, elderly lady, whose well-preserved
delicacy of complexion, brilliant dark eyes, and fine figure, spoke of a
youth of beauty. Of a nature imaginative, impulsive, and ardent,
inclining constantly to generous extremes, she had thrown herself with
passionate devotion round her clear-judging husband, as the Alpine rose
girdles with beauty the breast of the bright, pure glacier.

Between Clayton and his father there existed an affection deep and
entire; yet, as the son developed to manhood, it became increasingly
evident that they could never move harmoniously in the same practical
orbit. The nature of the son was so veined and crossed with that of the
mother, that the father, in attempting the age-long and often-tried
experiment of making his child an exact copy of himself, found himself
extremely puzzled and confused in the operation. Clayton was ideal to an
excess; ideality colored every faculty of his mind, and swayed all his
reasonings, as an unseen magnet will swerve the needle. Ideality
pervaded his conscientiousness, urging him always to rise above the
commonly-received and so-called practical in morals. Hence, while he
worshipped the theory of law, the practice filled him with disgust; and
his father was obliged constantly to point out deficiencies in
reasonings, founded more on a keen appreciation of what things ought to
be, than on a practical regard to what they are. Nevertheless, Clayton
partook enough of his father's strong and steady nature to be his
mother's idol, who, perhaps, loved this second rendering of the parental
nature with even more doting tenderness than the first.

Anne Clayton was the eldest of three sisters, and the special companion
and confidant of the brother; and, as she stands there untying her
bonnet-strings, we must also present her to the reader. She is a little
above the medium height, with that breadth and full development of chest
which one admires in English women. She carries her well-formed head on
her graceful shoulders with a positive, decided air, only a little on
this side of haughtiness. Her clear brown complexion reddens into a fine
glow in the cheek, giving one the impression of sound, perfect health.
The positive outline of the small aquiline nose; the large, frank,
well-formed mouth, with its clear rows of shining teeth; the brown eyes,
which have caught something of the falcon keenness of the father, are
points in the picture by no means to be overlooked. Taking her air
altogether, there was an honest frankness about her which encouraged
conversation, and put one instantly at ease. Yet no man in his senses
could ever venture to take the slightest liberty with Anne Clayton.
With all her frankness, there was ever in her manner a perfectly-defined
"thus far shalt thou come, and no further." Beaux, suitors, lovers in
abundance, had stood, knelt, and sighed protesting, at her shrine. Yet
Anne Clayton was twenty-seven, and unmarried. Everybody wondered why;
and as to that, we can only wonder with the rest. Her own account of the
matter was simple and positive. She did not wish to marry--was happy
enough without.

The intimacy between the brother and sister had been more than usually
strong, notwithstanding marked differences of character; for Anne had
not a particle of ideality. Sense she had, shrewdness, and a pleasant
dash of humor withal; but she was eminently what people call a practical
girl. She admired highly the contrary of all this in her brother; she
delighted in the poetic-heroic element in him, for much the same reason
that young ladies used to admire Thaddeus of Warsaw and William
Wallace--because it was something quite out of her line. In the whole
world of ideas she had an almost idolatrous veneration for her brother;
in the sphere of practical operations she felt free to assert, with a
certain good-natured positiveness, her own superiority. There was no one
in the world, perhaps, of whose judgment in this respect Clayton stood
more in awe.

At the present juncture of affairs Clayton felt himself rather awkwardly
embarrassed in communicating to her an event which she would immediately
feel she had a right to know before. A sister of Anne Clayton's positive
character does not usually live twenty-seven years in constant intimacy
with a brother like Clayton, without such an attachment as renders the
first announcement of a contemplated marriage somewhat painful. Why,
then, had Clayton, who always unreservedly corresponded with his sister,
not kept her apprised of his gradual attachment to Nina? The secret of
the matter was, that he had had an instinctive consciousness that he
could not present Nina to the practical, clear-judging mind of his
sister, as she appeared through the mist and spray of his imaginative
nature. The hard facts of her case would be sure to tell against her in
any communication he might make; and sensitive people never like the
fatigue of justifying their instincts. Nothing, in fact, is less capable
of being justified by technical reasons than those fine insights into
character whereupon affection is built. We have all had experience of
preferences which would not follow the most exactly ascertained
catalogue of virtues, and would be made captive where there was very
little to be said in justification of the captivity.

But, meanwhile, rumor, always busy, had not failed to convey to Anne
Clayton some suspicions of what was passing; and, though her delicacy
and pride forbade any allusion to it, she keenly felt the want of
confidence, and of course was not any more charitably disposed towards
the little rival for this reason. But now the matter had attained such a
shape in Clayton's mind that he felt the necessity of apprising his
family and friends. With his mother the task was made easier by the
abundant hopefulness of her nature, which enabled her in a moment to
throw herself into the sympathies of those she loved. To her had been
deputed the office of first breaking the tidings to Anne, and she had
accomplished it during the pleasure-party of the morning.

The first glance that passed between Clayton and his sister, as she
entered the room, on her return from the party, showed him that she was
discomposed and unhappy. She did not remain long in the apartment, or
seem disposed to join in conversation; and, after a few abstracted
moments, she passed through the open door into the garden, and began to
busy herself apparently among her plants. Clayton followed her. He came
and stood silently beside her for some time, watching her as she picked
the dead leaves off her geranium.

"Mother has told you," he said, at length.

"Yes," said Anne.

There was a long pause, and Anne picked off dry leaves and green
promiscuously, threatening to demolish the bush.

"Anne," said Clayton, "how I wish you could see her!"

"I've _heard_ of her," replied Anne, dryly, "through the Livingstons."

"And what have you heard?" said Clayton, eagerly.

"Not such things as I could wish, Edward; not such as I expected to hear
of the lady that you would choose."

"And, pray, what _have_ you heard? Out with it," said Clayton,--"let's
know what the world says of her."

"Well, the world says," said Anne, "that she is a coquette, a flirt, a
jilt. From all I've heard, I should think she must be an unprincipled
girl."

"That is hard language, Anne."

"Truth is generally hard," replied Anne.

"My dear sister," said Clayton, taking her hand, and seating her on the
seat in the garden, "have you lost all faith in me?"

"I think it would be nearer truth," replied Anne, "to say that _you_ had
lost all faith in _me_. Why am I the last one to know all this? Why am I
to hear it first from reports, and every way but from you? Would I have
treated you so? Did I ever have anything that I did not tell you? Down
to my very soul I've always told you everything!"

"This is true, I own, dear Anne; but what if you had loved some man that
you felt sure I should not like? Now, you are a positive person, Anne,
and this might happen. Would you want to tell me at once? Would you not,
perhaps, wait, and hesitate, and put off, for one reason or another,
from day to day, and find it grow more and more difficult, the longer
you waited?"

"I can't tell," said Anne, bitterly. "I never did love any one better
than you,--that's the trouble."

"Neither do I love anybody _better_ than you, Anne. The love I have for
you is a whole, perfect thing, just as it was. See if you do not find me
every way as devoted. My heart was only opened to take in another love,
another wholly different; and which, because it is so wholly different,
never can infringe on the love I bear to you. And, Anne, my dear sister,
if you could love her as a part of me"--

"I wish I could," said Anne, somewhat softened; "but what I've heard has
been so unfavorable! She is not, in the least, the person I should have
expected you to fancy, Edward. Of all things I despise a woman who
trifles with the affections of gentlemen."

"Well, but, my dear, Nina isn't a woman; she is a _child_--a gay,
beautiful, unformed child; and I'm sure you may apply to her what Pope
says:--


     'If to her share some female errors fall,
     Look in her face, and you forget them all.'"


"Yes, indeed," said Anne, "I believe all you men are alike--a pretty
face bewitches any of you. I thought you were an exception, Edward; but
there you are."

"But, Anne, is this the way to encourage my confidence? Suppose I am
bewitched and enchanted, you cannot disentangle me without indulgence.
Say what you will about it, the _fact_ is just this--it is my fate to
love this child. I've tried to love many women before. I have seen many
whom I knew no sort of reason why I shouldn't love,--handsomer far, more
cultivated, more accomplished,--and yet I've seen them without a
movement or a flutter of the pulse. But this girl has awakened all there
is to me. I do not see in her what the world sees. I see the ideal image
of what she can be, what I'm sure she _will_ be, when her nature is
fully awakened and developed."

"Just there, Edward--just that," said Anne. "You never see anything;
that is, you see a glorified image--a something that might, could,
would, or should be--that is your difficulty. You glorify an ordinary
boarding-school coquette into something symbolic, sublime; you clothe
her with all your own ideas, and then fall down to worship her."

"Well, my dear Anne, suppose it were so, what then? I am, as you say,
ideal,--you, real. Well, be it so; I must act according to what is in
me. I have a right to my nature, you to yours. But it is not every
person whom I _can_ idealize: and I suspect this is the great reason why
I never could love some very fine women, with whom I have associated on
intimate terms; they had no capacity of being idealized; they could
receive no color from my fancy; they wanted, in short, just what Nina
has. She is just like one of those little whisking, chattering cascades
in the White Mountains, and the atmosphere round her is favorable to
rainbows."

"And you always see her through them."

"Even so, sister; but some people I cannot. Why should you find fault
with me? It's a pleasant thing to look through a rainbow. Why should you
seek to disenchant, if I _can_ be enchanted?"

"Why," replied Anne, "you remember the man who took his pay of the
fairies in gold and diamonds, and, after he had passed a certain brook,
found it all turned to slate-stones. Now, marriage is like that brook:
many a poor fellow finds his diamonds turned to slate on the other side;
and this is why I put in my plain, hard common sense, against your
visions. I see the plain facts about this young girl; that she is an
acknowledged flirt, a noted coquette and jilt; and a woman who is so is
necessarily heartless; and you are too good, Edward, too noble, I have
loved you too long, to be willing to give you up to _such_ a woman."

"There, my dear Anne, there are at least a dozen points in that sentence
to which I don't agree. In the first place, as to coquetry, it isn't the
unpardonable sin in my eyes--that is, under some circumstances."

"That is, you mean, when Nina Gordon is the coquette?"

"No, I don't mean that. But the fact is, Anne, there is so little of
true sincerity, so little real benevolence and charity, in the common
intercourse of young gentlemen and ladies in society, and our sex, who
ought to set the example, are so selfish and unprincipled in their ways
of treating women, that I do not wonder that, now and then, a lively
girl, who has the power, avenges her sex by playing off _our_ weak
points. Now, I don't think Nina capable of trifling with a real, deep,
unselfish attachment--a love which sought her good, and was willing to
sacrifice itself for her; but I don't believe any such has ever been put
at her disposal. There's a great difference between a man's wanting a
woman to _love him_, and loving her. Wanting to appropriate a woman as a
wife does not, of course, imply that a man loves her, or that he is
capable of loving anything. All these things girls _feel_, because their
instincts are quick; and they are often accused of trifling with a man's
heart, when they only see through him, and know he hasn't any. Besides,
love of power has always been considered a respectable sin in us men;
and why should we denounce a woman for loving her kind of power?"

"Oh, well, Edward, there isn't anything in the world that you cannot
theorize into beauty. But I don't like coquettes, for all that; and,
then, I'm told Nina Gordon is so very odd, and says and does such very
extraordinary things, sometimes."

"Well, perhaps that charms me the more. In this conventional world,
where women are all rubbed into one uniform surface, like coins in
one's pocket, it's a pleasure now and then to find one who can't be made
to do and think like all the rest. You have a little dash of this merit,
yourself, Anne; but you must consider that you have been brought up with
mamma, under her influence, trained and guided every hour, even more
than you knew. Nina has grown up an heiress among servants, a
boarding-school girl in New York; and, furthermore, you are twenty-seven
and she is eighteen, and a great deal may be learned between eighteen
and twenty-seven."

"But, brother, you remember Miss Hannah More says,--or some of those
good women, I forget who: at any rate it's a sensible saying,--'that a
man who chooses his wife as he would a picture in a public
exhibition-room should remember that there is this difference, that the
picture cannot go back to the exhibition, but the woman may.' You have
chosen her from seeing her brilliancy in society; but, after all, can
you make her happy in the dull routine of a commonplace life? Is she not
one of the sort that must have a constant round of company and
excitement to keep her in spirits?"

"I think not," said Clayton. "I think she is one of those whose vitality
is in herself, and one whose freshness and originality will keep life
anywhere from being commonplace; and that, living with us, she will
sympathize, naturally, in all our pursuits."

"Well, now, don't flatter yourself, brother, that you can make this girl
over, and bring her to any of your standards."

"Who--I? Did you think I meditated such an impertinence? The last thing
I should try, to marry a wife to educate her! It's generally one of the
most selfish tricks of our sex. Besides, I don't want a wife who will be
a mere mirror of my opinions and sentiments. I don't want an innocent
sheet of blotting-paper, meekly sucking up all I say, and giving a
little fainter impression of my ideas. I want a wife for an alternative;
all the vivacities of life lie in differences."

"Why, surely," said Anne, "one wants one's friends to be congenial, I
should think."

"So we do; and there is nothing in the world so congenial as
differences. To be sure, the differences must be harmonious. In music,
now, for instance, one doesn't want a repetition of the same notes, but
differing notes that chord. Nay, even discords are indispensable to
complete harmony. Now, Nina has just that difference from me which
chords with me; and all our little quarrels--for we have had a good
many, and I dare say shall have more--are only a sort of chromatic
passages,--discords of the seventh, leading into harmony. My life is
inward, theorizing, self-absorbed. I am hypochondriac--often morbid. The
vivacity and acuteness of her outer life makes her just what I need. She
wakens, she rouses, and keeps me in play; and her quick instincts are
often more than a match for my reason. I reverence the child, then, in
spite of her faults. She has taught me many things."

"Well," said Anne, laughing, "I give you up, if it comes to that. If you
come to talk about reverencing Nina Gordon, I see it's all over with
you, Edward, and I'll be good-natured, and make the best of it. I hope
it may all be true that you think, and a great deal more. At all events,
no effort of mine shall be wanting to make you as happy in your new
relation as you ought to be."

"There, now, that's Anne Clayton! It's just like _you_, sister, and I
couldn't say anything better than that. You have unburdened your
conscience, you have done all you can for me, and now very properly
yield to the inevitation. Nina, I know, will love you; and, if you never
_try_ to advise her and influence her, you will influence her very much.
Good people are a long while learning _that_, Anne. They think to do
good to others, by interfering and advising. They don't know that all
they have to do is to live. When I first knew Nina, I was silly enough
to try my hand that way, myself; but I've learned better. Now, when Nina
comes to us, all that you and mamma have got to do is just to be kind to
her, and _live_ as you always have lived; and whatever needs to be
altered in her, she will alter herself."

"Well," said Anne, "I wish, as it is so, that I could see her."

"Suppose you write a few lines to her in this letter that I am going to
write; and then that will lead in due time to a visit."

"Anything in the world, Edward, that you say."



CHAPTER IV.

THE GORDON FAMILY.


A week or two had passed over the head of Nina Gordon since she was
first introduced to our readers, and during this time she had become
familiar with the details of her home life. Nominally, she stood at the
head of her plantation, as mistress and queen in her own right of all,
both in doors and out; but, really, she found herself, by her own youth
and inexperience, her ignorance of practical details, very much in the
hands of those she professed to govern.

The duties of a southern housekeeper, on a plantation, are onerous
beyond any amount of northern conception. Every article wanted for daily
consumption must be kept under lock and key, and doled out as need
arises. For the most part, the servants are only grown-up children,
without consideration, forethought, or self-control, quarrelling with
each other, and divided into parties and factions, hopeless of any
reasonable control. Every article of wear, for some hundreds of people,
must be thought of, purchased, cut and made, under the direction of the
mistress; and add to this the care of young children, whose childish
mothers are totally unfit to govern or care for them, and we have some
slight idea of what devolves on southern housekeepers.

Our reader has seen what Nina was on her return from New York, and can
easily imagine that she had no idea of embracing, in good earnest, the
hard duties of such a life.

In fact, since the death of Nina's mother, the situation of the mistress
of the family had been only nominally filled by her aunt, Mrs. Nesbit.
The real housekeeper, in fact, was an old mulatto woman, named Katy, who
had been trained by Nina's mother. Notwithstanding the general
inefficiency and childishness of negro servants, there often are to be
found among them those of great practical ability. Whenever owners,
through necessity or from tact, select such servants, and subject them
to the kind of training and responsibility which belongs to a state of
freedom, the same qualities are developed which exist in free society.
Nina's mother, being always in delicate health, had, from necessity,
been obliged to commit much responsibility to "Aunt Katy," as she was
called; and she had grown up under the discipline into a very efficient
housekeeper. With her tall red turban, her jingling bunch of keys, and
an abundant sense of the importance of her office, she was a dignitary
not lightly to be disregarded.

It is true that she professed the utmost deference for her young
mistress, and very generally passed the compliment of inquiring what she
would have done; but it was pretty generally understood that her assent
to Aunt Katy's propositions was considered as much a matter of course as
the queen's to a ministerial recommendation. Indeed, had Nina chosen to
demur, her prime minister had the power, without departing in the
slightest degree from a respectful bearing, to involve her in labyrinths
of perplexity without end. And as Nina hated trouble, and wanted, above
all things, to have her time to herself for her own amusement, she
wisely concluded not to interfere with Aunt Katy's reign, and to get by
persuasion and coaxing, what the old body would have been far too
consequential and opinionated to give to authority.

In like manner, at the head of all out-door affairs was the young
quadroon, Harry, whom we introduced in the first chapter. In order to
come fully at the relation in which he stood to the estate, we must,
after the fashion of historians generally, go back a hundred years or
so, in order to give our readers a fair start. Behold us, therefore,
assuming historic dignity, as follows.

Among the first emigrants to Virginia, in its colonial days, was one
Thomas Gordon, Knight, a distant offshoot of the noble Gordon family,
renowned in Scottish history. Being a gentleman of some considerable
energy, and impatient of the narrow limits of the Old World, where he
found little opportunity to obtain that wealth which was necessary to
meet the demands of his family pride, he struck off for himself into
Virginia. Naturally of an adventurous turn, he was one of the first to
propose the enterprise which afterwards resulted in a settlement on the
banks of the Chowan River, in North Carolina. Here he took up for
himself a large tract of the finest alluvial land, and set himself to
the business of planting, with the energy and skill characteristic of
his nation; and, as the soil was new and fertile, he soon received a
very munificent return for his enterprise. Inspired with remembrances of
old ancestral renown, the Gordon family transmitted in their descent all
the traditions, feelings, and habits, which were the growth of the
aristocratic caste from which they sprung. The name of Canema, given to
the estate, came from an Indian guide and interpreter, who accompanied
the first Colonel Gordon as confidential servant.

The estate, being entailed, passed down through the colonial times
unbroken in the family, whose wealth, for some years, seemed to increase
with every generation.

The family mansion was one of those fond reproductions of the
architectural style of the landed gentry in England, in which, as far as
their means could compass it, the planters were fond of indulging.

Carpenters and carvers had been brought over, at great expense, from the
old country, to give the fruits of their skill in its erection; and it
was a fancy of the ancestor who built it, to display, in its wood-work,
that exuberance of new and rare woods with which the American continent
was supposed to abound. He had made an adventurous voyage into South
America, and brought from thence specimens of those materials more
brilliant than rose-wood, and hard as ebony, which grow so profusely on
the banks of the Amazon that the natives use them for timber. The floor
of the central hall of the house was a curiously-inlaid parquet of these
brilliant materials, arranged in fine block-work, highly polished.

The outside of the house was built in the old Virginian fashion, with
two tiers of balconies running completely round, as being much better
suited to the American climate than any of European mode. The inside,
however, was decorated with sculpture and carvings, copied, many of
them, from ancestral residences in Scotland, giving to the mansion an
air of premature antiquity.

Here, for two or three generations, the Gordon family had lived in
opulence. During the time, however, of Nina's father, and still more
after his death, there appeared evidently on the place signs of that
gradual decay which has conducted many an old Virginian family to
poverty and ruin. Slave labor, of all others the most worthless and
profitless, had exhausted the first vigor of the soil, and the
proprietors gradually degenerated from those habits of energy which were
called forth by the necessities of the first settlers, and everything
proceeded with that free-and-easy abandon, in which both master and
slave appeared to have one common object,--that of proving who should
waste with most freedom.

At Colonel Gordon's death, he had bequeathed, as we have already shown,
the whole family estate to his daughter, under the care of a servant, of
whose uncommon intelligence and thorough devotion of heart he had the
most ample proof. When it is reflected that the overseers are generally
taken from a class of whites who are often lower in ignorance and
barbarism than even the slaves, and that their wastefulness and rapacity
are a by-word among the planters, it is no wonder that Colonel Gordon
thought that, in leaving his plantation under the care of one so
energetic, competent, and faithful, as Harry, he had made the best
possible provision for his daughter.

Harry was the son of his master, and inherited much of the temper and
constitution of his father, tempered by the soft and genial temperament
of the beautiful Eboe mulattress, who was his mother. From this
circumstance Harry had received advantages of education very superior to
what commonly fell to the lot of his class. He had also accompanied his
master as valet during the tour of Europe, and thus his opportunities of
general observation had been still further enlarged, and that tact, by
which those of the mixed blood seem so peculiarly fitted to appreciate
all the finer aspects of conventional life had been called out and
exercised; so that it would be difficult in any circle to meet with a
more agreeable and gentlemanly person. In leaving a man of this
character, and his own son, still in the bonds of slavery, Colonel
Gordon was influenced by that passionate devotion to his daughter which
with him overpowered every consideration. A man so cultivated, he argued
to himself, might find many avenues opened to him in freedom; might be
tempted to leave the estate to other hands, and seek his own fortune. He
therefore resolved to leave him bound by an indissoluble tie for a term
of years, trusting to his attachment to Nina to make this service
tolerable.

Possessed of very uncommon judgment, firmness, and knowledge of human
nature, Harry had found means to acquire great ascendency over the hands
of the plantation, and, either through fear or through friendship, there
was a universal subordination to him. The executors of the estate
scarcely made even a feint of overseeing him; and he proceeded, to all
intents and purposes, with the perfect ease of a free man. Everybody,
for miles around, knew and respected him; and, had he not been possessed
of a good share of the thoughtful, forecasting temperament derived from
his Scottish parentage, he might have been completely happy, and
forgotten even the existence of the chains whose weight he never felt.

It was only in the presence of Tom Gordon--Colonel Gordon's lawful
son--that he ever realized that he was a slave. From childhood, there
had been a rooted enmity between the brothers, which deepened as years
passed on; and, as he found himself, on every return of the young man to
the place, subjected to taunts and ill-usage, to which his defenceless
position left him no power to reply, he had resolved never to marry, and
lay the foundation for a family, until such time as he should be able to
have the command of his own destiny, and that of his household. But the
charms of a pretty French quadroon overcame the dictates of prudence.

The history of Tom Gordon is the history of many a young man grown up
under the institutions and in the state of society which formed him.
Nature had endowed him with no mean share of talent, and with that
perilous quickness of nervous organization, which, like fire, is a good
servant, but a bad master. Out of those elements, with due training,
might have been formed an efficient and eloquent public man; but,
brought up from childhood among servants to whom his infant will was
law, indulged during the period of infantile beauty and grace in the
full expression of every whim, growing into boyhood among slaves with
but the average amount of plantation morality, his passions developed at
a fearfully early time of life; and, before his father thought of
seizing the reins of authority, they had gone out of his hands forever.
Tutor after tutor was employed on the plantation to instruct him, and
left, terrified by his temper. The secluded nature of the plantation
left him without that healthful stimulus of society which is often a
help in enabling a boy to come to the knowledge and control of himself.
His associates were either the slaves, or the overseers, who are
generally unprincipled and artful, or the surrounding whites, who lay in
a yet lower deep of degradation. For one reason or another, it was for
the interest of all these to flatter his vices and covertly to assist
him in opposing and deceiving his parents. Thus an early age saw him an
adept in every low form of vice. In despair, he was at length sent to an
academy at the North, where he commenced his career on the first day by
striking the teacher in the face, and was consequently expelled. Thence
he went to another, where, learning caution from experience, he was
enabled to maintain his foothold. There he was a successful colporteur
and missionary in the way of introducing a knowledge of bowie-knives,
revolvers, and vicious literature. Artful, bold, and daring, his
residence for a year at a school was sufficient to initiate in the way
of ruin perhaps one fourth of the boys. He was handsome, and, when not
provoked, good-natured, and had that off-hand way of spending money
which passes among boys for generosity. The simple sons of hard-working
farmers, bred in habits of industry and frugality, were dazzled and
astonished by the freedom with which he talked, and drank, and spit, and
swore. He was a hero in their eye, and they began to wonder at the
number of things, to them unknown before, which went to make up the
necessaries of life. From school he was transferred to college, and
there placed under the care of a professor, who was paid an exorbitant
sum for overlooking his affairs. The consequence was, that while many a
northern boy, whose father could not afford to pay for similar
patronage, was disciplined, rusticated, or expelled, as the case might
be, Tom Gordon exploited gloriously through college, getting drunk every
week or two, breaking windows, smoking freshmen, heading various sprees
in different parts of the country, and at last graduating nobody knew
how, except the patron professor, who received an extra sum for the
extra difficulties of the case. Returned home, he went into a lawyer's
office in Raleigh, where, by a pleasant fiction, he was said to be
reading law, because he was occasionally seen at the office during the
intervals of his more serious avocations of gambling, and horse-racing,
and drinking. His father, an affectionate but passionate man, was wholly
unable to control him, and the conflicts between them often shook the
whole domestic fabric. Nevertheless, to the last Colonel Gordon indulged
the old hope for such cases made and provided, that Tom would get
through sowing his wild oats, some time, and settle down and be a
respectable man; in which hope he left him the half of his property.
Since that time, Tom seemed to have studied on no subject except how to
accelerate the growth of those wings which riches are said to be
inclined to take, under the most favorable circumstances.

As often happens in such cases of utter ruin, Tom Gordon was a much
worse character for all the elements of good which he possessed. He had
sufficient perception of right, and sufficient conscience remaining, to
make him bitter and uncomfortable. In proportion as he knew himself
unworthy of his father's affection and trust, he became jealous and
angry at any indications of the want of it. He had contracted a settled
ill-will to his sister, for no other apparent reason except that the
father took a comfort in her which he did not in him. From childhood, it
was his habit to vex and annoy her in every possible way; and it was for
this reason, among many others, that Harry had persuaded Mr. John
Gordon, Nina's uncle and guardian, to place her at the New York
boarding-school, where she acquired what is termed an education. After
finishing her school career, she had been spending a few months in a
family of a cousin of her mother's, and running with loose rein the
career of fashionable gayety.

Luckily, she brought home with her unspoiled a genuine love of nature,
which made the rural habits of plantation life agreeable to her.
Neighbors there were few. Her uncle's plantation, five miles distant,
was the nearest. Other families with whom the Gordons were in the habit
of exchanging occasional visits were some ten or fifteen miles distant.
It was Nina's delight, however, in her muslin wrapper and straw hat, to
patter about over the plantation, to chat with the negroes among their
cabins, amusing herself with the various drolleries and peculiarities to
which long absence had given the zest of novelty. Then she would call
for her pony, and, attended by Harry, or some of her servants, would
career through the woods, gathering the wild-flowers with which they
abound; perhaps stop for a day at her uncle's, have a chat and a romp
with him, and return the next morning.

In the comparative solitude of her present life her mind began to clear
itself of some former follies, as water when at rest deposits the
sediment which clouded it. Apart from the crowd, and the world of
gayeties which had dizzied her, she could not help admitting to herself
the folly of much she had been doing. Something, doubtless, was added to
this by the letters of Clayton. The tone of them, so manly and sincere,
so respectful and kind, so removed either from adulation or
sentimentalism, had an effect upon her greater than she was herself
aware of. So Nina, in her positive and off-hand way, sat down, one day,
and wrote farewell letters to both her other lovers, and felt herself
quite relieved by the process.

A young person could scarce stand more entirely alone, as to sympathetic
intercourse with relations, than Nina. It is true that the presence of
her mother's sister in the family caused it to be said that she was
residing under the care of an aunt.

Mrs. Nesbit, however, was simply one of those well-bred, well-dressed
lay-figures, whose only office in life seems to be to occupy a certain
room in a house, to sit in certain chairs at proper hours, to make
certain remarks at suitable intervals of conversation. In her youth this
lady had run quite a career as a belle and beauty. Nature had endowed
her with a handsome face and figure, and youth and the pleasure of
admiration for some years supplied a sufficient flow of animal spirits
to make the beauty effective. Early married, she became the mother of
several children, who were one by one swept into the grave. The death of
her husband, last of all, left her with a very small fortune alone in
the world; and, like many in similar circumstances, she was content to
sink into an appendage to another's family.

Mrs. Nesbit considered herself very religious; and, as there is a great
deal that passes for religion, ordinarily, of which she may be fairly
considered a representative, we will present our readers with a
philosophical analysis of the article. When young, she had thought only
of self in the form of admiration, and the indulgence of her animal
spirits. When married, she had thought of self only in her husband and
children, whom she loved because they were _hers_, and for no other
reason.

When death swept away her domestic circle, and time stole the beauty and
freshness of animal spirits, her self-love took another form; and,
perceiving that this world was becoming to her somewhat _passé_, she
determined to make the best of her chance for another.

Religion she looked upon in the light of a ticket, which, being once
purchased, and snugly laid away in a pocket-book, is to be produced at
the celestial gate, and thus secure admission to heaven.

At a certain period of her life, while she deemed this ticket
unpurchased, she was extremely low-spirited and gloomy, and went through
a quantity of theological reading enough to have astonished herself, had
she foreseen it in the days of her belleship. As the result of all, she
at last presented herself as a candidate for admission to a Presbyterian
church in the vicinity, there professing her determination to run the
Christian race. By the Christian race, she understood going at certain
stated times to religious meetings, reading the Bible and hymn-book at
certain hours in the day, giving at regular intervals stipulated sums to
religious charities, and preserving a general state of leaden
indifference to everybody and everything in the world.

She thus fondly imagined that she had renounced the world, because she
looked back with disgust on gayeties for which she had no longer
strength or spirits. Nor did she dream that the intensity with which her
mind travelled the narrow world of self, dwelling on the plaits of her
caps, the cut of her stone-colored satin gowns, the making of her tea
and her bed, and the saving of her narrow income, was exactly the same
in kind, though far less agreeable in development, as that which once
expended itself in dressing and dancing. Like many other apparently
negative characters, she had a pertinacious intensity of an extremely
narrow and aimless self-will. Her plans of life, small as they were,
had a thousand crimps and plaits, to every one of which she adhered with
invincible pertinacity. The poor lady little imagined, when she sat,
with such punctilious satisfaction, while the Rev. Mr. Orthodoxy
demonstrated that selfishness is the essence of all moral evil, that the
sentiment had the slightest application to her; nor dreamed that the
little, quiet, muddy current of self-will, which ran without noise or
indecorum under the whole structure of her being, might be found, in a
future day, to have undermined all her hopes of heaven. Of course, Mrs.
Nesbit regarded Nina, and all other lively young people, with a kind of
melancholy endurance--as shocking spectacles of worldliness. There was
but little sympathy, to be sure, between the dashing, and out-spoken,
and almost defiant little Nina, and the sombre silver-gray apparition
which glided quietly about the wide halls of her paternal mansion. In
fact, it seemed to afford the latter a mischievous pleasure to shock her
respectable relative on all convenient occasions. Mrs. Nesbit felt it
occasionally her duty, as she remarked, to call her lively niece into
her apartment, and endeavor to persuade her to read some such volume as
Law's Serious Call, or Owen on the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm; and
to give her a general and solemn warning against all the vanities of the
world, in which were generally included dressing in any color but black
and drab, dancing, flirting, writing love-letters, and all other
enormities, down to the eating of pea-nut candy. One of these scenes is
just now enacting in this good lady's apartment, upon which we will
raise the curtain.

Mrs. Nesbit, a diminutive, blue-eyed, fair-complexioned little woman, of
some five feet high, sat gently swaying in that respectable asylum for
American old age, commonly called a rocking-chair. Every rustle of her
silvery silk gown, every fold of the snowy kerchief on her neck, every
plait of her immaculate cap, spoke a soul long retired from this world
and its cares. The bed, arranged with extremest precision, however, was
covered with a _mélange_ of French finery, flounces, laces, among which
Nina kept up a continual agitation like that produced by a breeze in a
flower-bed, as she unfolded, turned, and fluttered them, before the eyes
of her relative.

"I have been through all this, Nina," said the latter, with a melancholy
shake of her head, "and I know the vanity of it."

"Well, aunty, I _haven't_ been through it, so _I_ don't know."

"Yes, my dear, when I was of your age, I used to go to balls and
parties, and could think of nothing but of dress and admiration. I have
been through it all, and seen the vanity of it."

"Well, aunt, I want to go through it, and see the vanity of it too.
That's just what I'm after. I'm on the way to be as sombre and solemn as
you are, but I'm bound to have a good time first. Now, look at this pink
brocade!"

Had the brocade been a pall, it could scarcely have been regarded with a
more lugubrious aspect.

"Ah, child! such a dying world as this! To spend so much time and
thought on dress!"

"Why, Aunt Nesbit, yesterday you spent just two whole hours in thinking
whether you should turn the breadths of your black silk dress upside
down, or down side up; and this was a dying world all the time. Now, I
don't see that it is any better to think of black silk than it is of
pink."

This was a view of the subject which seemed never to have occurred to
the good lady.

"But now, aunt, do cheer up, and look at this box of artificial flowers.
You know I thought I'd bring a stock on from New York. Now, aren't these
perfectly lovely? I like flowers that _mean_ something. Now, these are
all imitations of natural flowers, so perfect that you'd scarcely know
them from the real. See--there, that's a moss-rose; and now look at
these sweet peas, you'd think they had just been picked; and,
there--that heliotrope, and these jessamines, and those orange-blossoms,
and that wax camelia"--

"Turn off my eyes from beholding vanity!" said Mrs. Nesbit, shutting her
eyes, and shaking her head:--


     "'What if we wear the richest vest,--
     Peacocks and flies are better drest;
     This flesh, with all its glorious forms,
     Must drop to earth, and feed the worms.'"


"Aunt, I do think you have the most horrid, disgusting set of hymns, all
about worms, and dust, and such things!"

"It's my duty, child, when I see you so much taken up with such sinful
finery."

"Why, aunt, do you think artificial flowers are sinful?"

"Yes, dear; they are a sinful waste of time and money, and take off our
mind from more important things."

"Well, aunt, then what did the Lord make sweet peas, and roses, and
orange-blossoms for? I'm sure it's only doing as he does, to make
flowers. He don't make everything gray, or stone-color. Now, if you only
would come out in the garden, this morning, and see the oleanders, and
the crape myrtle, and the pinks, the roses, and the tulips, and the
hyacinths, I'm sure it would do you good."

"Oh, I should certainly catch cold, child, if I went out doors. Milly
left a crack opened in the window, last night, and I've sneezed three or
four times since. It will never do for me to go out in the garden; the
feeling of the ground striking up through my shoes is very unhealthy."

"Well, at any rate, aunt, I should think, if the Lord didn't wish us to
wear roses and jessamines, he would not have made them. And it is the
most natural thing in the world to want to wear flowers."

"It only feeds vanity and a love of display, my dear."

"I don't think it's vanity, or a love of display. I should want to dress
prettily, if I were the only person in the world. I love pretty things
because they _are_ pretty. I like to wear them because they make me look
pretty."

"There it is, child; you want to dress up your poor perishing body to
look pretty--that's the thing!"

"To be sure I do. Why shouldn't I? I mean to look as pretty as I can, as
long as I live."

"You seem to have quite a conceit of your beauty!" said Aunt Nesbit.

"Well, I know I am pretty. I'm not going to pretend I don't. I like my
own looks, now, that's a fact. I'm not like one of your Greek statues, I
know. I'm not wonderfully handsome, nor likely to set the world on fire
with my beauty. I'm just a pretty little thing; and I like flowers and
laces, and all of those things; and I mean to like them, and I don't
think there'll be a bit of religion in my not liking them; and as for
all that disagreeable stuff about the worms, that you are always telling
me, I don't think it does me a particle of good. And, if religion is
going to make me so _poky_, I shall put it off as long I can."

"I used to feel just as you do, dear, but I've seen the folly of it!"

"If I've got to lose my love for everything that is bright, everything
that is lively, and everything that is pretty, and like to read such
horrid stupid books, why, I'd rather be buried, and done with it!"

"That's the opposition of the natural heart, my dear."

The conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of a bright,
curly-headed mulatto boy, bearing Mrs. Nesbit's daily luncheon.

"Oh, here comes Tomtit," said Nina; "now for a scene. Let's see what he
has forgotten, now."

Tomtit was, in his way, a great character in the mansion. He and his
grandmother were the property of Mrs. Nesbit. His true name was no less
respectable and methodical than that of Thomas; but, as he was one of
those restless and effervescent sprites, who seem to be born for the
confusion of quiet people, Nina had rechristened him Tomtit, which
sobriquet was immediately recognized by the whole household as being
eminently descriptive and appropriate. A constant ripple and eddy of
drollery seemed to pervade his whole being; his large, saucy black eyes
had always a laughing fire in them, that it was impossible to meet
without a smile in return. Slave and property though he was, yet the
first sentiment of reverence for any created thing seemed yet wholly
unawakened in his curly pate. Breezy, idle, careless, flighty, as his
woodland namesake, life to him seemed only a repressed and pent-up
ebullition of animal enjoyment; and almost the only excitement of Mrs.
Nesbit's quiet life was her chronic controversy with Tomtit. Forty or
fifty times a day did the old body assure him "that she was astonished
at his conduct;" and as many times would he reply by showing the whole
set of his handsome teeth, on the broad grin, wholly inconsiderate of
the state of despair into which he thus reduced her.

On the present occasion, as he entered the room, his eye was caught by
the great display of finery on the bed; and, hastily dumping the waiter
on the first chair that occurred, with a flirt and a spring as lithe as
that of a squirrel, he was seated in a moment astride the foot-board,
indulging in a burst of merriment.

"Good law, Miss Nina, whar on earth dese yer come from? Good law, some
on 'em for me, isn't 'er?"

"You see that child!" now said Mrs. Nesbit, rocking back in her chair
with the air of a martyr. "After all my talkings to him! Nina, you ought
not to allow that; it just encourages him!"

"Tom, get down, you naughty creature you, and get the stand and put the
waiter on it. Mind yourself, now!" said Nina, laughing.

Tomtit cut a somerset from the foot-board to the floor, and, striking
up, on a very high key, "I'll bet my money on a bobtail nag," he danced
out a small table, as if it had been a partner, and deposited it, with a
jerk, at the side of Mrs. Nesbit, who aimed a cuff at his ears; but, as
he adroitly ducked his head, the intended blow came down upon the table
with more force than was comfortable to the inflictor.

"I believe that child is made of air!--I never can hit him!" said the
good lady, waxing red in the face. "He is enough to provoke a saint!"

"So he is, aunt; enough to provoke two saints like you and me. Tomtit,
you rogue," said she, giving a gentle pull to a handful of his curly
hair, "be good, now, and I'll show you the pretty things, by and by.
Come, put the waiter on the table, now; see if you can't walk, for
once!"

Casting down his eyes with an irresistible look of mock solemnity,
Tomtit marched with the waiter, and placed it by his mistress.

The good lady, after drawing off her gloves and making sundry little
decorous preparations, said a short grace over her meal, during which
time Tomtit seemed to be holding his sides with repressed merriment;
then, gravely laying hold of the handle of the teapot she stopped short,
gave an exclamation, and flirted her fingers, as she felt it almost
scalding hot.

"Tomtit, I do believe you intend to burn me to death, some day!"

"Laws, missus, dat are hot? Oh, sure I was tickler to set the nose round
to the fire."

"No, you didn't! You stuck the handle right into the fire as you're
always doing!"

"Laws, now, wonder if I did," said Tomtit, assuming an abstracted
appearance. "'Pears as if never can 'member which dem dare is nose, and
which handle. Now, I's a studdin on dat dare most all de morning--was
so," said he, gathering confidence, as he saw, by Nina's dancing eyes,
how greatly she was amused.

"You need a sound whipping, sir--that's what you need!" said Mrs.
Nesbit, kindling up in sudden wrath.

"Oh, I knows it," said Tomtit. "We's unprofitable servants, all on us.
Lord's marcy that we an't 'sumed, all on us!"

Nina was so completely overcome by this novel application of the text
which she had heard her aunt laboriously drumming into Tomtit, the
Sabbath before, that she laughed aloud, with rather uproarious
merriment.

"Oh, aunt, there's no use! He don't know anything! He's nothing but an
incarnate joke, a walking hoax!"

"No, I doesn't know nothing, Miss Nina," said Tomtit, at the same time
looking out from under his long eyelashes. "Don't know nothing at
all--never can."

"Well, now, Tomtit," said Mrs. Nesbit, drawing out a little blue cowhide
from under her chair, and looking at him resolutely, "you see, if this
teapot handle is hot again, I'll give it to you! Do you hear?"

"Yes, missis," said Tomtit, with that indescribable sing-song of
indifference, which is so common and so provoking in his class.

"And, now, Tomtit, you go down stairs and clean the knives for dinner."

"Yes, missis," said he, pirouetting towards the door. And once in the
passage, he struck up a vigorous "Oh, I'm going to glory, won't you go
along with me;" accompanying himself, by slapping his own sides, as he
went down two stairs at a time.

"Going to glory!" said Mrs. Nesbit, rather shortly; "he looks like it, I
think! It's the third or fourth time that that child has blistered my
fingers with this teapot, and I know he does it on purpose! So
ungrateful, when I spend my time, teaching him, hour after hour,
laboring with him so! I declare, I don't believe these children have got
any souls!"

"Well, aunt, I declare, I should think you'd get out of all patience
with him; yet he's so funny, I cannot, for the life of me, help
laughing."

Here a distant whoop on the staircase, and a tempestuous chorus to a
Methodist hymn, with the words, "Oh come, my loving brethren," announced
that Tomtit was on the return; and very soon, throwing open the door, he
marched in, with an air of the greatest importance.

"Tomtit, didn't I tell you to go and clean the knives?"

"Law, missis, come up here to bring Miss Nina's love-letters," said he,
producing two or three letters. "Good law, though," said he, checking
himself, "forgot to put them on a waity!" and, before a word could be
said, he was out of the room and down stairs, and at the height of
furious contest with the girl who was cleaning the silver, for a waiter
to put Miss Nina's letters on.

"Dar, Miss Nina," appealing to her when she appeared, "Rosa won't let me
have no waity!"

"I could pull your hair for you, you little image!" said Nina, seizing
the letters from his hands, and laughing while she cuffed his ears.

"Well," said Tomtit, looking after her with great solemnity, "missis in
de right on't. An't no kind of order in this here house, 'pite of all I
can do. One says put letters on waity. Another one won't let you have
waity to put letters on. And, finally, Miss Nina, she pull them all
away. Just the way things going on in dis yer house, all the time! I
can't help it; done all I can. Just the way missus says!"

There was one member of Nina's establishment of a character so marked
that we cannot refrain from giving her a separate place in our picture
of her surroundings,--and this was Milly, the waiting-woman of Aunt
Nesbit.

Aunt Milly, as she was commonly called, was a tall, broad-shouldered,
deep-chested African woman, with a fulness of figure approaching to
corpulence. Her habit of standing and of motion was peculiar and
majestic, reminding one of the Scripture expression "upright as the
palm-tree." Her skin was of a peculiar blackness and softness, not
unlike black velvet. Her eyes were large, full, and dark, and had about
them that expression of wishfulness and longing which one may sometimes
have remarked in dark eyes. Her mouth was large, and the lips, though
partaking of the African fulness, had, nevertheless, something decided
and energetic in their outline, which was still further seconded by the
heavy moulding of the chin. A frank smile, which was common with her,
disclosed a row of most splendid and perfect teeth. Her hair, without
approaching to the character of the Anglo-Saxon, was still different
from the ordinary woolly coat of the negro, and seemed more like an
infinite number of close-knotted curls, of brilliant, glossy blackness.

The parents of Milly were prisoners taken in African wars; and she was a
fine specimen of one of those warlike and splendid races, of whom, as
they have seldom been reduced to slavery, there are but few and rare
specimens among the slaves of the South.

Her usual head-dress was a high turban, of those brilliant colored
Madras handkerchiefs in which the instinctive taste of the dark races
leads them to delight. Milly's was always put on and worn with a regal
air, as if it were the coronet of the queen. For the rest, her dress
consisted of a well-fitted gown of dark stuff, of a quality somewhat
finer than the usual household apparel. A neatly-starched white muslin
handkerchief folded across her bosom, and a clean white apron, completed
her usual costume.

No one could regard her, as a whole, and not feel their prejudice in
favor of the exclusive comeliness of white races somewhat shaken. Placed
among the gorgeous surroundings of African landscape and scenery, it
might be doubted whether any one's taste could have desired, as a
completion to her appearance, to have blanched the glossy skin whose
depth of coloring harmonizes so well with the intense and fiery glories
of a tropical landscape.

In character, Milly was worthy of her remarkable external appearance.
Heaven had endowed her with a soul as broad and generous as her ample
frame. Her passions rolled and burned in her bosom with a tropical
fervor; a shrewd and abundant mother wit, united with a vein of
occasional drollery, gave to her habits of speech a quaint vivacity.

A native adroitness gave an unwonted command over all the functions of
her fine body, so that she was endowed with that much-coveted property
which the New Englander denominates "faculty," which means the intuitive
ability to seize at once on the right and best way of doing everything
which is to be done. At the same time, she was possessed of that high
degree of self-respect which led her to be incorruptibly faithful and
thorough in all she undertook; less, as it often seemed, from any fealty
or deference to those whom she served, than from a kind of native pride
in well-doing, which led her to deem it beneath herself to slight or
pass over the least thing which she had undertaken. Her promises were
inviolable. Her owners always knew that what she once said would be
done, if it were within the bounds of possibility.

The value of an individual thus endowed in person and character may be
easily conceived by those who understand how rare, either among slaves
or freemen, is such a combination. Milly was, therefore, always
considered in the family as a most valuable piece of property, and
treated with more than common consideration.

As a mind, even when uncultivated, will ever find its level, it often
happened that Milly's amount of being and force of character gave her
ascendency even over those who were nominally her superiors. As her ways
were commonly found to be the best ways, she was left, in most cases, to
pursue them without opposition or control. But, favorite as she was, her
life had been one of deep sorrows. She had been suffered, it is true, to
contract a marriage with a very finely-endowed mulatto man, on a
plantation adjoining her owner's, by whom she had a numerous family of
children, who inherited all her fine physical and mental endowments.
With more than usual sensibility and power of reflection, the idea that
the children so dear to her were from their birth not her own--that they
were, from the first hour of their existence, merchantable articles,
having a fixed market value in proportion to every excellence, and
liable to all the reverses of merchantable goods--sank with deep weight
into her mind. Unfortunately, the family to which she belonged being
reduced to poverty, there remained, often, no other means of making up
the deficiency of income than the annual sale of one or two negroes.
Milly's children, from their fine developments, were much-coveted
articles. Their owner was often tempted by extravagant offers for them;
and therefore, to meet one crisis or another of family difficulties,
they had been successively sold from her. At first, she had met this
doom with almost the ferocity of a lioness; but the blow, oftentimes
repeated, had brought with it a dull endurance, and Christianity had
entered, as it often does with the slave, through the rents and fissures
of a broken heart. Those instances of piety which are sometimes, though
rarely, found among slaves, and which transcend the ordinary development
of the best-instructed, are generally the results of calamities and
afflictions so utterly desolating as to force the soul to depend on God
alone. But, where one soul is thus raised to higher piety, thousands are
crushed in hopeless imbecility.



CHAPTER V.

HARRY AND HIS WIFE.


Several miles from the Gordon estate, on an old and somewhat decayed
plantation, stood a neat log-cabin, whose external aspect showed both
taste and care. It was almost enveloped in luxuriant wreaths of yellow
jessamine, and garlanded with a magnificent lamarque rose, whose
cream-colored buds and flowers contrasted beautifully with the dark,
polished green of the finely-cut leaves.

The house stood in an enclosure formed by a high hedge of the American
holly, whose evergreen foliage and scarlet berries made it, at all times
of the year, a beautiful object. Within the enclosure was a garden,
carefully tended, and devoted to the finest fruits and flowers.

This little dwelling, so different in its air of fanciful neatness from
ordinary southern cabins, was the abode of Harry's little wife.
_Lisette_, which was her name, was the slave of a French creole woman,
to whom a plantation had recently fallen by inheritance.

She was a delicate, airy little creature, formed by a mixture of the
African and French blood, producing one of those fanciful, exotic
combinations, that give one the same impression of brilliancy and
richness that one receives from tropical insects and flowers. From both
parent races she was endowed with a sensuous being exquisitely quick and
fine,--a nature of everlasting childhood, with all its freshness of
present life, all its thoughtless, unreasoning fearlessness of the
future.

She stands there at her ironing-table, just outside her cottage door,
singing gayly at her work. Her round, plump, childish form is shown to
advantage by the trim blue basque, laced in front, over a chemisette of
white linen. Her head is wreathed with a gay turban, from which escapes,
now and then, a wandering curl of her silky black hair. Her eyes, as
she raises them, have the hazy, dreamy languor, which is so
characteristic of the mixed races. Her little, childish hands are busy,
with nimble fingers adroitly plaiting and arranging various articles of
feminine toilet, too delicate and expensive to have belonged to those in
humble circumstances. She ironed, plaited, and sung, with busy care.
Occasionally, however, she would suspend her work, and, running between
the flower-borders to the hedge, look wistfully along the road, shading
her eyes with her hand. At last, as she saw a man on horseback
approaching, she flew lightly out, and ran to meet him.

"Harry, Harry! You've come, at last. I'm so glad! And what have you got
in that paper? Is it anything for me?"

He held it up, and shook it at her, while she leaped after it.

"No, no, little curiosity!" he said, gayly.

"I know it's something for me," said she, with a pretty, half-pouting
air.

"And why do you know it's for you? Is everything to be for you in the
world, you little good-for-nothing?"

"Good-for-nothing!" with a toss of the gayly-turbaned little head. "You
may well say that, sir! Just look at the two dozen shirts I've ironed,
since morning! Come, now, take me up; I want to ride."

Harry put out the toe of his boot and his hand, and, with an adroit
spring, she was in a moment before him, on his horse's neck, and, with a
quick turn, snatched the paper parcel from his hand.

"Woman's curiosity!" said he.

"Well, I want to see what it is. Dear me, what a tight string! Oh, I
can't break it! Well, here it goes; I'll tear a hole in it, anyhow. Oh,
silk, as I live! Aha! tell me now this isn't for me, you bad thing,
you!"

"Why, how do you know it isn't to make me a summer coat?"

"Summer coat!--likely story! Aha! I've found you out, mister! But, come,
do make the horse canter! I want to go fast. Make him canter, do!"

Harry gave a sudden jerk to the reins, and in a minute the two were
flying off as if on the wings of the wind. On and on they went, through
a small coppice of pines, while the light-hearted laugh rang on the
breeze behind them. Now they are lost to view. In a few minutes,
emerging from the pine woods in another direction, they come sweeping,
gay and laughing, up to the gate. To fasten the horse, to snatch the
little wife on his shoulder, and run into the cottage with her, seemed
the work only of a moment; and, as he set her down, still laughing, he
exclaimed,--

"There, go, now, for a pretty little picture, as you are! I have helped
them get up _les tableaux vivans_, at their great houses; but you are my
tableau. You aren't good for much. You are nothing but a humming-bird,
made to live on honey!"

"That's what I am!" said the little one. "It takes a great deal of honey
to keep me. I want to be praised, flattered, and loved, all the time. It
isn't enough to have you love me. I want to hear you tell me so every
day, and hour, and minute. And I want you always to admire me, and
praise everything that I do. Now"--

"Particularly when you tear holes in packages!" said Harry.

"Oh, my silk--my new silk dress!" said Lisette, thus reminded of the
package which she held in her hand. "This hateful string! How it cuts my
fingers! I _will_ break it! I'll bite it in two. Harry, Harry, don't you
see how it hurts my fingers? Why don't you cut it?"

And the little sprite danced about the cottage floor, tearing the paper,
and tugging at the string, like an enraged humming-bird. Harry came
laughing behind her, and, taking hold of her two hands, held them quite
still, while he cut the string of the parcel, and unfolded a gorgeous
plaid silk, crimson, green, and orange.

"There, now, what do you think of that? Miss Nina brought it, when she
came home, last week."

"Oh, how lovely! Isn't she a beauty? Isn't she good? How beautiful it
is! Dear me, dear me! how happy I am! How happy _we_ are!--an't we,
Harry?"

A shadow came over Harry's forehead as he answered, with a half-sigh,--

"Yes."

"I was up at three o'clock this morning, on purpose to get all my
ironing done to-day, because I thought you were to come home to-night.
Ah! ah! you don't know what a supper I've got ready! You'll see, by and
by. I'm going to do something uncommon. You mustn't look in that other
room, Harry--you mustn't!"

"Mustn't I?" said Harry, getting up, and going to the door.

"There, now! who's curiosity now, I wonder!" said she, springing nimbly
between him and the door. "No, you shan't go in, though. There, now;
don't, don't! _Be_ good now, Harry!"

"Well, I may as well give up first as last. This is your house, not
mine, I suppose," said Harry.

"Mr. Submission, how meek we are, all of a sudden. Well, while the fit
lasts, you go to the spring and get me some water to fill this
tea-kettle. Off with you now, this minute! Mind you don't stop to play
by the way!"

And, while Harry is gone to the spring, we will follow the wife into the
forbidden room. Very cool and pleasant it is, with its white
window-curtains, its matted floor, and displaying in the corner that
draped feather-bed, with its ruffled pillows and fringed curtains, which
it is the great ambition of the southern cabin to attain and maintain.

The door, which opened on to a show of most brilliant flowers, was
overlaid completely by the lamarque rose we have before referred to; and
large clusters of its creamy blossoms, and wreaths of its dark-green
leaves, had been enticed in and tied to sundry nails and pegs by the
small hands of the little mistress, to form an arch of flowers and
roses. A little table stood in the door, draped with a spotless damasked
table-cloth, fine enough for the use of a princess, and only produced by
the little mistress on festive occasions. On it were arranged dishes
curiously trimmed with moss and vine-leaves, which displayed
strawberries and peaches, with a pitcher of cream and one of whey, small
dishes of curd, delicate cakes and biscuit, and fresh golden butter.

After patting and arranging the table-cloth, Lisette tripped gayly
around, and altered here and there the arrangement of a dish,
occasionally stepping back, and cocking her little head on one side,
much like a bird, singing gayly as she did so; then she would pick a
bit of moss from this, and a flower from that, and retreat again, and
watch the effect.

"How surprised he will be!" she said to herself. Still humming a tune in
a low, gurgling undertone, she danced hither and thither, round the
apartment. First she gave the curtains a little shake, and, unlooping
one of them, looped it up again, so as to throw the beams of the evening
sun on the table.

"There, there, there! how pretty the light falls through those
nasturtions! I wonder if the room smells of the mignonette. I gathered
it when the dew was on it, and they say that will make it smell all day.
Now, here's Harry's book-case. Dear me! these flies! How they do get on
to everything! Shoo, shoo! now, now!" and, catching a gay bandana
handkerchief from the drawer, she perfectly exhausted herself in flying
about the room in pursuit of the buzzing intruders, who soared, and
dived, and careered, after the manner of flies in general, seeming
determined to go anywhere but out of the door, and finally were seen
brushing their wings and licking their feet, with great alertness, on
the very topmost height of the sacred bed-curtains; and as just this
moment a glimpse was caught of Harry returning from the spring, Lisette
was obliged to abandon the chase, and rush into the other room, to
prevent a premature development of her little tea-tableau. Then a small,
pug-nosed, black tea-kettle came on to the stage of action, from some
unknown cupboard; and Harry had to fill it with water, and of course
spilt the water on to the ironing-table, which made another little
breezy, chattering commotion; and then the flat-irons were cleared away,
and the pug-nosed kettle reigned in their stead on the charcoal brazier.

"Now, Harry, was ever such a smart wife as I am? Only think, besides all
the rest that I've done, I've ironed your white linen suit, complete!
Now, go put it on. Not in there! not in there!" she said, pushing him
away from the door. "You can't go there, yet. You'll do well enough out
here."

And away she went, singing through the garden walks; and the song,
floating back behind her, seemed like an odor brushed from the flowers.
The refrain came rippling in at the door--


     "Me think not what to-morrow bring;
     Me happy, so me sing!"


"Poor little thing!" said Harry to himself; "why should I try to teach
her anything?"

In a few minutes she was back again, her white apron thrown over her
arm, and blossoms of yellow jessamine, spikes of blue lavender, and buds
of moss-roses, peeping out from it. She skipped gayly along, and
deposited her treasure on the ironing-table; then, with a zealous,
bustling earnestness, which characterized everything she did, she began
sorting them into two bouquets, alternately talking and singing, as she
did so,--


     "Come on, ye rosy hours,
     All joy and gladness bring!"


"You see, Harry, you're going to have a bouquet to put into the
button-hole of that coat. It will make you look so handsome! There,
now--there, now,--


     'We'll strew the way with flowers,
     And merrily, merrily sing.'"


Suddenly stopping, she looked at him archly, and said, "You can't tell,
now, what I'm doing all this for!"

"There's never any telling what you women do anything for."

"Do hear him talk--so pompous! Well, sir, it's for your birthday, now.
Aha! you thought, because I can't keep the day of the month, that I
didn't know anything about it; but I did. And I have put down now a
chalk-mark every day, for four weeks, right under where I keep my
ironing-account, so as to be sure of it. And I've been busy about it
ever since two o'clock this morning. And now--there, the tea-kettle is
boiling!"--and away she flew to the door.

"Oh, dear me!--dear me, now!--I've killed myself, now, I have!" she
cried, holding up one of her hands, and flirting it up in the air. "Dear
me! who knew it was so hot?"

"I should think a little woman that is so used to the holder _might_
have known it," said Harry, as he caressed the little burnt hand.

"Come, now, let me carry it for you," said Harry, "and I'll make the
tea, if you'll let me go into that mysterious room."

"Indeed, no, Harry--I'm going to do everything myself;" and, forgetting
the burnt finger, Lisette was off in a moment, and back in a moment
with a shining teapot in her hand, and the tea was made. And at last the
mysterious door opened, and Lisette stood with her eyes fixed upon
Harry, to watch the effect.

"Superb!--magnificent!--splendid! Why, this is good enough for a king!
And where _did_ you get all these things?" said Harry.

"Oh, out of our garden--all but the peaches. Those old Mist gave
me--they come from Florida. There, now, you laughed at me, last summer,
when I set those strawberry-vines, and made all sorts of fun of me. And
what do you think now?"

"Think! I think you're a wonderful little thing--a perfect witch."

"Come, now, let's sit down, then--you there, and I here." And, opening
the door of the bird-cage, which hung in the lamarque rose-bush, "Little
Button shall come, too."

Button, a bright yellow canary, with a smart black tuft upon his head,
seemed to understand his part in the little domestic scene perfectly;
for he stepped obediently upon the finger which was extended to him, and
was soon sitting quite at his ease on the mossy edge of one of the
dishes, pecking at the strawberries.

"And now, do tell me," said Lisette, "all about Miss Nina. How does she
look?"

"Pretty and smart as ever," said Harry. "Just the same witchy, wilful
ways with her."

"And did she show you her dresses?"

"Oh, yes; the whole."

"Oh, do tell me about them, Harry--do!"

"Well, there's a lovely pink gauze, covered with spangles, to be worn
over white satin."

"With flounces?" said Lisette, earnestly.

"With flounces."

"How many?"

"Really, I don't remember."

"Don't remember how many flounces? Why, Harry, how stupid! Say, Harry,
don't you suppose she will let me come and look at her things?"

"Oh, yes, dear, I don't doubt she will; and that will save my making a
gazette of myself."

"Oh, when will you take me there, Harry?"

"Perhaps to-morrow, dear. And now," said Harry, "that you have
accomplished your surprise upon me, I have a surprise, in return, for
you. You can't guess, now, what Miss Nina brought for me."

"No, indeed! What?" said Lisette, springing up; "do tell me--quick."

"Patience--patience!" said Harry, deliberately fumbling in his pocket,
amusing himself with her excited air. But who should speak the
astonishment and rapture which widened Lisette's dark eyes, when the
watch was produced? She clapped her hands, and danced for joy, to the
imminent risk of upsetting the table, and all the things on it.

"I do think we are the most fortunate people--you and I, Harry!
Everything goes just as we want it to--doesn't it, now?"

Harry's assent to this comprehensive proposition was much less fervent
than suited his little wife.

"Now, what's the matter with you? What goes wrong? Why don't you rejoice
as I do?" said she, coming and seating herself down upon his knee.
"Come, now, you've been working too hard, I know. I'm going to sing to
you, now; you want something to cheer you up." And Lisette took down her
banjo, and sat down in the doorway under the arch of lamarque roses, and
began thrumming gayly.

"This is the nicest little thing, this banjo!" she said; "I wouldn't
change it for all the guitars in the world. Now, Harry, I'm going to
sing something specially for you." And Lisette sung:--


     "What are the joys of white man, here,
       What are his pleasures, say?
     He great, he proud, he haughty fine
       While I my banjo play:
           He sleep all day, he wake all night;
           He full of care, his heart no light;
           He great deal want, he little get;
           He sorry, so he fret.

     "Me envy not the white man here,
       Though he so proud and gay;
     He great, he proud, he haughty fine,
       While I my banjo play:
           Me work all day, me sleep all night;
           Me have no care, me heart is light;
           Me think not what to-morrow bring;
           Me happy, so me sing."


Lisette rattled the strings of the banjo, and sang with such a hearty
abandon of enjoyment that it was a comfort to look at her. One would
have thought that a bird's soul put into a woman's body would have sung
just so.

"There," she said, throwing down her banjo, and seating herself on her
husband's knee, "do you know I think you are like white man in the song?
I should like to know what is the matter with you. I can see plain
enough when you are not happy; but I don't see why."

"Oh, Lisette, I have very perplexing business to manage," said Harry.
"Miss Nina is a dear, good little mistress, but she doesn't know
anything about accounts, or money; and here she has brought me home a
set of bills to settle, and I'm sure I don't know where the money is to
be got from. It's hard work to make the old place profitable in our
days. The ground is pretty much worked up; it doesn't bear the crops it
used to. And, then, our people are so childish, they don't, a soul of
them, care how much they spend, or how carelessly they work. It's very
expensive keeping up such an establishment. You know the Gordons must be
Gordons. Things can't be done now as some other families would do them;
and, then, those bills which Miss Nina brings from New York are
perfectly frightful."

"Well, Harry, what are you going to do?" said Lisette, nestling down
close on his shoulder. "You always know how to do something."

"Why, Lisette, I shall have to do what I've done two or three times
before--take the money that I have saved, to pay these bills--our
freedom-money, Lisette."

"Oh, well, then, don't worry. We can get it again, you know. Why, you
know, Harry, you can make a good deal with your trade, and one thing and
another that you do; and, then, as for me, why, you know, my ironing,
and my muslins, how celebrated they are. Come, don't worry one bit; we
shall get on nicely."

"Ah! But, Lisette, all this pretty house of ours, garden, and
everything, is only built on air, after all, till we are free. Any
accident can take it from us. Now, there's Miss Nina; she is engaged,
she tells me, to two or three lovers, as usual."

"Engaged, is she?" said Lisette, eagerly, female curiosity getting the
better of every other consideration; "she always did have lovers, just,
you know, as I used to."

"Yes; but, Lisette, she will marry, some time, and what a thing that
would be for you and me! On her husband will depend all my happiness for
all my life. He may set her against me; he may not like me. Oh, Lisette!
I've seen trouble enough coming of marriages; and I was hoping, you see,
that before that time came the money for my freedom would all be paid
in, and I should be my own man. But, now, here it is. Just as the sum is
almost made up, I must pay out five hundred dollars of it, and that
throws us back two or three years longer. And what makes me feel the
most anxious is, that I'm pretty sure Miss Nina will marry one of these
lovers before long."

"Why, what makes you think so, Harry?"

"Oh, I've seen girls before now, Lisette, and I know the signs."

"What does she do? What does she say? Tell me, now, Harry."

"Oh, well, she runs on abusing the man, after her sort; and she's so
very earnest and positive in telling me she don't like him."

"Just the way I used to do about you, Harry, isn't it?"

"Besides," said Harry, "I know, by the kind of character she gives of
him, that she thinks of him very differently from what she ever did of
any man before. Miss Nina little knows, when she is rattling about her
beaux, what I'm thinking of. I'm saying, all the while, to myself, 'Is
that man going to be my master?' and this Clayton, I'm very sure, is
going to be my master."

"Well, isn't he a good man?"

"She _says_ he is; but there's never any saying what good men will do,
never. Good men think it right sometimes to do the strangest things.
This man may alter the whole agreement between us,--he will have a right
to do it, if he is her husband; he may refuse to let me buy myself;
and, then, all the money that I've paid will go for nothing."

"But, certainly, Harry, Miss Nina will never consent to such a thing."

"Lisette, Miss Nina is one thing, but Mrs. Clayton may be quite another
thing. I've seen all _that_, over and over again. I tell you, Lisette,
that we who live on other people's looks and words, we watch and think a
great deal! Ah! we come to be very sharp, I can tell you. The more Miss
Nina has liked me, the less her husband may like me; don't you know
that?"

"No; Harry, you don't dislike people I like."

"Child, child, that's quite another thing."

"Well, then, Harry, if you feel so bad about it, what makes you pay this
money for Miss Nina? She don't know anything about it; she don't ask you
to. I don't believe she would want you to, if she did know it. Just go
and pay it in, and have your freedom-papers made out. Why don't you tell
her all about it?"

"No, I can't, Lisette. I've had the care of her all her life, and I've
made it as smooth as I could for her, and I won't begin to trouble her
now. Do you know, too, that I'm afraid that, perhaps, if she knew all
about it, she wouldn't do the right thing. There's never any knowing,
Lisette. _Now_, you see, I say to myself, 'Poor little thing! she
doesn't know anything about accounts, and she don't know how I feel.'
But, if I should _tell_ her, and she shouldn't care, and act as I've
seen women act, why, then, you know I couldn't think so any more. I
don't _believe_ she would mind you; but, then, I don't like to try."

"Harry, what does make you love her so much?"

"Don't you know, Lisette, that Master Tom was a dreadful bad boy, always
wilful and wayward, almost broke his father's heart; and he was always
ugly and contrary to her? I'm sure I don't know why; for she was a sweet
little thing, and she loves him now, ugly as he is, and he is the most
selfish creature I ever saw. And, as for Miss Nina, she isn't
selfish--she is only inconsiderate. But I've known her do for him, over
and over, just what I do for her, giving him her money and her jewels to
help him out of a scrape. But, then, to be sure, it all comes upon me,
at last, which makes it all the more aggravating. Now, Lisette, I'm
going to tell you something, but you mustn't tell anybody. Nina Gordon
is my sister!"

"Harry!"

"Yes, Lisette, you may well open your eyes," said Harry, rising
involuntarily; "I'm Colonel Gordon's oldest son! Let me have the comfort
of saying it once, if I never do again."

"Harry, who told you?"

"_He_ told me, Lisette--he, himself, told me, when he was dying, and
charged me always to watch over her; and I have done it! I never told
Miss Nina; I wouldn't have her told for the world. It wouldn't make her
love me; more likely it would turn her against me. I've seen many a man
sold for nothing else but looking too much like his father, or his
brothers and sisters. I was given to her, and my sister and my mother
went out to Mississippi with Miss Nina's aunt."

"I never heard you speak of this sister, Harry. Was she pretty?"

"Lisette, she was beautiful, she was graceful, and she had real genius.
I've heard many singers on the stage that could not sing, with all their
learning, as she did by nature."

"Well, what became of her?"

"Oh, what becomes of such women always, among us! Nursed, and petted,
and caressed; taught everything elegant, nothing solid. Why, the woman
meant well enough that had the care of her,--Mrs. Stewart, Colonel
Gordon's sister,--but she couldn't prevent her son's wanting her, and
taking her, for his mistress; and when she died there she was."

"Well."

"When George Stewart had lived with her two or three years, he was taken
with small-pox. You know what perfect horror that always creates. None
of his white acquaintances and friends would come near his plantation;
the negroes were all frightened to death, as usual; overseer ran off.
Well, then Cora Gordon's blood came up; she nursed him all through that
sickness. What's more, she had influence to keep order on the place; got
the people to getting the cotton crops themselves, so that when the
overseer came sneaking back, things hadn't all gone to ruin, as they
might have done. Well, the young fellow had more in him than some of
them do; for when he got well he left his plantation, took her up to
Ohio, and married her, and lived with her there."

"Why didn't he live with her on his plantation?" said Lisette.

"He couldn't have freed her there; it's against the laws. But, lately,
I've got a letter from her saying that he had died and left to her and
her son all his property on the Mississippi."

"Why, she will be rich, won't she?"

"Yes, if she gets it. But there's no knowing how that will be; there are
fifty ways of cheating her out of it, I suppose. But, now, as to Miss
Nina's estate, you don't know how I feel about it. I was trusted with
it, and trusted with her. She never has known, more than a child, where
the money came from, or went to; and it shan't be said that I've brought
the estate in debt, for the sake of getting my own liberty. If I have
one pride in life, it is to give it up to Miss Nina's husband in good
order. But, then, the _trouble_ of it, Lisette! The trouble of getting
anything like decent work from these creatures; the ways that I have to
turn and twist to get round them, and manage them, to get anything done.
They hate me; they are jealous of me. Lisette, I'm just like the bat in
the fable; I'm neither bird nor beast. How often I've wished that I was
a good, honest, black nigger, like Uncle Pomp! Then I should know what I
was; but, now, I'm neither one thing nor another. I come just near
enough to the condition of the white to look into it, to enjoy it, and
want everything that I see. Then, the way I've been educated makes it
worse. The fact is, that when the fathers of such as we feel any love
for us, it isn't like the love they have for their white children. They
are half-ashamed of us; they are ashamed to show their love, if they
have it; and, then, there's a kind of remorse and pity about it, which
they make up to themselves by petting us. They load us with presents and
indulgences. They amuse themselves with us while we are children, and
play off all our passions as if we were instruments to be played on. If
we show talent and smartness, we hear some one say, aside, 'It's rather
a pity, isn't it?' or, 'He is too smart for his place.' Then, we have
all the family blood and the family pride; and what to do with it? I
feel that I am a Gordon. I feel in my very heart that I'm like Colonel
Gordon--I know I am, and, sometimes, I know I look like him, and that's
one reason why Tom Gordon always hated me; and, then, there's another
thing, the hardest of all, to have a sister like Miss Nina, to feel she
_is_ my sister, and never dare to say a word of it! She little thinks,
when she plays and jokes with me, sometimes, how I feel. I have eyes and
senses; I can compare myself with Tom Gordon. I know he _never would_
learn anything at any of the schools he was put to; and I know that when
his tutors used to teach me, how much faster I got along than he did.
And yet he must have all the position, and all the respect; and, then,
Miss Nina so often says to me, by way of apology, when she puts up with
his ugliness, 'Ah! well, you know, Harry, he is the only brother I have
got in the world!' Isn't it too bad? Colonel Gordon gave me every
advantage of education, because I think he meant me for just this place
which I fill. Miss Nina was his pet. He was wholly absorbed in her, and
he was frightened at Tom's wickedness; and so he left me bound to the
estate in this way, only stipulating that I should buy myself on
favorable terms before Miss Nina's marriage. She has always been willing
enough. I might have taken any and every advantage of her
inconsiderateness. And Mr. John Gordon has been willing, too, and has
been very kind about it, and has signed an agreement as guardian, and
Miss Nina has signed it too, that, in case of her death, or whatever
happened, I'm to have my freedom on paying a certain sum, and I have got
his receipts for what I have paid. So that's tolerably safe. Lisette, I
had meant never to have been married till I was a free man; but,
somehow, you bewitched me into it. I did very wrong."

"Oh, pshaw! pshaw!" interrupted Lisette. "I an't going to hear another
word of this talk! What's the use? We shall do well enough. Everything
will come out right,--you see if it don't, now. I was always lucky, and
I always shall be."

The conversation was here interrupted by a loud whooping, and a clatter
of horse's heels.

"What's that?" said Harry, starting to the window. "As I live, now, if
there isn't that wretch of a Tomtit, going off with that horse! How came
he here? He will ruin him! Stop there! hallo!" he exclaimed, running out
of doors after Tomtit.

Tomtit, however, only gave a triumphant whoop, and disappeared among
the pine-trees.

"Well, I should like to know what sent him here!" said Harry, walking up
and down, much disturbed.

"Oh, he's only going round through the grove; he will be back again,"
said Lisette; "never fear. Isn't he a handsome little rogue?"

"Lisette, you never can see trouble anywhere!" said Harry, almost
angrily.

"Ah! yes I do," said Lisette, "when you speak in that tone! Please
don't, Harry! What should you want me to see trouble for?"

"I don't know, you little thing," said Harry, stroking her head fondly.

"Ah, there comes the little rascal, just as I knew he would!" said
Lisette. "He only wanted to take a little race; he hasn't hurt the
horse;" and, tripping lightly out, she caught the reins, just as Tomtit
drove up to the gate; and it seemed but a moment before he was over in
the garden, with his hands full of flowers.

"Stop, there, you young rascal, and tell me what sent you here!" said
Harry, seizing him, and shaking him by the shoulder.

"Laws, Massa Harry, I wants to get peaches, like other folks," said the
boy, peeping roguishly in at the window, at the tea-table.

"And he shall have a peach, too," said Lisette, "and some flowers, if
he'll be a good boy, and not tread on my borders."

Tomtit seized greedily at the peach she gave him, and, sitting flat down
where he stood, and throwing the flowers on the ground beside him, began
eating it with an earnestness of devotion as if his whole being were
concentrated in the act. The color was heightened in his brown cheek by
the exercise, and, with his long, drooping curls and eyelashes, he
looked a very pretty centre to the flower-piece which he had so promptly
improvised.

"Ah, how pretty he is!" said Lisette, touching Harry's elbow. "I wish he
was mine!"

"You'd have your hands full, if he was," said Harry eying the intruder
discontentedly, while Lisette stood picking the hulls from a fine bunch
of strawberries which she was ready to give him when he had finished the
peach.

"Beauty makes fools of all you girls," said Harry, cynically.

"Is that the reason I married you?" said Lisette, archly. "Well, I know
I could make him good, if I had the care of him. Nothing like coaxing;
is there, Tom?"

"I'll boun' there an't!" said Tom, opening his mouth for the
strawberries with much the air of a handsome, saucy robin.

"Well," said Harry, "I should like to know what brought him over here.
Speak, now, Tom! Weren't you sent with some message?"

"Oh laws, yes!" said Tom, getting up, and scratching his curly head.
"Miss Nina sent me. She wants you to get on dat ar horse, and make
tracks for home like split foot. She done got letters from two or three
of her beaux, and she is dancing and tearing round there real awful. She
done got scared, spects; feard they'd all come together."

"And she sent you on a message, and you haven't told me, all this time!"
said Harry, making a motion as though he was going to box the child's
ears; but the boy glided out of his hands as if he had been water, and
was gone, vanishing among the shrubbery of the garden; and while Harry
was mounting his horse, he reappeared on the roof of the little cabin,
caricoling and dancing, shouting at the topmost of his voice,--


     "Away down old Virginny,
     Dere I bought a yellow girl for a guinea."


"I'll give it to you, some time!" said Harry, shaking his fist at him.

"No, he won't, either," cried Lisette, laughing. "Come down here,
Tomtit, and I'll make a good boy of you."



CHAPTER VI.

THE DILEMMA.


In order to understand the occasion which hurried Harry home, we must go
back to Canema. Nina, after taking her letters from the hands of Tomtit,
as we have related, ran back with them into Mrs. Nesbit's room, and sat
herself down to read them. As she read, she evidently became quite
excited and discomposed, crumpling a paper with her little hand, and
tapping her foot impatiently on the carpet.

"There, now, I'm sure I don't know what I shall do, Aunt Nesbit!"
addressing her aunt, because it was her outspoken habit to talk to any
body or thing which happened to be sitting next to her. "I've got myself
into a pretty scrape now!"

"I told you you'd get into trouble, one of these days!"

"Oh, you _told_ me so! If there's anything I hate, it is to have anybody
tell me 'I told you so!' But now aunt, really, I know I've been foolish,
but I don't know what to do. Here are two gentlemen coming together,
that I wouldn't have meet each other here for the world; and I don't
know really what I had better do."

"You'd better do just as you please, as you always do, and always would,
ever since I knew you," said Aunt Nesbit, in a calm, indifferent tone.

"But, really, aunt, I don't know what's proper to do in such a case."

"Your and my notions of propriety, Nina, are so different, that I don't
know how to advise you. You see the consequences, now, of not attending
to the advice of your friends. I always knew these flirtations of yours
would bring you into trouble." And Aunt Nesbit said this with that
quiet, satisfied air with which precise elderly people so often edify
their thoughtless young friends under difficulties.

"Well, I didn't want a sermon, now, Aunt Nesbit; but, as you've seen a
great deal more of the world than I have, I thought you might help me a
little, just to tell me whether it wouldn't be proper for me to write
and put one of these gentlemen off; or make some excuse for me, or
something. I'm sure _I_ never kept house before. I don't want to do
anything that don't seem hospitable; and yet I don't want them to come
together. Now, there, that's flat!"

There was a long pause, in which Nina sat vexed and coloring, biting her
lips, and nestling uneasily in her seat.

Mrs. Nesbit looked calm and considerate, and Nina began to hope that she
was taking the case a little to heart.

At last the good old lady looked up, and said, very quietly, "I wonder
what time it is."

Nina thought she was debating the expediency of sending some message;
and therefore she crossed the room with great alacrity, to look at the
old clock in the entry.

"It's half-past two, aunt!" and she stood, with her lips apart, looking
at Mrs. Nesbit for some suggestion.

"I was going to tell Rosa," said she, abstractedly, "that that onion in
the stuffing does not agree with me. It rose on my stomach all yesterday
morning; but it's too late now."

Nina actually stamped with anger.

"Aunt Nesbit, you are the most selfish person I ever saw in my life!"

"Nina, child, you astonish me!" said Aunt Nesbit, with her wonted
placidity. "What's the matter?"

"I don't care!" said Nina; "I don't care a bit! I don't see how people
can be so! If a dog should come to me and tell me he was in trouble, I
think I should listen to him, and show some kind of interest to help
him! I don't care how foolish anybody has been; if they are in trouble,
I'd help them, if I could; and I think you might think enough of it to
give me some little advice!"

"Oh, you are talking about that affair, yet?" said her aunt. "Why, I
believe I told you I didn't know what to advise, didn't I? Shouldn't
give way to this temper, Nina; it's very unladylike, besides being
sinful. But, then, I don't suppose it's any use for me to talk!" And
Aunt Nesbit, with an abused air, got up, walked quietly to the
looking-glass, took off her morning cap, unlocked her drawer, and laid
it in; took out another, which Nina could not see differed a particle
from the last, held it up thoughtfully on her hand, and appeared
absorbed in the contemplation of it,--while Nina, swelling with a
mixture of anger and mortification, stood regarding her as she leisurely
picked out each bow, and finally, with a decorous air of solemnity,
arranged it upon her head, patting it tenderly down.

"Aunt Nesbit," she said, suddenly, as if the words hurt her, "I think I
spoke improperly, and I'm very sorry for it. I beg your pardon."

"Oh, it's no matter, child; I didn't care about it. I'm pretty well used
to your temper."

Bang went the door, and in a moment Nina stood in the entry, shaking her
fist at it with impotent wrath.

"You stony, stiff, disagreeable old creature! how came you ever to be my
mother's sister?" And, with the word mother, she burst into a tempest of
tears, and rushed violently to her own chamber. The first object that
she saw was Milly, arranging some clothes in her drawer; and, to her
astonishment, Nina rushed up to her, and, throwing her arms round her
neck, sobbed and wept in such tumultuous excitement that the good
creature was alarmed.

"Laws bless my soul, my dear little lamb! what's the matter? Why, don't!
Don't, honey! Why, bless the dear little soul! bless the dear precious
lamb! who's been a hurting of it?" And, at each word of endearment,
Nina's distress broke out afresh, and she sobbed so bitterly that the
faithful creature really began to be frightened.

"Laws, Miss Nina, I hope there an't nothing happened to you now!"

"No, no, nothing, Milly, only I am lonesome, and I want my mother! I
haven't got any mother! Dear me!" she said, with a fresh burst.

"Ah, the poor thing!" said Milly, compassionately, sitting down, and
fondling Nina in her arms, as if she had been a babe. "Poor chile! Laws,
yes; I 'member your ma was a beautiful woman!"

"Yes," said Nina, speaking between her sobs, "the girls at school had
mothers. And there was Mary Brooks, she used to read to me her mother's
letters, and I used to feel so, all the while, to think nobody wrote
such letters to me! And there's Aunt Nesbit--I don't care what they say
about her being religious, she is the most selfish, hateful creature I
ever did see! I do believe, if I was lying dead and laid out in the next
room to her, she would be thinking what she'd get next for dinner!"

"Oh, don't, my poor lamb, don't!" said Milly, compassionately.

"Yes, I will, too! She's always taking it for granted that I'm the
greatest sinner on the face of the earth! She don't scold me--she don't
care enough about me to scold! She only takes it for granted, in her
hateful, quiet way, that I'm going to destruction, and that she can't
help it, and don't care! Supposing I'm not good!--what's to make me
good? Is it going to make me good for people to sit up so stiff, and
tell me they always knew I was a fool, and a flirt, and all that? Milly,
I've had dreadful turns of wanting to be good, and I've laid awake
nights and cried because I wasn't good. And what makes it worse is, that
I think if Ma was alive she could help me. She wasn't like Aunt Nesbit,
was she, Milly?"

"No, honey, she wasn't. I'll tell you about your ma some time, honey."

"The worst of it is," said Nina, "when Aunt Nesbit speaks to me in her
hateful way, I get angry; then I speak in a way that isn't proper, I
know. Oh, if she only would get angry with me back again! or if she'd do
anything in the world but stand still, in her still way, telling me she
is astonished at me! That's a lie, too; for she never was astonished at
anything in her life! She hasn't life enough to be!"

"Ah, Miss Nina, we mustn't spect more of folks than there is in them."

"Expect? I don't expect!"

"Well, bless you, honey, when you knows what folks _is_, don't let's
worry. Ye can't fill a quart-cup out of a thimble, honey, no way you can
fix it. There's just whar 'tis. I knowed your ma, and I's knowed Miss
Loo, ever since she was a girl. 'Pears like they wan't no more alike
than snow is like sugar. Miss Loo, when she was a girl, she was that
pretty that everybody was wondering after her; but to de love, dat ar
went after your ma. Couldn't tell why it was, honey. 'Peared like Miss
Loo wan't techy, nor she wan't one of your bursting-out sort, scolding
round. 'Peared like she'd never hurt nobody; and yet our people, they
couldn't none of dem bar her. 'Peared like nobody did nothing for her
with a will."

"Well, good reason!" said Nina; "she never did anything for anybody else
with a will! She never cared for anybody! Now, I'm selfish; I always
knew it. I do a great many selfish things; but it's a different kind
from hers. Do you know, Milly, she don't seem to know she is selfish?
There she sits, rocking in her old chair, so sure she's going straight
to heaven, and don't care whether anybody else gets there or not!"

"Oh laws, now, Miss Nina, you's too hard on her. Why, look how patient
she sits with Tomtit, teaching him his hymns and varses."

"And you think that's because she cares anything about him? Do you know
she thinks he isn't fit to go to heaven, and that if he dies he'll go to
the bad place. And yet, if he was to die to-morrow, she'd talk to you
about clear-starching her caps! No wonder the child don't love her! She
talks to him just as she does to me; tells him she don't expect anything
of him--she knows he'll never come to any good; and the little wretch
has got it by heart, now. Do you know that, though I get in a passion
with Tom, sometimes, and though I'm sure I should perish sitting boring
with him over those old books, yet I really believe I care more for him
than she does? And he knows it, too. He sees through her as plain as I
do. You'll never make me believe that Aunt Nesbit has got religion. I
know there is such a thing as religion; but she hasn't got it. It isn't
all being sober, and crackling old stiff religious newspapers, and
boring with texts and hymns, that makes people religious. She is just as
worldly-minded as I am, only it's in another way. There, now, I wanted
her to advise me about something, to-day. Why, Milly, all girls want
somebody to talk with; and if she'd only showed the least interest in
what I said, she might scold me and lecture me as much as she'd a mind
to. But, to have her not even hear me! And when she must have seen that
I was troubled and perplexed, and wanted somebody to advise me, she
turned round so cool, and began to talk about the onions and the
stuffing! Got me so angry! I suppose she is in her room, now, rocking,
and thinking what a sinner I am!"

"Well, now, Miss Nina, 'pears though you've talked enough about dat ar;
'pears like it won't make you feel no better."

"Yes it _does_ make me feel better! I had to speak to somebody, Milly,
or else I should have burst; and now I wonder where Harry is. He always
could find a way for me out of anything."

"He is gone over to see his wife, I think, Miss Nina."

"Oh, too bad! Do sent Tomtit after him, right away. Tell him that I want
him to come right home, this very minute--something very particular.
And, Milly, you just go and tell Old Hundred to get out the carriage and
horses, and I'll go over and drop a note in the post-office, myself. I
won't trust it to Tomtit; for I know he'll lose it."

"Miss Nina," said Milly, looking hesitatingly, "I 'spect you don't know
how things go about round here; but the fact is, Old Hundred has got so
kind of cur'ous, lately, there can't nobody do nothing with him, except
Harry. Don't 'tend to do nothing Miss Loo tells him to. I's feared he'll
make up some story or other about the horses; but he won't get 'em
out--now, mind, I tell you, chile!"

"He won't! I should like to know if he won't, when I tell him to! A
pretty story that would be! I'll soon teach him that he has a live
mistress--somebody quite different from Aunt Loo!"

"Well, well, chile, perhaps you'd better go. He wouldn't mind me, I
know. Maybe he'll do it for you."

"Oh, yes; I'll just run down to his house, and hurry him up." And Nina,
quite restored to her usual good-humor, tripped gayly across to the
cabin of Old Hundred, that stood the other side of the house.

Old Hundred's true name was, in fact, John. But he had derived the
appellation, by which he was always known, from the extreme moderation
of all his movements. Old Hundred had a double share of that profound
sense of the dignity of his office which is an attribute of the tribe of
coachmen in general. He seemed to consider the horses and carriage as a
sort of family ark, of which he was the high priest, and which it was
his business to save from desecration. According to his own showing,
all the people on the plantation, and indeed the whole world in general,
were in a state of habitual conspiracy against the family carriage and
horses, and he was standing for them, single-handed, at the risk of his
life. It was as much part of his duty, in virtue of his office, to show
cause, on every occasion, why the carriage should _not_ be used, as it
is for state attorneys to undertake prosecutions. And it was also a part
of the accomplishment of his situation to conduct his refusal in the
most decorous manner; always showing that it was only the utter
impossibility of the case which prevented. The available grounds of
refusal Old Hundred had made a life-study, and had always a store of
them cut and dried for use, all ready at a moment's notice. In the first
place, there were always a number of impossibilities with regard to the
carriage. Either "it was muddy, and he was laying out to wash it;" or
else "he had washed it, and couldn't have it splashed;" or "he had taken
out the back curtain, and had laid out to put a stitch in it, one of
dese yer days;" or there was something the matter with the irons. "He
reckoned they was a little bit sprung." He "'lowed he'd ask the
blacksmith about it, some of dese yer times." And then as to the horses
the possibilities were rich and abundant. What with strains, and loose
shoes, and stones getting in at the hoofs, dangers of all sorts of
complaints, for which he had his own vocabulary of names, it was next to
an impossibility, according to any ordinary rule of computing chances,
that the two should be in complete order together.

Utterly ignorant, however, of the magnitude of the undertaking which she
was attempting, and buoyant with the consciousness of authority, Nina
tripped singing along, and found Old Hundred tranquilly reclining in his
tent-door, watching through his half-shut eyes, while the afternoon
sunbeam irradiated the smoke which rose from the old pipe between his
teeth. A large, black, one-eyed crow sat perching, with a quizzical air,
upon his knee; and when he heard Nina's footsteps approaching, cocked
his remaining eye towards her, with a smart, observing attitude, as if
he had been deputed to look out for applications while his master dozed.
Between this crow, who had received the sobriquet of Uncle Jeff, and his
master, there existed a most particular bond of friendship and amity.
This was further strengthened by the fact that they were both equally
disliked by all the inhabitants of the place. Like many people who are
called to stand in responsible positions, Old Hundred had rather failed
in the humble virtues, and become dogmatical and dictatorial to that
degree that nobody but his own wife could do anything with him. And as
to Jeff, if the principle of thievery could be incarnate, he might have
won a temple among the Lacedemonians. In various skirmishes and battles
consequent on his misdeeds, Jeff had lost an eye, and had a considerable
portion of the feathers scalded off on one side of his head; while the
remaining ones, discomposed by the incident, ever after stood up in a
protesting attitude, imparting something still more sinister to his
goblin appearance. In another rencounter he had received a permanent
twist in the neck, which gave him always the appearance of looking over
his shoulder, and added not a little to the oddity of the general
effect. Uncle Jeff thieved with an assiduity and skill which were worthy
of a better cause; and, when not upon any serious enterprise of this
kind, employed his time in pulling up corn, scratching up newly-planted
flower-seeds, tangling yarn, pulling out knitting-needles, pecking the
eyes of sleeping people, scratching and biting children, and any other
little miscellaneous mischief which occurred to him. He was invaluable
to Old Hundred, because he was a standing apology for any and all
discoveries made on his premises of things which ought not to have been
there. No matter what was brought to light,--whether spoons from the
great house, or a pair of sleeve-buttons, or a handkerchief, or a pipe
from a neighboring cabin,--Jeff was always called up to answer. Old
Hundred regularly scolded, on these occasions, and declared he was
enough to "spile the character of any man's house." And Jeff would look
at him comically over the shoulder, and wink his remaining eye, as much
as to say that the scolding was a settled thing between them, and that
he wasn't going to take it at all in ill part.

"Uncle John," said Nina, "I want you to get the carriage out for me,
right away. I want to take a ride over the cross run."

"Laws bless you sweet face, honey, chile, I's dreadful sorry; but you
can't do it dis yer day."

"Can't do it! Why not?"

"Why, bless you, chile, it an't possible, no way. Can't have the
carriage and hosses dis yer arternoon."

"But I _must_ go over to cross run to the post-office. I must go this
minute!"

"Law, chile, you can't do it! fur you can't walk, and it's sartain you
can't ride, because dese yer hosses, nor dis yer carriage, can't stir
out dis yer arternoon, no way you can fix it. Mout go, perhaps,
to-morrow, or next week."

"Oh, Uncle John, I don't believe a word of it! I want them this
afternoon, and I say I _must_ have them!"

"No, you can't, chile," said Old Hundred, in a tender, condescending
tone, as if he was speaking to a baby. "I tell you dat ar is impossible.
Why, bless your soul, Miss Nina, de curtains is all off de carriage!"

"Well, put them on again, then!"

"Ah, Miss Nina, dat ar an't all. Pete was desperate sick, last night;
took with de thumps, powerful bad. Why, Miss Nina, he was dat sick I had
to be up with him most all night!" And, while Old Hundred thus adroitly
issued this little work of fiction, the raven nodded waggishly at Nina,
as much as to say, "You hear that fellow, now!"

Nina stood quite perplexed, biting her lips, and Old Hundred seemed to
go into a profound slumber.

"I don't believe but what the horses can go to-day! I mean to go and
look."

"Laws, honey, chile, ye can't, now; de do's is all locked, and I've got
de key in my pocket. Every one of dem critturs would have been killed
forty times over 'fore now. I think everybody in dis yer world is arter
dem dar critturs. Miss Loo, she's wanting 'em to go one way, and Harry's
allers usin' de critturs. Got one out, dis yer arternoon, riding over to
see his wife. Don't see no use in his riding round so grand, noway!
Laws, Miss Nina, your pa used to say to me, says he, 'Uncle John, you
knows more about dem critturs dan I do; and, now I tell you what it is,
Uncle John--you take care of dem critturs; don't you let nobody kill 'em
for nothing.' Now, Miss Nina, I's always a walking in the steps of the
colonel's 'rections. Now, good, clar, bright weather, over good roads,
I likes to trot the critturs out. Dat ar is reasonable. But, den, what
roads is over the cross run, I want to know? Dem dere roads is de most
mis'ablest things you ever did see. Mud! Hi! Ought for to see de mud
down dar by de creek! Why, de bridge all tared off! Man drowned in dat
dar creek once! Was so! It an't no sort of road for young ladies to go
over. Tell you, Miss Nina; why don' you let Harry carry your letter
over? If he must be ridin' round de country, don't see why he couldn't
do some good wid his ridin'. Why, de carriage wouldn't get over before
ten o'clock, dis yer night! Now, mine, I tell you. Besides, it's gwine
fur to rain. I's been feeling dat ar in my corns, all dis yer morning;
and Jeff, he's been acting like the berry debil hisself--de way he
always does 'fore it rains. Never knowed dat ar sign to fail."

"The short of the matter is, Uncle John, you are determined not to go,"
said Nina. "But I tell you you _shall_ go!--there, now! Now, do you get
up immediately, and get out those horses!"

Old Hundred still sat quiet, smoking; and Nina, after reiterating her
orders till she got thoroughly angry, began, at last, to ask herself the
question, how she was going to carry them into execution. Old Hundred
appeared to have descended into himself in a profound reverie, and
betrayed not the smallest sign of hearing anything she said.

"I wish Harry would come back quick," she said to herself as she
pensively retraced her steps through the garden; but Tomtit had taken
the commission to go for him in his usual leisurely way spending the
greater part of the afternoon on the road.

"Now, an't you ashamed of yourself, you mean old nigger!" said Aunt
Rose, the wife of Old Hundred, who had been listening to the
conversation; "talking 'bout de creek, and de mud, and de critturs, and
Lor knows what all, when we all knows it's nothing but your laziness!"

"Well," said Old Hundred, "and what would come o' the critturs if I
wasn't lazy, I want to know? Laziness! it's the berry best thing for the
critturs can be. Where'd dem horses a been now, if I had been one of
your highfelutin sort, always driving round? Where'd dey a been, and
what would dey a been, hey? Who wants to see hosses all skin and bone?
Lord! if I had been like some o' de coachmen, de buzzards would have had
the picking of dem critturs, long ago!"

"I rally believe that you've told dem dar lies till you begin to believe
them yourself!" said Rose. "Telling our dear, sweet young lady about
your being up with Pete all night, when de Lord knows you laid here
snoring fit to tar de roof off!"

"Well, must say something! Folks must be 'spectful to de ladies. Course
I couldn't tell her I _wouldn't_ take de critturs out; so I just trots
out scuse. Ah! lots of dem scuses I keeps! I tell you, now, scuses is
excellent things. Why, scuses is like dis yer grease that keeps de
wheels from screaking. Lord bless you, de whole world turns round on
scuses. Whar de world be if everybody was such fools to tell the raal
reason for everything they are gwine for to do, or an't gwine fur to!"



CHAPTER VII.

CONSULTATION.


"Oh, Harry, I'm so glad to see you back! In such trouble as I've been
to-day! Don't you think, this very morning, as I was sitting in Aunt
Nesbit's room, Tomtit brought up these two letters; and one of them is
from Clayton, and the other from Mr. Carson; and, now, see here what
Clayton says: 'I shall have business that will take me in your vicinity
next week; and it is quite possible, unless I hear from you to the
contrary, that you may see me at Canema next Friday or Saturday.' Well,
then, see here; there's another from Mr. Carson,--that hateful Carson!
Now, you see, he hasn't got my letter; says he is coming. What
impudence! I'm tired to death of that creature, and he'll be here just
as certain! Disagreeable people always do keep their promises! He'll
certainly be here!"

"Well, Miss Nina, you recollect you said you thought it would be good
fun."

"Oh, Harry, don't bring that up, I beg of you! The fact is, Harry, I've
altered my mind about that. You know I've put a stop to all those
foolish things at once, and am done with them. You know I wrote to
Carson and Emmons, both, that my sentiments had changed, and all that
sort of thing, that the girls always say. I'm going to dismiss all of
'em at once, and have no more fooling."

"What, all? Mr. Clayton and all?"

"Well, I don't know, exactly,--no. Do you know, Harry, I think his
letters are rather improving?--at least, they are different letters from
any I've got before; and, though I don't think I shall break my heart
after him, yet I like to get them. But the other two I'm sick to death
of; and, as for having that creature boring round here, I won't! At any
rate, I don't want him and Clayton here together. I wouldn't have them
together for the world; and I wrote a letter to keep Carson off, this
morning, and I've been in trouble all day. Everybody has plagued me.
Aunt Nesbit only gave me one of her mopy lectures about flirting, and
wouldn't help me in the least. And, then, Old Hundred: I wanted him to
get out the carriage and horses for me to go over and put this letter in
the office, and I never saw such a creature in my life! I can't make him
do anything! I should like to know what the use is of having servants,
if you can't get anything done!"

"Oh, as to Old Hundred, I understand him, and he understands me," said
Harry. "I never find any trouble with him; but he is a provoking old
creature. He stands very much on the dignity of his office. But, if you
want your letter carried to-night, I can contrive a safer way than that,
if you'll trust it to me."

"Ah! well, do take it!"

"Yes," said Harry, "I'll send a messenger across on horseback, and I
have means to make him faithful."

"Well, Harry, Harry!" said Nina, catching at his sleeve as he was going
out, "come back again, won't you? I want to talk to you."

During Harry's absence, our heroine drew a letter from her bosom, and
read it over.

"How well he writes!" she said to herself. "So different from the rest
of them! I wish he'd keep away from here,--that's what I do! It's a
pretty thing to get his letters, but I don't think I want to see _him_.
Oh, dear! I wish I had somebody to talk to about it--Aunt Nesbit is _so_
cross! I can't--no, I won't care about him! Harry is a kind soul."

"Ah, Harry, have you sent the letter?" said she eagerly as he entered.

"I have, Miss Nina; but I can't flatter you too much. I'm afraid it's
too late for the mail--though there's never any saying when the mail
goes out, within two or three hours."

"Well, I hope it will stay for me, once. If that stupid creature comes,
why, I don't know what I shall do! He's so presuming! and he'll squeak
about with those horrid shoes of his; and then, I suppose, it will all
come out, one way or another; and I don't know what Clayton will think."

"But I thought you didn't care _what_ he thought."

"Well, you know, he's been writing to me all about his family. There's
his father, is a very distinguished man, of a very old family; and he's
been writing to me about his sister, the most dreadfully sensible
sister, he has got--good, lovely, accomplished, and pious! Oh, dear me!
I don't know what in the world he ever thought of _me_ for! And, do you
think, there's a postscript from his sister, written elegantly as can
be!"

"As to family, Miss Nina," said Harry, "I think the Gordons can hold up
their heads with anybody; and, then, I rather think you'll like Miss
Clayton."

"Ah! but, then, Harry, this talking about fathers and sisters, it's
bringing the thing awfully _near!_ It looks so much, you know, as if I
really were caught. Do you know, Harry, I think I'm just like my pony?
You know, she likes to have you come and offer her corn, and stroke her
neck; and she likes to _make you believe_ she's going to let you catch
her; but when it comes to putting a bridle on her, she's off in a
minute. Now, that's the way with me. It's rather exciting, you know,
these beaux, and love-letters, and talking sentiment, going to the
opera, and taking rides on horseback, and all that. But, when men get to
talking about their fathers, and their sisters, and to act as if they
were sure of me, I'm just like Sylfine--I want to be off. You know,
Harry, I think it's a very serious thing, this being married. It's
dreadful! I don't want to be a woman grown. I wish _I_ could always be a
girl, and live just as I have lived, and have plenty more girls come and
see me, and have fun. I haven't been a bit happy lately, not a bit; and
I never was unhappy before in my life."

"Well, why don't you write to Mr. Clayton, and break it all off, if you
feel so about it?"

"Well, why don't I? I don't know. I've had a great mind to do it; but
I'm afraid I should feel worse than I do now. He's coming just like a
great dark shadow over my life, and everything is beginning to feel so
real to me! I don't want to take up life in earnest. I read a story,
once, about Undine; and, do you know, Harry, I think I feel just as
Undine did, when she felt her soul coming in her?"

"And is Clayton Knight Heldebound?" said Harry, smiling.

"I don't know. What if he should be? Now, Harry, you see the fact is
that sensible men get their heads turned by such kind of girls as I am;
and they pet us, and humor us. But, then, I'm afraid they're thinking,
all the while, that their turn to rule is coming, by and by. They marry
us because they think they are going to make us over; and what I'm
afraid of is, I never _can_ be made over. Don't think I was cut out
right in the first place; and there never will be much more of me than
there is now. And he'll be comparing me with his pattern sister; and I
shan't be any the more amiable for that. Now, his sister is what folks
call highly-educated, you know, Harry. She understands all about
literature, and everything. As for me, I've just cultivation enough to
appreciate a fine horse--that's the extent. And yet I'm proud. I
wouldn't wish to stand second, in his opinion, even to his sister. So,
there it is. That's the way with us girls! We are always wanting what we
know we ought not to have, and are not willing to take the trouble to
get."

