Part 6 out of 9
sincerity; but she had turned the locket so that she could see the
likeness and did not catch the double meaning of his words. So she
only answered calmly and earnestly, "He was a good brother."
A shadow passed over his face as he noticed her inattention to
his compliment, but he added heartily,
"And a gallant one. I am glad that my horse fell into his hands."
She looked at him and said,
"You were very fond of your horse?"
"Yes, indeed!" he answered. "He was a great pet before we went into
the service, and my constant companion for nearly three years of
that struggle. But come out on the porch, and let me show you some
of the tricks I taught him, and you will not only understand how I
prized him, but will appreciate his sagacity more than you do now."
He assisted her to a rocking-chair upon the porch, and, bidding a
servant to bring out the horse, said:
"You must remember that I have but one arm and have not seen him,
until lately, at least, for five years.
"Poor old fellow!" he added, as he went down the steps of the
porch, and told the servant to turn him loose. He called him up with
a snap of his thumb and finger as he entered the yard and patted
his head which was stretched out to receive the caress. "Poor
fellow! he is not so young as he was then, though he has had good
care. The gray hairs are beginning to show on his muzzle, and I can
detect, though no one else might notice them, the wrinkles coming
about his eyes. Let me see, you are only nine years old, though,--nine
past. But it's the war that tells--tells on horses just as well as
men. You ought to be credited with about five years for what you
went through then, old fellow. And a man--Do you know, Miss Mollie,"
he said, breaking suddenly off--"that a man who was in that war,
even if he did not get a shot, discounted his life about ten years?
It was the wear and tear of the struggle. We are different from
other nations. We have no professional soldiers--at least none to
speak of. To such, war is merely a business and peace an interlude.
There is no mental strain in their case. But in our war we were
all volunteers. Every man, on both sides, went into the army with
the fate of a nation resting on his shoulders, and because he felt
the burden of responsibility. It was that which killed--killed
and weakened--more than shot and shell and frost and heat together.
And then--what came afterward?"
He turned towards her as he spoke, his hand still resting on
the neck of the horse which was rubbing against him and playfully
nipping at him with his teeth, in manifestation of his delight.
Her face had settled into firm, hard lines. She seemed to be
looking beyond him, and the gray coldness which we saw about her
face when she read the telegram in the far-away Bankshire hills,
settled on cheek and brow again, as she slowly repeated, as though
unconscious of their meaning, the lines:
"In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!"
Hesden Le Moyne gazed at her a moment in confused wonder. Then
he turned to the horse and made him perform various tricks at his
bidding. He made him back away from him as far as he chose by the
motion of his hand, and then, by reversing the gesture, brought him
bounding back again. The horse lifted either foot at his instance,
lay down, rolled over, stood upon his hind feet, and finally knelt
upon the edge of the porch in obeisance to his mistress, who sat
looking, although in a preoccupied manner, at all that was done.
Hesden Le Moyne was surprised and somewhat disappointed at her lack
of enthusiasm over what he thought would give her so much pleasure.
She thanked him absently when it was over, and retired to her own
WHAT THE MIST HID.
The darkness was already giving way to the gray light of a misty
morning following the attack on Red Wing. The mocking birds, one
after another, were responding to each other's calls, at first
sleepily and unwillingly, as though the imprisoned melody compelled
expression, and then, thoroughly aroused and perched upon the
highest dew-laden branches swaying and tossing beneath them, they
poured forth their rival orisons. Other sounds of rising day were
coming through the mist that still hung over the land, shutting out
the brightness which was marching from the eastward. The crowing of
cocks, the neighing of horses, and the lowing of cattle resounded
from hill to hill across the wide bottom-lands and up and down the
river upon either hand. Nature was waking from slumber--not to the
full, boisterous wakefulness which greets the broad day, but the
half-consciousness with which the sluggard turns himself for the
light, sweet sleep of the summer morning.
There was a tap at the open window that stood at the head of Hesden
Le Moyne's bed. His room was across the hall from his mother's,
and upon the same floor. It had been his room from childhood. The
window opened upon the wide, low porch which ran along three sides
of the great rambling house. Hesden heard the tap, but it only
served to send his half-awakened fancy on a fantastic trip through
dreamland. Again came the low, inquiring tap, this time upon the
headboard of the old mahogany bedstead. He thought it was one of
the servants coming for orders about the day's labors. He wondered,
vaguely and dully, what could be wanted. Perhaps they would go
away if he did not move. Again it came, cautious and low, but firm
and imperative, made by the nail of one finger struck sharply and
regularly against the polished headboard. It was a summons and
a command for silence at once. Hesden raised himself quickly and
looked toward the window. The outline of a human figure showed
dimly against the gray darkness beyond.
"Who's there?"--in a low, quiet voice, as though caution had been
"Marse Hesden!"--a low whisper, full of suppressed excitement.
"You, Nimbus?" said Le Moyne, as he stepped quickly out of bed and
approached the window. "What's the matter?"
"Marse Hesden," whispered the colored man, laying a hand trembling
with excitement on his shoulder as he came near, "is yer a friend
ter 'Liab Hill?"
"Of course I am; you know that"--in an impatient undertone.
"Sh--sh! Marse Hesden, don't make no noise, please," whispered
Nimbus. "I don't mean ter ax ef yer's jes got nothin' agin' him,
but is yer that kind ob a friend ez 'll stan' by him in trouble?"
"What do you mean, Nimbus?" asked Hesden in surprise.
"Will yer come wid me, Marse Hesden--slip on yer clo'es an' come
wid me, jist a minnit?" Hesden did not think of denying this
request. It was evident that something of grave importance had
occurred. Hardly a moment had elapsed before he stepped cautiously
out upon the porch and followed Nimbus. The latter led the way
quickly toward a spring which burst out of the hillside fifty yards
away from the house, at the foot of a giant oak. Lying in the shadow
of this tree and reclining against its base, lay Eliab Hill, his
pallid face showing through the darkness like the face of the dead.
A few words served to tell Hesden Le Moyne what the reader already
"I brought him here, Marse Hesden, kase ther ain't no place else
dat he'd be safe whar he could be tuk keer on. Dem ar Kluckers is
bound ter kill him ef dey kin. He's got ter be hid an' tuk keer
on till he's well--ef he ever gits well at all."
"Why, you don't think he's hurt--not seriously, do you?"
"Hurt, man!" said Nimbus, impatiently. "Dar ain't much difference
atwixt him an' a dead man, now.
"Good God! Nimbus, you don't mean that. He seems to sleep well,"
said Hesden, bending over the prostrate form.
"Sleep! Marse Hesden, I'se kerried him tree miles sence he's been
a-sleepin' like dat; an' de blood's been a runnin' down on my hans
an' a-breakin' my holt ebbery now an' den, tu!"
"Why, Nimbus, what is this you tell me? Was any one else hurt?"
"Wal, dar's a couple o' white men a-layin' mighty quiet dar, afo'
Hesden shuddered. The time he had dreaded had come! The smouldering
passion of the South had burst forth at last! For years--ever since
the war-prejudice and passion, the sense of insult and oppression
had been growing thicker and blacker all over the South. Thunders
had rolled over the land. Lightnings had fringed its edges. The
country had heard, but had not heeded. The nation had looked on with
smiling face, and declared the sunshine undimmed. It had taken no
note of exasperation and prejudice. It had unconsciously trampled
under foot the passionate pride of a conquered people. It had scorned
and despised a sentiment more deeply inwrought than that of caste
in the Hindoo breast.