"Miss Nina, if you'll let me speak my mind out frankly, now, I want to
offer one piece of advice. Just be perfectly true and open with Mr.
Clayton; and if he and Mr. Carson should come together, just tell him
frankly how the matter stands. You are a Gordon, and they say truth
always runs in the Gordon blood; and now, Miss Nina, you are no longer a
school-girl, but a young lady at the head of the estate."

He stopped, and hesitated.

"Well, Harry, you needn't stop. I understand you--got a few grains of
sense left, I hope, and haven't got so many friends that I can afford to
get angry with you for nothing."

"I suppose," said Harry, thoughtfully, "that your aunt will be well
enough to be down to the table. Have you told her how matters stand?"

"Who? Aunt Loo? Catch me telling her anything! No, Harry, I've got to
stand all alone. I haven't any mother, and I haven't any sister; and
Aunt Loo is worse than nobody, because it's provoking to have somebody
round that you feel might take an interest, and ought to, and don't care
a red cent for you. Well, I declare, if I'm not much,--if I'm not such
a model as Miss Clayton, there,--how could any one expect it, when I
have just come up by myself, first at the plantation, here, and then at
that French boarding-school? I tell you what, Harry, boarding-schools
are not what they're cried up to be. It's good fun, no doubt, but we
never learnt anything there. That is to say, we never learnt it
internally, but had it just rubbed on to us outside. A girl can't help,
of course, learning something; and I've learnt just what I happened to
like and couldn't help, and a deal that isn't of the most edifying
nature besides."

Well! we shall see what will come!



CHAPTER VIII.

OLD TIFF.


"I say, Tiff, _do_ you think he will come, to-night?"

"Laws, laws, Missis, how can Tiff tell? I's been a gazin' out de do'.
Don't see nor hear nothin'."

"It's so lonesome!--_so_ lonesome!--and the nights so long!"

And the speaker, an emaciated, feeble little woman, turned herself
uneasily on the ragged pallet where she was lying, and, twirling her
slender fingers nervously, gazed up at the rough, unplastered beams
above.

The room was of the coarsest and rudest cast. The hut was framed of
rough pine logs, filled between the crevices with mud and straw; the
floor made of rough-split planks, unevenly jointed together; the window
was formed by some single panes arranged in a row where a gap had been
made in one of the logs. At one end was a rude chimney of sticks, where
smouldered a fire of pine-cones and brushwood, covered over with a light
coat of white ashes. On the mantel over it was a shelf, which displayed
sundry vials, a cracked teapot and tumbler, some medicinal-looking
packages, a turkey's wing, much abridged and defaced by frequent usage,
some bundles of dry herbs, and lastly a gayly-painted mug of coarse
crockery-ware, containing a bunch of wild-flowers. On pegs, driven into
the logs, were arranged different articles of female attire, and divers
little coats and dresses, which belonged to smaller wearers, with now
and then soiled and coarse articles of man's apparel.

The woman, who lay upon a coarse chaff pallet in the corner, was one who
once might have been pretty. Her skin was fair, her hair soft and
curling, her eyes of a beautiful blue, her hands thin and transparent as
pearl. But the deep, dark circles under the eyes, the thin, white lips,
the attenuated limbs, the hurried breathing, and the burning spots in
the cheek, told that, whatever she might have been, she was now not long
for this world.

Beside her bed was sitting an old negro, in whose close-curling wool age
had began to sprinkle flecks of white. His countenance presented,
physically, one of the most uncomely specimens of negro features; and
would have been positively frightful, had it not been redeemed by an
expression of cheerful kindliness which beamed from it. His face was of
ebony blackness, with a wide, upturned nose, a mouth of portentous size,
guarded by clumsy lips, revealing teeth which a shark might have envied.
The only fine feature was his large, black eyes, which, at the present,
were concealed by a huge pair of plated spectacles, placed very low upon
his nose, and through which he was directing his sight upon a child's
stocking, that he was busily darning. At his foot was a rude cradle,
made of a gum-tree log, hollowed out into a trough, and wadded by
various old fragments of flannel, in which slept a very young infant.
Another child, of about three years of age, was sitting on the negro's
knee, busily playing with some pine-cones and mosses.

The figure of the old negro was low and stooping; and he wore, pinned
round his shoulders, a half-handkerchief or shawl of red flannel,
arranged much as an old woman would have arranged it. One or two
needles, with coarse, black thread dangling to them, were stuck in on
his shoulder; and as he busily darned on the little stocking, he kept up
a kind of droning intermixture of chanting and talking to the child on
his knee.

"So, ho, Teddy!--bub dar!--my man!--sit still!--cause yer ma's sick, and
sister's gone for medicine. Dar, Tiff'll sing to his little man.


     'Christ was born in Bethlehem,
     Christ was born in Bethlehem,
              And in a manger laid.'


Take car, dar!--dat ar needle scratch yer little fingers!--poor little
fingers! Ah, be still, now!--play wid yer pretty tings, and see what yer
pa'll bring ye!"

"Oh, dear me!--well!" said the woman on the bed, "I shall give up!"

"Bress de Lord, no, missis!" said Tiff, laying down the stocking, and
holding the child to him with one hand, while the other was busy in
patting and arranging the bedclothes. "No use in givin' up! Why, Lord
bress you, missis, we'll be all up right agin in a few days. Work has
been kinder pressin', lately, and chil'ns clothes an't quite so
'speckable; but den I's doin' heaps o' mendin'. See dat ar!" said he,
holding up a slip of red flannel, resplendent with a black patch, "dat
ar hole won't go no furder--and it does well enough for Teddy to wear
rollin' round de do', and such like times, to save his bettermost. And
de way I's put de yarn in dese yer stockings an't slow. Den I's laid out
to take a stitch in Teddy's shoes; and dat ar hole in de kiverlet, dat
ar'll be stopped 'fore morning. Oh, let me alone!--he! he! he!--Ye
didn't keep Tiff for nothing, missis--ho, ho, ho!" And the black face
seemed really to become unctuous with the oil of gladness, as Tiff
proceeded in his work of consolation.

"Oh, Tiff, Tiff! you're a good creature! But you don't know. Here I've
been lying alone day after day, and he off, nobody knows where! And when
he comes, it'll be only a day, and he's off; and all he does don't
amount to anything--all miserable rubbish brought home and traded off
for other rubbish. Oh, what a fool I was for being married! Oh, dear!
girls little know what marriage is! I thought it was so dreadful to be
an old maid, and a pretty thing to get married! But, oh, the pain, and
worry, and sickness, and suffering, I've gone through!--always wandering
from place to place, never settled; one thing going after another,
worrying, watching, weary,--and all for nothing, for I am worn out, and
I shall die!"

"Oh, Lord, no!" said Tiff, earnestly. "Lor, Tiff'll make ye some tea,
and give it to ye, ye poor lamb! It's drefful hard, so 'tis; but
times'll mend, and massa'll come round and be more settled, like, and
Teddy will grow up and help his ma; and I'm sure dere isn't a pearter
young un dan dis yer puppet!" said he, turning fondly to the trough
where the little fat, red mass of incipient humanity was beginning to
throw up two small fists, and to utter sundry small squeaks, to intimate
his desire to come into notice.

"Lor, now," said he, adroitly depositing Teddy on the floor, and taking
up the baby, whom he regarded fondly through his great spectacles;
"stretch away, my pretty! stretch away! ho-e-ho! Lor, if he hasn't got
his mammy's eye, for all dis worl! Ah, brave! See him, missis!" said he,
laying the little bundle on the bed by her. "Did ye ever see a peartier
young un? He, he, he! Dar, now, his mammy should take him, so she
should! and Tiff'll make mammy some tea, so he will!" And Tiff, in a
moment, was on his knees, carefully laying together the ends of the
burned sticks, and blowing a cloud of white ashes, which powdered his
woolly head and red shawl like snow-flakes, while Teddy was busy in
pulling the needles out of some knitting-work which hung in a bag by the
fire.

Tiff, having started the fire by blowing, proceeded very carefully to
adjust upon it a small, black porringer of water, singing, as he did
so,--


     "My way is dark and cloudy,
                      So it is, so it is;
     My way is dark and cloudy,
                         All de day."


Then, rising from his work, he saw that the poor, weak mother had
clasped the baby to her bosom, and was sobbing very quietly. Tiff, as he
stood there, with his short, square, ungainly figure, his long arms
hanging out from his side like bows, his back covered by the red shawl,
looked much like a compassionate tortoise standing on its hind legs. He
looked pitifully at the sight, took off his glasses and wiped his eyes,
and lifted up his voice in another stave:--


     "But we'll join de forty tousand, by and by,
                                      So we will, so we will.
     We'll join de forty tousand, upon de golden shore,
     And our sorrows will be gone forevermore, more, more."


"Bress my soul, Mas'r Teddy! now us been haulin' out de needles from
Miss Fanny's work! dat ar an't purty, now! Tiff'll be 'shamed of ye, and
ye do like dat when yer ma's sick! Don't ye know ye must be good, else
Tiff won't tell ye no stories! Dar, now, sit down on dis yere log; dat
ar's just the nicest log! plenty o' moss on it yer can be a pickin' out!
Now, yer sit still dar, and don't be interruptin' yer ma."

The urchin opened a wide, round pair of blue eyes upon Tiff, looking as
if he were mesmerized, and sat, with a quiet, subdued air, upon his
log, while Tiff went fumbling about in a box in the corner. After some
rattling, he produced a pine-knot, as the daylight was fading fast in
the room, and, driving it into a crack in another log which stood by the
chimney corner, he proceeded busily to light it, muttering, as he did
so,--

"Want to make it more cheerful like."

Then he knelt down and blew the coals under the little porringer, which,
like pine-coals in general, always sulked and looked black when somebody
was not blowing them. He blew vigorously, regardless of the clouds of
ashes which encircled him, and which settled even on the tips of his
eyelashes, and balanced themselves on the end of his nose.

"Bress de Lord, I's dreadful strong in my breff! Lord, dey might have
used me in blacksmissin! I's kep dis yer chimney a gwine dis many a day.
I wonder, now, what keeps Miss Fanny out so long."

And Tiff rose up with the greatest precaution, and glancing every moment
towards the bed, and almost tipping himself over in his anxiety to walk
softly, advanced to the rude door, which opened with a wooden latch and
string, opened it carefully, and looked out. Looking out with him, we
perceive that the little hut stands alone, in the heart of a dense pine
forest, which shuts it in on every side.

Tiff held the door open a few moments to listen. No sound was heard but
the shivering wind, swaying and surging in melancholy cadences through
the long pine-leaves,--a lonesome, wailing, uncertain sound.

"Ah! dese yer pine-trees! dey always a talkin'!" said Tiff to himself,
in a sort of soliloquy. "Whisper, whisper, whisper! De Lord knows what
it's all about! dey never tells folks what dey wants to know. Hark! da
is Foxy, as sure as I'm a livin' sinner! Ah! dar she is!" as a quick,
loud bark reverberated. "Ah, ha! Foxy! you'll bring her along!"
caressing a wolfish-looking, lean cur, who came bounding through the
trees.

"Ah, yer good-for-nothing! what makes yer run so fast, and leave yer
missus behind ye? Hark! what's dat!"

The clear voice came carolling gayly from out the pine-trees,


     "If you get there before I do--
     I'm bound for the land of Canaan."


Whereupon Tiff, kindling with enthusiasm, responded,--


     "Look out for me--I'm coming too--
     I'm bound for the land of Canaan."


The response was followed by a gay laugh, as a childish voice shouted,
from the woods,--

"Ha! Tiff, you there?"

And immediately a bold, bright, blue-eyed girl, of about eight years
old, came rushing forward.

"Lors, Miss Fannie, so grad you's come! Yer ma's powerful weak dis yer
arternoon!" And then, sinking his voice to a whisper, "Why, now, yer'd
better b'leve her sperits isn't the best! Why, she's that bad, Miss
Fannie, she actually been a cryin' when I put the baby in her arms.
Railly, I'm consarned, and I wish yer pa 'ud come home. Did yer bring de
medicine?"

"Ah, yes; here 'tis."

"Ah! so good! I was a makin' of her some tea, to set her up, like, and
I'll put a little drop of dis yer in't. You gwin, now, and speak to yer
ma, and I'll pick up a little light wood round here, and make up de
fire. Massa Teddy'll be powerful glad to see yer. Hope you's got him
something, too!"

The girl glided softly into the room, and stood over the bed where her
mother was lying.

"Mother, I've come home," said she, gently.

The poor, frail creature in the bed seemed to be in one of those
helpless hours of life's voyage, when all its waves and billows are
breaking over the soul; and while the little new-comer was blindly
rooting and striving at her breast, she had gathered the worn
counterpane over her face, and the bed was shaken by her sobbings.

"Mother! mother! mother!" said the child, softly touching her.

"Go away! go away, child! Oh, I wish I had never been born! I wish you
had never been born, nor Teddy, nor the baby! It's all nothing but
trouble and sorrow! Fanny, don't you ever marry! Mind what I tell you!"

The child stood frightened by the bedside, while Tiff had softly
deposited a handful of pine-wood near the fireplace, had taken off the
porringer, and was busily stirring and concocting something in an old
cracked china mug. As he stirred, a strain of indignation seemed to
cross his generally tranquil mind, for he often gave short sniffs and
grunts, indicative of extreme disgust, and muttered to himself,--

"Dis yer comes of quality marrying these yer poor white folks! Never had
no 'pinion on it, no way! Ah! do hear the poor lamb now! 'nough to break
one's heart!"

By this time, the stirring and flavoring being finished to his taste, he
came to the side of the bed, and began, in a coaxing tone,--

"Come, now, Miss Sue, come! You's all worn out! No wonder! dat ar great
fellow tugging at you! Bless his dear little soul, he's gaining half a
pound a week! Nough to pull down his ma entirely! Come, now; take a
little sup of this--just a little sup! Warm you up, and put a bit of
life in you; and den I 'spects to fry you a morsel of der chicken,
'cause a boy like dis yer can't be nursed on slops, dat I knows! Dere,
dere, honey!" said he, gently removing the babe, and passing his arm
under the pillow. "I's drefful strong in the back. My arm is long and
strong, and I'll raise you up just as easy! Take a good sup on it, now,
and wash dese troubles down. I reckon the good man above is looking down
on us all, and bring us all round right, some time."

The invalid, who seemed exhausted by the burst of feeling to which she
had been giving way, mechanically obeyed a voice to which she had always
been accustomed, and drank eagerly, as if with feverish thirst; and when
she had done, she suddenly threw her arms around the neck of her strange
attendant.

"Oh, Tiff, Tiff! poor old black, faithful Tiff! What should I have done
without you? So sick as I've been, and so weak, and so lonesome! But,
Tiff, it's coming to an end pretty soon. I've seen, to-night, that I
an't going to live long, and I've been crying to think the children have
got to live. If I could only take them all into my arms, and all lie
down in the grave together, I should be so glad! I never knew what God
made me for! I've never been fit for anything, nor done anything!"

Tiff seemed so utterly overcome by this appeal, his great spectacles
were fairly washed down in a flood of tears, and his broad, awkward
frame shook with sobs.

"Law bless you, Miss Sue, don't be talking dat ar way! Why, if de Lord
_should_ call you, Miss Sue, I can take care of the children. I can
bring them up powerful, I tell ye! But you _won't_ be a-going; you'll
get better! It's just the sperits is low; and, laws, why shouldn't dey
be?"

Just at this moment a loud barking was heard outside the house, together
with the rattle of wheels and the tramp of horses' feet.

"Dar's massa, sure as I'm alive!" said he, hastily laying down the
invalid, and arranging her pillows.

A rough voice called, "Hallo, Tiff! here with a light!"

Tiff caught the pine-knot, and ran to open the door. A strange-looking
vehicle, of a most unexampled composite order, was standing before the
door, drawn by a lean, one-eyed horse.

"Here, Tiff, help me out. I've got a lot of goods here. How's Sue?"

"Missis is powerful bad; been wanting to see you dis long time."

"Well, away, Tiff! take this out," indicating a long, rusty piece of
stove-pipe.

"Lay this in the house; and here!" handing a cast-iron stove-door, with
the latch broken.

"Law, Massa, what on earth is the use of dis yer?"

"Don't ask questions, Tiff; work away. Help me out with these boxes."

"What on arth now?" said Tiff to himself, as one rough case after
another was disgorged from the vehicle, and landed in the small cabin.
This being done, and orders being given to Tiff to look after the horse
and equipage, the man walked into the house, with a jolly, slashing air.

"Hallo, bub!" said he, lifting the two-year-old above his head. "Hallo,
Fan!" imprinting a kiss on the cheek of his girl. "Hallo, Sis!" coming
up to the bed where the invalid lay, and stooping down over her. Her
weak, wasted arms were thrown around his neck, and she said, with sudden
animation,

"Oh, you've come at last! I thought I should die without seeing you!"

"Oh, you an't a-going to die, Sis! Why, what talk!" said he, chucking
her under the chin. "Why, your cheeks are as red as roses!"

"Pa, see the baby!" said little Teddy, who, having climbed over the
bed, opened the flannel bundle.

"Ah! Sis, I call that ar a tolerable fair stroke of business! Well, I
tell _you_ what, I've done up a trade now that will set us up and no
mistake. Besides which, I've got something now in my coat-pocket that
would raise a dead cat to life, if she was lying at the bottom of a
pond, with a stone round her neck! See here! 'Dr. Puffer's Elixir of the
Water of Life!' warranted to cure janders, toothache, earache, scrofula,
speptia, 'sumption, and everything else that ever I hearn of! A
teaspoonful of that ar, morn and night, and in a week you'll be round
agin, as pert as a cricket!"

It was astonishing to see the change which the entrance of this man had
wrought on the invalid. All her apprehensions seemed to have vanished.
She sat up on the bed, following his every movement with her eyes, and
apparently placing full confidence in the new medicine, as if it were
the first time that ever a universal remedy had been proposed to her. It
must be noticed, however, that Tiff, who had returned, and was building
the fire, indulged himself, now and then, when the back of the speaker
was turned, by snuffing at him in a particularly contemptuous manner.
The man was a thick-set and not ill-looking personage, who might have
been forty or forty-five years of age. His eyes, of a clear, lively
brown, his close-curling hair, his high forehead, and a certain
devil-may-care frankness of expression, were traits not disagreeable,
and which went some way to account for the partial eagerness with which
the eye of the wife followed him.

The history of the pair is briefly told. He was the son of a small
farmer of North Carolina. His father, having been so unfortunate as to
obtain possession of a few negroes, the whole family became ever after
inspired with an intense disgust for all kinds of labor; and John, the
oldest son, adopted for himself the ancient and honorable profession of
a loafer. To lie idle in the sun in front of some small grog-shop, to
attend horse-races, cock-fights, and gander-pullings, to flout out
occasionally in a new waistcoat, bought with money which came nobody
knew how, were pleasures to him all-satisfactory. He was as guiltless of
all knowledge of common-school learning as Governor Berkley could
desire, and far more clear of religious training than a Mahometan or a
Hindoo.

In one of his rambling excursions through the country, he stopped a
night at a worn-out and broken-down old plantation, where everything had
run down, through many years of mismanagement and waste. There he stayed
certain days, playing cards with the equally hopeful son of the place,
and ended his performances by running away one night with the
soft-hearted daughter, only fifteen years of age, and who was full as
idle, careless, and untaught, as he.

The family, whom poverty could not teach to forget their pride, were
greatly scandalized at the marriage; and, had there been anything left
in the worn-out estate wherewith to portion her, the bride,
nevertheless, would have been portionless. The sole piece of property
that went out with her from the paternal mansion was one, who, having a
mind and will of his own, could not be kept from following her. The
girl's mother had come from a distant branch of one of the most
celebrated families in Virginia, and Tiff had been her servant; and,
with a heart forever swelling with the remembrances of the ancestral
greatness of the Peytons, he followed his young mistress in her
mésalliance with long-suffering devotion. He even bowed his neck so far
as to acknowledge for his master a man whom he considered by position
infinitely his inferior; for Tiff, though crooked and black, never
seemed to cherish the slightest doubt that the whole force of the Peyton
blood coursed through his veins, and that the Peyton honor was intrusted
to his keeping. His mistress was a Peyton, her children were Peyton
children, and even the little bundle of flannel in the gum-tree cradle
was a Peyton; and as for him, he was Tiff Peyton, and this thought
warmed and consoled him as he followed his poor mistress during all the
steps of her downward course in the world. On her husband he looked with
patronizing, civil contempt. He wished him well; he thought it proper to
put the best face on all his actions; but, in a confidential hour, Tiff
would sometimes raise his spectacles emphatically, and give it out, as
his own private opinion, "dat dere could not be much 'spected from dat
ar 'scription of people!"

In fact, the roving and unsettled nature of John Cripps's avocations
and locations might have justified the old fellow's contempt. His
industrial career might be defined as comprising a little of everything,
and a great deal of nothing. He had begun, successively, to learn two or
three trades; had half made a horse-shoe, and spoiled one or two
carpenter's planes; had tried his hand at stage-driving; had raised
fighting-cocks, and kept dogs for hunting negroes. But he invariably
retreated from every one of his avocations, in his own opinion a
much-abused man. The last device that had entered his head was suggested
by the success of a shrewd Yankee peddler, who, having a lot of damaged
and unsalable material to dispose of, talked him into the belief that he
possessed yet an undeveloped talent for trade; and poor John Cripps,
guiltless of multiplication or addition table, and who kept his
cock-fighting accounts on his fingers and by making chalk-marks behind
the doors, actually was made to believe that he had at last received his
true vocation.

In fact, there was something in the constant restlessness of this mode
of life that suited his roving turn; and, though he was constantly
buying what he could not sell, and losing on all that he did sell, yet
somehow he kept up an illusion that he was doing something, because
stray coins now and then passed through his pockets, and because the
circle of small taverns in which he could drink and loaf was
considerably larger. There was one resource which never failed him when
all other streams went dry; and that was the unceasing ingenuity and
fidelity of the bondman Tiff.

Tiff, in fact, appeared to be one of those comfortable old creatures,
who retain such a good understanding with all created nature that food
never is denied them. Fish would always bite on Tiff's hook when they
wouldn't on anybody's else; so that he was wont confidently to call the
nearest stream "Tiff's pork-barrel." Hens always laid eggs for Tiff, and
cackled to him confidentially where they were deposited. Turkeys gobbled
and strutted for him, and led forth for him broods of downy little ones.
All sorts of wild game, squirrels, rabbits, coons, and possums, appeared
to come with pleasure and put themselves into his traps and springes; so
that, where another man might starve, Tiff would look round him with
unctuous satisfaction, contemplating all nature as his larder, where
his provisions were wearing fur coats, and walking about on four legs,
only for safe keeping till he got ready to eat them. So that Cripps
never came home without anticipation of something savory, even although
he had drank up his last quarter of a dollar at the tavern. This suited
Cripps. He thought Tiff was doing his duty, and occasionally brought him
home some unsalable bit of rubbish, by way of testimonial of the sense
he entertained of his worth. The spectacles in which Tiff gloried came
to him in this manner; and, although it might have been made to appear
that the glasses were only plain window-glass, Tiff was happily ignorant
that they were not the best of convex lenses, and still happier in the
fact that his strong, unimpaired eyesight made any glasses at all
entirely unnecessary. It was only an aristocratic weakness in Tiff.
Spectacles he somehow considered the mark of a gentleman, and an
appropriate symbol for one who had "been fetched up in the very fustest
families of Old Virginny."

He deemed them more particularly appropriate, as, in addition to his
manifold outward duties, he likewise assumed, as the reader has seen,
some feminine accomplishments. Tiff could darn a stocking with anybody
in the country; he could cut out children's dresses and aprons; he could
patch, and he could seam; all which he did with infinite
self-satisfaction.

Notwithstanding the many crooks and crosses in his lot, Tiff was, on the
whole, a cheery fellow. He had an oily, rollicking fulness of nature, an
exuberance of physical satisfaction in existence, that the greatest
weight of adversity could only tone down to becoming sobriety. He was on
the happiest terms of fellowship with himself; he _liked_ himself, he
believed in himself; and, when nobody else would do it, he would pat
himself on his own shoulder, and say, "Tiff, you're a jolly dog, a fine
fellow, and I like you!" He was seldom without a running strain of
soliloquy with himself, intermingled with joyous bursts of song, and
quiet intervals of laughter. On pleasant days Tiff laughed a great deal.
He laughed when his beans came up, he laughed when the sun came out
after a storm, he laughed for fifty things that you never think of
laughing at; and it agreed with him--he throve upon it. In times of
trouble and perplexity, Tiff talked to himself, and found a counsellor
who always kept secrets. On the present occasion it was not without some
inward discontent that he took a survey of the remains of one of his
best-fatted chickens, which he had been intending to serve up,
piecemeal, for his mistress. So he relieved his mind by a little
confidential colloquy with himself.

"Dis yer," he said to himself, with a contemptuous inclination toward
the newly-arrived, "will be for eating like a judgment, I 'pose. Wish,
now, I had killed de old gobbler! Good enough for him--raal tough, he
is. Dis yer, now, was my primest chicken, and dar she'll jist sit and
see him eat it! Laws, dese yer women! Why, dey does get so sot on
husbands! Pity they couldn't have something like to be sot on! It jist
riles me to see him gobbling down everything, and she a-looking on!
Well, here goes," said he, depositing the frying-pan over the coals, in
which the chicken was soon fizzling. Drawing out the table, Tiff
prepared it for supper. Soon coffee was steaming over the fire, and
corn-dodgers baking in the ashes. Meanwhile, John Cripps was busy
explaining to his wife the celebrated wares that had so much raised his
spirits.

"Well, now, you see, Sue, this yer time I've been up to Raleigh; and I
met a fellow there, coming from New York, or New Orleans, or some of
them northern states."

"New Orleans isn't a northern state," humbly interposed his wife, "is
it?"

"Well, New something! Who the devil cares? Don't you be interrupting me,
you Suse!"

Could Cripps have seen the vengeful look which Tiff gave him over the
spectacles at this moment, he might have trembled for his supper. But,
innocent of this, he proceeded with his story.

"You see, this yer fellow had a case of bonnets just the height of the
fashion. They come from Paris, the capital of Europe; and he sold them
to me for a mere song. Ah, you ought to see 'em! I'm going to get 'em
out. Tiff, hold the candle, here." And Tiff held the burning torch with
an air of grim scepticism and disgust, while Cripps hammered and
wrenched the top boards off, and displayed to view a portentous array of
bonnets, apparently of every obsolete style and fashion of the last
fifty years.

"Dem's fust rate for scare-crows, anyhow!" muttered Tiff.

"Now, what," said Cripps,--"Sue, what do you think I gave for these?"

"I don't know," said she, faintly.

"Well, I gave fifteen dollars for the whole box! And there an't one of
these," said he, displaying the most singular specimen on his hand,
"that isn't worth from two to five dollars. I shall clear, at least,
fifty dollars on that box."

Tiff, at this moment, turned to his frying-pan, and bent over it,
soliloquizing as he did so,--

"Any way, I's found out one ting,--where de women gets dem roosts of
bonnets dey wars at camp-meetings. Laws, dey's enough to spile a work of
grace, dem ar! If I was to meet one of dem ar of a dark night in a
grave-yard, I should tink I was sent for--not the pleasantest way of
sending, neither. Poor missis!--looking mighty faint!--Don't
wonder!--'Nough to scarr a weakly woman into fits!"

"Here, Tiff, help me to open this box. Hold the light, here. Darned if
it don't come off hard! Here's a lot of shoes and boots I got of the
same man. Some on 'em's mates, and some an't; but, then, I took the lot
cheap. Folks don't always warr both shoes alike. Might like to warr an
odd one, sometimes, ef it's cheap. Now, this yer parr of boots is lady's
gaiters, all complete, 'cept there's a hole in the lining down by the
toe; body ought to be careful about putting it on, else the foot will
slip between the outside and the lining. Anybody that bears that in
mind--just as nice a pair of gaiters as they'd want! Bargain, there, for
somebody--complete one, too. Then I've got two or three old
bureau-drawers that I got cheap at auction; and I reckon some on 'em
will fit the old frame that I got last year. Got 'em for a mere song."

"Bless you, massa, dat ar old bureau I took for de chicken-coop!
Turkeys' chickens hops in lively."

"Oh, well, scrub it up--'twill answer just as well. Fit the drawers in.
And now, old woman, we will sit down to supper," said he, planting
himself at the table, and beginning a vigorous onslaught on the fried
chicken, without invitation to any other person present to assist him.

"Missis can't sit up at the table," said Tiff. "She's done been sick
ever since de baby was born." And Tiff approached the bed with a nice
morsel of chicken which he had providently preserved on a plate, and
which he now reverently presented on a board, as a waiter, covered with
newspaper.

"Now, do eat, missis; you can't live on looking, no ways you can fix it.
Do eat while Tiff gets on de baby's nightgown."

To please her old friend, the woman made a feint of eating, but, while
Tiff's back was turned to the fire, busied herself with distributing it
to the children, who had stood hungrily regarding her, as children will
regard what is put on to a sick mother's plate.

"It does me good to see them eat," she said, apologetically once, when
Tiff, turning round, detected her in the act.

"Ah, missis, may be! but _you've_ got to eat for _two_, now. What dey
eat an't going to dis yer little man, here. Mind dat ar."

Cripps apparently bestowed very small attention on anything except the
important business before him, which he prosecuted with such devotion
that very soon coffee, chicken, and dodgers, had all disappeared. Even
the bones were sucked dry, and the gravy wiped from the dish.

"Ah, that's what I call comfortable!" said he, lying back in his chair.
"Tiff, pull my boots off! and hand out that ar demijohn. Sue, I hope
you've made a comfortable meal," he said, incidentally, standing with
his back to her, compounding his potation of whiskey and water; which
having drank, he called up Teddy, and offered him the sugar at the
bottom of the glass. But Teddy, being forewarned by a meaning glance
through Tiff's spectacles, responded, very politely,--

"No, I thank you, pa. I don't love it."

"Come here, then, and take it off like a man. It's good for you," said
John Cripps.

The mother's eyes followed the child wishfully; and she said, faintly,
"Don't John!--don't!" And Tiff ended the controversy by taking the glass
unceremoniously out of his master's hand.

"Laws bless you, massa, can't be bodered with dese yer young ones dis
yer time of night! Time dey's all in bed, and dishes washed up. Here,
Tedd," seizing the child, and loosening the buttons of his slip behind,
and drawing out a rough trundle-bed, "you crawl in dere, and curl up in
your nest; and don't you forget your prars, honey, else maybe you'll
never wake up again."

Cripps had now filled a pipe with tobacco of the most villainous
character, with which incense he was perfuming the little apartment.

"Laws, massa, dat ar smoke an't good for missis," said Tiff. "She done
been sick to her stomach all day."

"Oh, let him smoke! I like to have him enjoy himself," said the
indulgent wife. "But, Fanny, you had better go to bed, dear. Come here
and kiss me, child; good-night,--good-night!"

The mother held on to her long, and looked at her wishfully; and when
she had turned to go, she drew her back, and kissed her again, and said,
"Good-night, dear child, good-night!"

Fanny climbed up a ladder in one corner of the room, through a square
hole, to the loft above.

"I say," said Cripps, taking his pipe out of his mouth, and looking at
Tiff, who was busy washing the dishes, "I say it's kind of peculiar that
gal keeps sick so. Seemed to have good constitution when I married her.
I'm thinking," said he, without noticing the gathering wrath in Tiff's
face, "I'm a-thinking whether steamin' wouldn't do her good. Now, I got
a most dreadful cold when I was up at Raleigh--thought I should have
given up; and there was a steam-doctor there. Had a little kind of
machine, with kettle and pipes, and he put me in a bed, put in the
pipes, and set it a-going. I thought, my soul, I should have been
floated off; but it carried off the cold, complete. I'm thinking if
something of that kind wouldn't be good for Miss Cripps."

"Laws, massa, don't go for to trying it on her! She is never no better
for dese yer things you do for her."

"Now," said Cripps, not appearing to notice the interruption, "these yer
stove-pipes, and the tea-kettle,--I shouldn't wonder if we could get up
a steam with them!"

"It's my private 'pinion, if you do, she'll be sailing out of the
world," said Tiff. "What's one man's meat is another one's pisin, my
old mis's used to say. Very best thing you can do for her is to let her
alone. Dat ar is my 'pinion."

"John," said the little woman, after a few minutes, "I wish you'd come
here, and sit on the bed."

There was something positive, and almost authoritative, in the manner in
which this was said, which struck John as so unusual, that he came with
a bewildered air, sat down, and gazed at her with his mouth wide open.

"I'm so glad you've come home, because I have had things that I've
wanted to say to you! I've been lying here thinking about it, and I have
been turning it over in my mind. I'm going to die soon, I know."

"Ah! bah! Don't be bothering a fellow with any of your hysterics!"

"John, John! it isn't hysterics! Look at me! Look at my hand! look at my
face! I'm so weak, and sometimes I have such coughing spells, and every
time it seems to me as if I should die. But it an't to trouble you that
I talk. I don't care about myself, but I don't want the children to grow
up and be like what we've been. You have a great many contrivances; do,
pray, contrive to have them taught to read, and make something of them
in the world."

"Bah! what's the use? I never learnt to read, and I'm as good a fellow
as I want. Why, there's plenty of men round here making their money,
every year, that can't read or write a word. Old Hubell, there, up on
the Shad plantation, has hauled in money, hand over hand, and he always
signs his mark. Got nine sons--can't a soul of them read or write, more
than I. I tell you there's nothing ever comes of this yer larning. It's
all a sell--a regular Yankee hoax! I've always got cheated by them damn
reading, writing Yankees, whenever I've traded with 'em. What's the
good, I want to know! You was teached how to read when you was
young--much good it's ever done you!"

"Sure enough! Sick day and night, moving about from place to place, sick
baby crying, and not knowing what to do for it no more than a child! Oh,
I hope Fanny will learn something! It seems to me, if there was some
school for my children to go to, or some church, or something--now, _if
there is_ any such place as heaven, I should like to have them get to
it."

"Ah! bah! Don't bother about that! When we get keeled up, that will be
the last of us! Come, come, don't plague a fellow any more with such
talk! I'm tired, and I'm going to sleep." And the man, divesting himself
of his overcoat, threw himself on the bed, and was soon snoring heavily
in profound slumber.

Tiff, who had been trotting the baby by the fire, now came softly to the
bedside, and sat down.

"Miss Sue," he said, "it's no 'count talking to him! I don't mean
nothing dis'pectful, Miss Sue, but de fac is, dem dat isn't _born_
gentlemen can't be 'spected fur to see through dese yer things like us
of de old families. Law, missis, don't you worry! Now, jest leave dis
yer matter to old Tiff! Dere never wasn't anything Tiff couldn't do, if
he tried. He! he! he! Miss Fanny, she done got de letters right smart;
and I know I'll come it round mas'r, and make him buy de books for her.
I'll tell you what's come into my head, to-day. There's a young lady
come to de big plantation, up dere, who's been to New York getting
edicated, and I's going for to ask her about dese yer things. And, about
de chil'en's going to church, and dese yer things, why, preaching, you
know, is mazin' unsartain round here; but I'll keep on de lookout, and
do de best I can. Why, Lord, Miss Sue, I's bound for the land of Canaan,
myself, the best way I ken; and I'm sartain I shan't go without taking
the chil'en along with me. Ho! ho! ho! Dat's what I shan't! De chil'en
will have to be with Tiff, and Tiff will have to be with the chil'en,
wherever dey is! Dat's it! He! he! he!"

"Tiff," said the young woman, her large blue eyes looking at him, "I
have heard of the Bible. Have you ever seen one, Tiff?"

"Oh, yes, honey, dar was a big Bible that your ma brought in the family
when she married; but dat ar was tore up to make wadding for de guns,
one thing or another, and dey never got no more. But I's been very
'serving, and kept my ears open in a camp-meeting, and such places, and
I's learnt right smart of de things that's in it."

"Now, Tiff, can you say anything?" said she, fixing her large, troubled
eyes on him.

"Well, honey, dere's one thing the man said at de last camp-meeting. He
preached 'bout it, and I couldn't make out a word he said, 'cause I an't
smart about preaching like I be about most things. But he said dis yer
so often that I couldn't help 'member it. Says he, it was dish yer way:
'Come unto me, all ye labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest.'"

"Rest, rest, rest!" said the woman, thoughtfully, and drawing a long
sigh. "Oh, how much I want it! Did he say _that_ was in the Bible?"

"Yes, he said so; and I spects, by all he said, it's de good man above
dat says it. It always makes me feel better to think on it. It 'peared
like it was jist what I was wanting to hear."

"And I, too!" she said, turning her head wearily, and closing her eyes.
"Tiff," she said, opening them, "where I'm going, may be I shall meet
the one who said that, and I'll ask him about it. Don't talk to me more,
now. I'm getting sleepy. I thought I was better a little while after he
came home, but I'm more tired yet. Put the baby in my arms--I like the
feeling of it. There, there; now give me rest--_please_ do!" and she
sank into a deep and quiet slumber.

Tiff softly covered the fire, and sat down by the bed, watching the
flickering shadows as they danced upward on the wall, listening to the
heavy sighs of the pine-trees, and the hard breathing of the sleeping
man. Sometimes he nodded sleepily, and then, recovering, rose, and took
a turn to awaken himself. A shadowy sense of fear fell upon him; not
that he apprehended anything, for he regarded the words of his mistress
only as the forebodings of a wearied invalid. The idea that she could
actually die, and go anywhere, without him to take care of her, seemed
never to have occurred to him. About midnight, as if a spirit had laid
its hand upon him, his eyes flew wide open with a sudden start. Her
thin, cold hand was lying on his; her eyes, large and blue, shone with a
singular and spiritual radiance.

"Tiff," she gasped, speaking with difficulty, "I've seen the one that
said _that_, and it's all true, too! and I've seen all why I've suffered
so much. He--He--He is going to take me! Tell the children about Him!"
There was a fluttering sigh, a slight shiver, and the lids fell over the
eyes forever.



CHAPTER IX.

THE DEATH.


Death is always sudden. However gradual may be its approaches, it is, in
its effects upon the survivor, always sudden at last. Tiff thought, at
first, that his mistress was in a fainting-fit, and tried every means to
restore her. It was affecting to see him chafing the thin, white, pearly
hands, in his large, rough, black paws; raising the head upon his arm,
and calling in a thousand tones of fond endearment, pouring out a
perfect torrent of loving devotion on the cold, unheeding ear. But,
then, spite of all he could do, the face settled itself, and the hands
would not be warmed; the thought of death struck him suddenly, and,
throwing himself on the floor by the bed, he wept with an exceeding loud
and bitter cry. Something in his heart revolted against awakening that
man who lay heavily breathing by her side. He would not admit to
himself, at this moment, that this man had any right in her, or that the
sorrow was any part of his sorrow. But the cry awoke Cripps, who sat up
bewildered in bed, clearing the hair from his eyes with the back of his
hand.

"Tiff, what the durned are you howling about?"

Tiff got up in a moment, and, swallowing down his grief and his tears,
pointed indignantly to the still figure on the bed.

"Dar! dar! Wouldn't b'lieve her last night! Now what you think of dat
ar? See how you look now! Good Shepherd hearn you abusing de poor lamb,
and he's done took her whar you'll never see her again!"

Cripps had, like coarse, animal men generally, a stupid and senseless
horror of death;--he recoiled from the lifeless form, and sprang from
the bed with an expression of horror.

"Well, now, who would have thought it?" he said. "That I should be in
bed with a corpse! I hadn't the least idea!"

"No, dat's plain enough, you didn't! You'll believe it now, won't you?
Poor little lamb, lying here suffering all alone! I tell you, when folks
have been sick so long, dey _has_ to die to make folks believe anything
ails 'em!"

"Well, really," said Cripps, "this is really--why, it an't comfortable!
darned if it is! Why, I'm sorry about the gal! I meant to steam her up,
or done something with her. What's we to do now?"

"Pretty likely you don't know! Folks like you, dat never tends to
nothing good, is always flustered when de Master knocks at de do'! _I_
knows what to do, though. I's boun' to get up de crittur, and go up to
de old plantation, and bring down a woman and do something for her, kind
of decent. You mind the chil'en till I come back."

Tiff took down and drew on over his outer garment a coarse, light,
woollen coat, with very long skirts and large buttons, in which he
always arrayed himself in cases of special solemnity. Stopping at the
door before he went out, he looked over Cripps from head to foot, with
an air of patronizing and half-pitiful contempt, and delivered himself
as follows:

"Now, mas'r, I's gwine up, and will be back quick as possible; and now
do pray be decent, and let dat ar whiskey alone for one day in your
life, and 'member death, judgment, and 'ternity. Just act, now, as if
you'd got a _streak_ of something in you, such as a man ought for to
have who is married to one of de very fustest families in old Virginny.
'Flect, now, on your latter end; may be will do your poor old soul some
good; and don't you go for to waking up the chil'en before I gets back.
They'll learn de trouble soon enough."

Cripps listened to this oration with a stupid, bewildered stare, gazing
first at the bed, and then at the old man, who was soon making all the
speed he could towards Canema.

Nina was not habitually an early riser, but on this morning she had
awaked with the first peep of dawn, and, finding herself unable to go to
sleep again, she had dressed herself, and gone down to the garden.

She was walking up and down in one of the alleys, thinking over the
perplexities of her own affairs, when her ear was caught by the wild and
singular notes of one of those tunes commonly used among the slaves as
dirges. The words "She ar dead and gone to heaven" seemed to come
floating down upon her; and, though the voice was cracked and strained,
there was a sort of wildness and pathos in it, which made a singular
impression in the perfect stillness of everything around her. She soon
observed a singular-looking vehicle appearing in the avenue.

This wagon, which was no other than the establishment of Cripps, drew
Nina's attention, and she went to the hedge to look at it. Tiff's
watchful eye immediately fell upon her, and, driving up to where she was
standing, he climbed out upon the ground, and, lifting his hat, made her
a profound obeisance, and "hoped de young lady was bery well, dis
morning."

"Yes, quite well, thank you, Uncle," said Nina, regarding him curiously.

"We's in 'fliction to our house!" said Tiff, solemnly. "Dere's been a
midnight cry dere, and poor Miss Sue (dat's my young missis), she's done
gone home."

"Who is your mistress?"

"Well, her name _was_ Seymour 'fore she married, and her ma come from de
Virginny Peytons,--great family, dem Peytons! She was so misfortunate as
to get married, as gals will, sometimes," said Tiff, speaking in a
confidential tone. "The man wan't no 'count, and she's had a drefful
hard way to travel, poor thing! and dere she's a lying at last stretched
out dead, and not a woman nor nobody to do de least thing; and please,
missis, Tiff comed for to see if de young lady wouldn't send a woman for
to do for her--getting her ready for a funeral."

"And who are you, pray?"

"Please, missis, I's Tiff Peyton, I is. I's raised in Virginny, on de
great Peyton place, and I's gin to Miss Sue's mother; and when Miss Sue
married dis yer man, dey was all 'fended, and wouldn't speak to her; but
I tuck up for her, 'cause what's de use of makin' a bad thing worse? I's
a 'pinion, and telled 'em, dat he oughter be 'couraged to behave
hisself, seein' the thing was done, and couldn't be helped. But no, dey
wouldn't; so I jest tells 'em, says I, 'You may do jis you please, but
old Tiff's a gwine with her,' says I. 'I'll follow Miss Sue to de
grave's mouth,' says I; and ye see I has done it."

"Well done of you! I like you better for it," said Nina. "You just
drive up to the kitchen, there, and tell Rose to give you some
breakfast, while I go up to Aunt Nesbit."

"No, thank you, Miss Nina, I's noways hungry. 'Pears like, when a body's
like as I be, swallerin' down, and all de old times risin' in der throat
all de time, dey can't eat; dey gets filled all up to der eyes with
feelin's. Lord, Miss Nina, I hope ye won't never know what 'tis to stand
outside de gate, when de best friend you've got's gone in; it's hard,
dat ar is!" And Tiff pulled out a decayed-looking handkerchief, and
applied it under his spectacles.

"Well, wait a minute, Tiff." And Nina ran into the house, while Tiff
gazed mournfully after her.

"Well, Lor; just de way Miss Sue used to run--trip, trip, trip!--little
feet like mice! Lord's will be done!"

"Oh, Milly!" said Nina, meeting Milly in the entry, "here you are.
Here's a poor fellow waiting out by the hedge, his mistress dead all
alone in the house, with children,--no woman to do for them. Can't you
go down? you could do so well! You know how better than any one else in
the house."

"Why, that must be poor old Tiff!" said Milly; "faithful old creature!
So that poor woman's gone, at last? the better for her, poor soul! Well,
I'll ask Miss Loo if I may go--or you ask her, Miss Nina."

A quick, imperative tap on her door startled Aunt Nesbit, who was
standing at her toilet, finishing her morning's dressing operations.

Mrs. Nesbit was a particularly systematic early riser. Nobody knew why;
only folks who have nothing to do are often the most particular to have
the longest possible time to do it in.

"Aunt," said Nina, "there's a poor fellow, out here, whose mistress is
just dead, all alone in the house, and wants to get some woman to go
there to help. Can't you spare Milly?"

"Milly was going to clear-starch my caps, this morning," said Aunt
Nesbit. "I have arranged everything with reference to it, for a week
past."

"Well, aunt, can't she do it to-morrow, or next day, just as well?"

"To-morrow she is going to rip up that black dress, and wash it. I am
always systematic, and have everything arranged beforehand. Should like
very much to do anything I could, if it wasn't for that. Why can't you
send Aunt Katy?"

"Why, aunt, you know we are to have company to dinner, and Aunt Katy is
the only one who knows where anything is, or how to serve things out to
the cook. Besides, she's so hard and cross to poor people, I don't think
she would go. I don't see, I'm sure, in such a case as this, why you
couldn't put your starching off. Milly is such a kind, motherly,
experienced person, and they are in affliction."

"Oh, these low families don't mind such things much," said Aunt Nesbit,
fitting on her cap, quietly; "they never have much feeling. There's no
use doing for them--they are miserable poor creatures."

"Aunt Nesbit, do, now, as a favor to me! I don't often ask favors," said
Nina. "_Do_ let Milly go! she's just the one wanted. Do, now, say yes!"
And Nina pressed nearer, and actually seemed to overpower her
slow-feeling, torpid relative, with the vehemence that sparkled in her
eyes.

"Well, I don't care, if"--

"There, Milly, she says yes!" said she, springing out the door. "She
says you may. Now, hurry; get things ready. I'll run and have Aunt Katy
put up biscuits and things for the children; and you get all that you
know you will want, and be off quick, and I'll have the pony got up, and
come on behind you."



CHAPTER X.

THE PREPARATION.


The excitement produced by the arrival of Tiff, and the fitting out of
Milly to the cottage, had produced a most favorable diversion in Nina's
mind from her own especial perplexities.

Active and buoyant, she threw herself at once into whatever happened to
come uppermost on the tide of events. So, having seen the wagon
dispatched, she sat down to breakfast in high spirits.

"Aunt Nesbit, I declare I was so interested in that old man! I intend to
have the pony, after breakfast, and ride over there."

"I thought you were expecting company."

"Well, that's one reason, now, why I'd like to be off. Do I want to sit
all primmed up, smiling and smirking, and running to the window to see
if my gracious lord is coming? No, I won't do that, to please any of
them. If I happen to fancy to be out riding, I _will_ be out riding."

"I think," said Aunt Nesbit, "that the hovels of these miserable
creatures are no proper place for a young lady of your position in
life."

"My position in life! I don't see what that has to do with it. My
position in life enables me to do anything I please--a liberty which I
take pretty generally. And, then, really, I couldn't help feeling rather
sadly about it, because that Old Tiff, there (I believe that's his
name), told me that the woman had been of a good Virginia family. Very
likely she may have been just such another wild girl as I am, and
thought as little about bad times, and of dying, as I do. So I couldn't
help feeling sad for her. It really came over me when I was walking in
the garden. Such a beautiful morning as it was--the birds all singing,
and the dew all glittering and shining on the flowers! Why, aunt, the
flowers really seemed alive; it seemed as though I could hear them
breathing, and hear their hearts beating like mine. And, all of a
sudden, I heard the most wild, mournful singing, over in the woods. It
wasn't anything very beautiful, you know, but it was so wild, and
strange! 'She is dead and gone to heaven!--she is dead and gone to
heaven!' And pretty soon I saw the funniest old wagon--I don't know what
to call it--and this queer old black man in it, with an old white hat
and surtout on, and a pair of great, funny-looking spectacles on his
nose. I went to the fence to see who he was; and he came up and spoke to
me, made the most respectful bow--you ought to have seen it! And then,
poor fellow, he told me how his mistress was lying dead, with the
children around her, and nobody in the house! The poor old creature, he
actually cried, and I felt so for him! He seemed to be proud of his dead
mistress, in spite of her poverty."

"Where do they live?" said Mrs. Nesbit.

"Why, he told me over in the pine woods, near the swamp."

"Oh," said Mrs. Nesbit, "I dare say it's that Cripps family, that's
squatted in the pine woods. A most miserable set--all of them liars and
thieves! If I had known who it was, I'm sure I shouldn't have let Milly
go over. Such families oughtn't to be encouraged; there oughtn't a thing
to be done for them; we shouldn't encourage them to stay in the
neighborhood. They always will steal from off the plantations, and
corrupt the negroes, and get drunk, and everything else that's bad.
There's never a woman of decent character among them, that ever I heard
of; and, if you were my daughter, I shouldn't let you go near them."

"Well, I'm not your daughter, thank fortune!" said Nina, whose graces
always rapidly declined in controversies with her aunt, "and so I shall
do as I please. And I don't know what you pious people talk so for; for
Christ went with publicans and sinners, I'm sure."

"Well," said Aunt Nesbit, "the Bible says we mustn't cast pearls before
swine; and, when you've lived to be as old as I am, you'll know more
than you do now. Everybody knows that you can't do anything with these
people. You can't give them Bibles nor tracts; for they can't read. I've
tried it, sometimes, visiting them, and talking to them; but it didn't
do them any good. I always thought there ought to be a law passed to
make 'em all slaves, and then there would be somebody to take care of
them."

"Well, I can't see," said Nina, "how it's their fault. There isn't any
school where they could send their children, if they wanted to learn;
and, then, if they want to work, there's nobody who wants to hire them.
So, what can they do?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Aunt Nesbit, in that tone which generally
means I don't care. "All I know is, that I want them to get away from
the neighborhood. Giving to them is just like putting into a bag with
holes. I'm sure I put myself to a great inconvenience on their account
to-day; for, if there's anything I do hate, it is having things
irregular. And to-day is the day for clear-starching the caps--and such
a good, bright, sunny day!--and to-morrow, or any other day of the week,
it may rain. Always puts me all out to have things that I've laid out to
do put out of their regular order. I'd been willing enough to have sent
over some old things; but why they must needs take Milly's time, just as
if the funeral couldn't have got ready without her! These funerals are
always miserable drunken times with them! And, then, who knows, she may
catch the small-pox, or something or other. There's never any knowing
what these people die of."

"They die of just such things as we do," said Nina. "They have that in
common with us, at any rate."

"Yes; but there's no reason for risking our lives, as I know
of--especially for such people--when it don't do any good."

"Why, aunt, what do you know against these folks? Have you ever known of
their doing anything wicked?"

"Oh, I don't know that I know anything against this family in
particular; but I know the whole race. These squatters--I've know them
ever since I was a girl in Virginia. Everybody that knows anything knows
exactly what they are. There isn't any help for them, unless, as I said
before, they were made slaves; and then they could be kept decent. You
may go to see them, if you like, but _I_ don't want _my_ arrangements to
be interfered with on their account."

Mrs. Nesbit was one of those quietly-persisting people, whose yielding
is like the stretching of an India-rubber band, giving way only to a
violent pull, and going back to the same place when the force is
withdrawn. She seldom refused favors that were urged with any degree of
importunity; not because her heart was touched, but simply because she
seemed not to have force enough to refuse; and whatever she granted was
always followed by a series of subdued lamentations over the necessity
which had wrung them from her.

Nina's nature was so vehement and imperious, when excited, that it was a
disagreeable fatigue to cross her. Mrs. Nesbit, therefore, made amends
by bemoaning herself as we have seen. Nina started up, hastily, on
seeing her pony brought round to the door; and, soon arrayed in her
riding-dress, she was cantering through the pine woods in high spirits.
The day was clear and beautiful. The floor of the woodland path was
paved with a thick and cleanly carpet of the fallen pine-leaves. And
Harry was in attendance with her, mounted on another horse, and riding
but a very little behind; not so much so but what his mistress could, if
she would, keep up a conversation with him.

"You know this Old Tiff, Harry?"

"Oh, yes, very well. A very good, excellent creature, and very much the
superior of his master, in most respects."

"Well, he says his mistress came of a good family."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Harry. "She always had a delicate appearance,
very different from people in their circumstances generally. The
children, too, are remarkably pretty, well-behaved children; and it's a
pity they couldn't be taught something, and not grow up and go on these
miserable ways of these poor whites!"

"Why don't anybody ever teach them?" said Nina.

"Well, Miss Nina, you know how it is: everybody has his own work and
business to attend to--there are no schools for them to go to--there's
no work for them to do. In fact, there don't seem to be any place for
them in society. Boys generally grow up to drink and swear. And, as for
girls, they are of not much account. So it goes on from generation to
generation."

"This is so strange, and so different from what it is in the northern
states! Why, all the children go to school there--the very poorest
people's children! Why, a great many of the first men, there, were poor
children! Why can't there be some such thing here?"

"Oh, because people are settled in such a scattering way they can't
have schools. All the land that's good for any thing is taken up for
large estates. And, then, these poor folks that are scattered up and
down in between, it's nobody's business to attend to them, and they
can't attend to themselves; and so they grow up, and nobody knows how
they live, and everybody seems to think it a pity they are in the world.
I've seen those sometimes that would be glad to do something, if they
could find anything to do. Planters don't want them on their
places--they'd rather have their own servants. If one of them wants to
be a blacksmith, or a carpenter, there's no encouragement. Most of the
large estates have their own carpenters and blacksmiths. And there's
nothing for them to do, unless it is keeping dogs to hunt negroes; or
these little low stores where they sell whiskey, and take what's stolen
from the plantations. Sometimes a smart one gets a place as overseer on
a plantation. Why, I've heard of their coming so low as actually to sell
their children to traders, to get a bit of bread."

"What miserable creatures! But do you suppose it can be possible that a
woman of any respectable family can have married a man of this sort?"

"Well, I don't know, Miss Nina; that might be. You see, good families
sometimes degenerate; and when they get too poor to send their children
off to school, or keep any teachers for them, they run down very fast.
This man is not bad-looking, and he really is a person who, if he had
had any way opened to him, might have been a smart man, and made
something of himself and family; and when he was young and
better-looking, I shouldn't wonder if an uneducated girl, who had never
been off a plantation, might have liked him; he was fully equal, I dare
say, to her brothers. You see, Miss Nina, when _money_ goes, in this
part of the country, everything goes with it; and when a family is not
rich enough to have everything in itself, it goes down very soon."

"At any rate, I pity the poor things," said Nina. "I don't despise them,
as Aunt Nesbit does."

Here Nina, observing the path clear and uninterrupted for some distance
under the arching pines, struck her horse into a canter, and they rode
on for some distance without speaking. Soon the horse's feet splashed
and pattered on the cool, pebbly bottom of a small, shallow stream,
which flowed through the woods. This stream went meandering among the
pines like a spangled ribbon, sometimes tying itself into loops, leaving
open spots--almost islands of green--graced by its waters. Such a little
spot now opened to the view of the two travellers. It was something less
than a quarter of an acre in extent, entirely surrounded by the stream,
save only a small neck of about four feet, which connected it to the
main-land.

Here a place had been cleared and laid off into a garden, which, it was
evident, was carefully tended. The log-cabin which stood in the middle
was far from having the appearance of wretchedness which Nina had
expected. It was almost entirely a dense mass of foliage, being covered
with the intermingled drapery of the Virginia creeper and the yellow
jessamine. Two little borders, each side of the house, were blooming
with flowers. Around the little island the pine-trees closed in unbroken
semicircle, and the brook meandered away through them, to lose itself
eventually in that vast forest of swampy land which girdles the whole
Carolina shore. The whole air of the place was so unexpectedly inviting,
in its sylvan stillness and beauty, that Nina could not help checking
her horse, and exclaiming,--

"I'm sure, it's a pretty place. They can't be such very forsaken people,
after all."

"Oh, that's all Tiff's work," said Harry. "He takes care of everything
outside and in, while the man is off after nobody knows what. You'd be
perfectly astonished to see how that old creature manages. He sews, and
he knits, and works the garden, does the house-work, and teaches the
children. It's a fact! You'll notice that they haven't the pronunciation
or the manners of these wild white children; and I take it to be all
Tiff's watchfulness, for that creature hasn't one particle of
selfishness in him. He just identifies himself with his mistress and her
children."

By this time Tiff had perceived their approach, and came out to assist
them in dismounting.

"De Lord above bless you, Miss Gordon, for coming to see my poor missis!
Ah! she is lying dere just as beautiful, just as she was the very day
she was married! All her young looks come back to her; and Milly, she
done laid her out beautiful! Lord, I's wanting somebody to come and look
at her, because she has got good blood, if she be poor. She is none of
your common sort of poor whites, Miss Nina. Just come in; come in, and
look at her."

Nina stepped into the open door of the hut. The bed was covered with a
clean white sheet, and the body, arrayed in a long white night-dress
brought by Milly, lay there so very still, quiet, and life-like, that
one could scarcely realize the presence of death. The expression of
exhaustion, fatigue, and anxiety, which the face had latterly worn, had
given place to one of tender rest, shaded by a sort of mysterious awe,
as if the closed eyes were looking on unutterable things. The soul,
though sunk below the horizon of existence, had thrown back a twilight
upon the face radiant as that of the evening heavens.

By the head of the bed the little girl was sitting, dressed carefully,
and her curling hair parted in front, apparently fresh from the brush;
and the little boy was sitting beside her, his round blue eyes bearing
an expression of subdued wonder.

Cripps was sitting at the foot of the bed, evidently much the worse for
liquor; for, spite of the exhortation of Tiff, he had applied to the
whiskey-jug immediately on his departure. Why not? He was
uncomfortable--gloomy; and every one, under such circumstances,
naturally inclines towards _some_ source of consolation. He who is
intellectual reads and studies; he who is industrious flies to business;
he who is affectionate seeks friends; he who is pious, religion; but he
who is none of these--what has he but his whiskey? Cripps made a stupid,
staring inclination toward Nina and Harry, as they entered, and sat
still, twirling his thumbs and muttering to himself.

The sunshine fell through the panes on the floor, and there came
floating in from without the odor of flowers and the song of birds. All
the Father's gentle messengers spoke of comfort; but he as a deaf man
heard not--as a blind man did not regard. For the rest, an air of
neatness had been imparted to the extreme poverty of the room by the
joint efforts of Milly and Tiff.

Tiff entered softly, and stood by Nina, as she gazed. He had in his hand
several sprays of white jessamine, and he laid one on the bosom of the
dead.

"She had a hard walk of it," he said, "but she's got home! Don't she
look peaceful?--poor lamb!"

The little, thoughtless, gay coquette had never looked on a sight like
this before. She stood with a fixed, tender thoughtfulness, unlike her
usual gayety, her riding-hat hanging carelessly by its strings from her
hands, her loose hair drooping over her face.

She heard some one entering the cottage, but she did not look up. She
was conscious of some one looking over her shoulder, and thought it was
Harry.

"Poor thing! how young she looks," she said, "to have had so much
trouble!" Her voice trembled, and a tear stood in her eye. There was a
sudden movement; she looked up, and Clayton was standing by her.

She looked surprised, and the color deepened in her cheek, but was too
ingenuously and really in sympathy with the scene before her even to
smile. She retained his hand a moment, and turned to the dead, saying,
in an under-tone, "See here!"

"I see," he said. "Can I be of service?"

"The poor thing died last night," said Nina. "I suppose some one might
help about a funeral. Harry," she said, walking softly towards the door,
and speaking low, "you provide a coffin; have it made neatly."

"Uncle," she said, motioning Tiff towards her, "where would they have
her buried?"

"Buried?" said Tiff. "O Lord! buried!" And he covered his face with his
hard hands, and the tears ran through his fingers.

"Lord, Lord! Well, it must come, I know, but 'pears like I couldn't!
Laws, she's so beautiful! Don't, to-day! don't!"

"Indeed, Uncle," said Nina, tenderly, "I'm sorry I grieved you; but you
know, poor fellow, that must come."

"I's known her ever since she's dat high!" said Tiff. "Her har was
curly, and she used to war such pretty red shoes, and come running after
me in de garden. 'Tiff, Tiff,' she used to say--and dar she is now, and
troubles brought her dar! Lord, what a pretty gal she was! Pretty as you
be, Miss Nina. But since she married _dat ar_," pointing with his thumb
over his shoulder, and speaking confidentially, "everything went wrong.
I's held her up--did all I could; and now here she is!"

"Perhaps," said Nina, laying her hand on his, "perhaps she's in a better
place than this."

"Oh, Lord, dat she is! She told me dat when she died. She saw de Lord at
last,--she did so! Dem's her last words. 'Tiff,' she says, 'I see Him,
and He will give me rest. Tiff,' she says,--I'd been asleep, you know,
and I kinder felt something cold on my hand, and I woke up right sudden,
and dar she was, her eyes so bright, looking at me and breathing so
hard; and all she says was, 'Tiff, I've seen Him, and I know now why
I've suffered so; He's gwine to take me, and give me rest!'"

"Then, my poor fellow, you ought to rejoice that she is safe."

"'Deed I does," said Tiff; "yet I's selfish. I wants to be dere too, I
does--only I has de chil'en to care for."

"Well, my good fellow," said Nina, "we must leave you now. Harry will
see about a coffin for your poor mistress; and whenever the funeral is
to be, our carriage will come over, and we will all attend."

"Lord bless you, Miss Gordon! Dat ar _too_ good on ye! My heart's been
most broke, tinking nobody cared for my poor young mistress! you's too
good, dat you is!"

Then, drawing near to her, and sinking his voice, he said: "'Bout de
mourning, Miss Nina. _He_ an't no 'count, you know--body can see how
'tis with him very plain. But missis was a Peyton, you know; and I's a
Peyton, too. I naturally feels a 'sponsibility he couldn't be 'spected
fur to. I's took de ribbons off of Miss Fanny's bonnet, and done de best
I could trimming it up with black crape what Milly gave me; and I's got
a band of black crape on Master Teddy's hat; and I 'lowed to put one on
mine, but there wasn't quite enough. You know, missis, old family
servants always wars mourning. If missis just be pleased to look over my
work! Now, dis yer is Miss Fanny's bonnet. You know I can't be 'spected
for to make it like a milliner."

"They are very well indeed, Uncle Tiff."

"Perhaps, Miss Nina, you can kind of touch it over."

"Oh, if you like, Uncle Tiff, I'll take them all home, and do them for
you."

"The Lord bless _you_, Miss Gordon! Dat ar was just what I wanted, but
was most 'fraid to ask you. Some gay young ladies doesn't like to handle
black."

"Ah! Uncle Tiff, I've no fears of that sort; so put it in the wagon, and
let Milly take it home."

So saying, she turned and passed out of the door where Harry was
standing holding the horses. A third party might have seen, by the keen,
rapid glance with which his eye rested upon Clayton, that he was
measuring the future probability which might make him the arbiter of his
own destiny--the disposer of all that was dear to him in life. As for
Nina, although the day before a thousand fancies and coquetries would
have colored the manner of her meeting Clayton, yet now she was so
impressed by what she had witnessed, that she scarcely appeared to know
that she had met him. She placed her pretty foot on his hand, and let
him lift her on to the saddle, scarcely noticing the act, except by a
serious, graceful inclination of her head.

One great reason of the ascendency which Clayton had thus far gained
over her, was that his nature, so quiet, speculative, and
undemonstrative, always left her such perfect liberty to follow the more
varying moods of her own. A man of a different mould would have sought
to awake her out of the trance--would have remarked on her abstracted
manner, or rallied her on her silence. Clayton merely mounted his horse
and rode quietly by her side, while Harry, passing on before them, was
soon out of sight.



CHAPTER XI.

THE LOVERS.


They rode on in silence, till their horses' feet again clattered in the
clear, pebbly water of the stream. Here Nina checked her horse; and,
pointing round the circle of pine forests, and up the stream, overhung
with bending trees and branches, said:

"Hush!--listen!" Both stopped, and heard the swaying of the pine-trees,
the babble of the waters, the cawing of distant crows, and the tapping
of the woodpecker.

"How beautiful everything is!" she said. "It seems to me so sad that
people must die! I never saw anybody dead before, and you don't know how
it makes me feel! To think that that poor woman was just such a girl as
I am, and used to be just so full of life, and never thought any more
than I do that she should lie there all cold and dead! Why is it things
are made so beautiful, if we must die?"

"Remember what you said to the old man, Miss Nina. Perhaps she sees more
beautiful things, now."

"In heaven? Yes; I wish we knew more about heaven, so that it would seem
natural and home-like to us, as this world does. As for me, I can't feel
that I ever want to leave this world--I enjoy living so much! I can't
forget how cold her hand was! I never felt anything like that cold!"

In all the varying moods of Nina, Clayton had never seen anything that
resembled this. But he understood the peculiar singleness and
earnestness of nature which made any one idea, or impression, for a time
absolute in her mind. They turned their horses into the wood-path, and
rode on in silence.

"Do you know," said she, "it's such a change coming from New York to
live here? Everything is so unformed, so wild, and so lonely! I never
saw anything so lonesome as these woods are. Here you can ride miles
and miles, hours and hours, and hear nothing but the swaying of the
pine-trees, just as you hear it now. Our place (you never were there,
were you?) stands all by itself, miles from any other; and I've been for
so many years used to a thickly-settled country, that it seems very
strange to me. I can't help thinking things look rather deserted and
desolate, here. It makes me rather sober and sad. I don't know as you'll
like the appearance of our place. A great many things are going to decay
about it; and yet there are some things that can't decay; for papa was
very fond of trees and shrubbery, and we have a good deal more of them
than usual. Are you fond of trees?"

"Yes; I'm almost a tree-worshipper. I have no respect for a man who
can't appreciate a tree. The only good thing I ever heard of Xerxes was,
that he was so transported with the beauty of a plane-tree, that he hung
it with chains of gold. This is a little poetical island in the
barbarism of those days."

"Xerxes!" said Nina. "I believe I studied something about him in that
dismal, tedious history at Madame Ardaine's; but nothing so interesting
as that, I'm sure. But what should he hang gold chains on a tree for?"

"'Twas the best way he knew of expressing his good opinion."

"Do you know," said Nina, half checking her horse, suddenly, "that I
never had the least idea that these men were alive that we read about in
these histories, or that they had any feelings like ours? We always
studied the lessons, and learnt the hard names, and how forty thousand
were killed on one side, and fifty thousand on the other; and we don't
know any more about it than if we never had. That's the way we girls
studied at school, except a few '_poky_' ones, who wanted to be learned,
or meant to be teachers."

"An interesting _résumé_, certainly," said Clayton, laughing.

"But how strange it is," said Nina, "to think that all those folks we
read about are alive _now_, doing something somewhere; and I get to
wondering where they are--Xerxes, and Alexander, and the rest of them.
Why, they were so full of life they kept everything in commotion while
in this world; and I wonder if they have been keeping a going ever
since. Perhaps Xerxes has been looking round at _our_ trees--nobody
knows. But here we are coming now to the beginning of our grounds.
There, you see that holly-hedge! Mamma had that set out. She travelled
in England, and liked the hedges there so much that she thought she
would see what could be done with our American holly. So she had these
brought from the woods, and planted. You see it all grows wild, now,
because it hasn't been cut for many years. And this live-oak avenue my
grandfather set out. It's my pride and delight."

As she spoke, a pair of broad gates swung open, and they cantered in
beneath the twilight arches of the oaks. Long wreaths of pearly moss
hung swinging from the branches, and, although the sun now was at high
noon, a dewy, dreamy coolness seemed to rustle through all the leaves.
As Clayton passed in, he took off his hat, as he had often done in
foreign countries in cathedrals.

"Welcome to Canema!" said she, riding up to him, and looking up frankly
into his face.

The air, half queenly, half childish, with which this was said, was
acknowledged by Clayton with a grave smile, as he replied, bowing,--

"Thank you, madam."

"Perhaps," she added, in a grave tone, "you'll be sorry that you ever
came here."

"What do you mean by that?" he replied.

"I don't know; it just came into my head to say it. We none of us ever
know what's going to come of what we do."

At this instant, a violent clamor, like the cawing of a crow, rose on
one side of the avenue; and the moment after Tomtit appeared,
caricoling, and cutting a somerset; his curls flying, his cheeks
glowing.

"Why, Tomtit, what upon earth is this for?" said Nina.

"Laws, missis, deres been a gen'elman waiting for you at the house these
two hours. And missis, she's done got on her best cap, and gone down in
the parlor for him."

Nina felt herself blush to the roots of her hair, and was vexed and
provoked to think she did so. Involuntarily her eyes met Clayton's. But
he expressed neither curiosity nor concern.

"What a pretty drapery this light moss makes!" said he. "I wasn't aware
that it grew so high up in the state."

"Yes; it is very pretty," said Nina, abstractedly.

Clayton, however, had noticed both the message and the blush, and was
not so ill-informed as Nina supposed as to the whole affair, having
heard from a New York correspondent of the probability that an arrival
might appear upon the field about this time. He was rather curious to
watch the development produced by this event. They paced up the avenue,
conversing in disconnected intervals, till they came out on the lawn
which fronted the mansion--a large, gray, three-story building,
surrounded on the four sides by wide balconies of wood. Access was had
to the lower of these by a broad flight of steps. And there Nina saw,
plain enough, her Aunt Nesbit in all the proprieties of cap and silk
gown, sitting, making the agreeable to Mr. Carson.

Mr. Frederic Augustus Carson was one of those nice little epitomes of
conventional society, which appear to such advantage in factitious life,
and are so out of place in the undress, sincere surroundings of country
life. Nina had liked his society extremely well in the drawing-rooms and
opera-houses of New York. But, in the train of thought inspired by the
lonely and secluded life she was now leading, it seemed to her an
absolute impossibility that she could, even in coquetry and in sport,
have allowed such an one to set up pretensions to her hand and heart.
She was vexed with herself that she had done so, and therefore not in
the most amiable mood for a meeting. Therefore, when, on ascending the
steps, he rushed precipitately forward, and, offering his hand, called
her Nina, she was ready to die with vexation. She observed, too, a
peculiar swelling and rustling of Aunt Nesbit's plumage,--an
indescribable air of tender satisfaction, peculiar to elderly ladies who
are taking an interest in an affair of the heart, which led her to
apprehend that the bachelor had commenced operations by declaring his
position to her. 'Twas with some embarrassment that Nina introduced Mr.
Clayton, whom Aunt Nesbit received with a most stately curtsey, and Mr.
Carson with a patronizing bow.

"Mr. Carson has been waiting for you these two hours," said Aunt Nesbit.

"Very warm riding, Nina," said Mr. Carson, observing her red cheeks.
"You've been riding too fast, I fear. You must be careful of yourself.
I've known people bring on very grave illnesses by over-heating the
blood!"

Clayton seated himself near the door, and seemed to be intent on the
scene without. And Carson, drawing his chair close to Nina, asked, in a
confidential under-tone,--

"Who is that gentleman?"

"Mr. Clayton, of Claytonville," said Nina, with as much _hauteur_ as she
could assume.

"Ah, yes!--Hem!--hem! I've heard of the family--a very nice family--a
very worthy young man--extremely, I'm told. Shall be happy to make his
acquaintance."

"I beg," said Nina, rising, "the gentlemen will excuse me a moment or
two."

Clayton replied by a grave bow, while Mr. Carson, with great
_empressement_, handed Nina to the door. The moment it was closed, she
stamped, with anger, in the entry.

"The provoking fool! to take these airs with me! And I, too--I deserve
it! What on earth could make me think I could tolerate that man?"

As if Nina's cup were not yet full, Aunt Nesbit followed her to her
chamber with an air of unusual graciousness.

"Nina, my dear, he has told me all about it! and I assure you I'm very
much pleased with him!"

"Told you all about _what_?" said Nina.

"Why, your engagement, to be sure! I'm delighted to think you've done so
well! I think your Aunt Maria, and all of them, will be delighted! Takes
a weight of care off my mind!"

"I wish you wouldn't trouble yourself about me, or my affairs, Aunt
Nesbit!" said Nina. "And, as for this old pussy-cat, with his squeaking
boots, I won't have him purring round _me_, that's certain! _So_
provoking, to take that way towards me! Call me Nina, and talk as though
he were lord paramount of me, and everything here! I'll let him know!"

"Why, Nina! Seems to me this is very strange conduct! I am very much
astonished at you!"

"I dare say you are, aunt! I never knew the time I didn't astonish you!
But this man I detest!"

"Well, then, my dear, what were you engaged to him for?"

"_Engaged!_ Aunt, for pity's sake, do hush! Engaged! I should like to
know what a New York engagement amounts to! Engaged at the
opera!--Engaged for a joke! Why, he was my bouquet-holder! The man is
just an opera libretto! He was very useful in his time. But who wants
him afterwards?"

"But, my dear Nina, this trifling with gentlemen's hearts!"

"I'll warrant his heart! It's neither sugar nor salt, I'll assure you.
I'll tell you what, aunt, he loves good eating, good drinking, nice
clothes, nice houses, and good times generally! and he wants a pretty
wife as a part of a whole; and he thinks he'll take me. But he is
mistaken. Calling me 'Nina,' indeed! Just let me have a chance of seeing
him alone! I'll teach him to call me 'Nina'! I'll let him know how
things stand!"

"But, Nina, you must confess you've given him occasion for all this."

"Well, supposing I have? I'll give him occasion for something else,
then!"

"Why, my dear," said Aunt Nesbit, "he came on to know when you'll fix
the day to be married!"

"Married! Oh, my gracious! Just think of the creature's talking about
it! Well, it _is_ my fault, as you say; but I'll do the best I can to
mend it."

"Well, I'm really sorry for him," said Aunt Nesbit.

"You are, aunt? Why don't you _take_ him yourself, then? You are as
young and good-looking as he is."

"Nina, how you talk!" said Aunt Nesbit, coloring and bridling. "There
_was_ a time when I wasn't bad-looking, to be sure; but that's long
since past."

"Oh, that's because you always dress in stone-color and drab," said
Nina, as she stood brushing and arranging her curls. "Come, now, and go
down, aunt, and do the best you can till I make my appearance. After
all, as you say, I'm the most to blame. There's no use in being vexed
with the old soul. So, aunt, do be as fascinating as you can; see if you
can't console him. Only remember how _you_ used to turn off lovers, when
you were of my age."

"And who is this other gentleman, Nina?"

"Oh, nothing, only he is a friend of mine. A very good man--good enough
for a minister, any day, aunt, and not so stupid as good people
generally are, either."

"Well, perhaps you are engaged to _him_?"

"No, I am not; that is to say, I won't be to anybody. This is an
insufferable business! I _like_ Mr. Clayton, because he can let me
alone, don't look at me in that abominably delighted way all the time,
and dance about, calling me _Nina_! He and I are very good friends,
that's all. I'm not going to have any engagements _anywhere_."

"Well, Nina, I'll go down, and you make haste."

While the gentlemen and Aunt Nesbit were waiting in the saloon, Carson
made himself extremely happy and at home. It was a large, cool
apartment, passing, like a hall, completely through the centre of the
house. Long French windows, at either end, opened on to balconies. The
pillars of the balconies were draped and garlanded with wreaths of roses
now in full bloom. The floor of the room was the polished mosaic of
different colors to which we have formerly alluded. Over the
mantel-piece was sculptured in oak the Gordon arms. The room was
wainscoted with dark wood, and hung with several fine paintings, by
Copley and Stuart, of different members of the family. A grand piano,
lately arrived from New York, was the most modern-looking article in the
room. Most of the furniture was of heavy dark mahogany, of an antique
pattern. Clayton sat by the door, still admiring the avenue of oaks
which were to be seen across the waving green of the lawn.

In about half an hour Nina reappeared in a flossy cloud of muslin, lace,
and gauzy ribbons. Dress was one of those accomplishments for which the
little gypsy had a natural instinct; and, without any apparent thought,
she always fell into that kind of color and material which harmonized
with her style of appearance and character. There was always something
floating and buoyant about the arrangement of her garments and drapery;
so that to see her move across the floor gave one an airy kind of
sensation, like the gambols of thistle-down. Her brown eyes had a
peculiar resemblance to a bird's; and this effect was increased by a
twinkling motion of the head, and a fluttering habit of movement
peculiar to herself; so that when she swept by in rosy gauzes, and laid
one ungloved hand lightly on the piano, she seemed to Clayton much like
some saucy bird--very good indeed if let alone, but ready to fly on the
slightest approach.

Clayton had the rare faculty of taking in every available point of
observation, without appearing to stare.

"'Pon my word, Nina," said Mr. Carson, coming towards her with a most
delighted air, "you look as if you had fallen out of a rainbow!"

Nina turned away very coolly, and began arranging her music.

"Oh, that's right!" said Carson; "give us one of your songs. Sing
something from the Favorita. You know it's my favorite opera," said he,
assuming a most sentimental expression.

"Oh, I'm entirely out of practice--I don't sing at all. I'm sick of all
those opera-songs!" And Nina skimmed across the floor, and out of the
open door by which Clayton was lounging, and began busying herself amid
the flowers that wreathed the porch. In a moment Carson was at her
heels; for he was one of those persons who seem to think it a duty never
to allow any one to be quiet, if they can possibly prevent it.

"Have you ever studied the language of flowers, Nina?" said he.

"No, I don't like to study languages."

"You know the signification of a full-blown rose?" said he, tenderly
presenting her with one.

Nina took the rose, coloring with vexation, and then, plucking from the
bush a rose of two or three days' bloom, whose leaves were falling out,
she handed it to him, and said,--

"Do you understand the signification of this?"

"Oh, you have made an unfortunate selection! This rose is all falling to
pieces!" said Mr. Carson, innocently.

"So I observed," said Nina, turning away quickly; then, making one of
her darting movements, she was in the middle of the saloon again, just
as the waiter announced dinner.

Clayton rose gravely, and offered his arm to Aunt Nesbit; and Nina found
herself obliged to accept the delighted escort of Mr. Carson, who,
entirely unperceiving, was in the briskest possible spirits, and
established himself comfortably between Aunt Nesbit and Nina.

"You must find it very dull here--very barren country, shockingly so!
What do you find to interest yourself in?" said he.

"Will you take some of this gumbo?" replied Nina.

"I always thought," said Aunt Nesbit, "it was a good plan for girls to
have a course of reading marked out to them when they left school."

"Oh, certainly," said Carson. "I shall be happy to mark out one for her.
I've done it for several young ladies."

At this moment Nina accidentally happened to catch Clayton's eye, which
was fixed upon Mr. Carson with an air of quiet amusement greatly
disconcerting to her.

"Now," said Mr. Carson, "I have no opinion of making _blues_ of young
ladies; but still, I think, Mrs. Nesbit, that a little useful
information adds greatly to their charms. Don't you?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Nesbit. "I've been reading 'Gibbon's Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire,' lately."

"Yes," said Nina, "aunt's been busy about that ever since I can
remember."

"That's a very nice book," said Mr. Carson, looking solemnly at Nina;
"only, Mrs. Nesbit, an't you afraid of the infidel principle? I think,
in forming the minds of the young, you know, one cannot be too careful."

"Why, he struck me as a very pious writer!" said Aunt Nesbit,
innocently. "I'm sure, he makes the most religious reflections, all
along. I liked him particularly on that account."

It seemed to Nina that, without looking at Clayton, she was forced to
meet his eye. No matter whether she directed her attention to the
asparagus or the potatoes, it was her fatality always to end by a
rencounter with his eye; and she saw, for some reason or other, the
conversation was extremely amusing to him.

"For my part," said Nina, "I don't know what sort of principles Aunt
Nesbit's history, there, has; but one thing I'm pretty certain of,--that
_I_'m not in any danger from any such thick, close-printed, old,
stupid-looking books as that. I hate reading, and I don't intend to have
my mind formed; so that nobody need trouble themselves to mark out
courses for me! What is it to me what all these old empires have been, a
hundred years ago? It is as much as I can do to attend to what is going
on now."

"For my part," said Aunt Nesbit, "I've always regretted that I
neglected the cultivation of my mind when I was young. I was like Nina,
here, immersed in vanity and folly."

"People always talk," said Nina, reddening, "as if there was but one
kind of vanity and folly in the world. I think there can be as much
learned vanity and folly as we girls have!" And she looked at Clayton
indignantly, as she saw him laughing.

"I agree with Miss Gordon, entirely. There is a great deal of very
stupid respectable trifling, which people pursue under the head of
courses of reading," he said. "And I don't wonder that most compends of
history which are studied in schools should inspire any lively young
lady with a life-long horror, not only of history, but of reading."

"Do you think so?" said Nina, with a look of inexpressible relief.

"I do, indeed," said Clayton. "And it would have been a very good thing
for many of our historians, if they had been obliged to have shaped
their histories so that they would interest a lively school-girl. We
literary men, then, would have found less sleepy reading. There is no
reason why a young lady, who would sit up all night reading a novel,
should not be made to sit up all night with a history. I'll venture to
say there's no romance can come up to the gorgeousness and splendor, and
the dramatic power, of things that really have happened. All that's
wanting is to have it set before us with an air of reality."

"But, then," said Nina, "you'd have to make the history into a romance."

"Well, a good historical romance is generally truer than a dull history;
because it gives some sort of conception of the truth; whereas, the dull
history gives none."

"Well, then," said Nina, "I'll confess, now, that about all the history
I do know has been got from Walter Scott's novels. _I_ always told our
history-teacher so; but she insisted upon it that it was very dangerous
reading."

"For my part," said Mrs. Nesbit, "I've a great horror of novel-reading,
particularly for young ladies. It did me a great deal of harm when I was
young. It dissipates the mind; it gives false views of life."

"Oh, law!" said Nina. "We used to write compositions about that, and
I've got it all by heart--how it raises false expectations, and leads
people to pursue phantoms, rainbows, and meteors, and all that sort of
thing!"

"And yet," said Clayton, "all these objections would lie against
_perfectly_ true history, and the more so just in proportion to its
truth. If the history of Napoleon Bonaparte were graphically and
minutely given, it would lie open to the very same objections. It would
produce the very same cravings for something out of the commonplace
course of life. There would be the same dazzling mixture of bad and good
qualities in the hero, and the same lassitude and exhaustion after the
story was finished. And common history does not do this, simply because
it is not true--does not produce a vivid impression of the reality as it
happened."

Aunt Nesbit only got an indefinite impression, from this harangue, that
Clayton was defending novel-reading, and felt herself called to employ
her own peculiar line of reasoning to meet it, which consisted in saying
the same thing over and over, at regular intervals, without appearing to
hear or notice anything said in reply. Accordingly, she now drew herself
up, with a slightly virtuous air, and said to Mr. Clayton,--

"I must say, after all, that I don't approve of novel-reading. It gives
false views of life, and disgusts young people with their duties."

"I was only showing, madam, that the same objection would apply to the
best-written history," said Clayton.

"I think novel-reading does a great deal of harm," rejoined Aunt Nesbit.
"I never allow myself to read any work of fiction. I'm principled
against it."

"For my part," said Nina, "I wish I could find that kind of history you
are speaking of; I believe I could read that."

"'Twould be very interesting history, certainly," said Mr. Carson. "I
should think it would prove a very charming mode of writing. I wonder
somebody don't produce one."

"For my part," said Aunt Nesbit, "I confine myself entirely to what is
practically useful. Useful information is all I desire."

"Well, I suppose, then, I'm very wicked," said Nina; "but I don't like
anything useful. Why, I've sometimes thought, when I've been in the
garden, that the summer-savory, sage, and sweet-marjoram, were just as
pretty as many other flowers; and I couldn't see any reason why I
shouldn't like a sprig of one of them for a bouquet, except that I've
seen them used for stuffing turkeys. Well, now, that seems very bad of
me, don't it?"

"That reminds me," said Aunt Nesbit, "that Rose has been putting sage
into this turkey again, after all that I said to her. I believe she does
it on purpose."

At this moment Harry appeared at the door, and requested to speak to
Nina.

After a few moments' whispered conversation, she came back to the table,
apparently disconcerted.

"I'm so sorry--so very sorry!" she said. "Harry has been riding all
round the country to find a minister to attend the funeral, this
evening. It will be such a disappointment to that poor fellow! You know
the negroes think so much of having prayers at the grave!"

"If no one else can be found to read prayers, I will," said Clayton.

"Oh, thank you! will you, indeed?" said Nina. "I'm glad of it, now, for
poor Tiff's sake. The coach will be out at five o'clock, and we'll ride
over together, and make as much of a party as we can."

                               ---------

"Why, child," said Aunt Nesbit to Nina, after they returned to the
parlor, "I did not know that Mr. Clayton was an Episcopalian."

"He isn't," said Nina. "He and his family all attend the Presbyterian
church."

"How strange that he should offer to read prayers!" said Aunt Nesbit. "I
don't approve of such things, for my part."

"Such things as what?"

"Countenancing Episcopal errors. If we are right, they are wrong, and we
ought not to countenance them."

"But, aunt, the burial-service is beautiful."

"Don't approve of it!" said Aunt Nesbit.

"Why, you know, as Clayton isn't a minister, he would not feel like
making an extempore prayer."

"Shows great looseness of religious principle," said Aunt Nesbit. "Don't
approve of it!"



CHAPTER XII.

EXPLANATIONS.


The golden arrows of the setting sun were shooting hither and thither
through the pine woods, glorifying whatever they touched with a life not
its own. A chorus of birds were pouring out an evening melody, when a
little company stood around an open grave. With instinctive care for the
feeling of the scene, Nina had arrayed herself in a black silk dress,
and plain straw bonnet with black ribbon--a mark of respect to the
deceased remembered and narrated by Tiff for many a year after.

Cripps stood by the head of the grave, with that hopeless, imbecile
expression with which a nature wholly gross and animal often
contemplates the symbols of the close of mortal existence. Tiff stood by
the side of the grave, his white hat conspicuously draped with black
crape, and a deep weed of black upon his arm. The baby, wrapped in an
old black shawl, was closely fondled in his bosom, while the two
children stood weeping bitterly at his side. The other side of the grave
stood Mr. Carson and Mr. Clayton, while Milly, Harry, and several
plantation slaves, were in a group behind.

The coffin had been opened, that all might take that last look, so
coveted, yet so hopeless, which the human heart will claim on the very
verge of the grave. It was but a moment since the coffin had been
closed; and the burst of grief which shook the children was caused by
that last farewell. As Clayton, in a musical voice, pronounced the
words, "I am the resurrection and the life," Nina wept and sobbed as if
the grief had been her own; nor did she cease to weep during the whole
touching service. It was the same impulsive nature which made her so gay
in other scenes that made her so sympathetic here. When the whole was
over, she kissed the children, and, shaking hands with old Tiff,
promised to come and see them on the morrow. After which, Clayton led
her to the carriage, into which he and Carson followed her.

"Upon my word," said Carson, briskly, "this has been quite solemn!
Really, a very interesting funeral, indeed! I was delighted with the
effect of our church service; in such a romantic place, too! 'Twas
really very interesting. It pleases me, also, to see young ladies in
your station, Nina, interest themselves in the humble concerns of the
poor. If young ladies knew how much more attractive it made them to show
a charitable spirit, they would cultivate it more. Singular-looking
person, that old negro! Seems to be a good creature. Interesting
children, too! I should think the woman must have been pretty when she
was young. Seen a great deal of trouble, no doubt, poor thing! It's a
comfort to hope she is better off now."

Nina was filled with indignation at this monologue; not considering that
the man was giving the very best he had in him, and laboring assiduously
at what he considered his vocation, the prevention of half an hour of
silence in any spot of earth where he could possibly make himself heard.
The same excitement which made Nina cry made him talk. But he was not
content with talking, but insisted upon asking Nina, every moment, if
she didn't think it an interesting occasion, and if she had not been
much impressed.

"I don't feel like talking, Mr. Carson," said Nina.

"Oh--ah--yes, indeed! You've been so deeply affected--yes. Naturally
_does_ incline one to silence. Understand your feelings perfectly. Very
gratifying to me to see you take such a deep interest in your
fellow-creatures."

Nina could have pushed him out of the carriage.

"For my part," continued Carson, "I think we don't reflect enough about
this kind of thing--I positively don't. It really is useful sometimes to
have one's thoughts turned in this direction. It does us good."

Thus glibly did Carson proceed to talk away the impression of the whole
scene they had witnessed. Long before the carriage reached home, Nina
had forgotten all her sympathy in a tumult of vexation. She discovered
an increasing difficulty in making Carson understand, by any degree of
coolness, that he was not acceptable; and saw nothing before her but
explanations in the very plainest terms, mortifying and humiliating as
that might be. His perfect self-complacent ease, and the air with which
he constantly seemed to appropriate her as something which of right
belonged to himself, filled her with vexation. But yet her conscience
told her that she had brought it upon herself.

"I won't bear this another hour!" she said to herself, as she ascended
the steps toward the parlor. "All this before Clayton too! What must he
think of me?" But they found tea upon the table and Aunt Nesbit waiting.

"It's a pity, madam, you were not with us. Such an interesting time!"
said Mr. Carson, launching, with great volubility, into the tide of
discourse.

"It wouldn't have done for me at all," said Mrs. Nesbit. "Being out when
the dew falls, always brings on hoarseness. I have been troubled in that
way these two or three years. Now I have to be very careful. Then I'm
timid about riding in a carriage with John's driving."

"I was amused enough," said Nina, "with Old Hundred's indignation at
having to get out the carriage and horses to go over to what he called a
'cracker funeral.' I really believe, if he could have upset us without
hurting himself, he would have done it."

"For my part," said Aunt Nesbit, "I hope that family will move off
before long. It's very disagreeable having such people round."

"The children look very pretty and bright," said Nina.

"Oh, there's no hope for them! They'll grow up and be just like their
parents. I've seen that sort of people all through and through. I don't
wish them any evil; only I don't want to have anything to do with them!"

"For my part," said Nina, "I'm sorry for them. I wonder why the
legislature, or somebody, don't have schools, as they do up in New York
State? There isn't anywhere there where children can't go to school, if
they wish to. Besides, aunt, these children really came from an old
family in Virginia. Their old servant-man says that their mother was a
Peyton."

"I don't believe a word of it! They'll lie--all of them. They always
do."

"Well," said Nina, "I shall do something for these children, at any
rate."

"I quite agree with you, Nina. It shows a very excellent spirit in you,"
said Mr. Carson. "You'll always find me ready to encourage everything of
that sort."

Nina frowned, and looked indignant. But to no purpose. Mr. Carson went
on remorselessly with his really good-hearted rattle, till Nina, at
last, could bear it no longer.

"How dreadfully warm this room is!" said she, springing up. "Come, let's
go back into the parlor."

Nina was as much annoyed at Clayton's silence, and his quiet, observant
reserve, as with Carson's forth-putting. Rising from table, she passed
on before the company, with a half-flying trip, into the hall, which lay
now cool, calm, and breezy, in the twilight, with the odor of the
pillar-roses floating in at the window. The pale white moon, set in the
rosy belt of the evening sky, looked in at the open door. Nina would
have given all the world to be still; but, well aware that stillness was
out of the question, she determined to select her own noise; and,
sitting down at the piano, began playing very fast, in a rapid,
restless, disconnected manner. Clayton threw himself on a lounge by the
open door; while Carson busied himself fluttering the music, opening and
shutting music-books, and interspersing running commentaries and notes
of admiration on the playing.

At last, as if she could bear it no longer, she rose, with a very
decided air, from the piano, and, facing about towards Mr. Carson,
said:--

"It looks very beautifully out doors. Don't you want to come out?
There's a point of view at the end of one of the paths, where the moon
looks on the water, that I should like to show you."

"Won't you catch cold, Nina?" said Aunt Nesbit.

"No, indeed! I never catch cold," said Nina, springing into the porch,
and taking the delighted Mr. Carson's arm. And away she went with him,
with almost a skip and a jump, leaving Clayton _tête-à-tête_ with Aunt
Nesbit.

Nina went so fast that her attendant was almost out of breath. They
reached a little knoll, and there Nina stopped suddenly, and said, "Look
here, Mr. Carson; I have something to say to you."

"I should be delighted, my dear Nina! I'm perfectly charmed!"

"No--no--if you please--_don't!_" said Nina, putting up her hand to stop
him. "Just wait till you hear what I have to say. I believe you did not
get a letter which I wrote you a few days ago, did you?"

"A letter! no, indeed. How unfortunate!"

"Very unfortunate for me!" said Nina; "and for you, too. Because, if you
had, it would have saved you and me the trouble of this interview. I
wrote that letter to tell you, Mr. Carson, that I cannot _think_ of such
a thing as an engagement with you! That I've acted very wrong and very
foolishly; but that I cannot do it. In New York, where everybody and
everything seemed to be trifling, and where the girls all trifled with
these things, I was engaged--just for frolic--nothing more. I had no
idea what it would amount to; no idea what I was saying, nor how I
should feel afterwards. But every hour since I've been home, here, since
I've been so much alone, has made me feel how wrong it is. Now, I'm very
sorry, I'm sure. But I must speak the truth, this time. But it is--I
can't tell you how--disagreeable to me to have you treat me as you have
since you've been here!"

"Miss Gordon!" said Mr. Carson, "I am positively astonished! I--I don't
know what to think!"

"Well, I only want you to think that I am in earnest; and that, though I
can _like_ you very well as an acquaintance, and shall always wish you
well, yet anything else is just as far out of the question as that moon
there is from us. I can't tell you how sorry I am that I've made you all
this trouble. I really am," said she, good-naturedly; "but please now to
understand how we stand." She turned, and tripped away.

"There!" said she, to herself, "at any rate, I've done _one_ thing!"

Mr. Carson stood still, gradually recovering from the stupor into which
this communication had thrown him. He stretched himself, rubbed his
eyes, took out his watch and looked at it, and then began walking off
with a very sober pace in the opposite direction from Nina.
Happily-constituted mortal that he was, nothing ever could be subtracted
from his sum of complacence that could not be easily balanced by about
a quarter of an hour's consideration. The walk through the shrubbery in
which he was engaged was an extremely pretty one, and wound along on the
banks of the river through many picturesque points of view, and finally
led again to the house by another approach. During the course of this
walk Mr. Carson had settled the whole question for himself. In the first
place, he repeated the comfortable old proverb, that there were as good
fish in the sea as ever were caught. In the second place, as Mr. Carson
was a shrewd business-man, it occurred to him, in this connection, that
the plantation was rather run down, and not a profitable acquisition.
And, in the third place, contemplating Nina as the fox of old did his
bunch of sour grapes, he began to remember that, after all, she was
dressy, expensive, and extravagant. Then, as he did not want that
imperturbable good-nature which belongs to a very shallow capability of
feeling, he said to himself that he shouldn't like the girl a bit the
less. In fact, when he thought of his own fine fortune, his house in New
York, and all the accessories which went to make up himself, he
considered her, on the whole, as an object of pity; and, by the time
that he ascended the balcony steps again, he was in as charitable and
Christian a frame as any rejected suitor could desire.

He entered the drawing-room. Aunt Nesbit had ordered candles, and was
sitting up with her gloves on, alone. What had transpired during his
walk, he did not know; but we will take our readers into confidence.

Nina returned to the house with the same decided air with which she went
out, and awakened Mr. Clayton from a reverie with a brisk little tap of
her fan on his shoulder.

"Come up here with me," she said, "and look out of the library window,
and see this moonlight."

And up she went, over the old oaken staircase, stopping on each landing;
and, beckoning to Clayton, with a whimsically authoritative gesture,
threw open the door of a large, black-wainscoted room, and ushered him
in. The room lay just above the one where they had been sitting, and,
like that, opened on to the veranda by long-sashed windows, through
which, at the present moment, a flood of moonlight was pouring. A large,
mahogany writing-table, covered with papers, stood in the middle of the
room, and the moon shone in so brightly that the pattern of the bronze
inkstand, and the color of the wafers and sealing-wax, were plainly
revealed. The window commanded a splendid view of the river over the
distant tree-tops, as it lay shimmering and glittering in the moonlight.

"Isn't that a beautiful sight?" said Nina, in a hurried voice.

"Very beautiful!" said Clayton, sitting down in the large lounging-chair
before the window, and looking out with the abstracted air which was
habitual with him.

After a moment's thought, Nina added, with a sudden effort,--

"But, after all, that was not what I wanted to speak to you about. I
wanted to see you somewhere, and say a few words which it seems to me it
is due to you that I should say. I got your last letter, and I'm sure I
am very much obliged to your sister for all the kind things she says;
but I think you must have been astonished at what you have seen since
you have been here."

"Astonished at what?" said Clayton, quietly.

"At Mr. Carson's manners towards me."

"I have not been astonished at all," replied Clayton, quietly.

"I think, at all events," said Nina, "I think it is no more than
honorable that I should tell you exactly how things have stood. Mr.
Carson has thought that he had a right to me and mine; and I was so
foolish as to give him reason to think so. The fact is, that I have been
making a game of life, and saying and doing anything and everything that
came into my head, just for frolic. It don't seem to me that there has
been anything serious or real about me, until very lately. Somehow, my
acquaintance with you has made things seem more real to me than they
ever did before; and it seems to me now perfectly incredible, the way we
girls used to play and trifle with everything in the world. Just for
sport, I was engaged to that man; just for sport, too, I have been
engaged to another one."

"And," said Clayton, breaking the silence, "just for sport, have you
been engaged to me?"

"No," said Nina, after a few moments' silence, "not in sport, certainly;
but, yet, not enough in earnest. I think I am about half waked up. I
don't know myself. I don't know where or what I am, and I want to go
back into that thoughtless dream. I do really think it's too hard to
take up the responsibility of living in good earnest. Now, it seems to
me just this,--that I cannot be bound to anybody. I want to be free. I
have positively broken all connection with Mr. Carson; I have broken
with another one, and I wish"--

"To break with me?" said Clayton.

"I don't really know as I can say what I do wish. It is a very different
thing from any of the others, but there's a feeling of dread, and
responsibility, and constraint, about it; and, though I think I should
feel very lonesome now without you, and though I like to get your
letters, yet it seems to me that I cannot be engaged,--that is a most
dreadful feeling to me."

"My dear friend," said Clayton, "if that is all, make yourself easy.
There's no occasion for our being engaged. If you can enjoy being with
me and writing to me, why, do it in the freest way, and to-morrow shall
take care for the things of itself. You shall say what you please, do
what you please, write when you please, and not write when you please,
and have as many or as few letters as you like. There can be no true
love without liberty."

"Oh, I'm sure I'm much obliged to you!" said Nina, with a sigh of
relief. "And, now, do you know, I like your sister's postscript very
much; but I can't tell what it is in it, for the language is as kind as
can be, that would give me the impression that she is one of those very
proper kind of people, that would be dreadfully shocked if she knew of
all my goings on in New York."

Clayton could hardly help laughing at the instinctive sagacity of this
remark.

"I'm sure I don't know," said he, "where you could have seen that,--in
so short a postscript, too."

"Do you know, I never take anybody's handwriting into my hand, that I
don't feel an idea of them come over me, just as you have when you see
people? And that idea came over me when I read your sister's letter."

"Well, Nina, to tell you the truth, sister Anne is a little bit
conventional--a little set in her ways; but, after all, a large-hearted,
warm-hearted woman. You would like each other, I know."

"I don't know about that," said Nina. "I am very apt to shock proper
people. Somehow or other, they have a faculty of making me contrary."

"Well, but, you see, Anne isn't merely a conventional person; there's
only the slightest crust of conventionality, and a real warm heart under
it."

"Whereas," said Nina, "most conventional people are like a shallow
river, frozen to the bottom. But, now, really, I should like very much
to have your sister come and visit us, if I could think that she would
come as any other friend; but, you know, it isn't very agreeable to have
anybody come to look one over to see if one will do."

Clayton laughed at the naïve, undisguised frankness of this speech.

"You see," said Nina, "though I'm nothing but an ignorant school-girl,
I'm as proud as if I had everything to be proud of. Now, do you know, I
don't much like writing to your sister, because I don't think I write
very good letters! I never could sit still long enough to write."

"Write exactly as you talk," said Clayton. "Say just what comes into
your head, just as you would talk it. I hope you will do that much, for
it will be very dull writing all on one side."

"Well," said Nina, rising, with animation, "now, Mr. Edward Clayton, if
we have settled about this moonlight, we may as well go down into the
parlor, where Aunt Nesbit and Mr. Carson are _tête-à-tête_."

"Poor Carson!" said Clayton.

"Oh, don't pity him! Good soul! he's a man that one night's rest would
bring round from anything in creation. He's so thoroughly good-natured!
Besides, I shall like him better, now. He did not use to seem to me so
intrusive and disagreeable. We girls used to like him very well, he was
such a comfortable, easy-tempered, agreeable creature, always brisk and
in spirits, and knowing everything that went on. But he is one of those
men that I think would be really insufferable, if anything serious were
the matter with me. Now, you heard how he talked coming from that
funeral! Do you know, that if he had been coming from _my_ funeral, it
would have been just so?"

"Oh, no, not quite so bad," said Clayton.

"Indeed he is," said Nina. "That man! why, he just puts me in mind of
one of these brisk blue-flies, whirring and whisking about, marching
over pages of books, and alighting on all sorts of things. When he puts
on that grave look, and begins to talk about serious things, he actually
looks to me just as a fly does when he stands brushing his wings on a
Bible! But, come, let's go down to the good soul."

Down they went, and Nina seemed like a person enfranchised. Never had
she seemed more universally gracious. She was chatty and conversable
with Carson, and sang over for him all her old opera-songs, with the
better grace that she saw that Clayton was listening intently.

As they were sitting and conversing together, the sound of a horse's
heels was heard coming up the avenue.

"Who can that be, this time of night?" said Nina, springing to the door,
and looking out.

She saw Harry hastening in advance to meet her, and ran down the veranda
steps to speak to him.

"Harry, who is coming?"

"Miss Nina, it's Master Tom," said Harry, in a low voice.

"Tom! Oh, mercy!" said Nina, in a voice of apprehension. "What sent him
here, now?"

"What sends him anywhere?" said Harry.

Nina reascended the steps, and stood looking apprehensively towards the
horseman, who approached every moment nearer. Harry came up on the
veranda, and stood a little behind her. In a few moments the horse was
up before the steps.

"Hallo, there!" said the rider. "Come, take my horse, you rascal!"

Harry remained perfectly still, put his arms by his side, and stood with
a frowning expression on his forehead.

"Don't you hear?" said the horseman, throwing himself off, with an oath.
"Come here, boy, and take my horse!"

"For pity's sake," said Nina, turning and looking in Harry's face,
"don't have a scene here! Do take his horse, quick! _Anything_ to keep
him quiet!"

With a sudden start, Harry went down the steps, and took the bridle from
the hand of the newly-arrived in silence.

The horseman sprang up the steps.

"Hallo, Nin, is this you?" And Nina felt herself roughly seized in the
arms of a shaggy great-coat, and kissed by lips smelling of brandy and
tobacco. She faintly said, as she disengaged herself,--

"Tom, is it you?"

"Yes, to be sure! Who did you think it was? Devilish glad to see me,
an't you? Suppose you was in hopes I wouldn't come!"

"Hush, Tom, do! I _am_ glad to see you. There are gentlemen in there;
don't speak so loud!"

"Some of your beaux, hey? Well, I am as good a fellow as any of 'em!
Free country, I hope! No, I an't going to whisper, for any of them. So
now, Nin-- If there isn't old Starchy, to be sure!" said he, as Aunt
Nesbit came to the door. "Hallo, old girl, how are you?"

"Thomas!" said Mrs. Nesbit, softly, "Thomas!"

"None of your Thomasing me, you old pussy-cat! Don't you be telling me,
neither, to hush! I won't hush, neither! I know what I am about, I
guess! It's my house, as much as it is Nin's, and I'm going to do as I
have a mind to here! I an't going to have my mouth shut on account of
her beaux! So, clear out, I tell you, and let me come in!" and Aunt
Nesbit gave back. He pushed his way into the apartment.

He was a young man, about twenty-five years old, who evidently had once
possessed advantages of face and figure; but every outline in the face
was bloated and rendered unmeaning by habits of constant intemperance.
His dark eyes had that muddy and troubled expression which in a young
man too surely indicates the habitual consciousness of inward impurity.
His broad, high forehead was flushed and pimpled, his lips swollen and
tumid, and his whole air and manner gave painful evidence that he was at
present too far under the influence of stimulus justly to apprehend what
he was about.

Nina followed him, and Clayton was absolutely shocked at the ghastly
paleness of her face. She made an uncertain motion towards him, as if
she would have gone to him for protection. Clayton rose; Carson, also;
and all stood for a moment in silent embarrassment.

"Well, this is a pretty business, to be sure! Nina," said he, turning
to her, with a tremendous oath, "why don't you introduce me? Pretty way
to meet a brother you haven't seen for three or four years! You act as
if you were ashamed of me! Confound it all! introduce me, I say!"

"Tom, don't speak so!" said Nina, laying her hand on his arm, in a
soothing tone. "This gentleman is Mr. Clayton; and, Mr. Clayton," she
said, lifting her eyes to him, and speaking in a trembling voice, "this
is my brother."

Mr. Clayton offered his hand, with the ordinary expressions of civility.

"Mr. Carson," said Nina, "my brother."

There was something inexpressibly touching and affecting in the manner
in which this was said. One other person noticed it. Harry, who had
given the horse to a servant, stood leaning against the doorway, looking
on. A fiery gleam, like that of a steel blade, seemed to shoot from his
blue eyes; and each time that Nina said "my brother," he drew in his
breath, as one who seeks to restrain himself in some violent inward
emotion.

"I suppose you don't any of you want to see me much," said the
new-comer, taking a chair, and sitting down doggedly in the centre of
the group, with his hat on his head.

"Well, I have as good a right as anybody to be here!" he continued,
spitting a quid of tobacco at Aunt Nesbit's feet.

"For my part, I think relations ought to have natural affection, and be
glad to see one another. Well, now, you can see, gentlemen, with your
own eyes, just how it is here! There's my sister, there. You better
believe me, she hasn't seen me for three years! Instead of appearing
glad, or anything, there she sits, all curled up in a corner! Won't come
near me, more than if I had the plague! Come here, now, you little kit,
and sit in my lap!"

He made a movement to pull Nina towards him, which she resisted with an
air of terror, looking at her aunt, who, more terrified still, sat with
her feet drawn up on the sofa, as if he had been a mad dog. There was
reason enough for the terror which seemed to possess them both. Both had
too vivid recollections of furious domestic hurricanes that had swept
over the family when Tom Gordon came home. Nina remembered the storms
of oaths and curses that had terrified her when a child; the times that
she had seen her father looking like death, leaning his head on his
hand, and sighing as only those sigh who have an only son worse than
dead.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Nina, generally courageous and fearless
as she was, should have become fearful and embarrassed at his sudden
return.

"Tom," she said, softly, coming up to him, "you haven't been to supper.
Hadn't you better come out?"

"No you don't!" said he, catching her round the waist, and drawing her
on his knee. "You won't get me out of the room, now! I know what I am
about! Tell me," continued he, still holding her on his knee, "which of
them is it, Nin?--which is the favored one?"

Clayton rose and went out on the veranda, and Mr. Carson asked Harry to
show him into his room.

"Hallo! shelling out there, are they? Well, Nin, to tell the truth, I am
deuced hungry. For my part, I don't see what the thunder keeps my Jim
out so long. I sent him across to the post-office. He ought to have been
back certainly as soon as I was. Oh, here he comes! Hallo! you dog,
there!" said he, going to the door, where a very black negro was
dismounting. "Any letters?"

"No, mas'r. I spect de mails have gin up. Der an't been no letters dere,
for no one, for a month. It is some 'quatic disorganization of dese yer
creeks, I s'pose. So de letter-bags goes anywhere 'cept der right
place."

"Confound it all! I say, you Nin," turning round, "why don't you offer a
fellow some supper? Coming home, here, in my own father's house,
everybody acts as if they were scared to death! No supper!"

"Why, Tom, I've been asking you, these three or four times."

"Bless us!" said Jim, whispering to Harry. "De mischief is, he an't more
than half-primed! Tell her to give him a little more brandy, and after a
little we will get him into bed as easy as can be!"

And the event proved so; for, on sitting down to supper, Tom Gordon
passed regularly through all the stages of drunkenness; became as
outrageously affectionate as he had been before surly, kissed Nina and
Aunt Nesbit, cried over his sins and confessed his iniquities, laughed
and cried feebly, till at last he sank in his chair asleep.

"Dar, he is done for, now!" said Jim, who had been watching the gradual
process. "Now, just you and I, let's tote him off," said he to Harry.

Nina, on her part, retired to a troubled pillow. She foresaw nothing
before her but mortification and embarrassment, and realized more than
ever the peculiar loneliness of her situation.

For all purposes of consultation and aid, Aunt Nesbit was nobody in her
esteem, and Nina was always excited and vexed by every new attempt that
she made to confide in her.

"Now, to-morrow," she said to herself, as she lay down, "no one knows
what will turn up. He will go round as usual, interfering with
everything--threatening and frightening my servants, and getting up some
difficulty with Harry. Dear me! it seems to me life is coming over me
hard enough, and all at once, too!"

As Nina said this, she saw some one standing by her bed. It was Milly,
who stooped tenderly over her, smoothing and arranging the bed-clothes
in a motherly way.

"Is that you, Milly? Oh, sit down here a minute! I am so troubled! It
seems to me I've had so much trouble to-day! Do you know Tom came home
to-night _so_ drunk! Oh, dear Milly, it was horrid! Do you know he took
me in his arms and kissed me; and, though he is my only brother, it's
perfectly dreadful to me! And I feel so worried, and so anxious!"

"Yes, lamb, I knows all about dese yer things," said Milly. "I's seen
him many and many times."

"The worst of it is," said Nina, "that I don't know what he will do
to-morrow--and before Mr. Clayton, too! It makes me feel so helpless,
ashamed, and mortifies me so!"

"Yes, yes, chile," said Milly, gently stroking her head.

"I stand so much alone!" said Nina. "Other girls have some friend or
relation to lean on; but I have nobody!"

"Why don't you ask your _Father_ to help you?" said Milly to Nina, in a
gentle tone.

"Ask _who_?" said Nina, lifting up her head from the pillow.

"Your Father!" said Milly, with a voice of solemnity. "Don't you know
'Our Father who art in Heaven'? You haven't forgot your prayers, I hope,
honey."

Nina looked at her with surprise. And Milly continued, "Now, if I was
you, lamb, I would tell my Father all about it. Why, chile, He loves
you! He wouldn't like nothing better, now, than to have you just come to
Him and tell Him all about your troubles, and He'll make 'em all
straight. That's the way I does, and I's found it come out right, many
and many a time."

"Why, Milly, you wouldn't have me go to God about _my_ little foolish
affairs?"

"Laws, chile, what should you go to Him 'bout, den? Sure dese are all de
'fairs you's got."

"Well, but, Milly," said Nina, apprehensively, "you know I've been a
very bad girl about religion. It's years and years since I've said any
prayers. At school, the girls used to laugh at anybody who said prayers;
and so I never did. And, since I've neglected my heavenly Father when
things went well with me, it wouldn't be fair to call on Him now, just
because I've got into trouble. I don't think it would be honorable."

"De Lord bless dis yer chile! Do hear her talk! Just as if de heavenly
Father didn't know all about you, and hadn't been a loving and watching
you de whole time! Why, chile, He knows what poor foolish creatures we
be; and He an't noways surprised, nor put out. Why, laws, don't you know
He's de good shepherd? And what you suppose dey has shepherds fur, 'cept
de sheeps are all de time running away, and getting into trouble? Why,
honey, _dat's what dey's fur_."

"Well, but it is so long since I prayed, that I don't know anything how
to pray, Milly."

"Bless you, chile, who wanted you to pray? I never prays myself. Used to
try, but I made such drefful poor work on it that I gin it up. Now, I
just goes and _talks_ to de Father, and tells Him anything and
everything; and I think He likes it a great deal better. Why, He is just
as willing to hear me now, as if I was the greatest lady in the land.
And he takes such an interest in all my poor 'fairs! Why, sometimes I go
to Him when my heart is _so_ heavy; and, when I tells Him all about it,
I comes away as light as a feather!"

"Well, but, after I've forgotten Him so many years!"

"Why, honey, now just look yere! I 'member once, when you was a little
weety thing, that you toddles down dem steps dere, and you slips away
from dem dat was watching you, and you toddles away off into de grove,
yonder, and dere you got picking flowers, and one thing and another,
mighty tickled and peart. You was down dere 'joying yourself, till, by
and by, your pa missed you; and den such another hunt as dere was! Dere
was a hurrying here, and a looking dere; and finally your pa run down in
de woods, and dere you'd got stuck fast in de mud! both your shoes off,
and well scratched with briers; and dere you stood a crying, and calling
your pa. I tell you he said dat ar was de sweetest music he ever heard
in his life. I 'member he picked you up, and came up to de house kissing
you. Now, dere 'twas, honey! You didn't call on your pa till you got
into trouble. And laws, laws, chile, dat's de way with us all. We never
does call on de Father till we gets into trouble; and it takes heaps and
heaps of trouble, sometimes, to bring us round. Some time, chile, I'll
tell you my sperence. I's got a sperence on this point. But, now, honey,
don't trouble yourself no more; but just ask your Father to take care of
your 'fairs, and turn over and go to sleep. And He'll do it. Now you
mind."

So saying, Milly smoothed the pillow with anxious care, and, kissing
Nina on the forehead, departed.



CHAPTER XIII.

TOM GORDON.


"I say, Nina," said her brother, coming in, a day or two after, from a
survey he had been taking round the premises, "you want _me_ here to
manage this place. Everything going at sixes and sevens; and that nigger
of a Harry riding round with his boots shining. That fellow cheats you,
and feathers his own nest well. I know! These white niggers are all
deceitful."

"Come, Tom, you know the estate is managed just as father left word to
have it; and Uncle John says that Harry is an excellent manager. I'm
sure nobody could have been more faithful to me; and I am very well
satisfied."

"Yes, I dare say. All left to you and the executors, as you call them;
as if _I_ were not the natural guardian of my sister! Then I come here
to put up with that fellow's impudence!"

"Whose?--Harry's? He is never impudent. He is always gentlemanly.
Everybody remarks it."

"Gentlemanly! There it is, Nin! What a fool you are to encourage the use
of that word in connection with any of your niggers! Gentleman,
forsooth! And while he plays gentleman, who takes care? I tell you what,
you'll find one of these days how things are going on. But that's just
the way! You never would listen to me, or pay the least attention to my
advice."

"Oh, Tom, don't talk about that--don't! I never interfere about your
affairs. Please leave me the right to manage mine in my own way."

"And who is this Clayton that's hanging about here? Are you going to
have him, or he you--hey?"

"I don't know," said Nina.

"Because _I_, for one, don't like him; and I shan't give my consent to
let him have you. That other one is worth twice as much. He has one of
the largest properties in New York. Joe Snider has told me about him.
You shall have him."

"I shall _not_ have him, say what you please; and I _shall_ have Mr.
Clayton, if I choose!" said Nina, with a heightened color. "You have no
right to dictate to me of my own affairs; and I shan't submit to it, I
tell you frankly."

"Highty-tighty! We are coming up, to be sure!" said Tom.

"Moreover," said Nina, "I wish you to let everything on this place
entirely alone; and remember that my servants are not your servants, and
that you have no control over them whatever."

"Well, we will see how you'll help yourself! I am not going to go
skulking about on my father's own place as if I had no right or title
there; and if your niggers don't look sharp, they'll find out whether I
am the master here or not, especially that Harry. If the dog dare so
much as to lift his fingers to countermand any one of my orders, I'd put
a bullet through his head as soon as I would through a buck's. I give
you warning!"

"Oh, Tom, pray don't talk so!" said Nina, who really began to be
alarmed. "What do you want to make me such trouble for?"

The conversation was here suspended by the entrance of Milly.

"If you please, Miss Nina, come and show me which of your muslins you
wish to be done up, as I's starching for Miss Loo."

Glad of an opportunity to turn the conversation, Nina ran up to her
room, whither she was followed by Milly, who shut the door, and spoke to
her in mysterious tones.

"Miss Nina, can't you make some errand to get Harry off the place for
two or three days, while Mas'r Tom's round?"

"But what right," said Nina, with heightened color, "has he to dictate
to my servants, or me? or to interfere with any of our arrangements
here?"

"Oh, dere's no use talking about _rights_, honey. We must all do jest
what we _ken_. Don't make much odds whether our rights is one way or
t'other. You see, chile, it's just here. Harry's your right hand. But
you see he an't learnt to _bend_ 'fore the wind, like the rest of us. He
is spirity; he is just as full now as a powder-box; and Mas'r Tom is
bent on aggravating him. And, laws, chile, dere may be bloody work--dere
may so!"

"Why, do you think he'd _dare_"--

"Chile, don't talk to me! Dare!--yes; sure 'nough he will dare! Besides,
dere's fifty ways young gentlemen may take to aggravate and provoke.
And, when flesh and blood can't bear it no longer, if Harry raises his
hand, why, den shoot him down! Nothing said--nothing done. You can't
help yourself. You won't want to have a lawsuit with your own brother;
and, if you did, 'twouldn't bring Harry to life! Laws, chile, ef I could
tell you what I've seen--you don't know nothing 'bout it. Now, I tell
you, get up some message to your uncle's plantation; send him off for
anything or nothing; only have him gone! And then speak your brother
fair, and then may be he will go off. But don't you quarrel! don't you
cross him, come what may! Dere an't a soul on the place that can bar de
sight on him. But, then, you see the rest dey _all bends_! But, chile,
you must be quick about it! Let me go right off and find him. Just you
come in the little back room, and I'll call him in."

Pale and trembling, Nina descended into the room; and, in a few moments
after, Milly appeared, followed by Harry.

"Harry!" said Nina, in a trembling voice, "I want you to take your horse
and go over to Uncle John's plantation, and carry a note for me."

Harry stood with his arms folded, and his eyes fixed upon the ground,
and Nina continued,--

"And, Harry, I think you had better make some business or errand to keep
you away two or three days, or a week."

"Miss Nina," said Harry, "the affairs of the place are very pressing
now, and need overlooking. A few days' neglect now may produce a great
loss, and then it will be said that I neglected my business to idle and
ride round the country."

"Well, but if I send you, I take the responsibility, and I'll bear the
loss. The fact is, Harry, I'm afraid that you won't have patience to be
here, now Tom is at home. In fact, Harry, I'm afraid for your life! And
now, if you have any regard for me, make the best arrangement with the
work you can, and be off. I'll tell him that I sent you on business of
my own, and I am going to write a letter for you to carry. It's the
only safe way. He has so many ways in which he can provoke and insult
you, that, at last, you may say or do something that will give him
occasion against you; and I think he is determined to drive you to
this."

"Isn't this provoking, now? isn't this outrageous!" said Harry, between
his teeth, looking down, "that everything must be left, and all because
I haven't the right to stand up like a man, and protect you and yours!"

"It is a pity! it is a shame!" said Nina. "But, Harry, don't stop to
think upon it; do go!" She laid her hand softly on his. "For my sake,
now, be good--be good!"

The room where they were standing had long windows, which opened, like
those of the parlor, on the veranda, and commanded a view of a
gravel-walk bordered with shrubbery. As Harry stood, hesitating, he
started at seeing Lisette come tripping up the walk, balancing on her
head a basket of newly-ironed muslins and linens. Her trim little figure
was displayed in a close-fitting gown of blue, a snowy handkerchief
crossed upon her bust, and one rounded arm raised to steady the basket
upon her head. She came tripping forward, with her usual airy motion,
humming a portion of a song; and attracted, at the same moment, the
attention of Tom Gordon and of her husband.

"'Pon my word, if that isn't the prettiest concern!" said Tom, as he
started up and ran down the walk to meet her.

"Good-morning, my pretty girl!" he said.

"Good-morning, sir," returned Lisette, in her usual tone of gay
cheerfulness.

"Pray, who do you belong to, my pretty little puss! I think I've never
seen you on this place."

"Please, sir, I'm Harry's wife."

"Indeed! you are, hey? Devilish good taste he has!" said he, laying his
hand familiarly on her shoulder.

The shoulder was pulled away, and Lisette moved rapidly on to the other
side of the path, with an air of vexation which made her look rather
prettier.

"What, my dear, don't you know that I am your husband's young master?
Come, come!" he said, following her, and endeavoring to take hold of her
arm.

"Please let me alone!" said Lisette, coloring, and in a petted, vexed
tone.

"Let you alone? No, that I shan't, not while you ask it in such a pretty
way as that!" And again the hand was laid upon her shoulder.

It must be understood that Harry had witnessed so far, in pantomime,
this scene. He had stood with compressed lips, and eyes slowly dilating,
looking at it. Nina, who was standing with her back to the window,
wondered at the expression of his countenance.

"Look there, Miss Nina!" he said. "Do you see my wife and your brother?"

Nina turned, and in an instant the color mounted to her cheeks; her
little form seemed to dilate, and her eyes flashed fire; and before
Harry could see what she was doing, she was down in the gravel-walk, and
had taken Lisette's hand.

"Tom Gordon," she said, "I'm ashamed of you! Hush! hush!" she continued,
fixing her eyes on him, and stamping her foot. "_Dare_ to come to my
place, and take such liberties here! You shall not be allowed to while
_I_ am mistress; and I _am_ mistress! _Dare_ to lay a finger on this
girl while she is here under my protection! Come, Lisette!" And she
seized the trembling girl by the hand, and drew her along towards the
house.

Tom Gordon was so utterly confused at this sudden burst of passion in
his sister, that he let them go off without opposition. In a few moments
he looked after her, and gave a long, low whistle.

"Ah! Pretty well up for her! But she'll find it's easier said than done,
I fancy!" And he sauntered up to the veranda, where Harry stood with his
arms folded, and the veins in his forehead swelling with repressed
emotion.

"Go in, Lisette," said Nina; "take the things into my room, and I'll
come to you."

"'Pon my word, Harry," said Tom, coming up, and addressing Harry in the
most insulting tone, "we are all under the greatest obligations to you
for bringing such a pretty little fancy article here!"

"My wife does not belong to this place," said Harry, forcing himself to
speak calmly. "She belongs to a Mrs. Le Clere, who has come into
Belleville plantation."

"Ah! thank you for the information! I may take a fancy to buy her, and
I'd like to know who she belongs to. I've been wanting a pretty little
concern of that sort. She's a good housekeeper, isn't she, Harry? Does
up shirts well? What do you suppose she could be got for? I must go and
see her mistress."

During this cruel harangue Harry's hands twitched and quivered, and he
started every now and then, looking first at Nina, and then at his
tormentor. He turned deadly pale; even his lips were of ashy whiteness;
and, with his arms still folded, and making no reply, he fixed his large
blue eyes upon Tom, and, as it sometimes happened in moments of
excitement and elevation, there appeared on the rigid lines of his face,
at that moment, so strong a resemblance to Colonel Gordon, that Nina
noticed and was startled by it. Tom Gordon noticed it also. It added
fuel to the bitterness of his wrath; and there glared from his eyes a
malignancy of hatred that was perfectly appalling. The two brothers
seemed like thunder-clouds opposing each other, and ready to dart
lightning. Nina hastened to interfere.

"Hurry, hurry, Harry! I want that message carried. Do, pray, go
directly!"

"Let me see," said Tom, "I must call Jim, and have my horse. Which is
the way to that Belleville plantation? I think I'll ride over." And he
turned and walked indolently down the steps.

"For shame, Tom! you won't! you can't! How can you want to trouble me
so?" said Nina.

He turned and looked upon her with an evil smile, turned again, and was
gone.

"Harry, Harry, go quick! Don't you worry; there's no danger!" she added,
in a lower voice. "Madam Le Clere never would consent."

"There's no knowing!" said Harry, "never any knowing! People act about
money as they do about nothing else."

"Then--then I'll send and buy her myself!" said Nina.

"You don't know how our affairs stand, Miss Nina," said Harry hurriedly.
"The money couldn't be raised now for it, especially if I have to go off
this week. It will make a great difference, my being here or not being
here; and very likely Master Tom may have a thousand dollars to pay
down on the spot. I never knew him to want money when his will was up.
Great God! haven't I borne this yoke long enough?"

"Well, Harry," said Nina, "I'll sell everything I've got--my
jewels--everything. I'll mortgage the plantation, before Tom Gordon
shall do this thing! I'm not _quite_ so selfish as I've always seemed to
be. I know you've made the sacrifice of body and soul to my interest;
and I've always taken it because I loved my ease, and was a spoiled
child. But, after all, I know I've as much energy as Tom has, when I am
roused, and I'll go over this very morning and make an offer for her.
Only you be off. You can't stand such provocation as you get here; and
if you yield, as any man will do, at last, then everything and everybody
will go against you, and I can't protect you. Trust to _me_. I'm not so
much of a child as I have seemed to be! You'll find I can act for
myself, and you too! There comes Mr. Clayton through the
shrubbery--that's right! Order two horses round to the door immediately,
and we'll go over there this morning."

Nina gave her orders with a dignity as if she had been a princess, and
in all his agitation Harry could not help marvelling at the sudden air
of womanliness which had come over her.

"I could serve _you_," he said, in a low voice, "to the last drop of my
blood! But," he added, in a tone which made Nina tremble, "I hate
everybody else! I hate your country! I hate your laws!"

"Harry," said Nina, "you do wrong--you forget yourself!"

"Oh, I do wrong, do I? We are the people that are _never_ to do wrong!
People may stick pins in us, and stick knives in us, wipe their shoes on
us, spit in our face--_we_ must be amiable! we must be models of
Christian patience! I tell you, your father should rather have put me
into quarters and made me work like a field-negro, than to have given me
the education he did, and leave me under the foot of every white man
that dares tread on me!"

Nina remembered to have seen her father in transports of passion, and
was again shocked and startled to see the resemblance between his face
and the convulsed face before her.

"Harry," she said, in a pitying, half-admonitory tone, "do think what
you are saying! If you love me, be quiet!"

"Love you? You have always held my heart in your hand. That has been
the clasp upon my chain. If it hadn't been for you, I should have fought
my way to the north before now, or I would have found a grave on the
road!"

"Well, Harry," said Nina, after a moment's thought, "my love shall not
be a clasp upon _any_ chain; for, as there is a God in heaven, I will
set you free! I'll have a bill introduced at the very next legislature,
and I know what friend will see to it. So go, now, Harry, go!"

Harry stood a moment, then suddenly raised the hand of his little
mistress to his lips, turned, and was gone.

Clayton, who had been passing through the shrubbery, and who had
remarked that Nina was engaged in a very exciting conversation, had
drawn off, and stood waiting for her at the foot of the veranda steps.
As soon as Nina saw him, she reached out her hand frankly, saying,--

"Oh, there, Mr. Clayton, you are just the person! Wouldn't you like to
take a ride with me?"

"Of course I should," said he.

"Wait here a moment," said she, "till I get ready. The horses will be
here immediately." And, running up the steps, she passed quickly by him,
and went into the house.

Clayton had felt himself in circumstances of considerable embarrassment
ever since the arrival of Tom Gordon, the evening before. He had
perceived that the young man had conceived an instinctive dislike of
himself, which he was at no particular pains to conceal; and he had
found it difficult to preserve the appearance of one who does not
notice. He did not wish to intrude upon Nina any embarrassing
recognition of her situation, even under the guise of sympathy and
assistance; and waited, therefore, till some word from her should
authorize him to speak. He held himself, therefore, ready to meet any
confidence which she might feel disposed to place in him; not doubting,
from the frankness of her nature, that she would soon find it impossible
not to speak of what was so deeply interesting to her.

Nina soon reappeared, and, mounting their horses, they found themselves
riding through the same forest-road that led to the cottage of Tiff,
from which a divergent path went to the Belleville plantation.

"I'm glad to see you alone this morning, for many reasons," said Nina;
"for I think I never needed a friend's help more. I'm mortified that you
should have seen what you did last night; but, since you have, I may as
well speak of it. The fact is, that my brother, though he is the only
one I have, never did treat me as if he loved me. I can't tell what the
reason is: whether he was jealous of my poor father's love for me, or
whether it was because I was a wilful, spoiled girl, and so gave him
reason to be set against me, or whatever the reason might be,--he never
has been kind to me long at a time. Perhaps he would be, if I would
always do exactly as he says; but I am made as positive and wilful as he
is. I never have been controlled, and I can't recognize the right which
he seems to assume to control me, and to dictate as to my own private
affairs. He was not left my guardian; and, though I do love him, I
shan't certainly take him as one. Now, you see, he has a bitter hatred,
and a most unreasonable one, towards my Harry; and I had no idea, when I
came home, in how many ways he had the power to annoy me. It does seem
as if an evil spirit possessed them both when they get together; they
seem as full of electricity as they can be, and I am every instant
afraid of an explosion. Unfortunately for Harry, he has had a much
superior education to the generality of his class and station, and the
situation of trust in which he has been placed has given him more the
feelings of a free man and a gentleman than is usual; for, except Tom,
there isn't one of our family circle that hasn't always treated him with
kindness, and even with deference; and I think this very thing angers
Tom the more, and makes him take every possible occasion of provoking
and vexing. I believe it is his intention to push Harry up to some
desperate action; and, when I see how frightfully they look at each
other, I tremble for the consequences. Harry has lately married a very
pretty wife, with whom he lives in a little cottage on the extremity of
the Belleville estate; and this morning Tom happened to spy her, and it
seemed to inspire him with a most ingenious plan to trouble Harry. He
threatened to come over and buy her of Madam Le Clere; and so, to quiet
Harry, I promised to come over here before him, and make an offer for
her."

"Why," said Clayton, "do you think her mistress would sell her?"

"I can't say," said Nina. "She is a person I am acquainted with only by
report. She is a New Orleans creole who has lately bought the place.
Lisette, I believe, hired her time of her. Lisette is an ingenious,
active creature, and contrives, by many little arts and accomplishments,
to pay a handsome sum, monthly, to her mistress. Whether the offer of a
large sum at once would tempt her to sell her, is more than I know until
it's tried. I should like to have Lisette, for Harry's sake."

"And do you suppose your brother was really serious?"

"I shouldn't be at all surprised if he were. But, serious or not
serious, I intend to make the matter sure."

"If it be necessary to make an immediate payment," said Clayton, "I have
a sum of money which is lying idle in the bank, and it's but drawing a
check which will be honored at sight. I mention this, because the
ability to make an immediate payment may make the negotiation easier.
You ought to allow me the pleasure of joining you in a good work."

"Thank you," said Nina, frankly. "It may not be necessary; but, if it
should be, I will take it in the same spirit in which it is offered."

After a ride of about an hour, they arrived in the boundaries of
Belleville plantation.

In former days, Nina had known this as the residence of an ancient rich
family, with whom her father was on visiting terms. She was therefore
uncomfortably struck with the air of poverty, waste, and decay,
everywhere conspicuous through the grounds.

Nothing is more depressing and disheartening than the sight of a gradual
decay of what has been arranged and constructed with great care; and
when Nina saw the dilapidated gateway, the crushed and broken shrubbery,
the gaps in the fine avenue where the trees had been improvidently cut
down for fire-wood, she could not help a feeling of depression.

"How different this place used to be when I came here as a child!" said
she. "This madam, whatever her name is, can't be much of a manager."

As she said this, their horses came up the front of the house, in which
the same marks of slovenly neglect were apparent. Blinds were hanging
by one hinge; the door had sunk down into the rotten sill; the wooden
pillars that supported it were decayed at the bottom; and the twining
roses which once climbed upon them laid trailing, dishonored, upon the
ground. The veranda was littered with all kinds of rubbish,--rough
boxes, saddles, bridles, overcoats; and various nondescript articles
formed convenient hiding-places and retreats, in which a troop of negro
children and three or four dogs were playing at hide-and-go-seek with
great relish and noise. On the alighting of Nina and Clayton at the
door, they all left their sports, and arranged themselves in a grinning
row, to see the new-comers descend. Nothing seemed to be further from
the minds of the little troop than affording the slightest assistance in
the way of holding horses or answering questions. All they did was
alternately to look at each other and the travellers, and grin.

A tattered servant-man, with half a straw hat on his head, was at length
raised by a call of Clayton, who took their horses--having first
distributed a salutation of kicks and cuffs among the children, asking
where their manners were that they didn't show the gentleman and lady
in. And Nina and Clayton were now marshalled by the whole seven of them
into an apartment on the right of the great hall. Everything in the room
appeared in an unfinished state. The curtains were half put up at the
windows, and part lying in a confused heap on the chairs. The damp,
mouldy paper, which hung loosely from the wall, had been torn away in
some places, as if to prepare for repapering; and certain half-opened
rolls of costly wall-paper lay on the table, on which appeared the
fragment of some ancient luncheon; to wit, plates, and pieces of bread
and cheese, dirty tumblers, and an empty bottle. It was difficult to
find a chair sufficiently free from dust to sit down on. Nina sent up
her card by one of the small fry, who, having got half-way up the
staircase, was suddenly taken with the desire to slide down the
banisters with it in his hand. Of course he dropped the card in the
operation; and the whole group precipitated themselves briskly on to it,
all in a heap, and fought, tooth and nail, for the honor of carrying it
up stairs. They were aroused, however, by the entrance of the man with
half a hat; who, on Nina's earnest suggestion, plunged into the troop,
which ran, chattering and screaming like so many crows, to different
parts of the hall, while he picked up the card, and, with infinite
good-will beaming on his shining black face, went up with it, leaving
Nina and Clayton waiting below. In a few moments he returned.

"Missis will see de young lady up stairs."

Nina tripped promptly after him, and left Clayton the sole tenant of the
parlor for an hour. At length she returned, skipping down the stairs,
and opening the door with great animation.

"The thing is done!" she said. "The bill of sale will be signed as soon
as we can send it over."

"I had better bring it over myself," said Clayton, "and make the
arrangement."

"So be it!" said Nina. "But pray let us be delivered from this place!
Did you ever see such a desolate-looking house? I remember when I've
seen it a perfect paradise--full of the most agreeable people."

"And pray what sort of a person did you find?" said Clayton, as they
were riding homeward.

"Well," said Nina, "she's one of the tow-string order of women. Very
slack-twisted, too, I fancy--tall, snuffy, and sallow. Clothes looked
rough-dry, as if they had been pulled out of a bag. She had a
bright-colored Madras handkerchief tied round her head, and spoke French
a little more through her nose than French people usually do. Flourished
a yellow silk pocket-handkerchief. Poor soul! She said she had been sick
for a week with toothache, and kept awake all night! So, one mustn't be
critical! One comfort about these French people is, that they are always
'_ravis de vous voir_,' let what will turn up. The good soul was really
polite, and insisted on clearing all the things off from a dusty old
chair for me to sit down in. The room was as much at sixes and sevens as
the rest of the house. She apologized for the whole state of things by
saying that they could not get workmen out there to do anything for her;
and so everything is left in the second future tense; and the darkeys, I
imagine, have a general glorification in the chaos. She is one of the
indulgent sort, and I suspect she'll be eaten up by them like the
locusts. Poor thing! she is shockingly home-sick, and longing for
Louisiana, again. For, notwithstanding her snuffy appearance, and
yellow pocket-handkerchief, she really has a genuine taste for beauty;
and spoke most feelingly of the oleanders, crape myrtles, and cape
jessamines, of her native state."

"Well, how did you introduce your business?" said Clayton, laughing at
this description.

"Me?--Why, I flourished out the little French I have at command, and she
flourished her little English; and I think I rather prepossessed the
good soul, to begin with. Then I made a sentimental story about Lisette
and Harry's amours; because I know French people always have a taste for
the sentimental. The old thing was really quite affected, wiped her
little black eyes, pulled her hooked nose as a tribute to my eloquence,
called Lisette her '_enfant mignon_,' and gave me a little lecture on
the tender passion, which I am going to lay up for future use."

"Indeed!" said Clayton. "I should be charmed to have you repeat it.
Can't you give us a synopsis?"

"I don't know what synopsis means. But, if you want me to tell you what
she said, I shan't do it. Well, now, do you know I am in the best
spirits in the world, now that I've got this thing off my mind, and out
of that desolate house? Did you ever see such a direful place? What is
the reason, when we get down south, here, everything seems to be going
to destruction, so? I noticed it all the way down through Virginia. It
seems as if everything had stopped growing, and was going backwards.
Well, now, it's so different at the north! I went up, one vacation, into
New Hampshire. It's a dreadfully poor, barren country; nothing but stony
hills, and poor soil. And yet the people there seem to be so well off!
They live in such nice, tight, clean-looking white houses! Everything
around them looks so careful and comfortable; and yet their land isn't
half so good as ours, down here. Why, actually, some of those places
seem as if there were nothing but rock! And, then, they have winter
about nine months in the year, I do believe! But these Yankees turn
everything to account. If a man's field is covered with rock, he'll find
some way to sell it, and make money out of it; and if they freeze up all
winter, they sell the ice, and make money out of that. They just live by
selling their disadvantages!"

"And we grow poor by wasting our advantages," said Clayton.

"Do you know," said Nina, "people think it's a dreadful thing to be an
abolitionist? But, for my part, I've a great inclination to be one.
Perhaps because I have a contrary turn, and always have a little spite
against what everybody else believes. But, if you won't tell anybody,
I'll tell you--I don't believe in slavery!"

"Nor I, either!" said Clayton.

"You don't! Well, really, I thought I was saying something original.
Now, the other day, Aunt Nesbit's minister was at our house, and they
sat crooning together, as they always do; and, among other things, they
said, 'What a blessed institution it was to bring these poor Africans
over here to get them Christianized!' So, by way of saying something to
give them a start, I told them I thought they came nearer to making
heathen of us than we to making Christians of them."

"That's very true," said Clayton. "There's no doubt that the kind of
society which is built up in this way constantly tends to run back
towards barbarism. It prevents general education of the whites, and
keeps the poorer classes down to the lowest point, while it enriches a
few."

"Well, what do we have it for?" said Nina. "Why don't we blow it up,
right off?"

"That's a question easier asked than answered. The laws against
emancipation are very stringent. But I think it is every owner's
business to contemplate this as a future resort, and to educate his
servants in reference to it. That is what I am trying to do on my
plantation."

"Indeed!" said Nina, looking at him with a good deal of interest. "Well,
now, that reminds me of what I was going to say to you. Generally
speaking, my conscience don't trouble me much about my servants, because
I think they are doing about as well with me as they would be likely to
do anywhere else. But, now, there's Harry! He is well-educated, and I
know that he could do for himself, anywhere, better than he does here. I
have always had a kind of sense of this; but I've thought of it more
lately, and I'm going to try to have him set free at the next
legislature. And I shall want you to help me about all the
what-do-you-call-'ems."

"Of course, I shall be quite at your service," said Clayton.

"There used to be some people, when I was up at the north, who talked
as if all of us were no better than a pack of robbers and thieves. And,
of course, when I was there I was strong for our institutions, and would
not give them an inch of ground. It set me to thinking, though; and the
result of my thinking is, that we have no right to hold those to work
for us who clearly can do better. Now, there's Aunt Nesbit's
Milly--there's Harry and Lisette. Why, it's clear enough, if they can
support themselves and us too, they certainly can support themselves
alone. Lisette has paid eight dollars a month to her mistress, and
supported herself besides. I'm sure it's _we_ that are the helpless
ones!"

"Well, do you think your Aunt Nesbit is going to follow your example?"

"No! catch her at it! Aunt Nesbit is doubly fortified in her religion.
She is so satisfied with something or other about 'cursed be Canaan,'
that she'd let Milly earn ten dollars a month for her, all the year
round, and never trouble her head about taking every bit of it. Some
folks, you know, have a way of calling everything they want to do a
dispensation of providence! Now, Aunt Nesbit is one of 'em. She always
calls it a dispensation that the negroes were brought over here, and a
dispensation that we are the mistresses. Ah! Milly will not get free
while Aunt Nesbit is alive! And do you know, though it does not seem
very generous in me, yet I'm resigned to it, because Milly is such a
good soul, and such a comfort to me?--do you know she seems a great deal
more like a mother to me than Aunt Nesbit? Why, I really think, if Milly
had been educated as we are, she would have made a most splendid
woman--been a perfect Candace queen of Ethiopia. There's a vast deal
that is curious and interesting in some of these old Africans. I always
did love to be with them; some of them are so shrewd and original! But I
wonder, now, what Tom will think of my cutting him out so neatly? 'Twill
make him angry, I suppose."

"Oh, perhaps, after all, he had no real intention of doing anything of
the kind," said Clayton. "He may have said it merely for bravado."

"I should have thought so, if I hadn't known that he always had a grudge
against Harry."

At this moment the galloping of a horse was heard in the woodland path
before them; and very soon Tom Gordon appeared in sight accompanied by
another man, on horseback, with whom he was in earnest conversation.
There was something about the face of this man which, at the first
glance, Nina felt to be very repulsive. He was low, thickset, and yet
lean; his features were thin and sharp; his hair and eyebrows bushy and
black, and a pair of glassy, pale-blue eyes formed a peculiar contrast
to their darkness. There was something in the expression of the eye
which struck Nina as hard and cold. Though the man was habited
externally as a gentleman, there was still about him an under-bred
appearance, which could be detected at the first glance, as the
coarseness of some woods will reveal themselves through every varnish.

"Good-morrow, Nina," said her brother, drawing his horse up to meet
hers, and signing to his companion to arrest his, also. "Allow me to
present to you my friend, Mr. Jekyl. We are going out to visit the
Belleville plantation."

"I wish you a pleasant ride!" said Nina. And, touching her horse, she
passed them in a moment. Looking back almost fiercely, a moment, she
turned and said to Clayton:

"I hate that man!"

"Who is it?" said Clayton.

"I don't know!" said Nina. "I never saw him before. But I hate him! He
is a bad man! I'd as soon have a serpent come near me as that man!"

"Well, the poor fellow's face isn't prepossessing," said Clayton. "But I
should not be prepared for such an anathema."

"Tom's badness," continued Nina, speaking as if she were following out a
train of thought, without regarding her companion's remark, "is good
turned to bad. It's wine turned to vinegar. But this man don't even know
what good is!"

"How can you be so positive about a person that you've only seen once!"
said Clayton.

"Oh," said Nina, resuming her usual gay tones, "don't you know that
girls and dogs, and other inferior creatures, have the gift of seeing
what's in people? It doesn't belong to highly-cultivated folks like you,
but to us poor creatures, who have to trust to our instincts. So,
beware!" And, as she spoke, she turned to him with a fascinating air of
half-saucy defiance.

"Well," said Clayton, "have you seen, then, what is in me?"

"Yes, to be sure!" said Nina, with energy; "I knew what you were the
very first time I saw you. And that's the reason why"--

Clayton made an eager gesture, and his eye met hers with a sudden flash
of earnestness. She stopped, and blushed, and then laughed.

"What, Nina?"

"Oh, well, I always thought you were a grandfatherly body, and that you
wouldn't take advantage of 'us girls,' as some of the men do. And so
I've treated you with confidence, as you know. I had just the same
feeling that you could be trusted, as I have that that other fellow
cannot!"

"Well," said Clayton, "that deduction suits me so well that I should be
sorry to undermine your faith. Nevertheless, I must say such a way of
judging isn't always safe. Instinct may be a greater matter than we
think; yet it isn't infallible, any more than our senses. We try the
testimony even of our eyesight by reason. It will deceive us, if we
don't. Much more we ought to try this more subtle kind of sight."

"May be so," said Nina; "yet I don't think I shall like that man, after
all. But I'll give him a chance to alter my feeling, by treating him
civilly if Tom brings him back to dinner. That's the best I can do."



CHAPTER XIV.

AUNT NESBIT'S LOSS.


On entering the house, Nina was met at the door by Milly, with a
countenance of some anxiety.

"Miss Nina," she said, "your aunt has heard bad news this morning."

"Bad news!" said Nina, quickly,--"what?"

"Well, honey, ye see dere has been a lawyer here," said Milly, following
Nina as she was going up stairs; "and she has been shut up with him all
de mornin'; and when he come out I found her taking on quite dreadful!
And she says she has lost all her property."

"Oh! is that all?" said Nina. "I didn't know what dreadful thing might
have happened. Why, Milly, this isn't so very bad. She hadn't much to
lose."

"Oh, bless you, chile! nobody wants to lose all they got, much or
little!"

"Yes; but," said Nina, "you know she can always live here with us; and
what little money she wants to fuss with, to buy new caps, and paregoric
for her cough, and all such little matters, we can give her, easily
enough."

"Ah, Miss Nina, your heart is free enough; you'd give away both ends of
the rainbow, if you had 'em to give. But the trouble is, chile, you
_haven't got 'em_. Why, chile, dis yer great place, and so many mouths
opened to eat and eat, chile, I tell you it takes heaps to keep it a
going. And Harry, I tell you, finds it hard work to bring it even all
the year round, though he never says nothing to you about his
troubles,--wants you always to walk on flowers, with both hands full,
and never think where they come from. I tell you what, chile, we's boun'
to think for you a little; and I tell you what, I's jist a going to hire
out."

"Why, Milly, how ridiculous!"

"It an't ridiculous, now. Why, just look on it, Miss Nina. Here's Miss
Loo, dat's one; here's me, dat's two; here's Polly,--great grown
girl,--three; dere's Tomtit, four; all on us eating your bread, and not
bringing in a cent to you, 'cause all on us together an't done much more
than wait on Miss Loo. Why, you's got servants enough of your own to do
every turn that wants doing in dis yer house. I know, Miss Nina, young
ladies don't like to hear about dese things; but the fac' is, victuals
cost something, and dere must be some on us to bring in something. Now,
dat ar gentleman what talked with your aunt, he said he could find me a
right good place up dar to the town, and I was jest a going. Sally, she
is big enough now to do everything that I have been used to doing for
Miss Loo, and I am jest a going; besides, to tell you the truth, I think
Miss Loo has kind o' set her heart upon it. You know she is a weakly
kind of thing,--don't know how to do much 'cept sit in her chair and
groan. She has always been so used to having me make a way for her; and
when I told her about dis yer, she kind o' brightened up."

"But, Milly, what shall I do? I can't spare you at all," said Nina.

"Law bless _you_, chile! don't you suppose I's got eyes? I tell you,
Miss Nina, I looked that gen'leman over pretty well for you, and my
opinion is _he'll do_."

"Oh, come, you hush!" said Nina.

"You see, chile, it wouldn't be everybody that our people would be
willing to have come on to de place, here, but there an't one of 'em
that wouldn't go in for dis yar, now I tell you. Dere's Old Hundred, as
you calls him, told me 'twas just as good as a meeting to hear him
reading de prayers dat ar day at de funeral. Now, you see, I's seen
gen'lemen handsome, and rich, and right pleasant, too, dat de people
wouldn't want at all; 'cause why? dey has dere frolics and drinks, and
de money flies one way for dis ting and one way for dat, till by and by
it's all gone. Den comes de sheriff, and de people is all sold, some one
way and some another way. Now, Mr. Clayton, he an't none of dem."

"But, Milly, all this may be very well; but if I couldn't love him?"

"Law sakes, Miss Nina! You look me in the face and tell me dat ar? Why,
chile, it's plain enough to see through _you_. 'Tis so! The people's all
pretty sure, by this time. Sakes alive, we's used to looking out for the
weather; and we knows pretty well what's coming. And now, Miss Nina, you
go right along and give him a good word, 'cause you see, dear lamb, you
_need_ a good, husband to take care of you,--dat's what you want, chile.
Girls like you has a hard life being at the head of a place, especially
your brother being just what he is. Now, if you had a husband here,
Mas'r Tom 'ud be quiet, 'cause he knows he couldn't do nothing. But just
as long as you's alone he'll plague you. But, now, chile, it's time for
you to be getting ready for dinner."

"Oh, but, do you know, Milly," said Nina, "I've something to tell you,
which I had liked to have forgotten! I have been out to the Belleville
plantation, and bought Harry's wife."

"You has, Miss Nina! Why, de Lord bless _you_! Why, Harry was dreadful
worked, dis yer morning, 'bout what Mas'r Tom said. 'Peared like he was
most crazy."

"Well," said Nina, "I've done it. I've got the receipt here."

"Why, but, chile, where alive did you get all the money to pay right
sudden so?"

"Mr. Clayton lent it to me," said Nina.

"Mr. Clayton! Now, chile, didn't I tell you so? Do you suppose, now,
you'd a let him lend you dat ar money if you hadn't liked him? But,
come, chile, hurry! Dere's Mas'r Tom and dat other gen'leman coming
back, and you must be down to dinner."

The company assembled at the dinner-table was not particularly
enlivening. Tom Gordon, who, in the course of his morning ride, had
discovered the march which his sister had stolen upon him, was more
sulky and irritable than usual, though too proud to make any allusion to
the subject. Nina was annoyed by the presence of Mr. Jekyl, whom her
brother insisted should remain to dinner. Aunt Nesbit was uncommonly
doleful, of course. Clayton, who, in mixed society, generally took the
part of a listener rather than a talker, said very little; and had it
not been for Carson, there's no saying whether any of the company could
have spoken. Every kind of creature has its uses, and there are times
when a lively, unthinking chatterbox is a perfect godsend. Those
unperceiving people, who never notice the embarrassment of others, and
who walk with the greatest facility into the gaps of conversation,
simply because they have no perception of any difficulty there, have
their hour; and Nina felt positively grateful to Mr. Carson for the
continuous and cheerful rattle which had so annoyed her the day before.
Carson drove a brisk talk with the lawyer about the value of property,
percentage, etc.; he sympathized with Aunt Nesbit on her last-caught
cold; rallied Tom on his preoccupation; complimented Nina on her
improved color from her ride; and seemed on such excellent terms both
with himself and everybody else, that the thing was really infectious.

"What do you call your best investments, down here,--land, eh?" he said
to Mr. Jekyl.

Mr. Jekyl shook his head.

"Land deteriorates too fast. Besides, there's all the trouble and risk
of overseers, and all that. I've looked this thing over pretty well, and
I always invest in niggers."

"Ah!" said Mr. Carson, "you do?"

"Yes, sir, I invest in niggers; that's what I do; and I hire them out,
sir,--hire them out. Why, sir, if a man has a knowledge of human nature,
knows where to buy and when to buy, and watches his opportunity, he gets
a better percentage on his money that way than any other. Now, that was
what I was telling Mrs. Nesbit, this morning. Say, now, that you give
one thousand dollars for a man,--and I always buy the best sort, that's
economy,--well, and he gets--put it at the lowest figure--ten dollars a
month wages, and his living. Well, you see there, that gives you a
pretty handsome sum for your money. I have a good talent of buying. I
generally prefer mechanics. I have got now working for me three
bricklayers. I own two first-rate carpenters, and last month I bought a
perfect jewel of a blacksmith. He is an uncommonly ingenious man; a
fellow that will make, easy, his fifteen dollars a month; and he is the
more valuable because he has been religiously brought up. Why, some of
them, now, will cheat you if they can; but this fellow has been brought
up in a district where they have a missionary, and a great deal of
pains has been taken to form his religious principles. Now, this fellow
would no more think of touching a cent of his earnings than he would of
stealing right out of my pocket. I tell people about him, sometimes,
when I find them opposed to religious instruction. I tell them, 'See
there, now--you see how godliness is profitable to the life that now
is.' You know the Scriptures, Mrs. Nesbit?"

"Yes," said Aunt Nesbit, "I always believed in religious education."

"Confound it all!" said Tom, "I _don't_! I don't see the use of making a
set of hypocritical sneaks of them! I'd make niggers bring me my money;
but, hang it all, if he came snuffling to me, pretending 'twas his duty,
I'd choke him! They never think so,--they don't and they can't--and it's
all hypocrisy, this religious instruction, as you call it!"

"No, it isn't," said the undiscouraged Mr. Jekyl, "not when you found it
on right principles. Take them early enough, and work them right, you'll
get it ground into them. Now, when they begun religious instruction,
there was a great prejudice against it in our part of the country. You
see they were afraid that the niggers would get _uppish_. Ah, but you
see the missionaries are pretty careful; they put it in strong in the
catechisms about the rights of the master. You see the instruction is
just grounded on this, that the master stands in God's place to them."

"D--d bosh!" said Tom Gordon.

Aunt Nesbit looked across the table as if she were going to faint. But
Mr. Jekyl's composure was not in the slightest degree interrupted.

"I can tell you," he said, "that, in a business, practical view,--for I
am used to investments,--that, since the publishing of those catechisms,
and the missionaries' work among the niggers, the value of that kind of
property has risen ten per cent. They are better contented. They don't
run away, as they used to. Just that simple idea that their master
stands in God's place to them. Why, you see, it cuts its way."

"I have a radical objection to all that kind of instruction," said
Clayton.

Aunt Nesbit opened her eyes, as if she could hardly believe her hearing.

"And pray what is your objection?" said Mr. Jekyl, with an unmoved
countenance.

"My objection is that it is all a lie," said Clayton, in such a positive
tone that everybody looked at him with a start.

Clayton was one of those silent men who are seldom roused to talk, but
who go with a rush when they are. Not seeming to notice the startled
looks of the company, he went on: "It's a worse lie, because it's told
to bewilder a simple, ignorant, confiding creature. I never could
conceive how a decent man could ever look another man in the face and
say such things. I remember reading, in one of the missionary reports,
that when this doctrine was first propounded in an assembly of negroes
somewhere, all the most intelligent of them got up and walked
deliberately out of the house; and I honor them for it."

"Good for them!" said Tom Gordon. "I can keep my niggers down without
any such stuff as that!"

"I have no doubt," said Clayton, "that these missionaries are
well-intending, good men, and that they actually think the only way to
get access to the negroes at all is to be very positive in what will
please the masters. But I think they fall into the same error that the
Jesuits did when they adulterated Christianity with idolatry in order to
get admission in Japan. A lie never works well in religion, nor in
morals."

"That's what I believe," said Nina, warmly.

"But, then, if you can't teach them this, what can you teach them?" said
Mr. Jekyl.

"Confound it all!" said Tom Gordon, "teach them that you've _got the
power_!--teach them the weight of your fist! That's enough for them. I
am bad enough, I know; but I can't bear hypocrisy. I show a fellow my
pistol. I say to him, You see that, sir! I tell him, You do so and so,
and you shall have a good time with me. But, you do that, and I'll
thrash you within an inch of your life! That's my short method with
niggers, and poor whites, too. When one of these canting fellows comes
round to my plantation, let him see what he'll get, that's all!"

Mr. Jekyl appeared properly shocked at this declaration. Aunt Nesbit
looked as if it was just what she had expected, and went on eating her
potato with a mournful air, as if nothing could surprise her. Nina
looked excessively annoyed, and turned a sort of appealing glance upon
Clayton.

"For my part," said Clayton, "I base my religious instruction to my
people on the ground that every man and every woman must give an account
of themselves _to God alone_; and that God is to be obeyed first, and
before me."

"Why," said Mr. Jekyl, "that would be destructive of all discipline. If
you are going to allow every fellow to judge for himself, among a parcel
of ignorant, selfish wretches, what the will of God is, one will think
it's one thing, another will think it's another; and there will be an
end of all order. It would be absolutely impossible to govern a place in
that way."

"They must not be left an ignorant set," said Clayton. "They must be
taught to read the Scriptures for themselves, and be able to see that my
authority accords with it. If I command anything contrary to it, they
ought to oppose it!"

"Ah! I should like to see a plantation managed in that way!" said Tom
Gordon, scornfully.

"Please God, you shall see such an one, if you'll come to mine," said
Clayton, "where I should be very happy to see you, sir."

The tone in which this was said was so frank and sincere, that Tom was
silenced, and could not help a rather sullen acknowledgment.

"I think," said Mr. Jekyl, "that you'll find such a course, however well
it may work at first, will fail at last. You begin to let people think,
and they won't stop where you want them to; they'll go too far; it's
human nature. The more you give, the more you may give. You once get
your fellows to thinking, and asking all sorts of questions, and they
get discontented at once. I've seen that thing tried in one or two
instances, and it didn't turn out well. Fellows got restless and
discontented. The more was given to them, the more dissatisfied they
grew, till finally they put for the free states."

"Very well," said Clayton; "if that's to be the result, they may all
'put' as soon as they can get ready. If my title to them won't bear an
intelligent investigation, I don't wish to keep them. But I never will
consent to keep them by making false statements to them in the name of
religion, and presuming to put myself as an object of obedience before
my Maker."

"I think," said Mr. Carson, "Mr. Clayton shows an excellent
spirit--excellent spirit! On my word, I think so. I wish some of our
northern agitators, who make such a fuss on the the subject, could hear
him. I'm always disgusted with these abolitionists producing such an
unpleasantness between the north and the south, interrupting trade, and
friendship, and all that sort of thing."

"He shows an excellent spirit," said Mr. Jekyl; "but I must think he is
mistaken if he thinks that he can bring up people in that way, under our
institutions, and not do them more harm than good. It's a notorious fact
that the worst insurrections have arisen from the reading of the Bible
by these ignorant fellows. That was the case with Nat Turner, in
Virginia. That was the case with Denmark Vesey, and his crew, in South
Carolina. I tell you, sir, it will never do, this turning out a set of
ignorant people to pasture in the Bible! That blessed book is a savor of
life unto life when it's used right; but it's a savor of death unto
death when ignorant people take hold of it. The proper way is this:
administer such portions only as these creatures are capable of
understanding. This admirable system of religious instruction keeps the
matter in our own hands, by allowing us to select for them such portions
of the word as are best fitted to keep them quiet, dutiful, and
obedient; and I venture to predict that whoever undertakes to manage a
plantation on any other system will soon find it getting out of his
hands."

"So you are afraid to trust the Lord's word without holding the bridle!"
said Tom, with a sneer. "That's pretty well for you!"

"_I_ am not!" said Clayton. "I'm willing to resign any rights to any one
that I am not able to defend in God's word--any that I cannot make
apparent to any man's cultivated reason. I scorn the idea that I must
dwarf a man's mind, and keep him ignorant and childish, in order to make
him believe any lie I choose to tell him about my rights over him! I
intend to have an educated, intelligent people, who shall submit to me
because they think it clearly for their best interests to do so;
because they shall feel that what I command is right in the sight of
God."

"It's my opinion," said Tom, "that both these ways of managing are
humbugs. One way makes hypocrites, and the other makes rebels. The best
way of educating is, to show folks that they can't help themselves. All
the fussing and arguing in the world isn't worth one dose of certainty
on that point. Just let them know that there are no two ways about it,
and you'll have all still enough."

From this point the conversation was pursued with considerable warmth,
till Nina and Aunt Nesbit rose and retired to the drawing-room. Perhaps
it did not materially discourage Clayton, in the position he had taken,
that Nina, with the frankness usual to her, expressed the most eager and
undisguised admiration of all that he said.

"Didn't he talk beautifully? Wasn't it noble?" she said to Aunt Nesbit,
as she came in the drawing-room. "And that hateful Jekyl! isn't he
mean?"

"Child!" said Aunt Nesbit, "I'm surprised to hear you speak so! Mr.
Jekyl is a very respectable lawyer, an elder in the church, and a very
pious man. He has given me some most excellent advice about my affairs;
and he is going to take Milly with him, and find her a good place. He's
been making some investigations, Nina, and he's going to talk to you
about them, after dinner. He's discovered that there's an estate in
Mississippi worth a hundred thousand dollars, that ought properly to
come to you!"

"I don't believe a word of it!" said Nina. "Don't like the man!--think
he is hateful!--don't want to hear anything he has to say!--don't
believe in him!"

"Nina, how often have I warned you against such sudden
prejudices--against such a good man, too!"

"You won't make me believe he is good, not if he were elder in twenty
churches!"

"Well, but, child, at any rate you must listen to what he has got to
say. Your brother will be very angry if you don't, and it's really very
important. At any rate, you ought not to offend Tom, when you can help
it."

"That's true enough," said Nina; "and I'll hear, and try and behave as
well as I can. I hope the man will go, some time or other! I don't know
why, but his talk makes me feel worse than Tom's swearing! That's
certain."

Aunt Nesbit looked at Nina as if she considered her in a most hopeless
condition.



CHAPTER XV.

MR. JEKYL'S OPINIONS.


After the return of the gentlemen to the drawing-room, Nina, at the
request of Tom, followed him and Mr. Jekyl into the library.

"Mr. Jekyl is going to make some statements to us, Nina, about our
property in Mississippi, which, if they turn out as he expects, will set
us up in the world," said Tom.

Nina threw herself carelessly into the leather arm-chair by the window,
and looked out of it.

"You see," said Mr. Jekyl, also seating himself, and pulling out the
stiff points of his collar, "having done law business for your father,
and known, in that way, a good deal about the family property, I have
naturally always felt a good deal of interest in it; and you remember
your father's sister, Mrs. Stewart, inherited, on the death of her
husband, a fine estate in Mississippi."

"I remember," said Tom,--"well, go on."

"Well, she died, and left it all to her son. Well, he, it seems, like
some other young men, lived in a very reprehensible union with a
handsome quadroon girl, who was his mother's maid; and she, being an
artful creature, I suppose, as a great many of them are, got such an
ascendency over him, that he took her up to Ohio, and married her, and
lived there with her some years, and had two children by her. Well, you
see, he had a deed of emancipation recorded for her in Mississippi, and
just taking her into Ohio, set her free by the laws of that state. Well,
you see, he thought he'd fixed it so that the thing couldn't be undone,
and she thought so too; and I understand she's a pretty shrewd
woman--has a considerable share of character, or else she wouldn't have
done just what she has; for, you see, he died about six months ago, and
left the plantation and all the property to her and her children, and
she has been so secure that she has actually gone and taken possession.
You see, she is so near white, you must know that there isn't one in
twenty would think what she was,--and the people round there, actually,
some of them, had forgotten all about it, and didn't know but what she
was a white woman from Ohio; and so, you see, the thing never would have
been looked into at all, if I hadn't happened to have been down there.
But, you see, she turned off an overseer that had managed the place,
because the people complained of him; and I happened to fall in with the
man, and he began telling me his story, and, after a little inquiry, I
found who these people were. Well, sir, I just went to one of the first
lawyers, for I suspected there was false play; and we looked over the
emancipation laws together, and we found out that, as the law stood, the
deed of emancipation was no more than so much waste paper. And so, you
see, she and her children are just as much slaves as any on her
plantation; and the whole property, which is worth a hundred thousand
dollars, belongs to your family. I rode out with him, and looked over
the place, and got introduced to her and her children, and looked them
over. Considered as property, I should call them a valuable lot. She is
past forty, but she don't look older than twenty-seven or twenty-eight,
I should say. She is a very good-looking woman, and then, I'm told, a
very capable woman. Well, her price in the market might range between
one thousand and fifteen hundred dollars. Smalley said he had seen no
better article sold for two thousand dollars; but, then, he said, they
had to give a false certificate as to the age,--and that I couldn't hear
of, for I never countenance anything like untruth. Then, the woman's
children: she has got two fine-looking children as I have ever
seen--almost white. The boy is about ten years old; the little girl,
about four. You may be sure I was pretty careful not to let on, because
I consider the woman and children are an important part of the property,
and, of course, nothing had better be said about it, lest she should be
off before we are ready to come down on them. Now, you see, you Gordons
are the proper owners of this whole property; there isn't the slightest
doubt in my mind that you ought to put in your claim immediately. The
act of emancipation was contrary to law, and, though the man meant well,
yet it amounted to a robbery of the heirs. I declare, it rather raised
my indignation to see that creature so easy in the possession of
property which of right belongs to you. Now, if I have only the consent
of the heirs, I can go on and commence operations immediately."

Nina had been sitting regarding Mr. Jekyl with a fixed and determined
expression of countenance. When he had finished, she said to him,--

"Mr. Jekyl, I understand you are an elder in the church; is that true?"

"Yes, Miss Gordon, I have that privilege," said Mr. Jekyl, his sharp,
business tone subsiding into a sigh.

"Because," said Nina, "I am a wild young girl, and don't profess to know
much about religion; but I want you to tell me, as a Christian, if you
think it would be _right_ to take this woman and children, and her
property."

"Why, certainly, my dear Miss Gordon; isn't it right that every one
should have his own property? I view things simply with the eye of the
law; and, in the eye of the law, that woman and her children are as much
your property as the shoe on your foot; there is no manner of doubt of
it."

"I should think," said Nina, "that you might see with the eye of the
Gospel, sometimes! Do you think, Mr. Jekyl, that doing this is doing as
I should wish to be done by, if I were in the place of this woman?"

"My dear Miss Gordon, young ladies of fine feeling, at your time of
life, are often confused on this subject by a wrong application of the
Scripture language. Suppose I were a robber, and had possession of your
property? Of course, I shouldn't wish to be made to give it up. But
would it follow that the golden rule obliged the lawful possessor not to
take it from me? This woman is your property; this estate is your
property, and she is holding it as unlawfully as a robber. Of course,
she won't want to give it up; but right is right, notwithstanding."

Like many other young persons, Nina could _feel_ her way out of
sophistry much sooner than she could think it out; and she answered to
all this reasoning,--

"After all, I can't think it would be right."

"Oh, confound the humbug!" said Tom; "who cares whether it is right or
not? The fact is, Nin, to speak plain sense to you, you and I both are
deuced hard up for money, and want all we can get; and what's the use of
being more religious than the very saints themselves at our time of day?
Mr. Jekyl is a pious man--one of the tallest kind! He thinks this is all
right, and why need we set ourselves all up? He has talked with Uncle
John, and he goes in for it. As for my part, I am free to own I don't
care whether it's right or not! I'll do it if I can. Might makes
right,--that's my doctrine!"

"Why," said Mr. Jekyl, "I have examined the subject, and I haven't the
slightest doubt that slavery is a divinely-appointed institution, and
that the rights of the masters are sanctioned by God; so, however much I
may naturally feel for this woman, whose position is, I must say, an
unfortunate one, still it is my duty to see that the law is properly
administered in the case."

"All I have to say, Mr. Jekyl," said Nina, "is just this: that I won't
have anything to do with this matter; for, if I can't prove it's wrong,
I shall always feel it is."

"Nina, how ridiculous!" said Tom.

"I have said my say," said Nina, as she rose and left the room.

"Very natural,--fine feelings, but uninstructed," said Mr. Jekyl.

"Certainly, we pious folks know a trick worth two of that, don't we?"
said Tom. "I say, Jekyl, this sister of mine is a pretty rapid little
case, I can tell you, as you saw by the way she circumvented us, this
morning. She is quite capable of upsetting the whole dish, unless we go
about it immediately. You see, her pet nigger, this Harry, is this
woman's brother; and if she gave him the word, he'd write at once, and
put her on the alarm. You and I had better start off to-morrow, before
this Harry comes back. I believe he is to be gone a few days. It's no
matter whether she consents to the suit or not. She don't need to know
anything about it."

"Well," said Jekyl, "I advise you to go right on, and have the woman and
children secured. It's a perfectly fair, legal proceeding. There has
been an evident evasion of the law of the state, by means of which your
family are defrauded of an immense sum. At all events, it will be tried
in an open court of justice, and she will be allowed to appear by her
counsel. It's a perfectly plain, above-board proceeding; and, as the
young lady has shown such fine feelings, there's the best reason to
suppose that the fate of this woman would be as good in her hands as in
her own."

Mr. Jekyl was not now talking to convince Tom Gordon, but himself; for,
spite of himself, Nina's questions had awakened in his mind a sufficient
degree of misgiving to make it necessary for him to pass in review the
arguments by which he generally satisfied himself. Mr. Jekyl was a
theologian, and a man of principle. His metaphysical talent, indeed,
made him a point of reference among his Christian brethren; and he spent
much of his leisure time in reading theological treatises. His favorite
subject of all was the nature of true virtue; and this, he had fixed in
his mind, consisted in a love of the greatest good. According to his
theology, right consisted in creating the greatest amount of happiness;
and every creature had rights to be happy in proportion to his capacity
of enjoyment or being. He whose capacity was ten pounds had a right to
place his own happiness before that of him who had five, because, in
that way, five pounds more of happiness would exist in the general
whole. He considered the right of the Creator to consist in the fact
that he had a greater amount of capacity than all creatures put
together, and, therefore, was bound to promote his own happiness before
all of them put together. He believed that the Creator made himself his
first object in all that He did; and, descending from Him, all creatures
were to follow the same rule, in proportion to their amount of being;
the greater capacity of happiness always taking precedence of the less.
Thus, Mr. Jekyl considered that the Creator brought into the world
yearly myriads of human beings with no other intention than to make them
everlastingly miserable; and that this was right, because his capacity
of enjoyment being greater than all theirs put together, He had a right
to gratify himself in this way.

Mr. Jekyl's belief in slavery was founded on his theology. He assumed
that the white race had the largest amount of being; therefore, it had a
right to take precedence of the black. On this point he held long and
severe arguments with his partner, Mr. Israel McFogg, who, belonging to
a different school of theology, referred the whole matter to no natural
fitness, but to a divine decree, by which it pleased the Creator in the
time of Noah to pronounce a curse upon Canaan. The fact that the African
race did _not_ descend from Canaan was, it is true, a slight difficulty
in the chain of the argument; but theologians are daily in the habit of
surmounting much greater ones. Either way, whether by metaphysical
fitness or Divine decree, the two partners attained the same practical
result.

Mr. Jekyl, though a coarse-grained man, had started from the hands of
nature no more hard-hearted or unfeeling than many others; but his mind,
having for years been immersed in the waters of law and theology, had
slowly petrified into such a steady consideration of the greatest
general good, that he was wholly inaccessible to any emotion of
particular humanity. The trembling, eager tone of pity, in which Nina
had spoken of the woman and children who were about to be made victims
of a legal process, had excited but a moment's pause. What
considerations of temporal loss and misery can shake the constancy of
the theologian who has accustomed himself to contemplate and discuss, as
a cool intellectual exercise, the eternal misery of generations?--who
worships a God that creates myriads only to glorify himself in their
eternal torments?



CHAPTER XVI.

MILLY'S STORY.


Nina spent the evening in the drawing-room; and her brother, in the
animation of a new pursuit, forgetful of the difference of the morning,
exerted himself to be agreeable, and treated her with more consideration
and kindness than he had done any time since his arrival. He even made
some off-hand advances towards Clayton, which the latter received with
good-humor, and which went further than she supposed to raise the
spirits of Nina; and so, on the whole, she passed a more than usually
agreeable evening. On retiring to her room, she found Milly, who had
been for some time patiently waiting for her, having dispatched her
mistress to bed some time since.

"Well, Miss Nina, I am going on my travels in de morning. Thought I must
have a little time to see you, lamb, 'fore I goes."

"I can't bear to have you go, Milly! I don't like that man you are going
with."

"I 'spects he's a nice man," said Milly. "Of course he'll look me out a
nice place, because he has always took good care of Miss Loo's affairs.
So you never trouble yourself 'bout me! I tell you, chile, I never gets
where I can't find de Lord; and when I finds Him, I gets along. 'De Lord
is my shepherd, I shall not want.'"

"But you have never been used to living except in our family," said
Nina, "and, somehow, I feel afraid. If they don't treat you well, come
back Milly; will you?"

"Laws, chile, I isn't much feared but what I'll get along well enough.
When people keep about dere business, doing de best dey ken, folks
doesn't often trouble dem. I never yet seed de folks I couldn't suit,"
she added, with a glow of honest pride. "No, chile, it isn't for myself
I's fearing; it's just for you, chile. Chile, you don't know what it is
to live in dis yer world, and I wants you to get de Best Friend to go
with you. Why, dear lamb, you wants somebody to go to and open your
heart; somebody dat'll love you, and always stand by you; somebody
dat'll always lead you right, you know. You has more cares than such a
young thing ought for to have; great many looking to you, and 'pending
on you. Now, if your ma was alive, it would be different; but, just now,
I see how 'tis; dere'll be a hundred things you'll be thinking and
feeling, and nobody to say 'em to. And now, chile, you must learn to go
to de Lord. Why, chile, He loves you! Chile, He loves you _just as you
be_; if you only saw how much, it would melt your heart right down. I
told you I was going some time fur to tell you my sperience--how I first
found Jesus. Oh Lord, Lord! but it is along story."

Nina, whose quick sympathies were touched by the earnestness of her old
friend, and still more aroused by the allusion to her mother,
answered,--

"Oh, yes, come, tell me about it!" And, drawing a low ottoman, she sat
down, and laid her head on the lap of her humble friend.

"Well, well, you see, chile," said Milly, her large, dark eyes fixing
themselves on vacancy, and speaking in a slow and dreamy voice, "a
body's life, in dis yer world, is a mighty strange thing! You see,
chile, my mother--well, dey brought her from Africa; my father, too.
Heaps and heaps my mother has told me about dat ar. Dat ar was a mighty
fine country, where dey had gold in the rivers, and such great, big,
tall trees, with de strangest beautiful flowers on them you ever did
see! Laws, laws! well, dey brought my mother and my father into
Charleston, and dere Mr. Campbell,--dat was your ma's father, honey,--he
bought dem right out of de ship; but dey had five children, and dey was
all sold, and dey never knowed where dey went to. Father and mother
couldn't speak a word of English when dey come ashore; and she told me
often how she couldn't speak a word to nobody, to tell 'em how it hurt
her.

"Laws, when I was a chile, I 'member how often, when de day's work was
done, she used to come out and sit and look up at de stars, and groan,
groan, and groan! I was a little thing, playing round; and I used to
come up to her, dancing, and saying,--

"'Mammy, what makes you groan so? what's de matter of you?'

"'Matter enough, chile!' she used to say. 'I's a thinking of my poor
children. I likes to look at de stars, because dey sees de same stars
dat I do. 'Pears like we was in one room; but I don't know where dey is!
Dey don't know where I be!'

"Den she'd say to me,--

"'Now, chile, you may be sold away from your mammy. Der's no knowing
what may happen to you, chile; but, if you gets into any trouble, as I
does, you mind, chile, you ask God to help you.'

"'Who is God, mammy,' says I, 'anyhow?'

"'Why, chile,' says she, 'He made dese yer stars.'

"And den I wanted mammy to tell me more about it; only she says,--

"'He can do anything he likes; and, if ye are in any kind of trouble, He
can help you.'

"Well, to be sure, I didn't mind much about it--all dancing round,
because pretty well don't need much help. But she said dat ar to me so
many times, I couldn't help 'member it. 'Chile, troubles will come; and,
when dey does come, you ask God, and He will help you.'

"Well, sure enough, I wasn't sold from her, but she was took from me,
because Mr. Campbell's brother went off to live in Orleans, and parted
de hands. My father and mother was took to Orleans, and I was took to
Virginny. Well, you see, I growed up along with de young ladies,--your
ma, Miss Harrit, Miss Loo, and de rest on 'em,--and I had heaps of fun.
Dey all like Milly. Dey couldn't nobody run, nor jump, nor ride a horse,
nor row a boat, like Milly; and so it was Milly here, and Milly dere,
and whatever de young ladies wanted, it was Milly made de way for it.

"Well, dere was a great difference among dem young ladies. Dere was Miss
Loo--she was de prettiest, and she had a great many beaux; but, den,
dere was your ma--everybody loved her; and den dere was Miss Harrit--she
had right smart of life in her, and was always for _doing_
something--always right busy 'tending to something or other, and she
liked me because I'd always go in with her. Well, well! dem dar was
pleasant times enough; but when I got to be about fourteen or fifteen,
I began to feel kind o' bad--sort of strange and heavy. I really didn't
know why, but 'peared like's when I got older, I felt I was in bondage.

"'Member one day your ma came in, and seed me looking out of window, and
she says to me,--

"'Milly, what makes you so dull lately?'

"'Oh,' says I, 'I, somehow, I don't have good times.'

"'Why?' says she; 'why not? Don't everybody make much of you, and don't
you have everything that you want?'

"'Oh, well,' says I, 'missis, I's a poor slave-girl, for all dat.'

"Chile, your ma was a weety thing, like you. I 'member just how she
looked dat minute. I felt sorry, 'cause I thought I'd hurt her feelings.
But says she,--

"'Milly, I don't wonder you feel so. I know I should feel so myself, if
I was in your place.'

"Afterwards, she told Miss Loo and Miss Harrit; but dey laughed, and
said dey guessed der wasn't many girls who were as well off as Milly.
Well, den, Miss Harrit, she was married de first. She married Mr.
Charles Blair; and when she was married, nothing was to do but she must
have me to go with her. I liked Miss Harrit; but, den, honey, I'd liked
it much better if it had been your ma. I'd always counted that I wanted
to belong to your ma, and I think your ma wanted me; but, den, she was
still, and Miss Harrit she was one of de sort dat never lost nothing by
not asking for it. She was one of de sort dat always _got things_ by
hook or by crook. She always had more clothes, and more money, and more
everything, dan de rest of them, 'cause she was always wide awake, and
looking out for herself.

"Well, Mr. Blair's place was away off in another part of Virginny, and I
went dere with her. Well, she wan't very happy, no ways, she wan't;
because Mr. Blair, he was a high fellow. Laws, Miss Nina, when I tells
you dis yere one you've got here is a good one, and I 'vise you to take
him, it's because I knows what comes o' girls marrying high fellows.
Don't care how good-looking dey is, nor what dere manners is,--it's just
de ruin of girls that has them. Law, when he was a courting Miss Harrit,
it was all nobody but her. She was going to be his angel, and he was
going to give up all sorts of bad ways, and live _such_ a good life!
Ah! she married him; it all went to smoke! 'Fore de month was well over,
he got a going in his old ways; and den it was go, go, all de time,
carousing and drinking,--parties at home, parties abroad,--money flying
like de water.

"Well, dis made a great change in Miss Harrit. She didn't laugh no more;
she got sharp and cross, and she wan't good to me like what she used to
be. She took to be jealous of me and her husband. She might have saved
herself de trouble. I shouldn't have touched him with a pair of tongs.
But he was always running after everything that came in his way; so no
wonder. But, 'tween them both, I led a bad life of it.

"Well, things dragged kind along in this way. She had three children,
and, at last, he was killed, one day, falling off his horse when he was
too drunk to hold the bridle. Good riddance, too, I thought. And den,
after he's dead, Miss Harrit, she seemed to grow more quiet like, and
setting herself picking up what pieces and crumbs was left for her and
de children. And I 'member she had one of her uncles dere a good many
days helping her in counting up de debts. Well, dey was talking one day
in missis' room, and dere was a little light closet on one side, where I
got set down to do some fine stitching; but dey was too busy in their
'counts to think anything 'bout me. It seemed dat de place and de people
was all to be sold off to pay de debts,--all 'cept a few of us, who were
to go off with missis, and begin again on a small place,--and I heard
him telling her about it.

"'While your children are small,' he says, 'you can live small, and keep
things close, and raise enough on the place for ye all; and den you can
be making the most of your property. Niggers is rising in de market.
Since Missouri came in, they's worth double; and so you can just sell de
increase of 'em for a good sum. Now, there's that black girl Milly, of
yourn.'--You may be sure, now, I pricked up my ears, Miss Nina.--'You
don't often see a girl of finer breed than she is,' says he, just as if
I'd been a cow, you know. 'Have you got her a husband?'

"'No,' said Miss Harrit; and then says she, 'I believe Milly is
something of a coquette among the young men. She's never settled on
anybody yet,' says she.

"'Well,' says he, 'that must be attended to, 'cause that girl's
children will be an estate of themselves. Why, I've known women to have
twenty! and her children wouldn't any of 'em be worth less than eight
hundred dollars. There's a fortune at once. If dey's like her, dey'll be
as good as cash in the market, any day. You can send out and sell one,
if you happen to be in any straits, just as soon as you can draw a note
on the bank.'

"Oh, laws, Miss Nina, I tell you dis yer fell on me like so much lead.
'Cause, you see, I'd been keeping company with a very nice young man,
and I was going to ask Miss Harrit about it dat very day; but, dere--I
laid down my work dat minute, and thinks, says I, 'True as de Lord's in
heaven I won't never be married in dis world!' And I cried 'bout it, off
and on, all day, and at night I told Paul 'bout it. He was de one, you
know. But Paul, he tried to make it all smooth. He guessed it wouldn't
happen; he guessed missis would think better on't. At any rate, we loved
each other, and why shouldn't we take as much comfort as we could? Well,
I went to Miss Harrit, and told her just what I thought 'bout it. Allers
had spoke my mind to Miss Harrit 'bout everything, and I wan't going to
stop den. And she laughed at me, and told me not to cry 'fore I's hurt.
Well, things went on so two or three weeks, and finally Paul he
persuaded me. And so we was married. When our first child was born, Paul
was so pleased, he thought strange that I wan't.

"'Paul,' said I, 'dis yer child an't ourn; it may be took from us, and
sold, any day.'

"'Well, well,' says he, 'Milly, it may be God's child, any way, even if
it an't ourn.'

"'Cause, you see, Miss Nina, Paul, he was a Christian. Ah, well, honey,
I can't tell you; after dat I had a great many chil'en, girls and boys,
growing up round me. Well, I's had fourteen chil'en, dear, and dey's all
been sold from me, every single one of 'em. Lord, it's a heavy cross!
heavy, heavy! None knows but dem dat bears it!"

"What a shame!" said Nina. "How could Aunt Harriet be such a wicked
woman?--an aunt of mine do so!"

"Chile, chile," said Milly, "we doesn't none of us know what's in us.
When Miss Harrit and I was gals together, hunting hens' eggs and rowing
de boat in de river,--well, I wouldn't have thought it would have been
so, and she wouldn't have thought so, neither. But, den, what little's
bad in girls when dey's young and handsome, and all de world smiling on
'em--Oh, honey, it gets drefful strong when dey gets grown women, and de
wrinkles comes in der faces! Always, when she was a girl,--whether it
was eggs, or berries, or chincapins, or what,--it was Miss Harrit's
nature to _get_ and to _keep_; and when she got old, dat all turned to
money."

"Oh! but," said Nina, "it does seem impossible that a woman--a lady
born, too, and my aunt--could do such a thing!"

"Ah, ah, honey! ladies born have some bad stuff in dem, sometimes, like
de rest of us. But, den, honey, it was de most natural thing in de
world, come to look on't; for now, see here, honey, dere was your
aunt--she was poor, and she was pestered for money. Dere was Mas'r
George's bills and Peter's bills to pay, and Miss Susy's; and every one
of 'em must have everything, and dey was all calling for money, money;
and dere has been times she didn't know which way to turn. Now, you see,
when a woman is pestered to pay two hundred here and tree hundred dere,
and when she has got more niggers on her place dan she can keep, and den
a man calls in and lays down eight hundred dollars in gold and bills
before her, and says, 'I want dat ar Lucy or George of yourn,' why,
don't you see? Dese yer soul-drivers is always round, tempting folks dey
know is poor; and dey always have der money as handy as de devil has
his. But, den, I oughtn't fur to be hard upon dem poor soul-drivers,
neither, 'cause dey an't taught no better. It's dese yer Christians, dat
profess Christ, dat makes great talks 'bout religion, dat has der
Bibles, and turns der backs upon swearing soul-drivers, and tinks dey
an't fit to speak to--it's _dem_, honey, dat's de root of de whole
business. Now, dere was dat uncle of hern,--mighty great Christian he
was, with his prayer-meetings, and all dat!--he was always a putting her
up to it. Oh, dere's been times--dere was times 'long first, Miss Nina,
when my first chil'en was sold--dat, I tell you. I poured out my soul to
Miss Harrit, and I've seen dat ar woman cry so dat I was sorry for her.
And she said to me, 'Milly, I'll never do it again.' But, Lord! I
didn't trust her,--not a word on't,--'cause I knowed she would. I knowed
dere was dat in her heart dat de devil wouldn't let go of. I knowed he'd
no kind of objection to her 'musing herself with meetin's, and prayers,
and all dat; but he'd no notion to let go his grip on her heart.

"But, Lord! she wasn't _quite_ a bad woman,--poor Miss Harrit
wasn't,--and she wouldn't have done so bad, if it hadn't been for _him_.
But he'd come and have prayers, and exhort, and den come prowling round
my place like a wolf, looking at my chil'en.

"'And, Milly,' he'd say, 'how do you do now? Lucy is getting to be a
right smart girl, Milly. How old is she? Dere's a lady in Washington has
advertised for a maid,--a nice woman, a pious lady. I suppose you
wouldn't object, Milly? Your poor mistress is in great trouble for
money.'

"I never said nothing to that man. Only once, when he asked me what I
thought my Lucy would be worth, when she was fifteen years old, says I
to him:--

"'Sir, she is worth to me just what your daughter is worth to you.'

"Den I went in and shut de door. I didn't stay to see how he took it.
Den he'd go up to de house, and talk to Miss Harrit. 'Twas her duty,
he'd tell her, to take proper care of her goods. And dat ar meant
selling my chil'en. I 'member, when Miss Susy came home from
boarding-school, she was a pretty girl: but I didn't look on her very
kind, I tell you, 'cause three of my chil'en had been sold to keep her
at school. My Lucy,--ah, honey!--she went for a lady's maid. I knowed
what dat ar meant, well enough. De lady had a son grown, and he took
Lucy with him to Orleans, and dere was an end of dat. Dere don't no
letters go 'tween us. Once gone, we can't write, and it is good as being
dead. Ah, no, chile, not so good! Paul used to teach Lucy little hymns,
nights, 'fore she went to sleep. And if she'd a died right off after one
of dem, it would have been better for her. Oh, honey, 'long dem times I
used to rave and toss like a bull in a net--I did so!

"Well, honey, I wasn't what I was. I got cross and ugly. Miss Harrit,
she grew a great Christian, and joined de church, and used to have heaps
of ministers and elders at her house; and some on 'em used to try and
talk to me. I told 'em I'd seen enough of der old religion, and I didn't
want to hear no more. But Paul, he was a Christian; and when he talked
to me, I was quiet, like, though I couldn't be like what he was. Well,
last, my missis promised me one. She'd give me my youngest child, sure
and certain. His name was Alfred. Well, dat boy!--I loved dat child
better dan any of de rest of 'em. He was all I'd got left to love; for,
when he was a year old, Paul's master moved away down to Louisiana, and
took him off, and I never heard no more of him. So it 'peared as if dis
yer child was all I had left. Well, he _was_ a bright boy. Oh, he was
most uncommon! He was so handy to anything, and saved me so many steps!
Oh, honey, he had such ways with him--dat boy!--would always make me
laugh. He took after larnin' mighty, and he larned himself to read; and
he'd read de Bible to me, sometimes. I just brought him up and teached
him de best way I could. All dat made me 'fraid for him was, dat he was
so spirity. I's 'fraid 'twould get him into trouble.

"He wan't no more spirity dan white folks would like der chil'en fur to
be. When white chil'en holds up der heads, and answers back, den de
parents laugh, and say, 'He's got it in him! He's a bright one!' But, if
one of ourn does so, it's a drefful thing. I was allers talking to
Alfred 'bout it, and telled him to keep humble. It 'peared like there
was so much in him, you couldn't keep it down. Laws, Miss Nina, folks
may say what dey like about de black folks, dey'll never beat it out of
my head;--dere's some on 'em can be as smart as any white folks, if dey
could have de same chance. How many white boys did you ever see would
take de trouble for to teach theirselves to read? And dat's what my
Alfred did. Laws, I had a mighty heap of comfort in him, 'cause I was
thinkin' to get my missis to let me hire my time; den I was going to
work over hours, and get money, and buy him; because, you see, chile, I
knowed he was too spirity for a slave. You see he couldn't _learn to
stoop_; he wouldn't let nobody impose on him; and he always had a word
back again to give anybody as good as dey sent. Yet, for all dat, he was
a dear, good boy to me; and when I used to talk to him, and tell him
dese things was dangerous, he'd always promise fur to be kerful. Well,
things went on pretty well while he was little, and I kept him with me
till he got to be about twelve or thirteen years old. He used to wipe de
dishes, and scour de knives, and black de shoes, and such-like work.
But, by and by, dey said it was time dat he should go to de reg'lar
work; and dat ar was de time I felt feared. Missis had an overseer, and
he was real aggravating, and I felt feared dere'd be trouble; and sure
enough dere was, too. Dere was always somethin' brewing 'tween him and
Alfred; and he was always running to missis with tales, and I was
talking to Alfred. But 'peared like he aggravated de boy so, dat he
couldn't do right. Well, one day, when I had been up to town for an
errand, I come home at night, and I wondered Alfred didn't come home to
his supper. I thought something was wrong; and I went to de house, and
dere sat Miss Harrit by a table covered with rolls of money, and dere
she was a counting it.

"'Miss Harrit,' says I, 'I can't find Alfred. An't you seen him?' says
I.

"At first she didn't answer, but went on counting--fifty-one, fifty-two,
fifty-three. Finally I spoke again.

"'I hope there an't nothing happened to Alfred, Miss Harrit?'

"She looked up, and says she to me,--

"'Milly,' says she, 'de fact is, Alfred has got too much for me to
manage, and I had a great deal of money offered for him; and I sold
him.'

"I felt something strong coming up in my throat, and I just went up and
took hold of her shoulders, and said I,--

"'Miss Harrit, you took de money for thirteen of my chil'en, and you
promised me, sure enough, I should have dis yer one. You call dat being
a Christian?' says I.

"'Why,' says she, 'Milly, he an't a great way off; you can see him about
as much. It's only over to Mr. Jones's plantation. You can go and see
him, and he can come and see you. And you know you didn't like the man
who had the care of him here, and thought he was always getting him into
trouble.'

"'Miss Harrit,' says I, 'you may cheat yourself saying dem things; but
you don't cheat me, nor de Lord neither. You folks have de say all on
your side, with your ministers preaching us down out of de Bible; you
won't teach us to read. But I'm going straight to de Lord with dis yer
case. I tell you, if de Lord is to be found, I'll find him; and I'll ask
him to look on't,--de way you've been treating me,--selling _my_
chil'en, all de way 'long, to pay for _your_ chil'en, and now breaking
your word to me, and taking dis yer boy, de last drop of blood in my
heart! I'll pray de Lord to curse every cent of dat ar money to you and
your chil'en!'

"Dat ar was de way I spoke to her, child. I was poor, ignorant cretur,
and didn't know God, and my heart was like a red-hot coal. I turned and
walked right straight out from her. I didn't speak no more to her, and
she didn't speak no more to me. And when I went to bed at night, dar,
sure 'nough, was Alfred's bed in de corner, and his Sunday coat hanging
up over it, and his Sunday shoes I had bought for him with my own money;
'cause he was a handsome boy, and I wanted him always to look nice.
Well, so, come Sunday morning, I took his coat and his shoes, and made a
bundle of 'em, and I took my stick, and says I, 'I'll just go ever to
Jones's place and see what has 'come of Alfred.' All de time, I hadn't
said a word to missis, nor she to me. Well, I got about half-way over to
de place, and dere I stopped under a big hickory-tree to rest me a bit,
and I looked along and seed some one a coming; and pretty soon I knowed
it was Huldah. She was one that married Paul's cousin, and she lived on
Jones's place. And so I got up and went to meet her, and told her I was
going over to see 'bout Alfred.

"'Lord!' says she, 'Milly, haven't you heard dat Alfred's dead?'

"Well, Miss Nina, it seemed as if my heart and everything in it stopped
still. And said I, 'Huldah, has dey killed him?'

"And said she, 'Yes.' And she told me it was dis yer way: Dat Stiles--he
dat was Jones's overseer--had heard dat Alfred was dreadful spirity; and
when boys is so, sometimes dey aggravates 'em to get 'em riled, and den
dey whips 'em to break 'em in. So Stiles, when he was laying off
Alfred's task, was real aggravating to him; and dat boy--well, he
answered back, just as he allers would be doing, 'cause he was smart,
and it 'peared like he couldn't keep it in. And den dey all laughed
round dere, and den Stiles was mad, and swore he'd whip him; and den
Alfred, he cut and run. And den Stiles he swore awful at him, and he
told him to 'come here, and he'd give him hell, and pay him de cash.'
Dem is de very words he said to my boy. And Alfred said he wouldn't come
back; he wasn't going to be whipped. And just den young Master Bill come
along, and wanted to know what was de matter. So Stiles told him, and he
took out his pistol, and said, 'Here, young dog, if you don't come back
before I count five, I'll fire!'

"'Fire ahead!' says Alfred; 'cause, you see, dat boy never knowed what
fear was. And so he fired. And Huldah said he just jumped up and give
one scream, and fell flat. And dey run up to him, and he was dead;
'cause you see, de bullet went right through his heart. Well, dey took
off his jacket and looked, but it wan't of no use; his face settled down
still. And Huldah said dat dey just dug a hole and put him in. Nothing
on him--nothing round him--no coffin; like he'd been a dog. Huldah
showed me de jacket. Dere was de hole, cut right round in it, like it
was stamped, and his blood running out on it. I didn't say a word. I
took up de jacket, and wrapped it up with his Sunday clothes, and I
walked straight--straight home. I walked up into missis' room, and she
was dressed for church, sure enough, and sat dere reading her Bible. I
laid it right down under her face, dat jacket. 'You see dat _hole_!'
said I; 'you see dat blood! Alfred's killed! _You_ killed him; his blood
be on you and your chil'en! O Lord God in heaven, hear me, and _render
unto her double_!'"

Nina drew in her breath hard, with an instinctive shudder. Milly had
drawn herself up, in the vehemence of her narration, and sat leaning
forward, her black eyes dilated, her strong arms clenched before her,
and her powerful frame expanding and working with the violence of her
emotion. She might have looked, to one with mythological associations,
like the figure of a black marble Nemesis in a trance of wrath. She sat
so for a few minutes, and then her muscles relaxed, her eyes gradually
softened; she looked tenderly, but solemnly, down on Nina. "Dem was
awful words, chile; but I was in Egypt den. I was wandering in de
wilderness of Sinai. I had heard de sound of de trumpet, and de voice of
words; but, chile, I hadn't seen de Lord. Well--I went out, and I
didn't speak no more to Miss Harrit. Dere was a great gulf fixed 'tween
us; and dere didn't no words pass over it. I did my work--I scorned not
to do it; but I didn't speak to her. Den it was, chile, dat I thought of
what my mother told me, years ago; it came to me, all fresh--'Chile,
when trouble comes, you ask de Lord to help you;' and I saw dat I hadn't
asked de Lord to help me; and now, says I to myself, de Lord can't help
me; 'cause he couldn't bring back Alfred, no way you could fix it; and
yet I wanted to find de Lord, 'cause I was so tossed up and down. I
wanted just to go and say, 'Lord, you see what dis woman has done.' I
wanted to put it to him, if he'd stand up for such a thing as that.
Lord, how de world, and everything, looked to me in dem times!
Everything goin' on in de way it did; and dese yer Christians, dat said
dat dey was going into de kingdom, doing as dey did! I tell you, I
sought de Lord early and late. Many nights I have been out in de woods
and laid on de ground till morning, calling and crying, and 'peared like
nobody heerd me. Oh, how strange it used to look, when I looked up to de
stars! winking at me, so kind of still and solemn, but never saying a
word! Sometimes I got dat wild, it seemed as if I could tear a hole
through de sky, 'cause I must find God; I had an errand to him, and I
must find him.

"Den I heard 'em read out de Bible, 'bout how de Lord met a man on a
threshing-floor, and I thought maybe if I had a threshing-floor he would
come to me. So I threshed down a place just as hard as I could under de
trees; and den I prayed dere--but he didn't come. Den dere was coming a
great camp-meeting; and I thought I'd go and see if I could find de Lord
dere; because, you see, missis, she let her people go Sunday to de
camp-meeting. Well, I went into de tents and heerd dem sing; and I went
afore de altar, and I heerd preaching; but it 'peared like it was no
good. It didn't touch me nowhere; and I couldn't see nothing to it. I
heerd 'em read out of de Bible, 'Oh, dat I knew where I might find him.
I would come even to his seat. I would order my cause before him. I
would fill my mouth with arguments;' and I thought, sure enough, dat
ar's just what I want. Well, came on dark night, and dey had all de
camp-fires lighted up, and dey was singing de hymns round and round,
and I went for to hear de preaching. And dere was a man--pale, lean man
he was, with black eyes and black hair. Well, dat ar man, he preached a
sermon, to be sure, I never shall forget. His text was, 'He that spared
not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all, how shall he
not with him freely give us all things?' Well, you see, the first sound
of dis took me, because I'd lost my son. And the man, he told us who de
son of God was,--Jesus,--Oh, how sweet and beautiful he was! How he went
round doing for folks. O Lord, what a story dat ar was! And, den, how
dey took him, and put de crown of thorns on his head, and hung him up
bleeding, bleeding, and bleeding! God so loved us dat he let his own
dear Son suffer all dat for us. Chile, I got up, and I went to de altar,
and I kneeled down with de mourners; and I fell flat on my face, and dey
said I was in a trance. Maybe I was. Where I was, I don't know; but I
saw de Lord! Chile, it seemed as if my very heart was still. I saw him,
suffering, bearing with us, year in and year
out--bearing--bearing--bearing so patient! 'Peared like, it wan't just
on de cross; but, bearing always, everywhar! Oh, chile, I saw how he
loved us!--us _all_--all--every one on us!--we dat hated each other so!
'Peared like he was using his heart up for us, all de time--bleedin' for
us like he did on Calvary, and willin' to bleed! Oh, chile, I saw what
it was for me to be hatin', like I'd hated. 'O Lord,' says I, 'I give
up? O Lord, never see you afore; I didn't know. Lord, I's a poor sinner!
I won't hate no more!' And oh, chile, den dere come such a rush of love
in my soul! Says I, 'Lord, I ken love even de white folks!' And den came
another rush; and says I, 'Yes, Lord, I love poor Miss Harrit, dat's
sole all my chil'en, and been de death of my poor Alfred! I loves her.'
Chile, I overcome--I did so--I overcome by de blood of de _Lamb_--de
Lamb!--Yes, de Lamb, chile!--'cause if he'd been a lion I could a kept
in; 'twas de _Lamb_ dat overcome.

"When I come to, I felt like a chile. I went home to Miss Harrit; and I
hadn't spoke peaceable to her since Alfred died. I went in to her. She'd
been sick, and she was in her room, looking kinder pale and yaller, poor
thing; 'cause her son, honey, he got drunk and 'bused her awful. I went
in, and says I, 'Oh, Miss Harrit, I's seen de Lord! Miss Harrit, I an't
got no more hard feelin's; I forgive ye, and loves ye with all my heart,
just as de Lord does.' Honey, ye ought to see how dat woman cried! Says
she, 'Milly, I's a great sinner.' Says I, 'Miss Harrit, we's sinners,
both on us, but de Lord gives hisself for us both; and if he loves us
poor sinners, we mustn't be hard on each other. Ye was tempted, honey,'
says I (for you see I felt like makin' scuses for her); 'but de Lord
Jesus has got a pardon for both on us.'

"After dat, I didn't have no more trouble with Miss Harrit. Chile, we
was sisters in Jesus. I bore her burdens, and she bore mine. And, dear,
de burdens was heavy; for her son he was brought home a corpse; he shot
hisself right through de heart trying to load a gun when he was drunk.
Oh, chile, I thought den how I'd prayed de Lord to render unto her
double; but I had a better mind den. Ef I could have brought poor Mas'r
George to life, I'd a done it; and I held de poor woman's head on my arm
all dat ar night, and she a screamin' every hour. Well, dat ar took her
down to de grave. She didn't live much longer; but she was ready to die.
She sent and bought my daughter Lucy's son, dis here Tom, and gin him to
me. Poor thing! she did all she could.

"I watched with her de night she died. Oh, Miss Nina, if ever ye're
tempted to hate anybody, think how 't'll be with 'em when dey comes to
die.

"She died hard, poor thing! and she was cast down, 'bout her sins. 'Oh,
Milly,' says she, 'the Lord and you may forgive me, but I _can't_
forgive myself.'

"'And,' says I to her, 'Oh, missis, don't think of it no more! _de
Lord's hid it in his own heart!_' Oh, but she struggled long, honey; she
was all night dyin', and 'twas 'Milly! Milly!' all de time; 'Oh, Milly,
stay with me!'

"And, chile, I felt I loved her like my own soul; and when de day broke
de Lord set her free, and I laid her down like she'd been one o' my
babies. I took up her poor hand. It was warm, but the strength was all
gone out on't; and, 'Oh,' I thought, 'ye poor thing, how could I ever
have hated ye so?' Ah, chile, we mustn't hate nobody; we's all poor
creaturs, and de dear Lord he loves us all."



CHAPTER XVII.

UNCLE JOHN.


About four miles east of Canema lay the plantation of Nina's uncle,
whither Harry had been sent on the morning which we have mentioned. The
young man went upon his errand in no very enviable mood of mind. Uncle
Jack, as Nina always called him, was the nominal guardian of the estate,
and a more friendly and indulgent one Harry could not have desired. He
was one of those joyous, easy souls, whose leading desire seemed to be
that everybody in the world should make himself as happy as possible,
without fatiguing him with consultations as to particulars. His
confidence in Harry was unbounded; and he esteemed it a good fortune
that it was so, as he was wont to say, laughingly, that his own place
was more than he could manage. Like all gentlemen who make the study of
their own ease a primary consideration, Uncle Jack found the whole
course of nature dead-set against him. For, as all creation is evidently
organized with a view to making people work, it follows that no one has
so much care as the man who resolves not to take any. Uncle Jack was
systematically, and as a matter of course, cheated and fleeced, by his
overseers, by his negroes, and the poor whites of his vicinity; and,
worst of all, continually hectored and lectured by his wife therefor.
Nature, or destiny, or whoever the lady may be that deals the
matrimonial cards, with her usual thoughtfulness in balancing opposites,
had arranged that jovial, easy, care-hating Uncle John should have been
united to a most undaunted and ever-active spirit of enterprise and
resolution, who never left anything quiet in his vicinity. She it was
who continually disturbed his repose, by constantly ferreting out, and
bringing before his view, all the plots, treasons, and conspiracies,
with which plantation-life is ever abounding; bringing down on his
devoted head the necessity of discriminations, decisions, and
settlements, most abhorrent to an easy man.