The South believed, honestly believed, in its innate superiority over
all other races and peoples. It did not doubt, has never doubted,
that, man for man, it was braver, stronger, better than the North.
Its men were "gentlemen"--grander, nobler beings than the North
ever knew. Their women were "ladies"--gentle, refined, ethereal
beings, passion and devotion wrapped in forms of ethereal mould,
and surrounded by an impalpable effulgence which distinguished them
from all others of the sex throughout the world. Whatever was of
the South was superlative. To be Southern-born was to be _prima
facie_ better than other men. So the self-love of every man
was enlisted in this sentiment. To praise the South was to praise
himself; to boast of its valor was to advertise his own intrepidity;
to extol its women was to enhance the glory of his own achievements
in the lists of love; to vaunt its chivalry was to avouch his own
honor; to laud its greatness was to extol himself. He measured
himself with his Northern compeer, and decided without hesitation
in his own favor.
The South, he felt, was unquestionably greater than the North in
all those things which were most excellent, and was only overtopped
by it in those things which were the mere result of numbers.
Outnumbered on the field of battle, the South had been degraded and
insulted by a sordid and low-minded conqueror, in the very hour of
victory. Outnumbered at the ballot-box, it had still dictated the
policy of the Nation. The Southern white man naturally compared
himself with his Northern brother. For comparison between himself
and the African--the recent slave, the scarcely human anthropoid--he
found no ground. Only contrast was possible there. To have these
made co-equal rulers with him, seated beside him on the throne
of popular sovereignty, merely, as he honestly thought, for the
gratification of an unmanly spite against a fallen foe, aroused
every feeling of exasperation and revenge which a people always
restive of restraint could feel.
It was not from hatred to the negro, but to destroy his political
power and restore again their own insulted and debased supremacy
that such things were done as have been related. It was to show
the conqueror that the bonds in which the sleeping Samson had been
bound were green withes which he scornfully snapped asunder in his
first waking moment. Pride the most overweening, and a prejudice of
caste the most intense and ineradicable, stimulated by the chagrin
of defeat and inflamed by the sense of injustice and oppression--both
these lay at the bottom of the acts by which the rule of the majorities
established by reconstructionary legislation were overthrown. It
was these things that so blinded the eyes of a whole people that
they called this bloody masquerading, this midnight warfare upon
the weak, this era of unutterable horror, "redeeming the South!"
There was no good man, no honest man, no Christian man of the South
who for an instant claimed that it was right to kill, maim, beat,
wound and ill-treat the black man, either in his old or his new
estate. He did not regard these acts as done to another _man_,
a compeer, but only as acts of cruelty to an inferior so infinitely
removed from himself as to forbid any comparison of rights or
feelings. It was not right to do evil to a "nigger;" but it was
infinitely less wrong than to do it unto one of their own color.
These men did not consider such acts as right in themselves, but
only as right in view of their comparative importance and necessity,
and the unspeakable inferiority of their victims.
For generations the South had regarded the uprising of the black,
the assertion of his manhood and autonomy, as the _ultima thule_
of possible evil. San Domingo and hell were twin horrors in their
minds, with the odds, however, in favor of San Domingo. To prevent
negro domination anything was justifiable. It was a choice of evils,
where on one side was placed an evil which they had been taught
to believe, and did believe, infinitely outweighed and overmatched
all other evils in enormity. Anything, said these men in their
hearts; anything, they said to each other; anything, they cried
aloud to the world, was better, is better, must be better, than
negro rule, than African domination.
Now, by negro rule _they_ meant the exercise of authority by
a majority of citizens of African descent, or a majority of which
they constituted any considerable factor. The white man who acted
with the negro in any relation of political co-ordination was deemed
even worse than the African himself. If he became a leader, he was
anathematized for self-seeking. If he only co-operated with his
ballot, he was denounced as a coward. In any event he was certain
to be deemed a betrayer of his race, a renegade and an outcast.
Hesden Le Moyne was a Southern white man. All that has just been
written was essential truth to him. It was a part of his nature.
He was as proud as the proudest of his fellows. The sting of defeat
still rankled in his heart. The sense of infinite distance between
his race and that unfortunate race whom he pitied so sincerely, to
whose future he looked forward with so much apprehension, was as
distinct and palpable to him as to any one of his compeers. The
thousandth part of a drop of the blood of the despised race degraded,
in his mind, the unfortunate possessor.
He had inherited a dread of the ultimate results of slavery. He
wished--it had been accounted sensible in his family to wish--that
slavery had never existed. Having existed, they never thought of
favoring its extinction. They thought it corrupting and demoralizing
to the white race. They felt that it was separating them, year by
year, farther and farther from that independent self-relying manhood,
which had built up American institutions and American prosperity.
They feared the fruit of this demoralization. _For the sake of the
white man_, they wished that the black had never been enslaved.
As to the blacks--they did not question the righteousness of their
enslavement. They did not care whether it were right or wrong. They
simply did not consider them at all. When the war left them free,
they simply said, "Poor fellows!" as they would of a dog without a
master. When the blacks were entrusted with the ballot, they said
again, "Poor fellows!" regarding them as the blameless instrument
by which a bigoted and revengeful North sought to degrade and humiliate a
foe overwhelmed only by the accident of numbers; the colored race
being to these Northern people like the cat with whose paw the monkey
dragged his chestnuts from the fire. Hesden had only wondered what
the effect of these things would be upon "the South;" meaning by
"the South" that regnant class to which his family belonged--a
part of which, by a queer synecdoche, stood for the whole.
His love for his old battle-steed, and his curious interest in its
new possessor, had led him to consider the experiment at Red Wing
with some care. His pride and interest in Eliab as a former slave
of his family had still further fixed his attention and awakened
his thought. And, finally, his acquaintance with Mollie Ainslie
had led him unconsciously to sympathize with the object of her
constant care and devotion.
So, while he stood there beside the stricken man, whose breath
came stertorous and slow, he was in that condition of mind of all
others most perilous to the Southern man--he had begun to _doubt_:
to doubt the infallibility of his hereditary notions; to doubt the
super-excellence of Southern manhood, and the infinite superiority
of Southern womanhood; to doubt the incapacity of the negro for
self-maintenance and civilization; to doubt, in short, all those
dogmas which constitute the differential characteristics of "the
Southern man." He had gone so far--a terrible distance to one
of his origin--as to admit the possibility of error. He had begun
to question--God forgive him, if it seemed like sacrilege--he had
begun to question whether the South might not have been wrong--might
not still be wrong--wrong in the principle and practice of slavery,
wrong in the theory and fact of secession and rebellion, wrong in
the hypothesis of hate on the part of the conquerors, wrong in the
assumption of exceptional and unapproachable excellence.
The future was as misty as the gray morning.
Hesden Le Moyne stood with Nimbus under the great low-branching
oak, in the chill morning, and listened to the labored breathing
of the man for the sake of whose humanity his father had braved
public opinion in the old slave-era, which already seemed centuries
away in the dim past. The training of his life, the conditions
of his growth, bore fruit in that moment. He pitied the outraged
victim, he was shocked at the barbarity of his fellows; but there
was no sense of injustice, no feeling of sacred rights trampled
on and ignored in the person of the sufferer. He remembered when
he had played with Eliab beside his mother's hearth; when he had
varied the monotony of study by teaching the crippled slave-boy
the tasks he himself was required to perform. The tenderness of
old associations sprang up in his mind and he felt himself affronted
in the person of the protege of his family. He disliked cruelty;
he hated cowardice; and he felt that Eliab Hill had been the victim
of a cruel and cowardly assault. He remembered how faithfully
this man's mother had nursed his own. Above all, the sentiment of
comradeship awoke. This man who had been his playfellow had been
brutally treated because of his weakness. He would not see him
bullied. He would stand by him to the death.