The fact was, that responsibility, aggravated by her husband's
negligence, had transformed the worthy woman into a sort of domestic
dragon of the Hesperides; and her good helpmeet declared that he
believed she never slept, nor meant anybody else should. It was all very
well, he would observe. He wouldn't quarrel with her for walking the
whole night long, or sleeping with her head out of the window, watching
the smoke-house; for stealing out after one o'clock to convict Pompey,
or circumvent Cuff, if she only wouldn't bother him with it. Suppose the
half of the hams were carried off, between two and three, and sold to
Abijah Skinflint for rum?--He must have his sleep; and, if he had to pay
for it in ham, why, he'd pay for it in ham; but sleep he must, and
would. And, supposing he really believed, in his own soul, that Cuffy,
who came in the morning, with a long face, to announce the theft, and to
propose measures of discovery, was in fact the main conspirator--what
then? He couldn't prove it on him. Cuff had gone astray from the womb,
speaking lies ever since he was born; and what would be the use of his
fretting and sweating himself to death to get truth out of Cuff? No, no!
Mrs. G., as he commonly called his helpmeet, might do that sort of
thing, but she mustn't bother him about it. Not that Uncle Jack was
invariable in his temper; human nature has its limits, and a personage
who finds "mischief still for idle hands to do" often seems to take a
malicious pleasure in upsetting the temper of idle gentlemen. So, Uncle
Jack, though confessedly the best fellow in the world, was occasionally
subject to a tropical whirlwind of passion, in which he would stamp,
tear, and swear, with most astounding energy; and in those ignited
moments all the pent-up sorrows of his soul would fly about him, like
red-hot shot, in every direction. And then he would curse the negroes,
curse the overseers, curse the plantation, curse Cuff and Pomp and
Dinah, curse the poor white folks round, curse Mr. Abijah Skinflint, and
declare that he would send them and the niggers all severally to a
department which politeness forbids us to mention. He would pour out
awful threats of cutting up, skinning alive, and selling to Georgia. To
all which commotion and bluster the negroes would listen, rolling the
whites of their eyes, and sticking their tongues in their cheeks, with
an air of great satisfaction and amusement; because experience had
sufficiently proved to them that nobody had ever been cut up, skinned
alive, or sent to Georgia, as the result of any of these outpourings.
So, when Uncle Jack had one of these fits, they treated it as hens do an
approaching thunderstorm,--ran under cover, and waited for it to blow
over.

As to Madam Gordon, her wrath was another affair. And her threats they
had learned to know generally meant something; though it very often
happened that, in the dispensation of most needed justice, Uncle Jack,
if in an extra good humor, would rush between the culprit and his
mistress, and bear him off in triumph, at the risk of most serious
consequences to himself afterwards. Our readers are not to infer from
this that Madam Gordon was really and naturally an ill-natured woman.
She was only one of that denomination of vehement housekeepers who are
to be found the world over--women to whom is appointed the hard mission
of combating, single-handed, for the principles of order and exactness,
against a whole world in arms. Had she had the good fortune to have been
born in Vermont or Massachusetts, she would have been known through the
whole village as a woman who couldn't be cheated half a cent on a pound
in meat, and had an instinctive knowledge whether a cord of wood was too
short, or a pound of butter too light. Put such a woman at the head of
the disorderly rabble of a plantation, with a cheating overseer,
surrounded by thieving poor whites, to whom the very organization of
society leaves no resource but thieving, with a never-mind husband, with
land that has seen its best days, and is fast running to barrenness, and
you must not too severely question her temper, if it should not be at
all times in perfect subjection. In fact, Madam Gordon's cap habitually
bristled with horror, and she was rarely known to sit down.
Occasionally, it is true, she alighted upon a chair; but was in a moment
up again, to pursue some of her household train, or shout, at the top of
her lungs, some caution toward the kitchen.

When Harry reined up his horse before the plantation, the gate was
thrown open for him by old Pomp, a superannuated negro, who reserved
this function as his peculiar sinecure.

"Lord bress you, Harry, dat you? Bress you, you ought fur to see mas'r!
Such a gale up to de house!"

"What's the matter, Pomp?"

"Why, mas'r, he done got one of he fits! Tarin' round dar, fit to
split!--stompin' up and down de 'randy, swarin' like mad! Lord, if he
an't! He done got Jake tied up, dar!--swars he's goin' to cut him to
pieces! He! he! he! Has so! Got Jake tied up dar! Ho! ho! ho! Real
curus! And he's blowin' hisself out dere mighty hard, I tell you! So, if
you want to get word wid him, you can't do it till he done got through
wid dis yer!" And the old man ducked his pepper-and-salt-colored head,
and chuckled with a lively satisfaction.

As Harry rode slowly up the avenue to the house, he caught sight of the
portly figure of its master, stamping up and down the veranda,
vociferating and gesticulating in the most violent manner. He was a
corpulent man, of middle age, with a round, high forehead, set off with
grizzled hair. His blue eyes, fair, rosy, fat face, his mouth adorned
with brilliant teeth, gave him, when in good-humor, the air of a
handsome and agreeable man. At present his countenance was flushed
almost to purple, as he stood storming, from his rostrum, at a saucy,
ragged negro, who, tied to the horse-post, stood the picture of
unconcern; while a crowd of negro men, women, and children, were looking
on.

"I'll teach you!" he vociferated, shaking his fist. "I won't--won't bear
it of you, you dog, you! You won't take my orders, won't you? I'll
_kill_ you--that I will! I'll cut you up into inch-pieces!"

"No, you won't, and you know you won't!" interposed Mrs. Gordon, who sat
at the window behind him. "You won't, and you know you won't! and _they_
know you won't, too! It will all end in smoke, as it always does. I only
wish you wouldn't talk and threaten, because it makes you ridiculous!"

"Hold your tongue, too! I'll be master in my own house, I say! Infernal
dog!--I say, Cuff, cut him up!--Why don't you go at him?--Give it to
him!--What you waiting for?"

"If mas'r pleases!" said Cuff, rolling up his eyes, and making a
deprecating gesture.

"If I please! Well, blast you, I _do_ please! Go at him!--thrash away!
Stay, I'll come myself." And, seizing a cow-hide, which lay near him,
he turned up his cuffs, and ran down the steps; but, missing his footing
in his zeal, came head-first against the very post where the criminal
was tied.

"There! I hope, now, you are satisfied! You have killed me!--you have
broke my head, you have! I shall be laid up a month, all for you, you
ungrateful dog!"

Cuffy and Sambo came to the rescue, raised him up carefully, and began
brushing the dust off his clothes, smothering the laughter with which
they seemed ready to explode, while the culprit at the post seemed to
consider this an excellent opportunity to put in his submission.

"Please, mas'r, do forgive me! I tole 'em to go out, and dey said dey
wouldn't. I didn't mean no harm when I said 'Mas'r had better go
hisself;' 'cause I thinks so now. Mas'r _had_ better go! Dem folks is
curus, and dey won't go for none of us. Dey just acts ridiculous, dey
does! And I didn't mean fur to be sarcy, nor nothin.' I say 'gin, if
mas'r'll take his horse and go over dar, mas'r drive dose folks out; and
nobody else can't do it! We done can't do it--dey jest sarce us. Now,
for my Heavenly Master, all dis yere is de truth I've been telling. De
Lord, de Master, knows it is; and, if mas'r'll take his horse, and ride
down dere, he'd see so; so dere, just as I've been telling mas'r. I
didn't mean no harm at all, I didn't!"

The quarrel, it must be told, related to the ejecting of a poor white
family which had _squatted_, as the phrase is, in a deserted cabin, on a
distant part of the Gordon plantation. Mrs. Gordon's untiring assiduity
having discovered this fact, she had left her husband no peace till
something was undertaken in the way of ejectment. He accordingly
commissioned Jake, a stout negro, on the morning of the present day, to
go over and turn them off. Now, Jake, who inherited to the full the
lofty contempt with which the plantation negro regards the poor white
folks, started upon his errand, nothing loth, and whistled his way in
high feather, with two large dogs at his heels. But, when he found a
miserable, poor, sick woman, surrounded by four starving children,
Jake's mother's milk came back to him; and, instead of turning them out,
he actually pitched a dish of cold potatoes in among them, which he
picked up in a neighboring cabin, with about the same air of
contemptuous pity with which one throws scraps to a dog. And then,
meandering his way back to the house, informed his master that "He
couldn't turn de white trash out; and, if he wanted them turned out, he
would have to go hisself."

Now, we all know that a fit of temper has very often nothing to do with
the thing which appears to give rise to it. When a cloud is full charged
with electricity, it makes no difference which bit of wire is put in.
The flash and the thunder come one way as well as another. Mr. Gordon
had received troublesome letters on business, a troublesome lecture from
his wife, his corn-cake had been over-done at breakfast, and his coffee
burned bitter; besides which, he had a cold in his head coming on, and
there was a settlement brewing with the overseer. In consequence of all
which things, though Jake's mode of delivering himself wasn't a whit
more saucy than ordinary, the storm broke upon him then and there, and
raged as we have described. The heaviest part of it, however, being now
spent, Mr. Gordon consented to pardon the culprit on condition that he
would bring him up his horse immediately, when he would ride over and
see if he couldn't turn out the offending party. He pressed Harry, who
was rather a favorite of his, into the service; and, in the course of a
quarter of an hour, they were riding off in the direction of the
squatter's cabin.

"It's perfectly insufferable, what we proprietors have to bear from this
tribe of creatures!" he said. "There ought to be hunting-parties got up
to chase them down, and exterminate 'em, just as we do rats. It would be
a kindness to them; the only thing you can do for them is to kill them.
As for charity, or that kind of thing, you might as well throw victuals
into the hollow logs as to try to feed 'em. The government ought to pass
laws,--we will have laws, somehow or other,--and get them out of the
state."

And, so discoursing, the good man at length arrived before the door of a
miserable, decaying log-cabin, out of whose glassless windows dark
emptiness looked, as out of the eye-holes of a skull. Two scared,
cowering children disappeared round the corner as he approached. He
kicked open the door, and entered. Crouched on a pile of dirty straw,
sat a miserable, haggard woman, with large, wild eyes, sunken cheeks,
dishevelled, matted hair, and long, lean hands, like bird's-claws. At
her skinny breast an emaciated infant was hanging, pushing, with its
little skeleton hands, as if to force the nourishment which nature no
longer gave; and two scared-looking children, with features wasted and
pinched blue with famine, were clinging to her gown. The whole group
huddled together, drawing as far as possible away from the new-comer,
looked up with large, frightened eyes, like hunted wild animals.

"What you here for?" was the first question of Mr. Gordon, put in no
very decided tone; for, if the truth must be told, his combativeness was
oozing out.

The woman did not answer, and, after a pause, the youngest child piped
up, in a shrill voice,--

"An't got nowhere else to be!"

"Yes," said the woman, "we camped on Mr. Durant's place, and
Bobfield--him is the overseer--pulled down the cabin right over our
head. 'Pears like we couldn't get nowhere."

"Where is your husband?"

"Gone looking for work. 'Pears like he couldn't get none nowhere. 'Pears
like nobody wants us. But we have got to be somewhere, though!" said the
woman, in a melancholy, apologetic tone. "We can't die, as I see!--wish
we could!"

Mr. Gordon's eye fell upon two or three cold potatoes in a piece of
broken crock, over which the woman appeared keeping jealous guard.

"What you doing with those potatoes?"

"Saving them for the children's dinner."

"And is that all you've got to eat, I want to know?" said Mr. Gordon, in
a high, sharp tone, as if he were getting angry very fast.

"Yes," said the woman.

"What did you have to eat yesterday?"

"Nothing!" said the woman.

"And what did you eat the day before?"

"Found some old bones round the nigger houses; and some on 'em give us
some corn-cake."

"Why the devil didn't you send up to _my_ house, and get some bacon?
Picking up bones, slop, and swill, round the nigger huts? Why didn't you
send up for some ham, and some meal? Lord bless you, you don't think
Madam Gordon is a dog to bite you, do you? Wait here till I send you
down something fit to eat. Just end in my having to take care of you, I
see! And, if you are going to stay here, there will be something to be
done to keep the rain out!"

"There, now," he said to Harry, as he was mounting his horse, "just see
what 'tis to be made with hooks in one's back, like me! Everybody hangs
on to me, of course! Now, there's Durant turns off these folks; there's
Peters turns them off! Well, what's the consequence? They come and
litter down on me, just because I am an easy, soft-hearted old fool!
It's too devilish bad! They breed like rabbits! What God Almighty makes
such people for, I don't know! I suppose He does. But there's these
poor, miserable trash have children like sixty; and there's folks living
in splendid houses, dying for children, and can't have any. If they
manage one or two, the scarlet-fever or whooping-cough makes off with
'em. Lord bless me, things go on in a terrible mixed-up way in this
world! And, then, what upon earth I'm to say to Mrs. G.! I know what
she'll say to me. She'll tell me she told me so--that's what she always
says. I wish she'd go and see them herself--I do so! Mrs. G. is the
nicest kind of a woman--no mistake about that; but she has an awful deal
of energy, that woman! It's dreadful fatiguing to a quiet man, like
me--dreadful! But I'm sure I don't know what I should do without her.
She'll be down upon me about this woman; but the woman must have some
ham, that's flat! Cold potatoes and old bones! Pretty story! Such people
have no business to live at all; but, if they will live, they ought to
eat Christian things! There goes Jake. Why couldn't he turn 'em off
before I saw 'em? It would have saved me all this plague! Dog knew what
he was about, when he got me down here! Jake! Oh, Jake, Jake! come
here!"

Jake came shambling along up to his master, with an external appearance
of the deepest humility, under which was too plainly seen to lurk a
facetious air of waggish satisfaction.

"Here, you, Jake; you get a basket"--

"Yes, mas'r!" said Jake, with an air of provoking intelligence.

"Be still saying 'Yes, mas'r,' and hear what I've got to say! Mind
yourself!"

Jake gave a side glance of inexpressible drollery at Harry, and then
stood like an ebony statue of submission.

"You go to your missis, and ask her for the key of the smoke-house, and
bring it to me."

"Yes, sir."

"And you tell your missis to send me a peck of meal. Stay--a loaf of
bread, or some biscuit, or corn-cake, or anything else which may happen
to be baked up. Tell her I want them sent out right away."

Jake bowed and disappeared.

"Now we may as well ride down this path, while he is gone for the
things. Mrs. G. will blow off on him first, so that rather less of it
will come upon me. I wish I could get her to see them herself. Lord
bless her, she is a kind-hearted woman enough! but she thinks there's no
use doing,--and there an't. She is right enough about it. But, then, as
the woman says, there must be some place for them to _be_ in the world.
The world is wide enough, I'm sure! Plague take it! why can't we pass a
law to take them all in with our niggers, and then they'd have some one
to take care of them! Then we'd do something for them, and there'd be
some hope of keeping 'em comfortable."

Harry felt in no wise inclined to reply to any of this conversation,
because he knew that, though nominally addressed to him, the good
gentleman was talking merely for the sake of easing his mind, and that
he would have opened his heart just as freely to the next hickory-bush,
if he had not happened to be present. So he let him expend himself,
waiting for an opportunity to introduce subjects which lay nearer his
heart.

In a convenient pause, he found opportunity to say,--

"Miss Nina sent me over here, this morning."

"Ah, Nin! my pretty little Nin! Bless the child! She did? Why couldn't
she come over herself, and comfort an old fellow's heart? Nin is the
prettiest girl in the county! I tell you that, Harry!"

"Miss Nina is in a good deal of trouble. Master Tom came home last night
drunk, and to-day he is so cross and contrary she can't do anything with
him."

"Drunk? Oh, what a sad dog! Tom gets drunk too often! Carries that too
far, altogether! Told him that, the last time I talked to him. Says I,
'Tom, it does very well for a young man to have a spree once in one or
two months. I did it myself, when I was young. But,' says I, 'Tom, to
spree _all_ the time, won't do, Tom!' says I. 'Nobody minds a fellow
being drunk _occasionally_; but he ought to be moderate about it, and
know where to stop,' says I; 'because, when it comes to that, that he is
drunk every day, or every other day, why, it's my opinion that he may
consider the devil's got him!' I talked to Tom just so, right out
square; because, you see, I'm in a father's place to him. But, Lord, it
don't seem to have done him a bit of good! Good Lord! they tell me he is
drunk one half his time, and acts like a crazy creature! Goes too far,
Tom does, altogether. Mrs. G. an't got any patience with him. She blasts
at him every time he comes here, and he blasts at her; so it an't very
comfortable having him here. Good woman at heart, Mrs. Gordon, but a
little strong in her ways, you know; and Tom is strong, too. So it's
fire fight fire when they get together. It's no ways comfortable to a
man wanting to have everybody happy around him. Lord bless me! I wish
Nin were my daughter! Why can't she come over here, and live with me?
She hasn't got any more spirit in her than just what I like. Just enough
fizz in her to keep one from flatting out. What about those beaux of
hers? Is she going to be married? Hey?"

"There's two gentlemen there, attending upon Miss Nina. One is Mr.
Carson, of New York"--

"Hang it all! she isn't going to marry a d----d Yankee! Why, brother
would turn over in his grave!"

"I don't think it will be necessary to put himself to that trouble,"
said Harry, "for I rather think it's Mr. Clayton who is to be the
favored one."

"Clayton! good blood!--like that! Seems to be a gentlemanly good fellow,
doesn't he?"

"Yes, sir. He owns a plantation, I'm told, in South Carolina."

"Ah! ah! that's well! But I hate to spare Nin! I never half liked
sending her off to New York. Don't believe in boarding-schools. I've
seen as fine girls grown on plantations as any man need want. What do we
want to send our girls there, to get fipenny-bit ideas? I thank the
Lord, I never was in New York, and I never mean to be! Carolina born and
raised, I am; and my wife is Virginia--pure breed! No boarding-school
about her! And, when I stood up to be married to her, there wasn't a
girl in Virginia could stand up with her. Her cheeks were like damask
roses! A tall, straight, lively girl, she was! Knew her own mind, and
had a good notion of speaking it, too. And there isn't a woman, now,
that can get through the business she can, and have her eyes always on
everything. If it does make me uncomfortable, every now and then, I
ought to take it, and thank the Lord for it. For, if it wan't for her,
what with the overseer, and the niggers, and the poor white trash, we
should all go to the devil in a heap!"

"Miss Nina sent me over here to be out of Master Tom's way," said Harry,
after a pause. "He is bent upon hectoring me, as usual. You know, sir,
that he always had a spite against me, and it seems to grow more and
more bitter. He quarrels with her about the management of everything on
the place; and you know, sir, that I try to do my very best, and you and
Mrs. Gordon have always been pleased to say that I did well."

"So we did, Harry, my boy! So we did! Stay here as long as you like.
Just suit yourself about that. Maybe you'd like to go out shooting with
me."

"I'm worried," said Harry, "to be obliged to be away just at the time of
putting in the seed. Everything depends upon my overseeing."

"Why don't you go back, then? Tom's ugliness is nothing but because he
is drunk. There's where it is! I see through it! You see, when a fellow
has had a drunken spree, why, the day after it he is all at loose ends
and cross--nerves all ravelled out, like an old stocking. Then fellows
are sulky and surly like. I've heard of their having temperance
societies up in those northern states, and I think something of that
sort would be good for our young men. They get drunk too often. Full a
third of them, I should reckon, get the delirium tremens before they are
fifty. If we could have a society like them, and that sort of thing, and
agree to be moderate! Nobody expects young men to be old before their
time; but, if they'd agree not to blow out more than once a month, or
something in that way!"

"I'm afraid," said Harry, "Master Tom's too far gone for that."

"Oh, ay! yes! Pity, pity! Suppose it is so. Why, when a fellow gets so
far, he's like a nigger's old patched coat--you can't tell where the
real cloth is. Now, Tom; I suppose he never is himself--always up on a
wave, or down in the trough! Heigho! I'm sorry!"

"It's very hard on Miss Nina," said Harry. "He interferes, and I have no
power to stand for her. And, yesterday, he began talking to my wife in a
way I can't bear, nor won't! He _must_ let her alone!"

"Sho! sho!" said Mr. Gordon. "See what a boy that is, now! That an't in
the least worth while--that an't! I shall tell Tom so. And, Harry, mind
your temper! Remember, young men will be young; and, if a fellow will
treat himself to a pretty wife, he must expect trials. But Tom ought not
to do so. I shall tell him. High! there comes Jake, with the basket and
the smoke-house key. Now for something to send down to those poor
hobgoblins. If people are going to starve, they mustn't come on to my
place to do it. I don't mind what I don't see--I wouldn't mind if the
whole litter of 'em was drowned to-morrow; but, hang it, I can't stand
it if I know it! So, here, Jake, take this ham and bread, and look 'em
up an old skillet, and see if you can't tinker up the house a bit. I'd
set the fellow to work, when he comes back; only we have two hands to
every turn, now, and the niggers always plague 'em. Harry, you go home,
and tell Nin Mrs. G. and I will be over to dinner."



CHAPTER XVIII.

DRED.


Harry spent the night at the place of Mr. John Gordon, and arose the
next morning in a very discontented mood of mind. Nothing is more
vexatious to an active and enterprising person than to be thrown into a
state of entire idleness; and Harry, after lounging about for a short
time in the morning, found his indignation increased by every moment of
enforced absence from the scene of his daily labors and interest. Having
always enjoyed substantially the privileges of a freeman in the ability
to regulate his time according to his own ideas, to come and go, to buy
and sell, and transact business unfettered by any felt control, he was
the more keenly alive to the degradation implied in his present
position.

"Here I must skulk around," said he to himself, "like a partridge in the
bushes, allowing everything to run at loose ends, preparing the way for
my being found fault with for a lazy fellow by and by; and all for what?
Because my younger brother chooses to come, without right or reason, to
domineer over me, to insult my wife; and because the laws will protect
him in it, if he does it! Ah! ah! that's it. They are all leagued
together! No matter how right I am--no matter how bad he is! Everybody
will stand up for him, and put me down; all because my grandmother was
born in Africa, and his grandmother was born in America. Confound it
all, I won't stand it! Who knows what he'll be saying and doing to
Lisette while I am gone? I'll go back and face him, like a man! I'll
keep straight about my business, and, if he crosses me, let him take
care! He hasn't got but one life, any more than I have. Let him look
out!"

And Harry jumped upon his horse, and turned his head homeward. He struck
into a circuitous path, which led along that immense belt of swampy
land to which the name of Dismal has been given. As he was riding along,
immersed in thought, the clatter of horses' feet was heard in front of
him. A sudden turn of the road brought him directly facing to Tom Gordon
and Mr. Jekyl, who had risen early and started off on horseback, in
order to reach a certain stage depot before the heat of the day. There
was a momentary pause on both sides; when Tom Gordon, like one who knows
his power, and is determined to use it to the utmost, broke out,
scornfully:--

"Stop, you d----d nigger, and tell your master where you are going!"

"You are not my master!" said Harry, in words whose concentrated
calmness conveyed more bitterness and wrath than could have been given
by the most violent outburst.

"You d----d whelp!" said Tom Gordon, striking him across the face twice
with his whip, "take _that_, and _that_! We'll see if I'm not your
master! There, now, help yourself, won't you? Isn't that a master's
mark?"

It had been the life-long habit of Harry's position to repress every
emotion of anger within himself. But, at this moment, his face wore a
deadly and frightful expression. Still, there was something majestic and
almost commanding in the attitude with which he reined back his horse,
and slowly lifted his hand to Heaven. He tried to speak, but his voice
was choked with repressed passion. At last he said:--

"You may be sure, Mr. Gordon, this mark will _never_ be forgotten!"

There are moments of high excitement, when all that is in a human being
seems to be roused, and to concentrate itself in the eye and the voice.
And, in such moments, _any_ man, apparently by virtue of his mere
humanity, by the mere awfulness of the human soul that is in him, gains
power to overawe those who in other hours scorn him. There was a
minute's pause, in which neither spoke; and Mr. Jekyl, who was a man of
peace, took occasion to touch Tom's elbow, and say:--

"It seems to me this isn't worth while--we shall miss the stage." And,
as Harry had already turned his horse and was riding away, Tom Gordon
turned his, shouting after him, with a scornful laugh:--

"I called on your wife before I came away this morning, and I liked her
rather better the second time than I did the first!"

This last taunt flew like a Parthian arrow backward, and struck into the
soul of the bondman with even a keener power than the degrading blow.
The sting of it seemed to rankle more bitterly as he rode along, till at
last he dropped the reins on his horse's neck, and burst into a
transport of bitter cursing.

"Aha! aha! it has come nigh _thee_, has it? It toucheth _thee_, and thou
faintest!" said a deep voice from the swampy thicket beside him.

Harry stopped his horse and his imprecations. There was a crackling in
the swamp, and a movement among the copse of briers; and at last the
speaker emerged, and stood before Harry. He was a tall black man, of
magnificent stature and proportions. His skin was intensely black, and
polished like marble. A loose shirt of red flannel, which opened very
wide at the breast, gave a display of a neck and chest of herculean
strength. The sleeves of the shirt, rolled up nearly to the shoulders,
showed the muscles of a gladiator. The head, which rose with an imperial
air from the broad shoulders, was large and massive, and developed with
equal force both in the reflective and perceptive department. The
perceptive organs jutted like dark ridges over the eyes, while that part
of the head which phrenologists attribute to the moral and intellectual
sentiments, rose like an ample dome above them. The large eyes had that
peculiar and solemn effect of unfathomable blackness and darkness which
is often a striking characteristic of the African eye. But there burned
in them, like tongues of flame in a black pool of naphtha, a subtle and
restless fire that betokened habitual excitement to the verge of
insanity. If any organs were predominant in the head, they were those of
ideality, wonder, veneration, and firmness; and the whole combination
was such as might have formed one of the wild old warrior prophets of
the heroic ages. He wore a fantastic sort of turban, apparently of an
old scarlet shawl, which added to the outlandish effect of his
appearance. His nether garments, of coarse negro-cloth, were girded
round the waist by a strip of scarlet flannel, in which was thrust a
bowie-knife and hatchet. Over one shoulder he carried a rifle, and a
shot-pouch was suspended to his belt. A rude game-bag hung upon his
arm. Wild and startling as the apparition might have been, it appeared
to be no stranger to Harry; for, after the first movement of surprise,
he said, in a tone of familiar recognition, in which there was blended
somewhat of awe and respect:--

"Oh, it is you, then, Dred! I didn't know that you were hearing me!"

"Have I not heard?" said the speaker, raising his arm, and his eyes
gleaming with wild excitement. "How long wilt thou halt between two
opinions? Did not Moses refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh's
daughter? How long wilt thou cast in thy lot with the oppressors of
Israel, who say unto thee, 'Bow down that we may walk over thee'? Shall
not the Red Sea be divided? 'Yea,' saith the Lord, 'it shall.'"

"Dred! I know what you mean!" said Harry, trembling with excitement.

"Yea, thou dost!" said the figure. "Yea, thou dost! Hast thou not eaten
the fat and drunk the sweet with the oppressor, and hid thine eyes from
the oppression of thy people? Have not _our_ wives been for a prey, and
thou hast not regarded? Hath not our cheek been given to the smiter?
Have we not been counted as sheep for the slaughter? But thou saidst,
'Lo! I knew it not,' and didst hide thine eyes! Therefore, the curse of
Meroz is upon thee, saith the Lord. And _thou_ shalt bow down to the
oppressor, and his rod shall be upon thee; and _thy_ wife shall be for a
prey!"

"Don't talk in that way!--don't!" said Harry, striking out his hands
with a frantic gesture, as if to push back the words. "You are raising
the very devil in me!"

"Look here, Harry," said the other, dropping from the high tone he at
first used to that of common conversation, and speaking in bitter irony,
"did your master strike you? It's sweet to kiss the rod, isn't it? Bend
your neck and ask to be struck again!--won't you? Be meek and lowly!
that's the religion for you! You are a _slave_, and you wear broadcloth,
and sleep soft. By and by he will give you a fip to buy salve for those
cuts! Don't fret about your wife! Women always like the master better
than the slave! Why shouldn't they? When a man licks his master's foot,
his wife scorns him,--serves him right. Take it meekly, my boy!
'Servants, obey your masters.' Take your master's old coats--take your
wife when he's done with her--and bless God that brought you under the
light of the Gospel! Go! _you_ are a slave! But as for me," he said,
drawing up his head, and throwing back his shoulders with a deep
inspiration, "_I_ am a free man! Free by this," holding out his rifle.
"Free by the Lord of hosts, that numbereth the stars, and calleth them
forth by their names. Go home--that's all I have to say to you! You
sleep in a curtained bed.--I sleep on the ground, in the swamps! You eat
the fat of the land. I have what the ravens bring me! But no man whips
me!--no man touches _my_ wife!--no man says to me, 'Why do ye so?' Go!
_you_ are a slave!--I am free!" And, with one athletic bound, he sprang
into the thicket, and was gone.

The effect of this address on the already excited mind of the bondman
may be better conceived than described. He ground his teeth, and
clenched his hands.

"Stop!" he cried; "Dred, I will--I will--I'll do as you tell me--I will
not be a slave!"

A scornful laugh was the only reply, and the sound of crackling
footsteps retreated rapidly. He who retreated struck up, in a clear,
loud voice, one of those peculiar melodies in which vigor and spirit are
blended with a wild inexpressible mournfulness. The voice was one of a
singular and indescribable quality of tone; it was heavy as the sub-bass
of an organ, and of a velvety softness, and yet it seemed to pierce the
air with a keen dividing force which is generally characteristic of
voices of much less volume. The words were the commencement of a wild
camp-meeting hymn, much in vogue in those parts:--


     "Brethren, don't you hear the sound?
       The martial trumpet now is blowing;
     Men in order listing round,
       And soldiers to the standard flowing."


There was a wild, exultant fulness of liberty that rolled in the note;
and, to Harry's excited ear, there seemed in it a fierce challenge of
contempt to his imbecility, and his soul at that moment seemed to be
rent asunder with a pang such as only those can know who have felt what
it is to be a slave. There was an uprising within him, vague,
tumultuous, overpowering; dim instincts, heroic aspirations; the will
to do, the soul to dare; and then, in a moment, there followed the
picture of all society leagued against him, the hopeless impossibility
of any outlet to what was burning within him. The waters of a nature
naturally rally noble, pent up, and without outlet, rolled back upon his
heart with a suffocating force: and, in his hasty anguish, he cursed the
day of his birth. The spasm of his emotion was interrupted by the sudden
appearance of Milly coming along the path.

"Why, bless you, Milly," said Harry in sudden surprise, "where are you
going?"

"Oh, bless you, honey, chile. I's gwine on to take de stage. Dey wanted
to get up de wagon for me; but, bless you, says I, what you s'pose de
Lord gin us legs for? I never wants no critturs to tug me round, when I
can walk myself. And, den, honey, it's so pleasant like, to be a walking
along in de bush here, in de morning; 'pears like de voice of de Lord is
walking among de trees. But, bless you, chile, honey, what's de matter
o' yer face?"

"It's Tom Gordon, d--n him!" said Harry.

'Don't talk dat ar way, chile!' said Milly; using the freedom with Harry
which her years and weight of character had gradually secured for her
among the members of the plantation.

"I _will_ talk that way! Why shouldn't I? I am not going to be good any
longer."

"Why, 'twon't help de matter to be _bad_, will it, Harry? 'Cause you
hate Tom Gordon, does you want to act just like him?"

"No!" said Harry, "I won't be like him, but I'll have my revenge! Old
Dred has been talking to me again, this morning. He always did stir me
up so that I could hardly live; and I won't stand it any longer!"

"Chile," said Milly, "you take care! Keep clear on him! He's in de
wilderness of Sinai; he is with de blackness, and darkness, and tempest.
He han't come to de heavenly Jerusalem. Oh! Oh! honey! dere's a blood of
sprinkling dat speaketh better things dan dat of Abel. Jerusalem above
is _free_--is _free_, honey; so, don't you mind, now, what happens in
_dis_ yer time."

"Ah, ah, Aunt Milly! this may do well enough for old women like you;
but, stand opposite to a young fellow like me, with good strong arms,
and a pair of doubled fists, and a body and soul just as full of light
as they can be; it don't answer to go to telling about a heavenly
Jerusalem! We want something here. We'll have it too! How do you know
there is any heaven, anyhow?"

"Know it?" said Milly, her eye kindling, and striking her staff on the
ground. "Know it? I knows it by de _hankering arter it_ I got in here;"
giving her broad chest a blow which made it resound like a barrel. "De
Lord knowed what he was 'bout when he made us. When he made babies
rooting round, with der poor little mouths open, he made milk, and de
mammies for 'em too. Chile, we's nothing but great babies, but an't got
our eyes opened--rooting round and round; but de Father'll feed us
yet--he will so."

"He's a long time about it," said Harry, sullenly.

"Well, chile, an't it a long time 'fore your corn sprouts--a long time
'fore it gets into de ears?--but you plants for all dat. What's dat to
me what I is here?--Shan't I reign with de Lord Jesus?"

"I don't know," said Harry.

"Well, honey, _I does_! Jest so sure as I's standing on dis yer ground.
I knows in a few years I shall be reigning with de Lord Jesus, and a
casting my crown at his feet. Dat's what I knows. Flesh and blood didn't
reveal it unto me, but de Spirit of de Father. It's no odds to me what I
does here; every road leads straight to glory, and de glory an't got no
end to it!" And Milly uplifted her voice in a favorite stave--


     "When we've been dere ten thousand years,
       Bright shining like de sun,
     We've no less days to sing God's praise
       Than when we first begun."


"Chile," said she to him, solemnly, "I an't a fool. Does ye s'pose dat I
thinks folks has any business to be sitting on der cheers all der life
long, and working me, and living on my money? Why, I knows dey han't!
An't it all wrong, from fust to last, de way dey makes merchandise o'
us! Why, I know it is; but I's still about it, for de Lord's sake. I
don't work for Miss Loo; I works for de Lord Jesus; and he is good
pay--no mistake, now I tell you."

"Well," said Harry, a little shaken, but not convinced, "after all,
there isn't much use in trying to do any other way. But you're lucky in
feeling so, Aunt Milly; but I can't."

"Well, chile, any way, don't you do nothing rash, and don't you hear
_him_. Dat ar way out is through seas of blood. Why, chile, would you
turn against Miss Nina? Chile, if they get a going, they won't spare
nobody. Don't you start up dat ar tiger; 'cause, I tell ye, ye can't
chain him, if ye do!"

"Yes," said Harry, "I see it's all madness, perfect madness; there's no
use thinking, no use talking. Well, good-morning, Aunt Milly. Peace go
with you!" And the young man started his horse, and was soon out of
sight.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE CONSPIRATORS.


We owe our readers now some words of explanation respecting the new
personage who has been introduced into our history; therefore we must go
back somewhat, and allude to certain historical events of painful
significance.

It has been a problem to many, how the system of slavery in America
should unite the two apparent inconsistencies of a code of slave-laws
more severe than that of any other civilized nation, with an average
practice at least as indulgent as any other; for, bad as slavery is at
the best, it may yet be admitted that the practice, as a whole, has been
less cruel in this country than in many. An examination into history
will show us that the cruelty of the laws resulted from the effects of
indulgent practice. During the first years of importation of slaves into
South Carolina, they enjoyed many privileges. Those who lived in
intelligent families, and had any desire to learn, were instructed in
reading and writing. Liberty was given them to meet in assemblies of
worship, in class-meetings, and otherwise, without the presence of white
witnesses; and many were raised to situations of trust and consequence.
The result of this was the development of a good degree of intelligence
and manliness among the slaves. There arose among them grave,
thoughtful, energetic men, with their ears and eyes open, and their
minds constantly awake to compare and reason.

When minds come into this state, in a government professing to be
founded on principles of universal equality, it follows that almost
every public speech, document, or newspaper, becomes an incendiary
publication.

Of this fact the southern slave states have ever exhibited the most
singular unconsciousness. Documents containing sentiments most dangerous
for slaves to hear have been publicly read and applauded among them.
The slave has heard, amid shouts, on the Fourth of July, that his
masters held the truth to be self-evident that all men were born equal,
and had an _inalienable right_ to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness; and that all governments derive their just power from the
consent of the governed. Even the mottoes of newspapers have embodied
sentiments of the most insurrectionary character.

Such inscriptions as "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God" stand,
to this day, in large letters, at the head of southern newspapers; while
speeches of senators and public men, in which the principles of
universal democracy are asserted, are constant matters of discussion.
Under such circumstances, it is difficult to induce the servant, who
feels that he is a man, to draw those lines which seem so obvious to
masters, by whom this fact has been forgotten. Accordingly we find that
when the discussions for the admission of Missouri as a slave state
produced a wave whose waters undulated in every part of the Union, there
were found among the slaves men of unusual thought and vigor, who were
no inattentive witnesses and listeners. The discussions were printed in
the newspapers; and what was printed in the newspapers was further
discussed at the post-office door, in the tavern, in the bar-room, at
the dinner-party, where black servants were listening behind the chairs.
A free colored man in the city of Charleston, named Denmark Vesey, was
the one who had the hardihood to seek to use the electric fluid in the
cloud thus accumulated. He conceived the hopeless project of imitating
the example set by the American race, and achieving independence for the
blacks.

Our knowledge of this man is derived entirely from the printed reports
of the magistrates who gave an account of the insurrection, of which he
was the instigator, and who will not, of course, be supposed to be
unduly prejudiced in his favor. They state that he was first brought to
the country by one Captain Vesey, a young lad, distinguished for
personal beauty and great intelligence, and that he proved, for twenty
years, a most faithful slave; but, on drawing a prize of fifteen hundred
dollars in the lottery, he purchased his freedom of his master, and
worked as a carpenter in the city of Charleston. He was distinguished
for strength and activity, and, as the accounts state, maintained such
an irreproachable character, and enjoyed so much the confidence of the
whites, that when he was accused, the charge was not only discredited,
but he was not even arrested for several days after, and not till the
proof of his guilt had become too strong to be doubted. His historians
go on, with considerable _naïveté_, to remark:--

"It is difficult to conceive _what motive he had to enter into such a
plot_, unless it was the one mentioned by one of the witnesses, who said
that Vesey had _several children who were slaves_, and that he said, on
one occasion, _he wished he could see them free_, as he himself artfully
remarked in his defence on his trial."

It appears that the project of rousing and animating the blacks to this
enterprise occupied the mind of Vesey for more than four years, during
which time he was continually taking opportunities to animate and
inspire the spirits of his countrymen. The account states that the
speeches in Congress of those opposed to the admission of Missouri into
the Union, perhaps garbled and misrepresented, furnished him with ample
means for inflaming the minds of the colored population.

"Even while walking in the street," the account goes on to say, "he was
not idle; for, if his companion bowed to a white person, as slaves
universally do, he would rebuke him, and observe, 'that all men were
born equal, and that he was surprised that any one would degrade himself
by such conduct; that he would never cringe to the whites nor ought any
one to, who had the feelings of a man.'[1] When answered, 'We are
slaves,' he would say, sarcastically and indignantly, 'You deserve to
remain slaves!' And, if he were further asked, 'What can we do?' he
would remark, 'Go and buy a spelling-book, and read the fable of
"Hercules and the Wagoner."' He also sought every opportunity of
entering into conversation with white persons, during which conversation
he would artfully introduce some bold remark on slavery; and sometimes,
when, from the character he was conversing with, he found he might be
still bolder, he would go so far that, had not his declarations been
clearly proved, they would scarcely have been credited."

But his great instrument of influence was a book that has always been
prolific of insurrectionary movements, under all systems of despotism.

"He rendered himself perfectly familiar with all those parts of
Scripture which he thought he could pervert to his purpose, and would
readily quote them to prove that slavery was contrary to the laws of
God, and that slaves were bound to attempt their emancipation, however
shocking and bloody might be the consequences; that such efforts would
not only be pleasing to the Almighty, but were absolutely enjoined."

Vesey, in the course of time, associated with himself five slavemen of
marked character--Rolla, Ned, Peter, Monday, and Gullah Jack. Of these,
the account goes on to say:--

"In the selection of his leaders, Vesey showed great penetration and
sound judgment. Rolla was plausible, and possessed uncommon
self-possession; bold and ardent, he was not to be deterred from his
purpose by danger. Ned's appearance indicated that he was a man of firm
nerves and desperate courage. Peter was intrepid and resolute, true to
his engagements, and cautious in observing secrecy where it was
necessary; he was not to be daunted nor impeded by difficulties, and,
though confident of success, was careful in providing against any
obstacles or casualties which might arise, and intent upon discovering
every means which might be in their power, if thought of beforehand.
Gullah Jack was regarded as a sorcerer, and, as such, feared by the
natives of Africa, who believed in witchcraft. He was not only
considered invulnerable, but that he could make others so by his charms,
and that he could, and certainly would, provide all his followers with
arms. He was artful, cruel, bloody; his disposition, in short, was
diabolical. His influence among the Africans was inconceivable. Monday
was firm, resolute, discreet, and intelligent."

"It is a melancholy truth that the general good conduct of all the
leaders, except Gullah Jack, was such as rendered them objects least
liable to suspicion. Their conduct had secured them, not only the
unlimited confidence of their owners, but they had been indulged in
every comfort, and allowed every privilege compatible with their
situation in the community; and, though Gullah Jack was not remarkable
for the correctness of his deportment, he by no means sustained a bad
character. But," adds the report, "not only were the leaders of good
character, and very much indulged by their owners, but this was very
generally the case with all who were convicted, many of them possessing
the highest confidence of their owners, _and not one a bad character_."

"The conduct and behavior of Vesey and his five leaders during their
trial and imprisonment may be interesting to many. When Vesey was tried,
he folded his arms, and seemed to pay great attention to the testimony
given against him, but with his eyes fixed on the floor. In this
situation he remained immovable until the witnesses had been examined by
the court, and cross-examined by his counsel, when he requested to be
allowed to examine the witnesses himself, which he did. The evidence
being closed, he addressed the court at considerable length. When he
received his sentence, tears trickled down his cheeks.

"Rolla, when arraigned, affected not to understand the charge against
him; and when, at his request, it was explained to him, assumed, with
wonderful adroitness, astonishment and surprise. He was remarkable
throughout his trial for composure and great presence of mind. When he
was informed that he was convicted, and was advised to prepare for
death, he appeared perfectly confounded, but exhibited no signs of fear.

"In Ned's behavior there was nothing remarkable. His countenance was
stern and immovable, even while he was receiving sentence of death. From
his looks it was impossible to discover or conjecture what were his
feelings. Not so with Peter Poyes. In his countenance were strongly
marked disappointed ambition, revenge, indignation, and an anxiety to
know how far the discoveries had extended. He did not appear to fear
personal consequences, for his whole behavior indicated the reverse, but
exhibited an evident anxiety for the success of their plan, in which his
whole soul was embarked. His countenance and behavior were the same when
he received his sentence, and his only words were, on retiring, 'I
suppose you'll let me see my wife and family before I die,' and that in
no supplicating tone. When he was asked, a day or two after, 'If it was
possible that he could see his master and family murdered, who had
treated him so kindly?' he replied to the question only by a smile. In
their prison, the convicts resolutely refused to make any confessions or
communications which might implicate others; and Peter Poyes sternly
enjoined it upon them to maintain this silence,--'_Do not open your
lips; die silent, as you will see me do!_' and in this resolute silence
they met their fate. Twenty-two of the conspirators were executed upon
one gallows."

The account says, "That Peter Poyes was one of the most active of the
recruiting agents. All the principal conspirators kept a list of those
who had consented to join them, and Peter was said, by one of the
witnesses, to have had six hundred names on his list; but, so resolutely
to the last did he observe his pledge of secrecy to his associates,
that, of the whole number arrested and tried, not one of them belonged
to his company. In fact, in an insurrection in which thousands of
persons were supposed to have been implicated, only thirty-six were
convicted."

Among the children of Denmark Vesey was a boy by a Mandingo slave-woman,
who was his father's particular favorite. The Mandingos are one of the
finest of African tribes, distinguished for intelligence, beauty of
form, and an indomitable pride and energy of nature. As slaves, they are
considered particularly valuable by those who have tact enough to govern
them, because of their great capability and their proud faithfulness;
but they resent a government of brute force, and under such are always
fractious and dangerous.

This boy received from his mother the name of Dred; a name not unusual
among the slaves, and generally given to those of great physical force.

The development of this child's mind was so uncommon as to excite
astonishment among the negroes. He early acquired the power of reading,
by an apparent instinctive faculty, and would often astonish those
around him with things which he had discovered in books. Like other
children of a deep and fervent nature, he developed great religious
ardor, and often surprised the older negroes by his questions and
replies on this subject. A son so endowed could not but be an object of
great pride and interest to a father like Denmark Vesey. The impression
seemed to prevail universally among the negroes that this child was born
for extraordinary things; and perhaps it was the yearning to acquire
liberty for the development of such a mind which first led Denmark Vesey
to reflect on the nature of slavery, and the terrible weights which it
lays on the human intellect, and to conceive the project of liberating a
race.

The Bible, of which Vesey was an incessant reader, stimulated this
desire. He likened his own position of comparative education,
competence, and general esteem among the whites, to that of Moses among
the Egyptians; and nourished the idea that, like Moses, he was sent as a
deliverer. During the process of the conspiracy, this son, though but
ten years of age, was his father's confidant; and he often charged him,
though he should fail in the attempt, never to be discouraged. He
impressed it upon his mind that he should never submit tamely to the
yoke of slavery; and nourished the idea already impressed, that some
more than ordinary destiny was reserved for him. After the discovery of
the plot, and the execution of its leaders, those more immediately
connected with them were sold from the state, even though not proved to
have participated. With the most guarded caution, Vesey had exempted
this son from suspicion. It had been an agreed policy with them both,
that in the presence of others they should counterfeit alienation and
dislike. Their confidential meetings with each other had been stolen and
secret. At the time of his father's execution, Dred was a lad of
fourteen. He could not be admitted to his father's prison, but he was a
witness of the undaunted aspect with which he and the other conspirators
met their doom. The memory dropped into the depths of his soul, as a
stone drops into the desolate depths of a dark mountain lake.

Sold to a distant plantation, he became noted for his desperate,
unsubduable disposition. He joined in none of the social recreations and
amusements of the slaves, labored with proud and silent assiduity, but,
on the slightest rebuke or threat, flashed up with a savage fierceness,
which, supported by his immense bodily strength, made him an object of
dread among overseers. He was one of those of whom they gladly rid
themselves; and, like a fractious horse, was sold from master to master.
Finally, an overseer, hardier than the rest, determined on the task of
subduing him. In the scuffle that ensued Dred struck him to the earth, a
dead man, made his escape to the swamps, and was never afterwards heard
of in civilized life.

The reader who consults the map will discover that the whole eastern
shore of the southern states, with slight interruptions, is belted by an
immense chain of swamps, regions of hopeless disorder, where the
abundant growth and vegetation of nature, sucking up its forces from the
humid soil, seems to rejoice in a savage exuberance, and bid defiance to
all human efforts either to penetrate or subdue. These wild regions are
the homes of the alligator, the moccasin, and the rattle-snake.
Evergreen trees, mingling freely with the deciduous children of the
forest, form here dense jungles, verdant all the year round, and which
afford shelter to numberless birds, with whose warbling the leafy
desolation perpetually resounds. Climbing vines, and parasitic plants,
of untold splendor and boundless exuberance of growth, twine and
interlace, and hang from the heights of the highest trees pennons of
gold and purple,--triumphant banners, which attest the solitary majesty
of nature. A species of parasitic moss wreaths its abundant draperies
from tree to tree, and hangs in pearly festoons, through which shine the
scarlet berry and green leaves of the American holly.

What the mountains of Switzerland were to the persecuted Vaudois, this
swampy belt has been to the American slave. The constant effort to
recover from thence fugitives has led to the adoption, in these states,
of a separate profession, unknown at this time in any other Christian
land--hunters, who train and keep dogs for the hunting of men, women,
and children. And yet, with all the convenience of this profession, the
reclaiming of the fugitives from these fastnesses of nature has been a
work of such expense and difficulty, that the near proximity of the
swamp has always been a considerable check on the otherwise absolute
power of the overseer. Dred carried with him to the swamp but one
solitary companion--the Bible of his father. To him it was not the
messenger of peace and good-will, but the herald of woe and wrath!

As the mind, looking on the great volume of nature, sees there a
reflection of its own internal passions, and seizes on that in it which
sympathizes with itself,--as the fierce and savage soul delights in the
roar of torrents, the thunder of avalanches, and the whirl of
ocean-storms,--so is it in the great answering volume of revelation.
There is something there for every phase of man's nature; and hence its
endless vitality and stimulating force. Dred had heard read in the
secret meetings of conspirators the wrathful denunciations of ancient
prophets against oppression and injustice. He had read of kingdoms
convulsed by plagues; of tempest, and pestilence, and locusts; of the
sea cleft in twain, that an army of slaves might pass through, and of
their pursuers whelmed in the returning waters. He had heard of prophets
and deliverers, armed with supernatural powers, raised up for oppressed
people; had pondered on the nail of Jael, the goad of Shamgar, the
pitcher and lamp of Gideon; and thrilled with fierce joy as he read how
Samson, with his two strong arms, pulled down the pillars of the festive
temple, and whelmed his triumphant persecutors in one grave with
himself.

In the vast solitudes which he daily traversed, these things entered
deep into his soul. Cut off from all human companionship, often going
weeks without seeing a human face, there was no recurrence of every-day
and prosaic ideas to check the current of the enthusiasm thus kindled.
Even in the soil of the cool Saxon heart the Bible has thrown out its
roots with an all-pervading energy, so that the whole frame-work of
society may be said to rest on soil held together by its fibres. Even in
cold and misty England, armies have been made defiant and invincible by
the incomparable force and deliberate valor which it breathes into men.
But, when this oriental seed, an exotic among us, is planted back in the
fiery soil of a tropical heart, it bursts forth with an incalculable
ardor of growth.

A stranger cannot fail to remark the fact that, though the slaves of the
south are unable to read the Bible for themselves, yet most completely
have its language and sentiment penetrated among them, giving a
Hebraistic coloring to their habitual mode of expression. How much
greater, then, must have been the force of the solitary perusal of this
volume on so impassioned a nature!--a nature, too, kindled by memories
of the self-sacrificing ardor with which a father and his associates had
met death at the call of freedom; for, none of us may deny that, wild
and hopeless as this scheme was, it was still the same in kind with the
more successful one which purchased for our fathers a national
existence.

A mind of the most passionate energy and vehemence, thus awakened, for
years made the wild solitudes of the swamp its home. That book, so full
of startling symbols and vague images, had for him no interpreter but
the silent courses of nature. His life passed in a kind of dream.
Sometimes, traversing for weeks these desolate regions, he would compare
himself to Elijah traversing for forty days and nights the solitudes of
Horeb; or to John the Baptist in the wilderness, girding himself with
camel's hair, and eating locusts and wild honey. Sometimes he would fast
and pray for days; and then voices would seem to speak to him, and
strange hieroglyphics would be written upon the leaves. In less elevated
moods of mind, he would pursue, with great judgment and vigor, those
enterprises necessary to preserve existence. The negroes lying out in
the swamps are not so wholly cut off from society as might at first be
imagined. The slaves of all the adjoining plantations, whatever they may
pretend, to secure the good-will of their owners, are at heart secretly
disposed, from motives both of compassion and policy, to favor the
fugitives. They very readily perceive that, in the event of any
difficulty occurring to themselves, it might be quite necessary to have
a friend and protector in the swamp; and therefore they do not hesitate
to supply these fugitives, so far as they are able, with anything which
they may desire. The poor whites, also, who keep small shops in the
neighborhood of plantations, are never particularly scrupulous, provided
they can turn a penny to their own advantage; and willingly supply
necessary wares in exchange for game, with which the swamp abounds.

Dred, therefore, came in possession of an excellent rifle, and never
wanted for ammunition, which supplied him with an abundance of food.
Besides this, there are here and there elevated spots in the swampy
land, which, by judicious culture, are capable of great productiveness.
And many such spots Dred had brought under cultivation, either with his
own hands, or from those of other fugitives, whom he had received and
protected. From the restlessness of his nature, he had not confined
himself to any particular region, but had traversed the whole swampy
belt of both the Carolinas, as well as that of Southern Virginia;
residing a few months in one place, and a few months in another.
Wherever he stopped, he formed a sort of retreat, where he received and
harbored fugitives. On one occasion, he rescued a trembling and bleeding
mulatto woman from the dogs of the hunters, who had pursued her into the
swamp. This woman he made his wife, and appeared to entertain a very
deep affection for her. He made a retreat for her, with more than common
ingenuity, in the swamp adjoining the Gordon plantation; and, after
that, he was more especially known in that locality. He had fixed his
eye upon Harry, as a person whose ability, address, and strength of
character, might make him at some day a leader in a conspiracy against
the whites. Harry, in common with many of the slaves on the Gordon
plantation, knew perfectly well of the presence of Dred in the
neighborhood, and had often seen and conversed with him. But neither he
nor any of the rest of them ever betrayed before any white person the
slightest knowledge of the fact.

This ability of profound secrecy is one of the invariable attendants of
a life of slavery. Harry was acute enough to know that his position was
by no means so secure that he could afford to dispense with anything
which might prove an assistance in some future emergency. The low white
traders in the neighborhood also knew Dred well; but, as long as they
could drive an advantageous trade with him, he was secure from their
intervention. So secure had he been, that he had been even known to
mingle in the motley throng of a camp-meeting unmolested. Thus much with
regard to one who is to appear often on the stage before our history is
done.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] These extracts are taken from the official report.



CHAPTER XX.

SUMMER TALK AT CANEMA.


In the course of a few days the family circle at Canema was enlarged by
the arrival of Clayton's sister; and Carson, in excellent spirits, had
started for a Northern watering-place. In answer to Nina's letter of
invitation, Anne had come with her father, who was called to that
vicinity by the duties of his profession. Nina received her with her
usual gay frankness of manner; and Anne, like many others, soon found
herself liking her future sister much better than she had expected.
Perhaps, had Nina been in any other situation than that of hostess, her
pride might have led her to decline making the agreeable to Anne, whom,
notwithstanding, she very much wished to please. But she was mistress of
the mansion, and had an Arab's idea of the privileges of a guest; and so
she chatted, sang, and played for her; she took her about, showed her
the walks, the arbors, the flower-garden; waited on her in her own
apartment, with a thousand little attentions, all the more fascinating
from the kind of careless independence with which they were rendered.
Besides, Nina had vowed a wicked little vow in her heart that she would
ride rough-shod over Anne's dignity; that she wouldn't let her be grave
or sensible, but that she should laugh and frolic with her. And Clayton
could scarce help smiling at the success that soon crowned her
exertions. Nina's gayety, when in full tide, had a breezy infectiousness
in it, that seemed to stir up every one about her and carry them on the
tide of her own spirits; and Anne, in her company, soon found herself
laughing at everything and nothing, simply because she felt gay.

To crown all, Uncle John Gordon arrived, with his cheery, jovial face;
and he was one of those fearless, hit-or-miss talkers, that are
invaluable in social dilemmas, because they keep something or other all
the while in motion.

With him came Madam Gordon, or, as Nina commonly called her, Aunt
Maria. She was a portly, finely-formed, middle-aged woman, who might
have been handsome, had not the lines of care and nervous anxiety
ploughed themselves so deeply in her face. Her bright, keen, hazel eyes,
fine teeth, and the breadth of her ample form, attested the vitality of
the old Virginia stock from whence she sprung.

"There," said Nina, to Anne Clayton, as they sat in the shady side of
the veranda, "I've marshalled Aunt Maria up into Aunt Nesbit's room, and
there they will have a comfortable dish of lamentation over me."

"Over you?" said Anne.

"Yes--over me, to be sure!--that's the usual order of exercises. Such a
setting down as I shall get! They'll count up on their fingers all the
things I ought to know and don't, and ought to do and can't. I believe
that's the way relatives always show their affection--aunts in
particular--by mourning over you."

"And what sort of a list will they make out?" said Anne.

"Oh, bless me, that's easy enough. Why, there's Aunt Maria is a
perfectly virulent housekeeper--really insane, I believe, on that
subject. Why, she chases up every rat and mouse and cockroach, every
particle of dust, every scrap of litter. She divides her hours, and is
as punctual as a clock. She rules her household with a rod of iron, and
makes everybody stand round; and tells each one how many times a day
they may wink. She keeps accounts like a very dragon, and always is sure
to pounce on anybody that is in the least out of the way. She cuts out
clothes by the bale; she sews, and she knits, and she jingles keys. And
all this kind of bustle she calls housekeeping! Now, what do you suppose
she must think of me, who just put on my hat in the morning, and go
sailing down the walks, looking at the flowers, till Aunt Katy calls me
back, to know what my orders are for the day?"

"Pray, who is Aunt Katy?" said Anne.

"Oh, she is my female prime minister; and she is very much like some
prime ministers I have studied about in history, who always contrive to
have their own way, let what will come. Now, when Aunt Katy comes and
wants to know, so respectfully, 'What Miss Nina is going to have for
dinner,' do you suppose she has the least expectation of getting
anything that I order? She always has fifty objections to anything that
I propose. For sometimes the fit comes over me to try to be
_house-keepy_, like Aunt Maria; but it's no go, I can tell you. So, when
she has proved that everything that I propose is the height of
absurdity, and shown conclusively that there's nothing fit to be eaten
in the neighborhood, by that time I am reduced to a proper state of
mind. And, when I humbly say, 'Aunt Katy, what _shall_ we do?' then she
gives a little cough, and out comes the whole programme, just as she had
arranged it the night before. And so it goes. As to accounts, why Harry
has to look after them. I detest everything about money, except the
spending of it--I have rather a talent for that. Now, just think how
awfully all this must impress poor Aunt Maria! What sighings, and
rollings up of eyes, and shakings of heads, there are over me! And,
then, Aunt Nesbit is always dinging at me about improving my mind! And
improving my mind means reading some horrid, stupid, boring old book,
just as she does! Now, I like the idea of improving my mind. I am sure
it wants improving, bad enough; but, then, I can't help thinking that
racing through the garden, and cantering through the woods, improves it
faster than getting asleep over books. It seems to me that books are
just like dry hay--very good when there isn't any fresh grass to be had.
But I'd rather be out and eat what's growing. Now, what people call
nature never bores me; but almost every book I ever saw does. Don't you
think people are made differently? Some like books, and some like
things; don't you think so?"

"I can give you a good fact on your side of the argument," said Clayton,
who had come up behind them during the conversation.

"I didn't know I was arguing; but I shall be glad to have anything on my
side," said Nina, "of course."

"Well, then," said Clayton, "I'll say that the books that have
influenced the world the longest, the widest, and deepest, have been
written by men who attended to _things_ more than to books; who, as you
say, eat what was growing, instead of dry hay. Homer couldn't have had
much to read in his time, nor the poets of the Bible; and they have
been fountains for all ages. I don't believe Shakespeare was much of a
reader."

"Well, but," said Anne, "don't you think that, for us common folks, who
are not going to be either Homers or Shakespeares, that it's best to
have two strings to our bow, and to gain instruction both from books and
things?"

"To be sure," said Clayton, "if we only use books aright. With many
people, reading is only a form of mental indolence, by which they escape
the labor of thinking for themselves. Some persons are like Pharaoh's
lean kine; they swallow book upon book, but remain as lean as ever."

"My grandfather used to say," said Anne, "that the Bible and Shakespeare
were enough for a woman's library."

"Well," said Nina, "I don't like Shakespeare, there! I'm coming out flat
with it. In the first place, I don't understand half he says; and, then,
they talk about his being so very natural! I'm sure I never heard people
talk as he makes them. Now, did you ever hear people talk in blank
verse, with every now and then one or two lines of rhyme, as his
characters do when they go off in long speeches? Now, did you?"

"As to that," said Clayton, "it's about half and half. His conversations
have just about the same resemblance to real life that acting at the
opera has. It is not natural for Norma to burst into a song when she
discovers the treachery of her husband. You make that concession to the
nature of the opera, in the first place; and then, with that reserve,
all the rest strikes you as natural, and the music gives an added charm
to it. So in Shakespeare, you concede that the plays are to be poems,
and that the people are to talk in rhythm, and with all the exaltation
of poetic sentiment; and, that being admitted, their conversations may
seem natural."

"But I can't _understand_ a great deal that Shakespeare says," said
Nina.

"Because so many words and usages are altered since he wrote," said
Clayton. "Because there are so many allusions to incidents that have
passed, and customs that have perished, that you have, as it were, to
acquire his language before you can understand him. Suppose a poem were
written in a foreign tongue; you couldn't say whether you liked it or
disliked it till you could read the language. Now, my opinion is, that
there is a liking for Shakespeare hidden in your nature, like a seed
that has not sprouted."

"What makes you think so?"

"Oh, I see it in you, just as a sculptor sees a statue in a block of
marble."

"And are you going to chisel it out?" said Nina.

"With your leave," said Clayton. "After all, I like your sincerity in
saying what you do think. I have often heard ladies profess an
admiration for Shakespeare that I knew couldn't be real. I knew that
they had neither the experience of life, nor the insight into human
nature, really to appreciate what is in him; and that their liking for
him was all a worked-up affair, because they felt it would be very
shocking not to like him."

"Well," said Nina, "I'm much obliged to you for all the sense you find
in my nonsense. I believe I shall keep you to translate my fooleries
into good English."

"You know I'm quite at your disposal," said Clayton, "for that or
anything else."

At this moment the attention of Nina was attracted by loud exclamations
from that side of the house where the negro cottages were situated.

"Get along off! don't want none o' yo old trash here! No, no, Miss Nina
don't want none o' yo old fish! She's got plenty of niggers to ketch her
own fish."

"Somebody taking my name in vain in those regions," said Nina, running
to the other end of the veranda. "Tomtit," she said to that young
worthy, who lay flat on his back, kicking up his heels in the sun,
waiting for his knives to clean themselves, "pray tell me what's going
on there!"

"Laws, missis," said Tom, "it's just one of dese yer poor white trash,
coming round here trying to sell one thing o' nother. Miss Loo says it
won't do 'courage 'em, and I's de same 'pinion."

"Send him round here to me," said Nina, who, partly from humanity, and
partly from a spirit of contradiction, had determined to take up for the
poor white folks, on all occasions. Tomtit ran accordingly, and soon
brought to the veranda a man whose wretchedly tattered clothing scarcely
formed a decent covering. His cheeks were sunken and hollow, and he
stood before Nina with a cringing, half-ashamed attitude; and yet one
might see that, with better dress and better keeping, he might be made
to assume the appearance of a handsome, intelligent man. "What do you
ask for your fish?" she said to him.

"Anything ye pleases!"

"Where do you live?" said Nina, drawing out her purse.

"My folks's staying on Mr. Gordon's place."

"Why don't you get a place of your own to stay on?" said Nina.

There was an impatient glance flashed from the man's eye, but it gave
place immediately to his habitual cowed expression, as he said,--

"Can't get work--can't get money--can't get nothing."

"Dear me," said her Uncle John, who had been standing for a moment
listening to the conversation. "This must be husband of that poor
hobgoblin that has lighted down on my place lately. Well, you may as
well pay him a good price for his fish. Keep them from starving one day
longer, may be." And Nina paid the man a liberal sum, and dismissed him.

"I suppose, now, all my eloquence wouldn't make Rose cook those fish for
dinner," said Nina.

"Why not, if you told her to?" said Aunt Maria, who had also descended
to the veranda.

"Why not?--Just because, as she would say, she hadn't _laid out_ to do
it."

"That's not the way _my_ servants are taught to do!" said Aunt Maria.

"I'll warrant not," said Nina. "But yours and mine are quite different
affairs, aunt. They all do as they have a mind to, in my '_diggings_.'
All I stipulated for is a little of the same privilege."

"That man's wife and children have come and '_squatted_' down on my
place," said Mr. Gordon, laughing; "and so, Nin, all you paid for his
fish is just so much saving to me."

"Yes, to be sure! Mr. Gordon is just one of those men that will have a
tribe of shiftless hangers on at his heels!" said Mrs. Gordon.

"Well, bless my soul! what's a fellow to do? Can't see the poor heathen
starve, can we? If society could only be organized over, now, there
would be hope for them. The brain ought to control the hands; but among
us the hands try to set up for themselves;--and see what comes of it!"

"Who do you mean by brain?" said Nina.

"Who?--Why, _we_ upper crust, to be sure! We educated people! We ought
to have an absolute sway over the working classes, just as the brain
rules the hand. It must come to that, at last--no other arrangement is
possible. The white working classes can't take care of themselves, and
must be put into a condition for us to take care of them. What is
liberty to them?--Only a name--liberty to be hungry and naked, that's
all. It's the strangest thing in the world, how people stick to names! I
suppose that fellow, up there, would flare up terribly at being put in
with my niggers; and yet he and his children are glad of the crumbs that
fall from their table! It's astonishing to me how, with such examples
before them, any decent man can be so stone blind as to run a tilt
against slavery. Just compare the free working classes with our slaves!
Dear me! the blindness of people in this world! It's too much for my
patience, particularly in hot weather!" said Mr. John, wiping his face
with a white pocket-handkerchief.

"Well, but, Uncle John," said Nina, "my dear old gentleman, you haven't
travelled, as I have."

"No, child! I thank the Lord I never stepped my foot out of a slave
state, and I never mean to," said Uncle John.

"But you ought to see the _northern_ working people," said Nina. "Why,
the Governors of the States are farmers, sometimes, and work with their
own men. The brain and the hand go together, in each one--not one great
brain to fifty pair of hands. And, I tell you, work is _done_ up there
very differently from what's done here! Just look at our ploughs and our
hoes!--the most ridiculous things that I ever saw. I should think one of
them would weigh ten pounds!"

"Well, if you don't have 'em heavy enough to go into the ground by their
own weight, these cussed lazy nigs won't do anything with them. They'd
break a dozen Yankee hoes in a forenoon," said Uncle John.

"Now," said Nina, "Uncle John, you dear old heathen, you! do let me
tell you a little how it is there. I went up into New Hampshire, once,
with Livy Ray, to spend a vacation. Livy's father is a farmer; works
part of every day with his own men; hoes, digs, plants; but he is
Governor of the State. He has a splendid farm--all in first-rate order;
and his sons, with two or three hired men, keep it in better condition
than our places ever saw. Mr. Ray is a man who reads a great deal; has a
fine library, and he's as much of a gentleman as you'll often see. There
are no high and low _classes_ there. Everybody works; and everybody
seems to have a good time. Livy's mother has a beautiful dairy, spring
house, and two strong women to help her; and everything in the house
looks beautifully; and, for the greater part of the day, the house seems
so neat and still, you wouldn't know anything had been done in it. Seems
to me this is better than making slaves of all the working classes, or
having any working classes at all."

"How wise young ladies always are!" said Uncle John. "Undoubtedly the
millennium is begun in New Hampshire! But, pray, my dear, what part do
_young_ ladies take in all this? Seems to me, Nin, _you_ haven't picked
up much of this improvement in person."

"Oh, as to that, I labor in my vocation," said Nina; "that is, of
enlightening dull, sleepy old gentlemen, who never travelled out of the
state they were born in, and don't know what can be done. I come as a
missionary to them; I'm sure that's work enough for one."

"Well," said Aunt Maria, "I know I am as great a slave as any of the
poor whites, or negroes either. There isn't a soul in my whole troop
that pretends to take any care, except me, either about themselves or
their children, or anything else."

"I hope that isn't a slant at me!" said Uncle John, shrugging his
shoulders.

"I must say you are as bad as any of them," said Aunt Maria.

"There it goes!--now, I'm getting it!" said Uncle John. "I declare, the
next time we get a preacher out here, I'm going to make him hold forth
on the duties of wives!"

"And husbands, too!" said Aunt Maria.

"Do," said Nina; "I should like a little prospective information."

Nina, as often, spoke before she thought. Uncle John gave a malicious
look at Clayton. Nina could not recall the words. She colored deeply,
and went on hastily to change the subject.

"At any rate, I know that aunt, here, has a much harder time than
housekeepers do in the free states. Just the shoes she wears out chasing
up her negroes would hire help enough to do all her work. They used to
have an idea up there, that all the southern ladies did was to lie on
the sofa. I used to tell them it was as much as they knew about it."

"_Your_ cares don't seem to have worn you much!" said Uncle John.

"Well, they will, Uncle John, if you don't behave better. It's enough to
break anybody down to keep you in order."

"I wish," said Uncle John, shrugging up his shoulders, and looking
quizzically at Clayton, "somebody would take warning!"

"For my part," said Aunt Maria, "I know one thing: I'd be glad to get
rid of my negroes. Sometimes I think life is such a burden that I don't
think it's worth having."

"Oh, no, you don't, mother!" said Uncle John; "not with such a charming
husband as you've got, who relieves you from all care so perfectly!"

"I declare," said Nina, looking along the avenue, "what's that? Why, if
there isn't old Tiff, coming along with his children!"

"Who is he?" said Aunt Maria.

"Oh, he belongs to one of these miserable families," said Aunt Nesbit,
"that have squatted in the pine-woods somewhere about here--a poor,
worthless set! but Nina has a great idea of patronizing them."

"Clear Gordon, every inch of her!" said Aunt Maria, as Nina ran down to
meet Tiff. "Just like her uncle!"

"Come, now, old lady, I'll tell of _you_, if you don't take care!" said
Mr. Gordon. "Didn't I find you putting up a basket of provisions for
those folks you scolded me so for taking in?"

"Scold, Mr. Gordon? I never scold!"

"I beg pardon--that you reproved me for!"

Ladies generally are not displeased for being reproached for their
charities; and Aunt Maria, whose bark, to use a vulgar proverb, was
infinitely worse than her bite, sat fanning herself, with an air of
self-complacency. Meanwhile, Nina had run down the avenue, and was busy
in a confidential communication with Tiff. On her return, she came
skipping up the steps, apparently in high glee.

"Oh, Uncle John! there's the greatest fun getting up! You must all go,
certainly! What do you think? Tiff says there's to be a camp-meeting in
the neighborhood, only about five miles off from his place. Let's make
up a party, and all go!"

"That's the time of day!" said Uncle John. "I enrol myself under your
banner, at once. I am open to improvement! Anybody wants to convert me,
here I am!"

"The trouble with you, Uncle John," said Nina, "is that you don't _stay_
converted. You are just like one of these heavy fishes--you bite very
sharp, but, before anybody can get you fairly on to the bank, you are
flapping and floundering back into the water, and down you go into your
sins again. I know at least three ministers who thought they had hooked
you out; but they were mistaken."

"For my part," said Aunt Maria, "I think these camp-meetings do more
harm than good. They collect all the scum and the riff-raff of the
community, and I believe there's more drinking done at camp-meetings in
one week than is done in six anywhere else. Then, of course, all the
hands will want to be off; and Mr. Gordon has brought them up so that
they feel dreadfully abused if they are not in with everything that's
going on. I shall set down _my_ foot, this year, that they shan't go any
day except Sunday."

"My wife knows that she was always celebrated for having the handsomest
foot in the country, and so she is always setting it down at _me_!" said
Mr. Gordon; "for she knows that a pretty foot is irresistible with me."

"Mr. Gordon, how can you talk so? I should think that you'd got old
enough not to make such silly speeches!" said Aunt Maria.

"Silly speeches! It's a solemn fact, and you won't hear anything truer
at the camp-meeting!" said Uncle John. "But come, Clayton, will you go?
My dear fellow, your grave face will be an appropriate ornament to the
scene, I can assure you; and, as to Miss Anne, it won't do for an old
fellow like me, in this presence, to say what a happiness it would be."

"I suspect," said Anne, "Edward is afraid he may be called on for some
of the services. People are always taking him for a clergyman, and
asking him to say grace at meals, and to conduct family prayers, when he
is travelling among strangers."

"It's a comment on our religion, that these should be thought peculiar
offices of clergymen," said Clayton. "Every Christian man ought to be
ready and willing to take them."

"I honor that sentiment!" said Uncle John. "A man ought not so be
ashamed of his religion anywhere, no more than a soldier of his colors.
I believe there's more religion hid in the hearts of honest laymen, now,
than is plastered up behind the white cravats of clergymen; and they
ought to come out with it. Not that I have any disrespect for the
clergy, either," said Uncle John. "Fine men--a little stiffish, and
don't call things by good English names. Always talking about
dispensation, and sanctification, and edification, and so forth; but I
like them. They are sincere. I suppose they wouldn't any of them give me
a chance for heaven, because I rip out with an oath, every now and then.
But, the fact is, what with niggers, and overseers, and white trash, my
chances of salvation are dreadfully limited. I can't help swearing, now
and then, if I was to die for it. They say it's dreadfully wicked; but I
feel more Christian when I let out than when I keep in!"

"Mr. Gordon," said Aunt Maria, reprovingly, "do consider what you're
saying!"

"My dear, I _am_ considering. I am considering all the time! I never do
anything else but consider--except, as I said before, every now and
then, when what-'s-his-name gets the advantage over me. And, hark you,
Mrs. G., let 's have things ready at our house, if any of the clergy
would like to spend a week or so with us; and we could get them up some
meetings, or any little thing in their line. I always like to show
respect for them."

"Our beds are _always_ prepared for company, Mr. Gordon," said Aunt
Maria, with a stately air.

"Oh, yes, yes, I don't doubt that! I only meant some special
preparation--some little fatted-calf killing, and so on."

"Now," said Nina, "shall we set off to-morrow morning?"

"Agreed!" said Uncle John.



CHAPTER XXI.

TIFF'S PREPARATIONS.


The announcement of the expected camp-meeting produced a vast sensation
at Canema, in other circles beside the hall. In the servants'
department, everybody was full of the matter, from Aunt Katy down to
Tomtit. The women were thinking over their available finery; for these
gatherings furnish the negroes with the same opportunity of display that
Grace Church does to the Broadway belles. And so, before Old Tiff, who
had brought the first intelligence to the plantation, had time to
depart, Tomtit had trumpeted the news through all the cluster of
negro-houses that skirted the right side of the mansion, proclaiming
that "dere was gwine to be a camp-meeting, and tip-top work of grace,
and Miss Nina was going to let all de niggers go." Old Tiff, therefore,
found himself in a prominent position in a group of negro-women, among
whom Rose, the cook, was conspicuous.

"Law, Tiff, ye gwine? and gwine to take your chil'en? ha! ha! ha!" said
she. "Why, Miss Fanny, dey'll tink Tiff's yer mammy! Ho! ho! ho!"

"Yah! yah! Ho! ho! ho!" roared in a chorus of laughter on all sides,
doing honor to Aunt Rosy's wit; and Tomtit, who hung upon the skirts of
the crowd, threw up the fragment of a hat in the air, and kicked it in
an abandon of joy, regardless of the neglected dinner-knives. Old Tiff,
mindful of dignities, never failed to propitiate Rose, on his advents to
the plantation, with the gift which the "wise man saith maketh friends;"
and, on the present occasion he had enriched her own peculiar stock of
domestic fowl by the present of a pair of young partridge-chicks, a nest
of which he had just captured, intending to bring them up by hand, as he
did his children. By this discreet course, Tiff stood high where it was
of most vital consequence that he should so stand; and many a choice
morsel did Rose cook for him in secret, besides imparting to him most
invaluable recipes on the culture and raising of sucking babies. Old
Hundred, like many other persons, felt that general attention lavished
on any other celebrity was so much taken from his own merits, and,
therefore, on the present occasion, sat regarding Tiff's evident
popularity with a cynical eye. At last, coming up, like a wicked fellow
as he was, he launched his javelin at Old Tiff, by observing to his
wife,--

"I's 'stonished at you, Rose! _You_, cook to de Gordons, and making
youself so cheap--so familiar with de poor white folks' niggers!"

Had the slant fallen upon himself, personally, Old Tiff would probably
have given a jolly crow, and laughed as heartily as he generally did if
he happened to be caught out in a rain-storm; but the reflection on his
family connection fired him up like a torch, and his eyes flashed
through his big spectacles like firelight through windows.

"You go 'long, talking 'bout what you don' know nothing 'bout! I like to
know what you knows 'bout de old Virginny fam'lies? _Dem's_ de real old
stock! You Car'lina folks come from _dem_, stick and stock, every blest
one of you! De Gordons is a nice family--an't nothing to say agin de
Gordons--but whar was you raised, dat ye didn't hear 'bout de Peytons?
Why, old Gen'al Peyton, didn't he use to ride with six black horses
afore him, as if he'd been a king? Dere wan't one of dem horses dat
hadn't a tail as long as my arm. _You_ never see no such critters in
_your_ life!"

"I han't, han't I?" said Old Hundred, now, in his turn, touched in a
vital point. "Bless me, if I han't seen de Gordons riding out with der
eight horses, any time o' day!"

"Come, come, now, dere wasn't so many!" said Rose, who had her own
reasons for staying on Tiff's side. "Nobody never rode with eight
horses!"

"Did too! You say much more, I'll make sixteen on 'em! 'Fore my blessed
master, how dese yer old niggers will lie! Dey's always zaggerating der
families. Makes de very har rise on my head, to hear dese yer old
niggers talk, dey lie so!" said Old Hundred.

"You tink folks dat take to lying is using up your business, don't ye?"
said Tiff. "But, I tell you, any one dat says a word agin de Peytons got
me to set in with!"

"Laws, dem chil'en an't Peytons!" said Old Hundred; "dey's Crippses; and
I like to know who ever hearn of de Crippses? Go way! don't tell me
nothing about dem Crippses! Dey's poor white folks! A body may see _dat_
sticking out all over 'em!"

"You shut up!" said Tiff. "I don't b'lieve you was born on de Gordon
place, 'cause you an't got no manners. I spects you some old,
second-hand nigger, Colonel Gordon must a took for debt, some time, from
some of dese yer mean Tennessee families, dat don' know how to keep der
money when dey gets it. Der niggers is allers de meanest kind. 'Cause
all de real Gordon niggers is ladies and gen'lemen--every one of 'em!"
said Old Tiff, like a true orator, bent on carrying his audience along
with him.

A general shout chorused this compliment; and Tiff, under cover of the
applause, shook up his reins, and rode off in triumph.

"Dar, now, you aggravating old nigger," said Rose, turning to her bosom
lord, "I hope yer got it now! De plaguest old nigger dat ever I see! And
you, Tom, go 'long and clean your knives, if yer don't mean to be
cracked over!"

Meanwhile Tiff, restored to his usual tranquillity, ambled along
homeward behind his one-eyed horse, singing "I'm bound for the land of
Canaan," with some surprising variations.

At last Miss Fanny, as he constantly called her, interposed with a very
pregnant question.

"Uncle Tiff, where is the land of Canaan?"

"De Lord-a-mercy, chile, dat ar's what I'd like to know myself."

"Is it heaven?" said Fanny.

"Well, I reckon so," said Tiff, dubiously.

"Is it where ma is gone?" said Fanny.

"Chile, I reckon it is," said Tiff.

"Is it down under ground?" said Fanny.

"Why, no! ho! ho! honey!" said Tiff, laughing heartily. "What put dat ar
in your head, Miss Fanny?"

"Didn't ma go that way?" said Fanny, "down through the ground?"

"Lordy, no, chile! Heaven's up!" said Tiff, pointing up to the intense
blue sky which appeared through the fringy hollows of the pine-trees
above them.

"Is there any stairs anywhere? or any ladder to get up by?" said Fanny.
"Or do they walk to where the sky touches the ground, and get up?
Perhaps they climb up on the rainbow."

"I don' know, chile, how dey works it," said Uncle Tiff. "Dey gets dar
somehow. I's studdin' upon dat ar. I's gwine to camp-meeting to find
out. I's been to plenty of dem ar, and I never could quite see clar.
'Pears like dey talks about everything else more'n dey does about dat.
Dere's de Methodists, dey cuts up de Presbyter'ans; and de Presbyter'ans
pitches into de Methodists; and den both on 'em's down on de 'Piscopals.
My ole mist' was 'Piscopal, and I never seed no harm in't. And de
Baptists think dey an't none on 'em right; and, while dey's all a
blowing out at each other, dat ar way, I's a wondering whar's de way to
Canaan. It takes a mighty heap o' larning to know about dese yer things,
and I an't got no larning. I don' know nothing, only de Lord, he 'peared
to your ma, and he knows de way, and he took her. But, now, chile, I's
gwine to fix you up right smart, and take you, Teddy, and de baby, to
dis yer camp-meeting, so you can seek de Lord in yer youth."

"Tiff, if you please, I'd rather not go!" said Fanny, in an apprehensive
tone.

"Oh, bress de Lord, Miss Fanny, why not? Fust-rate times dere."

"There'll be too many people. I don't want them to see us."

The fact was, that Rose's slant speech about Tiff's maternal
relationship, united with the sneers of Old Hundred, had their effect
upon Fanny's mind. Naturally proud, and fearful of ridicule, she shrank
from the public display which would thus be made of their family
condition; yet she would not for the world have betrayed to her kind old
friend the real reason of her hesitation. But Old Tiff's keen eye had
noticed the expression of the child's countenance at the time. If
anybody supposes that the faithful old creature's heart was at all
wounded by the perception, they are greatly mistaken.

To Tiff it appeared a joke of the very richest quality; and, as he rode
along in silence for some time, he indulged himself in one of his
quiet, long laughs, actually shaking his old sides till the tears
streamed down his cheeks.

"What's the matter with you, Tiff?" said Fanny.

"Oh, Miss Fanny, Tiff knows!--Tiff knows de reason ye don't want to go
to camp-meeting. Tiff's seen it in yer face--ye ho! ho! ho! Miss Fanny,
is you 'fraid dey'll take Old Tiff for yer mammy?--ye ho! ho! ho!--for
yer mammy?--and Teddy's, and de baby's?--bless his little soul!" And the
amphibious old creature rollicked over the idea with infinite merriment.
"Don't I look like it, Miss Fanny? Lord, ye por dear lamb, can't folks
see ye's a born lady, with yer white, little hands? Don't ye be 'feared,
Miss Fanny!"

"I know it's silly," said Fanny; "but, beside, I don't like to be called
_poor white folksy_!"

"Oh, chile, it's only dem mean niggers! Miss Nina's allers good to ye,
an't she? Speaks to ye so handsome. Ye must memorize dat ar, Miss Fanny,
and talk like Miss Nina. I's feared, now yer ma's dead, ye'll fall into
some o' my nigger ways of talking. 'Member you mustn't talk like Old
Tiff, 'cause young ladies and gen'lemen mustn't talk like niggers. Now,
I says 'dis and dat, dis yer and dat ar.' Dat ar is nigger talk, and por
white folksy, too. Only de por white folks, dey's mis'able, 'cause
niggers _knows_ what's good talk, but dey doesn't. Lord, chile, Old Tiff
_knows_ what good talk is. An't he heard de greatest ladies and
gen'lemen in de land talk? But he don't want de trouble to talk dat ar
way, 'cause he's a nigger! Tiff likes his own talk--it's good enough for
Tiff. Tiff's talk sarves him mighty well, I tell yer. But, den, white
children mustn't talk so. Now, you see, Miss Nina has got de prettiest
way of saying her words. Dey drops out one after another, one after
another, so pretty! Now, you mind, 'cause she's coming to see us off and
on--she promised so. And den you keep a good lookout how she walks, and
how she holds her pocket-handkerchief. And when she sits down she kind
o' gives a little flirt to her clothes, so dey all set out round her
like ruffles. Dese yer little ways ladies have! Why, dese yer por white
folks, did yer ever mind der settin' down? Why, dey jist slaps down into
a chair like a spoonful o' mush, and der clothes all stick tight about
'em. I don't want nothing _poor white folksy_ 'bout you. Den, if you
don't understand what people's a saying to you, any time, you mustn't
star, like por white chil'en, and say, 'what?' but you must say 'I beg
pardon, sir,' or, 'I beg pardon, ma'am.' Dat ar's de way. And, Miss
Fanny, you and Teddy, you must study yer book; 'cause, if you can't
read, den dey'll be sure to say yer por white folks. And, den, Miss
Fanny, you see dat ladies don't demean demselves with sweeping and
scrubbing, and dem tings; and yet _dey does work_, honey! Dey sews, and
dey knits; and it would be good for you to larn how to sew and knit;
'cause, you know, I can't allers make up all de clothes; 'cause, you
see, young ladies haves ways wid 'em dat niggers can't get. Now, you
see, Miss Fanny, all dese yer tings I was telling you, you must 'bserve.
Now, you see, if you was one of dese yer por white folks, dere be no use
of your trying; 'cause dat ar 'scription o' people couldn't never be
ladies, if dey was waring themselves out a trying. But, you see, you's
got it in you; you was born to it, honey. It's in de blood; and what's
in de blood must come out--ho! ho! ho!" And with this final laugh, Tiff
drew up to his dwelling.

A busy day was before Old Tiff; for he was to set his house in order for
a week's campaign. There was his corn to be hoed, his parsley to be
weeded, there was his orphan family of young partridges to be cared for.
And Tiff, after some considerable consideration, resolved to take them
along with him in a basket; thinking, in the intervals of devotion, he
should have an abundant opportunity to minister to their wants, and
superintend their education. Then he went to one of his favorite
springes, and brought from thence, not a fatted calf, to be sure, but a
fatted coon, which he intended to take with him, to serve as the basis
of a savory stew on the camp-ground. Tiff had a thriving company of
pot-herbs, and a flourishing young colony of onions; so that, whatever
might be true of the sermons, it was evident that the stew would lack no
savor. Teddy's clothes, also, were to be passed in review; washing and
ironing to be done; the baby fitted up to do honor to his name, or
rather to the name of his grandfather. With all these cares upon his
mind, the old creature was even more than usually alert. The day was
warm, and he resolved, therefore, to perform his washing operations in
the magnificent kitchen of nature. He accordingly kindled a splendid
bonfire, which was soon crackling at a short distance from the house,
slung over it his kettle, and proceeded to some other necessary
avocations. The pine-wood, which had been imperfectly seasoned, served
him the ungracious trick that pine-wood is apt to do; it crackled and
roared merrily while he was present, but while he was down examining his
traps in the woods went entirely out, leaving only the blackened sticks.

"Uncle Tiff," said Teddy, "the fire is all gone out!"

"Ho! ho! ho!--Has it?" said Tiff, coming up. "Curus enough! Well, bress
de Lord, got all de wood left, any way; had a real bright fire, beside,"
said Tiff, intent on upholding the sunniest side of things. "Lord, it's
de sun dat puts de fire out o' countenance. Did you ever see fire dat
wouldn't go out when de sun's shining right in it's face? Dat ar is a
curus fact. I's minded it heaps o' times. Well, I'll jist have to come
out wid my light-wood kindlings, dat's all. Bress de Lord, ho! ho! ho!"
said Tiff, laughing to himself, "if dese yer an't the very sp'rit of de
camp-meeting professors! Dey blazes away at de camp-meeting, and den
dey's black all de year round! See 'em at de camp-meetings, you'd say
dey war gwine right into de kingdom, sure enough! Well, Lord have marcy
on us all! Our 'ligion's drefful poor stuff! We don' know but a despert
leetle, and what we does know we don' do. De good Mas'r above must have
his hands full, with us!"



CHAPTER XXII.

THE WORSHIPPERS.


The camp-meeting is one leading feature in the American development of
religion, peculiarly suited to the wide extent of country, and to the
primitive habits which generally accompany a sparse population.
Undoubtedly its general effects have been salutary. Its evils have been
only those incident to any large gatherings, in which the whole
population of a country are brought promiscuously together. As in many
other large assemblies of worship, there are those who go for all sorts
of reasons; some from curiosity, some from love of excitement, some to
turn a penny in a small way of trade, some to scoff, and a few to pray.
And, so long as the heavenly way remains straight and narrow, so long
the sincere and humble worshippers will ever be the minority in all
assemblies. We can give no better idea of the difference of motive which
impelled the various worshippers, than by taking our readers from scene
to scene, on the morning when different attendants of the meeting were
making preparations to start.

Between the grounds of Mr. John Gordon and the plantation of Canema
stood a log cabin, which was the trading establishment of Abijah
Skinflint. The establishment was a nuisance in the eyes of the
neighboring planters, from the general apprehension entertained that
Abijah drove a brisk underhand trade with the negroes, and that the
various articles which he disposed for sale were many of them
surreptitiously conveyed to him in nightly instalments from off their
own plantations. But of this nothing could be proved.

Abijah was a shrewd fellow, long, dry, lean, leathery, with a sharp
nose, sharp, little, gray eyes, a sharp chin, and fingers as long as
bird's-claws. His skin was so dry that one would have expected that his
cheeks would crackle whenever he smiled, or spoke; and he rolled in them
a never-failing quid of tobacco.

Abijah was one of those over-shrewd Yankees, who leave their country
for their country's good, and who exhibit, wherever they settle, such a
caricature of the thrifty virtue of their native land as to justify the
aversion which the native-born Southerner entertains for the Yankee.
Abijah drank his own whiskey,--_prudently_, however,--or, as he said,
"never so as not to know what he was about."

He had taken a wife from the daughters of the land; who also drank
whiskey, but less prudently than her husband, so that sometimes she did
_not_ know what she was about. Sons and daughters were born unto this
promising couple, white-headed, forward, dirty, and ill-mannered. But,
amid all domestic and social trials, Abijah maintained a constant and
steady devotion to the main chance--the acquisition of money. For money
he would do anything; for money he would have sold his wife, his
children, even his own soul, if he had happened to have one. But that
article, had it ever existed, was now so small and dry, that one might
have fancied it to rattle in his lean frame like a shrivelled pea in a
last year's peascod. Abijah was going to the camp-meeting for two
reasons. One, of course, was to make money; and the other was to know
whether his favorite preacher, Elder Stringfellow, handled the doctrine
of election according to his views; for Abijah had a turn for theology,
and could number off the five points of Calvinism on his five long
fingers with unfailing accuracy.

It is stated in the Scriptures that the devils believe and tremble. The
principal difference between their belief and Abijah's was, that he
believed and did _not_ tremble. Truths awful enough to have shaken the
earth, and veiled the sun, he could finger over with as much unconcern
as a practised anatomist the dry bones of a skeleton.

"You, Sam!" said Abijah to his only negro helot, "you mind, you steady
that ar bar'l, so that it don't roll out, and pour a pailful of water in
at the bung. It won't do to give it to 'em too strong. Miss Skinflint,
you make haste! If you don't, I shan't wait for you; 'cause, whatever
the rest may do, it's important I should be on the ground early. Many a
dollar lost for not being in time, in this world. Hurry, woman!"

"I am ready, but Polly an't'," said Mrs. Skinflint. "She's busy a
plastering down her hair."

"Can't wait for her!" said Abijah, as he sallied out of the house to
get into the wagon, which stood before the door, into which he had
packed a copious supply of hams, eggs, dressed chickens, corn-meal, and
green summer vegetables, to say nothing of the barrel of whiskey
aforesaid.

"I say, Dad, you stop!" called Polly, from the window. "If you don't,
I'll make work for you 'fore you come home; you see if I don't! Durned
if I won't!"

"Come along, then, can't you? Next time we go anywhere, I'll shut you up
over night to begin to dress!"

Polly hastily squeezed her fat form into a red calico dress, and,
seizing a gay summer shawl, with her bonnet in her hand, rushed to the
wagon and mounted, the hooks of her dress successively exploding, and
flying off, as she stooped to get in.

"Durned if I knows what to do!" said she; "this yer old durned gear
coat's all off my back!"

"Gals is always fools!" said Abijah, consolingly.

"Stick in a pin, Polly," said her mother, in an easy, sing-song drawl.

"Durn you, old woman, every hook is off!" said the promising young lady.

"Stick in more pins, then," said the mamma; and the vehicle of Abijah
passed onward.

On the verge of the swamp, a little beyond Tiff's cabin, lived Ben
Dakin.

Ben was a mighty hunter; he had the best pack of dogs within thirty
miles round; and his advertisements, still to be seen standing in the
papers of his native state, detailed with great accuracy the precise
terms on which he would hunt down and capture any man, woman, or child,
escaping from service and labor in that country. Our readers must not
necessarily suppose Ben to have been a monster for all this, when they
recollect that, within a few years, both the great political parties of
our Union solemnly pledged themselves, as far as in them lay, to accept
a similar vocation; and, as many of them were in good and regular
standing in churches, and had ministers to preach sermons to the same
effect, we trust they'll entertain no unreasonable prejudice against Ben
on this account.

In fact, Ben was a tall, broad-shouldered, bluff, hearty-looking
fellow, who would do a kind turn for a neighbor with as much good-will
as anybody; and, except that he now and then took a little too much
whiskey, as he himself admitted, he considered himself quite as
promising a candidate for the kingdom as any of the company who were
going up to camp-meeting. Had any one ventured to remonstrate with Ben
against the nature of his profession, he would probably have defended it
by pretty much the same arguments by which modern theologians defend the
institution of which it is a branch.

Ben was just one of those jovial fellows who never could bear to be left
behind in anything that was going on in the community, and was always
one of the foremost in a camp-meeting. He had a big, loud voice, and
could roll out the chorus of hymns with astonishing effect. He was
generally converted at every gathering of this kind; though, through the
melancholy proclivity to whiskey, before alluded to, he usually fell
from grace before the year was out. Like many other big and hearty men,
he had a little, pale, withered moonshiny wisp of a wife, who hung on
his elbow much like an empty work-bag; and Ben, to do him justice, was
kind to the wilted little mortal, as if he almost suspected that he had
absorbed her vitality into his own exuberant growth. She was greatly
given to eating clay, cleaning her teeth with snuff, and singing
Methodist hymns, and had a very sincere concern for Ben's salvation. The
little woman sat resignedly on the morning we speak of, while a
long-limbed, broad-shouldered child, of two years, with bristly white
hair, was pulling her by her ears and hair, and otherwise maltreating
her, to make her get up to give him a piece of bread and molasses; and
she, without seeming to attend to the child, was giving earnest heed to
her husband.

"There's a despit press of business now!" said Ben. "There's James's
niggers, and Smith's Polly, and we ought to be on the trail, right
away!"

"Oh, Ben, you ought to 'tend to your salvation afore anything else!"
said his wife.

"That's true enough!" said Ben; "meetings don't come every day. But what
are we to do with dis yer'un?" pointing to the door of an inner room.

"Dis yer'un" was no other than a negro-woman, named Nance, who had been
brought in by the dogs, the day before.

"Laws!" said his wife, "we can set her something to eat, and leave the
dogs in front of the door. She can't get out."

Ben threw open the door, and displayed to view a low kind of hutch,
without any other light than that between the crevices of the logs. On
the floor, which was of hard-trodden earth, sat a sinewy, lean
negro-woman, drawing up her knees with her long arms, and resting her
chin upon them.

"Hollo, Nance, how are you?" said Ben, rather cheerily.

"Por'ly, mas'r," said the other, in a sullen tone.

"Nance, you think your old man will whale you, when he gets you?" said
Ben.

"I reckons he will," said Nance; "he allers does."

"Well, Nance, the old woman and I want to go to a camp-meeting; and I'll
just tell you what it is,--you stay here quiet, while we are gone, and
I'll make the old fellow promise not to wallop you. I wouldn't mind
taking off something of the price--that's fair, an't it?"

"Yes, mas'r!" said the woman, in the same subdued tone.

"Does your foot hurt you much?" said Ben.

"Yes, mas'r!" said the woman.

"Let me look at it," said Ben.

The woman put out one foot, which had been loosely bound up in old rags,
now saturated in blood.

"I declar, if that ar dog an't a pealer!" said Ben. "Nance, you ought
ter have stood still; then he wouldn't have hurt you so."

"Lord, he hurt me so I couldn't stand still!" said the woman. "It an't
natur to stand still with a critter's teeth in yer foot."

"Well, I don't know as it is," said Ben, good-naturedly. "Here, Miss
Dakin, you bind up this here gal's foot. Stop your noise, sir-ee!" he
added, to the young aspirant for bread and molasses, who, having
despatched one piece, was clamoring vigorously for another.

"I'll tell you what!" said Ben to his wife, "I am going to talk to that
ar old Elder Settle. I runs more niggers for him than any man in the
county, and I know there's some reason for it. Niggers don't run into
swamps when they's treated well. Folks that professes religion, I think,
oughtn't to starve their niggers, no way!"

Soon the vehicle of Ben was also on the road. He gathered up the reins
vigorously, threw back his head to get the full benefit of his lungs,
and commenced a vehement camp-meeting melody, to the tune of


     "Am I a soldier of the cross,
     A follower of the Lamb?"


A hymn, by the by, which was one of Ben's particular favorites.

We come next to Tiff's cottage, of which the inmates were astir, in the
coolness of the morning, bright and early. Tiff's wagon was a singular
composite article, principally of his own construction. The body of it
consisted of a long packing-box. The wheels were all odd ones, that had
been brought home at different times by Cripps. The shafts were
hickory-poles, thinned at one end, and fastened to the wagon by nails.
Some barrel-hoops bent over the top, covered by coarse white cotton
cloth, formed the curtains, and a quantity of loose straw dispersed
inside was the only seat. The lean, one-eyed horse was secured to this
vehicle by a harness made of old ropes; but no millionaire, however,
ever enjoyed his luxuriantly-cushioned coach with half the relish with
which Tiff enjoyed his equipage. It was the work of his hands, the
darling of his heart, the delight of his eyes. To be sure, like other
mortal darlings, it was to be admitted that it had its weak points and
failings. The wheels would now and then come off, the shafts get loose,
or the harness break; but Tiff was always prepared, and, on occasion of
any such mishaps, would jump out and attend to them with such cheerful
alacrity, that, if anything, he rather seemed to love it better for the
accident. There it stands now, before the inclosure of the little cabin;
and Tiff, and Fanny, and Teddy, with bustling assiduity, are packing and
arranging it. The gum-tree cradle-trough took precedence of all other
articles. Tiff, by the private advice of Aunt Rose, had just added to
this an improvement, which placed it, in his view, tip-top among
cradles. He had nailed to one end of it a long splint of elastic
hickory, which drooped just over the baby's face. From this was
suspended a morsel of salt pork, which this young scion of a noble race
sucked with a considerate relish, while his large, round eyes opened and
shut with sleepy satisfaction. This arrangement Rose had recommended, in
mysterious tones, as all powerful in making sucking babies forget their
mammies, whom otherwise they might pine for in a manner prejudicial to
their health.

Although the day was sultry, Tiff was arrayed in his long-skirted white
great-coat, as his nether garments were in too dilapidated a state to
consist with the honor of the family. His white felt hat still bore the
band of black crape.

"It's a 'mazin' good day, bless de Lord!" said Tiff. "'Pears like dese
yer birds would split der troats, praising de Lord! It's a mighty good
zample to us, any way. You see, Miss Fanny, you never see birds put out,
nor snarly like, rain or shine. Dey's allers a praising de Lord. Lord,
it seems as if critters is better dan we be!" And, as Tiff spoke, he
shouldered into the wagon a mighty bag of corn; but, failing in what he
meant to do, the bag slid over the side, and tumbled back into the road.
Being somewhat of the oldest, the fall burst it asunder, and the corn
rolled into the sand, with that provoking alacrity which things always
have when they go the wrong way. Fanny and Teddy both uttered an
exclamation of lamentation; but Tiff held on to his sides and laughed
till the tears rolled down his cheeks.

"He! he! he! ho! ho! ho! Why, dat ar is de last bag we's got, and dar's
all de corn a running out in de sand! Ho! ho! ho! Lord, it's so curus!"

"Why, what are you going to do?" said Fanny.

"Oh, bress you, Miss Fanny," said Tiff, "I's bound to do something,
anyhow. 'Clare for it, now, if I han't got a box!" And Tiff soon
returned with the article in question, which proved too large for the
wagon. The corn, however, was emptied into it _pro tem._, and Tiff,
producing his darning-needle and thimble, sat down seriously to the task
of stitching up the hole.

"De Lord's things an't never in a hurry," said Tiff. "Corn and 'tatoes
will have der time, and why shouldn't I? Dar," he said, after having
mended the bag and replaced the corn, "dat ar's better now nor 'twas
before."

Besides his own store of provisions, Tiff prudently laid into his wagon
enough of garden stuff to turn a penny for Miss Fanny and the children,
on the camp-ground. His commissariat department, in fact, might have
provoked appetite, even among the fastidious. There were dressed
chickens and rabbits, the coon aforesaid, bundles of savory herbs,
crisp, dewy lettuce, bunches of onions, radishes, and green peas.

"Tell ye what, chil'en," said Tiff, "we'll live like princes! And you
mind, order me round _well_. Let folks har ye; 'cause what's de use of
having a nigger, and nobody knowing it?"

And, everything being arranged, Tiff got in, and jogged comfortably
along. At the turn of the cross-road, Tiff, looking a little behind,
saw, on the other road, the Gordon carriage coming, driven by Old
Hundred, arrayed in his very best ruffled shirt, white gloves, and gold
hat-band.

If ever Tiff came near having a pang in his heart, it was at that
moment; but he retreated stoutly upon the idea that, however appearances
might be against them, his family was no less ancient and honorable for
that; and, therefore, putting on all his dignity, he gave his beast an
extra cut, as who should say, "I don't care."

But, as ill-luck would have it, the horse, at this instant, giving a
jerk, wrenched out the nails that fastened the shaft on one side, and it
fell, trailing dishonored on the ground. The rope harness pulled all
awry, and just at this moment the Gordon carriage swept up.

"'Fore I'd drive sich old trash!" said Old Hundred, scornfully; "pulls
all to pieces every step! If dat ar an't a poor white folksy
'stablishment, I never seed one!"

"What's the matter?" said Nina, putting her head out. "Oh, Tiff!
good-morning, my good fellow. Can we help you, there? John, get down and
help him."

"Please, Miss Nina, de hosses is so full o' tickle, dis yer mornin', I
couldn't let go, no ways!" said Old Hundred.

"Oh, laws bless you, Miss Nina," said Tiff, restored to his usual
spirits, "'tan't nothin'. Broke in a strordinary good place dis yer
time. I ken hammer it up in a minute."

And Tiff was as good as his word; for a round stone and big nail made
all straight.

"Pray," said Nina, "how are little Miss Fanny, and the children?"

Miss Fanny! If Nina had heaped Tiff with presents, she could not have
conferred the inexpressible obligation conveyed in these words. He bowed
low to the ground, with the weight of satisfaction, and answered that
"Miss Fanny and the chil'en were well."

"There," said Nina, "John, you may drive on. Do you know, friends, I've
set Tiff up for six weeks, by one word? Just saying _Miss_ Fanny has
done more for him than if I'd sent him six bushels of potatoes."...