"The cowards!" he hissed through his teeth. "Bring him in, Nimbus,
quick! They needn't expect me to countenance such brutality as
"Marse Hesden," said the black Samson who had stood, silently
watching the white playmate of his boyhood, while the latter
recovered himself from the sort of stupor into which the revelation
he had heard had thrown him, "God bress yer fer dem words! I 'llowed
yer'd stan' by 'Liab. Dat's why I fotched him h'yer."
"Of course I would, and by you too, Nimbus."
"No, Marse Hesden, dat wouldn't do no sort o' good. Nimbus hez jes
got ter cut an' run fer it. I 'specs them ar dat's a lyin' dar in
front ob 'Liab's do' ain't like ter do no mo' troublin'; an' yer
knows, Marse Hesden, 'twouldn't nebber be safe fer a cullu'd man
dat's done dat ar ter try an' lib h'yerabouts no mo'!"
"But you did it in defense of life. You had a right to do it,
"Dar ain't no doubt o' dat, Marse Hesden, but I'se larned dat
de right ter du a ting an' de doin' on't is two mighty diff'rent
tings, when it's a cullu'd man ez does it. I hed a right ter buy
a plantation an' raise terbacker; an' 'Liab hed a right ter teach
an' preach; an' we both hed a right ter vote for ennybody we had
a mind ter choose. An' so we did; an' dat's all we done, tu. An'
now h'yer's what's come on't, Marse Hesden."
Nimbus pointed to the bruised creature before them as he spoke,
and his tones sounded like an arraignment.
"I am afraid you are right, Nimbus," said the white man, with a
sense of self-abasement he had never thought to feel before one of
the inferior race. "But bring him in, we must not waste time here."
"Dat's a fac'," said Nimbus, with a glance at the East. "'Tain't
more'n 'bout a hour till sun-up, an' I mustn't be seen hereabouts
atter dat. Dey'll be a lookin' atter me, an' 'twon't be safe fer
Nimbus ter be no whar 'cept in de mos' lonesome places. But whar's
ye gwine ter put 'Liab, Marse Hesden?"
"In the house--anywhere, only be quick about it. Don't let him
die here!" said Hesden, bending over the prostrate man and passing
a hand over his forehead with a shudder.
"But whar'bouts in de house yer gwine ter put him, Marse Hesden?"
"Anywhere, man--in my room, if nowhere else. Come, take hold
here!" was Hesden's impatient rejoinder as he put his one hand
under Eliab's head and strove to raise him up.
"Dat won't do, Marse Hesden," said Nimbus, solemnly. 'Liab had a
heap better go back ter de woods an' chance it wid Nimbus, dan be
in your room."
"Why? Kase yer knows dat de men what done disting ain't a-gwine ter
let him lib ef dey once knows whar he's ter be found. He's de one
dey wuz atter, jest ez much ez Nimbus, an' p'raps a leetle more,
dough yer knows ther ain't a mite o' harm in him, an' nebber
was, But dat don't matter. Deytinks dat he keeps de cullu'd folks
togedder, an' makes' em stan' up for dere rights, an' dat's why dey
went fer him. 'Sides dat, ef he didn't hurt none on 'em dey know
he seed an' heerd 'em, an' so'll be afeared ter let up on him on
"I'd like to see the men that would take him out of my house!" said
Le Moyne, indignantly.
"Dar'd jes be two men killed instead ob one, ef yer should," said
the other, dryly.
"Perhaps you're right," said Le Moyne, thoughtfully. "The men who
did this will do anything. But where _shall_ we put him? He
can't lie here."
"Marse Hesden, does yer mind de loft ober de ole dinin'-room, whar
we all used ter play ob a Sunday?"
"Of course, I've got my tobacco bulked down there now," was the
answer. "Dat's de place, Marse Hesden!"
"But there's no way to get in there except by a ladder," said
"So much de better. You gits de ladder, an' I brings 'Liab."
In a few minutes Eliab was lying on some blankets, hastily thrown
over a bulk of leaf tobacco, in the loft over the old dining-room
at Mulberry Hill, and Hesden Le Moyne was busy bathing his face,
examining his wounds, and endeavoring to restore him to consciousness.
Nimbus waited only to hear his report that the wounds, though numerous
and severe, were not such as would be likely to prove fatal. There
were several cuts and bruises about the head; a shot had struck the
arm, which had caused the loss of blood; and the weakened tendons
of the cramped and unused legs had been torn asunder. These were
all the injuries Le Moyne could find. Nimbus dropped upon his knees,
and threw his arms about the neck of his friend at this report,
and burst into tears.
"God bress yer, 'Liab! God bress yer!" he sobbed.
"Nimbus can't do no mo' fer ye, an' don't 'llow he'll nebber see
ye no mo'--no mo' in dis world! Good-by, 'Liab, good-by! Yer don't
know Nimbus's gwine away, does yer? God bress yer, p'raps it's
better so--better so!"
He kissed again and again the pale forehead, from which the dark
hair had been brushed back by repeated bathings. Then rising and
turning away his head, he extended his hand to Le Moyne and said:
"Good-bye, Marse Hesden! God bress yer! Take good keer o' 'Liab,
Mahs'r, an'--an'--ef he gits round agin, don't let him try ter
stay h'yrabouts--don't, please! 'Tain't no use! See ef yer can't
git him ter go ter de Norf, er somewhar. Oh, my God!" he exclaimed,
suddenly, as the memory of his care of the stricken friend came
suddenly upon him, "my God! what'll he ebber do widout Nimbus ter
keer fer him?"
His voice was drowned in sobs and his grip on the hand of the white
man was like the clasp of a vice.
"Don't go, Nimbus, don't!" pleaded Hesden.
"I must, Marse Hesden," said he, repressing his sobs. "l'se got
ter see what's come o' 'Gena an' de rest, an' it's best fer both.
Good-by! God bress yer! Ef he comes tu, ax him sometimes ter pray
for Nimbus. But'tain't no use--no use--fer he'll do it without
He opened the wooden shutter, ran down the ladder, and disappeared,
as the misty morning gave way to the full and perfect day.
Q. E. D.
As Mollie Ainslie grew stronger day by day, her kind host had done
all in his power to aid her convalescence by offering pleasing
attentions and cheerful surroundings. As soon as she was able to
ride, she had been lifted carefully into the saddle, and under his
watchful supervision had made, each day, longer and longer rides,
until, for some days preceding the events of the last few chapters,
her strength had so fully returned that they had ridden several
miles. The flush of health had returned to her cheeks, and the
sleep that followed her exercise was restful and refreshing.
Already she talked of returning to Red Wing, and, but for the
thoughtfulness of Eliab Hill in dismissing the school for a month
during her illness, would have been present at the terrible scenes
enacted there. She only lingered because she was not quite recovered,
and because there was a charm about the old plantation, which she
had never found elsewhere. A new light had come into her life.
She loved Hesden Le Moyne, and Hesden Le Moyne loved the Yankee
school-marm. No word of love had been spoken. No caress had been
offered. A pall hung over the household, in the gloom of which the
lips might not utter words of endearment. But the eyes spoke; and
they greeted each other with kisses of liquid light when their
glances met. Flushed cheeks and tones spoke more than words. She
waited for his coming anxiously. He was restive and uneasy when
away. The peace which each one brought to the other's heart was
the sure witness of well-grounded love. She had never asked herself
where was the beginning or what would be the end. She had never
said to herself, "I love him;" but his presence brought peace, and
in her innocence she rested there as in an undisturbed haven.
As for him--he saw and trembled. He could not shut his eyes to
her love or his own. He did not wish to do so. And yet, brave man
as he was, he trembled at the thought. Hesden Le Moyne was proud.
He knew that Mollie Ainslie was as proud as himself. He had the
prejudices of his people and class, and he knew also that she had
the convictions of that part of the country where she had been
reared. He knew that she would never share his prejudices; he had
no idea that he would ever share her convictions. He wished that
she had never taught a "nigger school"--not for his own sake, he
said to himself, with a flush of shame, but for hers. How could she
face sneers? How could he endure insults upon his love? How could
he ask her to come where sneers and insults awaited her? Love
had set himself a hard task. He had set before him this problem:
"New England Puritanism and Southern Prejudice; how shall they be
reconciled?" For the solution of this question, there were given on
one side a maiden who would have plucked out her heart and trampled
it under her feet, rather than surrender one tenet in her creed of
righteousness; and on the other side a man who had fought for a cause
he did not approve rather than be taunted with having espoused one
of the fundamental principles of her belief. To laugh at locksmiths
was an easy thing compared with the reading of this riddle!
On the morning when Eliab was brought to Mulberry Hill, Mrs.
Le Moyne and Mollie breakfasted together alone in the room of the
former. Both were troubled at the absence of the master of the
"I cannot see why he does not come," said Mrs. Le Moyne. "He is
the soul of punctuality, and is never absent from a meal when about
home. He sent in word by Laura early this morning that he would not
be at breakfast, and that we should not wait for him, but gave no
sort of reason. I don't understand it."
"I hope he is not sick. You don't think he has the fever, do you?"
said Mollie, with evident anxiety.
The elder woman glanced keenly at her as she replied in a careless
"Oh, no indeed. You have no occasion for anxiety. I told Laura to
take him a cup of coffee and a roll in his room, but she says he
is not there. I suppose something about the plantation requires his
attention. It is very kind of you, I am sure; but I have no doubt
he is quite well."
There was something in the tone as well as the words which cut
the young girl to the heart. She could not tell what it was. She
did not dream that it was aimed at herself. She only knew that
it sounded harsh and cold, and unkind. Her heart was very tender.
Sickness and love had thrown her off her guard against sneers
and hardness. It did not once occur to her that the keen-sighted
invalid, whose life was bound up in her son's life, had looked into
the heart which had never yet syllabled the love which filled it,
and hated what she saw. She did not deem it possible that there
should be aught but kindly feeling for her in the household she
had all but died to serve. Moreover, she had loved the delicate
invalid ever since she had received a letter from her hand. She
had always been accustomed to that unconscious equality of common
right and mutual courtesy that prevails so widely at the North, and
had never thought of construing the letter as one of patronizing
approval. She had counted it a friendly commendation, not only of
herself, but of her work. This woman she had long pictured to herself
as one that rose above the prejudice by which she was surrounded.
She who, in the old times, had bravely taught Eliab Hill to read
in defiance of the law, would surely approve of a work like hers.
So thought the silly girl, not knowing that the gentle invalid had
taught Eliab Hill the little that he knew before emancipation more
to show her defiance of meddling objectors, than for the good of
the boy. In fact, she had had no idea of benefiting him, other than
by furnishing him a means of amusement in the enforced solitude of
his affliction. Mollie did not consider that Hester Le Moyne was
a Southern woman, and as such, while she might admire courage and
accomplishments in a woman of Northern birth, always did so with
a mental reservation in favor of her own class. When, however, one
came from the North to teach the negroes, in order that they might
overpower and rule the whites, which she devoutly believed to be
the sole purpose of the colored educational movement, no matter
under what specious guise of charity it might be done, she could
not go even so far as that.
Yet, if such a one came to her, overwhelmed by stress of weather,
she would give her shelter; if she were ill she would minister
unto her; for these were Christian duties. If she were fair and
bright, and brave, she would delight to entertain her; for that
was a part of the hospitality of which the South boasted. There was
something enjoyable, too, in parading the riches of a well-stocked
wardrobe and the lavish splendors of an old Southern home to one
who, she believed, had never seen such magnificence before; for
the belief that poverty and poor fare are the common lot of the
country folks at the North is one of the fallacies commonly held
by all classes at the South. As slavery, which was the universal
criterion of wealth and culture at the South, did not prevail at
all at the North, they unconsciously and naturally came to associate
self-help with degradation, and likened the Northern farmer to
the poor white "cropper." Where social rank was measured by the
length of the serving train, it was not strange that the Northern
self-helper should be despised and his complacent assumption of
equal gentility scorned.
So Mrs. Le Moyne had admired the courage of Mollie Ainslie before
she saw her; she had been charmed with her beauty and artless grace
on the first night of her stay at Mulberry Hill, and had felt obliged
to her for her care of the little Hildreth; but she had not once
thought of considering her the peer of the Richardses and the Le
Moynes, or as standing upon the same social plane as herself. She
was, no doubt, good and honest and brave, very well educated and
accomplished, but by no means a lady in _her_ sense of the
word. Mrs. Le Moyne's feeling toward the Northern school-teacher
was very like that which the English gentry express when they use
the word "person." There is no discredit in the term. The individual
referred to may be the incarnation of every grace and virtue, only
he is of a lower degree in the social scale. He is of another grade.
Entertaining such feelings toward Mollie, it was no wonder that
Mrs. Le Moyne was not pleased to see the anxious interest that
young lady freely exhibited in the health of her son.
On the other hand, the young New England girl never suspected the
existence of such sentiments. Conscious of intellectual and moral
equality with her hostess, she did not imagine that there could
be anything of patronage, or anything less than friendly sympathy
and approval, in the welcome she had received at Mulberry Hill.
This house had seemed to her like a new home. The exile which she
had undergone at Red Wing had unfitted her for the close analysis
of such pleasing associations. Therefore, the undertone in Mrs.
Le Moyne's remarks came upon her like a blow from an unseen hand.
She felt hurt and humbled, but she could not exactly tell why. Her
heart grew suddenly heavy. Her eyes filled with tears. She dallied
a little while with coffee and toast, declined the dainties pressed
upon her with scrupulous courtesy, and presently, excusing her lack
of appetite, fled away to her room and wept.
"I must be nervous this morning," she said to herself smilingly,
as she dried her eyes and prepared for her customary morning ride.
On going down stairs she found a servant in waiting with her horse
ready saddled, who said: "Mornin', Miss Mollie. Marse Hesden said
ez how I was ter tell yer dat he was dat busy dis mornin' dat he
couldn't go ter ride wid yer to-day, nohow. I wuz ter gib yer his
compliments, all de same, an' say he hopes yer'll hev a pleasant
ride, an' he wants ter see yer when yer gits back. He's powerful
sorry he can't go."
"Tell Mr. Le Moyne it is not a matter of any consequence at all,
Charley," she answered pleasantly.
"Yer couldn't never make Marse Hesden b'lieve dat ar, no way in de
world," said Charles, with deft flattery, as he lifted her into the
saddle. Then, glancing quickly around, he said in a low, earnest
voice: "Hez ye heerd from Red Wing lately, Miss Mollie?"