We have yet to take our readers to one more scene before we finish the
review of those who were going to the camp-meeting. The reader must
follow us far beyond the abodes of man, into the recesses of that wild
desolation known as the "Dismal Swamp." We pass over vast tracts where
the forest seems growing out of the water. Cypress, red cedar, sweet
gum, tulip, poplar, beech, and holly, form a goodly fellowship, waving
their rustling boughs above. The trees shoot up in vast columns, fifty,
seventy-five, and a hundred feet in height; and below are clusters of
evergreen gall-bushes, with their thick and glossy foliage, mingled in
with swamp honeysuckles, grape-vines, twining brier, and laurels, and
other shrubs, forming an impenetrable thicket. The creeping plants
sometimes climb seventy or eighty feet up the largest tree, and hang in
heavy festoons from their branches. It would seem impossible that human
feet could penetrate the wild, impervious jungle; but we must take our
readers through it, to a cleared spot, where trunks of fallen trees,
long decayed, have formed an island of vegetable mould, which the art of
some human hand has extended and improved. The clearing is some sixty
yards long by thirty broad, and is surrounded with a natural rampart,
which might well bid defiance to man or beast. Huge trees have been
felled, with all their branches lying thickly one over another, in a
circuit around; and nature, seconding the efforts of the fugitives who
sought refuge here, has interlaced the frame-work thus made with thorny
cat-briers, cables of grape-vine, and thickets of Virginia creeper,
which, running wild in their exuberance, climb on to the neighboring
trees, and, swinging down, again lose themselves in the mazes from which
they spring, so as often to form a verdurous wall fifty feet in height.
In some places the laurel, with its glossy green leaves, and its masses
of pink-tipped snowy blossoms, presents to the eye, rank above rank, a
wilderness of beauty. The pendants of the yellow jessamine swing to and
fro in the air like censers, casting forth clouds of perfume. A thousand
twining vines, with flowers of untold name, perhaps unknown as yet to
the botanist, help to fill up the mosaic. The leafy ramparts sweep round
on all the sides of the clearing, for the utmost care has been taken to
make it impenetrable; and, in that region of heat and moisture, nature,
in the course of a few weeks, admirably seconds every human effort. The
only egress from it is a winding path cut through with a hatchet, which
can be entered by only one person at a time; and the water which
surrounds this island entirely cuts off the trail from the scent of
dogs. It is to be remarked that the climate, in the interior of the
swamp, is far from being unhealthy. Lumber-men, who spend great portions
of the year in it, cutting shingles and staves, testify to the general
salubrity of the air and water. The opinion prevails among them that the
quantity of pine and other resinous trees that grow there impart a
balsamic property to the water, and impregnate the air with a healthy
resinous fragrance, which causes it to be an exception to the usual rule
of the unhealthiness of swampy land. The soil also, when drained
sufficiently for purposes of culture, is profusely fertile. Two small
cabins stood around the border of the clearing, but the centre was
occupied with patches of corn and sweet potatoes, planted there to
secure as much as possible the advantage of sun and air.

At the time we take our readers there, the afternoon sun of a sultry
June day is casting its long shadows over the place, and a whole choir
of birds is echoing in the branches. On the ground, in front of one of
the cabins, lies a negro-man, covered with blood; two women, with some
little children, are grouped beside him; and a wild figure, whom we at
once recognize as Dred, is kneeling by him, busy in efforts to stanch a
desperate wound in the neck. In vain! The red blood spurts out at every
pulsation of the heart, with a fearful regularity, telling too plainly
that it is a great life-artery which has been laid open. The
negro-woman, kneeling on the other side, is anxiously holding some
bandages, which she has stripped from a portion of her raiment.

"Oh, put these on, quick--do!"

"It's no use," said Dred; "he is going!"

"Oh, do!--don't, don't let him go! _Can't_ you save him?" said the
woman, in tones of agony.

The wounded man's eyes opened, and first fixed themselves, with a
vacant stare, on the blue sky above; then, turning on the woman, he
seemed to try to speak. He had had a strong arm; he tries to raise it,
but the blood wells up with the effort, the eye glazes, the large frame
shivers for a few moments, and then all is still. The blood stops
flowing now, for the heart has stopped beating, and an immortal soul has
gone back to Him who gave it.

The man was a fugitive from a neighboring plantation--a simple-hearted,
honest fellow, who had fled, with his wife and children, to save her
from the licentious persecution of the overseer. Dred had received and
sheltered him; had built him a cabin, and protected him for months.

A provision of the Revised Statutes of North Carolina enacts that slaves
thus secreted in the swamps, not returning within a given time, shall be
considered outlawed; and that "it shall be lawful for any person or
persons whatsoever to kill and destroy such slaves, by such ways and
means as they shall think fit, without any accusation or impeachment of
crime for the same." It also provides that, when any slave shall be
killed in consequence of such outlawry, the value of such slave shall be
ascertained by a jury, and the owner entitled to receive two thirds of
the valuation from the sheriff of the county wherein the slave was
killed.

In olden times, the statute provided that the proclamation of outlawry
should be published on a Sabbath day, at the door of any church or
chapel, or place where divine service should be performed, immediately
after divine service, by the parish clerk or reader.

In the spirit of this permission, a party of negro-hunters, with dogs
and guns, had chased this man, who, on this day, had unfortunately
ventured out of his concealment.

He succeeded in outrunning all but one dog, which sprang up, and,
fastening his fangs in his throat, laid him prostrate within a few paces
of his retreat. Dred came up in time to kill the dog, but the wound, as
appeared, had proved a mortal one.

As soon as the wife perceived that her husband was really dead, she
broke into a loud wail.

"Oh, dear, he's gone! and 'twas all for me he did it! Oh, he was so
good, such a good man! Oh, do tell me, _is_ he dead, is he?"

Dred lifted the yet warm hand in his a moment, and then dropped it
heavily.

"Dead!" he said, in a deep undertone of suppressed emotion. Suddenly
kneeling down beside him, he lifted his hands, and broke forth with wild
vehemence:--

"O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, show thyself! Lift up thyself,
thou Judge of the earth, render a reward to the proud! Doubtless thou
art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge
us not. Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy ways are
everlasting--where is thy zeal and thy strength, and the sounding of thy
bowels towards us? Are they restrained?" Then, tossing his hands to
heaven, with a yet wilder gesture, he almost screamed: "O Lord! O Lord!
how long? Oh, that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down! Oh, let
the sighings of the prisoner come before thee! Our bones are scattered
at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood! We are
given as sheep to the slaughter! We are killed all the day long! O Lord,
avenge us of our adversaries!"

These words were spoken with a vehement earnestness of gesture and
voice, that hushed the lamentation of the mourners. Rising up from his
knees, he stood a moment looking down at the lifeless form before him.
"See here," he said, "what harm had this man done? Was he not peaceable?
Did he not live here in quietness, tilling the ground in the sweat of
his brow? Why have they sent the hunters upon him? Because he wanted to
raise his corn for himself, and not for another. Because he wanted his
wife for himself, and not for another. Was not the world wide enough?
Isn't there room enough under the sky? Because this man wished to eat
the fruit of his own labor, the decree went forth against him, even the
curse of Cain, so that whosoever findeth him shall kill him. Will not
the Lord be avenged on such a people as this? To-night they will hold
their solemn assembly, and blow the trumpet in their new moon, and the
prophets will prophesy falsely, and the priests will speak wickedly
concerning oppression. The word of the Lord saith unto me, 'Go unto this
people, and break before them the staff beauty and the staff bands, and
be a sign unto this people of the terror of the Lord. Behold, saith the
Lord, therefore have I raised thee up and led thee through the
wilderness, through the desolate places of the land not sown.'"

As Dred spoke, his great black eye seemed to enlarge itself and roll
with a glassy fulness, like that of a sleep-walker in a somnambulic
dream. His wife, seeing him prepare to depart, threw herself upon him.

"Oh, don't, don't leave us! You'll be killed, some of these times, just
as they killed him!"

"Woman! the burden of the Lord is upon me. The word of the Lord is as a
fire shut up in my bones. The Lord saith unto me, 'Go show unto this
people their iniquity, and be a sign unto this evil nation!'"

Breaking away from his wife, he precipitated himself through an opening
into the thicket, and was gone.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE CAMP-MEETING.


The place selected for the camp-meeting was in one of the most
picturesque portions of the neighborhood. It was a small,
partially-cleared spot, in the midst of a dense forest, which stretched
away in every direction, in cool, green aisles of checkered light and
shade.

In the central clearing, a sort of rude amphitheatre of seats was formed
of rough-pine slabs. Around on the edges of the forest the tents of the
various worshippers were pitched; for the spending of three or four days
and nights upon the ground is deemed an essential part of the service.
The same clear stream which wound round the dwelling of Tiff prattled
its way, with a modest gurgle, through this forest, and furnished the
assembly with water.

The Gordons, having come merely for the purposes of curiosity, and
having a residence in the neighborhood, did not provide themselves with
a tent. The servants, however, were less easily satisfied. Aunt Rose
shook her head, and declared, oracularly, that "De blessing was sure to
come down in de night, and dem dat wanted to get a part of it would have
to be dar!"

Consequently, Nina was beset to allow her people to have a tent, in
which they were to take turns in staying all night, as candidates for
the blessing. In compliance with that law of good-humored indulgence
which had been the traditionary usage of her family, Nina acceded; and
the Gordon tent spread its snowy sails, to the rejoicing of their
hearts. Aunt Rose predominated about the door, alternately slapping the
children and joining the chorus of hymns which she heard from every part
of the camp-ground. On the outskirts were various rude booths, in which
whiskey and water, and sundry articles of provision, and fodder for
horses, were dispensed for a consideration. Abijah Skinflint here
figured among the money-changers, while his wife and daughter were
gossiping through the tents of the women. In front of the seats, under a
dense cluster of pines, was the preachers' stand: a rude stage of rough
boards, with a railing around it, and a desk of small slabs, supporting
a Bible and a hymn-book.

The preachers were already assembling; and no small curiosity was
expressed with regard to them by the people, who were walking up and
down among the tents. Nina, leaning on the arm of Clayton, walked about
the area with the rest. Anne Clayton leaned on the arm of Uncle John.
Aunt Nesbit and Aunt Maria came behind. To Nina the scene was quite new,
for a long residence in the Northern States had placed her out of the
way of such things; and her shrewd insight into character, and her love
of drollery, found an abundant satisfaction in the various little points
and oddities of the scene. They walked to the Gordon tent, in which a
preliminary meeting was already in full course. A circle of men and
women, interspersed with children, were sitting, with their eyes shut,
and their heads thrown back, singing at the top of their voices.
Occasionally, one or other would vary the exercises by clapping of
hands, jumping up straight into the air, falling flat on the ground,
screaming, dancing, and laughing.

"Oh, set me up on a rock!" screamed one.

"I's sot up!" screamed another.

"Glory!" cried the third, and a tempest of "amens" poured in between.

"I's got a sperience!" cried one, and forthwith began piping it out in a
high key, while others kept on singing.

"I's got a sperience!" shouted Tomtit, whom Aunt Rose, with maternal
care, had taken with her.

"No, you an't neither! Sit down!" said Aunt Rose, kneading him down as
if he had been a batch of biscuits, and going on at the same time with
her hymn.

"I's on the Rock of Ages!" screamed a neighbor.

"I want to get on a rock edgeways!" screamed Tomtit, struggling
desperately with Aunt Rose's great fat hands.

"Mind yourself!--I'll crack you over!" said Aunt Rose. And Tomtit, still
continuing rebellious, _was_ cracked over accordingly, with such force
as to send him head-foremost on the straw at the bottom of the tent; an
indignity which he resented with loud howls of impotent wrath, which,
however, made no impression in the general whirlwind of screaming,
shouting, and praying.

Nina and Uncle John stood at the tent-door laughing heartily. Clayton
looked on with his usual thoughtful gravity of aspect. Anne turned her
head away with an air of disgust.

"Why don't you laugh?" said Nina, looking round at her.

"It doesn't make me feel like it," said Anne. "It makes me feel
melancholy."

"Why so?"

"Because religion is a sacred thing with me, and I don't like to see it
travestied," said she.

"Oh," said Nina, "I don't respect religion any the less for a good laugh
at its oddities. I believe I was born without any organ of reverence,
and so don't feel the incongruity of the thing as you do. The distance
between laughing and praying isn't so very wide in my mind as it is in
some people's."

"We must have charity," said Clayton, "for every religious
manifestation. Barbarous and half-civilized people always find the
necessity for outward and bodily demonstration in worship; I suppose
because the nervous excitement wakes up and animates their spiritual
natures, and gets them into a receptive state, just as you have to shake
up sleeping persons and shout in their ears to put them in a condition
to understand you. I have known real conversions to take place under
just these excitements."

"But," said Anne, "I think we might teach them to be decent. These
things ought not to be allowed!"

"I believe," said Clayton, "intolerance is a rooted vice in our nature.
The world is as full of different minds and bodies as the woods are of
leaves, and each one has its own habit of growth. And yet our first
impulse is to forbid everything that would not be proper for us. No, let
the African scream, dance, and shout, and fall in trances. It suits his
tropical lineage and blood as much as our thoughtful inward ways do us."

"I wonder who that is!" said Nina, as a general movement on the ground
proclaimed the arrival of some one who appeared to be exciting general
interest. The stranger was an unusually tall, portly man, apparently
somewhat past the middle of life, whose erect carriage, full figure, and
red cheeks, and a certain dashing frankness of manner, might have
indicated him as belonging rather to the military than the clerical
profession. He carried a rifle on his shoulder, which he set down
carefully against the corner of the preacher's stand, and went around
shaking hands among the company with a free and jovial air that might
almost be described by the term rollicking.

"Why," said Uncle John, "that's father Bonnie! How are you, my fine
fellow?"

"What! _you_, Mr. Gordon?--How do you do?" said father Bonnie, grasping
his hand in his, and shaking it heartily. "Why, they tell me," he said,
looking at him with a jovial smile, "that you have fallen from grace!"

"Even so!" said Uncle John. "I am a sad dog, I dare say."

"Oh, I tell _you_ what," said father Bonnie, "but it takes a strong hook
and a long line to pull in you _rich_ sinners! Your money-bags and your
niggers hang round you like mill-stones! You are too tough for the
Gospel! Ah!" said he, shaking his fist at him, playfully, "but I'm going
to come down upon you, to-day, with the law, I can tell you! You want
the thunders of Sinai! You must have a dose of the law!"

"Well," said Uncle John, "thunder away! I suppose we need it, all of us.
But, now, father Bonnie, you ministers are always preaching to us poor
dogs on the evils of riches; but, somehow, I don't see any of you that
are much afraid of owning horses, or niggers, or any other good thing
that you can get your hands on. Now, I hear that you've got a pretty
snug little place, and a likely drove to work it. You'll have to look
out for your own soul, father Bonnie!"

A general laugh echoed this retort; for father Bonnie had the reputation
of being a shrewder hand at a bargain, and of having more expertness in
swapping a horse or trading a negro, than any other man for six counties
round.

"He's into you, now, old man!" said several of the by-standers,
laughingly.

"Oh, as to that," said father Bonnie, laughing, also, "I go in with
Paul,--they that preach the Gospel must live of the Gospel. Now, Paul
was a man that stood up for his rights to live as other folks do. 'Isn't
it right,' says he, 'that those that plant a vineyard should first eat
of the fruit? Haven't we power to lead about a sister, a wife?' says he.
And if Paul had lived in our time he would have said a drove of niggers,
too! No danger about us ministers being hurt by riches, while you laymen
are so slow about supporting the Gospel!"

At the elbow of father Bonnie stood a brother minister, who was in many
respects his contrast. He was tall, thin, and stooping, with earnest
black eyes, and a serene sweetness of expression. A threadbare suit of
rusty black, evidently carefully worn, showed the poverty of his worldly
estate. He carried in his hand a small portmanteau, probably containing
a change of linen, his Bible, and a few sermons. Father Dickson was a
man extensively known through all that region. He was one of those men
among the ministers of America, who keep alive our faith in
Christianity, and renew on earth the portrait of the old apostle: "In
journeyings often, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in
hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides
those things that are without, that which cometh upon them daily, the
care of all the churches. Who is weak, and they are not weak? who is
offended, and they burn not?"

Every one in the state knew and respected father Dickson; and, like the
generality of the world, people were very well pleased, and thought it
extremely proper and meritorious for him to bear weariness and
painfulness, hunger and cold, in their spiritual service, leaving to
them the right of attending or not attending to him, according to their
own convenience. Father Dickson was one of those who had never yielded
to the common customs and habits of the country in regard to the holding
of slaves. A few, who had been left him by a relation, he had at great
trouble and expense transported to a free state, and settled there
comfortably. The world need not trouble itself with seeking to know or
reward such men; for the world cannot know and has no power to reward
them. Their citizenship is in heaven, and all that can be given them in
this life is like a morsel which a peasant gives in his cottage to him
who to-morrow will reign over a kingdom.

He had stood listening to the conversation thus far with the grave yet
indulgent air with which he generally listened to the sallies of his
ministerial brothers. Father Bonnie, though not as much respected or
confided in as father Dickson, had, from the frankness of his manners,
and a certain rude but effective style of eloquence, a more general and
apparent popularity. He produced more sensation on the camp-ground;
could sing louder and longer, and would often rise into flights of
eloquence both original and impressive. Many were offended by the
freedom of his manner out of the pulpit; and the stricter sort were
known to have said of him, "that when out he never ought to be in, and
when in never out." As the laugh that rose at his last sally died away,
he turned to father Dickson, and said:--

"What do you think?"

"I don't think," said father Dickson, mildly, "that you would ever have
found Paul leading a drove of negroes."

"Why not, as well as Abraham, the father of the faithful? Didn't he have
three hundred trained servants?"

"Servants, perhaps; but not slaves!" said father Dickson, "for they all
bore arms. For my part, I think that the buying, selling, and trading,
of human beings, for purposes of gain, is a sin in the sight of God."

"Well, now, father Dickson, I wouldn't have thought you had read your
Bible to so little purpose as that! I wouldn't believe it! What do you
say to Moses?"

"He led out a whole army of fugitive slaves through the Red Sea," said
father Dickson.

"Well, I tell you, now," said father Bonnie, "if the buying, selling, or
holding, of a slave for the sake of gain, is, as you say, a sin, then
three fourths of all the Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, and
Presbyterians, in the slave states of the Union, are of the devil!"

"I think it is a sin, notwithstanding," said father Dickson, quietly.

"Well, but doesn't Moses say expressly, 'Ye shall buy of the heathen
round about you'?"

"There's into him!" said a Georgia trader, who, having camped with a
coffle of negroes in the neighborhood, had come up to camp-meeting.

"All those things," said father Dickson, "belong to the old covenant,
which Paul says was annulled for the weakness and unprofitableness
thereof, and have nothing to do with us, who have risen with Christ. We
have got past Mount Sinai and the wilderness, and have come unto Mount
Zion; and ought to seek the things that are above, where Christ
sitteth."

"I say, brother," said another of the ministers, tapping him on the
shoulder, "it's time for the preaching to begin. You can finish your
discussion some other time. Come, father Bonnie, come forward, here, and
strike up the hymn."

Father Bonnie accordingly stepped to the front of the stand, and with
him another minister, of equal height and breadth of frame, and,
standing with their hats on, they uplifted, in stentorian voices, the
following hymn:--


     "Brethren don't you hear the sound?
       The martial trumpet now is blowing;
     Men in order listing round,
       And soldiers to the standard flowing."


As the sound of the hymn rolled through the aisles and arches of the
wood, the heads of different groups, who had been engaged in
conversation, were observed turning toward the stand, and voices from
every part of the camp-ground took up the air, as, suiting the action to
the words, they began flowing to the place of preaching. The hymn went
on, keeping up the same martial images:--


     "Bounty offered, life and peace;
       To every soldier this is given,
     When the toils of life shall cease,
      A mansion bright, prepared in heaven."


As the throng pressed up, and came crowding from the distant aisles of
the wood, the singers seemed to exert themselves to throw a wilder
vehemence into the song, stretching out their arms and beckoning
eagerly. They went on singing:--


     "You need not fear; the cause is good,
       Let who will to the crown aspire:
     In this cause the martyrs bled,
       And shouted victory in the fire.

     "In this cause let's follow on,
       And soon we'll tell the pleasing story,
     How by faith we won the crown,
       And fought our way to life and glory.

     "Oh, ye rebels, come and 'list!
       The officers are now recruiting:
     Why will you in sin persist,
       Or waste your time in vain disputing?

     "All excuses now are vain;
       For, if you do not sue for favor,
     Down you'll sink to endless pain,
       And bear the wrath of God forever."


There is always something awful in the voice of the multitude. It would
seem as if the breath that a crowd breathed out together, in moments of
enthusiasm, carried with it a portion of the dread and mystery of their
own immortal natures. The whole area before the pulpit, and in the
distant aisles of the forest, became one vast, surging sea of sound, as
negroes and whites, slaves and freemen, saints and sinners,
slave-holders, slave-hunters, slave-traders, ministers, elders, and
laymen, alike joined in the pulses of that mighty song. A flood of
electrical excitement seemed to rise with it, as, with a voice of many
waters, the rude chant went on:--


     "Hark! the victors singing loud!
       Emanuel's chariot wheels are rumbling;
     Mourners weeping through the crowd,
       And Satan's kingdom down is tumbling!"


Our friend, Ben Dakin, pressed to the stand, and, with tears streaming
down his cheeks, exceeded all others in the energy of his vociferations.
Ben had just come from almost a fight with another slave-hunter, who had
boasted a better-trained pack of dogs than his own; and had broken away
to hurry to the camp-ground, with the assurance that he'd "give him fits
when the preachin' was over;" and now he stood there, tears rolling down
his cheeks, singing with the heartiest earnestness and devotion. What
shall we make of it? Poor heathen Ben! is it any more out of the way for
him to think of being a Christian in this manner, than for some of his
more decent brethren, who take Sunday passage for eternity in the
cushioned New York or Boston pews, and solemnly drowse through very
sleepy tunes, under a dim, hazy impression that they are going to
heaven? Of the two, we think Ben's chance is the best; for, in some
blind way, he does think himself a sinner, and in need of something he
calls salvation; and, doubtless, while the tears stream down his face,
the poor fellow makes a new resolve against the whiskey-bottle, while
his more respectable sleepy brethren never think of making one against
the cotton-bale.

Then there was his rival, also, Jim Stokes,--a surly, foul-mouthed,
swearing fellow,--he joins in the chorus of the hymn, and feels a
troublous, vague yearning, deep down within him, which makes him for the
moment doubt whether he had better knock down Ben at the end of the
meeting.

As to Harry, who stood also among the crowd, the words and tune recalled
but too vividly the incidents of his morning's interview with Dred, and
with it the tumultuous boiling of his bitter controversy with the laws
of the society in which he found himself. In hours of such high
excitement, a man seems to have an intuitive perception of the whole
extent and strength of what is within himself; and, if there be anything
unnatural or false in his position, he realizes it with double
intensity.

Mr. John Gordon, likewise, gave himself up, without resistance, to be
swayed by the feeling of the hour. He sung with enthusiasm, and wished
he was a soldier of somebody, going somewhere, or a martyr shouting
victory in the fire; and if the conflict described had been with any
other foe than his own laziness and self-indulgence--had there been any
outward, tangible enemy, at the moment--he would doubtless have
enlisted, without loss of time.

When the hymn was finished, however, there was a general wiping of eyes,
and they all sat down to listen to the sermon. Father Bonnie led off in
an animated strain. His discourse was like the tropical swamp, bursting
out with a lush abundance of every kind of growth--grave, gay,
grotesque, solemn, fanciful, and even coarse caricature, provoking the
broadest laughter. The audience were swayed by him like trees before the
wind. There were not wanting touches of rude pathos, as well as earnest
appeals. The meeting was a union one of Presbyterians and Methodists, in
which the ministers of both denominations took equal part; and it was an
understood agreement among them, of course, that they were not to
venture upon polemic ground, or attack each other's peculiarities of
doctrine. But Abijah's favorite preacher could not get through a sermon
without some quite pointed exposition of Scripture bearing on his
favorite doctrine of election, which caused the next minister to run a
vehement tilt on the correlative doctrines of free grace, with a eulogy
on John Wesley. The auditors, meanwhile, according to their respective
sentiments, encouraged each preacher with a cry of "Amen!" "Glory be to
God!" "Go on, brother!" and other similar exclamations.

About noon the services terminated, _pro tem._, and the audience
dispersed themselves to their respective tents through the grove, where
there was an abundance of chatting, visiting, eating, and drinking, as
if the vehement denunciations and passionate appeals of the morning had
been things of another state of existence. Uncle John, in the most
cheery possible frame of mind, escorted his party into the woods, and
assisted them in unpacking a hamper containing wine, cold fowls, cakes,
pies, and other delicacies which Aunt Katy had packed for the occasion.

Old Tiff had set up his tent in a snug little nook on the banks of the
stream, where he informed passers-by that it was his young mas'r and
missis's establishment, and that he, Tiff, had come to wait on them.
With a good-natured view of doing him a pleasure, Nina selected a spot
for their nooning at no great distance, and spoke in the most gracious
and encouraging manner to them, from time to time.

"See, now, can't you, how real quality behaves demselves!" he said,
grimly, to Old Hundred, who came up bringing the carriage-cushions for
the party to sit down upon. "Real quality sees into things! I tell ye
what, blood sees into blood. Miss Nina sees dese yer chil'en an't de
common sort--dat's what she does!"

"Umph!" said Old Hundred, "such a muss as ye keep up about yer chil'en!
Tell you what, dey an't no better dan oder white trash!"

"Now, you talk dat ar way, I'll knock you down!" said Old Tiff, who,
though a peaceable and law-abiding creature, in general, was driven, in
desperation, to the last resort of force.

"John, what are you saying to Tiff?" said Nina, who had overheard some
of the last words. "Go back to your own tent, and don't you trouble him!
I have taken him under my protection."

The party enjoyed their dinner with infinite relish, and Nina amused
herself in watching Tiff's cooking preparations. Before departing to the
preaching-ground, he had arranged a slow fire, on which a savory stew
had been all the morning simmering, and which, on the taking off of the
pot-lid, diffused an agreeable odor through the place.

"I say, Tiff, how delightfully that smells!" said Nina, getting up, and
looking into the pot. "Wouldn't Miss Fanny be so kind as to favor us
with a taste of it?"

Fanny, to whom Tiff punctiliously referred the question, gave a bashful
consent. But who shall describe the pride and glory that swelled the
heart of Tiff as he saw a bowl of his stew smoking among the Gordon
viands, praised and patronized by the party? And, when Nina placed on
their simple board--literally a board, and nothing more--a small loaf of
frosted cake, in exchange, it certainly required all the grace of the
morning exercises to keep Tiff within due bounds of humility. He really
seemed to dilate with satisfaction.

"Tiff, how did you like the sermon?" said Nina.

"Dey's pretty far, Miss Nina. Der's a good deal o' quality preaching."

"What do you mean by quality preaching, Tiff?"

"Why, dat ar kind dat's good for quality--full of long words, you know.
I spects it's very good; but poor nigger like me can't see his way
through it. You see, Miss Nina, what I's studdin' on, lately, is, how to
get dese yer chil'en to Canaan; and I hars fus with one ear, and den
with t'oder, but 'pears like an't clar 'bout it, yet. Dere's a heap
about mose everything else, and it's all very good; but 'pears like I
an't clar, arter all, about dat ar. Dey says, 'Come to Christ;' and I
says, 'Whar is he, any how?' Bress you, I _want_ to come! Dey talks
'bout going in de gate, and knocking at de do', and 'bout marching on de
road, and 'bout fighting and being soldiers of de cross; and de Lord
knows, now, I'd be glad to get de chil'en through any gate; and I could
take 'em on my back and travel all day, if dere was any road; and if
dere was a do', bless me, if dey wouldn't hear Old Tiff a rapping! I
spects de Lord would have fur to open it--would so. But, arter all, when
de preaching is done, dere don't 'pear to be nothing to it. Dere an't no
gate, dere an't no do', nor no way; and dere an't no fighting, 'cept
when Ben Dakin and Jim Stokes get jawing about der dogs; and everybody
comes back eating der dinner quite comf'table, and 'pears like dere
wan't no such ting dey's been preaching 'bout. Dat ar troubles me--does
so--'cause I wants fur to get dese yer chil'en in de kingdom, some way
or oder. I didn't know but some of de quality would know more 'bout it."

"Hang me, if I haven't felt just so!" said Uncle John. "When they were
singing that hymn about enlisting and being a soldier, if there had been
any fighting doing anywhere, I should have certainly gone right into it;
and the preaching always stirs me up terribly. But, then, as Tiff says,
after it's all over, why, there's dinner to be eaten, and I can't see
anything better than to eat it; and then, by the time I have drank two
or three glasses of wine, it's all gone. Now, that's just the way with
me!"

"Dey says," said Tiff, "dat we must wait for de blessing to come down
upon us, and Aunt Rose says it's dem dat shouts dat gets de blessing;
and I's been shouting till I's most beat out, but I hasn't got it. Den,
one of dem said none of dem could get it but de 'lect; but, den, t'oder
one, he seemed to tink different; and in de meeting dey tells about de
scales falling from der eyes,--and I wished dey fall from mine--I do so!
Perhaps, Miss Nina, now, you could tell me something."

"Oh, don't ask me!" said Nina; "I don't know anything about these
things. I think I feel a little like Uncle John," she said, turning to
Clayton. "There are two kinds of sermons and hymns; one gets me to
sleep, and the other excites and stirs me up in a general kind of way;
but they don't either seem to do me real good."

"For my part, I am such an enemy to stagnation," said Clayton, "that I
think there is advantage in everything that stirs up the soul, even
though we see no immediate results. I listen to music, see pictures, as
far as I can, uncritically. I say, 'Here I am; see what you can do with
me.' So I present myself to almost all religious exercises. It is the
most mysterious part of our nature. I do not pretend to understand it,
therefore never criticise."

"For _my_ part," said Anne, "there is so much in the wild freedom of
these meetings that shocks my taste and sense of propriety, that I am
annoyed more than I am benefited."

"There spoke the true, well-trained conventionalist," said Clayton. "But
look around you. See, in this wood, among these flowers, and festoons of
vine, and arches of green, how many shocking, unsightly growths! _You_
would not have had all this underbrush, these dead limbs, these briers
running riot over trees, and sometimes choking and killing them. You
would have well-trimmed trees and velvet turf. But I love briers, dead
limbs, and all, for their very savage freedom. Every once in a while you
see in a wood a jessamine, or a sweet-brier, or a grape-vine, that
throws itself into a gracefulness of growth which a landscape gardener
would go down on his knees for, but cannot get. Nature resolutely denies
it to him. She says, 'No! I keep this for _my own_. You won't have my
wildness--my freedom; very well, then you shall not have the graces that
spring from it.' Just so it is with men. Unite any assembly of common
men in a great enthusiasm,--work them up into an abandon, and let every
one 'let go,' and speak as nature prompts,--and you will have brush,
underwood, briers, and all grotesque growths; but, now and then, some
thought or sentiment will be struck out with a freedom or power such as
you cannot get in any other way. You cultivated people are much mistaken
when you despise the enthusiasms of the masses. There is more truth than
you think in the old '_Vox populi, vox Dei_.'"

"What's that?" said Nina.

"'The voice of the people is the voice of God.' There is truth in it. I
never repent my share in a popular excitement, provided it be of the
higher sentiments; and I do not ask too strictly whether it has produced
any tangible result. I reverence the people, as I do the woods, for the
wild, grand freedom with which their humanity develops itself."

"I'm afraid, Nina," said Aunt Nesbit, in a low tone, to the latter, "I'm
afraid he isn't orthodox."

"What makes you think so, aunt?"

"Oh, I don't know; his talk hasn't the real sound."

"You want something that ends in 'ation,' don't you,
aunt?--justification, sanctification, or something of that kind."

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, the department of Abijah Skinflint exhibited a decided
activity. This was a long, low booth, made of poles, and roofed with
newly-cut green boughs. Here the whiskey-barrel was continually pouring
forth its supplies to customers who crowded around it. Abijah sat on the
middle of a sort of rude counter, dangling his legs, and chewing a
straw, while his negro was busy in helping his various customers.
Abijah, as we said, being a particularly high Calvinist, was recreating
himself by carrying on a discussion with a fat, little, turnipy brother
of the Methodist persuasion.

"I say," he said, "Stringfellow put it into you, Methodists, this
morning! Hit the nail on the head, I thought!"

"Not a bit of it!" said the other, contemptuously. "Why, elder Baskum
chawed him up completely! There wan't nothin' left of him!"

"Well," said Abijah, "strange how folks will see things! Why, it's just
as clar to me that all things is decreed! Why, that ar nails everything
up tight and handsome. It gives a fellow a kind of comfort to think on
it. Things is just as they have got to be. All this free-grace stuff is
drefful loose talk. If things is been decreed 'fore the world was made,
well, there seems to be some sense in their coming to pass. But, if
everything kind of turns up whenever folks think on't, it's a kind of
shaky business."

"I don't like this tying up things so tight," said the other, who
evidently was one of the free, jovial order. "I go in for the freedom of
the will. Free Gospel, and free grace."

"For my part," said Abijah, rather grimly, "if things was managed my
way, I shouldn't commune with nobody that didn't believe in election, up
to the hub."

"You strong electioners think you's among the elect!" said one of the
by-standers. "You wouldn't be so crank about it, if you didn't! Now, see
here: if everything is decreed, how am I going to help myself?"

"That ar is none of _my_ look-out," said Abijah. "But there's a pint my
mind rests upon--everything is fixed as it can be, and it makes a man
mighty easy."

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

In another part of the camp-ground, Ben Dakin was sitting in his tent
door, caressing one of his favorite dogs, and partaking his noontide
repast with his wife and child.

"I declar'," said Ben, wiping his mouth, "wife, I intend to go into it,
and sarve the Lord, now, full chisel! If I catch the next lot of
niggers, I intend to give half the money towards keeping up preaching
somewhere round here. I'm going to enlist, now, and be a soldier."

"And," said his wife, "Ben, just keep clear of Abijah Skinflint's
counter, won't you?"

"Well, I will, durned if I won't!" said Ben. "I'll be moderate. A fellow
wants a glass or two, to strike up the hymn on, you know; but I'll be
moderate."

The Georgia trader, who had encamped in the neighborhood, now came up.

"Do you believe, stranger," said he, "one of them durned niggers of mine
broke loose and got in the swamps, while I was at meeting this morning!
Couldn't you take your dog, here, and give 'em a run? I just gave nine
hundred dollars for that fellow, cash down."

"Ho! what you going to _him_ for?" said Jim Stokes, a short, pursy,
vulgar-looking individual, dressed in a hunting-shirt of blue Kentucky
jean, who just then came up. "Why, durn ye, his dogs an't no breed 't
all! Mine's the true grit, I can tell you; they's the true Florida
blood-hounds! I's seen one of them ar dogs shake a nigger in his mouth
like he'd been a sponge."

Poor Ben's new-found religion could not withstand this sudden attack of
his spiritual enemy; and, rousing himself, notwithstanding the appealing
glances of his wife, he stripped up his sleeves, and, squaring off,
challenged his rival to a fight.

A crowd gathered round, laughing and betting, and cheering on the
combatants with slang oaths and expressions, such as we will not repeat,
when the concourse was routed by the approach of father Bonnie on the
outside of the ring.

"Look here, boys, what works of the devil have you got round here? None
of this on the camp-ground! This is the Lord's ground, here; so shut up
your swearing, and don't fight."

A confused murmur of voices now began to explain to father Bonnie the
cause of the trouble.

"Ho, ho!" said he, "let the nigger run; you can catch him fast enough
when the meetings are over. You come here to 'tend to your salvation.
Ah, don't you be swearing and blustering round! Come, boys, join in a
hymn with me." So saying, he struck up a well-known air:--


     "When Israel went to Jericho,
     O good Lord, in my soul!"


in which one after another joined, and the rising tumult was soon
assuaged.

"I say," said father Bonnie to the trader, in an undertone, as he was
walking away, "you got a good cook in your lot, hey?"

"Got a prime one," said the trader; "an A number one cook, and no
mistake! Picked her up real cheap, and I'll let you have her for eight
hundred dollars, being as you are a minister."

"You must think the Gospel a better trade than it is," said father
Bonnie, "if you think a minister can afford to pay at that figure!"

"Why," said the trader, "you haven't seen her; it's dirt cheap for her,
I can tell you! A sound, strong, hearty woman; a prudent, careful
housekeeper; a real pious Methodist, a member of a class-meeting! Why,
eight hundred dollars an't anything! I ought to get a thousand for her;
but I don't hear preaching for nothing,--always think right to make a
discount to ministers!"

"Why couldn't you bring her in?" said father Bonnie. "Maybe I'll give
you seven hundred and fifty for her."

"Couldn't do that, no way!" said the trader. "Couldn't, indeed!"

"Well, after the meetings are over I'll talk about it."

"She's got a child, four years old," said the trader, with a little
cough; "healthy, likely child; I suppose I shall want a hundred dollars
for him!"

"Oh, that won't do!" said father Bonnie. "I don't want any more children
round my place than I've got now!"

"But, I tell you," said the trader, "it's a likely boy. Why, the
keeping of him won't cost you anything, and before you think of it
you'll have a thousand-dollar hand grown on your own place."

"Well," said father Bonnie, "I'll think of it!"

In the evening the scene on the camp-ground was still more picturesque
and impressive. Those who conduct camp-meetings are generally men who,
without much reasoning upon the subject, fall into a sort of tact, in
influencing masses of mind, and pressing into the service all the great
life forces and influences of nature. A kind of rude poetry pervades
their minds, colors their dialect, and influences their arrangements.
The solemn and harmonious grandeur of night, with all its mysterious
power of exalting the passions and intensifying the emotions, has ever
been appreciated, and used by them with even poetic skill. The day had
been a glorious one in June; the sky of that firm, clear blue, the
atmosphere of that crystalline clearness, which often gives to the
American landscape such a sharply-defined outline, and to the human
system such an intense consciousness of life. The evening sun went down
in a broad sea of light, and even after it had sunk below the purple
horizon, flashed back a flood of tremulous rose-colored radiance, which,
taken up by a thousand filmy clouds, made the whole sky above like a
glowing tent of the most ethereal brightness. The shadows of the forest
aisles were pierced by the rose-colored rays; and, as they gradually
faded, star after star twinkled out, and a broad moon, ample and round,
rose in the purple zone of the sky. When she had risen above the horizon
but a short space, her light was so resplendent and so profuse, that it
was decided to conduct the evening service by that alone; and when, at
the sound of the hymn, the assembly poured in and arranged themselves
before the preaching-stand, it is probable that the rudest heart present
was somewhat impressed with the silent magnificence by which God was
speaking to them through his works. As the hymn closed, father Bonnie,
advancing to the front of the stage, lifted his hands, and pointing to
the purple sky, and in a deep and not unmelodious voice, repeated the
words of the Psalmist:--

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his
handy-work; day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth
knowledge."

"Oh, ye sinners!" he exclaimed, "look up at the moon, there, walking in
her brightness, and think over your oaths, and your cursings, and your
drinkings! Think over your backbitings, and your cheatings! think over
your quarrellings and your fightings! How do they look to you now, with
that blessed moon shining down upon you? Don't you see the beauty of our
Lord God upon her? Don't you see how the saints walk in white with the
Lord, like her? I dare say some of you, now, have had a pious mother, or
a pious wife, or a pious sister, that's gone to glory; and there they
are walking with the Lord!--walking with the Lord, through the sky, and
looking down on you, sinners, just as that moon looks down! And what
does she see you doing, your wife, or your mother, or sister, that's in
glory? Does she see all your swearings, and your drinkings, and your
fightings, and your hankerings after money, and your horse-racings, and
your cock-fightings? Oh, sinners, but you are a bad set! I tell you the
Lord is looking now down on you, out of that moon! He is looking down in
mercy! But, I tell you, he'll look down quite another way, one of these
days! Oh, there'll be a time of wrath, by and by, if you don't repent!
Oh, what a time there was at Sinai, years ago, when the voice of the
trumpet waxed louder and louder, and the mountain was all of a smoke,
and there were thunderings and lightnings, and the Lord descended on
Sinai! That's nothing to what you'll see, by and by! No more moon
looking down on you! No more stars, but the heavens shall pass away with
a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat! Ah! did
you ever see a fire in the woods? I have; and I've seen the fire on the
prairies, and it rolled like a tempest, and men and horses and
everything, had to run before it. I have seen it roaring and crackling
through the woods, and great trees shrivelled in a minute like tinder! I
have seen it flash over trees seventy-five and a hundred feet high, and
in a minute they'd be standing pillars of fire, and the heavens were all
a blaze, and the crackling and roaring was like the sea in a storm.
There's a judgment-day for you! Oh, sinner, what will become of you in
that day? Never cry, Lord, Lord! Too late--too late, man! You wouldn't
take mercy when it was offered, and now you shall have wrath! No place
to hide! The heavens and earth are passing away, and there shall be no
more sea! There's no place for you now in God's universe."

By this time there were tumultuous responses from the audience of
groans, cries, clapping of hands, and mingled shouts of glory and amen!

The electric shout of the multitude acted on the preacher again, as he
went on, with a yet fiercer energy. "Now is your time, sinners! Now is
your time! Come unto the altar, and God's people will pray for you! Now
is the day of grace! Come up! Come up, you that have got pious fathers
and mothers in glory! Come up, father! come up mother! come up, brother!
Come, young man! we want you to come! Ah, there's a hardened sinner, off
there! I see his lofty looks! Come up, come up! Come up, you rich
sinners! You'll be poor enough in the day of the Lord, I can tell you!
Come up, you young women! You daughters of Jerusalem, with your tinkling
ornaments! Come, saints of the Lord, and labor with me in prayer. Strike
up a hymn, brethren, strike up the hymn!" And a thousand voices
commenced the hymn,--


     "Stop, poor sinner, stop and think,
     Before you further go!"


And, meanwhile, ministers and elders moved around the throng, entreating
and urging one and another to come and kneel before the stand.
Multitudes rushed forward, groans and sobs were heard, as the speaker
continued, with redoubled vehemence.

"I don't care," said Mr. John Gordon, "who sees me; I'm going up! I am a
poor old sinner, and I ought to be prayed for, if anybody."

Nina shrank back, and clung to Clayton's arm. So vehement was the
surging feeling of the throng around her that she wept with a wild,
tremulous excitement.

"Do take me out,--it's dreadful!" she said.

Clayton passed his arm round her, and, opening a way through the crowd,
carried her out beyond the limits, where they stood together alone,
under the tree.

"I know I am not good as I ought to be," she said, "but I don't know how
to be any better. Do you think it would do me any good to go up there?
Do you believe in these things?"

"I sympathize with every effort that man makes to approach his Maker,"
said Clayton; "these ways do not suit me, but I dare not judge them. I
cannot despise them. I must not make myself a rule for others."

"But, don't you think," said Nina, "that these things do harm
sometimes?"

"Alas, child, what form of religion does not? It is our fatality that
everything that does good must do harm. It's the condition of our poor,
imperfect life here."

"I do not like these terrible threats," said Nina. "Can fear of fire
make me love? Besides, I have a kind of courage in me that always rises
up against a threat. It isn't my nature to fear."

"If we may judge our Father by his voice in nature," said Clayton, "he
deems severity a necessary part of our training. How inflexibly and
terribly regular are all his laws! Fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy
wind, fulfilling his word--all these have a crushing regularity in their
movements, which show that he is to be feared as well as loved."

"But I want to be religious," said Nina, "entirely apart from such
considerations. Not driven by fear, but drawn by love. You can guide me
about these things, for you are religious."

"I fear I should not be accepted as such in any church," said Clayton.
"It is my misfortune that I cannot receive any common form of faith,
though I respect and sympathize with all. Generally speaking, preaching
only weakens my faith; and I have to forget the sermon in order to
recover my faith. I do not _believe_--I _know_ that our moral nature
needs a thorough regeneration; and I believe this must come through
Christ. This is all I am certain of."

"I wish I were like Milly," said Nina. "She is a Christian, I know; but
she has come to it by dreadful sorrows. Sometimes I'm afraid to ask my
heavenly Father to make me good, because I think it will come by
dreadful trials, if he does."

"And I," said Clayton, speaking with great earnestness, "would be
willing to suffer anything conceivable, if I could only overcome all
evil, and come up to my highest ideas of good." And, as he spoke, he
turned his face up to the moonlight with an earnest fervor of
expression, that struck Nina deeply.

"I almost shudder to hear you say so! You don't know what it may bring
on you!"

He looked at her with a beautiful smile, which was a peculiar expression
of his face in moments of high excitement.

"I say it again!" he said. "Whatever it involves, let it come!"

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

The exercises of the evening went on with a succession of addresses,
varied by singing of hymns and prayers. In the latter part of the time
many declared themselves converts, and were shouting loudly. Father
Bonnie came forward.

"Brethren," he shouted, "we are seeing a day from the Lord! We've got a
glorious time! Oh, brethren, let us sing glory to the Lord! The Lord is
coming among us!"

The excitement now became general. There was a confused sound of
exhortation, prayers, and hymns, all mixed together, from different
parts of the ground. But, all of a sudden, every one was startled by a
sound which seemed to come pealing down directly from the thick canopy
of pines over the heads of the ministers.

"Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! To what end shall it be
for _you_? The day of the Lord shall be darkness, and not light! Blow ye
the trumpet in Zion! Sound an alarm in my holy mountain! Let all the
inhabitants of the land tremble! for the day of the Lord cometh!"

There was deep, sonorous power in the voice that spoke, and the words
fell pealing down through the air like the vibrations of some mighty
bell. Men looked confusedly on each other; but, in the universal license
of the hour, the obscurity of the night, and the multitude of the
speakers, no one knew exactly whence it came. After a moment's pause,
the singers were recommencing, when again the same deep voice was heard.

"Take away from me the noise of thy songs, and the melody of thy viols;
for I will not hear them, saith the Lord. I hate and despise your
feast-days! I will not smell in your solemn assemblies; for your hands
are defiled with blood, and your fingers are greedy for violence! Will
ye kill, and steal, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and come
and stand before _me_, saith the Lord? Ye oppress the poor and needy,
and hunt the stranger; also in thy skirts is found the blood of poor
innocents! and yet ye say, Because I am clean shall his anger pass from
me! Hear this, ye that swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the
land to fail, saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell
corn? that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of
shoes? The Lord hath sworn, saying, I will never forget their works. I
will surely visit you!"

The audience, thus taken, in the obscurity of the evening, by an unknown
speaker, whose words seemed to fall apparently from the clouds, in a
voice of such strange and singular quality, began to feel a creeping awe
stealing over them. The high state of electrical excitement under which
they had been going on, predisposed them to a sort of revulsion of
terror; and a vague, mysterious panic crept upon them, as the boding,
mournful voice continued to peal from the trees.

"Hear, oh ye rebellious people! The Lord is against this nation! The
Lord shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of
emptiness? For thou saidst, I will ascend into the stars; I will be as
God! But thou shalt be cast out as an abominable branch, and the wild
beasts shall tread thee down! Howl, fir-tree, for thou art spoiled! Open
thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars! for the Lord
cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the land! The Lord
shall utter his voice before his army, for his camp is very great!
Multitudes! multitudes! in the valley of decision! For the day of the
Lord is near in the valley of decision! The sun and the moon shall be
dark, and the stars withdraw their shining; for the Lord shall utter his
voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and earth shall shake! In that day
I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and darken the whole earth! And
I will turn your feasts into mourning, and your songs into lamentation!
Woe to the bloody city! It is full of lies and robbery! The noise of a
whip!--the noise of the rattling of wheels!--of the prancing horses, and
the jumping chariot! The horseman lifteth up the sword and glittering
spear! and there is a multitude of slain! There is no end of their
corpses!--They are stumbling upon the corpses! For, Behold, I am
against thee, saith the Lord, and I will make thee utterly desolate!"

There was a fierce, wailing earnestness in the sound of these dreadful
words, as if they were uttered in a paroxysm of affright and horror, by
one who stood face to face with some tremendous form. And, when the
sound ceased, men drew in their breath, and looked on each other, and
the crowd began slowly to disperse, whispering in low voices to each
other.

So extremely piercing and so wildly earnest had the voice been, that it
actually seemed, in the expressive words of Scripture, to make every ear
to tingle. And, as people of rude and primitive habits are always
predisposed to superstition, there crept through the different groups
wild legends of prophets strangely commissioned to announce coming
misfortunes. Some spoke of the predictions of the judgment-day; some
talked of comets, and strange signs that had preceded wars and
pestilences. The ministers wondered, and searched around the stand in
vain. One auditor alone could, had he desired it, make an explanation.
Harry, who stood near the stand, had recognized the voice. But, though
he searched, also, around, he could find no one.

He who spoke was one whose savage familiarity with nature gave him the
agility and stealthy adroitness of a wild animal. And, during the stir
and commotion of the dispersing audience, he had silently made his way
from tree to tree, over the very heads of those who were yet wondering
at his strange, boding words, till at last he descended in a distant
part of the forest.

After the service, as father Dickson was preparing to retire to his
tent, a man pulled him by the sleeve. It was the Georgia trader.

"We have had an awful time, to-night!" said he, looking actually pale
with terror. "Do you think the judgment-day really is coming?"

"My friend," said father Dickson, "it surely is! Every step we take in
life is leading us directly to the judgment-seat of Christ!"

"Well," said the trader, "but do you think that was from the Lord, the
last one that spoke? Durned if he didn't say awful things!--'nough to
make the hair rise! I tell you what, I've often had doubts about my
trade. The ministers may prove it's all right out of the Old Testament;
but I'm durned if I think they know all the things that we do! But,
then, I an't so bad as some of 'em. But, now, I've got a gal out in my
gang that's dreadful sick, and I partly promised her I'd bring a
minister to see her."

"I'll go with you, friend," said father Dickson; and forthwith he began
following the trader to the racks where their horses were tied.
Selecting, out of some hundred who were tied there, their own beasts,
the two midnight travellers soon found themselves trotting along under
the shadow of the forest's boughs.

"My friend," said father Dickson, "I feel bound in conscience to tell
you that I think your trade a ruinous one to your soul. I hope you'll
lay to heart the solemn warning you've heard to-night. Why, your own
sense can show you that a trade can't be right that you'd be afraid to
be found in if the great judgment-day were at hand."

"Well, I rather spect you speak the truth; but, then, what makes father
Bonnie stand up for 't?"

"My friend, I must say that I think father Bonnie upholds a
soul-destroying error. I must say that, as conscience-bound. I pray the
Lord for him and you both. I put it right to your conscience, my friend,
whether you think you could keep to your trade, and live a Christian
life."

"No; the fact is, it's a d----d bad business, that's just where 't is.
We an't fit to be trusted with such things that come to us--gals and
women. Well, I feel pretty bad, I tell you, to-night; 'cause I know I
haven't done right by this yer gal. I ought fur to have let her alone;
but, then, the devil or something possessed me. And now she has got a
fever, and screeches awfully. I declar, some things she says go right
through me!"

Father Dickson groaned in spirit over this account, and felt himself
almost guilty for belonging ostensibly and outwardly to a church which
tolerated such evils. He rode along by the side of his companion,
breaking forth into occasional ejaculations and snatches of hymns. After
a ride of about an hour, they arrived at the encampment. A large fire
had been made in a cleared spot, and smouldering fragments and brands
were lying among the white ashes. One or two horses were tied to a
neighboring tree, and wagons were drawn up by them. Around the fire, in
different groups, lay about fifteen men and women, with heavy iron
shackles on their feet, asleep in the moonlight. At a little distance
from the group, and near to one of the wagons, a blanket was spread down
on the ground under a tree, on which lay a young girl of seventeen,
tossing and moaning in a disturbed stupor. A respectable-looking
mulatto-woman was sitting beside her, with a gourd full of water, with
which from time to time she moistened her forehead. The woman rose as
the trader came up.

"Well, Nance, how does she do now?" said the trader.

"Mis'able enough!" said Nance. "She done been tossing, a throwing round,
and crying for her mammy, ever since you went away!"

"Well, I've brought the minister," said he. "Try, Nance, to wake her up;
she'll be glad to see him."

The woman knelt down, and took the hand of the sleeper.

"Emily! Emily!" she said, "wake up!"

The girl threw herself over with a sudden, restless toss. "Oh, how my
head burns!--Oh, dear!--Oh, my mother! Mother!--mother!--mother!--why
don't you come to me?"

Father Dickson approached and knelt the other side of her. The
mulatto-woman made another effort to bring her to consciousness.

"Emily here's the minister you was wanting so much! Emily, wake up!"

The girl slowly opened her eyes--large, tremulous, dark eyes. She drew
her hand across them, as if to clear her sight, and looked wistfully at
the woman.

"Minister!--minister!" she said.

"Yes, minister! You said you wanted to see one."

"Oh, yes, I did!" she said, heavily.

"My daughter!" said father Dickson, "you are very sick!"

"Yes!" she said, "very! And I'm glad of it! I'm going to die!--I'm glad
of that, too! That's all I've got left to be glad of! But I wanted to
ask you to write to my mother. She is a free woman; she lives in New
York. I want you to give my love to her, and tell her not to worry any
more. Tell her I tried all I could to get to her: but they took us, and
mistress was so angry she sold me! I forgive her, too. I don't bear her
any malice, 'cause it's all over, now! She used to say I was a wild
girl, and laughed too loud. I shan't trouble any one that way any more!
So that's no matter!"

The girl spoke these sentences at long intervals, occasionally opening
her eyes and closing them again in a languid manner. Father Dickson,
however, who had some knowledge of medicine, placed his finger on her
pulse, which was rapidly sinking. It is the usual instinct, in all such
cases, to think of means of prolonging life. Father Dickson rose, and
said to the trader:--

"Unless some stimulus be given her, she will be gone very soon!"

The trader produced from his pocket a flask of brandy, which he mixed
with a little water in a cup, and placed it in father Dickson's hand. He
kneeled down again, and, calling her by name, tried to make her take
some.

"What is it?" said she, opening her wild, glittering eyes.

"It's something to make you feel better."

"I don't want to feel better! I want to die!" she said, throwing herself
over. "What should I want to live for?"

What should she? The words struck father Dickson so much that he sat for
a while in silence. He meditated in his mind how he could reach, with
any words, that dying ear, or enter with her into that land of trance
and mist, into whose cloudy circle the soul seemed already to have
passed. Guided by a subtle instinct, he seated himself by the dying
girl, and began singing, in a subdued plaintive air, the following
well-known hymn:--


     "Hark, my soul! it is the Lord,
     'Tis thy Saviour, hear his word;
     Jesus speaks--he speaks to thee!
     Say, poor sinner, lov'st thou me?"


The melody is one often sung among the negroes; and one which, from its
tenderness and pathos, is a favorite among them. As oil will find its
way into crevices where water cannot penetrate, so song will find its
way where speech can no longer enter. The moon shone full on the face of
the dying girl, only interrupted by flickering shadows of leaves; and,
as father Dickson sung, he fancied he saw a slight, tremulous movement
of the face, as if the soul, so worn and weary, were upborne on the
tender pinions of the song. He went on singing:--


     "Can a mother's tender care
     Cease toward the child she bare?
     Yes, she may forgetful be:
     Still will I remember thee."


By the light of the moon, he saw a tear steal from under the long
lashes, and course slowly down her cheek. He continued his song:--


     "Mine is an eternal love,
     Higher than the heights above,
     Deeper than the depths beneath,
     True and faithful--strong as death.

     "Thou shalt see my glory soon,
     When the work of faith is done;
     Partner of my throne shalt be!
     Say, poor sinner, lov'st thou me?"


Oh, love of Christ! which no sin can weary, which no lapse of time can
change; from which tribulation, persecution, and distress cannot
separate--all-redeeming, all-glorifying, changing even death and despair
to the gate of heaven! Thou hast one more triumph here in the
wilderness, in the slave-coffle, and thou comest to bind up the
broken-hearted.

As the song ceased, she opened her eyes.

"Mother used to sing that!" she said.

"And can you believe in it, daughter?"

"Yes," she said, "I see Him now! _He_ loves me! Let me go!"

There followed a few moments of those strugglings and shiverings which
are the birth-pangs of another life, and Emily lay at rest.

Father Dickson, kneeling by her side, poured out the fulness of his
heart in an earnest prayer. Rising, he went up to the trader, and,
taking his hand, said to him,--

"My friend, this may be the turning-point with your soul for eternity.
It has pleased the Lord to show you the evil of your ways; and now my
advice to you is, break off your sins at once, and do works meet for
repentance. Take off the shackles of these poor creatures, and tell them
they are at liberty to go."

"Why, bless your soul, sir, this yer lot's worth ten thousand dollars!"
said the trader, who was not prepared for so close a practical
application.

Do not be too sure, friend, that the trader is peculiar in this. The
very same argument, though less frankly stated, holds in the bonds of
Satan many extremely well-bred, refined, respectable men, who would
gladly save their souls if they could afford the luxury.

"My friend," said father Dickson, using the words of a very close and
uncompromising preacher of old, "what shall it profit a man if he should
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

"I know that," said the trader, doubtfully; "but it's a very hard case,
this. I'll think about it, though. But there's father Bonnie wants to
buy Nance. It would be a pity to disappoint him. But I'll think it
over."

Father Dickson returned to the camp-ground between one and two o'clock
at night, and, putting away his horse, took his way to the ministers'
tent. Here he found father Bonnie standing out in the moonlight. He had
been asleep within the tent; but it is to be confessed that the interior
of a crowded tent on a camp-ground is anything but favorable to repose.
He therefore came out into the fresh air, and was there when father
Dickson came back to enter the tent.

"Well, brother, where have you been so late?" said father Bonnie.

"I have been looking for a few sheep in the wilderness, whom everybody
neglects," said father Dickson. And then, in a tone tremulous from
agitation, he related to him the scene he had just witnessed.

"Do you see," he said, "brother, what iniquities you are countenancing?
Now, here, right next to our camp, a slave-coffle encamped! Men and
women, guilty of no crime, driven in fetters through our land, shaming
us in the sight of every Christian nation! What horrible, abominable
iniquities are these poor traders tempted to commit! What perfect hells
are the great trading-houses, where men, women, and children are made
merchandise of, and where no light of the Gospel ever enters! And when
this poor trader is convicted of sin, and wants to enter into the
kingdom, you stand there to apologize for his sins! Brother Bonnie, I
much fear you are the stumbling block over which souls will stumble into
hell. I don't think you believe your argument from the Old Testament,
yourself. You must see that it has no kind of relation to such kind of
slavery as we have in this country. There's an awful Scripture which
saith: 'He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, so
that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right
hand?'"

The earnestness with which father Dickson spoke, combined with the
reverence commonly entertained for his piety, gave great force to his
words. The reader will not therefore wonder to hear that father Bonnie,
impulsive and easily moved as he was, wept at the account, and was moved
by the exhortation. Nor will he be surprised to learn that, two weeks
after, father Bonnie drove a brisk bargain with the same trader for
three new hands.

The trader had discovered that the judgment-day was not coming yet a
while; and father Bonnie satisfied himself that Noah, when he awoke from
his wine, said, "Cursed be Canaan."

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

We have one scene more to draw before we dismiss the auditors of the
camp-meeting.

At a late hour the Gordon carriage was winding its way under the silent,
checkered, woodland path. Harry, who came slowly on a horse behind, felt
a hand laid on his bridle. With a sudden start, he stopped.

"Oh, Dred, is it you? How dared you--how _could_ you be so imprudent?
How dared you come here, when you know you risk your life?"

"Life!" said the other, "what is life? He that loveth his life shall
lose it. Besides, the Lord said unto me, Go! The Lord is with me as a
mighty and terrible one! Harry, did you mark those men? Hunters of men,
their hands red with the blood of the poor, all seeking unto the Lord!
Ministers who buy and sell us! Is this a people prepared for the Lord? I
left a man dead in the swamps, whom their dogs have torn! His wife is a
widow--his children, orphans! They eat and wipe their mouth, and say,
'What have I done?' The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are
we!"

"I know it," said Harry, gloomily.

"And you join yourself unto them?"

"Don't speak to me any more about that! I won't betray you, but I won't
consent to have blood shed. My mistress is my sister."

"Oh, yes, to be sure! They read Scripture, don't they? Cast out the
children of the bond-woman! That's Scripture for them!"

"Dred," said Harry, "I love her better than I love myself. I will fight
for her to the last, but never against her, nor hers!"

"And you will serve Tom Gordon?" said Dred.

"Never!" said Harry.

Dred stood still a moment. Through an opening among the branches the
moonbeams streamed down on his wild, dark figure. Harry remarked his eye
fixed before him on vacancy, the pupil swelling out in glassy fulness,
with a fixed, somnambulic stare. After a moment, he spoke, in a hollow,
altered voice, like that of a sleep-walker:--

"Then shall the silver cord be loosed, and the golden bowl be broken.
Yes, cover up the grave--cover it up! Now, hurry! come to me, or he will
take thy wife for a prey!"

"Dred, what do you mean?" said Harry. "What's the matter?" He shook him
by the shoulder.

Dred rubbed his eyes, and stared on Harry.

"I must go back," he said, "to my den. 'Foxes have holes, the birds of
the air have nests,' and in the habitation of dragons the Lord hath
opened a way for his outcasts!"

He plunged into the thickets, and was gone.



CHAPTER XXIV.

LIFE IN THE SWAMPS.


Our readers will perhaps feel an interest to turn back with us, and
follow the singular wanderings of the mysterious personage, whose wild
denunciations had so disturbed the minds of the worshippers at the
camp-meeting.

There is a twilight-ground between the boundaries of the sane and
insane, which the old Greeks and Romans regarded with a peculiar
veneration. They held a person whose faculties were thus darkened as
walking under the awful shadow of a supernatural presence; and, as the
mysterious secrets of the stars only become visible in the night, so in
these eclipses of the more material faculties they held there was often
an awakening of supernatural perceptions.

The hot and positive light of our modern materialism, which exhales from
the growth of our existence every dewdrop, which searches out and dries
every rivulet of romance, which sends an unsparing beam into every cool
grotto of poetic possibility, withering the moss, and turning the
dropping cave to a dusty den--this spirit, so remorseless, allows us no
such indefinite land. There are but two words in the whole department of
modern anthropology--the sane and the insane; the latter dismissed from
human reckoning almost with contempt. We should find it difficult to
give a suitable name to the strange and abnormal condition in which this
singular being, of whom we are speaking, passed the most of his time.

It was a state of exaltation and trance, which yet appeared not at all
to impede the exercise of his outward and physical faculties, but rather
to give them a preternatural keenness and intensity, such as sometimes
attends the more completely-developed phenomena of somnambulism.

In regard to his physical system there was also much that was peculiar.
Our readers may imagine a human body of the largest and keenest vitality
to grow up so completely under the nursing influences of nature, that it
may seem to be as perfectly _en rapport_ with them as a tree; so that
the rain, the wind, and the thunder, all those forces from which human
beings generally seek shelter, seem to hold with it a kind of
fellowship, and to be familiar companions of existence.

Such was the case with Dred. So completely had he come into sympathy and
communion with nature, and with those forms of it which more
particularly surrounded him in the swamps, that he moved about among
them with as much ease as a lady treads her Turkey carpet. What would
seem to us in recital to be incredible hardship, was to him but an
ordinary condition of existence. To walk knee-deep in the spongy soil of
the swamp, to force his way through thickets, to lie all night sinking
in the porous soil, or to crouch, like the alligator, among reeds and
rushes, were to him situations of as much comfort as well-curtained beds
and pillows are to us.

It is not to be denied, that there is in this savage perfection of the
natural organs a keen and almost fierce delight, which must excel the
softest seductions of luxury. Anybody who has ever watched the eager
zest with which the hunting-dog plunges through the woods, darts through
the thicket, or dives into water, in an ecstasy of enjoyment, sees
something of what such vital force must be.

Dred was under the inspiring belief that he was the subject of visions
and supernatural communications. The African race are said by mesmerists
to possess, in the fullest degree, that peculiar temperament which fits
them for the evolution of mesmeric phenomena; and hence the existence
among them, to this day, of men and women who are supposed to have
peculiar magical powers. The grandfather of Dred, on his mother's side,
had been one of these reputed African sorcerers, and he had early
discovered in the boy this peculiar species of temperament. He had
taught him the secret of snake-charming, and had possessed his mind from
childhood with expectations of prophetic and supernatural impulses. That
mysterious and singular gift, whatever it may be, which Highland seers
denominate second sight, is a very common tradition among the negroes;
and there are not wanting thousands of reputed instances among them to
confirm belief in it. What this faculty may be, we shall not pretend to
say. Whether there be in the soul a yet undeveloped attribute, which is
to be to the future what memory is to the past, or whether in some
individuals an extremely high and perfect condition of the sensuous
organization endows them with something of that certainty of instinctive
discrimination which belongs to animals, are things which we shall not
venture to decide upon.

It was, however, an absolute fact with regard to Dred, that he had often
escaped danger by means of a peculiarity of this kind. He had been
warned from particular places where the hunters had lain in wait for
him; had foreseen in times of want where game might be ensnared, and
received intimations where persons were to be found in whom he might
safely confide; and his predictions with regard to persons and things
had often chanced to be so strikingly true, as to invest his sayings
with a singular awe and importance among his associates.

It was a remarkable fact, but one not peculiar to this case alone, that
the mysterious exaltation of mind in this individual seemed to run
parallel with the current of shrewd, practical sense; and, like a man
who converses alternately in two languages, he would speak now the
language of exaltation, and now that of common life, interchangeably.
This peculiarity imparted a singular and grotesque effect to his whole
personality.

On the night of the camp-meeting, he was as we have already seen, in a
state of the highest ecstasy. The wanton murder of his associate seemed
to flood his soul with an awful tide of emotion, as a thunder-cloud is
filled and shaken by slow-gathering electricity. And, although the
distance from his retreat to the camp-ground was nearly fifteen miles,
most of it through what seemed to be impassable swamps, yet he performed
it with as little consciousness of fatigue as if he had been a spirit.
Even had he been perceived at that time, it is probable that he could no
more have been taken, or bound, than the demoniac of Gadara.

After he parted from Harry he pursued his way to the interior of the
swamp, as was his usual habit, repeating to himself, in a chanting
voice, such words of prophetic writ as were familiar to him.

The day had been sultry, and it was now an hour or two past midnight,
when a thunder-storm, which had long been gathering and muttering in the
distant sky, began to develop its forces.

A low, shivering sigh crept through the woods, and swayed in weird
whistlings the tops of the pines; and sharp arrows of lightning came
glittering down among the darkness of the branches, as if sent from the
bow of some warlike angel. An army of heavy clouds swept in a moment
across the moon; then came a broad, dazzling, blinding sheet of flame,
concentrating itself on the top of a tall pine near where Dred was
standing, and in a moment shivered all its branches to the ground, as a
child strips the leaves from a twig. Dred clapped his hands with a
fierce delight; and, while the rain and wind were howling and hissing
around him, he shouted aloud:--

"Wake, O arm of the Lord! Awake, put on thy strength! The voice of the
Lord breaketh the cedars--yea, the cedars of Lebanon! The voice of the
Lord divideth the flames of fire! The voice of the Lord shaketh the
wilderness of Kadesh! Hailstones and coals of fire!"

The storm, which howled around him, bent the forest like a reed, and
large trees, uprooted from the spongy and tremulous soil, fell crashing
with a tremendous noise; but, as if he had been a dark spirit of the
tempest, he shouted and exulted.

The perception of such awful power seemed to animate him, and yet to
excite in his soul an impatience that He whose power was so infinite did
not awake to judgment.

"Rend the heavens," he cried, "and come down! Avenge the innocent blood!
Cast forth thine arrows, and slay them! Shoot out thy lightnings, and
destroy them!"

His soul seemed to kindle with almost a fierce impatience, at the
toleration of that Almighty Being, who, having the power to blast and to
burn, so silently endures. Could Dred have possessed himself of those
lightnings, what would have stood before him? But his cry, like the cry
of thousands, only went up to stand in waiting till an awful coming day!

Gradually the storm passed by; the big drops dashed less and less
frequently; a softer breeze passed through the forest, with a patter
like the clapping of a thousand little wings; and the moon occasionally
looked over the silvery battlements of the great clouds.

As Dred was starting to go forward, one of these clear revealings showed
him the cowering form of a man, crouched at the root of a tree, a few
paces in front of him. He was evidently a fugitive, and, in fact, was
the one of whose escape to the swamps the Georgia trader had complained
of the day of of the meeting.

"Who is here, at this time of night?" said Dred, coming up to him.

"I have lost my way," said the other. "I don't know where I am!"

"A runaway?" inquired Dred.

"Don't betray me!" said the other, apprehensively.

"Betray you! Would _I_ do that?" said Dred. "How did you get into the
swamp?"

"I got away from a soul-driver's camp, that was taking us on through the
states."

"Oh, oh!" said Dred. "Camp-meeting and driver's camp right alongside of
each other! Shepherds that sell the flock, and pick the bones! Well,
come, old man; I'll take you home with me."

"I'm pretty much beat out," said the man. "It's been up over my knees
every step; and I didn't know but they'd set the dogs after me. If they
do, I'll let 'em kill me, and done with it, for I'm 'bout ready to have
it over with. I got free once, and got clear up to New York, and got me
a little bit of a house, and a wife and two children, with a little
money beforehand; and then they nabbed me, and sent me back again, and
mas'r sold me to the drivers,--and I believe I's 'bout as good 's die.
There's no use in trying to live--everything going agin a body so!"

"Die! No, indeed, you won't," said Dred; "not if I've got hold of you!
Take heart, man, take heart! Before morning I'll put you where the dogs
can't find you, nor anything else. Come, up with you!"

The man rose up, and made an effort to follow; but, wearied, and unused
as he was to the choked and perplexed way, he stumbled and fell almost
every minute.

"How now, brother?" said Dred. "This won't do! I must put you over my
shoulder as I have many a buck before now!" And, suiting the action to
the word, he put the man on his back, and, bidding him hold fast to him,
went on, picking his way as if he scarcely perceived his weight.

It was now between two and three o'clock, and the clouds, gradually
dispersing, allowed the full light of the moon to slide down here and
there through the wet and shivering foliage. No sound was heard, save
the humming of insects and the crackling plunges by which Dred made his
way forward.

"You must be pretty strong!" said his companion. "Have you been in the
swamps long?"

"Yes," said the other, "I have been a wild man--every man's hand against
me--a companion of the dragons and the owls, this many a year. I have
made my bed with the leviathan, among the reeds and the rushes. I have
found the alligators and the snakes better neighbors than Christians.
They let those alone that let them alone; but Christians will hunt for
the precious life."

After about an hour of steady travelling, Dred arrived at the outskirts
of the island which we have described. For about twenty paces before he
reached it, he waded waist-deep in water. Creeping out, at last, and
telling the other one to follow him, he began carefully coursing along
on his hands and knees, giving, at the same time, a long, shrill,
peculiar whistle. It was responded to by a similar sound, which seemed
to proceed through the bushes. After a while, a crackling noise was
heard, as of some animal, which gradually seemed to come nearer and
nearer to them, till finally a large water-dog emerged from the
underbrush, and began testifying his joy at the arrival of the
new-comer, by most extravagant gambols.

"So, ho! Buck! quiet, my boy!" said Dred. "Show us the way in!"

The dog, as if understanding the words, immediately turned into the
thicket, and Dred and his companion followed him, on their hands and
knees. The path wound up and down the brushwood, through many sharp
turnings, till at last it ceased altogether, at the roots of a tree;
and, while the dog disappeared among the brushwood, Dred climbed the
tree, and directed his companion to follow him, and, proceeding out on
to one of the longest limbs, he sprang nimbly on to the ground in the
cleared space which we have before described.

His wife was standing waiting for him, and threw herself upon him with a
cry of joy.

"Oh, you've come back! I thought, sure enough, dey'd got you dis time!"

"Not yet! I must continue till the opening of the seals--till the vision
cometh! Have ye buried him?"

"No; there's a grave dug down yonder, and he's been carried there."

"Come, then!" said Dred.

At a distant part of the clearing was a blasted cedar-tree, all whose
natural foliage had perished. But it was veiled from head to foot in
long wreaths of the tillandsia, the parasitic moss of these regions,
and, in the dim light of the approaching dawn, might have formed no
unapt resemblance to a gigantic spectre dressed in mourning weeds.

Beneath this tree Dred had interred, from time to time, the bodies of
fugitives which he had found dead in the swamps, attaching to this
disposition of them some peculiar superstitious idea.

The widow of the dead, the wife of Dred, and the new-comer, were now
gathered around the shallow grave; for the soil was such as scarcely
gave room to make a place deep enough for a grave without its becoming
filled with water.

The dawn was just commencing a dim foreshadowing in the sky. The moon
and stars were still shining.

Dred stood and looked up, and spoke, in a solemn voice.

"Seek him that maketh Arcturus and Orion--that turneth the shadow of
death into morning! Behold those lights in the sky--the lights in his
hands pierced for the sins of the world, and spread forth as on a cross!
But the day shall come that he shall lay down the yoke, and he will bear
the sin of the world no longer. Then shall come the great judgment. He
will lay righteousness to the line and judgment to the plummet, and the
hail shall sweep away the refuges of lies."

He stooped, and, lifting the body, laid him in the grave, and at this
moment the wife broke into a loud lament.

"Hush, woman!" said Dred, raising his hand. "Weep ye not for the dead,
neither bewail him; but weep ye sore for the living! He must rest till
the rest of his brethren be killed; for the vision is sealed up for an
appointed time. If it tarry, wait for it. It shall surely come, and
shall not tarry!"



CHAPTER XXV.

MORE SUMMER TALK.


A glorious morning, washed by the tears of last night's shower, rose
like a bride upon Canema. The rain-drops sparkled and winked from leaf
to leaf, or fell in showery diamonds in the breeze. The breath of
numberless roses, now in full bloom, rose in clouds to the windows.

The breakfast-table, with its clean damask, glittering silver, and
fragrant coffee, received the last evening's participants of the
camp-meeting in fresh morning spirits, ready to discuss, as an every-day
affair, what, the evening before, they had felt too deeply, perhaps, to
discuss.

On the way home, they had spoken of the scenes of the day, and wondered
and speculated on the singular incident which closed it. But, of all the
dark circle of woe and crime,--of all that valley of vision which was
present to the mind of him who spoke,--they were as practically ignorant
as the dwellers of the curtained boudoirs of New York are of the fearful
mysteries of the Five Points.

The aristocratic nature of society at the south so completely segregates
people of a certain position in life from any acquaintance with the
movements of human nature in circles below them, that the most fearful
things may be transacting in their vicinity unknown or unnoticed. The
horrors and sorrows of the slave-coffle were a sealed book to Nina and
Anne Clayton. They had scarcely dreamed of them; and Uncle John, if he
knew their existence, took very good care to keep out of their way, as
he would turn from any other painful and disagreeable scene.

All of them had heard something of negro-hunters, and regarded them as
low, vulgar people, but troubled their heads little further on the
subject; so that they would have been quite at a loss for the discovery
of any national sins that could have appropriately drawn down the
denunciations of Heaven.

The serious thoughts and aspirations which might have risen in any of
the company, the evening before, assumed, with everything else, quite
another light under the rays of morning.

All of us must have had experience, in our own histories, of the great
difference between the night and the morning view of the same subject.

What we have thought and said in the august presence of witnessing
stars, or beneath the holy shadows of moonlight, seems with the hot, dry
light of next day's sun to take wings, and rise to heaven with the
night's clear drops. If all the prayers and good resolutions which are
laid down on sleeping pillows could be found there on awaking, the world
would be better than it is.

Of this Uncle John Gordon had experience, as he sat himself down at the
breakfast-table. The night before, he realized, in some dim wise, that
he, Mr. John Gordon, was not merely a fat, elderly gentleman, in blue
coat and white vest, whose great object in existence was to eat well,
drink well, sleep well, wear clean linen, and keep out of the way of
trouble. He had within him a tumult of yearnings and
aspirings,--uprisings of that great, life-long sleeper, which we call
_soul_, and which, when it wakes, is an awfully clamorous, craving,
exacting, troublesome inmate, and which is therefore generally put
asleep again in the shortest time, by whatever opiates may come to hand.
Last night, urged on by this troublesome guest, stimulated by the vague
power of such awful words as judgment and eternity, he had gone out and
knelt down as a mourner for sin and a seeker for salvation, both words
standing for very real and awful facts; and, this morning, although it
was probably a more sensible and appropriate thing than most of the
things he was in the habit of doing, he was almost ashamed of it. The
question arose, at table, whether another excursion should be made to
the camp-ground.

"For my part," said Aunt Maria, "I hope you'll not go again, Mr. Gordon.
I think you had better keep out of the way of such things. I really was
vexed to see you in that rabble of such very common people!"

"You'll observe," said Uncle John, "that, when Mrs. G. goes to heaven,
she'll notify the Lord, forthwith, that she has only been accustomed to
the most select circles, and requests to be admitted at the front door."

"It isn't because I object to being with common people," said Anne
Clayton, "that I dislike this custom of going to the altar; but it seems
to me an invasion of that privacy and reserve which belong to our most
sacred feelings. Besides, there are in a crowd coarse, rude,
disagreeable people, with whom it isn't pleasant to come in contact."

"For my part," said Mrs. John Gordon, "I don't believe in it at all!
It's a mere temporary excitement. People go and get wonderfully wrought
up, come away, and are just what they were before."

"Well," said Clayton, "isn't it better to be wrought up once in a while,
than _never_ to have any religious feelings? Isn't it better to have a
vivid impression of the vastness and worth of the soul,--of the power of
an endless life,--for a few hours once a year, than never to feel it at
all? The multitudes of those people, there, never hear or think a word
of these things at any other time in their lives. For my part," he
added, "I don't see why it's a thing to be ashamed of, if Mr. Gordon or
I should have knelt at the altar last night, even if we do not feel like
it this morning. We are too often ashamed of our better moments;--I
believe Protestant Christians are the only people on earth who are
ashamed of the outward recognition of their religion. The Mahometan will
prostrate himself in the street, or wherever he happens to be, when his
hour for prayer comes. The Roman Catholic sailor or soldier kneels down
at the sound of the vesper bell. But we rather take pride in having it
understood that we take our religion moderately and coolly, and that we
are not going to put ourselves much out about it."

"Well, but, brother," said Anne, "I will maintain, still, that there is
a reserve about these things which belongs to the best Christians. And
did not our Saviour tell us that our prayers and alms should be in
secret?"

"I do not deny at all what you say, Anne," said Clayton; "but I think
what I said is true, notwithstanding; and, both being true, of course,
in some way they must be consistent with each other."

"I think," said Nina, "the sound of the singing at these camp-meetings
is really quite spirit-stirring and exciting."

"Yes," said Clayton, "these wild tunes, and the hymns with which they
are associated, form a kind of forest liturgy, in which the feelings of
thousands of hearts have been embodied. Some of the tunes seem to me to
have been caught from the song of birds, or from the rushing of wind
among the branches. They possess a peculiar rhythmical energy, well
suited to express the vehement emotions of the masses. Did camp-meetings
do no other good than to scatter among the people these hymns and tunes,
I should consider them to be of inestimable value."

"I must say," said Anne, "I always had a prejudice against that class
both of hymns and tunes."

"You misjudge them," said Clayton, "as you refined, cultivated women
always do, who are brought up in the kid-slipper and carpet view of
human life. But just imagine only the old Greek or Roman peasantry
elevated to the level of one of these hymns. Take, for example, a verse
of one I heard them sing last night:--


     'The earth shall be dissolved like snow,
       The sun shall cease to shine,
     But God, who called me here below,
       Shall be forever mine.'


What faith is there! What confidence in immortality! How could a man
feel it, and not be ennobled? Then, what a rough hearty heroism was in
that first hymn! It was right manly!"

"Ah, but," said Anne, "half the time they sing them without the
slightest perception of their meaning, or the least idea of being
influenced by them."

"And so do the worshippers in the sleepiest and most aristocratic
churches," said Clayton. "That's nothing peculiar to the camp-ground.
But, if it is true, what a certain statesman once said, 'Let me make the
ballads of the people, and I care not who makes their laws,' it is
certainly a great gain to have such noble sentiments as many of these
hymns contain circulating freely among the people."

"What upon earth," said Uncle John, "do you suppose that last fellow was
about, up in the clouds, there? Nobody seemed to know where he was, or
_who_ he was; and I thought his discourse seemed to be rather an
unexpected addition. He put it into us pretty strong, I thought!
Declare, such a bundle of woes and curses I never heard distributed!
Seemed to have done up all the old prophets into one bundle, and
tumbled it down upon our heads! Some of them were quite superstitious
about it, and began talking about warnings, and all that."

"Pooh!" said Aunt Maria, "the likelihood is that some itinerant poor
preacher has fallen upon this trick for producing a sensation. There is
no end to the trickeries and the got-up scenes in these camp-meetings,
just to produce effect. If I had had a pistol, I should like to have
fired into the tree, and see whether I couldn't have changed his tune."

"It seemed to me," said Clayton, "from the little that I did hear, that
there was some method in his madness. It was one of the most singular
and impressive voices I ever heard; and, really, the enunciation of some
of those latter things was tremendous. But, then, in the universal
license and general confusion of the scene, the thing was not so much to
be wondered at. It would be the most natural thing in the world that
some crazy fanatic should be heated almost to the point of insanity by
the scene, and take this way of unburdening himself. Such excitements
most generally assume the form of denunciation."

"Well, now," said Nina, "to tell the truth, I should like to go out
again to-day. It's a lovely ride, and I like to be in the woods. And,
then, I like to walk around among the tents, and hear the people talk,
and see all the different specimens of human nature that are there. I
never saw such a gathering together in my life."

"Agreed!" said Uncle John. "I'll go with you. After all, Clayton, here,
has got the right of it, when he says a fellow oughtn't to be ashamed of
his religion, such as it is."

"Such as it is, to be sure!" said Aunt Maria, sarcastically.

"Yes, I say again, such as it is!" said Uncle John, bracing himself. "I
don't pretend it's much. We'll all of us bear to be a good deal better,
without danger of being translated. Now, as to this being converted,
hang me if I know how to get at it! I suppose that it is something like
an electric shock,--if a fellow is going to get it, he must go up to the
machine!"

"Well," said Nina, "you do hear some queer things there. Don't you
remember that jolly, slashing-looking fellow, whom they called Bill
Dakin, that came up there with his two dogs? In the afternoon, after the
regular services, we went to one of the tents where there was a very
noisy prayer-meeting going on, and there was Bill Dakin, on his knees,
with his hands clasped, and the tears rolling down his cheeks; and
father Bonnie was praying over him with all his might. And what do you
think he said? He said, 'O Lord, here's Bill Dakin; he is converted; now
take him right to heaven, now he is ready, or he'll be drunk again in
two weeks!'"

"Well," said Anne Clayton, tossing her head, indignantly, "that's
blasphemy, in my opinion."

"Oh, perhaps not," said Clayton, "any more than the clownish talk of any
of our servants is intentional rudeness."

"Well," said Anne, "don't you think it shows a great want of
perception?"

"Certainly, it does," said Clayton. "It shows great rudeness and
coarseness of fibre, and is not at all to be commended. But still we are
not to judge of it by the rules of cultivated society. In well-trained
minds every faculty keeps its due boundaries; but, in this kind of
wild-forest growth, mirthfulness will sometimes overgrow reverence, just
as the yellow jessamine will completely smother a tree. A great many of
the ordinances of the old Mosaic dispensation were intended to
counteract this very tendency."

"Well," said Nina, "did you notice poor old Tiff, so intent upon getting
his children converted? He didn't seem to have the least thought or
reference to getting into heaven himself. The only thing with him was to
get those children in. Tiff seems to me just like those mistletoes that
we see on the trees in the swamps. He don't seem to have any root of his
own; he seems to grow out of something else."

"Those children are very pretty-looking, genteel children," said Anne;
"and how well they were dressed!"

"My dear," said Nina, "Tiff prostrates himself at my shrine, every time
he meets me, to implore my favorable supervision as to that point; and
it really is diverting to hear him talk. The old Caliban has an eye for
color, and a sense of what is suitable, equal to any French milliner. I
assure you, my dear, I always was reputed for having a talent for dress;
and Tiff _appreciates_ me. Isn't it charming of him? I declare, when I
see the old creature lugging about those children, I always think of an
ugly old cactus with its blossoms. I believe he verily thinks they
belong to him just as much. Their father is entirely dismissed from
Tiff's calculations. Evidently all he wants of him is to keep out of the
way, and let him work. The whole burden of their education lies on his
shoulders."

"For my part," said Aunt Nesbit, "I'm glad you've faith to believe in
those children. I haven't; they'll be sure to turn out badly--you see if
they don't."

"And I think," said Aunt Maria, "we have enough to do with our own
servants, without taking all these miserable whites on our hands, too."

"I'm not going to take all the whites," said Nina. "I'm going to take
these children."

"I wish you joy!" said Aunt Maria.

"I wonder," said Aunt Nesbit, "if Harry is under concern of mind. He
seems to be dreadfully down, this morning."

"Is he?" said Nina. "I hadn't noticed it."

"Well," said Uncle John, "perhaps he'll get set up, to-day--who knows?
In fact, I hope I shall myself. I tell you what it is, parson," said he,
laying his hand on Clayton's shoulder, "you should take the gig, to-day,
and drive this little sinner, and let me go with the ladies. Of course
you know Mrs. G. engrosses my whole soul; but, then, there 's a kind of
insensible improvement that comes from such celestial bodies as Miss
Anne, here, that oughtn't to be denied to me. The clergy ought to
enumerate female influence among the means of grace. I'm sure there's
nothing builds me up like it."

Clayton, of course, assented very readily to this arrangement; and the
party was adjusted on this basis.

"Look ye here, now, Clayton," said Uncle John, tipping him a sly wink,
after he had handed Nina in, "you must confess that little penitent! She
wants a spiritual director, my boy! I tell you what, Clayton, there
isn't a girl like that in North Carolina. There's blood, sir, there. You
must humor her on the bit, and give her her head a while. Ah, but she'll
draw well at last! I always like a creature that kicks to pieces
harness, wagon, and all, to begin with. They do the best when they are
broken in."

With which profound remarks Uncle John turned to hand Anne Clayton to
the carriage.

Clayton understood too well what he was about to make any such use of
the interview as Uncle John had suggested. He knew perfectly that his
best chance, with a nature so restless as Nina's, was to keep up a sense
of perfect freedom in all their intercourse; and, therefore, no
grandfather could have been more collected and easy in a _tête-à-tête_
drive than he. The last conversation at the camp-meeting he knew had
brought them much nearer to each other than they had ever stood before,
because both had spoken in deep earnestness of feeling of what lay
deepest in their heart; and one such moment, he well knew, was of more
binding force than a hundred nominal betrothals.

The morning was one of those perfect ones which succeed a thunder-shower
in the night; when the air, cleared of every gross vapor, and
impregnated with moist exhalations from the woods, is both balmy and
stimulating. The steaming air developed to the full the balsamic
properties of the pine-groves through which they rode; and, where the
road skirted the swampy land, the light fell slanting on the leaves of
the deciduous trees, rustling and dripping with the last night's shower.
The heavens were full of those brilliant, island-like clouds, which are
said to be a peculiarity of American skies, in their distinct relief
above the intense blue. At a long distance they caught the sound of
camp-meeting hymns. But, before they reached the ground, they saw, in
more than one riotous group, the result of too frequent an application
to Abijah Skinflint's department, and others of a similar character.
They visited the quarters of Old Tiff, whom they found busy ironing some
clothes for the baby, which he had washed and hung out the night before.
The preaching had not yet commenced, and the party walked about among
the tents. Women were busy cooking and washing dishes under the trees;
and there was a great deal of good-natured gossiping.

One of the most remarkable features of the day was a sermon from father
Dickson, on the sins of the church. It concluded with a most forcible
and solemn appeal to all on the subject of slavery. He reminded both the
Methodists and Presbyterians that their books of discipline had most
pointedly and unequivocally condemned it; that John Wesley had denounced
it as the sum of all villanies, and that the general assemblies of the
Presbyterian Church had condemned it as wholly inconsistent with the
religion of Christ, with the great law which requires us to love others
as ourselves. He related the scene which he had lately witnessed in the
slave-coffle. He spoke of the horrors of the inter-state slave-trade,
and drew a touching picture of the separation of families, and the
rending of all domestic and social ties, which resulted from it; and,
alluding to the unknown speaker of the evening before, told his audience
that he had discerned a deep significance in his words, and that he
feared, if there was not immediate repentance and reformation, the land
would yet be given up to the visitations of divine wrath. As he spoke
with feeling, he awakened feeling in return. Many were affected even to
tears; but, when the sermon was over, it seemed to melt away, as a wave
flows back again into the sea. It was far easier to join in a temporary
whirlwind of excitement, than to take into consideration troublesome,
difficult, and expensive reforms.

Yet, still, it is due to the degenerate Christianity of the slave states
to say, that, during the long period in which the church there has been
corrupting itself, and lowering its standard of right to meet a depraved
institution, there have not been wanting, from time to time, noble
confessors, who have spoken for God and humanity. For many years they
were listened to with that kind of pensive tolerance which men give when
they acknowledge their fault without any intention of mending. Of late
years, however, the lines have been drawn more sharply, and such
witnesses have spoken in peril of their lives; so that now seldom a
voice arises except in approbation of oppression.

The sermon was fruitful of much discussion in different parts of the
camp-ground; and none, perhaps, was louder in the approbation of it than
the Georgia trader, who, seated on Abijah Skinflint's counter, declared:
"That was a _parson_ as _was_ a parson, and that he liked his _pluck_;
and, for his part, when ministers and church-members would give over
buying, he should take up some other trade."

"That was a very good sermon," said Nina, "and I believe every word of
it. But, then, what do you suppose _we_ ought to do?"

"Why," said Clayton, "we ought to contemplate emancipation as a future
certainty, and prepare our people in the shortest possible time."

This conversation took place as the party were seated at their nooning
under the trees, around an unpacked hamper of cold provisions, which
they were leisurely discussing.

"Why, bless my soul, Clayton," said Uncle John, "I don't see the sense
of such an anathema maranatha as we got to-day. Good Lord, what earthly
harm are we doing? As to our niggers, they are better off than we are! I
say it coolly--that is, as coolly as a man can say anything between one
and two o'clock in such weather as this. Why, look at my niggers! Do _I_
ever have any chickens, or eggs, or cucumbers? No, to be sure. All _my_
chickens die, and the cut-worm plays the devil with _my_ cucumbers; but
the niggers have enough. _Theirs_ flourish like a green bay-tree; and of
course I have to buy of _them_. _They_ raise chickens. _I_ buy 'em, and
cook 'em and then _they_ eat 'em! That's the way it goes. As to the
slave-coffles, and slave-prisons, and the trade, why, that's abominable,
to be sure. But, Lord bless you, _I_ don't want it done! I'd kick a
trader off my doorsteps forthwith, though I'm all eaten up with
woolly-heads, like locusts. I don't like such sermons, for my part."

"Well," said Aunt Nesbit, "our Mr. Titmarsh preached quite another way
when I attended church in E----. He proved that slavery was a scriptural
institution, and established by God."

"I should think anybody's common sense would show that a thing which
works so poorly for both sides couldn't be from God," said Nina.

"Who is Mr. Titmarsh?" said Clayton to her, aside.

"Oh, one of Aunt Nesbit's favorites, and one of my aversions! He isn't a
_man_--he's nothing but a theological dictionary with a cravat on! I
can't bear him!"

"Now, people may talk as much as they please of the educated democracy
of the north," said Uncle John. "_I_ don't like 'em. What do working-men
want of education?--Ruins 'em! I've heard of their learned blacksmiths
bothering around, neglecting their work, to make speeches. I don't like
such things. It raises them above their sphere. And there's nothing
going on up in those northern states but a constant confusion and
hubbub. All sorts of heresies come from the north, and infidelity, and
the Lord knows what! We have peace, down here. To be sure, our poor
whites are in a devil of a fix; but we haven't got 'em under yet. We
shall get 'em in, one of these days, with our niggers, and then all will
be contentment."

"Yes," said Nina, "there's Uncle John's view of the millennium!"

"To be sure," said Uncle John, "the lower classes want _governing_--they
want care; that's what they want. And all they need to know is, what the
Episcopal Church catechism says, 'to learn and labor truly to get their
own living in the state wherein it has pleased God to call them.' That
makes a well-behaved lower class, and a handsome, gentlemanly, orderly
state of society. The upper classes ought to be instructed in their
duties. They ought to be considerate and condescending, and all that.
That's my view of society."

"Then you are no republican," said Clayton.

"Bless you, yes I am! I believe in the equality of _gentlemen_, and the
equal rights of well-bred people. That's my idea of a republic."

Clayton, Nina, and Anne, laughed.

"Now," said Nina, "to see uncle so jovial and free, and 'Hail fellow
well met,' with everybody, you'd think he was the greatest democrat that
ever walked. But, you see, it's only because he's so immeasurably
certain of his superior position--that's all. He isn't afraid to kneel
at the altar with Bill Dakin, or Jim Sykes, because he's so sure that
his position can't be compromised."

"Besides that, chick," said Uncle John, "I _have_ the sense to know
that, in my Maker's presence, all human differences are child's play."
And Uncle John spoke with a momentary solemnity which was heartfelt.

It was agreed by the party that they would not stay to attend the
evening exercises. The novelty of the effect was over, and Aunt Nesbit
spoke of the bad effects of falling dew and night air. Accordingly, as
soon as the air was sufficiently cooled to make riding practicable, the
party were again on their way home.

The woodland path was streaked with green and golden bands of light
thrown between the tree-trunks across the way, and the trees
reverberated with the evening song of birds. Nina and Clayton naturally
fell into a quiet and subdued train of conversation.

"It is strange," said Nina, "these talkings and searchings about
religion. Now, there are people who have something they call religion,
which I don't think does them any good. It isn't of any use--it doesn't
make them better--and it makes them very disagreeable. I would rather be
as I am, than to have what they call religion. But, then, there are
others that have something which I know _is_ religion; something that I
know I have not; something that I'd give all the world to have, and
don't know how to get. Now, there was Livy Ray--you ought to have seen
Livy Ray--there was something so superior about her; and, what was
extraordinary is, that she was _good_ without being _stupid_. What do
you suppose the reason is that good people are generally so stupid?"

"A great deal," said Clayton, "is called goodness, which is nothing but
want of force. A person is said to have self-government simply because
he has nothing to govern. They talk about self-denial, when their
desires are so weak that one course is about as easy to them as another.
Such people easily fall into a religious routine, get by heart a set of
phrases, and make, as you say, very stupid, good people."

"Now, Livy," said Nina, "was remarkable. She had that kind of education
that they give girls in New England, stronger and more like a man's than
ours. She could read Greek and Latin as easily as she could French and
Italian. She was keen, shrewd, and witty, and had a kind of wild grace
about her, like these grape-vines; yet she was so _strong_! Well, do you
know, I almost worship Livy? And I think, the little while she was in
our school, she did me more good than all the teachers and studying put
together. Why, it does one good to know that such people are possible.
Don't you think it does?"

"Yes," said Clayton; "all the good in the world is done by the
personality of people. Now, in books, it isn't so much what you learn
from them, as the contact it gives you with the personality of the
writer, that improves you. A real book always makes you feel that there
is more in the writer than anything that he has said."

"That," said Nina, eagerly, "is just the way I feel toward Livy. She
seems to me like a mine. When I was with her the longest, I always felt
as if I hadn't half seen her. She always made me hungry to know her
more. I mean to read you some of her letters, some time. She writes
beautiful letters; and I appreciate that very much, because I can't do
it. I can talk better than I can write. Somehow my ideas will not take a
course down through my arms; they always will run up to my mouth. But
you ought to see Livy; such people always make me very discontented with
myself. I don't know what the reason is that I like to see superior
people, and things, when they always make me realize what a poor concern
I am. Now, the first time I heard Jenny Lind sing, it spoiled all my
music and all my songs for me,--turned them all to trash at one
stroke,--and yet I liked it. But I don't seem to have got any further in
goodness than just dissatisfaction with myself."

"Well," said Clayton, "there's where the foundation-stone of all
excellence is laid. The very first blessing that Christ pronounced was
on those who were poor in spirit. The indispensable condition to all
progress in art, science, or religion, is to feel that we have nothing."

"Do you know," said Nina, after something of a pause, "that I can't help
wondering what you took up with me for? I have thought very often that
you ought to have Livy Ray."

"Well, I'm much obliged to you," said Clayton, "for your consideration
in providing for me. But, supposing I should prefer my own choice, after
all? We men are a little wilful, sometimes, like you of the gentler
sex."

"Well," said Nina, "if you _will_ have the bad taste, then, to insist on
liking me, let me warn you that you don't know what you are about. I'm a
very unformed, unpractical person. I don't keep accounts. I'm nothing at
all of a housekeeper. I shall leave open drawers, and scatter papers,
and forget the day of the month, and tear the newspaper, and do
everything else that is wicked; and then, one of these days, it will be,
'Nina, why haven't you done this? and why haven't you done that? and why
don't you do the other? and why _do_ you do something else?' Ah, I've
heard you men talk before! And, then, you see, I shan't like it, and I
shan't behave well. Haven't the least hope of it; won't ever engage
to!--So, now, won't you take warning?"

"No," said Clayton, looking at her with a curious kind of smile, "I
don't think I shall."

"How dreadfully positive and self-willed men are!" said Nina, drawing a
long breath, and pretending to laugh.

"There's so little of that in you ladies," said Clayton, "we have to do
it for both."

"So, then," said Nina, looking round with a half-laugh and half-blush,
"you _will_ persist?"

"Yes, you wicked little witch!" said Clayton, "since you challenge me, I
_will_." And, as he spoke, he passed his arm round Nina, firmly, and
fixed his eyes on hers. "Come, now, my little Baltimore oriole, have I
caught you?" And--

But we are making our chapter too long.



CHAPTER XXVI.

MILLY'S RETURN.


The visit of Clayton and his sister, like all other pleasant things, had
its end. Clayton was called back to his law-office and books, and Anne
went to make some summer visits previous to her going to Clayton's
plantation of Magnolia Grove, where she was to superintend his various
schemes for the improvement of his negroes.

Although it was gravely insisted to the last that there was no
_engagement_ between Nina and Clayton, it became evident enough to all
parties that only the name was wanting. The warmest possible friendship
existed between Nina and Anne; and, notwithstanding that Nina almost
every day said something which crossed Anne's nicely-adjusted views, and
notwithstanding Anne had a gentle infusion of that disposition to
sermonize which often exists in very excellent young ladies, still the
two got on excellently well together.

It is to be confessed that, the week after they left, Nina was rather
restless and lonesome, and troubled to pass her time. An incident, which
we shall relate, however, gave her something to think of, and opens a
new page in our story.

While sitting on the veranda, after breakfast, her attention was called
by various exclamations from the negro department, on the right side of
the mansion; and, looking out, to her great surprise, she saw Milly
standing amid a group, who were surrounding her with eager
demonstrations. Immediately she ran down the steps to inquire what it
might mean. Approaching nearer, she was somewhat startled to see that
her old friend had her head bound up and her arm in a sling: and, as she
came towards her, she observed that she seemed to walk with difficulty,
with a gait quite different from her usual firm, hilarious tread.

"Why, Milly!" she said, running towards her with eagerness, "what is the
matter?"

"Not much, chile, I reckon, now I's got home!" said Milly.

"Well, but what's the matter with your arm?"

"No great! Dat ar man shot me; but, praise de Lord, he didn't kill me! I
don't owe him no grudge; but I thought it wasn't right and fit that I
should be treated so; and so I just _put_!"

"Why, come in the house this minute!" said Nina, laying hold of her
friend, and drawing her towards the steps. "It's a shame! Come in,
Milly, come in! That man! I _knew_ he wasn't to be trusted. So, this is
the good place he found for you, is it?"

"Jes so," said Tomtit, who, at the head of a dark stream of young
juveniles, came after, with a towel hanging over one arm, and a knife
half cleaned in his hand, while Rose and Old Hundred, and several
others, followed to the veranda.

"Laws-a-me!" said Aunt Rose, "just to think on't! Dat's what 'tis for
old fam'lies to hire der niggers out to common people!"

"Well," said Old Hundred, "Milly was allers too high feelin'; held her
head up too much. An't no ways surprised at it!"

"Oh, go 'long, you old hominy-beetle!" said Aunt Rose. "Don't know
nobody dat holds up der head higher nor you does!"

Nina, after having dismissed the special train of the juveniles and
servants, began to examine into the condition of her friend. The arm had
evidently been grazed by a bullet, producing somewhat of a deep
flesh-wound, which had been aggravated by the heat of the weather and
the fatigue which she had undergone. On removing the bandage round her
head, a number of deep and severe flesh-cuts were perceived.

"What's all this?" said Nina.

"It's whar he hit me over de head! He was in drink, chile; he didn't
well know what he was 'bout!"

"What an abominable shame!" said Nina. "Look here," turning round to
Aunt Nesbit, "see what comes of hiring Milly out!"

"I am sure I don't know what's to be done!" said Aunt Nesbit, pitifully.

"Done! why, of course, these are to be bandaged and put up, in the
first place," said Nina, bustling about with great promptness, tearing
off bandages, and ringing for warm water. "Aunt Milly, I'll do them up
for you myself. I'm a pretty good nurse, when I set about it."

"Bless _you_, chile, but it seems good to get home 'mong friends!"

"Yes; and you won't go away again in a hurry!" said Nina, as she
proceeded rapidly with her undertaking, washing and bandaging the wound.
"There, now," she said, "you look something like; and now you shall lie
down in my room, and take a little rest!"

"Thank ye, honey, chile, but I'll go to my own room; 'pears like it's
more home like," said Milly. And Nina, with her usual energy, waited on
her there, closed the blinds, and spread a shawl over her after she had
lain down, and, after charging her two or three times to go to sleep and
be quiet, she left her. She could hardly wait to have her get through
her nap, so full was she of the matter, and so interested to learn the
particulars of her story.