"Not for a day or two. Why?" she asked, glancing quickly down at
"Oh, nuffin', only I wuz afeared dar'd been somethin' bad a gwine
on dar, right lately."
"What do you mean, Charles?" she asked, bending down and speaking
"Don't say nuffin' 'bout it, Miss Mollie--dey don't know nuffin'
'bout it in h'yer," nodding toward the house, "but de Ku Kluckers
was dar las' night."
"You don't mean it, Charles?"
"Dat's what I hear," he answered doggedly.
"Anybody hurt?" she asked anxiously.
"I don't know dat, Miss Mollie. Dat's all I hear--jes dat dey'd
THROUGH A CLOUD-RIFT.
It was with a heavy heart that Mollie Ainslie passed out of the
gate and rode along the lane toward the highway. The autumn sun
shone bright, and the trees were just beginning to put on the gay
trappings in which they are wont to welcome wintry death. Yet,
somehow, everything seemed suddenly to have grown dark and dull.
Her poor weak brain was overwhelmed and dazed by the incongruity of
the life she was leaving with that to which she was going back--for
she had no hesitation in deciding as to the course she ought to
She did not need to question as to what had been done or suffered.
If there was any trouble, actual or impending, affecting those she
had served, her place was with them. They would look to her for
guidance and counsel. She would not fail them. She did not once
think of danger, nor did she dream that by doing as she proposed
she was severing herself entirely from the pleasant life at the
fine old country seat which had been so eventful.
She did, indeed, think of Hesden. She always thought of him of late.
Everything, whether of joy or of sorrow, seemed somehow connected
with him. She thought of him--not as going away from him, or as
putting him out of her life, but as deserving his approval by her
act. "He will miss me when he finds that I do not return. Perhaps
he will be alarmed," she said to herself, as she cantered easily
toward the ford. "But then, if he hears what has happened, he will
know where I have gone and will approve my going. Perhaps he will
be afraid for me, and then he will--" Her heart seemed to stop
beating! All its bright current flew into her face. The boundless
beatitude of love burst on her all at once. She had obeyed its
dictates and tasted its bliss for days and weeks, quite unconscious
of the rapture which filled her soul. Now, it came like a great
wave of light that overspread the earth and covered with a halo
all that was in it. How bright upon the instant was everything!
The sunshine was a beating, pulsing ether animated with love! The
trees, the fields, the yellow-breasted lark, pouring forth his autumn
lay, the swallows, glancing in the golden sunshine and weaving in
and out on billowy wing the endless dance with which they hie them
southward ere the winter comes--everything she saw or heard was
eloquent with look and tones of love! The grand old horse that
carried her so easily, how strange and how delightful was this
double ownership, which yet was only one! Hers? Hesden's? Hesden's
because hers, for--ah, glowing cheek! ah, bounding heart! how sweet
the dear confession, breathed--nay told unspokenly--to autumn sky
and air, to field and wood and bird and beast, to nature's boundless
heart--_she_ was but Hesden's! The altar and the idol of his
love! Oh, how its incense thrilled her soul and intoxicated every
sense! There was no doubt, no fear, no breath of shame! He would
come and ask, and she--would give? No! no! no! She could not give,
but she would tell, with word and look and swift embrace, how she
_had_ given--ah! given all--and knew it not! Oh, fairer than
the opened heaven is earth illumined with love!
As she dreamed, her horse's swift feet consumed the way. She reached
the river--a silver billow between emerald banks, to-day! Almost
unheedingly she crossed the ford, just smiling, rapt in her vision,
as memory brought back the darkness of her former crossing! Then
she swept on, through the dark, over-arching pines, their odor
mingling with the incense of love which filled her heart. She had
forgotten Red Wing and all that pertained to it. The new song her
lips had been taught to sing had made thin and weak every melody
of the past, Shall care cumber the heart of the bride? She knew
vaguely that she was going to Red Wing. She recognized the road,
but it seemed glorified since she travelled it before. Once, she
thought she heard her name called. The tone was full of beseeching.
She smiled, for she thought that love had cheated her, and syllabled
the cry of that heart which would not be still until she came again.
She did not see the dark, pleading face which gazed after her as
her horse bore her swiftly beyond his ken.
On and on, easily, softly! She knows she is approaching her journey's
end, but the glamour of love enthralls her senses yet. The last
valley is passed. She ascends the last hill. Before her is Red
Wing, bright and peaceful as Paradise before the spoiler came. She
has forgotten the story which the hostler told. The sight of the
little village but heightens her rapture. She almost greets it
with a shout, as she gives her horse the rein and dashes down the
little street. How her face glows! The wind toys with stray tresses
of her hair! How dull and amazed the people seem whom she greets
so gayly! Still on! Around the angle of the wood she turns--and
comes upon the smouldering church!
Ah, how the visions melt! What a cry of agony goes up from her
white lips! How pale her cheeks grow as she drops the rein from
her nerveless fingers! The observant horse needs no words to check
his swift career. The scene of desolation stops him in an instant.
He stretches out his head and looks with staring eyes upon the
ruin. He snuffs with distended nostrils the smoke that rises from
The villagers gather around. She answers every inquiry with low
moans. Gently they lead her horse under the shadow of the great
oak before the old Ordinary. Very tenderly she is lifted down and
borne to the large-armed rocker on the porch, which the weeping,
trembling old "mammy" has loaded with pillows to receive her.
All day long she heard the timid tread of dusky feet and listened
to the tale of woe and fear. Old and young, those whom she had
counselled, and those whom she had taught, alike sought her presence
and advice. Lugena came, and showed her scarred form; brought her
beaten children, and told her tale of sorrow. The past was black
enough, but the shadow of a greater fear hung over the little
hamlet. They feared for themselves and also for her. They begged
her to go back to Mr. Le Moyne's. She smiled and shook her head
with a soft light in her eyes. She would not go back until the king
came and entreated her. But she knew that would be very soon. So
she roused herself to comfort and advise, and when the sun went
down, she was once more the little Mollie Ainslie of the Bankshire
hills, only fairer and ruddier and sweeter than ever before, as she
sat upon the porch and watched with dewy, love-lit eyes the road
which led to Mulberry Hill.
The shadows came. The night fell; the stars came out; the moon
arose--he came not. Stealthy footsteps came and went. Faithful hearts
whispered words of warning with trembling lips. She did not fear.
Her heart was sick. She had not once dreamed that Hesden would
fail to seek her out, or that he would allow her to pass one hour
of darkness in this scene of horror. She almost began to wish the
night might be a counterpart of that which had gone before. She
took out her brother's heavy revolver, loaded every chamber, laid
it on the table beside her chair, and sat, sleepless but dry-eyed,
until the morning.
The days went by. Hesden did not come, and sent no word. He was
but five miles away; he knew how she loved him; yet the grave was
not more voiceless! She hoped--a little--even after that first
night. She pictured possibilities which she hoped might be true. Then
the tones of the mother's voice came back to her--the unexplained
absence--the unfulfilled engagement--and doubt was changed to
certainty! She did not weep or moan or pine. The Yankee girl had no
base metal in her make. She folded up her vision of love and laid
it away, embalmed in the fragrance of her own purity, in the inmost
recess of her heart of hearts. The rack could not have wrung from
her a whisper of her one day in Paradise. She was simply Mollie
Ainslie, the teacher of the colored school at Red Wing, once
more; quiet, cool, and practical, giving herself day by day, with
increased devotion, to the people whom she had served so faithfully
before her brief translation.
A GLAD GOOD-BY.
A few days after her departure from Mulberry Hill, Mollie Ainslie
wrote to Mrs. Le Moyne:
"MY DEAR MADAM: You have no doubt heard of the terrible events which
have occurred at Red Wing. I had an intimation of trouble just as
I set out on my ride, but had no idea of the horror which awaited
me upon my arrival here, made all the more fearful by contrast with
your pleasant home.
"I cannot at such a time leave the people with whom I have labored
so long, especially as their only other trusted adviser, the
preacher, Eliab Hill, is missing. With the utmost exertion we have
been able to learn nothing of him or of Nimbus since the night of
the fire. There is no doubt that they are dead. Of course, there
is great excitement, and I have had a very anxious time. I am glad
to say, however, that my health continues to improve. I left some
articles scattered about in the room I occupied, which I would be
pleased if you would have a servant collect and give to the bearer.
"With the best wishes for the happiness of yourself and Mr. Hesden,
and with pleasant memories of your delightful home, I remain,
"Yours very truly,
To this she received the following reply:
"Miss MOLLIE AINSLIE: I very much regret the unfortunate events
which occasioned your hasty departure from Mulberry Hill. It is
greatly to be hoped that all occasion for such violence will soon
pass away. It is a great calamity that the colored people cannot be
made to see that their old masters and mistresses are their best
friends, and induced to follow their advice and leadership, instead
of going after strangers and ignorant persons of their own color,
or low-down white men, who only wish to use them for their own
advantage. I am very sorry for Eliab and the others, but I must say
I think they have brought it all on themselves. I am told they have
been mighty impudent and obstreperous, until really the people in
the neighborhood did not feel safe, expecting every day that their
houses or barns would be burned down, or their wives or daughters
insulted, or perhaps worse, by the lazy, saucy crowd they had
gathered about them. "Eliab was a good boy, but I never did like
that fellow Nimbus. He was that stubborn and headstrong, even in
his young days, that I can believe anything of him. Then he was in
the Yankee army during the war, you know, and I have no doubt that
he is a desperate character. I learn he has been indicted once or
twice, and the general belief is that he set the church on fire,
and, with a crowd of his understrappers, fixed up to represent Ku
Klux, attacked his own house, abused his wife and took Eliab off
and killed him, in order to make the North believe that the people
of Horsford are only a set of savages, and so get the Government
to send soldiers here to carry the election, in order that a
filthy negro and a low-down, dirty, no-account poor-white man may
_mis_represent this grand old county in the Legislature again.
"I declare, Miss Ainslie, I don't see how you endure such things.
You seemed while here very much of a lady, for one in your sphere
of life, and I cannot understand how you can reconcile it with your
conscience to encourage and live with such a terrible gang.
"My son has been very busy since you left. He did not find time
to inquire for you yesterday, and seemed annoyed that you had not
apprised him of your intention to leave. I suppose he is afraid that
his old horse might be injured if there should be more trouble at
"HESTER RICHARDS LE MOYNE."
"P.S.--I understand that they are going to hunt the fellow Nimbus
with dogs to-morrow. I hope they will catch him and hang him to
the nearest tree. I have no doubt he killed poor Eliab, and did all
the rest of the bad things laid to his charge. He is a desperate
negro, and I don't see how you can stand up for him. I hope you
will let the people of the North know the truth of this affair, and
make them understand that Southern gentlemen are not such savages
and brutes as they are represented."
The letter was full of arrows designed to pierce her breast;
but Mollie Ainslie did not feel one of them. After what she had
suffered, no ungenerous flings from such a source could cause her
any pain. On the contrary, it was an object of interest to her,
in that it disclosed how deep down in the heart of the highest and
best, as well as the lowest and meanest, was that prejudice which
had originally instigated such acts as had been perpetrated at Red
Wing. The credulous animosity displayed by this woman to whom she
had looked for sympathy and encouragement in what she deemed a holy
work, revealed to her for the first time how deep and impassable
was the channel which time had cut between the people of the North
and those of the South.
She did not lose her respect or regard for Mrs. Le Moyne. She did
not even see that any word which had been written was intended
to stab her, as a woman. She only saw that the prejudice-blinded
eyes had led a good, kind heart to endorse and excuse cruelty and
outrage. The letter saddened but did not enrage her. She saw and
pitied the pride of the sick lady whom she had learned to love in
fancy too well to regard with anger on account of what was but the
natural result of her life and training.
PUTTING THIS AND THAT TOGETHER.
After Mollie had read the letter of Mrs. Le Moyne, it struck her
as a curious thing that she should write to her of the hunt which
was to be made after Nimbus, and the great excitement which there
was in regard to him. Knowing that Mrs. Le Moyne and Hesden were
both kindly disposed toward Eliab, and the latter, as she believed,
toward Nimbus also, it occurred to her that this might be intended
as a warning, given on the hypothesis that those parties were in
hiding and not dead.
At the same time, also, it flashed upon her mind that Lugena had
not seemed so utterly cast down as might naturally be expected of
a widow so suddenly and sadly bereaved. She knew something of the
secretive powers of the colored race. She knew that in the old slave
times one of the men now living in the little village had remained
a hidden runaway for months, within five miles of his master's house,
only his wife knowing his hiding-place. She knew how thousands
of these people had been faithful to our soldiers escaping from
Confederate prisons during the war, and she felt that a secret
affecting their own liberty, or the liberty of one acting or
suffering in their behalf, might be given into the keeping of the
whole race without danger of revelation. She remembered that amid
all the clamorous grief of others, while Lugena had mourned and
wept over the burning of the church and the scenes of blood and
horror, she had exhibited little of that poignant and overwhelming
grief or unappeasable anger which she would have expected, under
the circumstances, from one of her temperament. She concluded,
therefore, that the woman might have some knowledge in regard to the
fate of her husband, Eliab, and Berry, which she had not deemed it
prudent to reveal. With this thought in mind, she sent for Lugena
and asked if she had heard that they were going to hunt for her
husband with dogs.
"Yes, Miss Mollie, I'se heerd on't," was the reply, "but nebber you
mind. Ef Nimbus is alive, dey'll nebber git him in no sech way ez
dat, an' dey knows it. 'Sides dat, it's tree days ago, an' Nimbus
ain't no sech fool ez ter stay round dat long, jes ter be cotched
now. I'se glad ter hear it, dough, kase it shows ter me dat
dey hain't killed him, but wants ter skeer him off, an' git him
outen de kentry. De sheriff--not de high-sheriff, but one ob his
understrappers--wuz up ter our house to-day, a-purtendin' ter hunt
atter Nimbus. I didn't put no reliance in dat, but somehow I can't
make out cla'r how dey could hev got away with him an' Berry an'
'Liab, all on 'em, atter de fight h'yer, an' not left no trace nor
sign on' em nowhar.
"Now, I tell yer what's my notion, Miss Mollie," she added,
approaching closer, and speaking in a whisper; "I'se done a heap
o' tinkin' on dis yer matter, an' dis is de way I'se done figgered
it out. I don't keer ter let on 'bout it, an' mebbe you kin see
furder inter it nor I kin, but I'se jes made up my min' dat Nimbus
is all right somewhars. I don't know whar, but it's somewhar not
fur from 'Liab--dat yer may be shore on, honey. Now, yer see, Miss
Mollie, dar's two or tree tings makes me tink so. In de fus' place,
yer know, I see dat feller, Berry, atter all dis ting wuz ober,
an' talked wid him an' told him dat Nimbus lef all right, an' dat
he tuk 'Liab wid him, an' dat Bre'er 'Liab wuz mighty bad hurt.