"A pretty business, indeed!" she said to Aunt Nesbit. "We'll prosecute
those people, and make them pay dear for it."

"That will be a great expense," said Aunt Nesbit, apprehensively,
"besides the loss of her time."

"Well," said Nina, "I shall write to Clayton about it directly. I know
he'll feel just as I do. He understands the law, and all about those
things, and he'll know how to manage it."

"Everything will make expense!" said Aunt Nesbit, in a deplorable voice.
"I'm sure misfortunes never come single! Now, if she don't go back, I
shall lose her wages! And here's all the expenses of a lawsuit, besides!
I think she ought to have been more careful."

"Why, aunt, for pity's sake, you don't pretend that you wish Milly to go
back?"

"Oh, no, of course I don't; but, then, it's a pity. It will be a great
loss, every way."

"Why, aunt, you really talk as if you didn't think of anything but your
loss. You don't seem to think anything about what _Milly_ has had to
suffer!"

"Why, of course, I feel sorry for that," said Aunt Nesbit. "I wonder if
she is going to be laid up long. I wish, on the whole, I had hired out
one that wasn't quite so useful to me."

"Now, if that isn't just like her!" said Nina, in an indignant tone, as
she flung out of the room, and went to look softly in at Milly's door.
"Never can see, hear, or think of anything but herself, no matter what
happens! I wonder why Milly couldn't have belonged to me!"

After two or three hours' sleep, Milly came out of her room, seeming
much better. A perfectly vigorous physical system, and vital powers all
moving in the finest order, enabled her to endure much more than
ordinary; and Nina soon became satisfied that no material injury had
been sustained, and that in a few days she would be quite recovered.

"And now, Milly, do pray tell me where you have been," said Nina, "and
what this is all about."

"Why, you see, honey, I was hired to Mr. Barker, and dey said 'he was a
mighty nice man;' and so he was, honey, most times; but, den, you see,
honey, dere's some folks dere's _two_ men in 'em,--one is a good one and
t'oder is very bad. Well, dis yer was just dat sort. You see, honey, I
wouldn't go for to say dat he got drunk; but he was dat sort dat if he
took ever so little, it made him kind o' ugly and cross, and so dere
wan't no suiting him. Well, his wife, she was pretty far; and so he was,
too, 'cept in spots. He was one of dese yer streaked men, dat has
drefful ugly streaks; and, some of dem times, de Lord only knows what he
won't do! Well, you see, honey, I thought I was getting along right
well, at first, and I was mighty pleased. But dere was one day he came
home, and 'peared like dere couldn't nobody suit him. Well, you see, dey
had a gal dere, and she had a chile, and dis yer chile was a little
thing. It got playing with a little burnt stick, and it blacked one of
his clean shirts, I had just hung up,--for I'd been ironing, you see.
Just den he came along, and you never heerd a man go on so! I's heerd
bad talk afore, but I never heerd no sich! He swore he'd kill de chile;
and I thought my soul he would! De por little thing run behind me, and I
just kep him off on it, 'cause I knowed he wan't fit to touch it; and
den he turned on me, and he got a cow-hide, and he beat me over de head.
I thought my soul he'd kill me! But I got to de door, and shut de chile
out, and Hannah, she took it and run with it. But, bless you, it 'peared
like he was a tiger,--screeching, and foaming, and beating me! I broke
away from him, and run. He just caught de rifle,--he always kep one
loaded,--and shot at me, and de ball just struck my arm, and glanced off
again. Bless de Lord, it didn't break it. Dat ar was a mighty close run,
I can tell you! But I did run, 'cause, thinks I, dere an't no safety for
me in dat ar house; and, you see, I run till I got to de bush, and den I
got to whar dere was some free colored folks, and dey did it up, and kep
me a day or two. Den I started and came home, just as you told me to."

"Well," said Nina, "you did well to come home; and I tell you what, I'm
going to have that man prosecuted!"

"Oh, laws, no, Miss Nina! don't you goes doing nothing to him! His wife
is a mighty nice woman, and 'peared like he didn't rightly know what he
was 'bout."

"Yes, but, Milly, you ought to be willing, because it may make him more
careful with other people."

"Laws, Miss Nina, why, dere is some sense in dat; but I wouldn't do it
as bearing malice."

"Not at all," said Nina. "I shall write to Mr. Clayton, and take his
advice about it."

"He's a good man," said Milly. "He won't say nothing dat an't right. I
spect dat will do very well, dat ar way."

"Yes," said Nina, "such people must be taught that the law will take
hold of them. That will bring them to their bearings!"

Nina went immediately to her room, and dispatched a long letter to
Clayton, full of all the particulars, and begging his immediate
assistance.

Our readers, those who have been in similar circumstances, will not
wonder that Clayton saw in this letter an immediate call of duty to go
to Canema. In fact, as soon as the letter could go to him, and he could
perform a rapid horseback journey, he was once more a member of the
domestic circle.

He entered upon the case with great confidence and enthusiasm.

"It is a debt which we owe," he said, "to the character of our state,
and to the purity of our institutions, to prove the efficiency of the
law in behalf of that class of our population whose helplessness places
them more particularly under our protection. They are to us in the
condition of children under age; and any violation of their rights
should be more particularly attended to."

He went immediately to the neighboring town, where Milly had been
employed, and found, fortunately, that the principal facts had been
subject to the inspection of white witnesses.

A woman, who had been hired to do some sewing, had been in the next room
during the whole time; and Milly's flight from the house, and the man's
firing after her, had been observed by some workmen in the neighborhood.
Everything, therefore, promised well, and the suit was entered
forthwith.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE TRIAL.


"Well, now," said Frank Russel, to one or two lawyers with whom he was
sitting, in a side-room of the court-house at E., "look out for
breakers! Clayton has mounted his war-horse, and is coming upon us, now,
like leviathan from the rushes."

"Clayton is a good fellow," said one of them. "I like him, though he
doesn't talk much."

"Good?" said Russel, taking his cigar from his mouth; "why, as the
backwoodsmen say, he an't nothing else! He is a great seventy-four
pounder, charged to the muzzle with goodness! But, if he should be once
fired off, I'm afraid he'll carry everything out of the world with him.
Because, you see, abstract goodness doesn't suit our present mortal
condition. But it is a perfect godsend that he has such a case as this
to manage for his maiden plea, because it just falls in with his heroic
turn. Why, when I heard of it, I assure you I bestirred myself. I went
about, and got Smithers, and Jones, and Peters, to put off suits, so as
to give him fair field and full play. For, if he succeeds in this, it
may give him so good a conceit of the law, that he will keep on with
it."

"Why," said the other, "don't he like the law? What's the matter with
the law?"

"Oh, nothing, only Clayton has got one of those ethereal stomachs that
rise against almost everything in this world. Now, there isn't more than
one case in a dozen that he'll undertake. He sticks and catches just
like an old bureau drawer. Some conscientious crick in his back is
always taking him at a critical moment, and so he is knocked up for
actual work. But this defending a slave-woman will suit him to a T."

"She is a nice creature, isn't she?" said one of them.

"And belongs to a good old family," said another.

"Yes," said the third, "and I understand his lady-love has something to
do with the case."

"Yes," said Russel, "to be sure she has. The woman belongs to a family
connection of hers, I'm told. Miss Gordon is a spicy little puss--one
that would be apt to resent anything of that sort; and the Gordons are a
very influential family. He is sure to get the case, though I'm not
clear that the law is on his side, by any means."

"Not?" said the other barrister, who went by the name of Will Jones.

"No," said Russel. "In fact, I'm pretty clear it isn't. But that will
make no odds. When Clayton is thoroughly waked up, he is a whole team, I
can tell you. He'll take jury and judge along with him, fast enough."

"I wonder," said one, "that Barker didn't compound the matter."

"Oh, Barker is one of the stubbed sort. You know these middling kind of
people always have a spite against old families. He makes fight because
it is the Gordons, that's all. And there comes in his republicanism. He
isn't going to be whipped in by the Gordons. Barker has got Scotch blood
in him, and he'll hang on to the case like death."

"Clayton will make a good speech," said Jones.

"Speech? that he will!" said Russel. "Bless me, I could lay off a good
speech on it, myself. Because, you see, it really was quite an outrage;
and the woman is a presentable creature. And, then, there's the humane
dodge; that can be taken, beside all the chivalry part of defending the
helpless, and all that sort of thing. I wouldn't ask for a better thing
to work up into a speech. But Clayton will do it better yet, because he
is actually sincere in it. And, after all's said and done, there's a
good deal in that. When a fellow speaks in solemn earnest, he gives a
kind of weight that you can't easily get at any other way."

"Well, but," said one, "I don't understand you, Russel, why you think
the law isn't on Clayton's side. I'm sure it's a very clear case of
terrible abuse."

"Oh, certainly it is," said Russel, "and the man is a dolt, and a brute
beast, and ought to be shot, and so forth; but, then, he hasn't really
exceeded his legal limits, because, you see, the law gives to the hirer
all the rights of the master. There's no getting away from that, in my
opinion. Now, any _master_ might have done all that, and nobody could
have done anything about it. They _do_ do it, for that matter, if
they're bad enough, and nobody thinks of touching them."

"Well, I say," said Jones, "Russel, don't you think that's too bad?"

"Laws, yes, man; but the world is full of things that are too bad. It's
a bad kind of a place," said Russel, as he lit another cigar.

"Well, how do you think Clayton is going to succeed," said Jones, "if
the law is so clearly against him?"

"Oh, bless you, you don't know Clayton. He is a glorious mystifier. In
the first place, he mystifies himself. And, now, you mark me. When a
powerful fellow mystifies _himself_, so that he really gets himself
thoroughly on to his own side, there's nobody he _can't_ mystify. I
speak it in sober sadness, Jones, that the want of this faculty is a
great hindrance to me in a certain class of cases. You see I can put on
the pathetic and heroic, after a sort; but I don't take myself along
with me--I don't really believe myself. There's the trouble. It's this
power of self-mystification that makes what you call earnest men. If men
saw the real bread and butter and green cheese of life, as I see
it,--the hard, dry, primitive facts,--they couldn't raise such
commotions as they do."

"Russel, it always makes me uncomfortable to hear you talk. It seems as
if you didn't believe in anything!"

"Oh, yes, I do," said Russel; "I believe in the multiplication table,
and several other things of that nature at the beginning of the
arithmetic; and, also, that the wicked will do wickedly. But, as to
Clayton's splendid abstractions, I only wish him joy of them. But, then,
I shall believe him while I hear him talk; so will you; so will all the
rest of us. That's the fun of it. But the thing will be just where it
was before, and I shall find it so when I wake up to-morrow morning.
It's a pity such fellows as Clayton couldn't be used as we use big guns.
He is death on anything he fires at; and if he only would let me load
and point him, he and I together would make a firm that would sweep the
land. But here he comes, upon my word."

"Hallo, Clayton, all ready?"

"Yes," said Clayton, "I believe so. When will the case be called?"

"To-day, I'm pretty sure," said Russel.

Clayton was destined to have something of an audience in his first plea;
for, the Gordons being an influential and a largely-connected family,
there was quite an interest excited among them in the affair. Clayton
also had many warm personal friends, and his father, mother, and sister
were to be present; for, though residing in a different part of the
state, they were at this time on a visit in the vicinity of the town of
E.

There is something in the first essay of a young man, in any profession,
like the first launching of a ship, which has a never-ceasing hold on
human sympathies. Clayton's father, mother, and sister, with Nina, at
the time of the dialogue we have given, were sitting together in the
parlor of a friend's house in E., discussing the same event.

"I am sure that he will get the case," said Anne Clayton, with the
confidence of a generous woman and warm-hearted sister. "He has been
showing me the course of his argument, and it is perfectly irresistible.
Has he said anything to you about it, father?"

Judge Clayton had been walking up and down the room, with his hands
behind him, with his usual air of considerate gravity. Stopping short at
Anne's question, he said,--

"Edward's mind and mine work so differently, that I have not thought
best to embarrass him by any conference on the subject. I consider the
case an unfortunate one, and would rather he could have had some other."

"Why," said Anne, eagerly, "don't you think he'll gain it?"

"Not if the case goes according to law," said Judge Clayton. "But, then,
Edward has a great deal of power of eloquence, and a good deal of skill
in making a diversion from the main point; so that, perhaps, he may get
the case."

"Why," said Nina, "I thought cases were always decided according to law!
What else do they make laws for?"

"You are very innocent, my child," said Judge Clayton.

"But, father, the proof of the outrage is most abundant. Nobody could
pretend to justify it."

"Nobody will, child. But that's nothing to the case. The simple point
is, _did_ the man exceed his legal power? It's my impression he did
not."

"Father, what a horrible doctrine!" said Anne.

"I simply speak of what is," said Judge Clayton. "I don't pretend to
justify it. But Edward has great power of exciting the feelings, and
under the influence of his eloquence the case may go the other way, and
humanity triumph at the expense of law."

Clayton's plea came on in the afternoon, and justified the expectations
of his friends. His personal presence was good, his voice melodious, and
his elocution fine. But what impressed his auditors, perhaps, more than
these, was a certain elevation and clearness in the moral atmosphere
around him,--a gravity and earnestness of conviction which gave a secret
power to all he said. He took up the doctrine of the dependent relations
of life, and of those rules by which they should be guided and
restrained; and showed that while absolute power seems to be a necessary
condition of many relations of life, both reason and common sense
dictate certain limits to it. "The law guarantees to the parent, the
guardian, and the master, the right of enforcing obedience by
chastisement; and the reason for it is, that the subject being supposed
to be imperfectly developed, his good will, on the whole, be better
consulted by allowing to his lawful guardian this power."

"_The good of the subject_," he said, "is understood to be the
foundation of the right; but, when chastisement is inflicted without
just cause, and in a manner so inconsiderate and brutal as to endanger
the safety and well-being of the subject, the great foundation principle
of the law is violated. The act becomes perfectly lawless, and as
incapable of legal defence as it is abhorrent to every sentiment of
humanity and justice."

"He should endeavor to show," he said, "by full testimony, that the case
in question was one of this sort."

In examining witnesses Clayton showed great dignity and acuteness, and
as the feeling of the court was already prepossessed in his favor, the
cause evidently gathered strength as it went on. The testimony showed,
in the most conclusive manner, the general excellence of Milly's
character, and the utter brutality of the outrage which had been
committed upon her. In his concluding remarks, Clayton addressed the
jury in a tone of great elevation and solemnity, on the duty of those to
whom is intrusted the guardianship of the helpless.

"No obligation," he said, "can be stronger to an honorable mind, than
the obligation of _entire dependence_. The fact that a human being has
no refuge from our power, no appeal from our decisions, so far from
leading to careless security, is one of the strongest possible motives
to caution and to most exact care. The African race," he said, "had been
bitter sufferers. Their history had been one of wrong and cruelty,
painful to every honorable mind. We of the present day, who sustain the
relation of slave-holder," he said, "receive from the hands of our
fathers an awful trust. Irresponsible power is the greatest trial of
humanity, and if we do not strictly guard our own moral purity in the
use of it, we shall degenerate into despots and tyrants. No
consideration can justify us in holding this people in slavery an hour,
unless we make this slavery a guardian relation, in which our superior
strength and intelligence is made the protector and educator of their
simplicity and weakness."

"The eyes of the world are fastened upon us," he said. "Our continuing
in this position at all is, in many quarters, matter of severe
animadversion. Let us therefore show, by the spirit in which we
administer our laws, by the impartiality with which we protect their
rights, that the master of the helpless African is his best and truest
friend."

It was evident, as Clayton spoke, that he carried the whole of his
audience with him. The counsel on the other side felt himself much
straitened. There is very little possibility of eloquence in defending a
manifest act of tyranny and cruelty; and a man speaks, also, at great
disadvantage, who not only is faint-hearted in his own cause, but feels
the force of the whole surrounding atmosphere against him.

In fact, the result was, that the judge charged the jury, if they found
the chastisement to have been disproportionate and cruel, to give
verdict for the plaintiff. The jury, with little discussion, gave it
unanimously, accordingly, and so Clayton's first cause was won.

If ever a woman feels proud of her lover, it is when she sees him as a
successful public speaker; and Nina, when the case was over, stood
half-laughing, half-blushing, in a circle of ladies, who alternately
congratulated and rallied her on Clayton's triumph.

"Ah," said Frank Russel, "we understand the magic. The knight always
fights well when his lady-love looks down! Miss Gordon must have the
credit of this. She took all the strength out of the other side,--like
the mountain of loadstone, that used to draw all the nails out of the
ship."

"I am glad," said Judge Clayton, as he walked home with his wife, "I am
very glad that Edward has met with such success. His nature is so
fastidious that I have had my fears that he would not adhere to the law.
There are many things in it, I grant, which would naturally offend a
fastidious mind, and one which, like his, is always idealizing life."

"He has established a noble principle," said Mrs. Clayton.

"I wish he had," said the judge. "It would be a very ungrateful task,
but I could have shattered his argument all to pieces."

"Don't tell him so!" said Mrs. Clayton, apprehensively; "let him have
the comfort of it."

"Certainly I shall. Edward is a good fellow, and I hope, after a while,
he'll draw well in the harness."

Meanwhile, Frank Russel and Will Jones were walking along in another
direction.

"Didn't I tell you so?" said Russel. "You see, Clayton run Bedford down,
horse and foot, and made us all as solemn as a preparatory lecture."

"But he had a good argument," said Jones.

"To be sure he had--I never knew him to want that. He builds up splendid
arguments, always, and the only thing to be said of him, after it's all
over, is, it isn't so; it's no such thing. Barker is terrible wroth, I
can assure you. He swears he'll appeal the case. But that's no matter.
Clayton has had his day all the same. He is evidently waked up. Oh, he
has no more objection to a little popularity than you and I have, now;
and if we could humor him along, as we would a trout, we should have him
a first-rate lawyer, one of these days. Did you see Miss Gordon while he
was pleading? By George! she looked so handsome, I was sorry I hadn't
taken her myself!"

"Is she that dashing little flirting Miss Gordon that I heard of in New
York?"

"The very same."

"How came she to take a fancy to him?"

"She? How do I know? She's as full of streaks as a tulip; and her liking
for him is one of them. Did you notice her, Will?--scarf flying one way,
and little curls, and pennants, and streamers, and veil, the other! And,
then, those eyes! She's alive, every inch of her! She puts me in mind of
a sweet-brier bush, winking and blinking, full of dew-drops, full of
roses, and brisk little thorns, beside! Ah, she'll keep him awake!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.

MAGNOLIA GROVE.


Judge Clayton was not mistaken in supposing that his son would
contemplate the issue of the case he had defended with satisfaction. As
we have already intimated, Clayton was somewhat averse to the practice
of the law. Regard for the feelings of his father had led him to resolve
that he would at least give it a fair trial. His own turn of mind would
have led him to some work of more immediate and practical philanthropy.
He would have much preferred to retire to his own estate, and devote
himself, with his sister, to the education of his servants. But he felt
that he could not, with due regard to his father's feelings, do this
until he had given professional life a fair trial.

After the scene of the trial which we have described, he returned to his
business, and Anne solicited Nina to accompany her for a few weeks to
their plantation at Magnolia Grove, whither, as in duty bound, we may
follow her.

Our readers will therefore be pleased to find themselves transported to
the shady side of a veranda belonging to Clayton's establishment at
Magnolia Grove.

The place derived its name from a group of these beautiful trees, in the
centre of which the house was situated. It was a long, low cottage,
surrounded by deep verandas, festooned with an exuberance of those
climbing plants which are so splendid in the southern latitude.

The range of apartments which opened on the veranda where Anne and Nina
were sitting were darkened to exclude the flies; but the doors, standing
open, gave picture-like gleams of the interior. The white, matted
floors, light bamboo furniture, couches covered with glazed white linen,
and the large vases of roses disposed here and there, where the light
would fall upon them, presented a background of inviting coolness.

It was early in the morning, and the two ladies were enjoying the
luxury of a _tête-à-tête_ breakfast before the sun had yet dried the
heavy dews which give such freshness to the morning air. A small table
which stood between them was spread with choice fruits, arranged on
dishes in green leaves; a pitcher of iced milk, and a delicate little
_tête-à-tête_ coffee-service, dispensing the perfume of the most
fragrant coffee. Nor were they wanting those small, delicate biscuits,
and some of those curious forms of cornbread, of the manufacture of
which every southern cook is so justly proud. Nor should we omit the
central vase of monthly roses, of every shade of color, the daily
arrangement of which was the special delight of Anne's brown little
waiting-maid Lettice.

Anne Clayton, in a fresh white morning-wrapper, with her pure, healthy
complexion, fine teeth, and frank, beaming smile, looked like a queenly
damask rose. A queen she really was on her own plantation, reigning by
the strongest of all powers, that of love.

The African race have large ideality and veneration; and in no
drawing-room could Anne's beauty and grace, her fine manners and
carriage, secure a more appreciating and unlimited admiration and
devotion. The negro race, with many of the faults of children, unite
many of their most amiable qualities, in the simplicity and
confidingness with which they yield themselves up in admiration of a
superior friend.

Nina had been there but a day, yet could not fail to read in the eyes of
all how absolute was the reign which Anne held over their affections.

"How delightful the smell of this magnolia blossom!" said Nina. "Oh, I'm
glad that you waked me so early, Anne!"

"Yes," said Anne, "in this climate early rising becomes a necessary of
life to those who mean to have any real, positive pleasure in it, and
I'm one of the sort that must have _positive_ pleasures. Merely negative
rest, lassitude, and dreaming, are not enough for me. I want to feel
that I'm alive, and that I accomplish something."

"Yes, I see," said Nina, "you are not nominally like me, but really
housekeeper. What wonderful skill you seem to have! Is it possible that
you keep nothing locked up here?"

"No," said Anne, "nothing. I am released from the power of the keys,
thank fortune! When I first came here, everybody told me it was sheer
madness to try such a thing. But I told them that I was determined to do
it, and Edward upheld me in it: and you can see how well I've
succeeded."

"Indeed," said Nina, "you must have magic power, for I never saw a
household move on so harmoniously. All your servants seem to think, and
contrive, and take an interest in what they are doing. How did you
begin? What did you do?"

"Well," said Anne, "I'll tell you the history of the plantation. In the
first place, it belonged to mamma's uncle; and, not to spoil a story for
relation's sake, I must say he was a dissipated, unprincipled man. He
lived a perfectly heathen life here, in the most shocking way you can
imagine; and so the poor creatures who were under him were worse heathen
than he. He lived with a quadroon woman, who was violent tempered, and
when angry ferociously cruel; and so the servants were constantly
passing from the extreme of indulgence to the extreme of cruelty. You
can scarce have an idea of the state we found them in. My heart almost
failed me; but Edward said, 'Don't give it up, Anne; try the good that
is in them.' Well, I confess, it seemed very much as it seemed to me
when I was once at a water-cure establishment,--patients would be
brought in languid, pale, cold, half dead, and it appeared as if it
would kill them to apply cold water; but, somehow or other, there was a
vital power in them that reacted under it. Well, just so it was with my
servants. I called them all together, and I said to them, 'Now, people
have always said that you are the greatest thieves in the world; that
there is no managing you except by locking up everything from you. But,
I think differently. I have an idea that you can be trusted. I have been
telling people that they don't know how much good there is in you; and
now, just to show them what you can do, I'm going to begin and leave the
closets and doors, and everything, unlocked, and I shall not watch you.
You can take my things, if you choose; and if, after a time, I find that
you can't be trusted, I shall go back to the old way.' Well, my dear, I
wouldn't have believed myself that the thing would have answered so
well. In the first place, approbativeness is a stronger principle with
the African race than almost any other; they like to be thought well of.
Immediately there was the greatest spirit in the house, for the poor
creatures, having suddenly made the discovery that somebody thought they
were to be trusted, were very anxious to keep up the reputation. The
elder ones watched the younger; and, in fact, my dear, I had very little
trouble. The children at first troubled me going into my store-closet
and getting the cake, notwithstanding very spirited government on the
part of the mammies. So, I called my family in session again, and said
that their conduct had confirmed my good opinion; that I always knew
they could be trusted, and that my friends were astonished to hear how
well they did; but that I had observed that some of the children
probably had taken my cake. 'Now, you know,' said I, 'that I have no
objection to your having some. If any of you would enjoy a piece of
cake, I shall be happy to give it to them, but it is not agreeable to
have things in my closet fingered over--I shall therefore set a plate of
cake out every day, and anybody that wishes to take some I hope will
take that.' Well, my dear, my plate of cake stood there and dried. You
won't believe me, but in fact it wasn't touched."

"Well," said Nina, "I shouldn't think you could have had our Tomtit
here! Why, really this goes beyond the virtue of white children."

"My dear, it isn't such a luxury to white children to be thought well
of, and have a character. You must take that into account. It was a
taste of a new kind of pleasure, made attractive by its novelty."

"Yes," said Nina, "I have something in me which makes me feel this would
be the right way. I know it would be with me. There's nothing like
confidence. If a person trusts me, I'm bound."

"Yet," said Anne, "I can't get the ladies of my acquaintance to believe
in it. They see how I get along, but they insist upon it that it's some
secret magic, or art, of mine."

"Well, it is so," said Nina. "Such things are just like the
divining-rod; they won't work in every hand; it takes a real, generous,
warm-hearted woman, like you, Anne. But, could you carry your system
through your plantation, as well as your house?"

"The field-hands were more difficult to manage, on some accounts," said
Anne, "but the same principle prevailed with them. Edward tried all he
could to awaken self-respect. Now, I counselled that we should endeavor
to form some decent habits before we built the cabins over. I told him
they could not appreciate cleanliness and order. 'Very likely they
cannot,' he said, 'but we are not to suppose it;' and he gave orders
immediately for that pretty row of cottages you saw down at the
quarters. He put up a large bathing establishment. Yet he did not
enforce at first personal cleanliness by strict rules. Those who began
to improve first were encouraged and noticed; and, as they found this a
passport to favor, the thing took rapidly. It required a great while to
teach them how to be consistently orderly and cleanly even after the
first desire had been awakened, because it isn't every one that likes
neatness and order, who has the forethought and skill to secure it. But
there has been a steady progress in these respects. One curious
peculiarity of Edward's management gives rise to a good many droll
scenes. He has instituted a sort of jury trial among them. There are
certain rules for the order and well-being of the plantation, which all
agree to abide by; and, in all offences, the man is tried by a jury of
his peers. Mr. Smith, our agent, says that these scenes are sometimes
very diverting, but on the whole there's a good deal of shrewdness and
sense manifested; but he says that, in general, they incline much more
to severity than he would. You see the poor creatures have been so
barbarized by the way they have been treated in past times, that it has
made them hard and harsh. I assure you, Nina, I never appreciated the
wisdom of God, in the laws which he made for the Jews in the wilderness,
as I have since I've tried the experiment myself of trying to bring a
set of slaves out of barbarism. Now, this that I'm telling you is the
fairest side of the story. I can't begin to tell you the thousand
difficulties and trials which we have encountered in it. Sometimes I've
been almost worn out and discouraged. But, then, I think, if there is a
missionary work in this world, it is this."

"And what do your neighbors think about it?" said Nina.

"Well," said Anne, "they are all very polite, well-bred people, the
families with whom we associate; and such people, of course, would
never think of interfering, or expressing a difference of opinion, in
any very open way; but I have the impression that they regard it with
suspicion. They sometimes let fall words which make me think they do.
It's a way of proceeding which very few would adopt, because it is not a
money-making operation, by any means. The plantation barely pays for
itself, because Edward makes that quite a secondary consideration. The
thing which excites the most murmuring is our teaching them to read. I
teach the children myself two hours every day, because I think this
would be less likely to be an offence than if I should hire a teacher.
Mr. Smith teaches any of the grown men who are willing to take the
trouble to learn. Any man who performs a certain amount of labor can
secure to himself two or three hours a day to spend as he chooses; and
many do choose to learn. Some of the men and the women have become quite
good readers, and Clayton is constantly sending books for them. This,
I'm afraid, gives great offence. It is against the law to do it; but, as
unjust laws are sometimes lived down, we thought we would test the
practicability of doing this. There was some complaint made of our
servants, because they have not the servile, subdued air which commonly
marks the slave, but look, speak, and act, as if they respected
themselves. I'm sometimes afraid that we shall have trouble; but, then,
I hope for the best."

"What does Mr. Clayton expect to be the end of all this?" said Nina.

"Why," said Anne, "I think Edward has an idea that one of these days
they may be emancipated on the soil, just as the serfs were in England.
It looks to me rather hopeless, I must say; but he says the best way is
for some one to begin and set an example of what ought to be done, and
he hopes that in time it will be generally followed. It would, if all
men were like him; but there lies my doubt. The number of those who
would pursue such a disinterested course is very small. But who comes
there? Upon my word, if there isn't my particular admirer, Mr.
Bradshaw!"

As Anne said this, a very gentlemanly middle-aged man came up on
horseback, on the carriage-drive which passed in front of the veranda.
He bore in his hand a large bunch of different colored roses; and,
alighting, and delivering his horse to his servant, came up the steps
and presented it to Anne.

"There," said he, "are the first fruits of my roses, in the garden that
I started in Rosedale."

"Beautiful," said Anne, taking them. "Allow me to present to you Miss
Gordon."

"Miss Gordon, your most obedient," said Mr. Bradshaw, bowing
obsequiously.

"You are just in season, Mr. Bradshaw," said Anne, "for I'm sure you
couldn't have had your breakfast before you started; so sit down and
help us with ours."

"Thank you, Miss Anne," said Mr. Bradshaw, "the offer is too tempting to
be refused." And he soon established himself as a third at the little
table, and made himself very sociable.

"Well, Miss Anne, how do all your plans proceed--all your benevolences
and cares? I hope your angel ministrations don't exhaust you."

"Not at all, Mr. Bradshaw; do I look like it?"

"No, indeed! but such energy is perfectly astonishing to us all."

Nina's practised eye observed that Mr. Bradshaw had that particular
nervous, restless air, which belongs to a man who is charged with a
particular message, and finds himself unexpectedly blockaded by the
presence of a third person. So, after breakfast, exclaiming that she had
left her crochet-needle in her apartment, and resisting Anne's offer to
send a servant for it, by declaring that nobody could find it but
herself, she left the veranda. Mr. Bradshaw had been an old family
friend for many years, and stood with Anne almost on the easy footing of
a relation, which gave him the liberty of speaking with freedom. The
moment the door of the parlor was closed after Nina, he drew a chair
near to Anne, and sat down, with the unmistakable air of a man who is
going into a confidential communication.

"The fact is, my dear Miss Clayton," he said, "I have something on my
mind that I want to tell you; and I hope you will think my long
friendship for the family a sufficient warrant for my speaking on
matters which really belong chiefly to yourself. The fact is, my dear
Miss Clayton, I was at a small dinner-party of gentlemen, the other
day, at Colonel Grandon's. There was a little select set there, you
know,--the Howards, and the Elliotts, and the Howlands, and so on,--and
the conversation happened to turn upon your brother. Now, there was the
very greatest respect for him; they seemed to have the highest possible
regard for his motives; but still they felt that he was going on a very
dangerous course."

"Dangerous?" said Anne, a little startled.

"Yes, really dangerous; and I think so myself, though I, perhaps, don't
feel as strongly as some do."

"Really," said Anne, "I'm quite at a loss!"

"My dear Miss Anne, it's these improvements, you know, which you are
making.--Don't misapprehend me! Admirable, very admirable, in
themselves,--done from the most charming of motives, Miss Anne,--but
dangerous, dangerous!"

The solemn, mysterious manner in which these last words were pronounced
made Anne laugh; but when she saw the expression of real concern on the
face of her good friend, she checked herself, and said,--

"Pray, explain yourself. I don't understand you."

"Why, Miss Anne, it's just here. We appreciate your humanity, and your
self-denial, and your indulgence to your servants. Everybody is of
opinion that it's admirable. You are really quite a model for us all.
But, when it comes to teaching them to read and write, Miss Anne," he
said, lowering his voice, "I think you don't consider what a dangerous
weapon you are putting into their hands. The knowledge will spread on to
the other plantations; bright niggers will pick it up; for the very
fellows who are most dangerous are the very ones who will be sure to
learn."

"What if they should?" said Anne.

"Why, my dear Miss Anne," said he, lowering his voice, "the facilities
that it will afford them for combinations, for insurrections! You see,
Miss Anne, I read a story once of a man who made a cork leg with such
wonderful accuracy that it would walk of itself, and when he got it on
he couldn't stop its walking--it walked him to death--actually did!
Walked him up hill and down dale, till the poor man fell down exhausted;
and then it ran off with his body. And it's running with its skeleton to
this day, I believe."

And good-natured Mr. Bradshaw conceived such a ridiculous idea, at this
stage of his narrative, that he leaned back in his chair and laughed
heartily, wiping his perspiring face with a cambric pocket-handkerchief.

"Really, Mr. Bradshaw, it's a very amusing idea, but I don't see the
analogy," said Anne.

"Why, don't you see? You begin teaching niggers, and having reading and
writing, and all these things, going on, and they begin to open their
eyes, and look round and think; and they are having opinions of their
own, they won't take yours; and they want to rise directly. And if they
can't rise, why, they are all discontented; and there's the
what-'s-his-name to pay with them! Then come conspiracies and
insurrections, no matter how well you treat them; and, now, we South
Carolinians have had experience in this matter. You must excuse us, but
it is a terrible subject with us. Why, the leaders of that conspiracy,
all of them, were fellows who could read and write, and who had nothing
in the world to wish for, in the way of comfort, treated with every
consideration by their masters. It is a most melancholy chapter in human
nature. It shows that there is no trust to be placed in them. And, now,
the best way to get along with negroes, in my opinion, is to make them
happy; give them plenty to eat and drink and wear, and keep them amused
and excited, and don't work them too hard. I think it's a great deal
better than this kind of exciting instruction. Mind," he said, seeing
that Anne was going to interrupt him, "mind, now, I'd have religious
instruction, of course. Now, this system of oral instruction, teaching
them hymns and passages of Scripture suited to their peculiar condition,
it's just the thing; it isn't so liable to these dangers. I hope you'll
excuse me, Miss Anne, but the gentlemen really feel very serious about
these things; they find it's affecting their own negroes. You know,
somehow everything goes round from one plantation to another; and one of
them said that he had a very smart man who is married to one of your
women, and he actually found him with a spelling-book, sitting out under
a tree. He said if the man had had a rifle he couldn't have been more
alarmed; because the man was just one of those sharp, resolute fellows,
that, if he knew how to read and write, there's no knowing what he would
do. Well, now, you see how it is. He takes the spelling-book away, and
he tells him he will give him nine-and-thirty if he ever finds him with
it again. What's the consequence? Why, the consequence is, the man sulks
and gets ugly, and he has to sell him. That's the way it's operating."

"Well, then," said Anne, looking somewhat puzzled, "I will strictly
forbid our people to allow spelling-books to go out of their hands, or
to communicate any of these things off of the plantation."

"Oh, I tell you, Miss Anne, you can't do it. You don't know the passion
in human nature for anything that is forbidden. Now, I believe it's more
that than love of reading. You can't shut up such an experiment as you
are making here. It's just like a fire. It will blaze; it will catch on
all the plantations round; and I assure you it's matter of life and
death with us. You smile, Miss Anne, but it's so."

"Really, my dear Mr. Bradshaw, you could not have addressed me on a more
unpleasant subject. I am sorry to excite the apprehension of our
neighbors; but"--

"Give me leave to remind you, also, Miss Anne, that the teaching of
slaves to read and write is an offence to which a severe penalty is
attached by the laws."

"I thought," said Anne, "that such barbarous laws were a dead letter in
a Christian community, and that the best tribute I could pay to its
Christianity was practically to disregard them."

"By no means, Miss Anne, by no means! Why, look at us here in South
Carolina. The negroes are three to one over the whites now. Will it do
to give them the further advantages of education and facilities of
communication? You see, at once, it will not. Now, well-bred people, of
course, are extremely averse to mingling in the affairs of other
families; and had you merely taught a few favorites, in a private way,
as I believe people now and then do, it wouldn't have seemed so bad; but
to have regular provision for teaching school, and school-hours,--I
think, Miss Anne, you'll find it will result in unpleasant
consequences."

"Yes, I fancy," said Anne, raising herself up, and slightly coloring,
"that I see myself in the penitentiary for the sin and crime of teaching
children to read! I think, Mr. Bradshaw, it is time such laws were
disregarded. Is not that the only way in which many laws are repealed?
Society outgrows them, people disregard them, and so they fall away,
like the calyx from some of my flowers. Come, now, Mr. Bradshaw, come
with me to my school. I'm going to call it together," said Anne, rising,
and beginning to go down the veranda steps. "Certainly, my dear friend,
you ought not to judge without seeing. Wait a moment, till I call Miss
Gordon."

And Anne stepped across the shady parlor, and in a few moments
reappeared with Nina, both arrayed in white cape-bonnets. They crossed
to the right of the house, to a small cluster of neat cottages, each one
of which had its little vegetable garden, and its plot in front,
carefully tended, with flowers. They passed onward into a grove of
magnolias which skirted the back of the house, till they came to a
little building, with the external appearance of a small Grecian temple
the pillars of which were festooned with jessamine.

"Pray what pretty little place is this?" said Mr. Bradshaw.

"This is my school-room," said Anne.

Mr. Bradshaw repressed a whistle of astonishment; but the emotion was
plainly legible in his face, and Anne said, laughing,--

"A lady's school-room, you know, should be lady-like. Besides, I wish to
inspire ideas of taste, refinement, and self-respect, in these children.
I wish learning to be associated with the idea of elegance and beauty."

They ascended the steps, and entered a large room, surrounded on three
sides by blackboards. The floor was covered with white matting, and the
walls hung with very pretty pictures of French lithographs, tastefully
colored. In some places cards were hung up, bearing quotations of
Scripture. There were rows of neat desks, before each of which there was
a little chair.

Anne stepped to the door and rang a bell, and in about ten minutes the
patter of innumerable little feet was heard ascending the steps, and
presently they came streaming in--all ages, from four or five to
fifteen, and from the ebony complexion of the negro, with its
closely-curling wool, to the rich brown cheek of the quadroon, with
melancholy, lustrous eyes, and waving hair. All were dressed alike, in a
neat uniform of some kind of blue stuff, with white capes and aprons.

They filed in to the tune of one of those marked rhythmical melodies
which characterize the negro music, and, moving in exact time to the
singing, assumed their seats, which were arranged with regard to their
age and size. As soon as they were seated, Anne, after a moment's pause,
clapped her hands, and the whole school commenced a morning hymn, in
four parts, which was sung so beautifully that Mr. Bradshaw, quite
overpowered, stood with tears in his eyes. Anne nodded at Nina, and cast
on him a satisfied glance.

After that, there was a rapid review of the classes. There was reading,
spelling, writing on the blackboard, and the smaller ones were formed in
groups in two adjoining apartments, under the care of some of the older
girls. Anne walked about superintending the whole; and Nina, who saw the
scene for the first time, could not repress her exclamation of delight.
The scholars were evidently animated by the presence of company, and
anxious to do credit to the school and teacher, and the two hours passed
rapidly away. Anne exhibited to Mr. Bradshaw specimens of the
proficiency of her scholars in handwriting, and the drawing of maps, and
even the copying of small lithograph cards, which contained a series of
simple drawing-patterns. Mr. Bradshaw seemed filled with astonishment.

"'Pon my word," said he, "these are surprising! Miss Anne, you are a
veritable magician--a worker of miracles! You must have found Aaron's
rod, again! My dear madam, you run the risk of being burned for a
witch!"

"Very few, Mr. Bradshaw, know how much of beauty lies sealed up in this
neglected race," said Anne, with enthusiasm.

As they were walking back to the house, Mr. Bradshaw fell a little
behind, and his face wore a thoughtful and almost sad expression.

"Well," said Anne, looking round, "a penny for your thoughts!"

"Oh, I see, Miss Anne, you are for pursuing your advantage. I see
triumph in your eyes. But yet," he added, "after all this display, the
capability of your children makes me feel sad. To what end is it? What
purpose will it serve, except to unfit them for their inevitable
condition--to make them discontented and unhappy?"

"Well," replied Anne, "there ought to be no inevitable condition that
makes it necessary to dwarf a human mind. Any condition which makes a
full development of the powers that God has given us a misfortune,
cannot, certainly, be a healthy one--cannot be right. If a mind will
grow and rise, make way and let it. Make room for it, and cut down
everything that stands in the way!"

"That's terribly levelling doctrine, Miss Anne."

"Let it level, then!" said Anne. "I don't care! I come from the old
Virginia cavalier blood, and am not afraid of anything."

"But, Miss Anne, how do you account for it that the best-educated and
best-treated slaves--in fact, as you say, the most perfectly-developed
human beings--were those who got up the insurrection in Charleston?"

"How do you account for it," said Anne, "that the best-developed and
finest specimens of men have been those that have got up insurrections
in Italy, Austria, and Hungary?"

"Well, you admit, then," said Mr. Bradshaw, "that if you say A in this
matter, you've got to say B."

"Certainly," said Anne, "and when the time comes to say B, I'm ready to
say it. I admit, Mr. Bradshaw, it's a very dangerous thing to get up
steam, if you don't intend to let the boat go. But when the steam is
high enough, let her go, say I."

"Yes, but, Miss Anne, other people don't want to say so. The fact is, we
are not all of us ready to let the boat go. It's got all our property in
it--all we have to live on. If you are willing yourself, so far as your
people are concerned, they'll inevitably want liberty, and you say
you'll be ready to give it to them; but your fires will raise a steam on
our plantations, and we must shut down these escape-valves. Don't you
see? Now, for my part, I've been perfectly charmed with this school of
yours; but, after all, I can't help inquiring whereto it will grow."

"Well, Mr. Bradshaw," said Anne, "I'm obliged to you for the frankness
of this conversation. It's very friendly and sincere. I think, however,
I shall continue to compliment the good sense and gallantry of this
state, by ignoring its unworthy and unchristian laws. I will endeavor,
nevertheless, to be more careful and guarded as to the manner of what I
do; but, if I should be put into the penitentiary, Mr. Bradshaw, I hope
you'll call on me."

"Miss Anne, I beg ten thousand pardons for that unfortunate allusion."

"I think," said Anne, "I shall impose it as a penance upon you to stay
and spend the day with us, and then I'll show you my rose-garden. I have
great counsel to hold with you on the training of a certain pillar-rose.
You see, my design is to get you involved in my treason. You've already
come into complicity with it, by visiting my school."

"Thank you, Miss Anne; I should be only too much honored to be your
abettor in any treason you might meditate. But, really, I'm a most
unlucky dog! Think of my having four bachelor friends engaged to dine
with me, and so being obliged to decline your tempting offer! In fact, I
must take horse before the sun gets any hotter."

"There he goes, for a good-hearted creature as he is!" said Anne.

"Do you know," said Nina, laughing, "that I thought that he was some
poor, desperate mortal, who was on the verge of a proposal, this
morning, and I ran away like a good girl to give him a fair field?"

"Child," said Anne, "you are altogether too late in the day. Mr.
Bradshaw and I walked that little figure some time ago, and now he is
one of the most convenient and agreeable of friends."

"Anne, why in the world don't you get in love with somebody?" said Nina.

"My dear, I think there was something or other left out when I was made
up," said Anne, laughing, "but I never had much of a fancy for the lords
of creation. They do tolerably well till they come to be lovers; but
then they are perfectly unbearable. Lions in love, my dear, don't appear
to advantage, you know. I can't marry papa or Edward, and they have
spoiled me for everybody else. Besides, I'm happy, and what do I want of
any of them? Can't there be now and then a woman sufficient to herself?
But, Nina, dear, I'm sorry that our affairs here are giving offence and
making uneasiness."

"For my part," said Nina, "I should go right on. I have noticed that
people try all they can to stop a person who is taking an unusual
course; and when they are perfectly certain that they can't stop them,
then they turn round and fall in with them; and I think that will be the
case with you."

"They certainly will have an opportunity of trying," said Anne. "But
there is Dulcimer coming up the avenue with the letter-bag. Now, child,
I don't believe you appreciate half my excellence, when you consider
that I used to have all these letters that fall to you every mail."

At this moment Dulcimer rode up to the veranda steps, and deposited the
letter-bag in Anne's hands.

"What an odd name you have given him!" said Nina, "and what a
comical-looking fellow he is! He has a sort of waggish air that reminds
me of a crow."

"Oh, Dulcimer don't belong to our _régime_," said Anne. "He was the
prime minister and favorite under the former reign,--a sort of licensed
court jester,--and to this day he hardly knows how to do anything but
sing and dance; and so brother, who is for allowing the largest liberty
to everybody, imposes on him only such general and light tasks as suit
his roving nature. But there!" she said throwing a letter on Nina's lap,
and at the same time breaking the seal of one directed to herself. "Ah,
I thought so! You see, puss, Edward has some law business that takes him
to this part of the state forthwith. Was ever such convenient law
business? We may look for him to-night. Now there will be rejoicings!
How now, Dulcimer? I thought you had gone," she said, looking up, and
observing that personage still lingering in the shade of a tulip-tree
near the veranda.

"Please, Miss Anne, is Master Clayton coming home to-night?"

"Yes, Dulcimer; so now go and spread the news; for that's what you want,
I know."

And Dulcimer, needing no second suggestion, was out of sight in the
shrubbery in a few moments.

"Now, I'll wager," said Anne, "that creature will get up something or
other extraordinary for this evening."

"Such as what?" said Nina.

"Well, he is something of a troubadour, and I shouldn't wonder if he
should be cudgelling his brain at this moment for a song. We shall have
some kind of operatic performance, you may be sure."



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE TROUBADOUR.


About five o'clock in the evening, Nina and Anne amused themselves with
setting a fancy tea-table on the veranda. Nina had gathered a quantity
of the leaves of the live-oak, which she possessed a particular faculty
of plaiting in long, flat wreaths, and with these she garlanded the
social round table, after it had been draped in its snowy damask, while
Anne was busy arranging fruit in dishes with vine-leaves.

"Lettice will be in despair, to-night," said Anne, looking up, and
smiling at a neatly-dressed brown mulatto girl, who stood looking on
with large, lustrous eyes; "her occupation's gone!"

"Oh, Lettice must allow me to show my accomplishments," said Nina.
"There are some household arts that I have quite a talent for. If I had
lived in what-'s-its-name, there, that they used to tell about in old
times--Arcadia--I should have made a good housekeeper; for nothing suits
me better than making wreaths, and arranging bouquets. My nature is
dressy. I want to dress everything. I want to dress tables, and dress
vases, and adorn dishes, and dress handsome women, Anne! So look out for
yourself, for when I have done crowning the table, I shall crown you!"

As Nina talked, she was flitting hither and thither, taking up and
laying down flowers and leaves, shaking out long sprays, and fluttering
from place to place, like a bird.

"It's a pity," said Anne, "that life can't be all Arcadia!"

"Oh, yes!" said Nina. "When I was a child, I remember there was an old
torn translation of a book called Gesner's Idyls, that used to lie about
the house; and I used to read in it most charming little stories about
handsome shepherds, dressed in white, playing on silver and ivory
flutes; and shepherdesses, with azure mantles and floating hair; and
people living on such delightful things as cool curds and milk, and
grapes, and strawberries, and peaches; and there was no labor, and no
trouble, and no dirt, and no care. Everybody lived like the flowers and
the birds,--growing and singing, and being beautiful. Ah, dear, I have
never got over wanting it since! Why couldn't it be so?"

"It's a thousand pities!" said Anne. "But what constant fight we have to
maintain for order and beauty!"

"Yes," said Nina; "and, what seems worse, beauty itself becomes dirt in
a day. Now, these roses that we are arranging, to-morrow or next day we
shall call them _litter_, and wish somebody would sweep them out of the
way. But I never want to to be the one to do that. I want some one to
carry away the withered flowers, and wash the soiled vases; but I want
to be the one to cut the fresh roses every day. If I were in an
association, I should take that for my part. I'd arrange all their
flowers through the establishment, but I should stipulate expressly that
I should do no clearing up."

"Well," said Anne, "it's really a mystery to me what a constant downward
tendency there is to everything--how everything is gravitating back, as
you may say, into disorder. Now, I think a cleanly, sweet, tasteful
house--and, above all, table--are among the highest works of art. And
yet, how everything attacks you when you set out to attain it--flies,
cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes! And, then, it seems to be the fate of all
human beings, that they are constantly wearing out and disarranging and
destroying all that is about them."

"Yes," said Nina, "I couldn't help thinking of that when we were at the
camp-meeting. The first day, I was perfectly charmed. Everything was so
fresh, so cool, so dewy and sweet; but, by the end of the second day,
they had thrown egg-shells, and pea-pods, and melon-rinds, and all sorts
of abominations, around among the tents, and it was really shocking to
contemplate."

"How disgusting!" said Anne.

"Now, I'm one of that sort," said Nina, "that love order dearly, but
don't want the trouble of it myself. My prime minister, Aunt Katy,
thanks to mamma, is an excellent hand to keep it, and I encourage her in
it with all my heart; so that any part of the house where _I_ don't go
much is in beautiful order. But, bless me, I should have to be made over
again before I could do like Aunt Nesbit! Did you ever see her take a
pair of gloves or a collar out of a drawer? She gets up, and walks _so_
moderately across the room, takes the key from under the napkin on the
right-hand side of the bureau, and unlocks the drawer, as gravely as
though she was going to offer a sacrifice. Then, if her gloves are at
the back side, underneath something else, she takes out one thing after
another, so moderately; and then, when the gloves or collar are found,
lays everything back exactly where it was before, locks the drawer, and
puts the key back under the towel. And all this she'd do if anybody was
dying, and she had to go for the doctor! The consequence is, that her
room, her drawers, and everything, are a standing sermon to me. But I
think I've got to be a much calmer person than I am, before this will
come to pass in my case. I'm always in such a breeze and flutter! I fly
to my drawer, and scatter things into little whirlwinds; ribbons, scarf,
flowers--everything flies out in a perfect rainbow. It seems as if I
_should die_ if I didn't get the thing I wanted that minute; and, after
two or three such attacks on a drawer, then comes repentance, and a long
time of rolling up and arranging, and talking to little naughty Nina,
who always promises herself to keep better order in future. But, my
dear, she doesn't do it, I'm sorry to say, as yet, though perhaps there
are hopes of her in future. Tell me, Anne,--you are not stiff and
'_poky_,' and yet you seem to be endowed with the gift of order. How did
it come about?"

"It was not natural to me, I assure you," said Anne. "It was a second
nature, drilled into me by mamma."

"Mamma! ah, indeed!" said Nina, giving a sigh. "Then you are very happy!
But, come, now, Lettice, I've done with all these; take them away. My
tea-table has risen out of them like the world out of chaos," she said,
as she swept together a heap of rejected vines, leaves, and flowers.
"Ah! I always have a repenting turn, when I've done arranging vases, to
think I've picked so many more than were necessary! The poor flowers
droop their leaves, and look at me reproachfully, as if they said, 'You
didn't want us--why couldn't you have left us alone?'"

"Oh," said Anne, "Lettice will relieve you of that. She has great
talents in the floral line, and out of these she will arrange quantities
of bouquets," she said, as Lettice, blushing perceptibly through her
brown skin, stooped and swept up the rejected flowers into her apron.

"What have we here?" said Anne, as Dulcimer, attired with most unusual
care, came bowing up the steps, presenting a note on a waiter. "Dear me,
how stylish! gilt-edged paper, smelling of myrrh and ambergris!" she
continued, as she broke the seal. "What's this?


     "'The Magnolia Grove troubadours request the presence of Mr. and
     Miss Clayton and Miss Gordon at an operatic performance, which will
     be given this evening, at eight o'clock, in the grove.'


"Very well done! I fancy some of my scholars have been busy with the
writing. Dulcimer, we shall be happy to come."

"Where upon earth did he pick up those phrases?" said Nina, when he had
departed.

"Oh," said Anne, "I told you that he was prime favorite of the former
proprietor, who used to take him with him wherever he travelled, as
people sometimes will a pet monkey; and, I dare say, he has lounged
round the lobbies of many an opera-house. I told you that he was going
to get up something."

"What a delightful creature he must be!" said Nina.

"Perhaps so, to you," said Anne; "but he is a troublesome person to
manage. He is as wholly destitute of any moral organs as a jackdaw. One
sometimes questions whether these creatures have any more than a
reflected mimicry of a human soul--such as the German stories imagine in
Cobolds and water spirits. All I can see in Dulcimer is a kind of
fun-loving animal. He don't seem to have any moral nature."

"Perhaps," said Nina, "his moral nature is something like the
cypress-vine seeds which I planted three months ago, and which have just
come up."

"Well, I believe Edward expects to see it along, one of these days,"
said Anne. "His faith in human nature is unbounded. I think it one of
his foibles, for my part; but yet I try to have hopes of Dulcimer, that
some day or other he will have some glimmering perceptions of the
difference between a lie and the truth, and between his own things and
other people's. At present, he is the most lawless marauder on the
place. He has been so used to having his wit to cover a multitude of
sins, that it's difficult for a scolding to make any impression on him.
But, hark! isn't that a horse? Somebody is coming up the avenue."

Both listened.

"There are two," said Nina.

Just at this instant Clayton emerged to view, accompanied by another
rider, who, on nearer view, turned out to be Frank Russel. At the same
instant, the sound of violins and banjos was heard, and, to Anne's
surprise, a gayly-dressed procession of servants and children began to
file out from the grove, headed by Dulcimer and several of his
associates, playing and singing.

"There," said Anne, "didn't I tell you so. There's the beginning of
Dulcimer's operations."

The air was one of those inexpressibly odd ones whose sharp, metallic
accuracy of rhythm seems to mark the delight which the negro race feel
in that particular element of music. The words, as usual, amounted to
very little. Nina and Anne could hear,--


     "Oh, I see de mas'r a comin' up de track,
     His horse's heels do clatter, with a clack, clack, clack!"


The idea conveyed in these lines being still further carried out by the
regular clapping of hands at every accented note, while every voice
joined in the chorus:--


     "Sing, boys, sing; de mas'r is come!
     Give three cheers for de good man at home!
                Ho! he! ho! Hurra! hurra!"


Clayton acknowledged the compliment, as he came up, by bowing from his
horse; and the procession arranged itself in a kind of lane, through
which he and his companion rode up to the veranda.

"'Pon my word," said Frank Russel, "I wasn't prepared for such a
demonstration. Quite a presidential reception!"

When Clayton came to the steps and dismounted, a dozen sprang eagerly
forward to take his horse, and in the crowding round for a word of
recognition the order of the procession was entirely broken. After many
kind words, and inquiries in every direction for a few moments, the
people quietly retired, leaving their master to his own enjoyments.

"You really have made quite a triumphal entry," said Nina.

"Dulcimer always exhausts himself on all such occasions," said Anne, "so
that he isn't capable of any further virtue for two or three weeks."

"Well, take him while he is in flower, then!" said Russel. "But how
perfectly cool and inviting you look. Really, quite idyllic! We must
certainly have got into a fairy queen's castle!"

"But you must show us somewhere to shake the dust off of our feet," said
Clayton.

"Yes," said Anne, "there's Aunt Praw waiting to show you your room. Go
and make yourselves as fascinating as you can."

In a little while the gentlemen returned, in fresh white linen suits,
and the business of the tea-table proceeded with alacrity.

"Well, now," said Anne, after tea, looking at her watch, "I must inform
the company that we are all engaged to the opera this evening."

"Yes," said Nina, "the Magnolia Grove Opera House is to be opened, and
the Magnolia Troubadour Troupe to appear for the first time."

At this moment they were surprised by the appearance, below the veranda,
of Dulcimer, with three of his colored associates, all wearing white
ribbons in their button-holes, and carrying white wands tied with satin
ribbon, and gravely arranging themselves two and two on each side of the
steps.

"Why, Dulcimer, what's this?" said Clayton.

Dulcimer bowed with the gravity of a raven, and announced that the
committee had come to wait on the gentlemen and ladies to their seats.

"Oh," said Anne, "we were not prepared for our part of the play!"

"What a pity I didn't bring my opera-hat!" said Nina. "Never mind," she
said, snatching a spray of multiflora rose, "this will do." And she gave
it one twist round her head, and her toilet was complete.

"'Pon my word, that's soon done!" said Frank Russel, as he watched the
coronet of half-opened buds and roses.

"Yes," said Nina. "Sit down, Anne; I forgot your crown. There, wait a
moment; let me turn this leaf a little, and weave these buds in
here--so. Now you are a Baltimore belle, to be sure! Now for the
procession."

The opera-house for the evening was an open space in the grove behind
the house. Lamps had been hung up in the trees, twinkling on the glossy
foliage. A sort of booth or arbor was built of flowers and leaves at one
end, to which the party were marshalled in great state. Between two
magnolia-trees a white curtain was hung up; and the moment the family
party made their appearance, a chorus of voices from behind the scenes
began an animated song of welcome.

As soon as the party was seated, the curtain rose, and the chorus,
consisting of about thirty of the best singers, males and females, came
forward, dressed in their best holiday costume, singing, and keeping
step as they sung, and bearing in their hands bouquets, which, as they
marched round the circle, they threw at the feet of the company. A
wreath of orange-blossoms was significantly directed at Nina, and fell
right into her lap.

"These people seem to have had their eyes open. Coming events cast their
shadows before!" said Russel.

After walking around, the chorus seated themselves at the side of the
area, and the space behind was filled up with a dense sea of heads--all
the servants and plantation hands.

"I declare," said Russel, looking round on the crowd of dark faces,
"this sable cloud is turning a silver lining with a witness! How neat
and pretty that row of children look!" And, as they spoke, a procession
of the children of Anne's school came filing round in the same manner
that the other had done, singing their school-songs, and casting flowers
before the company. After this, they seated themselves on low seats in
front of all the others.

Dulcimer and four of his companions now came into the centre.

"There," said Anne, "Dulcimer is going to be the centrepiece. He is the
troubadour."

Dulcimer, in fact, commenced a kind of recitative, to the tune "Mas'r's
in the cold, cold ground." After singing a few lines, the quartet took
up the chorus, and their voices were really magnificent.

"Why," said Nina, "it seems to me they are beginning in a very doleful
way."

"Oh," said Anne, "wait a minute. This is the old mas'r, I fancy. We
shall soon hear the tune changed."

And accordingly, Dulcimer, striking into a new tune, began to rehearse
the coming in of a new master.

"There," said Anne, "now for a catalogue of Edward's virtues! They must
all be got in, rhyme or no rhyme."

Dulcimer kept on rehearsing. Every four lines, the quartet struck in
with the chorus, which was then repeated by the whole company, clapping
their hands and stamping their feet to the time, with great vivacity.

"Now, Anne, is coming your turn," said Nina, as Dulcimer launched out,
in most high-flown strains, on the beauty of Miss Anne.

"Yes," said Clayton, "the catalogue of your virtues will be something
extensive."

"I shall escape, at any rate," said Nina.

"Don't you be too sure," said Anne. "Dulcimer has had his eye on you
ever since you've been here."

And true enough, after the next stanza, Dulcimer assumed a peculiarly
meaning expression.

"There," said Anne, "do see the wretch flirting himself out like a saucy
crow! It's coming! Now look out, Nina!"

With a waggish expression from the corner of his downcast eyes, he
sung,--


     "Oh, mas'r is often absent--do you know where he goes?
     He goes to North Carolina, for de North Carolina rose."


"There you are!" said Frank Russel. "Do you see the grin going round?
What a lot of ivory! They are coming in this chorus, strong!"

And the whole assembly, with great animation, poured out on the
chorus:--


     "Oh, de North Carolina rose!
     Oh, de North Carolina rose!
     We wish good luck to mas'r,
     With de North Carolina rose!"


This chorus was repeated with enthusiasm, clapping of hands, and
laughing.

"I think the North Carolina rose ought to rise!" said Russel.

"Oh, hush!" said Anne; "Dulcimer hasn't done yet."

Assuming an attitude, Dulcimer turned and sang to one of his associates
in the quartet,--


     "Oh, I see two stars arising,
     Up in de shady skies!"


To which the other responded, with animation:--


     "No, boy, you are mistaken;
     'Tis de light of her fair eyes!"


"That's _thorough_, at any rate!" said Russel. While Dulcimer went on:--


     "Oh, I see two roses blowing,
     Togeder on one bed!"


And the other responded:--


     "No, boy, you are mistaken;
     Dem are her cheeks so red!"


"And they are getting redder!" said Anne, tapping Nina with her fan.
"Dulcimer is evidently laying out his strength upon you, Nina!"

Dulcimer went on singing:--


     "Oh, I see a grape-vine running,
     With its curly rings, up dere!"


And the response,--


     "No, boy, you are mistaken:
     'Tis her rings of curly hair!"


And the quartet here struck up:--


     "Oh, she walks on de veranda,
       And she laughs out of de door,
     And she dances like de sunshine
       Across de parlor floor.
     Her little feet, dey patter,
       Like de rain upon de flowers;
     And her laugh is like sweet waters,
       Through all de summer hours!"


"Dulcimer has had help from some of the muses along there!" said
Clayton, looking at Anne.

"Hush!" said Anne; "hear the chorus."


     "Oh, de North Carolina rose!
     Oh, de North Carolina rose!
     Oh, plant by our veranda
     De North Carolina rose!"


This chorus was repeated with three times three, and the whole assembly
broke into a general laugh, when the performers bowed and retired, and
the white sheet, which was fastened by a pulley to the limb of a tree,
was let down again.

"Come, now, Anne, confess that wasn't all Dulcimer's work!" said
Clayton.

"Well, to tell the truth," said Anne, "'twas got up between him and
Lettice, who has a natural turn for versifying, quite extraordinary. If
I chose to encourage and push her on, she might turn out a second
Phillis Wheatly."

Dulcimer and his coadjutors now came round, bearing trays with lemonade,
cake, sliced pine-apples, and some other fruits.

"Well, on my word," said Russel, "this is quite prettily got up!"

"Oh, I think," said Clayton, "the African race evidently are made to
excel in that department which lies between the sensuous and the
intellectual--what we call the elegant arts. These require rich and
abundant animal nature, such as they possess; and, if ever they become
highly civilized, they will excel in music, dancing, and elocution."

"I have often noticed," said Anne, "in my scholars, how readily they
seize upon anything which pertains to the department of music and
language. The negroes are sometimes laughed at for mispronouncing words,
which they will do in a very droll manner; but it's only because they
are so taken with the sounds of words that they will try to pronounce
beyond the sphere of their understanding, like bright children."

"Some of these voices here are perfectly splendid," said Russel.

"Yes," said Anne, "we have one or two girls on the place who have that
rich contralto voice which, I think, is oftener to be found among them
than among whites."

"The Ethiopian race is a slow-growing plant, like the aloe," said
Clayton; "but I hope, some of these days, they'll come into flower; and
I think, if they ever do, the blossoming will be gorgeous."

"That will do for a poet's expectation," said Russel.

The performance now gave place to a regular dancing-party, which went on
with great animation, yet decorum.

"Religious people," said Clayton, "who have instructed the negroes, I
think have wasted a great deal of their energy in persuading them to
give up dancing and singing songs. I try to regulate the propensity.
There is no use in trying to make the negroes into Anglo-Saxons any more
than making a grape-vine into a pear-tree. I train the grape-vine."

"Behold," said Russel, "the successful champion of negro rights!"

"Not so very successful," said Clayton. "I suppose you've heard my case
has been appealed; so that my victory isn't so certain, after all."

"Oh," said Nina, "yes, it must be! I'm sure no person of common sense
would decide any other way; and your own father is one of the judges,
too."

"That will only make him the more careful not to be influenced in my
favor," said Clayton.

The dancing now broke up, and the servants dispersed in an orderly
manner, and the company returned to the veranda, which lay pleasantly
checkered with the light of the moon falling through trailing vines. The
air was full of those occasional pulsations of fragrance which rise in
the evening from flowers.

"Oh, how delightful," said Nina, "this fragrance of the honeysuckles! I
have a perfect passion for perfumes! They seem to me like spirits in the
air."

"Yes," said Clayton, "Lord Bacon says, 'that the breath of flowers comes
and goes in the air, like the warbling of music.'"

"Did Lord Bacon say that?" said Nina, in a tone of surprise.

"Yes; why not?" said Clayton.

"Oh, I thought he was one of those musty old philosophers who never
thought of anything pretty!"

"Well," said Clayton, "then to-morrow let me read you his essay on
gardens, and you'll find musty old philosophers often do think of pretty
things."

"It was Lord Bacon," said Anne, "who always wanted musicians playing in
the next room while he was composing."

"He did?" said Nina. "Why, how delightful of him! I think I should like
to hear some of his essays."

"There are some minds," said Clayton, "large enough to take in
everything. Such men can talk as prettily of a ring on a lady's finger,
as they can wisely on the courses of the planets. Nothing escapes them."

"That's the kind of man _you_ ought to have for a lover, Anne," said
Nina, laughing; "you have weight enough to risk it. I'm such a little
whisk of thistle-down that it would annihilate me. Such a ponderous
weight of wisdom attached to me would drag me under water, and drown me.
I should let go my line, I think, if I felt such a fish bite."

"You are tolerably safe in our times," said Clayton. "Nature only sends
such men once in a century or two. They are the road-makers for the rest
of the world. They are quarry-masters, that quarry out marble enough for
a generation to work up."

"Well," said Nina, "I shouldn't want to be a quarry-master's wife. I
should be afraid that some of his blocks would fall on me."

"Why, wouldn't you like it, if he were wholly your slave?" said Frank
Russel. "It would be like having the genius of the lamp at your feet."

"Ah," said Nina, "if _I_ could keep him my slave; but I'm afraid he'd
outwit me at last. Such a man would soon put _me_ up on a shelf for a
book read through. I've seen some great men,--I mean great for our
times,--and they didn't seem to care half as much for their wives as
they did for a newspaper."

"Oh," said Anne, "that's past praying for, with any husband. The
newspaper is the standing rival of the American lady. It must be a warm
lover that can be attracted from _that_, even before he is secure of his
prize."

"You are severe, Miss Anne," said Russel.

"She only speaks the truth. You men are a bad set," said Nina. "You are
a kind of necessary evil, half civilized at best. But if ever _I_ set up
an establishment, I shall insist upon taking precedence of the
newspaper."



CHAPTER XXX.

TIFF'S GARDEN.


Would the limits of our story admit of it, we should gladly linger many
days in the shady precincts of Magnolia Grove, where Clayton and Nina
remained some days longer, and where the hours flew by on flowery feet;
but the inevitable time and tide, which wait for no man, wait not for
the narrator. We must therefore say, in brief, that when the visit was
concluded, Clayton accompanied Nina once more to Canema, and returned to
the circle of his own duties.

Nina returned to her own estate, with views somewhat chastened and
modified by her acquaintance with Anne. As Clayton supposed, the
influence of a real noble purpose in life had proved of more weight than
exhortations, and she began to feel within herself positive aspirations
for some more noble and worthy life than she had heretofore led. That
great, absorbing feeling which determines the whole destiny of woman's
existence, is in its own nature an elevating and purifying one. It is
such even when placed on an unworthy object, and much more so when the
object is a worthy one. Since the first of their friendship, Clayton had
never officiously sought to interfere with the growth and development of
Nina's moral nature. He had sufficient sagacity to perceive that,
unconsciously to herself, a deeper power of feeling, and a wider range
of thought, was opening within her; and he left the development of it to
the same quiet forces which swell the rosebud and guide the climbing
path of the vine. Simply and absolutely he lived his own life before
her, and let hers alone; and the power of his life therefore became
absolute.

A few mornings after her return, she thought that she would go out and
inquire after the welfare of our old friend Tiff. It was a hazy, warm,
bright summer morning, and all things lay in that dreamy stillness,
that trance of voluptuous rest, which precedes the approach of the
fiercer heats of the day. Since her absence there had been evident
improvement in Tiff's affairs. The baby, a hearty, handsome little
fellow, by dint of good nursing, pork-sucking, and lying out doors in
the tending of breezes and zephyrs, had grown to be a creeping creature,
and followed Tiff around, in his garden ministrations, with
unintelligible chatterings of delight.

At the moment when Nina rode up, Tiff was busy with his morning work in
the garden.

His appearance, it is to be confessed, was somewhat peculiar. He usually
wore, in compliment to his nursing duties, an apron in front; but, as
his various avocations pressed hard upon his time, and as his own
personal outfit was ever the last to be attended to, Tiff's nether
garments had shown traces of that frailty which is incident to all human
things.

"Bress me," he said to himself, that morning, as he with difficulty
engineered his way into them, "holes here, and holes dar! Don't want but
two holes in my breeches, and I's got two dozen! Got my foot through de
wrong place! Por old Tiff! Laws a massy! wish I could get hold of some
of dem dar clothes dey were telling 'bout at de camp-meeting, dey wore
forty years in de wilderness! 'Mazing handy dem ar times was! Well, any
how, I'll tie an apron behind, and anoder in front. Bress de Lord, I's
got aprons, any how! I must make up a par of breeches, some of dese yer
days, when de baby's teeth is all through, and Teddy's clothes don't
want no mending, and de washing is done, and dese yer weeds stops a
growing in de garden. Bress if I know what de Lord want of so many
weeds. 'Pears like dey comes just to plague us; but, den, we doesn't
know. May be dere's some good in 'em. We doesn't know but a leetle, no
way."

Tiff was sitting on the ground weeding one of his garden-beds, when he
was surprised by the apparition of Nina on horse-back coming up to the
gate. Here was a dilemma, to be sure! No cavalier had a more absolute
conception of the nature of politeness, and the claims of beauty, rank,
and fashion, than Tiff. Then, to be caught sitting on the ground, with a
blue apron on in front, and a red one on behind, was an appalling
dilemma! However, as our readers may have discovered, Tiff had that
essential requisite of good breeding, the moral courage to face an
exigency; and, wisely considering that a want of cordiality is a greater
deficiency than the want of costume, he rose up, without delay, and
hastened to the gate to acknowledge the honor.

"Lord bress yer sweet face, Miss Nina!" he said, while the breezes
flapped and fluttered his red and blue sails, "Old Tiff's 'mazin' happy
to see you. Miss Fanny's well, thank ye; and Mas'r Teddy and the baby
all doing nicely. Bress de Lord, Miss Nina, be so good as to get down
and come in. I's got some nice berries dat I picked in de swamp, and
Miss Fanny'll be proud to have you take some. You see," he said,
laughing heartily, and regarding his peculiar costume, "I wasn't looking
for any quality long dis yer time o' day, so I just got on my old
clothes."

"Why, Uncle Tiff, I think they become you immensely!" said Nina. "Your
outfit is really original and picturesque. You're not one of the people
that are ashamed of their work, are you, Uncle Tiff? So, if you just
lead my horse to that stump, I'll get down."

"Laws, no, Miss Nina!" said Tiff, as with alacrity he obeyed her orders.
"Spects, if Old Tiff was 'shamed of work, he'd have a heap to be 'shamed
of; 'cause it's pretty much all work with him. 'Tis so!"

"Tomtit pretended to come with me," said Nina, as she looked round; "but
he lagged behind by the brook to get some of those green grapes, and I
suspect it's the last I shall see of him. So, Tiff, if you please to tie
Sylphine in the shade, I'll go in to see Miss Fanny."

And Nina tripped lightly up the walk, now bordered on either side by
china asters and marigolds, to where Fanny was standing bashfully in the
door waiting for her. In her own native woods this child was one of the
boldest, freest, and happiest of romps. There was scarce an eligible
tree which she could not climb, or a thicket she had not explored. She
was familiar with every flower, every bird, every butterfly, of the
vicinity. She knew precisely when every kind of fruit would ripen, and
flower would blossom; and was so _au fait_ in the language of birds and
squirrels, that she might almost have been considered one of the
fraternity. Her only companion and attendant, Old Tiff, had that quaint,
fanciful, grotesque nature which is the furthest possible removed from
vulgarity; and his frequent lectures on proprieties and
conventionalities, his long and prolix narrations of her ancestral
glories and distinctions, had succeeded in infusing into her a sort of
childish consciousness of dignity, while at the same time it inspired
her with a bashful awe of those whom she saw surrounded with the actual
insignia and circumstances of position and fortune. After all, Tiff's
method of education, instinctive as it was, was highly philosophical,
since a certain degree of self-respect is the nurse of many virtues, and
a shield from many temptations. There is also something, perhaps, in the
influence of descent. Fanny certainly inherited from her mother a more
delicate organization than generally attends her apparent station in
life. She had, also, what perhaps belongs to the sex, a capability of
receiving the mysteries and proprieties of dress; and Nina, as she stood
on the threshold of the single low room, could not but be struck with
the general air of refinement which characterized both it and its little
mistress. There were flowers from the swamps and hedges arranged with
care and taste; feathers of birds, strings of eggs of different color,
dried grasses, and various little woodland curiosities, which showed a
taste refined by daily intercourse with nature. Fanny herself was
arrayed in a very pretty print dress, which her father had brought home
in a recent visit, with a cape of white muslin. Her brown hair was
brushed smoothly from her forehead, and her clear blue eyes, and fair,
rosy complexion, gave her a pleasing air of intelligence and refinement.

"Thank you," said Nina, as Fanny offered her the only chair the
establishment afforded; "but I'm going with Tiff out in the garden. I
never can bear to be in the house such days as this. You didn't expect
me over so early, Uncle Tiff; but I took a notable turn, this morning,
and routed them up to an early breakfast, on purpose that I might have
time to get over here before the heat came on. It's pleasant out here,
now the shadow of the woods falls across the garden so. How beautifully
those trees wave! Tiff, go on with your work--never mind me."

"Yes, Miss Nina, it's mighty pleasant. Why, I was out in dis yer garden
at four o'clock dis morning, and 'peared like dese yer trees was waving
like a psalm, so sort o' still, you know! Kind o' spreading out der
hands like dey'd have prayers; and dere was a mighty handsome star a
looking down. _I_ spects dat ar star is one of de very oldest families
up dar."

"Most likely," said Nina, cheerily. "They call it Venus, the star of
love, Uncle Tiff; and I believe that is a very old family."

"Love is a mighty good ting, any how," said Tiff. "Lord bress you, Miss
Nina, it makes everyting go kind o' easy. Sometimes, when I'm studding
upon dese yer tings, I says to myself, 'pears like de trees in de wood,
dey loves each oder. Dey stands kind o' locking arms so, and dey kind o'
nod der heads, and whispers so! 'Pears like de grape-vines, and de
birds, and all dem ar tings, dey lives comfortable togeder, like dey was
peaceable, and liked each oder. Now, folks is apt to get a stewin' and a
frettin' round, and turning up der noses at dis yer ting, and dat ar;
but 'pears like de Lord's works takes everyting mighty easy. Dey just
kind o' lives along peaceable. I tink it's mighty 'structive!"

"Certainly it is," said Nina. "Old Mother Nature is an excellent
manager, and always goes on making the best of everything."

"Dere's heaps done dat ar way, and no noise," said Tiff. "Why, Miss
Nina, I studies upon dat ar out here in my garden. Why, look at dat ar
corn, way up over your head, now! All dat ar growed dis yer summer. No
noise 'bout it--'pears like nobody couldn't see when 'twas done. Dey
were telling us in camp-meeting how de Lord created de heaven and de
earth. Now, Miss Nina, Tiff has his own thoughts, you know; and Tiff
says, 'pears like de Lord is creating de heaven and de earth all de
time. 'Pears like you can see Him a doing of it right afore your face;
and dem growing tings are so curus! Miss Nina, 'pears for all de world
like as if dey was critters! 'Pears like each of 'em has der own way,
and won't go no oder! Dese yer beans, dey will come up so curus right
top o' de stalks; dey will turn round de pole one way, and, if you was
to tie 'em, you couldn't make 'em go round t'oder! Dey's set in der own
way--dey is, for all dey's so still 'bout it! Laws, Miss Nina dese yer
tings makes Tiff laugh--does so!" he said, sitting down, and indulging
in one of his fits of merriment.

"You are quite a philosopher, Tiff," said Nina.

"Laws, Miss Nina, I hopes not!" said Tiff, solemnly; "'cause one of de
preachers at de camp-meeting used up dem folk terrible, I tell you! Dat
ar pretty much all I could make out of de sermon, dat people mustn't be
'losophers! Laws, Miss Nina, I hope I an't no sich!"

"Oh, I mean the good kind, Uncle Tiff. But how were you pleased, upon
the whole, at the camp-meeting?" said Nina.

"Well," said Tiff, "Miss Nina, I hope I got something--I don't know
fa'rly how much 'tis. But, Miss Nina, it 'pears like as if you had come
out here to instruct us 'bout dese yer tings. Miss Fanny, she don't read
very well yet, and 'pears like if you could read us some out of de
Bible, and teach us how to be Christians"--

"Why, Tiff, I scarcely know how myself!" said Nina. "I'll send Milly to
talk to you. She is a real good Christian."

"Milly is a very nice woman," said Tiff, somewhat doubtfully; "but, Miss
Nina, 'pears like I would rather have white teaching; 'pears like I
would rather have you, if it wouldn't be too much trouble."

"Oh, no, Uncle Tiff! If you want to hear me read, I'll read to you now,"
said Nina. "Have you got a Bible, here? Stay; I'll sit down. I'll take
the chair and sit down in the shade, and then you needn't stop your
work."

Tiff hurried into the house to call Fanny; produced a copy of a
Testament, which, with much coaxing, he had persuaded Cripps to bring on
his last visit; and, while Fanny sat at her feet making larkspur rings,
she turned over the pages, to think what to read. When she saw Tiff's
earnest and eager attention, her heart smote her to think that the book,
so valuable in his eyes, was to her almost an unread volume.

"What shall I read to you, Tiff? What do you want to hear?"

"Well, I wants to find out de shortest way I ken, how dese yer chil'en's
to be got to heaven!" said Tiff. "Dis yer world is mighty well long as
it holds out; but, den, yer see, it don't last forever! Tings is passing
away!"

Nina thought a moment. The great question of questions, so earnestly
proposed to her! The simple, childlike old soul hanging confidingly on
her answer! At last she said, with a seriousness quite unusual with
her:--

"Tiff, I think the best thing I can do is to read to you about our
Saviour. He came down into this world to show us the way to heaven. And
I'll read you, when I come here days, all that there is about Him--all
he said and did; and then, perhaps, you'll see the way yourself.
Perhaps," she added, with a sigh, "I shall, too!"

As she spoke, a sudden breeze of air shook the clusters of a
prairie-rose, which was climbing into the tree under which she was
sitting, and a shower of rose-leaves fell around her.

"Yes," she said to herself, as the rose-leaves fell on her book, "it's
quite true, what he says. Everything is passing!"

And now, amid the murmur of the pine-trees, and the rustling of the
garden-vines, came on the ear of the listeners the first words of that
sweet and ancient story:--

"Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod
the King, behold there came wise men from the East, saying, 'Where is
_He_ that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the
East, and are come to worship Him.'"

Probably more cultivated minds would have checked the progress of the
legend by a thousand questions, statistical and geographical, as to
where Jerusalem was, and who the wise men were, and how far the East was
from Jerusalem, and whether it was probable they would travel so far.
But Nina was reading to children, and to an old child-man, in whose
grotesque and fanciful nature there was yet treasured a believing
sweetness, like the amulets supposed to belong to the good genii of the
fairy tales. The quick fancy of her auditors made reality of the story
as it went along. A cloudy Jerusalem built itself up immediately in
their souls, and became as well known to them as the neighboring town of
E----. Herod, the king, became a real walking personage in their minds,
with a crown on his head. And Tiff immediately discerned a resemblance
between him and a certain domineering old General Eaton, who used
greatly to withstand the cause of virtue, and the Peytons, in the
neighborhood where he was brought up. Tiff's indignation, when the
slaughter of the innocents was narrated, was perfectly outrageous. He
declared "He wouldn't have believed that of King Herod, bad as he was!"
and, good-hearted and inoffensive as Tiff was in general, it really
seemed to afford him comfort, "dat de debil had got dat ar man 'fore
now."

"Sarves him right, too!" said Tiff, striking fiercely at a weed with his
hoe. "Killing all dem por little chil'en! Why, what harm had dey done
him, any way? Wonder what he thought of hisself!"

Nina found it necessary to tranquillize the good creature, to get a
hearing for the rest of the story. She went on reading of the wild
night-journey of the wise men, and how the star went before them till it
stood over the place where the child was. How they went in, and saw the
young child, and Mary his mother, and fell down before him, offering
gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

"Lord bless you! I wish I'd a been dar!" said Tiff. "And dat ar chile
was de Lord of glory, sure 'nough, Miss Nina! I hearn 'em sing dis yer
hymn at de camp-meeting--you know, 'bout cold on his cradle. You know it
goes dis yer way." And Tiff sung, to a kind of rocking lullaby, words
whose poetic imagery had hit his fancy before he knew their meaning.


     "Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining,
       Low lies his head with the beasts of the stall;
     Angels adore, in slumber reclining,
       Maker, and Saviour, and Monarch of all."


Nina had never realized, till she felt it in the undoubting faith of her
listeners, the wild, exquisite poetry of that legend, which, like an
immortal lily, blooms in the heart of Christianity as spotless and as
tender now as eighteen hundred years ago.

That child of Bethlehem, when afterwards he taught in Galilee, spoke of
seed which fell into a good and honest heart; and words could not have
been more descriptive of the nature which was now receiving this seed of
Paradise.

When Nina had finished her reading, she found her own heart touched by
the effect which she had produced. The nursing, child-loving Old Tiff
was ready, in a moment, to bow before his Redeemer, enshrined in the
form of an infant; and it seemed as if the air around him had been made
sacred by the sweetness of the story.

As Nina was mounting her horse to return, Tiff brought out a little
basket full of wild raspberries.

"Tiff wants to give you something," he said.

"Thank you, Uncle Tiff. How delightful! Now, if you'll only give me a
cluster of your Michigan rose!"

Proud and happy was Tiff, and, pulling down the very topmost cluster of
his rose, he presented it to her. Alas! before Nina reached home, it
hung drooping from the heat.

"The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth; but the word of our God
shall stand forever."



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE WARNING.


In life organized as it is at the South, there are two currents:--one,
the current of the master's fortunes, feelings, and hopes; the other,
that of the slave's. It is a melancholy fact in the history of the human
race, as yet, that there have been multitudes who follow the triumphal
march of life only as captives, to whom the voice of the trumpet, the
waving of the banners, the shouts of the people, only add to the
bitterness of enthralment.

While life to Nina was daily unfolding in brighter colors, the
slave-brother at her side was destined to feel an additional burden on
his already unhappy lot.

It was toward evening, after having completed his daily cares, that he
went to the post-office for the family letters. Among these, one was
directed to himself, and he slowly perused it as he rode home through
the woods. It was as follows:


     MY DEAR BROTHER,--I told you how comfortably we were living on our
     place--I and my children. Since then, everything has been changed.
     Mr. Tom Gordon came here and put in a suit for the estate, and
     attached me and my children as slaves. He is a dreadful man. The
     case has been tried and gone against us. The judge said that both
     deeds of emancipation--both the one executed in Ohio, and the one
     here--were of no effect; that my boy was a slave, and could no more
     hold property than a mule before a plough. I had some good friends
     here, and people pitied me very much; but nobody could help me. Tom
     Gordon is a bad man--a _very_ bad man. I cannot tell you all that
     he said to me. I only tell you that I will kill myself and my
     children before we will be his slaves. Harry, I have been _free_,
     and I know what liberty is. My children have been brought up
     _free_, and if I can help it they never shall know what slavery
     is. I have got away, and am hiding with a colored family here in
     Natchez. I hope to get to Cincinnati, where I have friends.

     My dear brother, I did hope to do something for you. Now I cannot.
     Nor can you do anything for me. The law is on the side of our
     oppressors; but I hope God will help us. Farewell! Your
     affectionate

     SISTER.


It is difficult to fathom the feelings of a person brought up in a
position so wholly unnatural as that of Harry. The feelings which had
been cultivated in him by education, and the indulgence of his nominal
possessors, were those of an honorable and gentlemanly man. His position
was absolutely that of the common slave, without one legal claim to
anything on earth, one legal right of protection in any relation of
life. What any man of strong nature would feel on hearing such tidings
from a sister, Harry felt.

In a moment there rose up before his mind the picture of Nina in all her
happiness and buoyancy--in all the fortunate accessories in her lot. Had
the vague thoughts which crowded on his mind been expressed in words,
they might have been something like these:--

"I have two sisters, daughters of one father, both beautiful, both
amiable and good; but one has rank, and position, and wealth, and ease,
and pleasure; the other is an outcast, unprotected, given up to the
brutal violence of a vile and wicked man. She has been a good wife, and
a good mother. Her husband has done all he could to save her; but the
cruel hand of the law grasps her and her children, and hurls them back
into the abyss from which it was his life-study to raise them. And I can
do nothing! I am not even a man! And this curse is on me, and on my
wife, and on my children and children's children, forever! Yes, what
does the judge say, in this letter? 'He can no more own anything than
the mule before his plough!' That's to be the fate of every child of
mine! And yet people say, 'You have all you want; why are you not
happy?' I wish they could try it! Do they think broadcloth coats and
gold watches can comfort a man for all this?"

Harry rode along, with his hands clenched upon the letter, the reins
drooping from the horse's neck, in the same unfrequented path where he
had twice before met Dred. Looking up, he saw him the third time,
standing silently, as if he had risen from the ground.

"Where did you come from?" said he. "Seems to me you are always at hand
when anything is going against me!"

"Went not my spirit with thee?" said Dred. "Have I not seen it all? It
is because we _will_ bear this, that we have it to bear, Harry."

"But," said Harry, "what can we do?"

"Do? What does the wild horse do? Launch out our hoofs! rear up, and
come down on them! What does the rattlesnake do? Lie in their path, and
bite! Why did they make slaves of us? They tried the wild Indians first.
Why didn't they keep to them? _They_ wouldn't be slaves, and we _will_!
They that _will_ bear the yoke, _may_ bear it!"

"But," said Harry, "Dred, this is all utterly hopeless. Without any
means, or combination, or leaders, we should only rush on to our own
destruction."

"Let us die, then!" said Dred. "What if we do die? What great matter is
that? If they bruise our head, we can sting their heels? Nat
Turner--they killed him; but the fear of him almost drove them to set
free their slaves! Yes, it was argued among them. They came within two
or three votes of it in their assembly. A little more fear, and they
would have done it. If my father had succeeded, the slaves in Carolina
would be free to-day. Die?--Why not die? Christ was crucified! Has
everything dropped out of you, that you can't die--that you'll crawl
like worms, for the sake of living?"

"I'm not afraid of death myself," said Harry. "God knows I wouldn't care
if I did die; but"--

"Yes, I know," said Dred. "She that letteth will let, till she be taken
out of the way. I tell you, Harry, there's a seal been loosed--there's a
vial poured out on the air; and the destroying angel standeth over
Jerusalem, with his sword drawn!"

"What do you mean by that?" said Harry.

Dred stood silent for a moment; his frame assumed the rigid tension of a
cataleptic state, and his voice sounded like that of a person speaking
from a distance, yet there was a strange distinctness in it.

"The words of the prophet, and the vision that he hath from the Lord,
when he saw the vision, falling into a trance, and having his eyes open,
and behold he saw a roll flying through the heavens, and it was written,
within and without, with mourning and lamentation and woe! Behold, it
cometh! Behold, the slain of the Lord shall be many! They shall fall in
the house and by the way! The bride shall fall in her chamber, and the
child shall die in its cradle! There shall be a cry in the land of
Egypt, for there shall not be a house where there is not one dead!"

"Dred! Dred! Dred!" said Harry, pushing him by the shoulder; "come out
of this--come out! It's frightful!"

Dred stood looking before him, with his head inclined forward, his hand
upraised, and his eyes strained, with the air of one who is trying to
make out something through a thick fog.

"I see her!" he said. "Who is that by her? His back is turned. Ah! I
see--it is he! And there's Harry and Milly! Try hard--try! You won't do
it. No, no use sending for the doctor. There's not one to be had. They
are all too busy. Rub her hands! Yes. But--it's no good. 'Whom the Lord
loveth, he taketh away from the evil to come.' Lay her down. Yes, it is
Death! Death! Death!"

Harry had often seen the strange moods of Dred, and he shuddered now,
because he partook somewhat in the common superstitions, which prevailed
among the slaves, of his prophetic power. He shook and called him; but
he turned slowly away, and, with eyes that seemed to see nothing, yet
guiding himself with his usual dextrous agility, he plunged again into
the thickness of the swamp, and was soon lost to view.

After his return home it was with the sensation of chill at his heart
that he heard Aunt Nesbit reading to Nina portions of a letter,
describing the march through some northern cities of the cholera, which
was then making fearful havoc on our American shore.

"Nobody seems to know how to manage it," the letter said; "physicians
are all at a loss. It seems to spurn all laws. It bursts upon cities
like a thunderbolt, scatters desolation and death, and is gone with
equal rapidity. People rise in the morning well, and are buried before
evening. In one day houses are swept of a whole family."

"Ah," said Harry, to himself, "I see the meaning now, but what does it
portend to us?"

How the strange foreshadowing had risen to the mind of Dred, we shall
not say. Whether there be mysterious electric sympathies which, floating
through the air, bear dim presentiments on their wings, or whether some
stray piece of intelligence had dropped on his ear, and been interpreted
by the burning fervor of his soul, we know not. The news, however, left
very little immediate impression on the daily circle at Canema. It was a
dread reality in the far distance. Harry only pondered it with anxious
fear.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE MORNING STAR.


Nina continued her visits to Tiff's garden on almost every pleasant
morning or evening. Tiff had always some little offering, either berries
or flowers, to present, or a nice little luncheon of fish or birds,
cooked in some mode of peculiar delicacy; and which, served up in sylvan
style, seemed to have something of the wild relish of the woods. In
return, she continued to read the story so interesting to him; and it
was astonishing how little explanation it needed--how plain honesty of
heart, and lovingness of nature, interpreted passages over which
theologians have wrangled in vain. It was not long before Tiff had
impersonated to himself each of the disciples, particularly Peter; so
that, when anything was said by him, Tiff would nod his head
significantly, and say, "Ah, ah! dat ar's just like him! He's allers a
puttin' in; but he's a good man, arter all!"

What impression was made on the sensitive young nature, through whom, as
a medium, Tiff received this fresh revelation, we may, perhaps, imagine.
There are times in life when the soul, like a half-grown climbing vine,
hangs wavering tremulously, stretching out its tendrils for something to
ascend by. Such are generally the great transition periods of life, when
we are passing from the ideas and conditions of one stage of existence
to those of another. Such times are most favorable for the presentation
of the higher truths of religion. In the hazy, slumberous stillness of
that midsummer atmosphere, in the long, silent rides through the pines.
Nina half awakened from the thoughtless dreams of childhood, yearning
for something nobler than she yet had lived for, thought over, and
revolved in her mind, this beautiful and spotless image of God, revealed
in man, which her daily readings presented; and the world that he
created seemed to whisper to her in every pulsation of its air, in
every breath of its flowers, in the fanning of its winds, "He still
liveth, and he loveth thee." The voice of the Good Shepherd fell on the
ear of the wandering lamb, calling her to his arms; and Nina found
herself one day unconsciously repeating, as she returned through the
woods, words which she had often heard read at church:--

"When thou saidst unto me, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, Thy
face, Lord, will I seek."

Nina had often dreaded the idea of becoming a Christian, as one shrinks
from the idea of a cold, dreary passage which must be passed to gain a
quiet home. But suddenly, as if by some gentle invisible hand, the veil
seemed to be drawn which hid the face of Almighty Love from her view.
She beheld the earth and the heavens transfigured in the light of his
smile. A strange and unspeakable joy arose within her, as if some loving
presence were always near her. It was with her when she laid down at
night, and when she awoke in the morning the strange happiness had not
departed. Her feelings may be best expressed by an extract from a letter
which she wrote at this time to Clayton:--


     "It seems to me that I have felt a greater change in me within the
     last two months than in my whole life before. When I look back at
     what I was in New York, three months ago, actually I hardly know
     myself. It seems to me in those old days that life was only a
     frolic to me, as it is to the kitten. I don't really think that
     there was much harm in me, only the want of good. In those days,
     sometimes I used to have a sort of dim longing to be better,
     particularly when Livy Ray was at school. It seemed as if she woke
     up something that had been asleep in me; but she went away, and I
     fell asleep again, and life went on like a dream. Then I became
     acquainted with you, and you began to rouse me again, and for some
     time I thought I didn't like to wake; it was just as it is when one
     lies asleep in the morning--it's so pleasant to sleep and dream,
     that one resists any one who tries to bring them back to life. I
     used to feel quite pettish when I first knew you, and sometimes
     wished you'd let me alone, because I saw that you belonged to a
     different kind of sphere from what I'd been living in. And I had a
     presentiment that, if I let you go on, life would have to be
     something more than a joke with me. But _you would_, like a very
     indiscreet man as you are, you would insist on being in sober
     earnest.

     "I used to think that I had no heart; I begin to think I have a
     good deal now. Every day it seems as if I could love more and more;
     and a great many things are growing clear to me that I didn't use
     to understand, and I'm growing happier every day.

     "You know my queer old _protégé_, Uncle Tiff, who lives in the
     woods here. For some time past I have been to his house every day,
     reading to him in the Testament, and it has had a very great effect
     on me. It affected me very much, in the first place, that he seemed
     so very earnest about religion, when I, who ought to know so much
     more, was so indifferent to it; and when the old creature, with
     tears in his eyes, actually insisted upon it that I should show his
     children the road to heaven, then I began to read to him the
     Testament, the life of Jesus. I didn't know myself how beautiful it
     was--how suited to all our wants. It seemed to me I never saw so
     much beauty in anything before; and it seems as if it had waked a
     new life in me. Everything is changed; and it is the beauty of
     Christ that has changed it. You know I always loved beauty above
     all things, in music, in nature, and in flowers; but it seems to me
     that I see something now in Jesus more beautiful than all. It seems
     as if all these had been shadows of beauty, but _he_ is the
     substance. It is strange, but I have a sense of him, his living and
     presence, that sometimes almost overpowers me. It seems as if he
     had been following me always, but I had not seen him. He has been a
     good shepherd, seeking the thoughtless lamb. He has, all my life,
     been calling me child; but till lately my heart has never answered,
     Father! Is this religion? Is this what people mean by conversion? I
     tried to tell Aunt Nesbit how I felt, because now I feel kinder to
     everybody; and really my heart smote me to think how much fun I had
     made of her, and now I begin to love her very much. She was so
     anxious I should talk with Mr. Titmarsh, because he is a minister.
     Well, you know I didn't want to do it, but I thought I ought to,
     because poor aunty really seemed to feel anxious I should. I
     suppose, if I were as perfect as I ought to be, a good man's stiff
     ways wouldn't trouble me so. But stiff people, you know, are my
     particular temptation.

     "He came and made a pastoral call, the other day, and talked to me.
     I don't think he understood me very well, and I'm sure I didn't
     understand him. He told me how many kinds of faith there were, and
     how many kinds of love. I believe there were three kinds of faith,
     and two kinds of love; and he thought it was important to know
     whether I had got the right kind. He said we ought not to love God
     because he loves us, but because he is holy. He wanted to know
     whether I had any just views of sin, as an infinite evil; and I
     told him I hadn't the least idea of what infinite was; and that I
     hadn't any views of anything, but the beauty of Christ; that I
     didn't understand anything about the different sorts of faith, but
     that I felt perfectly sure that Jesus is so good that he would make
     me feel right, and give me right views, and do everything for me
     that I need.

     "He wanted to know if I loved him because he magnified the law, and
     made it honorable; and I told him I didn't understand what that
     meant.

     "I don't think, on the whole, that the talk did me much good. It
     only confused me, and made me very uncomfortable. But I went out to
     Old Tiff's in the evening, and read how Jesus received the little
     children. You never saw anybody so delighted as Old Tiff was. He
     got me to read it to him three or four times over; and now he gets
     me to read it every time I go there, and he says he likes it better
     than any other part of the Testament. Tiff and I get along very
     well together. He doesn't know any more about faith than I do, and
     hasn't any better views than I have. Aunt Nesbit is troubled about
     me, because I'm so happy. She says she's afraid I haven't any sense
     of sin. Don't you remember my telling you how happy I felt the
     first time I heard _real_ music? I thought, before that, that I
     could sing pretty well; but in one hour all _my_ music became trash
     in my eyes. And yet, I would not have missed it for the world. So
     it is now. That beautiful life of Jesus--so sweet, so calm, so
     pure, so unselfish, so perfectly _natural_, and yet so far beyond
     nature--has shown me what a poor, sinful, low creature I am; and
     yet I rejoice. I feel, sometimes, as I did when I first heard a
     full orchestra play some of Mozart's divine harmonies. I forgot
     that I was alive; I lost all thought of myself entirely; and I was
     perfectly happy. So it is now. This loveliness and beauty that I
     see makes me happy without any thought of myself. It seems to me,
     sometimes, that while I see it I never can suffer.

     "There is another thing that is strange to me; and that is, that
     the Bible has grown so beautiful to me. It seems to me that it has
     been all my life like the transparent picture, without any light
     behind it; and now it is all illuminated, and its words are full of
     meaning to me. I am light-hearted and happy--happier than ever I
     was. Do you remember, the first day you came to Canema, that I told
     you it seemed so sad that we must die? That feeling is all gone,
     now. I feel that Jesus is everywhere, and that there is no such
     thing as dying; it is only going out of one room into another.

     "Everybody wonders to see how light-hearted I am; and poor aunty
     says, 'she trembles for me.' I couldn't help thinking of that, the
     other morning I was reading to Tiff; what Jesus said when they
     asked him why his disciples did not fast: 'Can the children of the
     bride-chamber mourn while the bridegroom is with them?'

     "Now, my dear friend, you must tell me what you think of all this,
     because, you know, I always tell you everything. I have written to
     Livy about it, because I know it will make her so happy. Milly
     seems to understand it all, and what she says to me really helps me
     very much. I always used to think that Milly had some strange,
     beautiful kind of inward life, that I knew nothing of, because she
     would speak with so much certainty of God's love, and _act_ as if
     it was so real to her; and she would tell me so earnestly, 'Chile,
     he loves you!' Now I see into it--that mystery of his love to us,
     and how he overcomes and subdues all things by love; and I
     understand how 'perfect love casteth out fear.'"


To this letter Nina soon received an answer, from which also we give an
extract:--


     "If I was so happy, my dearest one, as to be able to awaken that
     deeper and higher nature which I always knew was in you, I thank
     God. But, if I ever was in any respect your teacher, you have
     passed beyond my teachings now. Your childlike simplicity of nature
     makes you a better scholar than I in that school where the first
     step is to forget all our worldly wisdom and become a little child.
     We men have much more to contend with, in the pride of our nature,
     in our habits of worldly reasoning. It takes us long to learn the
     lesson that faith is the highest wisdom. Don't trouble your head,
     dear Nina, with Aunt Nesbit or Mr. Titmarsh. _What you feel is
     faith._ They _define_ it, and you _feel_ it. And there's all the
     difference between the definition and the feeling, that there is
     between the husk and the corn.

     "As for me, I am less happy than you. Religion seems to me to have
     two parts to it. One part is the aspiration of man's nature, and
     the other is God's answer to those aspirations. I have, as yet,
     only the first; perhaps, because I am less simple and less true;
     perhaps, because I am not yet become a little child. So _you_ must
     be my guide, instead of I _yours_; for I believe it is written of
     the faithful, that a little child shall lead them.

     "I am a good deal tried now, my dear, because I am coming to a
     crisis in my life. I am going to take a step that will deprive me
     of many friends, of popularity, and that will, perhaps, alter all
     my course for the future. But, if I should lose friends and
     popularity, _you_ would love me still, would you not? It is
     wronging you to ask such a question; but yet I should like to have
     you answer it. It will make me stronger for what I have to do. On
     Thursday of this week, my case will come on again. I am very busy
     just now; but the thought of you mingles with every thought."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE LEGAL DECISION.


The time for the session of the Supreme Court had now arrived, and
Clayton's cause was to be reconsidered. Judge Clayton felt exceedingly
chagrined, as the time drew near. Being himself the leading judge of the
Supreme Court, the declaration of the bench would necessarily be made
known through him.

"It is extremely painful to me," he said, to Mrs. Clayton, "to have this
case referred to me; for I shall be obliged to reverse the decision."

"Well," said Mrs. Clayton, "Edward must have fortitude to encounter the
usual reverses of his profession. He made a gallant defence, and
received a great deal of admiration, which will not be at all lessened
by this."

"You do not understand me," said Judge Clayton. "It is not the coming
out in opposition to Edward which principally annoys me. It is the
nature of the decision that I am obliged to make--the doctrine that I
feel myself forced to announce."

"And must you, then?" said Mrs. Clayton.

"Yes, I must," said Judge Clayton. "A judge can only perceive and
declare. What I see, I must speak, though it go against all my feelings
and all my sense of right."

"I don't see, for my part," said Mrs. Clayton, "how that decision can
possibly be reversed, without allowing the most monstrous injustice."

"Such is the case," said Judge Clayton; "but I sit in my seat, not to
make laws, nor to alter them, but simply to declare what they are.
However bad the principle declared, it is not so bad as the proclamation
of a falsehood would be. I have sworn truly to declare the laws, and I
must keep my oath."

"And have you talked with Edward about it?"

"Not particularly. He understands, in general, the manner in which the
thing lies in my mind."

This conversation took place just before it was time for Judge Clayton
to go to his official duties.

The court-room, on this occasion, was somewhat crowded. Barker, being an
active, resolute, and popular man, with a certain class, had talked up a
considerable excitement with regard to his case. Clayton's friends were
interested in it on his account; lawyers were, for the sake of the
principle; so that, upon the whole, there was a good deal of attention
drawn towards this decision.