Wal, atter I told him dat, an' he'd helped me hunt up de chillens
dat wuz scattered in de co'n, an' 'bout one place an' anudder,
Berry he 'llows dat he'll go an' try ter fin' Nimbus an' 'Liab.
So he goes off fru de co'n wid dat ar won'ful gun dat jes keeps on
a-shootin' widout ary load.
"Atter a while I heahs him ober in de woods a-whistlin' an' a-carryin'
on like a mockin'-bird, ez you'se heerd de quar critter du many a
time." Mollie nodded affirmatively, and Lugena went on: "I couldn't
help but laugh den, dough I wuz nigh about skeered ter death, ter
tink what a mighty cute trick it wuz. I knowed he wuz a callin'
Nimbus an' dat Nimbus 'ud know it, tu, jest ez soon ez he heerd it;
but yer know ennybody dat hadn't heerd it over an offen, wouldn't
nebber tink dat it warn't a mocker waked up by de light, or jes
mockin' a cat-bird an' rain-crow, an' de like, in his dreams, ez
dey say dey does when de moon shines, yer know."
Mollie smiled at the quaint conceit, so well justified by the fact
she had herself often observed. Lugena continued:
"I tell yer, Miss Mollie, dat ar Berry's a right cute nigga, fer
all dey say 'bout him. He ain't stiddy, like Nimbus, yer know, ner
pious like 'Liab--dat is not ter hurt, yer know--but he sartin hab
got a heap ob sense, fer all dat."
"It was certainly a very shrewd thing, but I don't see what it has
to do with the fate of Nimbus," said Mollie. "I don't wish to seem
to discourage you, but I am quite certain, myself, that we shall
never see Nimbus or Eliab again."
"Oh, yer can't discourage _me_, Miss Mollie," answered
the colored woman bravely. "I jes knows, er ez good ez knows, dat
Nimbus is all right yit awhile. Now I tells yer, honey, what dis
yer's got ter du wid it. Yer see, it must ha' been nigh about a
half-hour atter Nimbus left afore Berry went off; jes dat er way
I tole yer "bout."
"Well?" said Mollie, inquiringly.
"Wal," continued Lugena, "don't yer see? Dar hain't been nary word
heard from neither one o' dem boys sence."
"Well?" said Mollie, knitting her brows in perplexity.
"_Don't_ yer see, Miss Mollie," said the woman impatiently,
"dat dey couldn't hab got 'em bofe togedder, 'cept Berry had found
"_Wal!_ Don't yer see dar would hev been a--a--_terrible_
fight afore dem two niggas would hev gin up Bre'er 'Liab, let alone
derselves? Yer must 'member dat dey had dat ar gun. Sakes-a-massy!
Miss Mollie, yer orter hev hearn it dat night. 'Peared ter me yer
could hab heard it clar' roun' de yairth, ef it _is_ round,
ez yer say 'tis. Now, somebody--some cullu'd body--would have been
shore ter heah dat gun ef dar'd been a fight."
"I had not thought of that, Lugena," said Mollie.
"Co'se yer hadn't, honey; an' dere's sunthin' else yer didn't link
ob, nuther, kase yer didn't know it," said Lugena. "Yer min' dat
boy Berry, he'd done borrered our mule, jest afo' dat, ter take
Sally an' de chillen an' what few duds dey hez down inter Hanson
County, whar his brudder Rufe libs, an' whar dey's gwine ter libbin'
tu. Dar didn't nobody 'spect him ter git back till de nex' day,
any more'n Nimbus; an' it war jes kinder accidental-like dat either
on 'em got h'yer dat night. Now, Miss Mollie, what yer s'pose hez
come ob dat ar mule an' carryall? Dat's de question."
"I'm sure I don't know, 'Gena, said Mollie thoughtfully. "Ner
I don't know, nuther," was the response; "but it's jes my notion
dat whar dey is, right dar yer'll fin' Nimbus an' Berry, an' not
fur off from dem yer'll find Bre'er 'Liab."
"You may be right," said her listener, musingly.
"I'se pretty shore on't, honey. Yer see when dat ar under-sheriff
come ter day an' had look all 'round fer Nimbus, he sed, finally,
sez he, 'I'se got a'tachment'--dat's what he call it, Miss
Mollie--a'tachment 'gin de property, or sunthin' o' dat kine. I
didn't know nary ting 'bout it, but I spunked up an' tole him ebbery
ting in de house dar was mine. He argyfied 'bout it a right smart
while, an' finally sed dar wan't nuffin' dar ob no 'count, ennyhow.
Den he inquired 'bout de mule an' de carryall, an' atter dat he
went out an' levelled on de crap."
"Did what?" asked Mollie.
"Levelled on de crap, Miss, dat's what he said, least-a-ways. Den
he called fer de key ob de 'backer-barn, an' I tole him 'twan't
nowheres 'bout de house--good reason too, kase Nimbus allus do carry
dat key in his breeches pocket, 'long wid his money an' terbacker.
So he takes de axe an' goes up ter de barn, an' I goes 'long wid
him ter see what he's gwine ter du. Den he breaks de staple an'
opens de do'. Now, Miss Mollie, 'twan't but a week er two ago, of
a Sunday atternoon, Nimbus an' I wuz in dar lookin' roun', an' dar
wuz a right smart bulk o' fine terbacker dar--some two er tree-hundred
poun's on't. Now when de sheriff went in, dar wa'n't more'n four
or five ban's ob 'backer scattered 'long 'twixt whar de pile had
been an' de do'. Yah! yah! I couldn't help laughin' right out,
though I wuz dat mad dat I couldn't hardly see, kase I knowed ter
once how 'twas. D'yer see _now_, Miss Mollie?" "I confess
I do not," answered the teacher.
"No? Wal, whar yer 'spose dat 'backer gone ter, hey?"
"I'm sure I don't know. Where do you think?"
"What I tink become ob dat 'backer? Wal, Miss Mollie, I tink Nimbus
an' Berry put dat 'backer in dat carryall, an' den put Bre'er 'Liab
in on dat 'backer, an' jes druv off somewhar--'Gena don't know
whar, but dat 'backer 'll take 'em a long way wid dat ar mule an'
carryall. It's all right, Miss Mollie, it's all right wid Nimbus.
'Gena ain't feared. She knows her ole man too well fer dat!
"Yer know he runned away once afo' in de ole slave times. He didn't
say nary word ter me 'bout gwine ober ter de Yanks, an' de folks
all tole me dat I nebber'd see him no mo'. But I knowed Nimbus,
an' shore 'nough, atter 'bout two year, back he come! An' dat's de
way it'll be dis time--atter de trouble's ober, he'll come back.
But dat ain't what worries me now, Miss Mollie," continued Lugena.
"Co'se I'd like ter know jes whar Nimbus is, but I know he's all
right. I'se a heap fearder 'bout Bre'er 'Liab, fer I 'llow it's jes
which an' t'other ef we ever sees him again. But what troubles me
now, Miss Mollie, is 'bout myseff."
"About yourself?" asked Mollie, in surprise.
"'Bout me an' my chillens, Miss Mollie," was the reply.
"Why, how is that, 'Gena?"
"Wal yer see, dar's dat ar 'tachment matter. I don't understan'
"Nor I either," said Mollie.