Among the spectators on the morning of the court, Clayton remarked
Harry. For reasons which our readers may appreciate, his presence there
was a matter of interest to Clayton. He made his way towards him.

"Harry," he said, "how came you here?"

"The ladies," said Harry, "thought they would like to know how the thing
went, and so I got on to my horse and came over."

As he spoke, he placed in Clayton's hand a note, and, as the paper
touched his hand, a close spectator might have seen the color rise in
his cheek. He made his way back to his place, and opened a law-book,
which he held up before his face. Inside the law-book, however, was a
little sheet of gilt-edged paper, on which were written a few words in
pencil, more interesting than all the law in the world. Shall we commit
the treason of reading over his shoulder? It was as follows:--


     "You say you may to-day be called to do something which you think
     right, but which will lose you many friends; which will destroy
     your popularity, which may alter all your prospects in life; and
     you ask if I can love you yet. I say, in answer, that it was not
     your friends that I loved, nor your popularity, nor your prospects,
     but _you_. I _can_ love and honor a man who is not afraid nor
     ashamed to do what he thinks to be right; and therefore I hope ever
     to remain yours,

     NINA.

     "P. S. I only got your letter this morning, and have but just time
     to scribble this and send by Harry. We are all well, and shall be
     glad to see you as soon as the case is over."


"Clayton, my boy, you are very busy with your authorities," said Frank
Russel, behind him. Clayton hastily hid the paper in his hand.

"It's charming!" said Russel, "to have little manuscript annotations on
law. It lights it up, like the illuminations in old missals. But say,
Clayton, you live at the fountain-head;--how is the case going?"

"Against me!" said Clayton.

"Well, it's no great odds, after all. You have had your triumph. These
after-thoughts cannot take away that.... But hush! There's your father
going to speak!"

Every eye in the court-room was turned upon Judge Clayton, who was
standing with his usual self-poised composure of manner. In a clear,
deliberate voice, he spoke as follows:--

"A judge cannot but lament, when such cases as the present are brought
into judgment. It is impossible that the reasons on which they go can be
appreciated, but where institutions similar to our own exist, and are
_thoroughly understood_. The struggle, too, in the judge's own breast,
between the feelings of the man and the duty of the magistrate, is a
severe one, presenting strong temptation to put aside such questions, if
it be possible. It is useless, however, to complain of things inherent
in our political state. And it is criminal in a court to avoid any
responsibility which the laws impose. With whatever reluctance,
therefore, it is done, the court is compelled to express an opinion upon
the extent of the dominion of the master over the slave in North
Carolina. The indictment charges a battery on Milly, a slave of Louisa
Nesbit....

"The inquiry here is, whether a cruel and unreasonable battery on a
slave by the hirer is indictable. The judge below instructed the jury
that it is. He seems to have put it on the ground, that the defendant
had but a special property. Our laws uniformly treat the master, or
other person having the possession and command of the slave, as entitled
to the same extent of authority. _The object is the same, the service of
the slave_; and the same powers must be confided. In a criminal
proceeding, and, indeed, in reference to all other persons but the
general owner, the hirer and possessor of the slave, in relation to both
rights and duties, is, for the time being, the owner.... But, upon the
general question, whether the owner is answerable _criminaliter_, for a
battery upon his own slave, or other exercise of authority or force, not
forbidden by statute, the court entertains but little doubt. That he is
so liable, has never been decided; nor, as far as is known, been
hitherto contended. There has been no prosecution of the sort. The
established habits and uniform practice of the country, in this respect,
is the best evidence of the portion of power deemed by the whole
community requisite to the preservation of the master's dominion. If we
thought differently, we could not set our notions in array against the
judgment of everybody else, and say that this or that authority may be
safely lopped off.

"This has indeed been assimilated at the bar to the other domestic
relations: and arguments drawn from the well-established principles,
which _confer_ and _restrain_ the authority of the parent over the
child, the tutor over the pupil, the master over the apprentice, have
been pressed on us.

"The court does not recognize their application. There is no likeness
between the cases. They are in opposition to each other, and there is an
impassable gulf between them. The difference is that which exists
between freedom and slavery; and a greater cannot be imagined. In the
one, the end in view is the happiness of the youth born to equal rights
with that governor on whom the duty devolves of training the young to
usefulness, in a station which he is afterwards to assume among freemen.
To such an end, and with such a subject, moral and intellectual
instruction seem the natural means; and, for the most part, they are
found to suffice. Moderate force is superadded only to make the others
effectual. If that fail, it is better to leave the party to his own
headstrong passions, and the ultimate correction of the law, than to
allow it to be immoderately inflicted by a private person. With slavery
it is far otherwise. The end is the profit of the master, his security,
and the public safety; the subject, one doomed, in his own person and
his posterity, to live without knowledge, and without the capacity to
make anything his own, and to toil that another may reap the fruits.
What moral considerations shall be addressed to such a being, to
convince him what it is impossible but that the most stupid must feel
and know can never be true,--that he is thus to labor upon a principle
of natural duty, or for the sake of his own personal happiness? Such
services can only be expected from one who has no will of his own; who
surrenders his will in implicit obedience to that of another. Such
obedience is the consequence only of uncontrolled authority over the
body. There is nothing else which can operate to produce the effect. THE
POWER OF THE MASTER MUST BE ABSOLUTE, TO RENDER THE SUBMISSION OF THE
SLAVE PERFECT. I most freely confess my sense of the harshness of this
proposition. I feel it as deeply as any man can. And, as a principle of
moral right, every person in his retirement must repudiate it. But, in
the actual condition of things, it must be so. There is no remedy. This
discipline belongs to the state of slavery. They cannot be disunited
without abrogating at once the rights of the master, and absolving the
slave from his subjection. It constitutes the curse of slavery to both
the bond and the free portions of our population. But it is _inherent in
the relation_ of master and slave. That there may be particular
instances of cruelty and deliberate barbarity, where in conscience the
law might properly interfere, is most probable. The difficulty is to
determine where a _court_ may properly begin. Merely in the abstract, it
may well be asked which power of the master accords with right. The
answer will probably sweep away all of them. But we cannot look at the
matter in that light. The truth is that we are forbidden to enter upon a
train of general reasoning on the subject. We cannot allow the right of
the master to be brought into discussion in the courts of justice. The
slave, to remain a slave, must be made sensible that there is no appeal
from his master; that his power is, in no instance, usurped, but is
conferred by the laws of man, at least, if not by the law of God. The
danger would be great, indeed, if the tribunals of justice should be
called on to graduate the punishment appropriate to every temper, and
every dereliction of menial duty.

"No man can anticipate the many and aggravated provocations of the
master which the slave would be constantly stimulated by his own
passions, or the instigation of others, to give; or the consequent wrath
of the master, prompting him to bloody vengeance upon the turbulent
traitor; a vengeance _generally practised with impunity, by reason of
its privacy_. The court, therefore, disclaims the power of changing the
relation in which these parts of our people stand to each other.

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"I repeat, that I would gladly have avoided this ungrateful question.
But, being brought to it, the court is compelled to declare that while
slavery exists amongst us in its present state, or until it shall seem
fit to the legislature to interpose express enactments to the contrary,
it will be the imperative _duty_ of the judges _to recognize the full
dominion of the owner over the slave_, except where the exercise of it
is forbidden by statute.

"And this we do upon the ground that _this dominion is essential to the
value of slaves as property, to the security of the master and the
public tranquillity, greatly dependent upon their subordination_; and,
in fine, as most effectually securing the general protection and comfort
of the slaves themselves. Judgment below reversed; and judgment entered
for the defendant."

During the delivery of the decision Clayton's eyes, by accident, became
fixed upon Harry, who was standing opposite to him, and who listened
through the whole with breathless attention. He observed, as it went on,
that his face became pale, his brow clouded, and that a fierce and
peculiar expression flashed from his dark-blue eye. Never had Clayton so
forcibly realized the horrors of slavery as when he heard them thus so
calmly defined in the presence of one into whose soul the iron had
entered. The tones of Judge Clayton's voice, so passionless, clear, and
deliberate; the solemn, calm, unflinching earnestness of his words, were
more than a thousand passionate appeals. In the dead silence that
followed, Clayton rose, and requested permission of the court to be
allowed to say a few words in view of the decision. His father looked
slightly surprised, and there was a little movement among the judges.
But curiosity, perhaps, among other reasons, led the court to give
consent. Clayton spoke:--

"I hope it will not be considered a disrespect or impertinence for me to
say that the law of slavery, and the nature of that institution, have
for the first time been made known to me to-day in their true character.
I had before flattered myself with the hope that it might be considered
a guardian institution, by which a stronger race might assume the care
and instruction of the weaker one; and I had hoped that its laws were
capable of being so administered as to protect the defenceless. This
illusion is destroyed. I see but too clearly now the purpose and object
of the law. I cannot, therefore, as a Christian man, remain in the
practice of law in a slave state. I therefore relinquish the profession,
into which I have just been inducted, and retire forever from the bar of
my native state."

"There!--there!--there he goes!" said Frank Russel. "The sticking-point
has come at last. His conscience is up, and start him now who can!"

There was a slight motion of surprise in the court and audience. But
Judge Clayton sat with unmoved serenity. The words had struck to the
depth of his soul. They had struck at the root of one of his strongest
hopes in life. But he had listened to them with the same calm and
punctilious attention which it was his habit to give to every speaker;
and, with unaltered composure, he proceeded to the next business of the
court.

A step so unusual occasioned no little excitement. But Clayton was not
one of the class of people to whom his associates generally felt at
liberty to express their opinions of his conduct. The quiet reserve of
his manners discouraged any such freedom. As usual, in cases where a
person takes an uncommon course from conscientious motives, Clayton was
severely criticised. The more trifling among the audience contented
themselves with using the good set phrases, quixotic, absurd,
ridiculous. The elder lawyers, and those friendly to Clayton, shook
their heads, and said, rash, precipitate, unadvised. "There's a want of
ballast about him, somewhere!" said one. "He is unsound!" said another.
"Radical and impracticable!" added a third.

"Yes," said Frank Russel, who had just come up, "Clayton _is_ as radical
and impracticable as the Sermon on the Mount, and that's the most
impracticable thing I know of in literature. We all _can_ serve God and
Mammon. We have discovered that happy medium in our day. Clayton is
behind the times. He is _Jewish_ in his notions. Don't you think so, Mr.
Titmarsh?" addressing the Rev. Mr. Titmarsh.

"It strikes me that our young friend is extremely _ultra_," said Mr.
Titmarsh. "I might feel disposed to sympathize with him in the feelings
he expressed, _to some extent_; but it having pleased the Divine
Providence to establish the institution of slavery, I humbly presume it
is not competent for human reason to judge of it."

"And if it had pleased the Divine Providence to have established the
institution of piracy, you'd say the same thing, I suppose!" said Frank
Russel.

"Certainly, my young friend," said Mr. Titmarsh. "Whatever is divinely
ordered, becomes right by that fact."

"I should think," said Frank Russel, "that things were divinely ordered
because they were right."

"No, my friend," replied Mr. Titmarsh, moderately; "they are right
because they are ordered, however contrary they may appear to any of our
poor notions of justice and humanity." And Mr. Titmarsh walked off.

"Did you hear that?" said Russel. "And they expect really to come it
over us with stuff like that! Now, if a fellow don't go to church
Sundays, there's a dreadful outcry against him for not being religious!
And, if they get us there, that's the kind of thing they put down our
throats! As if they were going to make practical men give in to such
humbugs!"

And the Rev. Mr. Titmarsh went off in another direction, lamenting to a
friend as follows:--

"How mournfully infidelity is increasing among the young men of our day!
They quote Scripture with the same freedom that they would a book of
plays, and seem to treat it with no more reverence! I believe it's the
want of catechetical instruction while they are children. There's been a
great falling back in the teaching of the Assembly's Catechism to
children when they are young! I shall get that point up at the General
Assembly. If that were thoroughly committed when they are children, I
think they would never doubt afterwards."

Clayton went home and told his mother what he had done, and why. His
father had not spoken to him on this subject; and there was that about
Judge Clayton which made it difficult to introduce a topic, unless he
signified an inclination to enter upon it. He was, as usual, calm,
grave, and considerate, attending to every duty with unwearying
regularity.

At the end of the second day, in the evening, Judge Clayton requested
his son to walk in to his study. The interview was painful on both
sides.

"You are aware, my son," he said, "that the step you have taken is a
very painful one to me. I hope that it was not taken precipitately, from
any sudden impulse."

"You may rest assured it was not," said Clayton. "I followed the deepest
and most deliberate convictions of my conscience."

"In that case, you could not do otherwise," replied Judge Clayton. "I
have no criticisms to make. But will your conscience allow you to retain
the position of a slave-holder?"

"I have already relinquished it," replied Clayton, "so far as my own
intentions are concerned. I retain the legal relation of owner simply as
a means of protecting my servants from the cruelties of the law, and of
securing the opportunity to educate and elevate them."

"And suppose this course brings you into conflict with the law of the
state?" said Judge Clayton.

"If there is any reasonable prospect of having the law altered, I must
endeavor to do that," said Clayton.

"But," said Judge Clayton, "suppose the law is so rooted in the nature
of the institution, that it cannot be repealed without uprooting the
institution? What then?"

"I say repeal the law, if it do uproot the institution," said Clayton.
"_Fiat justitia ruat coelum._"

"I supposed that would be your answer," said Judge Clayton, patiently.
"That is undoubtedly the logical line of life. But you are aware that
communities do not follow such lines; your course, therefore, will place
you in opposition to the community in which you live. Your conscientious
convictions will cross self-interest, and the community will not allow
you to carry them out."

"Then," said Clayton, "I must, with myself and my servants, remove to
some region where I can do this."

"That I supposed would be the result," said Judge Clayton. "And have you
looked at the thing in all its relations and consequences?"

"I have," said Clayton.

"You are about to form a connection with Miss Gordon," said Judge
Clayton. "Have you considered how this will affect her?"

"Yes," said Clayton. "Miss Gordon fully sustains me in the course I
have taken."

"I have no more to say," said Judge Clayton. "Every man must act up to
his sense of duty."

There was a pause of a few moments, and Judge Clayton added:--

"You, perhaps, have seen the implication which your course throws upon
us who still continue to practise the system and uphold the institution
which you repudiate."

"I meant no implications," said Clayton.

"I presume not. But they result, logically, from your course," said his
father. "I assure you, I have often myself pondered the question with
reference to my own duties. My course is a sufficient evidence that I
have not come to the same result. Human law is, at best, but an
approximation, a reflection of many of the ills of our nature. Imperfect
as it is, it is, on the whole, a blessing. The worst system is better
than anarchy."

"But, my father, why could you not have been a reformer of the system?"

"My son, no reform is possible, unless we are prepared to give up the
institution of slavery. That will be the immediate result; and this is
so realized by the instinct of self-preservation, which is unfailing in
its accuracy, that every such proposition will be ignored, till there is
a settled conviction in the community that the institution itself is a
moral evil, and a sincere determination felt to be free from it. I see
no tendency of things in that direction. That body of religious men of
different denominations, called, _par excellence_, the church, exhibit a
degree of moral apathy on this subject which is to me very surprising.
It is with them that the training of the community, on which any such
reform could be built, must commence; and I see no symptoms of their
undertaking it. The decisions and testimonies of the great religious
assemblies in the land, in my youth, were frequent. They have grown
every year less and less decided; and now the morality of the thing is
openly defended in our pulpits, to my great disgust. I see no way but
that the institution will be left to work itself out to its final
result, which will, in the end, be ruinous to our country. I am not
myself gifted with the talents of a reformer. My turn of mind fits me
for the situation I hold. I cannot hope that I have done no harm in it;
but the good, I hope, will outweigh the evil. If you feel a call to
enter on this course, fully understanding the difficulties and
sacrifices it would probably involve, I would be the last one to throw
the influence of my private wishes and feelings into the scale. We live
here but a few years. It is of more consequence that we should do right,
than that we should enjoy ourselves."

Judge Clayton spoke this with more emotion than he usually exhibited,
and Clayton was much touched.

"My dear father," he said, putting Nina's note into his hand, "you made
allusion to Miss Gordon. This note, which I received from her on the
morning of your decision, will show you what her spirit is."

Judge Clayton put on his spectacles, and read over the note
deliberately, twice. He then handed it formally to his son, and
remarked, with his usual brevity,--

"She will do!"



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE CLOUD BURSTS.


The shadow of that awful cloud which had desolated other places now
began to darken the boundaries of the plantation of Canema. No disease
has ever more fully filled out the meaning of those awful words of
Scripture, "The pestilence that walketh in darkness." None has been more
irregular, and apparently more perfectly capricious, in its movements.
During the successive seasons that it has been epidemic in this country,
it has seemed to have set at defiance the skill of the physicians. The
system of medical tactics which has been wrought out by the painful
experience of one season seems to be laughed to scorn by the varying
type of the disease in the next. Certain sanitary laws and conditions
would seem to be indispensable; yet those who are familiar with it have
had fearful experience how like a wolf it will sometimes leap the
boundaries of the best and most carefully-guarded fold, and, spite of
every caution and protection, sweep all before it.

Its course through towns and villages has been equally singular.
Sometimes descending like a cloud on a neighborhood, it will leave a
single village or town untouched amidst the surrounding desolations, and
long after, when health is restored to the whole neighborhood, come down
suddenly on the omitted towns, as a ravaging army sends back a party for
prey to some place which has been overlooked or forgotten. Sometimes,
entering a house, in twenty-four hours it will take all who are in it.
Sometimes it will ravage all the city except some one street or
locality, and then come upon that, while all else is spared. Its course,
upon southern plantations, was marked by similar capriciousness, and was
made still more fatal by that peculiar nature of plantation life which
withdraws the inmates so far from medical aid.

When the first letters were received describing the progress of it in
northern cities, Aunt Nesbit felt much uneasiness and alarm. It is
remarkable with what tenacity people often will cling to life, whose
enjoyments in it are so dull and low that a bystander would scarcely
think them worth the struggle of preservation. When at length the
dreaded news began to be heard from one point and another in their
vicinity, Aunt Nesbit said, one day, to Nina,--

"Your cousins, the Gordons, in E., have written to us to leave the
plantation, and come and spend some time with them, till the danger is
over."

"Why," said Nina, "do they think the cholera can't come there?"

"Well," said Aunt Nesbit, "they have their family under most excellent
regulations; and, living in a town so, they are within call of a doctor,
if anything happens."

"Aunt," said Nina, "perhaps you had better go; but I will stay with my
people."

"Why, don't you feel afraid, Nina?"

"No, aunt, I don't. Besides, I think it would be very selfish for me to
live on the services of my people all my life, and then run away and
leave them alone when a time of danger comes. The least I can do is to
stay and take care of them."

This conversation was overheard by Harry, who was standing with his back
to them, on the veranda, near the parlor door where they were sitting.

"Child," said Aunt Nesbit, "what do you suppose you can do? You haven't
any experience. Harry and Milly can do a great deal better than you can.
I'll leave Milly here. It's our first duty to take care of our health."

"No, aunt, I think there are some duties before that," said Nina. "It's
true I haven't a great deal of strength, but I have courage; and I know
my going away would discourage our people, and fill them with fear; and
that, they say, predisposes to the disease. I shall get the carriage up,
and go directly over to see the doctor, and get directions and
medicines. I shall talk to our people, and teach them what to do, and
see that it is done. And, when they see that I am calm, and not afraid,
they will have courage. But, aunt, if you are afraid, I think you had
better go. You are feeble; you can't make much exertion; and if you feel
any safer or more comfortable, I think it would be best. I should like
to have Milly stay, and she, Harry, and I, will be a board of health to
the plantation."

"Harry," she said, "if you'll get up the carriage, we'll go
immediately."

Again Harry felt the bitterness of his soul sweetened and tranquillized
by the noble nature of her to whose hands the law had given the chain
which bound him. Galling and intolerable as it would have been
otherwise, he felt, when with her, that her service was perfect freedom.
He had not said anything to Nina about the contents of the letter which
he had received from his sister. He saw that it was an evil which she
had no power over, and he shrank from annoying her with it. Nina
supposed that his clouded and troubled aspect was caused wholly by the
solicitude of responsibility.

In the same carriage which conveyed her to the town sat Aunt Nesbit
also, and her cap-boxes, whose importance even the fear of the cholera
could not lessen in her eyes. Nina found the physician quite _au fait_
on the subject. He had been reading about miasma and animalculæ, and he
entertained Nina nearly half an hour with different theories as to the
cause of the disease, and with the experiments which had been made in
foreign hospitals.

Among the various theories, there was one which appeared to be his
particular pet; and Nina couldn't help thinking, as he stepped about so
alertly, that he almost enjoyed the prospect of putting his discoveries
to the test. By dint, however, of very practical and positive questions,
Nina drew from him all the valuable information which he had to give
her; and he wrote her a very full system of directions, and put up a
case of medicines for her, assuring her that he should be happy to
attend in person if he had time.

On the way home, Nina stopped at Uncle John Gordon's plantation, and
there had the first experience of the difference between written
directions for a supposed case, and the actual, awful realities of the
disease. Her Uncle John had been seized only half an hour before, in the
most awful manner. The household was all in terror and confusion, and
the shrieks and groans of agony which proceeded from his room were
appalling. His wife, busy with the sufferer, did not perceive that the
messengers who had been sent in haste for the doctor were wringing their
hands in fruitless terror, running up and down the veranda, and doing
nothing.

"Harry," said Nina, "take out one of the carriage-horses, and ride quick
for your life, and bring the doctor over here in a minute!"

In a few moments the thing was done, and Harry was out of sight. She
then walked up to the distracted servants, and commanded them, in a tone
of authority, to cease their lamentations. Her resolute manner, and the
quiet tone of voice which she preserved, acted as a sedative on their
excited nerves. She banished all but two or three of the most reasonable
from the house, and then went to the assistance of her aunt.

Before long the doctor arrived. When he had been in the sick room a few
moments, he came out to make some inquiries of Nina, and she could not
help contrasting the appalled and confounded expression of his
countenance with the dapper, consequential air, with which, only two
hours before, he had been holding forth to her on animalculæ and miasma.

"The disease," he said, "presented itself in an entirely different
aspect from what he had expected. The remedies," he said, "did not work
as he anticipated; the case was a peculiar one."

Alas! before the three months were over, poor doctor, you found many
peculiar cases!

"Do you think you can save his life?" said Nina.

"Child, only God can save him!" said the physician; "nothing works
right."

But why prolong the torture of that scene, or rehearse the struggles,
groans, and convulsions? Nina, poor flowery child of seventeen summers,
stood with the rest in mute despair. All was tried that could be done or
thought of; but the disease, like some blind, deaf destroyer, marched
on, turning neither to right nor left, till the cries and groans grew
fainter, the convulsed muscles relaxed, and the strong, florid man lay
in the last stages of that fearful collapse which in one hour shrivels
the most healthy countenance and the firmest muscles to the shrunken
and withered image of decrepit old age. When the breath had passed, and
all was over, Nina could scarcely believe that that altered face and
form, so withered and so worn, could have been her healthy and joyous
uncle, and who never had appeared healthier and more joyous than on that
morning. But, as a person passing under the foam and spray of Niagara
clings with blind confidence to a guide whom he feels, but cannot see,
Nina, in this awful hour, felt that she was not alone. The Redeemer,
all-powerful over death and the grave, of whom she had been thinking so
much of late, seemed to her sensibly near. And it seemed to her as if a
voice said to her, continually, "Fear not, for I am with thee. Be not
dismayed, for I am thy God."

"How calm you are, my child!" said Aunt Maria to her. "I wouldn't have
thought it was in you. I don't know what we should do without you."

But now a frightful wail was heard.

"Oh, we are all dying! we are all going! Oh, missis, come quick! Peter
has got it! Oh, daddy has got it! Oh, my child! my child!"

And the doctor, exhausted as he was by the surprise and excitement of
this case, began flying from one to another of the cabins, in the
greatest haste. Two or three of the house-servants also seemed to be
struck in the same moment, and only the calmness and courage which Nina
and her aunt maintained prevented a general abandonment to panic. Nina
possessed that fine, elastic temperament which, with the appearance of
extreme delicacy, possesses great powers of endurance. The perfect
calmness which she felt enabled her to bring all her faculties to bear
on the emergency.

"My good aunty, you mustn't be afraid! Bring out your religion; trust in
God," she said, to the cook, who was wringing her hands in terror.
"Remember your religion; sing some of your hymns, and do your duty to
the sick."

There is a magic power in the cheerful tone of courage, and Nina
succeeded in rallying the well ones to take care of the sick; but now
came a messenger, in hot haste, to say that the cholera had broken out
on the plantation at home.

"Well, Harry," said Nina, with a face pale, yet unmoved, "our duty calls
us away."

And, accompanied by the weary physician, they prepared to go back to
Canema. Before they had proceeded far, a man met them on horseback.

"Is Dr. Butler with you?"

"Yes," said Nina, putting her head out of the carriage.

"Oh, doctor, I've been riding all over the country after you. You must
come back to town this minute! Judge Peters is dying! I'm afraid he is
dead before this time, and there's a dozen more cases right in that
street. Here, get on to my horse, and ride for your life."

The doctor hastily sprang from the carriage, and mounted the horse;
then, stopping a moment, he cast a look of good-natured pity on the
sweet, pale face that was leaning out of the carriage window.

"My poor child," he said, "I can't bear to leave you. Who will help
you?"

"God," said Nina; "I am not afraid!"

"Come, come," said the man, "do hurry!" And, with one hasty glance more,
he was gone.

"Now, Harry," said Nina, "everything depends upon our keeping up our
courage and our strength. We shall have no physician. We must just do
the best we can. After all, it is our Lord Jesus that has the keys of
death, and _he_ loved us and died for us. He will certainly be with us."

"Oh, Miss Nina, you are an angel!" said Harry, who felt at that moment
as if he could have worshipped her.

Arrived at home, Nina found a scene of terror and confusion similar to
that she had already witnessed. Old Hundred lay dead in his cabin, and
the lamenting crowd, gathering round, were yielding to the full tide of
fear and excitement, which predisposed them to the same fate. Nina rode
up immediately to the group. She spoke to them calmly; she silenced
their outcries, and bade them obey her.

"If you wish, all of you, to die," she said, "this is the way towards
it; but, if you'll keep quiet and calm, and do what ought to be done,
your lives may be saved. Harry and I have got medicines--we understand
what to do. You must follow our directions exactly."

Nina immediately went to the house, and instructed Milly, Aunt Rose,
and two or three of the elderly women, in the duties to be done. Milly
rose up, in this hour of terror, with all the fortitude inspired by her
strong nature.

"Bress de Lord," she said, "for his grace to you, chile! De Lord is a
shield. He's been wid us in six troubles, and he'll be wid us in seven.
We can sing in de swellings of Jordan."

Harry, meanwhile, was associating to himself a band of the most reliable
men on the place, and endeavoring in the same manner to organize them
for action. A messenger was dispatched immediately to the neighboring
town for unlimited quantities of the most necessary medicines and
stimulants. The plantation was districted off, and placed under the care
of leaders, who held communication with Harry. In the course of two or
three hours, the appalling scene of distress and confusion was reduced
to the resolute and orderly condition of a well-managed hospital.

Milly walked the rounds in every direction, appealing to the religious
sensibilities of the people, and singing hymns of trust and confidence.
She possessed a peculiar voice, suited to her large development of
physical frame, almost as deep as a man's bass, with the rich softness
of a feminine tone; and Nina could now and then distinguish, as she was
moving about the house or grounds, that triumphant tone, singing,--


     "God is my sun,
       And he my shade,
       To guard my head,
     By night or noon.
     Hast thou not given thy word
       To save my soul from death?
     And I can trust my Lord,
       To keep my mortal breath.
     I'll go and come,
       Nor fear to die,
       Till from on high
     Thou call me home."


The house that night presented the aspect of a beleaguered garrison.
Nina and Milly had thrown open all the chambers; and such as were
peculiarly exposed to the disease, by delicacy of organization or
tremulousness of nervous system, were allowed to take shelter there.

"Now, chile," said Milly, when all the arrangements had been made, "you
jes lie down and go to sleep in yer own room. I see how 'tis with you;
de spirit is willing, but de flesh is weak. Chile, dere isn't much of
you, but dere won't nothing go widout you. So, you take care of yerself
first. Never you be 'fraid! De people's quiet now, and de sick ones is
ben took care of, and de folks is all doing de best dey can. So, now,
you try and get some sleep; 'cause if _you_ goes we shall _all_ go."

Accordingly Nina retired to her room, but before she lay down she wrote
to Clayton:--


     "We are all in affliction here, my dear friend. Poor Uncle John
     died this morning of the cholera. I had been to E---- to see a
     doctor and provide medicines. When I came back I thought I would
     call a few moments at the house, and I found a perfect scene of
     horror. Poor uncle died, and there are a great many sick on the
     place now; and while I was thinking that I would stay and help
     aunt, a messenger came in all haste, saying that the disease had
     broken out on our place at home.

     "We were bringing the doctor with us in our carriage, when we met a
     man riding full speed from E----, who told us that Judge Peters was
     dying, and a great many others were sick on the same street. When
     we came home we found the poor old coachman dead, and the people in
     the greatest consternation. It took us some time to tranquillize
     them and to produce order, but that is now done. Our house is full
     of the sick and the fearful ones. Milly and Harry are firm and
     active, and inspire the rest with courage. About twenty are taken
     with the disease, but not as yet in a violent way. In this awful
     hour I feel a strange peace, which the Bible truly says 'passeth
     all understanding.' I see, now, that though the world and all that
     is in it should perish, 'Christ can give us a beautiful immortal
     life.' I write to you because, perhaps, this may be the only
     opportunity. If I die, do not mourn for me, but thank God, who
     giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. But, then, I
     trust, I shall not die. I hope to live in this world, which is more
     than ever beautiful to me. Life has never been so valuable and dear
     as since I have known you. Yet I have such trust in the love of my
     Redeemer, that, if _he_ were to ask me to lay it down, I could do
     it almost without a sigh. I would follow the Lamb whithersoever he
     goeth. Perhaps the same dreadful evil is around you,--perhaps at
     Magnolia Grove. I will not be selfish in calling you here, if Anne
     needs you more. Perhaps she has not such reliable help as Harry and
     Milly are to me. So do not fear, and do not leave any duty for me.
     Our Father loves us, and will do nothing amiss. Milly walks about
     the entries singing. I love to hear her sing, she sings in such a
     grand triumphant tone. Hark, I hear her now!


          'I'll go and come,
            Nor fear to die,
            Till from on high
          Thou call me home.'


     "I shall write you every mail, now, till we are better.

     "Living or dying, ever your own

     "NINA."


After writing this, Nina lay down and slept--slept all night as quietly
as if death and disease were not hanging over her head. In the morning
she rose and dressed herself, and Milly, with anxious care, brought to
her room some warm coffee and crackers, which she insisted on her taking
before she left her apartment.

"How are they all, Milly?" said Nina.

"Well, chile," said Milly, "de midnight cry has been heard among us.
Aunt Rose is gone; and Big Sam, and Jack, and Sally, dey's all gone; but
de people is all more quiet, love, and dey's determined to stand it
out!"

"How is Harry?" said Nina, in a tremulous voice.

"He isn't sick; he has been up all night working over de sick, but he
keeps up good heart. De older ones is going to have a little
prayer-meeting after breakfast, as a sort of funeral to dem dat's dead;
and, perhaps, Miss Nina, you'd read us a chapter."

"Certainly I will," said Nina.

It was yet an early hour, when a large circle of family and plantation
hands gathered together in the pleasant, open saloon, which we have so
often described. The day was a beautiful one; the leaves and shrubbery
round the veranda moist and tremulous with the glittering freshness of
morning dew. There was a murmur of tenderness and admiration as Nina, in
a white morning-wrapper, and a cheek as white, came into the room.

"Sit down, all my friends," she said, "sit down," looking at some of the
plantation men, who seemed to be diffident about taking the sofa, which
was behind them; "it's no time for ceremony now. We are standing on the
brink of the grave, where all are equal. I'm glad to see you so calm and
so brave. I hope your trust is in the Saviour, who gives us the victory
over death. Sing," she said. Milly began the well-known hymn:


     "And must this feeble body fail,
       And must it faint and die?
     My soul shall quit this gloomy vale,
       And soar to realms on high;

     "Shall join the disembodied saints,
       And find its long-sought rest;
     That only rest for which it pants,
       On the Redeemer's breast."


Every voice joined, and the words rose triumphant from the very gates of
the grave. When the singing was over, Nina, in a tremulous voice, which
grew clearer as she went on, read the undaunted words of the ancient
psalm:--

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under
the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and
my fortress. My God, in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee
from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall
cover thee with his feathers. Under his wings shalt thou trust. Thou
shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that
flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for
the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall by thy
side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh
thee. He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy
ways."

"It is possible," said Nina, "that we may, some of us, be called away.
But, to those that love Christ, there is no fear in death. It is only
going home to our Father. Keep up courage, then!"

In all cases like this, the first shock brings with it more terror than
any which succeeds. The mind can become familiar with anything, even
with the prospect of danger and death, so that it can appear to be an
ordinary condition of existence. Everything proceeded calmly on the
plantation; and all, stimulated by the example of their young mistress,
seemed determined to meet the exigency firmly and faithfully. In the
afternoon of the second day, as Nina was sitting in the door, she
observed the wagon of Uncle Tiff making its way up the avenue; and, with
her usual impulsiveness, ran down to meet her humble friend.

"Oh, Tiff, how do you do, in these dreadful times!"

"Oh, Miss Nina," said the faithful creature, removing his hat, with
habitual politeness, "ef yer please, I's brought de baby here, 'cause
it's drefful sick, and I's been doing all I could for him, and he don't
get no better. And I's brought Miss Fanny and Teddy, 'cause I's 'fraid
to leave 'em, 'cause I see a man yesterday, and he tell me dey was dying
eberywhar on all de places round."

"Well," said Nina, "you have come to a sorrowful place, for they are
dying here, too! But, if you feel any safer here, you and the children
may stay, and we'll do for you just as we do for each other. Give me the
baby, while you get out. It's asleep, isn't it?"

"Yes, Miss Nina, it's 'sleep pretty much all de time, now."

Nina carried it up the steps, and put it into the arms of Milly.

"It's sleeping nicely," she said.

"Ah, honey!" said Milly, "it'll neber wake up out of dat ar! Dat ar
sleep an't de good kind!"

"Well," said Nina, "we'll help him take care of it, and we'll make room
for him and the children, Milly; because we have medicines and
directions, and they have nothing out there."

So Tiff and his family took shelter in the general fortress. Towards
evening, the baby died. Tiff held it in his arms to the very last; and
it was with difficulty that Nina and Milly could persuade him that the
little flickering breath was gone forever. When forced to admit it, he
seemed for a few moments perfectly inconsolable. Nina quietly opened her
Testament, and read to him:--

"And they brought little children unto him, that he should touch them;
and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But Jesus said,
Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such
is the kingdom of heaven."

"Bressed Lord!" said Tiff, "I'll gib him up, I will! I won't hold out no
longer! I won't forbid him to go, if it does break my old heart! Laws,
we's drefful selfish! But de por little ting, he was getting so pretty!"



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS.


Clayton was quietly sitting in his law-office, looking over and
arranging some papers necessary to closing his business. A colored boy
brought in letters from the mail. He looked them over rapidly; and,
selecting one, read it with great agitation and impatience. Immediately
he started, with the open letter crushed in his hand, seized his hat,
and rushed to the nearest livery-stable.

"Give me the fastest horse you have--one that can travel night and day!"
he said. "I must ride for life or death!"

And half an hour more saw Clayton in full speed on the road. By the
slow, uncertain, and ill-managed mail-route, it would have taken three
days to reach Canema. Clayton hoped, by straining every nerve, to reach
there in twenty-four hours. He pushed forward, keeping the animal at the
top of his speed; and, at the first stage-stand, changed him for a fresh
one. And thus proceeding along, he found himself, at three o'clock of
the next morning, in the woods about fifteen miles from Canema. The
strong tension of the nervous system, which had upheld him insensible to
fatigue until this point, was beginning slightly to subside. All night
he had ridden through the loneliness of pine-forests, with no eye
looking down on him save the twinkling mysterious stars. At the last
place where he had sought to obtain horses, everything had been horror
and confusion. Three were lying dead in the house, and another was
dying.

All along upon the route, at every stopping-place, the air had seemed to
be filled with flying rumors and exaggerated reports of fear and death.
As soon as he began to perceive that he was approaching the plantation,
he became sensible of that shuddering dread which all of us may remember
to have had, in slight degrees, in returning home after a long absence,
under a vague expectation of misfortune, to which the mind can set no
definite limits. When it was yet scarcely light enough to see, he passed
by the cottage of Old Tiff. A strange impulse prompted him to stop and
make some inquiries there, before he pushed on to the plantation. But,
as he rode up, he saw the gate standing ajar, the door of the house left
open; and, after repeated callings, receiving no answer, he alighted,
and, leading his horse behind him, looked into the door. The gloaming
starlight was just sufficient to show him that all was desolate. Somehow
this seemed to him like an evil omen. As he was mounting his horse,
preparing to ride away, a grand and powerful voice rose from the
obscurity of the woods before him, singing, in a majestic, minor-keyed
tune, these words:--


     "Throned on a cloud our God shall come,
       Bright flames prepare his way;
     Thunder and darkness, fire and storm,
       Lead on the dreadful day!"


Wearied with his night ride, his nervous system strained to the last
point of tension by the fearful images which filled his mind, it is not
surprising that these sounds should have thrilled through the hearer
with even a superstitious power. And Clayton felt a singular excitement,
as, under the dim arcade of the pine-trees, he saw a dark figure
approaching. He seemed to be marching with a regular tread, keeping time
to the mournful music which he sung.

"Who are you?" called Clayton, making an effort to recall his manhood.

"I?" replied the figure, "I am the voice of one crying in the
wilderness! I am a sign unto this people of the judgment of the Lord!"

Our readers must remember the strange dimness of the hour, the wildness
of the place and circumstances, and the singular quality of the tone in
which the figure spoke. Clayton hesitated a moment, and the speaker went
on:--

"I saw the Lord coming with ten thousand of his saints! Before him went
the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet! Thy bow is
made quite naked, O God, according to the oaths of the tribes! I saw the
tents of Cushan in affliction, and the curtains of the land of Midian
did tremble!"

Pondering in his mind what this wild style of address might mean,
Clayton rode slowly onward. And the man, for such he appeared to be,
came out of the shadows of the wood and stood directly in his path,
raising his hand with a commanding gesture.

"I know whom you seek," he said; "but it shall not be given you; for the
star, which is called wormwood, hath fallen, and the time of the dead is
come, that they shall be judged! Behold, there sitteth on the white
cloud _one_ like the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and
in his hand a sharp sickle!"

Then, waving his hand above his head, with a gesture of wild excitement,
he shouted:--

"Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the
earth, for her grapes are fully ripe! Behold, the wine-press shall be
trodden without the city, and there shall be blood even to the horses'
bridles! Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the
trumpets of the other angels, which are yet to sound!"

The fearful words pealed through the dim aisles of the forest like the
curse of some destroying angel. After a pause, the speaker resumed, in a
lower and more plaintive tone:--

"Weep ye not for the dead! neither bewail her! Behold, the Lamb standeth
on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand,
having his Father's name written on their foreheads. These are they
which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth; and in their mouth is
found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Behold the angel having the seal of God is gone forth, and she shall be
sealed in her forehead unto the Lamb."

The figure turned away slowly, singing, as he made his way through the
forest, in the same weird and funereal accents; but this time the song
was a wild, plaintive sound, like the tolling of a heavy bell:--


     "Ding dong! dead and gone!
       Farewell, father!
     Bury me in Egypt's land,
       By my dear mother!
     Ding, dong! ding, dong!
     Dead and gone!"


Clayton, as he slowly wound his way along the unfrequented path, felt a
dim, brooding sense of mystery and terror creeping over him. The tones
of the voice, and the wild style of the speaker, recalled the strange
incident of the camp-meeting; and, though he endeavored strenuously to
reason with himself that probably some wild and excited fanatic, made
still more frantic by the presence of death and destruction all around,
was the author of these fearful denunciations, still he could not help a
certain weight of fearful foreboding.

This life may be truly called a haunted house, built as it is on the
very confines of the land of darkness and the shadow of death. A
thousand living fibres connect us with the unknown and unseen state; and
the strongest hearts, which never stand still for any mortal terror,
have sometimes hushed their very beating at a breath of a whisper from
within the veil. Perhaps the most resolute unbeliever in spiritual
things has hours of which he would be ashamed to tell, when he, too,
yields to the powers of those awful affinities which bind us to that
unknown realm.

It is not surprising that Clayton, in spite of himself, should have felt
like one mysteriously warned. It was a relief to him when the dusky
dimness of the solemn dawn was pierced by long shafts of light from the
rising sun, and the day broke gladsome and jubilant, as if sorrow,
sighing, and death, were a dream of the night. During the whole
prevalence of this fearful curse, it was strange to witness the
unaltered regularity, splendor, and beauty, with which the movements of
the natural world went on. Amid fears, and dying groans, and wailings,
and sobs, and broken hearts, the sun rose and set in splendor, the dews
twinkled, and twilight folded her purple veil heavy with stars; birds
sung, waters danced and warbled, flowers bloomed, and everything in
nature was abundant, and festive, and joyous.

When Clayton entered the boundaries of the plantation, he inquired
eagerly of the first person he met for the health of its mistress.

"Thank God, she is yet alive!" said he. "It was but a dream, after all!"



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE EVENING STAR.


The mails in the State of North Carolina, like the prudential
arrangements of the slave states generally, were very little to be
depended upon; and therefore a week had elapsed after the mailing of
Nina's first letter, describing the danger of her condition, before it
was received by Clayton. During that time the fury of the shock which
had struck the plantation appeared to have abated; and, while on some
estates in the vicinity it was yet on the increase, the inhabitants of
Canema began to hope that the awful cloud was departing from them. It
was true that many were still ailing; but there were no new cases, and
the disease in the case of those who were ill appeared to be yielding to
nursing and remedies.

Nina had risen in the morning early, as her custom had been since the
sickness, and gone the rounds, to inquire for the health of her people.
Returned, a little fatigued, she was sitting in the veranda, under the
shadow of one of the pillar-roses, enjoying the cool freshness of the
morning. Suddenly the tramp of horse's feet was heard, and, looking, she
saw Clayton coming up the avenue. There seemed but a dizzy, confused
moment, before his horse's bridle was thrown to the winds, and he was up
the steps, holding her in his arms.

"Oh, you are here yet, my rose, my bride, my lamb! God is merciful! This
is too much! Oh, I thought you were gone!"

"No, dear, not yet," said Nina. "God has been with us. We have lost a
great many; but God has spared me to you."

"Are you really well?" said Clayton, holding her off, and looking at
her. "You look pale, my little rose!"

"That's not wonderful," said Nina; "I've had a great deal to make me
look pale; but I am very well. I have been well through it all--never
in better health--and, it seems strange to say it, but never happier. I
have felt so peaceful, so sure of God's love!"

"Do you know," said Clayton, "that that peace alarms me--that strange,
unearthly happiness? It seems so like what is given to dying people."

"No," said Nina, "I think that when we have no one but our Father to
lean on, he comes nearer than he does any other time; and that is the
secret of this happiness. But, come,--you look wofully tired; have you
been riding all night?"

"Yes, ever since yesterday morning at nine o'clock. I have ridden down
four horses to get to you. Only think, I didn't get your letter till a
week after it was dated!"

"Well, perhaps that was the best," said Nina; "because I have heard them
say that anybody coming suddenly and unprepared in the epidemic, when it
is in full force, is almost sure to be taken by it immediately. But you
must let me take care of you. Don't you know that I'm mistress of the
fortress here--commander-in-chief and head-physician? I shall order you
to your room immediately, and Milly shall bring you up some coffee, and
then you must have some sleep. You can see with your eyes, now, that we
are all safe, and there's nothing to hinder your resting. Come, let me
lead you off, like a captive."

Released from the pressure of overwhelming fear, Clayton began now to
feel the reaction of the bodily and mental straining which he had been
enduring for the last twenty-four hours, and therefore he willingly
yielded himself to the directions of his little sovereign. Retired to
his room, after taking his coffee, which was served by Milly, he fell
into a deep and tranquil sleep, which lasted till some time in the
afternoon. At first, overcome by fatigue, he slept without dreaming;
but, when the first weariness was past, the excitement of the nervous
system, under which he had been laboring, began to color his dreams with
vague and tumultuous images. He thought that he was again with Nina at
Magnolia Grove, and that the servants were passing around in procession,
throwing flowers at their feet; but the wreath of orange-blossoms which
fell in Nina's lap was tied with black crape. But she took it up,
laughing, threw the crape away, and put the wreath on her head, and he
heard the chorus singing,--


     "Oh, de North Carolina rose!
     Oh, de North Carolina rose!"


And then the sound seemed to change to one of lamentation, and the
floral procession seemed to be a funeral, and a deep, melancholy voice,
like the one he had heard in the woods in the morning, sang,--


     "Weep, for the rose is withered!
     The North Carolina rose!"


He struggled heavily in his sleep, and, at last waking, sat up and
looked about him. The rays of the evening sun were shining on the
tree-tops of the distant avenue, and Nina was singing on the veranda
below. He listened, and the sound floated up like a rose-leaf carried on
a breeze:--


     "The summer hath its heavy cloud,
       The rose-leaf must fall,
     But in our land joy wears no shroud--
       Never doth it pall!
     Each new morning ray
     Leaves no sigh for yesterday--
     No smile passed away
       Would we recall!"


The time was a favorite melody, which has found much favor with the
popular ear, and bore the title of "The Hindoo Dancing-Girl's Song;" and
is, perhaps, a fragment of one of those mystical songs in which oriental
literature abounds, in which the joy and reunion of earthly love are
told in shadowy, symbolic resemblance to the everlasting union of the
blessed above. It had a wild, dreamy, soothing power, as verse after
verse came floating in, like white doves from paradise, as if they had
borne healing on their wings:--


     "Then haste to the happy land,
       Where sorrow is unknown;
     But first in a joyous band,
       I'll make thee my own.
     Haste, haste, fly with me
     Where love's banquet waits for thee;
     Thine all its sweets shall be,--
       Thine, thine, alone!"


A low tap at his door at last aroused him. The door was partly opened,
and a little hand threw in a half-opened spray of monthly-rosebuds.

"There's something to remind you that you are yet in the body!" said a
voice in the entry. "If you are rested, I'll let you come down, now."

And Clayton heard the light footsteps tripping down the stairs. He
roused himself, and, after some little attention to his toilet, appeared
on the veranda.

"Tea has been waiting for some time," said Nina. "I thought I'd give you
a hint."

"I was lying very happy, hearing you sing," said Clayton. "You may sing
me that song again."

"Was I singing?" said Nina; "why I didn't know it! I believe that's my
way of thinking, sometimes. I'll sing to you again, after tea. I like to
sing."

After tea they were sitting again in the veranda, and the whole heavens
were one rosy flush of filmy clouds.

"How beautiful!" said Nina. "It seems to me I've enjoyed these things,
this summer, as I never have before. It seemed as if I felt an influence
from them going through me, and filling me, as the light does those
clouds."

And, as she stood looking up into the sky, she began singing again the
words that Clayton had heard before:--


     "I am come from the happy land,
       Where sorrow is unknown;
     I have parted a joyous band,
       To make thee mine own!
     Haste, haste, fly with me,
     Where love's banquet waits for thee;
     Thine all its sweets shall be,--
       Thine, thine, alone!

     "The summer has its heavy cloud,
     The rose-leaf must fall,"--


She stopped her singing suddenly, left the veranda, and went into the
house.

"Do you want anything?" said Clayton.

"Nothing," said she, hurriedly. "I'll be back in a moment."

Clayton watched, and saw her go to a closet in which the medicines and
cordials were kept, and take something from a glass. He gave a start of
alarm.

"You are not ill, are you?" he said, fearfully, as she returned.

"Oh, no; only a little faint. We have become so prudent, you know, that
if we feel the least beginning of any disagreeable sensation, we take
something at once. I have felt this faintness quite often. It isn't
much."

Clayton put his arm around her, and looked at her with a vague yearning
of fear and admiration.

"You look so like a spirit," he said, "that I must hold you."

"Do you think I've got a pair of hidden wings?" she said, smiling, and
looking gayly in his face.

"I am afraid so!" he said. "Do you feel quite well, now?"

"Yes, I believe so. Only, perhaps, we had better sit down. I think,
perhaps, it is the reaction of so much excitement makes me feel rather
tired."

Clayton seated her on the settee by the door, still keeping his arm
anxiously around her. In a few moments she drooped her head wearily on
his shoulder.

"_You are ill!_" he said, in tones of alarm.

"No, no! I feel very well--only a little faint and tired. It seems to me
it is getting a little cold here, isn't it?" she said, with a slight
shiver.

Clayton took her up in his arms, without speaking, carried her in and
laid her on the sofa, then rang for Harry and Milly.

"Get a horse, instantly," he said to Harry, as soon as he appeared, "and
go for a doctor!"

"There's no use in sending," said Nina; "he is driven to death, and
can't come. Besides, there's nothing the matter with me, only I am a
little tired and cold. Shut the doors and windows, and cover me up. No,
no, don't take me up stairs! I like to lie here; just put a shawl over
me, that's all. I am thirsty,--give me some water!"

The fearful and mysterious disease, which was then in the ascendant, has
many forms of approach and development. One, and the most deadly, is
that which takes place when a person has so long and gradually imbibed
the fatal poison of an infected atmosphere, that the resisting powers of
nature have been insidiously and quietly subdued, so that the subject
sinks under it, without any violent outward symptom, by a quiet and
certain yielding of the vital powers, such as has been likened to the
bleeding to death by an internal wound. In this case, before an hour
had passed, though none of the violent and distressing symptoms of the
disease appeared, it became evident that the seal of death was set on
that fair young brow. A messenger had been dispatched, riding with the
desperate speed which love and fear can give, but Harry remained in
attendance.

"Nothing is the matter with me--nothing is the matter," she said,
"except fatigue, and this change in the weather. If I only had more over
me! and, perhaps, you had better give me a little brandy, or some such
thing. This is water, isn't it, that you have been giving me?"

Alas! it was the strongest brandy; but there was no taste, and the
hartshorn that they were holding had no smell. And there was no change
in the weather; it was only the creeping deadness, affecting the whole
outer and inner membrane of the system. Yet still her voice remained
clear, though her mind occasionally wandered.

There is a strange impulse, which sometimes comes in the restlessness
and distress of dissolving nature, _to sing;_ and, as she lay with her
eyes closed, apparently in a sort of trance, she would sing, over and
over again, the verse of the song which she was singing when the blow of
the unseen destroyer first struck her.


     "The summer hath its heavy cloud,
       The rose-leaf must fall;
     But in our land joy wears no shroud,
       Never doth it pall."


At last she opened her eyes, and, seeing the agony of all around, the
truth seemed to come to her.

"I think I'm called!" she said. "Oh, I'm so sorry for you all! Don't
grieve so; my Father loves me so well,--he cannot spare me any longer.
He wants me to come to him. That's all--don't grieve so. It's _home_ I'm
going to--_home_! 'Twill be only a little while, and you'll come too,
all of you. You are satisfied, are you not, Edward?"

And again she relapsed into the dreamy trance, and sang, in that
strange, sweet voice, so low, so weak,--


     "In our land joy wears no shroud,
       Never doth it pall."


Clayton,--what did he? What could he do? What have any of us done, who
have sat holding in our arms a dear form, from which the soul was
passing--the soul for which gladly we would have given our own in
exchange! When we have felt it going with inconceivable rapidity from
us; and we, ignorant and blind, vainly striving, with this and that, to
arrest the inevitable doom, feeling every moment that some _other_ thing
might be done to save, which is not done, and that that which we are
doing may be only hastening the course of the destroyer! Oh, those
awful, agonized moments, when we watch the clock, and no physician
comes, and every stroke of the pendulum is like the approaching step of
death! Oh, is there anything in heaven or earth for the despair of such
hours?

Not a moment was lost by the three around that dying bed, chafing those
cold limbs, administering the stimulants which the dead, exhausted
system no longer felt.

"She doesn't suffer! Thank God, at any rate, for that!" said Clayton, as
he knelt over her in anguish.

A beautiful smile passed over her face, as she opened her eyes and
looked on them all, and said,--

"No, my poor friends, I don't suffer. I'm come to the land where they
never suffer. I'm only _so_ sorry for you! Edward," she said to him, "do
you remember what you said to me once?--It has come now. You must bear
it like a man. God calls you to some work--don't shrink from it. You are
baptized with fire. It all lasts only a little while. It will be over
soon, very soon! Edward, take care of my poor people. Tell Tom to be
kind to them. My poor, faithful, good Harry! Oh! I'm going so fast!"

The voice sunk into a whispering sigh. Life now seemed to have retreated
to the citadel of the brain. She lay apparently in the last sleep, when
the footsteps of the doctor were heard on the veranda. There was a
general spring to the door, and Dr. Butler entered, pale, haggard, and
worn, from constant exertion and loss of rest.

He did not say in words that there was no hope, but his first dejected
look said it but too plainly.

She moved her head a little, like one who is asleep uneasily upon her
pillow, opened her eyes once more, and said,--

"Good by! I will arise and go to my Father!"

The gentle breath gradually became fainter and fainter,--all hope was
over! The night walked on with silent and solemn footsteps--soft showers
fell without, murmuring upon the leaves--within, all was still as death!


     "They watched her breathing through the night,
       Her breathing soft and low,
     As in her breast the wave of life
       Kept heaving to and fro.

     "So silently they seemed to speak,
       So slowly moved about,
     As they had lent her half their powers
       To eke her living out.

     "Their very hopes belied their fears,
       Their fears their hopes belied--
     They thought her dying when she slept,
       And sleeping when she died.

     "For when the morn came dim and sad,
       And chill with early showers,
     Her quiet eyelids closed--she had
       Another morn than ours."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE TIE BREAKS.


Clayton remained at Canema several days after the funeral. He had been
much affected by the last charge given him by Nina, that he should care
for her people; and the scene of distress which he witnessed among them,
at her death, added to the strength of his desire to be of service to
them.

He spent some time in looking over and arranging Nina's papers. He
sealed up the letters of her different friends, and directed them in
order to be returned to the writers, causing Harry to add to each a
memorandum of the time of her death. His heart sunk heavily when he
reflected how little it was possible for any one to do for servants left
in the uncontrolled power of a man like Tom Gordon. The awful words of
his father's decision, with regard to the power of the master, never
seemed so dreadful as now, when he was to see this unlimited authority
passed into the hands of one whose passions were his only law. He
recalled, too, what Nina had said of the special bitterness existing
between Tom and Harry; and his heart almost failed him when he
recollected that the very step which Nina, in her generosity, had taken
to save Lisette from his lawlessness, had been the means of placing her,
without remedy, under his power. Under the circumstances, he could not
but admire the calmness and firmness with which Harry still continued to
discharge his duties to the estate; visiting those who were still
ailing, and doing his best to prevent their sinking into a panic which
might predispose to another attack of disease. Recollecting that Nina
had said something of some kind of a contract, by which Harry's freedom
was to be secured in case of her death, he resolved to speak with him on
the subject. As they were together in the library, looking over the
papers, Clayton said to him:--

"Harry, is there not some kind of contract, or understanding, with the
guardians of the estate, by which your liberty was secured in case of
the death of your mistress?"

"Yes," said Harry, "there is such a paper. I was to have my freedom on
paying a certain sum which is all paid in to five hundred dollars."

"I will advance you that money," said Clayton, unhesitatingly, "if that
is all that is necessary. Let me see the paper."

Harry produced it, and Clayton looked it over. It was a regular
contract, drawn in proper form, and with no circumstance wanting to give
it validity. Clayton, however, knew enough of the law which regulates
the condition in which Harry stood, to know that it was of no more avail
in his case than so much blank paper. He did not like to speak of it,
but sat reading it over, weighing every word, and dreading the moment
when he should be called upon to make some remark concerning it;
knowing, as he did, that what he had to say must dash all Harry's
hopes,--the hopes of his whole life. While he was hesitating a servant
entered and announced Mr. Jekyl; and that gentleman, with a
business-like directness which usually characterized his movements,
entered the library immediately after.

"Good-morning, Mr. Clayton," he said, and then, nodding patronizingly to
Harry, he helped himself to a chair and stated his business, without
further preamble.

"I have received orders from Mr. Gordon to come and take possession of
the estate and chattels of his deceased sister without delay."

As Clayton sat perfectly silent, it seemed to occur to Mr. Jekyl that a
few moral reflections of a general nature would be in etiquette on the
present occasion. He therefore added, in the tone of voice which he
reserved particularly for that style of remark:--

"We have been called upon to pass through most solemn and afflicting
dispensations of Divine Providence, lately. Mr. Clayton these things
remind us of the shortness of life, and of the necessity of preparation
for death!"

Mr. Jekyl paused, and, as Clayton still sat silent, he went on:

"There was no will, I presume?"

"No," said Clayton, "there was not."

"Ah, so I supposed," said Mr. Jekyl, who had now recovered his worldly
tone. "In that case, of course the whole property reverts to the
heir-at-law, just as I had imagined."

"Perhaps Mr. Jekyl would look at this paper," said Harry, taking his
contract from the hand of Mr. Clayton, and passing it to Mr. Jekyl; who
took out his spectacles, placed them deliberately on his sharp nose, and
read the paper through.

"Were you under the impression," said he to Harry, "that this is a legal
document?"

"Certainly," said Harry. "I can bring witnesses to prove Mr. John
Gordon's signature, and Miss Nina's also."

"Oh, that's all evident enough," said Mr. Jekyl. "I know Mr. John
Gordon's signature. But all the signatures in the world couldn't make it
a valid contract. You see, my boy," he said, turning to Harry, "a slave,
not being a person in the eye of the law, cannot have a contract made
with him. The law, which is based on the old Roman code, holds him, _pro
nullis, pro mortuis_; which means, Harry, that he's held as nothing--as
dead, inert substance. That's his position in law."

"I believe," said Harry in a strong and bitter tone, "that is what
religious people call a Christian institution!"

"Hey?" said Mr. Jekyl, elevating his eyebrows, "what's that?"

Harry repeated his remark, and Mr. Jekyl replied in the most literal
manner:--

"Of course it is. It is a divine ordering, and ought to be met in a
proper spirit. There's no use, my boy, in rebellion. Hath not the potter
power over the clay, to make one lump to honor, and the other to
dishonor?"

"Mr. Jekyl, I think it would be expedient to confine the conversation
simply to legal matters," said Clayton.

"Oh, certainly," said Mr. Jekyl. "And this brings me to say that I have
orders from Mr. Gordon to stay till he comes, and keep order on the
place. Also that none of the hands shall, at any time, leave the
plantation until he arrives. I brought two or three officers with me, in
case there should be any necessity for enforcing order."

"When will Mr. Gordon be here?" said Clayton.

"To-morrow, I believe," said Mr. Jekyl. "Young man," he added, turning
to Harry, "you can produce the papers and books, and I can be attending
to the accounts."

Clayton rose and left the room, leaving Harry with the imperturbable
Mr. Jekyl, who plunged briskly into the business of the accounts,
talking to Harry with as much freedom and composure as if he had not
just been destroying the hopes of his whole lifetime.

If, by any kind of inward clairvoyance, or sudden clearing of his mental
vision, Mr. Jekyl could have been made to appreciate the anguish which
at that moment overwhelmed the soul of the man with whom he was dealing,
we deem it quite possible that he might have been moved to a transient
emotion of pity. Even a thorough-paced political economist may sometimes
be surprised in this way, by the near view of a case of actual
irremediable distress; but he would soon have consoled himself by a
species of mental algebra, that the greatest good of the greatest number
was nevertheless secure; therefore there was no occasion to be troubled
about infinitesimal amounts of suffering. In this way people can reason
away every kind of distress but their own; for it is very remarkable
that even so slight an ailment as a moderate toothache will put this
kind of philosophy entirely to rout.

"It appears to me," said Mr. Jekyl, looking at Harry, after a while,
with more attention than he had yet given him, "that something is the
matter with you, this morning. Aren't you well?"

"In body," said Harry, "I am well."

"Well, what is the matter, then?" said Mr. Jekyl.

"The matter is," said Harry, "that I have all my life been toiling for
my liberty, and thought I was coming nearer to it every year; and now,
at thirty-five years of age, I find myself still a slave, with no hope
of getting free!"

Mr. Jekyl perceived from the outside that there was something the matter
inside of his human brother; some unknown quantity in the way of
suffering, such as his algebra gave no rule for ascertaining. He had a
confused notion that this was an affliction, and that when people were
in affliction they must be talked to; and he proceeded accordingly to
talk.

"My boy, this is a dispensation of Divine Providence!"

"I call it a dispensation of human tyranny!" said Harry.

"It pleased the Lord," continued Mr. Jekyl, "to foredoom the race of
Ham"--

"Mr. Jekyl, that humbug don't go down with me! I'm no more of the race
of Ham than you are! I'm Colonel Gordon's oldest son--as white as my
brother, who you say owns me! Look at my eyes, and my hair, and say if
any of the rules about Ham pertain to me!"

"Well," said Mr. Jekyl, "my boy, you mustn't get excited. Everything
must go, you know, by general rules. We must take that course which
secures the greatest general amount of good on the whole; and all such
rules will work hard in particular cases. Slavery is a great missionary
enterprise for civilizing and christianizing the degraded African."

"Wait till you see Tom Gordon's management on this plantation," said
Harry, "and you'll see what sort of a christianizing institution it is!
Mr. Jekyl, you _know_ better! You throw such talk as that in the face of
your northern visitors, and you know all the while that Sodom and
Gomorrah don't equal some of these plantations, where nobody isn't
anybody's husband or wife in particular! You know all these things, and
you dare talk to me about a missionary institution! What sort of
missionary institutions are the great trading-marts, where they sell men
and women? What are the means of grace they use there? And the dogs and
the negro-hunters!--those are for the greatest good, too! If your soul
were in our souls' stead, you'd see things differently."

Mr. Jekyl was astonished, and said so. But he found a difficulty in
presenting his favorite view of the case, under the circumstances; and
we believe those ministers of the Gospel, and elders, who entertain
similar doctrines, would gain some new views by the effort to present
them to a live man in Harry's circumstances. Mr. Jekyl never had a more
realizing sense of the difference between the abstract and concrete.

Harry was now thoroughly roused. He had inherited the violent and fiery
passions of his father. His usual appearance of studied calmness, and
his habits of deferential address, were superinduced; they resembled the
thin crust which coats over a flood of boiling lava, and which a burst
of the seething mass beneath can shiver in a moment. He was now wholly
desperate and reckless. He saw himself already delivered, bound hand and
foot, into the hands of a master from whom he could expect neither
mercy nor justice. He was like one who had hung suspended over an abyss,
by grasping a wild rose; the frail and beautiful thing was broken, and
he felt himself _going_, with only despair beneath him. He rose and
stood the other side of the table, his hands trembling with excitement.

"Mr. Jekyl," he said, "it is all over with me! Twenty years of faithful
service have gone for nothing. Myself and wife, and unborn child, are
the slaves of a vile wretch! Hush, now! I will have my say for once!
I've borne, and borne, and borne, and it shall come out! You men who
call yourselves religious, and stand up for such tyranny,--you serpents,
you generation of vipers,--how can you escape the damnation of hell? You
keep the clothes of them who stone Stephen! You encourage theft, and
robbery, and adultery, and you know it! You are worse than the villains
themselves, who don't pretend to justify what they do. Now, go, tell Tom
Gordon--go! I shall fight it out to the last! I've nothing to hope, and
nothing to lose. Let him look out! They made sport of Samson,--they put
out his eyes,--but he pulled down the temple over their heads, after
all. Look out!"

There is something awful in an outburst of violent passion. The veins in
Harry's forehead were swollen, his lips were livid, his eyes glittered
like lightning; and Mr. Jekyl cowered before him.

"There will come a day," said Harry, "when all this shall be visited
upon you! The measure you have filled to us shall be filled to you
_double_--mark my words!"

Harry spoke so loudly, in his vehemence, that Clayton overheard him, and
came behind him silently into the room. He was pained, shocked, and
astonished; and, obeying the first instinct, he came forward and laid
his hand entreatingly on Harry's shoulder.

"My good fellow, you don't know what you are saying," he said.

"Yes, I do," said Harry, "and my words will be true!"

Another witness had come behind Clayton--Tom Gordon, in his
travelling-dress, with pistols at his belt. He had ridden over after
Jekyl, and had arrived in time to hear part of Harry's frantic ravings.

"Stop!" he said, stepping into the middle of the room; "leave that
fellow to me! Now, boy," he said, fixing his dark and evil eye upon
Harry, "you didn't know that your master was hearing you, did you? The
last time we met, you told me I wasn't your master! _Now_, we'll see if
you'll say that again! You went whimpering to your mistress, and got her
to buy Lisette, so as to keep her out of _my_ way! Now who owns
her?--say! Do you see this?" he said, holding up a long, lithe
gutta-percha cane. "This is what I whip dogs with, when they don't know
their place! Now, sir, down on your knees, and ask pardon for your
impudence, or I'll thrash you within an inch of your life!"

"I won't kneel to my younger brother!" said Harry.

With a tremendous oath, Tom struck him; and, as if a rebound from the
stroke, Harry struck back a blow so violent as to send him stumbling
across the room, against the opposite wall; then turned, quick as
thought, sprang through the open window, climbed down the veranda,
vaulted on to Tom's horse, which stood tied at the post, and fled as
rapidly as lightning to his cottage door, where Lisette stood at the
ironing-table. He reached out his hand, and said, "Up, quick, Lisette!
Tom Gordon's here!" And before Tom Gordon had fairly recovered from the
dizziness into which the blow had thrown him, the fleet blood-horse was
whirling Harry and Lisette past bush and tree, till they arrived at the
place where he had twice before met Dred.

Dred was standing there. "Even so," he said, as the horse stopped, and
Harry and Lisette descended; "the vision is fulfilled! Behold, the Lord
shall make thee a witness and commander to the people!"

"There's no time to be lost," said Harry.

"Well I know that," said Dred. "Come, follow me!"

And before sunset of that evening Harry and Lisette were tenants of the
wild fastness in the centre of the swamp.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE PURPOSE.


It would be scarcely possible to describe the scene which Harry left in
the library. Tom Gordon was for a few moments stunned by the violence of
his fall, and Clayton and Mr. Jekyl at first did not know but he had
sustained some serious injury; and the latter, in his confusion, came
very near attempting his recovery, by pouring in his face the contents
of the large inkstand. Certainly, quite as appropriate a method, under
the circumstances, as the exhortations with which he had deluged Harry.
But Clayton, with more presence of mind, held his hand, and rang for
water. In a few moments, however, Tom recovered himself, and started up
furiously.

"Where is he?" he shouted, with a volley of oaths, which made Mr. Jekyl
pull up his shirt-collar, as became a good elderly gentleman,
preparatory to a little admonition.

"My young friend"--he began.

"Blast you! None of your _young friends_ to me! Where is he?"

"He has escaped," said Clayton, quietly.

"He got right out of the window," said Mr. Jekyl.

"Confound you, why didn't you stop him?" said Tom, violently.

"If that question is addressed to me," said Clayton, "I do not interfere
in your family affairs."

"You _have_ interfered, more than you ever shall again!" said Tom
roughly. "But, there's no use talking now; that fellow must be chased!
He thinks he's got away from me--we'll see! I'll make such an example of
him as shall be remembered!" He rang the bell violently. "Jim," he said,
"did you see Harry go off on my horse?"

"Yes, sah!"

"Then, why in thunder didn't you stop him?"

"I tought Mas'r Tom sent him--did so!"

"You knew better, you dog! And now, I tell you, order out the best
horses, and be on after him! And, if you don't catch him, it shall be
the worse for you!--Stay! Get _me_ a horse! I'll go myself."

Clayton saw that it was useless to remain any longer at Canema. He
therefore ordered his horse, and departed. Tom Gordon cast an evil eye
after him, as he rode away.

"I hate that fellow!" he said. "I'll make him mischief, one of these
days, if I can!"

As to Clayton, he rode away in bitterness of spirit. There are some men
so constituted that the sight of injustice, which they have no power to
remedy, is perfectly maddening to them. This is a very painful and
unprofitable constitution, so far as this world is concerned; but they
can no more help it than they can the toothache. Others may say to them,
"Why, what is it to you? You can't help it, and it's none of your
concern;" but still the fever burns on. Besides, Clayton had just passed
through one of the great crises of life. All there is in that strange
mystery of what man can feel for woman had risen like a wave within him;
and, gathering into itself, for a time, the whole force of his being,
had broken, with one dash, on the shore of death, and the waters had
flowed helplessly backward. In the great void which follows such a
crisis, the soul sets up a craving and cry for something to come in to
fill the emptiness; and while the heart says no _person_ can come into
that desolate and sacred enclosure, it sometimes embraces a _purpose_,
as in some sort a substitute.

In this manner, with solemnity and earnestness, Clayton resolved to
receive as a life-purpose a struggle with this great system of
injustice, which, like a parasitic weed, had struck its roots through
the whole growth of society, and was sucking thence its moisture and
nourishment.

As he rode through the lonely pine-woods, he felt his veins throbbing
and swelling with indignation and desire. And there arose within him
that sense of power which sometimes seems to come over man like an
inspiration, and leads him to say, "_This_ shall not be, and _this_
shall be;" as if he possessed the ability to control the crooked course
of human events. He was thankful in his heart that he had taken the
first step, by entering his public protest against this injustice, in
quitting the bar of his native state. What was next to be done, how the
evil was to be attacked, how the vague purpose fulfilled, he could not
say. Clayton was not aware, any more than others in his situation have
been, of what he was undertaking. He had belonged to an old and
respected family, and always, as a matter of course, been received in
all circles with attention, and listened to with respect. He who glides
dreamily down the glassy surface of a mighty river floats securely,
making his calculations to row upward. He knows nothing what the force
of that seemingly glassy current will be when his one feeble oar is set
against the whole volume of its waters. Clayton did not know that he was
already a marked man; that he had touched a spot, in the society where
he lived, which was vital, and which that society would never suffer to
be touched with impunity. It was the fault of Clayton, and is the fault
of all such men, that he judged mankind by himself. He could not believe
that anything, except ignorance and inattention, could make men
upholders of deliberate injustice. He thought all that was necessary was
the enlightening of the public mind, the direction of general attention
to the subject. In his way homeward he revolved in his mind immediate
measures of action. This evil should no longer be tampered with. He
would take on himself the task of combining and concentrating those
vague impulses towards good which he supposed were existing in the
community. He would take counsel of leading minds. He would give his
time to journeyings through the state; he would deliver addresses, write
in the newspapers, and do what otherwise lies in the power of a free man
who wishes to reach an utterly unjust law. Full of these determinations,
Clayton entered again his father's house, after two days of solitary
riding. He had written in advance to his parents of the death of Nina,
and had begged them to spare him any conversation on that subject; and,
therefore, on his first meeting with his mother and father, there was
that painful blank, that heavy dulness of suffering, which comes when
people meet together, feeling deeply on one absorbing subject, which
must not be named. It was a greater self-denial to his impulsive,
warm-hearted mother than to Clayton. She yearned to express sympathy; to
throw herself upon his neck; to draw forth his feelings, and mingle them
with her own. But there are some people with whom this is impossible; it
seems to be their fate that they cannot speak of what they suffer. It is
not pride nor coldness, but a kind of fatal necessity, as if the body
were a marble prison, in which the soul were condemned to bleed and
suffer alone. It is the last triumph of affection and magnanimity, when
a loving heart can respect that suffering silence of its beloved, and
allow that lonely liberty in which only some natures can find comfort.

Clayton's sorrow could only be measured by the eagerness and energy with
which, in conversation, he pursued the object with which he endeavored
to fill his mind.

"I am far from looking forward with hope to any success from your
efforts," said Judge Clayton, "the evil is so radical."

"I sometimes think," said Mrs. Clayton, "that I regret that Edward began
as he did. It was such a shock to the prejudices of people!"

"People have got to be shocked," said Clayton, "in order to wake them up
out of old absurd routine. Use paralyzes us to almost every injustice;
when people are shocked, they begin to think and to inquire."

"But would it not have been better," said Mrs. Clayton, "to have
preserved your personal influence, and thus have insinuated your
opinions more gradually? There is such a prejudice against
abolitionists; and, when a man makes any sudden demonstration on this
subject, people are apt to call him an abolitionist, and then his
influence is all gone, and he can do nothing."

"I suspect," said Clayton, "there are multitudes now in every part of
our state who are kept from expressing what they really think, and doing
what they ought to do, by this fear. Somebody must brave this mad-dog
cry; somebody must be willing to be odious; and I shall answer the
purpose as well as anybody."

"Have you any definite plan of what is to be attempted?" said his
father.

"Of course," said Clayton, "a man's first notions on such a subject must
be crude; but it occurred to me, first, to endeavor to excite the
public mind on the injustice of the present slave-law, with a view to
altering it."

"And what points would you alter?" said Judge Clayton.

"I would give to the slave the right to bring suit for injury, and to be
a legal witness in court. I would repeal the law forbidding their
education, and I would forbid the separation of families."

Judge Clayton sat pondering. At length he said, "And how will you
endeavor to excite the public mind?"

"I shall appeal first," said Clayton, "to the church and the ministry."

"You can try it," said his father.

"Why," said Mrs. Clayton, "these reforms are so evidently called for, by
justice and humanity, and the spirit of the age, that I can have no
doubt that there will be a general movement among all good people in
their favor."

Judge Clayton made no reply. There are some cases where silence is the
most disagreeable kind of dissent, because it admits of no argument in
reply.

"In my view," said Clayton, "the course of legal reform, in the first
place, should remove all those circumstances in the condition of the
slaves which tend to keep them in ignorance and immorality, and make the
cultivation of self-respect impossible; such as the want of education,
protection in the family state, and the legal power of obtaining redress
for injuries. After that, the next step would be to allow those masters
who are so disposed to emancipate, giving proper security for the good
behavior of their servants. They might then retain them as tenants.
Under this system, emancipation would go on gradually; only the best
masters would at first emancipate, and the example would be gradually
followed. The experiment would soon demonstrate the superior cheapness
and efficiency of the system of free labor; and self-interest would then
come in, to complete what principle began. It is only the first step
that costs. But it seems to me that in the course of my life I have met
with multitudes of good people, groaning in secret under the evils and
injustice of slavery, who would gladly give their influence to any
reasonable effort which promises in time to ameliorate and remove them."

"The trouble is," said Judge Clayton, "that the system, though ruinous
in the long run to communities, is immediately profitable to
individuals. Besides this, it is a source of political influence and
importance. The holders of slaves are an aristocracy supported by
special constitutional privileges. They are united against the spirit of
the age by a common interest and danger, and the instinct of
self-preservation is infallible. No logic is so accurate.

"As a matter of personal feeling, many slave-holders would rejoice in
some of the humane changes which you propose; but they see at once that
any change endangers the perpetuity of the system on which their
political importance depends. Therefore, they'll resist you at the very
outset, not because they would not, many of them, be glad to have
justice done, but because they think they cannot afford it.

"They will have great patience with you--they will even have sympathy
with you--so long as you confine yourself merely to the expression of
feeling; but the moment your efforts produce the slightest movement in
the community, then, my son, you will see human nature in a new aspect,
and know more about mankind than you know now."

"Very well," said Clayton, "the sooner the better."

"Well, Edward," said Mrs. Clayton, "if you are going to begin with the
ministry, why don't you go and talk to your Uncle Cushing? He is one of
the most influential among the Presbyterians in the whole state; and I
have often heard him lament, in the strongest manner, the evils of
slavery. He has told me some facts about its effect on the character of
his church-members, both bond and free, that are terrible!"

"Yes," said Judge Clayton, "your brother will do all that. He will
lament the evils of slavery in private circles, and he will furnish you
any number of facts, if you will not give his authority for them."

"And don't you think that he will be willing to do something?"

"No," said Judge Clayton, "not if the cause is unpopular."

"Why," said Mrs. Clayton, "do you suppose that my brother will be
deterred from doing his duty for fear of personal unpopularity?"

"No," said Judge Clayton; "but your brother has the interest of Zion on
his shoulders,--by which he means the Presbyterian organization,--and he
will say that he can't afford to risk his influence. And the same will
be true of every leading minister of every denomination. The
Episcopalians are keeping watch over Episcopacy, the Methodists over
Methodism, the Baptists over Baptism. None of them dare espouse an
unpopular cause, lest the others, taking advantage of it, should go
beyond them in public favor. None of them will want the odium of such a
reform as this."

"But I don't see any odium in it," said Mrs. Clayton. "It's one of the
noblest and one of the most necessary of all possible changes."

"Nevertheless," said Judge Clayton, "it will be made to appear extremely
odious. The catch-words of abolition, incendiarism, fanaticism, will fly
thick as hail. And the storm will be just in proportion to the real
power of the movement. It will probably end in Edward's expulsion from
the state."

"My father, I should be unwilling to think," said Clayton, "that the
world is quite so bad as you represent it,--particularly the religious
world."

"I was not aware that I was representing it as very bad," said Judge
Clayton. "I only mentioned such facts as everybody can see about them.
There are undoubtedly excellent men in the church."

"But," said Clayton, "did not the church, in the primitive ages, stand
against the whole world in arms? If religion be anything, must it not
take the lead of society, and be its sovereign and teacher, and not its
slave?"

"I don't know as to that," said Judge Clayton. "I think you'll find the
facts much as I have represented them. What the church was in the
primitive ages, or what it ought to be now, is not at all to our
purpose, in making practical calculations. Without any disrespect, I
wish to speak of things just as they are. Nothing is ever gained by
false expectations."

"Oh," said Mrs. Clayton, "you lawyers get so uncharitable! I'm quite
sure that Edward will find brother ready to go heart and hand with him."

"I'm sure I shall be glad of it, if he does," said Judge Clayton.

"I shall write to him about it, immediately," said Mrs. Clayton, "and
Edward shall go and talk with him. Courage, Edward! Our woman's
instincts, after all, have some prophetic power in them. At all events,
we women will stand by you to the last."

Clayton sighed. He remembered the note Nina had written him on the day
of the decision, and thought what a brave-hearted little creature she
was; and, like the faint breath of a withered rose, the shadowy
remembrance of her seemed to say to him, "Go on!"



CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE NEW MOTHER.


The cholera at length disappeared, and the establishment of our old
friend Tiff proceeded as of yore. His chickens and turkeys grew to
maturity, and cackled and strutted joyously. His corn waved its ripening
flags in the September breezes. The grave of the baby had grown green
with its first coat of grass, and Tiff was comforted for his loss,
because, as he said, "he knowed he's better off." Miss Fanny grew
healthy and strong, and spent many long sunny hours wandering in the
woods with Teddy; or, sitting out on the bench where Nina had been wont
to read to them, would spell out with difficulty, for her old friend's
comfort and enlightenment, the half-familiar words of the wondrous story
that Nina had brought to their knowledge.

The interior of the poor cottage bore its wonted air of quaint, sylvan
refinement; and Tiff went on with his old dream of imagining it an
ancestral residence, of which his young master and mistress were the
head, and himself their whole retinue. He was sitting in his tent door,
in the cool of the day, while Teddy and Fanny had gone for wild grapes,
cheerfully examining and mending his old pantaloons, meanwhile
recreating his soul with a cheerful conversation with himself.

"Now, Old Tiff," said he, "one more patch on dese yer, 'cause it an't
much matter what you wars. Mas'r is allers a promising to bring some
cloth fur to make a more 'specable pair; but, laws, he never does
nothing he says he will. An't no trusting in dat 'scription o'
people--jiggeting up and down de country, drinking at all de taverns,
fetching disgrace on de fam'ly, spite o' all I can do! Mighty long time
since he been home, any how! Shouldn't wonder if de cholera'd cotched
him! Well, de Lord's will be done! Pity to kill such critturs! Wouldn't
much mind if he should die. Laws, he an't much profit to de family,
coming home here wid lots o' old trash, drinking up all my chicken-money
down to 'Bijah Skinflint's! For my part, I believe dem devils, when dey
went out o' de swine, went into de whiskey-bar'l. Dis yer liquor makes
folks so ugly! Teddy shan't never touch none as long as dere's a drop o'
Peyton blood in _my_ veins! Lord, but dis yer world is full o'
'spensations! Por, dear Miss Nina, dat was a doin for de chil'en! she's
gone up among de angels! Well, bress de Lord, we must do de best we can,
and we'll all land on de Canaan shore at last."

And Tiff uplifted a quavering stave of a favorite melody:--


     "My brother, I have found
     The land that doth abound
       With food as sweet as manna.
     The more I eat, I find
     The more I am inclined
     To shout and sing hosanna!"


"Shoo! shoo! shoo!" he said, observing certain long-legged, half-grown
chickens, who were surreptitiously taking advantage of his devotional
engrossments to rush past him into the kitchen.

"'Pears like dese yer chickens never will larn nothing!" said Tiff,
finding that his vigorous "shooing" only scared the whole flock in,
instead of admonishing them out. So Tiff had to lay down his work; and
his thimble rolled one way, and his cake of wax another, hiding
themselves under the leaves; while the hens, seeing Tiff at the door,
instead of accepting his polite invitation to walk out, acted in that
provoking and inconsiderate way that hens generally will, running
promiscuously up and down, flapping their wings, cackling, upsetting
pots, kettles, and pans, in promiscuous ruin, Tiff each moment becoming
more and more wrathful at their entire want of consideration.

"Bress me, if I ever did see any kind o' crittur so shaller as hens!"
said Tiff, as, having finally ejected them, he was busy repairing the
ruin they had wrought in Miss Fanny's fanciful floral arrangements,
which were all lying in wild confusion. "I tought de Lord made room in
every beast's head for some sense, but 'pears like hens an't got the
leastest grain! Puts me out, seeing dem crawking and crawing on one leg,
'cause dey han't got sense 'nough to know whar to set down t'oder. Dey
never has no idees what dey's going to do, from morning to night, I
b'lieve! But, den, dere's folks dat's just like 'em, dat de Lord has gin
brains to, and dey won't use 'em. Dey's always settin round, but dey
never lays no eggs. So hens an't de wust critters, arter all. And I
rally don' know what we'd do widout 'em!" said Old Tiff, relentingly,
as, appeased from his wrath, he took up at once his needle and his
psalm, singing lustily, and with good courage,--


     "Perhaps you'll tink me wild,
     And simple as a child,
       But I'm a child of glory!"


"Laws, now," said Tiff, pursuing his reflections to himself, "maybe he's
dead now, sure 'nough! And if he is, why, I can do for de chil'en raal
powerful. I sold right smart of eggs dis yer summer, and de sweet
'tatoes allers fetches a good price. If I could only get de chil'en
along wid der reading, and keep der manners handsome! Why, Miss Fanny,
now, she's growing up to be raal perty. She got de raal Peyton look to
her; and dere's dis yer 'bout gals and women, dat if dey's perty, why,
somebody wants to be marrying of 'em; and so dey gets took care of. I
tell you, dere shan't any of dem fellers dat he brings home wid him have
anyting to say to her! Peyton blood an't for der money, I can tell 'em!
Dem fellers allers find 'emselves mighty onlucky as long as I's 'round!
One ting or 'nother happens to 'em, so dat dey don't want to come no
more. Drefful poor times dey has!" And Tiff shook with a secret chuckle.

"But, now, yer see, dere's never any knowing! Dere may be some Peyton
property coming to dese yer chil'en. I's known sich things happen, 'fore
now. Lawyers calling after de heirs; and den here dey be a'ready fetched
up. I's minding dat I'd better speak to Miss Nina's man 'bout dese yer
chil'en; 'cause he's a nice, perty man, and nat'rally he'd take an
interest; and dat ar handsome sister of his, dat was so thick wid Miss
Nina, maybe she'd be doing something for her. Any way, dese yer chil'en
shall neber come to want 'long as I's above ground!"

Alas for the transitory nature of human expectations! Even our poor
little Arcadia in the wilderness, where we have had so many hours of
quaint delight, was destined to feel the mutability of all earthly joys
and prospects. Even while Tiff spoke and sung, in the exuberance of joy
and security of his soul, a disastrous phantom was looming up from a
distance--the phantom of Cripps' old wagon. Cripps was not dead, as was
to have been hoped, but returning for a more permanent residence,
bringing with him a bride of his own heart's choosing.

Tiff's dismay--his utter, speechless astonishment--may be imagined, when
the ill-favored machine rumbled up to the door, and Cripps produced from
it what seemed to be, at first glance, a bundle of tawdry, dirty finery;
but at last it turned out to be a woman, so far gone in intoxication as
scarcely to be sensible of what she was doing. Evidently, she was one of
the lowest of that class of poor whites whose wretched condition is not
among the least of the evils of slavery. Whatever she might have been
naturally,--whatever of beauty or of good there might have been in the
womanly nature within her,--lay wholly withered and eclipsed under the
force of an education churchless, schoolless, with all the vices of
civilization without its refinements, and all the vices of barbarism
without the occasional nobility by which they are sometimes redeemed. A
low and vicious connection with this woman had at last terminated in
marriage--such marriages as one shudders to think of, where gross animal
natures come together, without even a glimmering idea of the higher
purposes of that holy relation.

"Tiff, this yer is your new mistress," said Cripps, with an idiotic
laugh. "Plaguy nice girl, too! I thought I'd bring the children a mother
to take care of them. Come along, girl!"

Looking closer, we recognize in the woman our old acquaintance, Polly
Skinflint.

He pulled her forward; and she, coming in, seated herself on Fanny's
bed. Tiff looked as if he could have struck her dead. An avalanche had
fallen upon him. He stood in the door with the slack hand of utter
despair; while she, swinging her heels, began leisurely spitting about
her, in every direction, the juice of a quid of tobacco, which she
cherished in one cheek.

"Durned if this yer an't pretty well!" she said. "Only I want the nigger
to heave out that ar trash!" pointing to Fanny's flowers. "I don't want
children sticking no herbs round my house! Hey, you nigger, heave out
that trash!"

As Tiff stood still, not obeying this call, the woman appeared angry;
and, coming up to him, struck him on the side of the head.

"Oh, come, come, Poll!" said Cripps, "you be still! He an't used to no
such ways."

"Still!" said the amiable lady, turning round to him. "You go 'long!
Didn't you tell me, if I married you, I should have a nigger to order
round, just as I pleased?"

"Well, well," said Cripps, who was not by any means a cruelly-disposed
man, "I didn't think you'd want to go walloping him, the first thing."

"I will, if he don't shin round," said the virago, "and you, too!"

And this vigorous profession was further carried out by a vigorous
shove, which reacted in Cripps in the form of a cuff, and in a few
moments the disgraceful scuffle was at its full height. And Tiff turned
in disgust and horror from the house.

"Oh, good Lord!" he said to himself, "we doesn't know what's 'fore us!
And I's feeling so bad when de Lord took my poor little man, and now I's
ready to go down on my knees to thank de Lord dat he's took him away
from de evil to come! To think of my por sweet lamb, Miss Fanny, as I's
been bringing up so carful! Lord, dis yer's a heap worse dan de
cholera!"

It was with great affliction and dismay that he saw the children coming
forward in high spirits, bearing between them a basket of wild-grapes,
which they had been gathering. He ran out to meet them.

"Laws, yer por lambs," he said, "yer doesn't know what's a coming on
you! Yer pa's gone and married a drefful low white woman, sich as an't
fit for no Christian children to speak to. And now dey's quar'ling and
fighting in dere, like two heathens! And Miss Nina's dead, and dere an't
no place for you to go!"

And the old man sat down and actually wept aloud, while the children,
frightened, got into his arms, and nestled close to him for protection,
crying too.

"What shall we do? what shall we do?" said Fanny. And Teddy, who always
repeated, reverentially, all his sister's words, said, after her, in a
deplorable whimper, "What shall we do?"

"I's a good mind to go off wid you in de wilderness, like de chil'en of
Israel," said Tiff, "though dere an't no manna falling nowadays."

"Tiff, does marrying father make her our ma?" said Fanny.

"No 'deed, Miss Fanny, it doesn't! Yer ma was one o' de fustest old
Virginny families. It was jist throwing herself 'way, marrying him! I
neber said dat ar 'fore, 'cause it wan't 'spectful. But I don't care
now!"

At this moment Cripps' voice was heard shouting:--

"Hallo, you Tiff! Where is the durned nigger? I say, come back! Poll and
I's made it up, now! Bring 'long them children, and let them get
acquainted with their mammy," he said, laying hold of Fanny's hand, and
drawing her, frightened and crying, towards the house.

"Don't you be afraid, child," said Cripps; "I've brought you a new ma."

"We didn't want any new ma!" said Teddy, in a dolorous voice.

"Oh, yes, you do," said Cripps, coaxing him. "Come along, my little man!
There's your mammy," he said, pushing him into the fat embrace of Polly.

"Fanny, go kiss your ma."

Fanny hung back and cried, and Teddy followed her example.

"Confound the durn young uns!" said the new-married lady. "I told you,
Cripps, I didn't want no brats of t'other woman's! Be plague enough when
I get some of my own!"



CHAPTER XL.

THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.


The once neat and happy cottage, of which Old Tiff was the guardian
genius, soon experienced sad reverses. Polly Skinflint's violent and
domineering temper made her absence from her father's establishment
rather a matter of congratulation to Abijah. Her mother, one of those
listless and inefficient women, whose lives flow in a calm, muddy
current of stupidity and laziness, talked very little about it; but, on
the whole, was perhaps better contented to be out of the range of
Polly's sharp voice and long arms. It was something of a consideration,
in Abijah's shrewd view of things, that Cripps owned a nigger--the first
point to which the aspiration of the poor white of the South generally
tends. Polly, whose love of power was a predominant element in her
nature, resolutely declared, in advance, she'd make him shin round, or
she'd know the reason why. As to the children, she regarded them as the
incumbrances of the estate, to be got over with in the best way
possible; for, as she graphically remarked, "Every durned young un had
to look out when she was 'bout!"

The bride had been endowed with a marriage-portion, by her father, of
half a barrel of whiskey; and it was announced that Cripps was tired of
trading round the country, and meant to set up trading at home. In
short, the little cabin became a low grog-shop, a resort of the most
miserable and vicious portion of the community. The violent temper of
Polly soon drove Cripps upon his travels again, and his children were
left unprotected to the fury of their step-mother's temper. Every
vestige of whatever was decent about the house and garden was soon swept
away; for the customers of the shop, in a grand Sunday drinking-bout,
amused themselves with tearing down even the prairie-rose and
climbing-vine that once gave a sylvan charm to the rude dwelling.
Polly's course, in the absence of her husband, was one of gross,
unblushing licentiousness; and the ears and eyes of the children were
shocked with language and scenes too bad for repetition.

Old Tiff was almost heart-broken. He could have borne the beatings and
starvings which came on himself; but the abuse which came on the
children he could not bear. One night, when the drunken orgy was raging
within the house, Tiff gathered courage from despair.

"Miss Fanny," he said, "jist go in de garret, and make a bundle o' sich
tings as dere is, and throw 'em out o' de winder. I's been a praying
night and day; and de Lord says _He_'ll open some way or oder for us!
I'll keep Teddy out here under de trees, while you jist bundles up what
por clothes is left, and throws 'em out o' de winder."

Silently as a ray of moonlight, the fair, delicate-looking child glided
through the room where her step-mother and two or three drunken men were
revelling in a loathsome debauch.

"Halloa, sis!" cried one of the men, after her, "where are you going to?
Stop here, and give me a kiss!"

The unutterable look of mingled pride, and fear, and angry distress,
which the child cast, as, quick as thought, she turned from them and ran
up the ladder into the loft, occasioned roars of laughter.

"I say, Bill, why didn't you catch her?" said one.

"Oh, no matter for that," said another; "she'll come of her own accord,
one of these days."

Fanny's heart beat like a frightened bird, as she made up her little
bundle. Then, throwing it to Tiff, who was below in the dark, she called
out, in a low, earnest whisper,--

"Tiff, put up that board, and I'll climb down on it. I won't go back
among those dreadful men!"

Carefully and noiselessly as possible, Tiff lifted a long, rough slab,
and placed it against the side of the house. Carefully Fanny set her
feet on the top of it, and, spreading her arms, came down, like a little
puff of vapor, into the arms of her faithful attendant.

"Bress de Lord! Here we is, all right," said Tiff.

"Oh, Tiff, I'm so glad!" said Teddy, holding fast to the skirt of Tiff's
apron, and jumping for joy.

"Yes," said Tiff, "all right. Now de angel of de Lord'll go with us
into de wilderness!"

"Ther's plenty of angels there, an't there?" said Teddy, victoriously,
as he lifted the little bundle, with undoubting faith.

"Laws, yes!" said Tiff. "I don' know why dere shouldn't be in our days.
Any rate, de Lord 'peared to me in a dream, and says he, 'Tiff, rise and
take de chil'en and go in de land of Egypt, and be dere till de time I
tell dee.' Dem is de bery words. And 'twas 'tween de cock-crow and
daylight dey come to me, when I'd been lying dar praying, like a
hail-storm, all night, not gibing de Lord no rest! Says I to him, says
I, 'Lord, I don' know nothing what to do; and now, ef you was por as I
be, and I was great king, like you, I'd help you! And now, Lord,' says I
'you _must_ help us, 'cause we an't got no place else to go; 'cause, you
know, Miss Nina she's dead, and Mr. John Gordon, too! And dis yer woman
will ruin dese yer chil'en, ef you don't help us! And now I hope you
won't be angry! But I has to be very bold, 'cause tings have got so dat
we can't bar 'em no longer!' Den, yer see, I dropped 'sleep; and I
hadn't no more'n got to sleep, jist after cock-crow, when de voice
come!"

"And is this the land of Egypt," said Teddy, "that we're going to?"

"I spect so," said Tiff. "Don't you know de story Miss Nina read to you,
once, how de angel of de Lord 'peared to Hagar in de wilderness, when
she was sitting down under de bush. Den dere was anoder one come to
'Lijah, when he was under de juniper-tree, when he was wandering up and
down, and got hungry, and woke up; and dere, sure 'nough, was a
corn-cake baking for him on de coals! Don't you mind Miss Nina was
reading dat ar de bery last Sunday she come to our place? Bress de Lord
for sending her to us! I's got heaps o' good through dem readings."

"Do you think we really shall see any?" said Fanny, with a little shade
of apprehension in her voice. "I don't know as I shall know how to speak
to them."

"Oh, angels is pleasant-spoken, well-meaning folks, allers," said Tiff,
"and don't take no 'fence at us. Of course, dey knows we an't fetched
up in der ways, and dey don't spect it of us. It's my 'pinion," said
Tiff, "dat when folks is honest, and does de bery best dey can, dey
don't need to be 'fraid to speak to angels, nor nobody else; 'cause, you
see, we speaks to de Lord hisself when we prays, and, bress de Lord, he
don't take it ill of us, no ways. And now it's borne in strong on my
mind, dat de Lord is going to lead us through the wilderness, and bring
us to good luck. Now, you see, I's going to follow de star, like de wise
men did."

While they were talking, they were making their way through dense woods
in the direction of the swamp, every moment taking them deeper and
deeper into the tangled brush and underwood. The children were
accustomed to wander for hours through the wood; and, animated by the
idea of having escaped their persecutors, followed Tiff with alacrity,
as he went before them, clearing away the brambles and vines with his
long arms, every once in a while wading with them across a bit of
morass, or climbing his way through the branches of some uprooted tree.
It was after ten o'clock at night when they started. It was now after
midnight. Tiff had held on his course in the direction of the swamp,
where he knew many fugitives were concealed; and he was not without
hopes of coming upon some camp or settlement of them.

About one o'clock they emerged from the more tangled brushwood, and
stood on a slight little clearing, where a grape-vine, depending in
natural festoons from a sweet gum-tree, made a kind of arbor. The moon
was shining very full and calm, and the little breeze fluttered the
grape-leaves, casting the shadow of some on the transparent greenness of
others. The dew had fallen so heavily in that moist region, that every
once in a while, as a slight wind agitated the leaves, it might be heard
pattering from one to another, like rain-drops. Teddy had long been
complaining bitterly of fatigue. Tiff now sat down under this arbor, and
took him fondly into his arms.

"Sit down, Miss Fanny. And is Tiff's brave little man got tired? Well,
he shall go to sleep, dat he shall! We's got out a good bit now. I
reckon dey won't find us. We's out here wid de good Lord's works, and
dey won't none on 'em tell on us. So, now, hush, my por little man; shut
up your eyes!" And Tiff quavered the immortal cradle-hymn,--


     "Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber!
      Holy angels guard thy bed;
     Heavenly blessings, without number,
      Gently falling on thy head."


In a few moments Teddy was sound asleep, and Tiff, wrapping him in his
white great-coat, laid him down at the root of a tree.

"Bress de Lord, dere an't no whiskey here!" he said, "nor no drunken
critturs to wake him up. And now, Miss Fanny, por chile, your eyes is a
falling. Here's dis yer old shawl I put up in de pocket of my coat. Wrap
it round you, whilst I scrape up a heap of dem pine-leaves, yonder. Dem
is reckoned mighty good for sleeping on, 'cause dey's so healthy,
kinder. Dar, you see, I's got a desput big heap of 'em."

"I'm tired, but I'm not sleepy," said Fanny. "But, Tiff, what are _you_
going to do?"

"Do!" said Tiff, laughing, with somewhat of his old, joyous laugh. "Ho!
ho! ho! I's going to sit up for to meditate--a 'sidering on de fowls of
de air, and de lilies in de field, and all dem dar Miss Nina used to
read 'bout."

For many weeks, Fanny's bed-chamber had been the hot, dusty loft of the
cabin, with the heated roof just above her head, and the noise of
bacchanalian revels below. Now she lay sunk down among the soft and
fragrant pine-foliage, and looked up, watching the checkered roof of
vine-leaves above her head, listening to the still patter of falling
dew-drops, and the tremulous whirr and flutter of leaves. Sometimes the
soft night-winds swayed the tops of the pines with a long swell of
dashing murmurs, like the breaking of a tide on a distant beach. The
moonlight, as it came sliding down through the checkered, leafy roof,
threw fragments and gleams of light, which moved capriciously here and
there over the ground, revealing now a great silvery fern-leaf, and then
a tuft of white flowers, gilding spots on the branches and trunks of the
trees; while every moment the deeper shadows were lighted up by the
gleaming of fire-flies. The child would raise her head a while, and look
on the still scene around, and then sink on her fragrant pillow in
dreamy delight. Everything was so still, so calm, so pure, no wonder she
was prepared to believe that the angels of the Lord were to be found in
the wilderness. They who have walked in closest communion with nature
have ever found that they have not departed thence. The wilderness and
solitary places are still glad for them, and their presence makes the
desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose.

When Fanny and Teddy were both asleep, Old Tiff knelt down and addressed
himself to his prayers; and, though he had neither prayer-book, nor
cushion, nor formula, his words went right to the mark, in the best
English he could command for any occasion; and, so near as we could
collect from the sound of his words, Tiff's prayer ran as follows:--

"Oh, good Lord, now please do look down on dese yer chil'en. I started
'em out, as you telled me; and now whar we is to go, and whar we is to
get any breakfast, I's sure I don' know. But, oh good Lord, you has got
everyting in de world in yer hands, and it's mighty easy for you to be
helping on us; and I has faith to believe dat you will. Oh, bressed Lord
Jesus, dat was carried off into Egypt for fear of de King Herod, do,
pray, look down on dese yer por chil'en, for I's sure dat ar woman is as
bad as Herod, any day. Good Lord, you's seen how she's been treating on
'em; and now do pray open a way for us through de wilderness to de
promised land. Everlasting--Amen."

The last two words Tiff always added to his prayers, from a sort of
sense of propriety, feeling as if they rounded off the prayer, and made
it, as he would have phrased it, more like a white prayer. We have only
to say, to those who question concerning this manner of prayer, that, if
they will examine the supplications of patriarchs of ancient times, they
will find that, with the exception of the broken English and bad
grammar, they were in substance very much like this of Tiff.

The Bible divides men into two classes: those who trust in themselves,
and those who trust in God. The one class walk by their own light, trust
in their own strength, fight their own battles, and have no confidence
otherwise. The other, not neglecting to use the wisdom and strength
which God has given them, still trust in his wisdom and his strength to
carry out the weakness of theirs. The one class go through life as
orphans; the other have a Father.

Tiff's prayer had at least this recommendation, that he felt perfectly
sure that something was to come of it. Had he not told the Lord all
about it? Certainly he had; and of course he would be helped. And this
confidence Tiff took, as Jacob did a stone, for his pillow, as he lay
down between his children and slept soundly.

How innocent, soft, and kind, are all God's works! From the silent
shadows of the forest the tender and loving presence which our sin
exiled from the haunts of men hath not yet departed. Sweet fall the
moonbeams through the dewy leaves; peaceful is the breeze that waves the
branches of the pines; merciful and tender the little wind that shakes
the small flowers and tremulous wood-grasses fluttering over the heads
of the motherless children. Oh thou who bearest in thee a heart hot and
weary, sick and faint with the vain tumults and confusions of the haunts
of men, go to the wilderness, and thou shalt find _Him_ there who saith,
"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you. I will be as
the dew to Israel. He shall grow as a lily, and cast forth his roots as
Lebanon."

Well, they slept there quietly, all night long. Between three and four
o'clock, an oriole, who had his habitation in the vine above their
heads, began a gentle twittering conversation with some of his
neighbors; not a loud song, I would give you to understand, but a
little, low inquiry as to what o'clock it was. And then, if you had been
in a still room at that time, you might have heard, through all the
trees of pine, beech, holly, sweet-gum, and larch, a little, tremulous
stir and flutter of birds awaking and stretching their wings. Little
eyes were opening in a thousand climbing vines, where soft, feathery
habitants had hung, swinging breezily, all night. Low twitterings and
chirpings were heard; then a loud, clear, echoing chorus of harmony
answering from tree to tree, jubilant and joyous as if there never had
been a morning before. The morning star had not yet gone down, nor were
the purple curtains of the east undrawn; and the moon, which had been
shining full all night, still stood like a patient, late-burning light
in a quiet chamber. It is not everybody that wakes to hear this first
chorus of the birds. They who sleep till sunrise have lost it, and with
it a thousand mysterious pleasures--strange, sweet communings,--which,
like morning dew, begin to evaporate when the sun rises.

But, though Tiff and the children slept all night we are under no
obligations to keep our eyes shut to the fact that between three and
four o'clock there came crackling through the swamps the dark figure of
one whose journeyings were more often by night than by day. Dred had
been out on one of his nightly excursions, carrying game, which he
disposed of for powder and shot at one of the low stores we have alluded
to. He came unexpectedly on the sleepers, while making his way back. His
first movement, on seeing them, was that of surprise; then, stooping and
examining the group more closely, he appeared to recognize them. Dred
had known Old Tiff before; and had occasion to go to him more than once
to beg supplies for fugitives in the swamps, or to get some errand
performed which he could not himself venture abroad to attend to. Like
others of his race, Tiff, on all such subjects, was so habitually and
unfathomably secret, that the children, who knew him most intimately,
had never received even a suggestion from him of the existence of any
such person.

Dred, whose eyes, sharpened by habitual caution, never lost sight of any
change in his vicinity, had been observant of that which had taken place
in Old Tiff's affairs. When, therefore, he saw him sleeping as we have
described, he understood the whole matter at once. He looked at the
children, as they lay nestled at the roots of the tree, with something
of a softened expression, muttering to himself, "They embrace the Rock
for shelter."

He opened a pouch which he wore on his side, and took from thence one or
two corn-dodgers and half a broiled rabbit, which his wife had put up
for hunting provision, the day before; and, laying them down on the
leaves, hastened on to a place where he had intended to surprise some
game in the morning.

The chorus of birds we have before described awakened Old Tiff,
accustomed to habits of early rising. He sat up, and began rubbing his
eyes and stretching himself. He had slept well, for his habits of life
had not been such as to make him at all fastidious with regard to his
couch.

"Well," he said to himself, "any way, dat ar woman won't get dese yer
chil'en, dis yer day!" And he gave one of his old hearty laughs, to
think how nicely he had outwitted her.

"Laws," he said to himself, "don't I hear her now! 'Tiff! Tiff! Tiff!'
she says. Holla away, old mist'! Tiff don't hear yer! no, nor de chil'en
eider, por blessed lambs!"

Here, in turning to the children, his eye fell on the provisions. At
first he stood petrified, with his hands lifted in astonishment. Had the
angel been there? Sure enough, he thought.

"Well, now, bress de Lord, sure 'nough, here's de bery breakfast I's
asking for last night! Well, I knowed de Lord would do something for us;
but I really didn't know as 't would come so quick! May be ravens
brought it, as dey did to 'Lijah--bread and flesh in de morning, and
bread and flesh at night. Well, dis yer 's 'couraging--'tis so. I won't
wake up de por little lambs. Let 'em sleep. Dey'll be mighty tickled
when dey comes fur to see de breakfast; and, den, out here it's so sweet
and clean! None yer nasty 'bacca spittins of folks dat doesn't know how
to be decent. Bress me, I's rather tired, myself. I spects I'd better
camp down again, till de chil'en wakes. Dat ar crittur 's kep me gwine
till I's got pretty stiff, wid her contrary ways. Spect she'll be as
troubled as King Herod was, and all 'Rusalem wid her!"

And Tiff rolled and laughed quietly, in the security of his heart.

"I say, Tiff, where are we?" said a little voice at his side.

"Whar is we, puppit?" said Tiff, turning over; "why, bress yer sweet
eyes, how does yer do, dis morning? Stretch away, my man! Neber be
'fraid; we's in de Lord's diggins now, all safe. And de angel's got a
breakfast ready for us, too!" said Tiff, displaying the provision which
he had arranged on some vine-leaves.

"Oh, Uncle Tiff, did the angels bring that?" said Teddy. "Why didn't you
wake me up? I wanted to see them. I never saw any angel, in all my
life!"

"Nor I neider, honey. Dey comes mostly when we's 'sleep. But, stay,
dere's Miss Fanny, a waking up. How is ye, lamb? Is ye 'freshed?"

"Oh, Uncle Tiff, I've slept so sound," said Fanny; "and I dreamed such a
beautiful dream!"

"Well, den, tell it right off, 'fore breakfast," said Tiff, "to make it
come true."

"Well," said Fanny, "I dreamed I was in a desolate place, where I
couldn't get out, all full of rocks and brambles, and Teddy was with me;
and while we were trying and trying, our ma came to us. She looked like
our ma, only a great deal more beautiful; and she had a strange white
dress on, that shone, and hung clear to her feet; and she took hold of
our hands, and the rocks opened, and we walked through a path into a
beautiful green meadow, full of lilies and wild strawberries; and then
she was gone."

"Well," said Teddy, "maybe 'twas she who brought some breakfast to us.
See here, what we've got!"

Fanny look surprised and pleased, but, after some consideration, said,--

"I don't believe mamma brought that. I don't believe they have corn-cake
and roast meat in heaven. If it had been manna, now, it would have been
more likely."

"Neber mind whar it comes from," said Tiff. "It's right good and we
bress de Lord for it."

And they sat down accordingly, and ate their breakfast with a good
heart.

"Now," said Tiff, "somewhar roun' in dis yer swamp dere's a camp o' de
colored people; but I don' know rightly whar 'tis. If we could get dar,
we could stay dar a while, till something or nuder should turn up. Hark!
what's dat ar?"

'Twas the crack of a rifle reverberating through the dewy, leafy
stillness of the forest.

"Dat ar an't fur off," said Tiff.

The children looked a little terrified.

"Don't you be 'fraid," he said. "I wouldn't wonder but I knowed who dat
ar was. Hark, now! 'tis somebody coming dis yer way."

A clear, exultant voice sung, through the leafy distance,--


     "Oh, had I the wings of the morning,
     I'd fly away to Canaan's shore."


"Yes," said Tiff, to himself, "dat ar's his voice. Now, chil'en," he
said, "dar's somebody coming; and you mustn't be 'fraid on him, 'cause I
spects he'll get us to dat ar camp I's telling 'bout."

And Tiff, in a cracked and strained voice, which contrasted oddly
enough with the bell-like notes of the distant singer, commenced singing
part of an old song, which might, perhaps, have been used as a signal:--


     "Hailing so stormily,
     Cold, stormy weder;
     I want my true love all de day.
     Whar shall I find him? Whar shall I find him?"


The distant singer stopped his song, apparently to listen, and, while
Tiff kept on singing, they could hear the crackling of approaching
footsteps. At last Dred emerged to view.

"So you've fled to the wilderness?" he said.

"Yes, yes," said Tiff with a kind of giggle, "we had to come to it, dat
ar woman was so aggravating on de chil'en. Of all de pizin critturs dat
I knows on, dese yer mean white women is de pizinest! Dey an't got no
manners, and no bringing up. Dey doesn't begin to know how tings ought
to be done 'mong 'spectable people. So we just tuck to de bush."

"You might have taken to a worse place," said Dred. "The Lord God giveth
grace and glory to the trees of the wood. And the time will come when
the Lord will make a covenant of peace, and cause the evil beast to
cease out of the land; and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness,
and shall sleep in the woods; and the tree of the field shall yield her
fruit, and they shall be safe in the land, when the Lord hath broken the
bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hands of those that
serve themselves of them."

"And you tink dem good times coming, sure 'nough?" said Tiff.

"The Lord hath said it," said the other. "But first the day of vengeance
must come."

"I don't want no sich," said Tiff. "I want to live peaceable."

Dred looked upon Tiff with an air of acquiescent pity, which had in it a
slight shade of contempt, and said, as if in soliloquy,--

"Issachar is a strong ass, couching down between two burdens; and he saw
that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant, and bowed his
shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute."

"As to rest," said Tiff, "de Lord knows I an't had much of dat ar, if I
be an ass. If I had a good, strong pack-saddle, I'd like to trot dese
yer chil'en out in some good cleared place."

"Well," said Dred, "you have served him that was ready to perish, and
not betrayed him who wandered; therefore the Lord will open for you a
fenced city in the wilderness."

"Jest so," said Tiff; "dat ar camp o'yourn is jest what I's arter. I's
willing to lend a hand to most anyting dat's good."

"Well," said Dred, "the children are too tender to walk where we must
go. We must bear them as an eagle beareth her young. Come, my little
man!"

And, as Dred spoke, he stooped down and stretched out his hands to
Teddy. His severe and gloomy countenance relaxed into a smile, and, to
Tiff's surprise, the child went immediately to him, and allowed him to
lift him in his arms.

"Now I'd thought he'd been skeered o' you!" said Tiff.

"Not he! I never saw a child or dog that I couldn't make come to me.
Hold fast, now, my little man!" he said, seating the boy on his
shoulder. "Trees have long arms; don't let them rake you off. Now,
Tiff," he said, "you take the girl and come after, and when we come into
the thick of the swamp, mind you step right in my tracks. Mind you don't
set your foot on a tussock if I haven't set mine there before you;
because the moccasons lie on the tussocks."

And thus saying, Dred and his companion began making their way towards
the fugitive camp.



CHAPTER XLI.

THE CLERICAL CONFERENCE.


A few days found Clayton in the city of ----, guest of the Rev. Dr.
Cushing. He was a man in middle life; of fine personal presence, urbane,
courtly, gentlemanly. Dr. Cushing was a popular and much-admired
clergyman, standing high among his brethren in the ministry, and almost
the idol of a large and flourishing church, a man of warm feelings,
humane impulses, and fine social qualities, his sermons, beautifully
written, and delivered with great fervor, often drew tears from the eyes
of the hearers. His pastoral ministrations, whether at wedding or
funeral, had a peculiar tenderness and unction. None was more capable
than he of celebrating the holy fervor and self-denying sufferings of
apostles and martyrs; none more easily kindled by those devout hymns
which describe the patience of the saints; but, with all this, for any
practical emergency, Dr. Cushing was nothing of a soldier. There was a
species of moral effeminacy about him, and the very luxuriant softness
and richness of his nature unfitted him to endure hardness. He was
known, in all his intercourse with his brethren, as a peace-maker, a
modifier, and harmonizer. Nor did he scrupulously examine how much of
the credit of this was due to a fastidious softness of nature which made
controversy disagreeable and wearisome. Nevertheless, Clayton was at
first charmed with the sympathetic warmth with which he and his plans
were received by his relative. He seemed perfectly to agree with Clayton
in all his views of the terrible evils of the slave system and was
prompt with anecdotes and instances to enforce everything that he said.
"Clayton was just in time," he said; "a number of his ministerial
brethren were coming to-morrow, some of them from the northern states.
Clayton should present his views to them."

Dr. Cushing's establishment was conducted on the footing of the most
liberal hospitality; and that very evening the domestic circle was made
larger by the addition of four or five ministerial brethren. Among these
Clayton was glad to meet, once more, father Dickson. The serene, good
man, seemed to bring the blessing of the gospel of peace with him
wherever he went.

Among others, was one whom we will more particularly introduce, as the
Rev. Shubael Packthread. Dr. Shubael Packthread was a minister of a
leading church, in one of the northern cities. Constitutionally, he was
an amiable and kindly man, with very fair natural abilities, fairly
improved by culture. Long habits, however, of theological and
ecclesiastical controversy had cultivated a certain species of acuteness
of mind into such disproportioned activity, that other parts of his
intellectual and moral nature had been dwarfed and dwindled beside it.
What might, under other circumstances, have been agreeable and useful
tact, became in him a constant and life-long _habit_ of stratagem. While
other people look upon words as vehicles for conveying ideas, Dr.
Packthread regarded them only as mediums for concealment. His constant
study, on every controverted topic, was so to adjust language that, with
the appearance of the utmost precision, it should always be capable of a
double interpretation. He was a cunning master of all forms of
indirection; of all phrases by which people _appear_ to say what they do
not say, and _not_ to say what they _do_ say.

He was an adept also in all the mechanism of ecclesiastical debate, of
the intricate labyrinths of heresy-hunting, of every scheme by which
more simple and less advised brethren, speaking with ignorant sincerity,
could be entrapped and deceived. He was _au fait_ also in all compromise
measures, in which two parties unite in one form of words, meaning by
them exactly opposite ideas, and call the agreement a _union_. He was
also expert in all those parliamentary modes, in synod or general
assembly, by which troublesome discussions could be avoided or disposed
of, and credulous brethren made to believe they had gained points which
they had not gained; by which discussions could be at will blinded with
dusty clouds of misrepresentation, or trailed on through interminable
marshes of weariness, to accomplish some manoeuvre of ecclesiastical
tactics.

Dr. Packthread also was master of every means by which the influence of
opposing parties might be broken. He could spread a convenient report on
necessary occasions, by any of those forms which do not assert, but
which disseminate a slander quite as certainly as if they did. If it was
necessary to create a suspicion of the orthodoxy, or of the piety, or
even of the morality, of an opposing brother, Dr. Packthread understood
how to do it in the neatest and most tasteful manner. He was an
infallible judge whether it should be accomplished by innocent
interrogations, as to whether you had heard "so and so of Mr. ----;" or,
by "charitably expressed hopes that you had not heard so and so;" or, by
gentle suggestions, whether it would not be as well to inquire; or, by
shakes of the head, and lifts of the eyes, at proper intervals in
conversation; or, lastly, by _silence_ when silence became the strongest
as well as safest form of assertion.

In person, he was rather tall, thin, and the lines of his face appeared,
every one of them, to be engraved by caution and care. In his boyhood
and youth, the man had had a trick of smiling and laughing without
considering why; the grace of prudence, however, had corrected all this.
He never did either, in these days, without understanding precisely what
he was about. His face was a part of his stock in trade, and he
understood the management of it remarkably well. He knew precisely all
the gradations of smile which were useful for accomplishing different
purposes. The solemn smile, the smile of inquiry, the smile affirmative,
the smile suggestive, the smile of incredulity, and the smile of
innocent credulity, which encouraged the simple-hearted narrator to go
on unfolding himself to the brother, who sat quietly behind his face, as
a spider does behind his web, waiting till his unsuspecting friend had
tangled himself in incautious, impulsive, and, of course, contradictory
meshes of statement, which were, in some future hour, in the most gentle
and Christian spirit, to be tightened around the incautious captive,
while as much blood was sucked as the good of the cause demanded.

It is not to be supposed that the Rev. Dr. Packthread, so skilful and
adroit as we have represented him, failed in the necessary climax of
such skill--that of deceiving himself. Far from it. Truly and honestly
Dr. Packthread thought himself one of the hundred and forty and four
thousand, who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, in whose mouth is
found no guile. _Prudence_ he considered the chief of Christian graces.
He worshipped Christian prudence, and the whole category of
accomplishments which we have described he considered as the fruits of
it. His prudence, in fact, served him all the purposes that the stock of
the tree did to the ancient idolater. "With part thereof he eateth
flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied; yea, he warmeth himself, and
saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he
maketh a god, even his graven image; he falleth down unto it, and
worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art
my god."

No doubt, Dr. Packthread expected to enter heaven by the same judicious
arrangement by which he had lived on earth; and so he went on, from year
to year, doing deeds which even a political candidate would blush at;
violating the most ordinary principles of morality and honor; while he
sung hymns, made prayers, and administered sacraments, expecting, no
doubt, at last to enter heaven by some neat arrangement of words used in
two senses.

Dr. Packthread's cautious agreeableness of manner formed a striking
contrast to the innocent and almost child-like simplicity with which
father Dickson, in his threadbare coat, appeared at his side. Almost as
poor in this world's goods as his Master, father Dickson's dwelling had
been a simple one-story cottage, in all, save thrift and neatness, very
little better than those of the poorest; and it was a rare year when a
hundred dollars passed through his hands. He had seen the time when he
had not even wherewithal to take from the office a necessary letter. He
had seen his wife suffer for medicine and comforts, in sickness. He had
himself ridden without overcoat through the chill months of winter; but
all those things he had borne as the traveller bears a storm on the way
to his home; and it was beautiful to see the unenvying, frank, simple
pleasure which he seemed to feel in the elegant and abundant home of his
brother, and in the thousand appliances of hospitable comfort by which
he was surrounded. The spirit within us that lusteth to envy had been
chased from his bosom by the expulsive force of a higher love; and his
simple and unstudied acts of constant good-will showed that simple
Christianity can make the gentleman. Father Dickson was regarded by his
ministerial brethren with great affection and veneration, though wholly
devoid of any ecclesiastical wisdom. They were fond of using him much as
they did their hymn-books and testaments, for their better hours of
devotion; and equally apt to let slip his admonitions, when they came to
the hard, matter-of-fact business of ecclesiastical discussion and
management; yet they loved well to have him with them, as they felt
that, like a psalm or a text, his presence in some sort gave sanction to
what they did.

In due time there was added to the number of the circle our joyous,
out-spoken friend, father Bonnie, fresh from a recent series of
camp-meetings in a distant part of the state, and ready at a minute's
notice for either a laugh or a prayer. Very little of the stereotype
print of his profession had he; the sort of wild woodland freedom of his
life giving to his manners and conversation a tone of sylvan roughness,
of which Dr. Packthread evidently stood in considerable doubt. Father
Bonnie's early training had been that of what is called, in common
parlance, a "self-made man." He was unsophisticated by Greek or Latin,
and had rather a contempt for the forms of the schools, and a joyous
determination to say what he pleased on all occasions. There were also
present one or two of the leading Presbyterian ministers of the north.
They had, in fact, come for a private and confidential conversation with
Dr. Cushing concerning the reunion of the New School Presbyterian Church
with the Old.

It may be necessary to apprise some of our readers, not conversant with
American ecclesiastical history, that the Presbyterian Church of America
is divided into two parties in relation to certain theological points,
and that the adherents on either side call themselves _old_ or _new_
school. Some years since, these two parties divided, and each of them
organized its own general assembly.

It so happened that all the slaveholding interest, with some very
inconsiderable exceptions, went into the old school body. The great
majority of the new school body were avowedly anti-slavery men,
according to a solemn declaration, which committed the whole
Presbyterian Church to those sentiments in the year eighteen hundred and
eighteen. And the breach between the two sections was caused quite as
much by the difference of feeling between the northern and southern
branches on the subject of slavery, as by any differences of doctrine.

After the first jar of separation was over, thoughts of reunion began to
arise on both sides, and to be quietly discussed among leading minds.

There is a power in men of a certain class of making an organization of
any kind, whether it be political or ecclesiastical, an object of
absorbing and individual devotion. Most men feel empty and insufficient
of themselves, and find a need to ballast their own insufficiency by
attaching themselves to something of more weight than they are. They put
their stock of being out at interest, and invest themselves somewhere
and in something; and the love of wife or child is not more absorbing
than the love of the bank where the man has invested himself. It is
true, this power is a noble one; because thus a man may pass out of
self, and choose God, the great good of all, for his portion. But human
weakness falls below this; and, as the idolater worships the infinite
and unseen under a visible symbol till it effaces the memory of what is
signified, so men begin by loving institutions for God's sake, which
come at last to stand with them in the place of God.

Such was the Rev. Dr. Calker. He was a man of powerful though narrow
mind, of great energy and efficiency, and of that capability of abstract
devotion which makes the soldier or the statesman. He was earnestly and
sincerely devout, as he understood devotion. He began with loving the
church for God's sake, and ended with loving her better than God. And,
by the church, he meant the organization of the Presbyterian Church in
the United States of America. Her cause, in his eyes, was God's cause;
her glory, God's glory; her success, the indispensable condition of the
millennium; her defeat, the defeat of all that was good for the human
race. His devotion to her was honest and unselfish.

Of course Dr. Calker estimated all interests by their influence on the
Presbyterian Church. He weighed every cause in the balance of her
sanctuary. What promised extension and power to her, _that_ he
supported. What threatened defeat or impediment, _that_ he was ready to
sacrifice. He would, at any day, sacrifice himself and all his interests
to that cause, and he felt equally willing to sacrifice others and
their interests. The anti-slavery cause he regarded with a simple eye to
this question. It was a disturbing force, weakening the harmony among
brethren, threatening disruption and disunion. He regarded it,
therefore, with distrust and aversion. He would read no facts on that
side of the question. And when the discussions of zealous brethren would
bring frightful and appalling statements into the general assembly, he
was too busy in seeking what could be said to ward off their force, to
allow them to have much influence on his own mind. Gradually he came to
view the whole subject with dislike, as a pertinacious intruder in the
path of the Presbyterian Church. That the whole train of cars, laden
with the interests of the world for all time, should be stopped by a
ragged, manacled slave across the track, was to him an impertinence and
absurdity. What was he, that the Presbyterian Church should be divided
and hindered for him? So thought the exultant thousands who followed
Christ, once, when the blind beggar raised his importunate clamor, and
they bade him hold his peace. So thought not HE, who stopped the tide of
triumphant success, that he might call the neglected one to himself, and
lay his hands upon him.

Dr. Calker had from year to year opposed the agitation of the slavery
question in the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, knowing
well that it threatened disunion. When, in spite of all his efforts,
disunion came, he bent his energies to the task of reuniting; and he was
the most important character in the present caucus.

Of course a layman, and a young man also, would feel some natural
hesitancy in joining at once in the conversation of those older than
himself. Clayton, therefore, sat at the hospitable breakfast-table of
Dr. Cushing rather as an auditor than as a speaker.

"Now, brother Cushing," said Dr. Calker, "the fact is, there never was
any need of this disruption. It has crippled the power of the church,
and given the enemy occasion to speak reproachfully. Our divisions are
playing right into the hands of the Methodists and Baptists; and ground
that we might hold, united, is going into their hands every year."

"I know it," said Dr. Cushing, "and we southern brethren mourn over it,
I assure you. The fact is, brother Calker, there's no such doctrinal
division, after all. Why, there are brethren among us that are as new
school as Dr. Draper, and we don't meddle with them."

"Just so," replied Dr. Calker; "and we have true-blue old school men
among us."

"I think," said Dr. Packthread, "that, with suitable care, a document
might be drawn up which will meet the views on both sides. You see, we
must get the extreme men on both sides to agree to hold still. Why, now,
I am called new school; but I wrote a set of definitions once, which I
showed to Dr. Pyke, who is as sharp as any body on the other side, and
he said, 'He agreed with them entirely.' Those N---- H---- men are
incautious."

"Yes," said Dr. Calker, "and it's just dividing the resources and the
influence of the church for nothing. Now, those discussions as to the
time when moral agency begins are, after all, of no great account in
practical workings."

"Well," said Dr. Cushing, "it's, after all, nothing but the tone of your
abolition fanatics that stands in the way. These slavery discussions in
general assembly have been very disagreeable and painful to our people,
particularly those of the western brethren. They don't understand us,
nor the delicacy of our position. They don't know that we need to be let
alone in order to effect anything. Now, I am for trusting to the
softening, meliorating influences of the Gospel. The kingdom of God
cometh not with observation. I trust that, in his mysterious providence,
the Lord will see fit, in his own good time, to remove this evil of
slavery. Meanwhile, brethren ought to possess their souls in patience."

"Brother Cushing," said father Dickson, "since the assembly of eighteen
hundred and eighteen, the number of slaves has increased in this country
four-fold. New slave states have been added, and a great, regular system
of breeding and trading organized, which is filling all our large cities
with trading-houses. The ships of our ports go out as slavers, carrying
loads of miserable creatures down to New Orleans; and there is a
constant increase of this traffic through the country. This very summer
I was at the death-bed of a poor girl, only seventeen or eighteen, who
had been torn from all her friends and sent off with a coffle; and she
died there in the wilderness. It does seem to me, brother Cushing, that
this silent plan does not answer. We are not half as near to
emancipation, apparently, as we were in eighteen hundred and eighteen."

"Has there ever been any attempt," said Clayton, "among the Christians
of your denominations, to put a stop to this internal slave-trade?"

"Well," said Dr. Cushing, "I don't know that there has, any further than
general preaching against injustice."

"Have you ever made any movement in the church to prevent the separation
of families?" said Clayton.

"No, not exactly. We leave that thing to the conscience of individuals.
The synods have always enjoined it on professors of religion to treat
their servants according to the spirit of the Gospel."

"Has the church ever endeavored to influence the legislature to allow
general education?" said Clayton.

"No; that subject is fraught with difficulties," said Dr. Cushing. "The
fact is, if these rabid northern abolitionists would let us alone, we
might, perhaps, make a movement on some of these subjects. But they
excite the minds of our people, and get them into such a state of
inflammation, that we cannot do anything."

During all the time that father Dickson and Clayton had been speaking,
Dr. Calker had been making minutes with a pencil on a small piece of
paper, for future use. It was always disagreeable to him to hear of
slave-coffles and the internal slave-trade; and, therefore, when
anything was ever said on these topics, he would generally employ
himself in some other way than listening. Father Dickson he had known of
old as being remarkably pertinacious on those subjects; and therefore,
when he began to speak, he took the opportunity of jotting down a few
ideas for a future exigency. He now looked up from his paper and
spoke:--

"Oh, those fellows are without any reason--perfectly wild and crazy!
They are monomaniacs! They cannot see but one subject anywhere. Now,
there's father Ruskin, of Ohio--there's nothing can be done with that
man! I have had him at my house hours and hours, talking to him, and
laying it all down before him, and showing him what great interests he
was compromising. But it didn't do a bit of good. He just harps on one
eternal string. Now, it's all the pushing and driving of these fellows
in the general assembly that made the division, in my opinion."

"We kept it off a good many years," said Dr. Packthread; "and it took
all our ingenuity to do it, I assure you. Now, ever since eighteen
hundred and thirty-five, these fellows have been pushing and crowding in
every assembly; and we have stood faithfully in our lot, to keep the
assembly from doing anything which could give offence to our southern
brethren. We have always been particular to put them forward in our
public services, and to show them every imaginable deference. I think
our brethren ought to consider how hard we have worked. We had to be
instant in season and out of season, I can tell you. I think I may claim
some little merit," continued the doctor, with a cautious smile
spreading over his face; "if I have any talent, it is a capacity in the
judicious use of language. Now, sometimes brethren will wrangle a whole
day, till they all get tired and sick of a subject; and then just let a
man who understands the use of terms step in, and sometimes, by omitting
a single word, he will alter the whole face of an affair. I remember one
year those fellows were driving us up to make some sort of declaration
about slavery. And we really had to do it, because it wouldn't do to
have the whole west split off; and there was a three days' fight, till
finally we got the thing pared down to the lowest terms. We thought we
would pass a resolution that slavery was a _moral evil_, if the southern
brethren liked that better than the old way of calling it a sin, and we
really were getting on quite harmoniously, when some of the southern
ultras took it up; and they said that moral evil meant the same as sin,
and that would imply a censure on the brethren. Well, it got late, and
some of the hottest ones were tired and had gone off; and I just quietly
drew my pen across the word _moral_, and read the resolution, and it
went unanimously. Most ministers, you see, are willing to call slavery
an _evil_--the trouble lay in that word _moral_. Well, that capped the
crater for that year. But, then, they were at it again the very next
time they came together, for those fellows never sleep. Well, then we
took a new turn. I told the brethren we had better get it on to the
ground of the reserved rights of presbyteries and synods, and decline
interfering. Well, then, that was going very well, but some of the
brethren very injudiciously got up a resolution in the assembly
recommending disciplinary measures for dancing. That was passed without
much thought, because, you know, there's no great interest involved in
dancing, and, of course, there's nobody to oppose such a resolution;
but, then, it was very injudicious, under the circumstances; for the
abolitionists made a handle of it immediately, and wanted to know why we
couldn't as well recommend a discipline for slavery; because, you see,
dancing isn't a sin, _per se_, any more than slavery is; and they
haven't done blowing their trumpets over us to this day."

Here the company rose from breakfast, and, according to the good old
devout custom, seated themselves for family worship. Two decent,
well-dressed black women were called in, and also a negro man. At father
Dickson's request, all united in singing the following hymn:--


     "Am I a soldier of the cross,
       A follower of the Lamb;
     And shall I fear to own his cause,
       Or blush to speak his name?
     Must I be carried to the skies
       On flowery beds of ease,
     While others fought to win the prize,
       And sailed through bloody seas?
     Sure I must fight if I would reign;
       Increase my courage, Lord!
     I'll bear the cross, endure the shame,
       Supported by thy word
     The saints, in all this glorious war,
       Shall conquer, though they die;
     They see the victory from afar,
       With faith's discerning eye.
     When that illustrious day shall rise,
       And all thine armies shine
     In robes of victory through the skies,
       The glory shall be thine."


Anybody who had seen the fervor with which these brethren now united in
singing these stanzas, might have supposed them a company of the
primitive martyrs and confessors, who, having drawn the sword and
thrown away the scabbard, were now ready for a millennial charge on the
devil and all his works. None sung with more heartiness than Dr.
Packthread, for his natural feelings were quick and easily excited; nor
did he dream he was not a soldier of the cross, and that the species of
skirmishes he had been describing were not all in accordance with the
spirit of the hymn. Had you interrogated him, he would have shown you a
syllogistic connection between the glory of God and the best good of the
universe, and the course he had been pursuing. So that, if father
Dickson had supposed the hymn would act as a gentle suggestion, he was
very much mistaken. As to Dr. Calker, he joined, with enthusiasm,
applying it all the while to the enemies of the Presbyterian Church, in
the same manner as Ignatius Loyola might have sung it, applying it to
Protestantism. Dr. Cushing considered the conflict described as wholly
an internal one, and thus all joined alike in swelling the chorus:--


     "A soldier for Jesus, hallelujah!
       Love and serve the Lord."


Father Dickson read from the Bible as follows:--

"Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our consciences, that in
simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the
grace of God, we have our conversation in the world."

Father Dickson had many gentle and quiet ways, peculiar to himself, of
suggesting his own views to his brethren. Therefore, having read these
verses, he paused, and asked Dr. Packthread "if he did not think there
was danger of departing from this spirit, and losing the simplicity of
Christ, when we conduct Christian business on worldly principles."

Dr. Packthread cordially assented, and continued to the same purpose in
a strain so edifying as entirely to exhaust the subject; and Dr. Calker,
who was thinking of the business that was before them, giving an uneasy
motion here, they immediately united in the devotional exercises, which
were led with great fervor by Dr. Cushing.



CHAPTER XLII.

THE RESULT.


After the devotional services were over, Dr. Calker proceeded
immediately with the business that he had in his mind. "Now, brother
Cushing," he said, "there never was any instrumentality raised up by
Providence to bring in the latter day equal to the Presbyterian Church
in the United States of America. It is the great hope of the world; for
here, in this country, we are trying the great experiment for all ages;
and, undoubtedly, the Presbyterian Church comes the nearest perfection
of any form of organization possible to our frail humanity. It is the
ark of the covenant for this nation, and for all nations. Missionary
enterprises to foreign countries, tract societies, home missionary,
seamen's friend societies, Bible societies, Sunday-school unions, all
are embraced in its bosom; and it grows in a free country, planted by
God's own right hand, with such laws and institutions as never were
given to mortal man before. It is carrying us right on to the
millennium; and all we want is _union_. United, we stand the most
glorious, the most powerful institution in the world. Now, there was no
need for you southern brethren to be so restive as you were. We were
doing all we could to keep down the fire, and keep things quiet, and you
ought not to have bolted so. Since you have separated from us, what have
we done? I suppose you thought we were going to blaze out in a regular
abolition fury; but you see we haven't done it. We haven't done any more
than when we were united. Just look at our minutes, and you'll see it.
We have strong and determined abolitionists among us, and they are
constantly urging and pushing. There have been great public excitements
on the subject of slavery, and we have been plagued and teased to
declare ourselves, but we haven't done it in a single instance--not one.
You see that Ruskin and his clique have gone off from us, because we
would hold still. It is true that now and then we had to let some
anti-slavery man preach an opening sermon, or something of that sort;
but, then, opening sermons are nothing; they don't commit anybody; they
don't show the opinion of anybody but the speaker. In fact, they don't
express any more than that declaration of eighteen hundred and eighteen,
which stands unrepealed on _your_ records, as well as on ours. Of
course, we are all willing to say that slavery is an evil, 'entirely
inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel,' and all that, because
that's on your own books; we only agree to say nothing about it,
nowadays, in our public capacity, because what was said in eighteen
hundred and eighteen is all-sufficient, and prevents the odium and
scandal of public controversy now. Now, for proof that what I have just
said is true, look at the facts. We had three presbyteries in
slave-holding states when we started, and now we have over twenty, with
from fifteen to twenty thousand members. That must show you what our
hearts are on this subject. And have we not always been making overtures
for reunion--really humbling ourselves to you, brethren? Now, I say you
ought to take these facts into account; our slave-holding members and
churches are left as perfectly undisturbed, to manage in their own way,
as yours. To be sure, some of those western men will fire off a
remonstrance once a year, or something of that sort. Just let them do
that; it keeps them easy and contented. And, so long as there is really
no interfering in the way of discipline or control, what harm is done?
You ought to bear some with the northern brethren, unreasonable as they
are; and we may well have a discussion every year, to let off the
steam."

"For my part," said father Bonnie, "I want union, I'm sure. I'd tar and
feather those northern abolitionists, if I could get at them!"

"_Figuratively_, I suppose," said Dr. Packthread, with a gentle smile.

"Yes, figuratively and literally too," said father Bonnie, laughing.
"Let them come down here, and see what they'll get! If they will set the
country in a blaze, they ought to be the first ones to be warmed at the
fire. For my part, brethren, I must say that you lose time and strength
by your admissions, all of you. You don't hit the buck in the eye. I
thank the Lord that I am delivered from the bondage of thinking slavery
a sin, or an evil, in any sense. Our abolitionist brethren have done one
good thing; they have driven us up to examine the Scriptures, and there
we find that slavery is not only permitted but appointed, enjoined. It
is a divine institution. If a northern abolitionist comes at me now, I
shake the Bible at him, and say, 'Nay, but, oh man, who art thou that
repliest against God?' Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make
one lump to honor, and another to dishonor? I tell you, brethren, it
blazes from every page of the Scriptures. You'll never do anything till
you get on to that ground. A man's conscience is always hanging on to
his skirts; he goes on just like a bear with a trap on his legs--can't
make any progress that way. You have got to get your feet on the rock of
ages, I can tell you, and get the trap off your leg. There's nothing
like the study of the Scriptures to clear a fellow's mind."

"Well, then," said Clayton, "would it not be well to repeal the laws
which forbid the slaves to learn to read, and put the Scriptures into
their hands? These laws are the cause of a great deal of misery and
immorality among the slaves, and they furnish abolitionists with some of
their strongest arguments."

"Oh," said father Bonnie, "that will never do, in the world! It will
expose them to whole floods of abolition and incendiary documents,
corrupt their minds, and make them discontented."

"Well," said Dr. Cushing, "I have read Dr. Carnes' book, and I must say
that the scriptural argument lies, in my mind, on the other side."

"Hang Dr. Carnes' book!" said father Bonnie.

"Figuratively, I suppose," said Dr. Packthread.

"Why, Dr. Carnes' much learning has made him mad!" said father Bonnie.
"I don't believe anything that can't be got out of a plain English
Bible. When a fellow goes shuffling off in a Hebrew fog, in a Latin fog,
in a Greek fog, I say, 'Ah, my boy, you are treed! you had better come
down!' Why, is it not plain enough to any reader of the Bible, how the
apostles talked to the slaves? They didn't fill their heads with stuff
about the rights of man. Now, see here, just at a venture," he said,
making a dive at a pocket-Bible that lay on the table,--"now, just let
me read you, '_Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and
equal_.' Sho! sho! that isn't the place I was thinking of. It's here,
'_Servants, obey your masters!_' There's into them, you see! 'Obey your
masters that are in the flesh.' Now, these abolitionists won't even
allow that we are masters!"

"Perhaps," said Clayton, quietly, "if the slaves could read, they'd pay
more attention to the first passage that you favored us with."

"Oh, likely," said father Bonnie, "because, you see, their interests
naturally would lead them to pervert Scripture. If it wasn't for that
perverting influence of self-love, I, for my part, would be willing
enough to put the Scriptures into their hands."

"I suppose," said Clayton, "there's no such danger in the case of us
masters, is there?"

"I say," said father Bonnie, not noticing the interruption, "Cushing,
you ought to read Fletcher's book. That book, sir, is a sweater, I can
tell you; I sweat over it, I know; but it does up this Greek and Hebrew
work thoroughly, I promise you. Though I can't read Greek or Hebrew, I
see there's heaps of it there. Why, he takes you clear back to the
creation of the world, and drags you through all the history and
literature of the old botherers of all ages, and he comes down on the
fathers like forty. There's Chrysostom and Tertullian, and all the rest
of those old cocks, and the old Greek philosophers, besides,--Plato and
Aristotle, and all the rest of them. If a fellow wants learning, there
he'll get it. I declare, I'd rather cut my way through the Dismal Swamp
in dog-days! But I was determined to be thorough; so I off coat, and
went at it. And, there's no mistake about it, Cushing, you must get the
book. You'll feel so much better, if you'll settle your mind on that
point. I never allow myself to go trailing along with anything hanging
by the gills. I am an out-and-outer. Walk up to the captain's office and
settle! That's what I say."

"We shall all have to do that, one of these days," said father Dickson,
"and maybe we shall find it one thing to settle with the clerk, and
another to settle with the captain!"

"Well, brother Dickson, you needn't look at me with any of your solemn
faces! I'm settled, now."

"For my part," said Dr. Packthread, "I think, instead of condemning
slavery in the abstract, we ought to direct our attention to its
abuses."

"And what do you consider its abuses?" said Clayton.

"Why, the separation of families, for instance," said Dr. Packthread,
"and the forbidding of education."

"You think, then," said Clayton, "that the slave ought to have a legal
right to his family?"

"Yes."

"Of course, he ought to have the legal means of maintaining it?"

"Yes."

"Then, of course, he ought to be able to enter suit when this right is
violated, and to bear testimony in a court of justice?"

"Yes."

"And do you think that the master ought to give him what is just and
equal, in the way of wages?"

"Certainly, in one shape or another," said Dr. Packthread.

"And ought the slave to have the means of enforcing this right?"

"Certainly."

"Then the slave ought to be able to hold property?"

"Yes."

"And he should have the legal right to secure education, if he desires
it?"

"Yes."

"Well," said Clayton, "when the slave has a legal existence and legal
rights, can hold property and defend it, acquire education and protect
his family relations, he ceases to be a slave; for slavery consists in
the fact of legal incapacity for any of these things. It consists in
making a man a dead, inert substance in the hands of another, holding
men _pro nullis, pro mortuis_. What you call reforming abuses is
abolishing slavery. It is in this very way that I wish to seek its
abolition, and I desire the aid of the church and ministry in doing it.
Now, Dr. Packthread, what efforts has the church as yet made to reform
these abuses of slavery?"

There was a silence of some minutes. At last Dr. Cushing replied,--

"There has been a good deal of effort made in oral religious
instruction."

"Oh, yes," said father Bonnie, "our people have been at it with great
zeal in our part of the country. I have a class, myself, that I have
been instructing in the Assembly's Catechism, in the oral way; and the
synods have taken it up, and they are preaching the Gospel to them, and
writing catechisms for them."

"But," said Clayton, "would it not be best to give them a legal ability
to obey the Gospel? Is there any use in teaching the sanctity of
marriage, unless you obtain for husbands and wives the legal right to
live faithful to each other? It seems to me only cruelty to awaken
conscience on that subject, without giving the protection and assistance
of law."

"What he says is very true," said Dr. Cushing, with emphasis. "We
ministers are called to feel the necessity of that with regard to our
slave church-members. You see, we are obliged to preach unlimited
obedience to masters; and yet,--why, it was only last week, a very
excellent pious mulatto woman in my church came to me to know what she
should do. Her master was determined she should live with him as a
mistress; yet she has a husband on the place. How am I to advise her?
The man is a very influential man, and capable of making a good deal of
commotion; besides which, she will gain nothing by resistance, but to be
sold away to some other master who will do worse. Now, this is a very
trying case to a minister. I'm sure, if anything could be done, I'd be
glad; but the fact is, the moment a person begins to move in the least
to reform these abuses, he is called an abolitionist, and the whole
community is down on him at once. That's the state these northern
fanatics have got us into."

"Oh, yes," said Dr. Baskum, a leading minister, who had recently come
in. "Besides, a man can't do everything! We've got as much as we can
stagger under on our shoulders, now. We've got the building up of the
church to attend to. That's the great instrumentality which at last will
set everything straight. We must do as the apostles did,--confine
ourselves to preaching the Gospel, and the Gospel will bring everything
else in its train. The world can't be made over in a day. We must do one
thing at a time. We can't afford, just at present, to tackle in with all
our other difficulties the odium and misrepresentation of such a
movement. The minute we begin to do anything which looks like
restraining the rights of masters, the cry of church and state and
abolition will be raised, and we shall be swamped!"

"But," said father Dickson, "isn't it the right way first to find out
our duty and do it, and then leave the result with God? Ought we to take
counsel of flesh and blood in matters like these?"

"Of course not," said Dr. Packthread. "But there is a wise way and an
unwise way of doing things. We are to consider the times, and only
undertake such works as the movements of Divine Providence seem to
indicate. I don't wish to judge for brethren. A time may come when it
will be their duty to show themselves openly on this subject; but, in
order to obtain a foothold for the influences of the Gospel to work on,
it may be necessary to bear and forbear with many evils. Under the
present state of things, I hope many of the slaves are becoming
hopefully pious. Brethren seem to feel that education will be attended
with dangers. Probably it might. It would seem desirable to secure the
family relations of the slaves, if it could be done without too much
sacrifice of more important things. After all, the kingdom of our Lord
Jesus Christ is not of this world. The apostles entered no public
protest against the abuses of slavery, that we read of."

"It strikes me," said Clayton, "that there is a difference between our
position under a republican government,--in which we vote for our
legislators, and, in fact, make the laws ourselves, and have the
admitted right to seek their repeal,--and that of the apostles, who were
themselves slaves, and could do nothing about the laws. We make our own
laws, and every one of us is responsible for any unjust law which we do
not do our best to alter. We have the right to agitate, write, print,
and speak, and bring up the public mind to the point of reform; and,
therefore, we are responsible if unjust laws are not repealed."

"Well," said father Dickson, "God forgive me that I have been so remiss
in times past! Henceforth, whatever others may do, I will not confer
with flesh and blood; but I will go forth and declare the word of the
Lord plainly to this people, and show unto the house of Judah their
transgressions. And now I have one thing to say to our dear northern
brethren. I mourn over the undecided course which they take. Brethren in
slave states are beset with many temptations. The whole course of public
opinion is against them. They need that their northern brethren should
stand firm, and hold up their hands. Alas! how different has been their
course! Their apologies for this mighty sin have weakened us more than
all things put together. Public opinion is going back. The church is
becoming corrupted. Ministers are drawn into connivance with deadly sin.
Children and youth are being ruined by habits of early tyranny. Our land
is full of slave-prisons; and the poor trader--no man careth for his
soul! Our poor whites are given up to ignorance and licentiousness; and
our ministers, like our brother Bonnie, here, begin to defend this evil
from the Bible. Brother Calker, here, talks of the Presbyterian Church.
Alas! in her skirts is found the blood of poor innocents, and she is
willing, for the sake of union, to destroy them for whom Christ died.
Brethren, you know not what you do. You enjoy the blessings of living in
a land uncursed by any such evils. Your churches, your schools, and all
your industrial institutions, are going forward, while ours are going
backward; and you do not feel it, because you do not live among us. But
take care! One part of the country cannot become demoralized without, at
last, affecting the other. The sin you cherish and strengthen by your
indifference may at last come back in judgments that may visit even you.
I pray God to avert it! But, as God is just, I tremble for you and for
us! Well, good-by, brethren; I must be on my way. You will not listen to
me, and my soul cannot come into your counsels."

And father Dickson rose to depart.

"Oh, come, come, now, brother, don't take it so seriously!" said Dr.
Cushing. "Stay, at least, and spend the day with us, and let us have a
little Christian talk."

"I must go," said father Dickson. "I have an appointment to preach,
which I must keep, for this evening, and so I must bid you farewell. I
hoped to do something by coming here; but I see that it is all in vain.
Farewell, brethren; I shall pray for you."

"Well, father Dickson, I should like to talk more with you on this
subject," said Dr. Cushing. "Do come again. It is very difficult to see
the path of duty in these matters."

Poor Dr. Cushing was one of those who are destined, like stationary
ships, forever to float up and down in one spot, only useful in marking
the ebb and flood of the tide. Affection, generosity, devotion, he
had--everything but the power to move on.

Clayton, who had seen at once that nothing was to be done or gained,
rose, and said that his business was also pressing, and that he would
accompany father Dickson on his way.

"What a good fellow Dickson is!" said Cushing, after he returned to the
room.

"He exhibits a very excellent spirit," said Dr. Packthread.

"Oh, Dickson would do well enough," said Dr. Calker, "if he wasn't a
monomaniac. That's what's the matter with him! But when he gets to going
on this subject, I never hear what he says. I know it's no use to reason
with him--entirely time lost. I have heard all these things over and
over again."

"But I wish," said Dr. Cushing, "something could be done."

"Well, who doesn't?" said Dr. Calker. "We all wish something could be
done; but, if it can't, it can't; there's the end of it. So now let us
proceed, and look into business a little more particularly."

"After all," said Dr. Packthread, "you old school brethren have greatly
the advantage of us. Although you have a few poor good souls, like this
Dickson, they are in so insignificant a minority that they can do
nothing--can't even get into the general assembly, or send in a
remonstrance, or petition, or anything else; so that you are never
plagued as we are. We cannot even choose a moderator from the
slave-holding states, for fear of an explosion; but you can have
slave-holding moderators, or anything else that will promote harmony and
union."



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE SLAVE'S ARGUMENT.


On his return home, Clayton took from the post-office a letter, which we
will give to our readers:--


     "MR. CLAYTON: I am now an outcast. I cannot show my face in the
     world, I cannot go abroad by daylight; for no crime, as I can see,
     except resisting oppression. Mr. Clayton, if it were proper for
     your fathers to fight and shed blood for the oppression that came
     upon them, why isn't it right for us? They had not half the
     provocation that we have. Their wives and families were never
     touched. They were not bought, and sold, and traded, like cattle in
     the market, as we are. In fact, when I was reading that history, I
     could hardly understand what provocation they did have. They had
     everything easy and comfortable about them. They were able to
     support their families, even in luxury. And yet they were willing
     to plunge into war, and shed blood. I have studied the Declaration
     of Independence. The things mentioned there were bad and
     uncomfortable, to be sure; but, after all, look at the laws which
     are put over _us_! Now, if they had forbidden them to teach their
     children to read,--if they had divided them all out among masters,
     and declared them as incapable of holding property as the mule
     before the plough,--there would have been some sense in that
     revolution.

     "Well, how was it with our people in South Carolina? Denmark Vesey
     was a _man_! His history is just what George Washington's would
     have been, if you had failed. What set him on in his course? The
     Bible and your Declaration of Independence. What does your
     Declaration say? 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that
     _all men are created equal_; that they are endowed by their Creator
     with certain _inalienable_ rights: that among these are life,
     liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That _to secure these
     rights_ governments are instituted among men. That _whenever any
     form of government becomes destructive of any of these ends, it is
     the right of the people to alter or to abolish it_. Now, what do
     you make of that? This is read to us every Fourth of July. It was
     read to Denmark Vesey and Peter Poyas, and all those other brave,
     good men, who dared to follow your example and your precepts. Well,
     they failed, and your people hung them. And they said they couldn't
     conceive what motive could have induced them to make the effort.
     They had food enough, and clothes enough, and were kept very
     comfortable. Well, had not your people clothes enough, and food
     enough? and wouldn't you still have had enough, even if you had
     remained a province of England to this day,--much better living,
     much better clothes, and much better laws, than we have to-day? I
     heard your father's interpretation of the law; I heard Mr. Jekyl's;
     and yet, when men rise up against such laws, you wonder what in the
     world could have induced them! That's perfectly astonishing!

     "But, of all the injuries and insults that are heaped upon us,
     there is nothing to me so perfectly maddening as the assumption of
     your religious men, who maintain and defend this enormous injustice
     by the Bible. We have all the right to rise against them that they
     had to rise against England. They tell us the Bible says,
     'Servants, obey your masters.' Well, the Bible says, also, 'The
     powers that be are ordained of God, and whoso resisteth the power,
     resisteth the ordinance of God.' If it was right for them to resist
     the ordinance of God, it is right for us. If the Bible does justify
     slavery, why don't they teach the slave to read it? And what's the
     reason that two of the greatest insurrections came from men who
     read scarcely anything else but the Bible? No, the fact is, they
     don't believe this themselves. If they did, they would try the
     experiment fairly of giving the Bible to their slaves. I can assure
     you the Bible looks as different to a slave from what it does to a
     master, as everything else in the world does.

     "Now, Mr. Clayton, you understand that when I say _you_, along
     here, I do not mean you personally, but the generality of the
     community of which you are one. I want you to think these things
     over, and, whatever my future course may be, remember my excuse for
     it is the same as that on which your government is built.

     "I am very grateful to you for all your kindness. Perhaps the time
     may come when I shall be able to show my gratitude. Meanwhile, I
     must ask one favor of you, which I think you will grant for the
     sake of that angel who is gone. I have a sister, who, as well as
     myself, is the child of Tom Gordon's father. She was beautiful and
     good, and her owner, who had a large estate in Mississippi, took
     her to Ohio, emancipated and married her. She has two children by
     him, a son and a daughter. He died, and left his estate to her and
     her children. Tom Gordon is the heir-at-law. He has sued for the
     property, and obtained it. The act of emancipation has been
     declared null and void, and my sister and her children are in the
     hands of that man, with all that absolute power; and they have no
     appeal from him for any evil whatever. She has escaped his hands,
     so she wrote me once; but I have heard a report that he has taken
     her again. The pious Mr. Jekyl will know all about it. Now, may I
     ask you to go to him, and make inquiries, and let me know? A letter
     sent to Mr. James Twitchel, at the post-office near Canema, where
     our letters used to be taken, will get to me. By doing this favor,
     you will secure my eternal gratitude.

     "HARRY GORDON."


Clayton read this letter with some surprise, and a good deal of
attention. It was written on very coarse paper, such as is commonly sold
at the low shops. Where Harry was, and how concealed, was to him only a
matter of conjecture. But the call to render him any assistance was a
sacred one, and he determined on a horseback excursion to E., the town
where Mr. Jekyl resided.

He found that gentleman very busy in looking over and arranging papers
in relation to that large property which had just come into Tom Gordon's
hands. He began by stating that the former owner of the servants at
Canema had requested him, on her death-bed, to take an interest in her
servants. He had therefore called to ascertain if anything had been
heard from Harry.

"Not yet," said Mr. Jekyl, pulling up his shirt-collar. "Our
plantations in this vicinity are very unfortunate in their proximity to
the swamp. It's a great expense of time and money. Why, sir, it's
inconceivable the amount of property that's lost in that swamp! I have
heard it estimated at something like three millions of dollars! We
follow them up with laws, you see. They are outlawed regularly, after a
certain time, and then the hunters go in and chase them down; sometimes
kill two or three a day, or something like that. But on the whole, they
don't effect much."

"Well," said Clayton, who felt no disposition to enter into any
discussion with Mr. Jekyl, "so you think he is there?"

"Yes, I have no doubt of it. The fact is, there's a fellow that's been
seen lurking about this swamp, off and on, for years and years.
Sometimes he isn't to be seen for months; and then again he is seen or
heard of, but never so that anybody can get hold of him. I have no doubt
the niggers on the plantation know him; but, then, you can never get
anything out of them. Oh, they are deep! They are a dreadfully corrupt
set!"

"Mr. Gordon has, I think, a sister of Harry's, who came in with this new
estate," said Mr. Clayton.

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Jekyl. "She has given us a good deal of trouble,
too. She got away, and went off to Cincinnati, and I had to go up and
hunt her out. It was really a great deal of trouble and expense. If I
hadn't been assisted by the politeness and kindness of the marshal and
brother officers, it would have been very bad. There is a good deal of
religious society, too, in Cincinnati; and so, while I was waiting, I
attended anniversary meetings."

"Then you did succeed," said Clayton. "I came to see whether Mr. Gordon
would listen to a proposition for selling her."

"Oh, he has sold her!" said Mr. Jekyl. "She is at Alexandria, now, in
Beaton & Burns' establishment."

"And her children, too?"

"Yes, the lot. I claim some little merit for that, myself. Tom is a
fellow of rather strong passions, and he was terribly angry for the
trouble she had made. I don't know what he would have done to her, if I
hadn't talked to him. But I showed him some debts that couldn't be put
off any longer without too much of a sacrifice; and, on the whole, I
persuaded him to let her be sold. I have tried to exert a good influence
over him, in a quiet way," said Mr. Jekyl. "Now, if you want to get the
woman, like enough she may not be sold, as yet."

Clayton, having thus ascertained the points which he wished to know,
proceeded immediately to Alexandria. When he was there, he found a
considerable excitement.

"A slave-woman," it was said, "who was to have been sent off in a coffle
the next day, had murdered her two children."

The moment that Clayton heard the news, he felt an instinctive certainty
that this woman was Cora Gordon. He went to the magistrate's court,
where the investigation was being held, and found it surrounded by a
crowd so dense that it was with difficulty he forced his way in. At the
bar he saw seated a woman dressed in black, whose face, haggard and wan,
showed yet traces of former beauty. The splendid dark eyes had a
peculiar and fierce expression. The thin lines of the face were settled
into an immovable fixedness of calm determination. There was even an air
of grave, solemn triumph on her countenance. She appeared to regard the
formalities of the court with the utmost indifference. At last she
spoke, in a clear, thrilling, distinct voice,--

"If gentlemen will allow me to speak, I'll save them the trouble of that
examination of witnesses. It's going a long way round to find out a very
little thing."

There was an immediate movement of curiosity in the whole throng, and
the officer said.--

"You are permitted to speak."

She rose deliberately, untied her bonnet-strings, looked round the whole
court, with a peculiar but calm expression of mingled triumph and power.

"You want to know," she said, "who killed those children! Well, I will
tell you;" and again her eyes travelled round the house, with that same
strong, defiant expression; "I killed them!"

There was a pause, and a general movement through the house.

"Yes," she said, again, "I killed them! And, oh, how glad I am that I
have done it! Do you want to know what I killed them for? Because I
loved them!--loved them so well that I was willing to give up my soul to
save theirs! I have heard some persons say that I was in a frenzy,
excited, and didn't know what I was doing. They are mistaken. I was not
in a frenzy; I was not excited; and I did know what I was doing! and I
bless God that it is done! I was born the slave of my own father. Your
old proud Virginia blood is in my veins, as it is in half of those you
whip and sell. I was the lawful wife of a man of honor, who did what he
could to evade your cruel laws, and set me free. My children were born
to liberty; they were brought up to liberty, till my father's son
entered a suit for us, and made us _slaves_. Judge and jury helped
him--all your laws and your officers helped him--to take away the rights
of the widow and the fatherless! The judge said that my son, being a
slave, could no more hold property than the mule before his plough; and
we were delivered into Tom Gordon's hands. I shall not say what he is.
It is not fit to be said. God will show at the judgment-day. But I
escaped, with my children, to Cincinnati. He followed me there, and the
laws of your country gave me back to him. To-morrow I was to have gone
in a coffle and leave these children--my son a slave for life--my
daughter"-- She looked round the court-room with an expression which
said more than words could have spoken. "So I heard them say their
prayers and sing their hymns, and then, while they were asleep and
didn't know it, I sent them to lie down in green pastures with the Lord.
They say this is a dreadful sin. It may be so. I am willing to lose my
soul to have _theirs saved_. I have no more to hope or fear. It's all
nothing, now, where I go or what becomes of me. But, at any rate, they
are safe. And, now, if any of you mothers, in my place, wouldn't have
done the same, you either don't know what slavery is, or you don't love
your children as I have loved mine. This is all."

She sat down, folded her arms, fixed her eyes on the floor, and seemed
like a person entirely indifferent to the further opinions and
proceedings of the court.

She was remanded to jail for trial. Clayton determined, in his own
mind, to do what he could for her. Her own declaration seemed to make
the form of a trial unnecessary. He resolved, however, to do what he
could to enlist for her the sympathy of some friends of his in the city.

The next day he called with a clergyman, and requested permission to see
her. When they entered her cell, she rose to receive them with the most
perfect composure, as if they had called upon her in a drawing-room.
Clayton introduced his companion as the Rev. Mr. Denton. There was an
excited flash in her eyes, but she said, calmly,--

"Have the gentlemen business with me?"

"We called," said the clergyman, "to see if we could render you any
assistance."

"No, sir, you cannot!" was the prompt reply.

"My dear friend," said the clergyman, in a very kind tone, "I wish it
were in my power to administer to you the consolations of the Gospel."

"I have nothing to do," she answered, firmly, "with ministers who
pretend to preach the Gospel, and support oppression and robbery! Your
hands are defiled with blood!--so don't come to me! I am a prisoner,
here, and cannot resist. But, when I tell you that I prefer to be left
alone, perhaps it may have some effect, even if I am a slave!"

Clayton took out Harry's letter, handed it to her, and said:--

"After you have read this, you will, perhaps, receive me, if I should
call again to-morrow, at this hour."

The next day when Clayton called, he was conducted by the jailer to the
door of the cell.

"There is a lady with her now, reading to her."

"Then I ought not to interrupt her," said Clayton, hesitating.

"Oh, I suspect it would make no odds," said the jailer.

Clayton laid his hand on his to stop him. The sound that came
indistinctly through the door was the voice of prayer. Some woman was
interceding, in the presence of eternal pity, for an oppressed and
broken-hearted sister. After a few moments the door was partly opened,
and he heard a sweet voice, saying:--

"Let me come to you every day, may I? I know what it is to suffer."

A smothered sob was the only answer; and then followed words,
imperfectly distinguished, which seemed to be those of consolation. In a
moment the door was opened, and Clayton found himself suddenly face to
face with a lady in deep mourning. She was tall, and largely
proportioned; the outlines of her face strong, yet beautiful, and now
wearing the expression which comes from communion with the highest and
serenest nature. Both were embarrassed, and made a momentary pause. In
the start she dropped one of her gloves. Clayton picked it up, handed it
to her, bowed, and she passed on. By some singular association, this
stranger, with a serious, radiant face, suggested to him the sparkling,
glittering beauty of Nina; and it seemed for a moment, as if Nina was
fluttering by him in the air, and passing away after her. When he
examined the emotion more minutely afterwards, he thought, perhaps, it
might have been suggested by the perception, as he lifted the glove, of
a peculiar and delicate perfume, which Nina was fond of using. So
strange and shadowy are the influences which touch the dark, electric
chain of our existence.

When Clayton went into the cell, he found its inmate in a softened mood.
There were traces of tears on her cheek, and an open Bible on the bed;
but her appearance was calm and self-possessed, as usual. She said:--

"Excuse my rudeness, Mr. Clayton, at your last visit. We cannot always
command ourselves to do exactly what we should. I thank you very much
for your kindness to us. There are many who are kindly disposed towards
us; but it's very little that they can do."

"Can I be of any assistance in securing counsel for you?" said Clayton.

"I don't need any counsel. I don't wish any," said she. "I shall make no
effort. Let the law take its course. If you ever should see Harry, give
my love to him--that's all! And, if you can help him, pray do! If you
have time, influence, or money to spare, and can get him to any country
where he will have the common rights of a human being, pray do, and the
blessing of the poor will come on you! That's all I have to ask."

Clayton rose to depart. He had fulfilled the object of his mission. He
had gained all the information, and more than all, that he wished. He
queried with himself whether it were best to write to Harry at all. The
facts that he had to relate were such as were calculated to kindle to a
fiercer flame the excitement which was now consuming him. He trembled,
when he thought of it, lest that excitement should blaze out in forms
which should array against him, with still more force, that society with
which he was already at war. Thinking, however, that Harry, perhaps,
might obtain the information in some less guarded form, he sat down and
wrote him the following letter:


     "I have received your letter. I need not say that I am sorry for
     all that has taken place--sorry for your sake, and for the sake of
     one very dear both to me and to you. Harry, I freely admit that you
     live in a state of society which exercises a great injustice. I
     admit your right, and that of all men, to life, liberty, and the
     pursuit of happiness. I admit the right of an oppressed people to
     change their form of government, _if they can_. I admit that your
     people suffer under greater oppression than ever our fathers
     suffered. And, if I believed that they were capable of obtaining
     and supporting a government, I should believe in their right to
     take the same means to gain it. But I do not, at present; and I
     think, if you reflect on the subject, you will agree with me. I do
     not think that, should they make an effort, they would succeed.
     They would only embitter the white race against them, and destroy
     that sympathy which many are beginning to feel for their oppressed
     condition. I know it seems a very unfeeling thing for a man who is
     at ease to tell one, who is oppressed and suffering, to be patient;
     and yet I must even say it. It is my place, and your place, to seek
     repeal of the unjust laws which oppress you. I see no reason why
     the relation of master and servants may not be continued through
     our states, and the servants yet be free men. I am satisfied that
     it would be for the best interests of master as well as slave. If
     this is the truth, time will make it apparent, and the change will
     come. With regard to you, the best counsel I can give is, that you
     try to escape to some of the northern states; and I will furnish
     you with means to begin life there under better auspices. I am very
     sorry that I have to tell you something very painful about your
     sister. She was sold to a trading-house in Alexandria, and, in
     desperation, has killed both her children! For this she is now in
     prison, awaiting her trial! I have been to see her, and offered
     every assistance in my power. She declines all. She does not wish
     to live, and has already avowed the fact; making no defence, and
     wishing none to be made for her. Another of the bitter fruits of
     this most unrighteous system! She desired her love and kind wishes
     to you. Whatever more is to be known, I will tell you at some
     future time.

     "After all that I have said to you in this letter, I cannot help
     feeling, for myself, how hard, and cold, and insufficient it must
     seem to you! If I had such a sister as yours, and her life had been
     so wrecked, I feel that I might not have patience to consider any
     of these things; and I am afraid you will not. Yet I feel this
     injustice to my heart. I feel it like a personal affliction; and,
     God helping me, I will make it the object of my life to remedy it!
     Your sister's trial will not take place for some time; and she has
     friends who do all that can be done for her."


Clayton returned to his father's house, and related the result of his
first experiment with the clergy.

"Well, now," said Mrs. Clayton, "I must confess I was not prepared for
this."

"I was," said Judge Clayton. "It's precisely what I expected. You have
tried the Presbyterians, with whom our family are connected; and now you
may go successively to the Episcopalians, the Methodists, the Baptists,
and you will hear the same story from them all. About half of them
defend the thing from the Bible, in the most unblushing, disgusting
manner. The other half acknowledge and lament it as an evil; but they
are cowed and timid, and can do nothing."

"Well," said Clayton, "the greatest evidence to my mind of the
inspiration of the Scriptures is, that they are yet afloat, when every
new absurdity has been successively tacked to them."

"But," said Mrs. Clayton, "are there no people that are faithful?"

"None in this matter that I know of," said Judge Clayton, "except the
Covenanters and the Quakers among us, and the Free-will Baptists and a
few others at the north. And their number and influence is so small,
that there can be no great calculation made on them for assistance. Of
individuals, there are not a few who earnestly desire to do something;
but they are mostly without faith or hope, like me. And from the
communities--from the great organizations in society--no help whatever
is to be expected."



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE DESERT.


There's no study in human nature more interesting than the aspects of
the same subject seen in the points of view of different characters. One
might almost imagine that there were no such thing as absolute truth,
since a change of situation or temperament is capable of changing the
whole force of an argument. We have been accustomed, even those of us
who feel most, to look on the arguments for and against the system of
slavery with the eyes of those who are at ease. We do not even know how
fair is freedom, for we were always free. We shall never have all the
materials for absolute truth on this subject, till we take into account,
with our own views and reasonings, the views and reasonings of those who
have bowed down to the yoke, and felt the iron enter into their souls.
We all console ourselves too easily for the sorrows of others. We talk
and reason coolly of that which, did we feel it ourselves, would take
away all power of composure and self-control. We have seen how the
masters feel and reason; how good men feel and reason, whose public
opinion and Christian fellowship support the master, and give him
confidence in his position. We must add, also, to our estimate, the
feelings and reasonings of the slave; and, therefore, the reader must
follow us again to the fastness in the Dismal Swamp.

It is a calm, still, Indian-summer afternoon. The whole air is flooded
with a golden haze, in which the tree-tops move dreamily to and fro, as
if in a whispering reverie. The wild climbing grape-vines, which hang in
thousand-fold festoons round the inclosure, are purpling with grapes.
The little settlement now has among its inmates Old Tiff and his
children, and Harry and his wife. The children and Tiff had been
received in the house of the widow whose husband had fallen a victim to
the hunters, as we mentioned in one of our former chapters. All had
united in building for Harry and Lisette a cabin contiguous to the
other.

Old Tiff, with his habitual industry, might now be seen hoeing in the
sweet-potato patch, which belonged to the common settlement. The
children were roaming up and down, looking after autumn flowers and
grapes.

Dred, who had been out all the night before, was now lying on the ground
on the shady side of the clearing, with an old, much-worn, much-thumbed
copy of the Bible by his side. It was the Bible of Denmark Vesey, and in
many a secret meeting its wild, inspiring poetry had sounded like a
trumpet in his youthful ear.

He lay with his elbow resting on the ground, his hands supporting his
massive head, and his large, gloomy, dark eyes fixed in reverie on the
moving tree-tops as they waved in the golden blue. Now his eye followed
sailing islands of white cloud, drifting to and fro above them. There
were elements in him which might, under other circumstances, have made
him a poet.

His frame, capacious and energetic as it was, had yet that keenness of
excitability which places the soul _en rapport_ with all the great
forces of nature. The only book which he had been much in the habit of
reading--the book, in fact, which had been the nurse and forming power
of his soul--was the Bible, distinguished above all other literature for
its intense sympathy with nature. Dred, indeed, resembled in
organization and tone of mind some of those men of old who were dwellers
in the wilderness, and drew their inspirations from the desert.

It is remarkable that, in all ages, communities and individuals who have
suffered under oppression have always fled for refuge to the Old
Testament, and to the book of Revelation in the New. Even if not
definitely understood, these magnificent compositions have a wild,
inspiring power, like a wordless yet impassioned symphony played by a
sublime orchestra, in which deep and awful sub-bass instruments mingle
with those of ethereal softness, and wild minors twine and interlace
with marches of battles and bursts of victorious harmony.

They are much mistaken who say that nothing is efficient as a motive
that is not definitely understood. Who ever thought of understanding the
mingled wail and roar of the Marseillaise? Just this kind of indefinite
stimulating power has the Bible to the souls of the oppressed. There is
also a disposition, which has manifested itself since the primitive
times, by which the human soul, bowed down beneath the weight of mighty
oppressions, and despairing, in its own weakness, seizes with avidity
the intimations of a coming judgment, in which the Son of Man, appearing
in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, shall right earth's
mighty wrongs.

In Dred's mind this thought had acquired an absolute ascendency. All
things in nature and in revelation he interpreted by this key.

During the prevalence of the cholera, he had been pervaded by a wild and
solemn excitement. To him it was the opening of a seal--the sounding of
the trumpet of the first angel. And other woes were yet to come.

He was not a man of personal malignity to any human being. When he
contemplated schemes of insurrection and bloodshed, he contemplated them
with the calm, immovable firmness of one who felt himself an instrument
of doom in a mightier hand. In fact, although seldom called into
exercise by the incidents of his wild and solitary life, there was in
him a vein of that gentleness which softens the heart towards children
and the inferior animals. The amusement of his vacant hours was
sometimes to exercise his peculiar gifts over the animal creation, by
drawing towards him the birds and squirrels from the coverts of the
forest, and giving them food. Indeed, he commonly carried corn in the
hunting-dress which he wore, to use for this purpose. Just at this
moment, as he lay absorbed in reverie, he heard Teddy, who was near him,
calling to his sister,--

"Oh, Fanny, do come and see this squirrel, he is so pretty!"

Fanny came running, eagerly. "Where is he?" she said.

"Oh, he is gone; he just went behind that tree."

The children, in their eagerness, had not perceived how near they were
to Dred. He had turned his face towards them, and was looking at them
with a pleased expression, approaching to a smile.

"Do you want to see him?" he said. "Stop a few minutes."

He rose and scattered a train of corn between him and the thicket, and,
sitting down on the ground, began making a low sound, resembling the
call of the squirrel to its young. In a few moments Teddy and Fanny were
in a tremor of eager excitement, as a pair of little bright eyes
appeared among the leaves, and gradually their owner, a brisk little
squirrel, came out and began rapidly filling its chops with the corn.
Dred still continued, with his eyes fixed on the animal, to make the
same noise. Very soon two others were seen following their comrade. The
children laughed when they saw the headmost squirrel walk into Dred's
hand, which he had laid upon the ground, the others soon following his
example. Dred took them up, and, softly stroking them, they seemed to
become entirely amenable to his will; and, to amuse the children, he let
them go into his hunting-pouch to eat the corn that was there. After
this, they seemed to make a rambling expedition over his whole person,
investigating his pockets, hiding themselves in the bosom of his shirt,
and seeming apparently perfectly fearless, and at home.

Fanny reached out her hand, timidly. "Won't they come to me?" she said.

"No, daughter," said Dred, with a smile, "they don't know you. In the
new earth the enmity will be taken away, and then they'll come."

"I wonder what he means by the new earth!" said Fanny.

Dred seemed to feel a kind of pleasure in the admiration of the
children, to which, perhaps, no one is wholly insensible. He proceeded,
therefore, to show them some other of his accomplishments. The wood was
resounding with the afternoon song of birds, and Dred suddenly began
answering one of the songsters with an exact imitation of his note. The
bird evidently heard it, and answered back with still more spirit; and
thus an animated conversation was kept up for some time.

"You see," he said, "that I understand the speech of birds. After the
great judgment, the elect shall talk with the birds and the beasts in
the new earth. Every kind of bird has a different language, in which
they show why men should magnify the Lord, and turn from their
wickedness. But the sinners cannot hear it, because their ear is waxed
gross."

"I didn't know," said Fanny, hesitating, "as that was so. How did you
find it out?"

"The Spirit of the Lord revealed it unto me, child."

"What is the Spirit?" said Fanny, who felt more encouraged, as she saw
Dred stroking a squirrel.

"It's the Spirit that spoke in the old prophets," he said.

"Did it tell you what the birds say?"

"I am not perfected in holiness yet, and cannot receive it. But the
birds fly up near the heavens, wherefore they learn droppings of the
speech of angels. I never kill the birds, because the Lord hath set them
between us and the angels for a sign."

"What else did the Spirit tell you?" said Teddy.

"He showed me that there was a language in the leaves," said Dred. "For
I rose and looked, and, behold, there were signs drawn on the leaves,
and forms of every living thing, with strange words, which the wicked
understand not, but the elect shall read them. And, behold, the signs
are in blood, which is the blood of the Lamb, that descendeth like dew
from heaven."

Fanny looked puzzled. "Who are the elect?" she said.

"They?" said Dred. "They are the hundred and forty and four thousand,
that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. And the angels have charge,
saying, 'Hurt not the earth till these are sealed in their forehead.'"

Fanny instinctively put her hand to her forehead. "Do you think they'll
seal me?" she said.

"Yes," said Dred; "such as you are of the kingdom."

"Did the Spirit tell you that?" said Fanny, who felt some considerable
anxiety.

"Yea, the Spirit hath shown me many such things," said Dred. "It hath
also revealed to me the knowledge of the elements, the revolutions of
the planets, the operations of the tide, and changes of the seasons."

Fanny looked doubtfully, and, taking up her basket of wild grapes,
slowly moved off, thinking that she would ask Tiff about it.

At this moment there was a rustling in the branches of the oak-tree
which overhung a part of the clearing near where Dred was lying, and
Harry soon dropped from the branches on to the ground. Dred started up
to receive him.

"How is it?" said he. "Will they come?"

"Yes; by midnight to-night they will be here. See here," he added,
taking a letter from his pocket, "what I have received."

It was the letter which Clayton had written to Harry. It was remarkable,
as Dred received it, how the wandering mystical expression of his face
immediately gave place to one of shrewd and practical earnestness. He
sat down on the ground, laid it on his knee, and followed the lines with
his finger. Some passages he seemed to read over two or three times with
the greatest attention, and he would pause after reading them, and sat
with his eyes fixed gloomily on the ground. The last part seemed to
agitate him strongly. He gave a sort of suppressed groan.

"Harry," he said, turning to him, at last, "behold the day shall come
when the Lord shall take out of our hand the cup of trembling, and put
it into the hand of those that oppress us. Our soul is exceedingly
filled now with the scorning of them that are at ease, and with the
contempt of the proud. The prophets prophesy falsely, the rulers bear
rule by their means, and the people love to have it so. But what will it
be in the end thereof? Their own wickedness shall reprove them, and
their backsliding shall correct them. Listen to me, Harry," he said,
taking up his Bible, "and see what the Lord saith unto thee. 'Thus saith
the Lord my God, Feed the flock of the slaughter; whose possessors slay
them, and hold themselves not guilty, and they that sell them say,
blessed be the Lord for I am rich. And their own shepherds pity them
not. For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the
Lord. But, lo, I will deliver the men, every one into his neighbor's
hand, and into the hand of his king. And they shall smite the land, and
out of their hand I will not deliver them. And I will feed the flock of
slaughter, even you, O ye poor of the flock. And I took unto me two
staves: the one I called beauty, and the other I called bands. And I fed
the flock. And I took my staff, even beauty, and cut it asunder, that I
might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was
broken in that day, so the poor of the flock that waited on me knew it
was the word of the Lord. Then I cut asunder mine other stave, even
bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. The
burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which
stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundations of the earth,
and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem
a cup of trembling to all the people round about. Also in that day I
will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people. All that burden
themselves with it shall be cut to pieces. In that day, saith the Lord,
I will smite every horse with astonishment, and every rider with
madness. And I will open mine eyes on the house of Judah, and will smite
every horse of the people with blindness. In that day I will make the
governors of Judah like a hearth of fire among the wood, and like a
torch of fire in a sheaf, and they shall devour all the people on the
right and the left.'

"Harry," said he, "these things are written for our learning. We will go
up and take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord's!"

The gloomy fervor with which Dred read these words of Scripture,
selecting, as his eye glanced down the prophetic pages, passages whose
images most affected his own mind, carried with it an overpowering
mesmeric force.

Who shall say that, in this world, where all things are symbolic, bound
together by mystical resemblances, and where one event is the archetype
of thousands, that there is not an eternal significance in these old
prophecies? Do they not bring with them "_springing_ and _germinant_
fulfilments" wherever there is a haughty and oppressive nation, and a
"flock of the slaughter?"

"Harry," said Dred, "I have fasted and prayed before the Lord, lying all
night on my face, yet the token cometh not! Behold, there are prayers
that resist me! The Lamb yet beareth, and the opening of the second seal
delayeth! Yet the Lord had shown unto me that we should be up and doing,
to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord! The Lord hath said unto
me. 'Speak to the elders, and to the prudent men, and prepare their
hearts.'"

"One thing," said Harry, "fills me with apprehension. Hark, that brought
me this letter, was delayed in getting back; and I'm afraid that he'll
get into trouble. Tom Gordon is raging like a fury over the people of
our plantation. They have always been held under a very mild rule, and
every one knows that a plantation so managed is not so immediately
profitable as it can be made for a short time by forcing everything up
to the highest notch. He has got a man there for overseer--Old
Hokum--that has been famous for his hardness and meanness; and he has
delivered the people, unreservedly, into his hands. He drinks, and
frolics, and has his oyster-suppers, and swears he'll shoot any one that
brings him a complaint. Hokum is to pay him so much yearly, and have to
himself all that he makes over. Tom Gordon keeps two girls, there, that
he bought for himself and his fellows, just as he wanted to keep my
wife!"

"Be patient, Harry! This is a great christianizing institution!" said
Dred, with a tone of grave irony.

"I am afraid for Hark," said Harry. "He is the bravest of brave fellows.
He is ready to do anything for us. But if he is taken, there will be no
mercy."

Dred looked on the ground, gloomily. "Hark was to be here to-night," he
said.

"Yes," said Harry, "I wish we may see him."

"Harry," said Dred, "when they come, to-night, read them the Declaration
of Independence of these United States, and then let each one judge of
our afflictions, and the afflictions of their fathers, and the Lord
shall be judge between us. I must go and seek counsel of the Lord."

Dred rose, and, giving a leap from the ground, caught on the branch of
the oak, which overhung their head, and, swinging himself on the limb,
climbed in the thickness of the branches, and disappeared from view.
Harry walked to the other side of the clearing, where his lodge had been
erected. He found Lisette busy within. She ran to meet him, and threw
her arms around his neck.

"I am so glad you've come back, Harry! It is so dreadful to think what
may happen to you while you are gone! Harry, I think we could be very
happy here. See what a nice bed I have made in this corner, out of
leaves and moss! The women are both very kind, and I am glad we have got
Old Tiff and the children here. It makes it seem more natural. See, I
went out with them, this afternoon, and how many grapes I have got!
What have you been talking to that dreadful man about? Do you know,
Harry, he makes me afraid? They say he is a prophet. Do you think he
is?"

"I don't know, child," said Harry, abstractedly.

"Don't stay with him too much!" said Lisette. "He'll make you as gloomy
as he is."

"Do I need any one to make me gloomy?" said Harry. "Am I not gloomy
enough? Am I not an outcast? And you, too, Lisette?"

"It isn't so very dreadful to be an outcast," said Lisette. "God makes
wild grapes for us, if we are outcasts."

"Yes, child," said Harry, "you are right."

"And the sun shines so pleasant, this afternoon!" said Lisette.

"Yes," said Harry; "but by and by cold storms and rain will come, and
frosty weather!"

"Well," said Lisette, "then we will think what to do next. But don't let
us lose this afternoon, and these grapes, at any rate."



CHAPTER XLV.

JEGAR SAHADUTHA.


At twelve o'clock, that night, Harry rose from the side of his sleeping
wife, and looked out into the darkness. The belt of forest which
surrounded them seemed a girdle of impenetrable blackness. But above,
where the tree-tops fringed out against the sky, the heavens were seen
of a deep, transparent violet, blazing with stars. He opened the door,
and came out. All was so intensely still that even the rustle of a leaf
could be heard. He stood listening. A low whistle seemed to come from a
distant part of the underwood. He answered it. Soon a crackling was
heard, and a sound of cautious, suppressed conversation. In a few
moments a rustling was heard in the boughs overhead. Harry stepped
under.

"Who is there?" he said.

"The camp of the Lord's judgment!" was the answer, and a dark form
dropped on the ground.

"Hannibal?" said Harry.

"Yes, Hannibal!" said the voice.

"Thank God!" said Harry.

But now the boughs of the tree were continually rustling, and one after
another sprang down to the ground, each one of whom pronounced his name,
as he came.

"Where is the prophet?" said one.

"He is not here," said Harry. "Fear not, he will be with us."

The party now proceeded to walk, talking in a low voices.

"There's nobody from the Gordon place, yet," said Harry, uneasily.

"They'll be along," said one of them. "Perhaps Hokum was wakeful,
to-night. They'll give him the slip, though."

The company had now arrived at the lower portion of the clearing, where
stood the blasted tree, which we formerly described, with its
funeral-wreaths of moss. Over the grave which had recently been formed
there Dred had piled a rude and ragged monument of stumps of trees, and
tufts of moss, and leaves. In the top of one of the highest stumps was
stuck a pine-knot, to which Harry now applied a light. It kindled, and
rose with a broad, red, fuliginous glare, casting a sombre light on the
circle of dark faces around. There were a dozen men, mulatto, quadroon,
and negro. Their countenances all wore an expression of stern gravity
and considerate solemnity.

Their first act was to clasp their hands in a circle, and join in a
solemn oath never to betray each other. The moment this was done, Dred
emerged mysteriously from the darkness, and stood among them.

"Brethren," he said, "this is the grave of your brother, whose wife they
would take for a prey! Therefore he fled to the wilderness. But the
assembly of the wicked compassed him about, and the dogs tore him, and
licked up his blood, and here I buried him! Wherefore, this heap is
called JEGAR SAHADUTHA! For the God of Abraham and Nahor, the God of
their fathers, shall judge betwixt us. He that regardeth not the oath of
brethren, and betrayeth counsel, let his arm fall from his
shoulder-blade! Let his arm be broken from the bone! Behold, this heap
shall be a witness unto you; for it hath heard all the words that ye
have spoken!"

A deep-murmured "Amen" rose solemnly among them.

"Brethren," said Dred, laying his hand upon Harry, "the Lord caused
Moses to become the son of Pharaoh's daughter, that he might become
learned in the wisdom of the Egyptians, to lead forth his people from
the house of bondage. And, when he slew an Egyptian, he fled into the
wilderness, where he abode certain days, till the time of the Lord was
come. In like manner hath the Lord dealt with our brother. He shall
expound unto you the laws of the Egyptians; and for me, I will show you
what I have received from the Lord."

The circle now sat down on the graves which were scattered around, and
Harry thus spoke:--

"Brothers, how many of you have been at Fourth of July celebrations?"

"I have! I have! All of us!" was the deep response, uttered not
eagerly, but in low and earnest tones.

"Brethren, I wish to explain to you to-night the story that they
celebrate. It was years ago that this people was small, and poor, and
despised, and governed by men sent by the King of England, who, they
say, oppressed them. Then they resolved that they would be free, and
govern themselves in their own way and make their own laws. For this
they were called rebels and conspirators; and, if they had failed, every
one of their leaders would have been hung, and nothing more said about
it. When they were agreeing to do this, they met together and signed a
paper, which was to show to all the world the reason why. You have heard
this read by them when the drums were beating and the banners flying.
Now hear it here, while you sit on the graves of men they have
murdered!"

And, standing by the light of the flaring torch, Harry read that
document which has been fraught with so much seed for all time. What
words were those to fall on the ears of thoughtful bondmen!

"Governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed."
"When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the
same object, evinces a determination to reduce them under absolute
despotism, it is their _right_ and their _duty_ to throw off such
government."

"Brothers," said Harry, "you have heard the grievances which our masters
thought sufficient to make it right for them to shed blood. They rose up
against their king, and when he sent his armies into the country, they
fired at them from the windows of the houses, and from behind the barns,
and from out of the trees, and wherever they passed, till they were
strong enough to get together an army, and fight them openly."

"Yes," said Hannibal, "I heard my master's father tell of it. He was one
of them."

"Now," said Harry, "the Lord judge between us and them, if the laws that
they put upon us be not worse than any that lay upon them. They
complained that they could not get justice done to them in the courts.
But how stands it with us, who cannot even come into a court to plead?"

Harry then, in earnest and vehement language, narrated the abuse which
had been inflicted upon Milly; and then recited, in a clear and solemn
voice, that judicial decision which had burned itself into his memory,
and which had confirmed and given full license to that despotic power.
He related the fate of his own contract--of his services for years to
the family for which he had labored, all ending in worse than nothing.
And then he told his sister's history, till his voice was broken by
sobs. The audience who sat around were profoundly solemn; only
occasionally a deep, smothered groan seemed to rise from them
involuntarily.

Hannibal rose. "I had a master in Virginny. He was a Methodist preacher.
He sold my wife and two children to Orleans, and then sold me. My next
wife was took for debt, and she's gone."

A quadroon young man rose. "My mother was held by a minister in
Kentucky. My father was a good, hard-working man. There was a man set
his eye on her, and wanted her; but she wouldn't have anything to do
with him. Then she told her master, and begged him to protect her; but
he sold her. Her hair turned all white in that year, and she went crazy.
She was crazy till she died!"

"I's got a story to tell, on that," said a middle-aged negro man, of low
stature, broad shoulders, and a countenance indicative of great
resolution, who now rose. "I's got a story to tell."

"Go on, Monday," said Harry.

"You spoke 'bout de laws. I's seen 'bout dem ar. Now, my brother Sam, he
worked with me on de great Morton place, in Virginny. And dere was going
to be a wedding dere, and dey wanted money, and so some of de colored
people was sold to Tom Parker, 'cause Tom Parker he was a buying up
round, dat ar fall; and he sold him to Souther, and he was one o' yer
drefful mean white trash, dat lived down to de bush. Well, Sam was nigh
'bout starved, and so he had to help hisself de best way he could; and
he used fur to trade off one ting and 'nother fur meal to Stone's store,
and Souther he told him 'dat he'd give him hell if he caught him.' So,
one day, when he missed something off de place, he come home and he
brought Stone with him, and a man named Hearvy. He told him dat he was
going to cotch it. I reckon dey was all three drunk. Any how, dey tied
him up, and Souther he never stopped to cut him, and to slash him, and
to hack him; and dey burned him with chunks from de fire, and dey
scalded him with boiling water. He was strong man, but dey worked on him
dat way all day, and at last he died. Dey hearn his screeches on all de
places round. Now, brethren, you jest see what was done 'bout it. Why,
mas'r and some of de gen'lemen round said dat Souther 'wasn't fit to
live,' and it should be brought in de courts; and sure 'nough it was;
and, 'cause he is my own brother, I listened for what dey would say.
Well, fust dey begun with saying dat it wan't no murder at all, 'cause
slaves, dey said, wan't people, and dey couldn't be murdered. But den de
man on t'oder side he read heaps o' tings to show dat dey _was_
people--dat dey _was_ human critturs. Den de lawyer said dat dere wan't
no evidence dat Souther meant fur to kill him, any how. Dat it was de
right of de master to punish his slave any way he thought fit. And how
was he going to know dat it would kill him? Well, so dey had it back and
forth, and finally de jury said 'it was murder in de second degree.'
Lor! if dat ar's being murdered in de second degree, I like to know what
de fust is! You see, dey said he must go to de penitentiary for five
years. But, laws, he didn't, 'cause dere's ways enough o' getting out of
dese yer tings; 'cause he took it up to de upper court, and dey said
'dat it had been settled dat dere couldn't be noting done agin a mas'r
fur no kind of beating or 'busing of der own slaves. Dat de master must
be protected, even if 'twas ever so cruel.'[2]

"So, now, brethren, what do you think of dat ar?"

At this moment another person entered the circle. There was a general
start of surprise and apprehension, which immediately gave place to a
movement of satisfaction and congratulation.

"You have come, have you, Henry?" said Harry.

But at this moment the other turned his face full to the torch-light,
and Harry was struck with its ghastly expression.

"For God's sake, what's the matter, Henry? Where's Hark?"

"Dead!" said the other.

As one struck with a pistol-shot leaps in the air, Harry bounded, with a
cry, from the ground.

"Dead?" he echoed.

"Yes, dead, at last! Dey's all last night a killing of him."

"I thought so! Oh, I was afraid of it!" said Harry. "Oh, Hark! Hark!
Hark! God do so to me, and more also, if I forget this!"

The thrill of a present interest drew every one around the narrator, who
proceeded to tell how "Hark having been too late on his return to the
plantation, had incurred the suspicion of being in communication with
Harry. How Hokum, Tom Gordon, and two of his drunken associates, had
gathered together to examine him by scourging. How his shrieks the night
before had chased sleep from every hut of the plantation. How he died,
and gave no sign." When he was through, there was dead and awful
silence.

Dred, who had been sitting, during most of these narrations, bowed, with
his head between his knees, groaning within himself, like one who is
wrestling with repressed feeling, now rose, and, solemnly laying his
hand on the mound, said:--

"_Jegar Sahadutha!_ The God of their fathers judge between us! If they
had a right to rise up for their oppressions, shall they condemn us? For
judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off! Truth
is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter! Yea, truth faileth,
and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey! They are not
ashamed, neither can they blush! They declare their sin as Sodom, and
hide it not! The mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth
himself! Therefore, forgive them not, saith the Lord!"

Dred paused a moment, and stood with his hands uplifted. As a
thunder-cloud trembles and rolls, shaking with gathering electric fire,
so his dark figure seemed to dilate and quiver with the force of mighty
emotions. He seemed, at the moment, some awful form, framed to symbolize
to human eye the energy of that avenging justice which all nature
shudderingly declares.

He trembled, his hands quivered, drops of perspiration rolled down his
face, his gloomy eyes dilated with an unutterable volume of emotion. At
last the words heaved themselves up in deep chest-tones; resembling the
wild, hollow wail of a wounded lion, finding vent in language to him so
familiar, that it rolled from his tongue in a spontaneous torrent, as if
he had received their first inspiration.

"Hear ye the word of the Lord against this people! The harvest groweth
ripe! The press is full! The vats overflow! Behold, saith the
Lord--behold, saith the Lord, I will gather all nations, and bring them
down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them for my
people, whom they have scattered among the nations! Woe unto them, for
they have cast lots for my people, and given a boy for a harlot, and
sold a girl for wine, that they may drink! For three transgressions of
Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, saith
the Lord! Because they sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for
a pair of shoes! They pant after the dust on the head of the poor, and
turn aside the way of the meek! And a man and his father will go in unto
the same maid, to profane my holy name! Behold, saith the Lord, I am
pressed under you, as a cart is pressed full of sheaves!

"The burden of the beasts of the South! The land of trouble and anguish,
from whence cometh the young and old lion, the viper, and fiery, flying
serpent! Go write it upon a table, and note it in a book, that it may be
for time to come, for ever and ever, that this is a rebellious people,
lying children--children that will not hear the law of the Lord! Which
say to the seers, See not! Prophesy not unto us right things! Speak unto
us smooth things! Prophesy deceits! Wherefore, thus saith the Holy one
of Israel, Because ye despise his word, and trust in oppression, and
perverseness, and stay thereon; therefore, this iniquity shall be to you
as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall whose breaking
cometh suddenly in an instant! And he shall break it as the breaking of
a potter's vessel!"

Pausing for a moment, he stood with his hands tightly clasped before
him, leaning forward, looking into the distance. At last, with the
action and energy of one who beholds a triumphant reality, he broke
forth:--

"Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments, from Bozrah?
This, that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of
his strength?"

He seemed to listen, and, as if he had caught an answer, he repeated:--

"I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save!"

"Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that
treadeth in the wine-press? I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of
the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in my anger,
and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled on my
garments, and I will stain all my raiment! For the day of vengeance is
in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come! And I looked, and
there was none to help! And I wondered that there was none to uphold!
Therefore mine own arm brought salvation, and my fury it upheld me! For
I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my
fury!"

Gradually the light faded from his face. His arms fell. He stood a few
moments with his head bowed down on his breast. Yet the spell of his
emotion held every one silent. At last, stretching out his hand, he
broke forth in passionate prayer:

"How long, O Lord, how long? Awake! Why sleepest thou, O Lord? Why
withdrawest thou thy hand? Pluck it out of thy bosom! We see not the
sign! There is no more any prophet, neither any among us, that knoweth
how long! Wilt thou hold thy peace forever? Behold the blood of the poor
crieth unto thee! Behold how they hunt for our lives! Behold how they
pervert justice, and take away the key of knowledge! They enter not in
themselves, and those that are entering in they hinder! Behold our wives
taken for a prey! Behold our daughters sold to be harlots! Art thou a
God that judgest on the earth? Wilt thou not avenge thine own elect,
that cry unto thee day and night? Behold the scorning of them that are
at ease, and the contempt of the proud! Behold how they speak wickedly
concerning oppression! They set their mouth against the heavens, and
their tongue walketh through the earth! Wilt thou hold thy peace for all
these things, and afflict us very sore?"

The energy of the emotion which had sustained him appeared gradually to
have exhausted itself. And, after standing silent for a few moments, he
seemed to gather himself together as a man waking out of a trance, and,
turning to the excited circle around him, he motioned them to sit down.
When he spoke to them in his ordinary tone:--

"Brethren," he said, "the vision is sealed up, and the token is not yet
come! The Lamb still beareth the yoke of their iniquities; there be
prayers in the golden censers which go up like a cloud! And there is
silence in heaven for the space of half an hour! But hold yourselves in
waiting, for the day cometh! And what shall be the end thereof?"

A deep voice answered Dred. It was that of Hannibal.

"We will reward them as they have rewarded us! In the cup that they have
filled to us we will measure to them again!"

"God forbid," said Dred, "that the elect of the Lord should do that!
When the Lord saith unto us, Smite, then will we smite! We will not
torment them with the scourge and fire, nor defile their women, as they
have done with ours! But we will slay them utterly, and consume them
from off the face of the earth!"

At this moment the whole circle were startled by the sound of a voice
which seemed to proceed deep in from among the trees, singing, in a wild
and mournful tone, the familiar words of a hymn:--


     "Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,
       And did my Sovereign die?
     Would he devote that sacred head
       For such a wretch as I?"


There was a dead silence as the voice approached still nearer, and the
chorus was borne upon the night air:--


     "Oh, the Lamb, the loving Lamb,
       The Lamb of Calvary!
     The Lamb that was slain, but liveth again,
       To intercede for me!"


And as the last two lines were sung, Milly emerged and stood in the
centre of the group. When Dred saw her, he gave a kind of groan, and
said, putting his hand out before his face:--

"Woman, thy prayers withstand me!"

"Oh, brethren," said Milly, "I mistrusted of yer councils, and I's been
praying de Lord for you. Oh, brethren, behold de Lamb of God! If dere
must come a day of vengeance, pray not to be in it! It's de Lord's
strange work. Oh, brethren, is we de fust dat's been took to de
judgment-seat? dat's been scourged, and died in torments? Oh, brethren,
who did it afore us? Didn't He hang bleeding three hours, when dey
mocked Him, and gave Him vinegar? Didn't He sweat great drops o' blood
in de garden?"

And Milly sang again, words so familiar to many of them, that,
involuntarily, several voices joined her:--


     "Agonizing in the garden,
       On the ground your Maker lies;
     On the bloody tree behold Him,
       Hear Him cry, before He dies,
       It is finished! Sinners, will not this suffice?"


"Oh, won't it suffice, brethren!" she said. "If de Lord could bear all
dat, and love us yet, shan't we? Oh, brethren, dere's a better way. I's
been whar you be. I's been in de wilderness! Yes, I's heard de sound of
dat ar trumpet! Oh, brethren! brethren! dere was blackness and darkness
dere! But I's come to Jesus, de Mediator of de new covenant, and de
blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better tings than dat of Abel.
Hasn't _I_ suffered? My heart has been broke over and over for every
child de Lord give me! And, when dey sold my poor Alfred, and shot him,
and buried him like a dog, oh, but didn't my heart burn? Oh, how I hated
her dat sold him! I felt like I'd kill her! I felt like I'd be glad to
see mischief come on her children! But, brethren, de Lord turned and
looked upon me like he done on Peter. I saw him with de crown o' thorns
on his head, bleeding, bleeding, and I broke down and forgave her. And
de Lord turned her heart, and he was our peace. He broke down de middle
wall 'tween us, and we come together, two poor sinners, to de foot of de
cross. De Lord he judged her poor soul! She wan't let off from her sins.
Her chil'en growed up to be a plague and a curse to her! Dey broke her
heart! Oh, she was saved by fire--but, bress de Lord, she _was_ saved!
She died with her poor head on my arm--she dat had broke my heart! Wan't
dat better dan if I'd killed her? Oh, brethren, pray de Lord to give 'em
repentance! Leave de vengeance to him. Vengeance is mine--I will repay,
saith de Lord. Like he loved us when we was enemies, love yer enemies!"

A dead silence followed this appeal. The key-note of another harmony had
been struck. At last Dred rose up solemnly:--

"Woman, thy prayers have prevailed for this time!" he said. "The hour is
not yet come!"

FOOTNOTE:

[2] Lest any of our readers should think the dark witness who is
speaking mistaken in his hearing, we will quote here the words which
stand on the Virginia law records, in reference to this very case.

"It has been decided by this court, in Turner's case, that the owner of
a slave, for the _malicious, cruel, and excessive beating of his own
slave, cannot be indicted_.... It is the policy of the law in respect to
the relation of the master and slave and for the sake of securing proper
subordination and obedience on the part of the slave, to _protect the
master from prosecution even if the whipping and punishment be
malicious, cruel, and excessive_."--7 _Grattan_, 673, 1851, _Souther vs.
Commonwealth_.

Any one who has sufficiently strong nerves to peruse the records of this
trial will see the effect of the slave system on the moral sensibilities
of educated men.



CHAPTER XLVI.

FRANK RUSSEL'S OPINIONS.


Clayton was still pursuing the object which he had undertaken. He
determined to petition the legislature to grant to the slave the right
of seeking legal redress in cases of injury; and, as a necessary to
this, the right of bearing testimony in legal action. As Frank Russel
was candidate for the next state legislature, he visited him for the
purpose of getting him to present such a petition.

Our readers will look in on the scene, in a small retired back room of
Frank's office, where his bachelor establishment as yet was kept.
Clayton had been giving him an earnest account of his plans and designs.

"The only safe way of gradual emancipation," said Clayton, "is the
reforming of law; and the beginning of all legal reform must of course
be giving the slave legal personality. It's of no use to enact laws for
his protection in his family state, or in any other condition, till we
open to him an avenue through which, if they are violated, his
grievances can be heard, and can be proved. A thousand laws for his
comfort, without this, are only a dead letter."

"I know it," said Frank Russel; "there never was anything under heaven
so atrocious as our slave-code. It's a bottomless pit of oppression.
Nobody knows it so well as we lawyers. But, then, Clayton, it's quite
another thing what's to be done about it."

"Why, I think it's very plain what's to be done," said Clayton. "Go
right forward and enlighten the community. Get the law reformed. That's
what I have taken for my work; and, Frank, you must help me."

"Hum!" said Frank. "Now, the fact is, Clayton, if I wore a stiff white
neckcloth, and had a _D. D._ to my name, I should tell you that the
interests of Zion stood in the way, and that it was my duty to preserve
my influence, for the sake of being able to take care of the Lord's
affairs. But, as I am not so fortunate, I must just say, without further
preface, that it won't do for me to compromise Frank Russel's interests.
Clayton, I can't afford it--that's just it. It won't do. You see, our
party can't take up that kind of thing. It would be just setting up a
fort from which our enemies could fire on us at their leisure. If I go
in to the legislature, I have to go in by my party. I have to represent
my party, and, of course, I can't afford to do anything that will
compromise them."

"Well, now, Frank," said Clayton, seriously and soberly, "are you going
to put your neck into such a noose as this, to be led about all your
life long--the bond-slave of a party?"

"Not I, by a good deal!" said Russel. "The noose will change ends, one
of these days, and I'll drag the party. But we must all stoop to
conquer, at first."

"And do you really propose nothing more to yourself than how to rise in
the world?" said Clayton. "Isn't there any great and good work that has
beauty for you! Isn't there anything in heroism and self-sacrifice?"

"Well," said Russel, after a short pause, "may be there is; but, after
all, Clayton, _is_ there? The world looks to me like a confounded
humbug, a great hoax, and everybody is going in for grub; and, I say,
hang it all, why shouldn't I have some of the grub, as well as the
rest?"

"Man shall not live by bread alone!" said Clayton.

"Bread's a pretty good thing, though, after all," said Frank shrugging
his shoulders.

"But," said Clayton, "Frank, I am in earnest, and you've got to be. I
want you to go with me down to the depths of your soul, where the water
is still, and talk to me on honor. This kind of half-joking way that you
have isn't a good sign, Frank; it's too old for you. A man that makes a
joke of everything at your age, what will he do before he is fifty? Now,
Frank, you do know that this system of slavery, if we don't reform it,
will eat out this country like a cancer."

"I know it," said Frank. "For that matter, it has eaten into us pretty
well."

"Now," said Clayton, "if for nothing else, if we had no feeling of
humanity for the slave, we must do something for the sake of the whites,
for this is carrying us back into barbarism, as fast as we can go.
Virginia has been ruined by it--run all down. North Carolina, I believe,
has the unenviable notoriety of being the most ignorant and poorest
state in the Union. I don't believe there's any country in old, despotic
Europe where the poor are more miserable, vicious, and degraded, than
they are in our slave states. And it's depopulating us; our men of
ability, in the lower classes, who want to be respectable, won't stand
it. They will go off to some state where things _move on_. Hundreds and
hundreds move out of North Carolina, every year, to the Western States.
And it's all this unnatural organization of society that does it. We
have got to contemplate some mode of abolishing this evil. We have got
to take the first step towards progress, some time, or we ourselves are
all undone."

"Clayton," said Frank, in a tone now quite as serious as his own, "I
tell you, as a solemn fact, that we can't do it. Those among us who have
got the power in their hands are determined to keep it, and they are
wide awake. They don't mean to let the _first_ step be taken, because
they don't mean to lay down their power. The three fifths vote that they
get by it is a thing they won't part with. They'll die first. Why, just
look at it! There is at least twenty-four millions of property held in
this way. What do you suppose these men care about the poor whites, and
the ruin of the state, and all that? The poor whites may go to the
devil, for all them; and as for the ruin of the state, it won't come in
_their_ day; and 'after us the deluge,' you know. That's the talk! These
men are our masters; they are yours; they are mine; they are masters of
everybody in these United States. They can crack their whips over the
head of any statesman or clergyman, from Maine to New Orleans, that
disputes their will. They govern the country. Army, navy, treasury,
church, state, everything is theirs, and whoever is going to get up must
go up on their ladder. There isn't any other ladder. There isn't an
interest, not a body of men, in these whole United States, that they
can't control; and I tell you, Clayton, you might as well throw ashes
i