"P'raps yer could make out sunthin' 'bout it from dese yer," said
the colored woman, drawing a mass of crumpled papers from her
Mollie smoothed them out upon the table beside her, and began her
examination by reading the endorsements. The first was entitled,
"_Peyton Winburn v. Nimbus Desmit_, et al. _Action for the
recovery of real estate. Summons._" The next was endorsed,
"_Copy of Complaint_," and another, "_Affidavit and Order
of Attachment against Non-Resident or Absconding Debtor._"
"What's dat, Miss Mollie?" asked Lugena, eagerly, as the last title
was read. "Dat's what dat ar sheriff man said my Nimbus was--a
non--_non_--what, Miss Mollie? I tole him 'twan't no sech
ting; but la sakes! I didn't know nothing in de worl' 'bout it.
I jes 'llowed dat 'twas sunthin' mighty mean, an' I knowed dat I
couldn't be very fur wrong nohow, ef I jes contraried ebbery word
what he said. What does it mean, Miss Mollie?"
"It just means," said Mollie, "that Nimbus owes somebody--this Mr.
Winburn, I judge, and--"
"It's a lie! A clar, straight-out lie!" interrupted Lugena. "Nimbus
don't owe nobody nary cent--not nary cent, Miss Mollie! Tole me
dat hisself jest a little time ago."
"Yes, but this man _claims_ he owes him--swears so, in fact;
and that he has run away or hidden to keep from paying it," said
Mollie. "He swears he is a non-resident--don't live here, you
know; lives out of the State somewhere."
"An' Peyton Winburn swars ter dat?" asked the woman, eagerly.
"Didn't I tell yer dat Nimbus was safe, Miss Mollie?" she cried,
springing from her chair. "Don't yer see how dey cotch derselves?
Ef der's ennybody on de green yairth dat knows all 'bout dis
Ku Kluckin' it's Peyton Winburn, and dat ar Sheriff Gleason. Now,
don't yer know dat ef he was dead dey wouldn't be a suin' on him
an' a swearin' he'd run away?"
"I'm sure I don't know, but it would seem so," responded Mollie.
"Seem so! it's boun' ter be so, honey," said the colored woman,
"I don't know, I'm sure," said Mollie. "It's a matter I don't
understand. I think I had better take these papers over to Captain
Pardee, and see what ought to be done about them. I am afraid there
is an attempt to rob you of all your husband has acquired, while
he is away."
"Dat's what I'se afeared on," said the other. "An' it wuz what Nimbus
'spected from de fust ob dis h'yer Ku Kluck matter. Dear me, what
ebber will I do, I dunno--I dunno!" The poor woman threw her apron
over her head and began to weep.
"Don't be discouraged, 'Gena," said Mollie, soothingly. "I'll
stand by you and get Mr. Pardee to look after the matter for you."
"T'ank ye, Miss Mollie, t'ank ye. But I'se afeared it won't do
no good. Dey's boun' ter break us up, an' dey'll do it, sooner or
later! It's all of a piece--a Ku Kluckin' by night, and a-suin' by
day. 'Tain't no use, t'ain't no use! Dey'll hab dere will fust er
last, one way er anudder, shore!"
Without uncovering her head, the sobbing woman turned and walked
out of the room, across the porch and down the path to the gate.
"Not if I can help it!" said the little Yankee woman, as she
smoothed down her hair, shut her mouth close, and turned to make
a more thorough perusal of the papers Lugena had left with her.
Hardly had she finished when she was astonished by Lugena's rushing
into the room and exclaiming, as she threw herself on her knees:
"Oh, Miss Mollie, I done forgot--I was dat ar flustered 'bout de
'tachment an' de like, dat I done forgot what I want ter tell yer
most ob all. Yer know, Miss Mollie, dem men dat got hurt dat ar
night--de Ku Kluckers, two on 'em, one I 'llow, killed out-an'-out,
an' de todder dat bad cut--oh, my God!" she cried with a shudder,
"I nebber see de likes--no nebber, Miss Mollie. All down his
face--from his forehead ter his chin, an' dat too--yes, an' his
breast-bone, too--looked like dat wuz all split open an' a-bleedin'!
Oh, it war horrible, horrible, Miss Mollie!"
The woman buried her face in the teacher's lap as if she would shut
out the fearful spectacle.
"There, there," said Mollie, soothingly, as she placed a hand upon
her head. "You must not think of it. You must try and forget the
horrors of that night."
"Don't yer know, Miss Mollie, dat dem Ku Kluckers ain't a-gwine
ter let de one ez done dat lib roun' h'yer, ner ennywhar else dat
dey can come at 'em, world widout end?"
"Well, I thought you were sure that Nimbus was safe?"
"Nimbus?" said the woman in surprise, uncovering her face and looking
up. "Nimbus? 'Twan't him, Miss Mollie, 'twan't him. I 'llows it
mout hev been him dat hurt de one dat 'peared ter hev been killed
straight out; but it was _me_ dat cut de odder one, Miss
"You?" cried Mollie, in surprise, instinctively drawing back.
"Yes'm," said Lugena, humbly, recognizing the repulse. "Me--wid
de axe! I hope yer don't fault me fer it, Miss Mollie."
"Blame you? no indeed, 'Gena!" was the reply. "Only it startled
me to hear you say so. You did entirely right to defend yourself
and Nimbus. You should not let that trouble you for a moment."
"No, Miss Mollie, but don't yer know dat de Ku Kluckers ain't
a-gwine ter fergit it?"
"Heavens!" said the Yankee girl, springing up from her chair in
uncontrollable excitement. "You don't think they would hurt you--a
"Dat didn't save me from bein' stripped an' beat, did it?"
"Too true, too true!" moaned the teacher, as she walked back and
forth wringing her hands. "Poor child! What can you do?--what can
"Dat's what I want ter know, Miss Mollie," said the woman. "I dassent
sleep ter home at night, an' don't feel safe ary hour in de day.
Dem folks won't fergit, an' 'Gena won't nebber be safe ennywhar
dat dey kin come, night ner day. What will I do, Miss Mollie, what
will I do? Yer knows Nimbus 'll 'llow fer 'Gena ter take keer ob
herself an' de chillen an' de plantation, till he comes back, er
sends fer me, an' I dassent stay, not 'nudder day, Miss Mollie!
What'll I do? What'll I do?"
There was silence in the little room for a few moments, as
the young teacher walked back and forth across the floor, and the
colored woman sat and gazed in stupid hopelessness up into her
face. Presently she stopped, and, looking down upon Lugena, said
with impetuous fervor:
"You shall not stay, Lugena! You shall not stay! Can you stand it
a few nights more?"
"Oh, yes, I kin stan' it, 'cause I'se got ter. I'se been sleepin'
in de woods ebber sence, an' kin keep on at it; but I knows whar
it'll end, an' so der you, Miss Mollie."
"No, it shall not, 'Gena. You are right. It is not safe for you to
stay. Just hide yourself a few nights more, till I can look after
things for you here, and I will take you away to the North, where
there are no Ku Klux!"
"Yer don't mean it, Miss Mollie!"
"Indeed I do."
"An' de chillen?"
"They shall go too."
"God bress yer, Miss Mollie! God bress yer!"
With moans and sobs, the torrent of her tears burst forth, as the
poor woman fell prone upon the floor, and catching the hem of the
teacher's robe, kissed it again and again, in a transport of joy.
ANOTHER OX GORED.
There was a caller who begged to see Mr. Le Moyne for a few minutes.
Descending to the sitting-room, Hesden found there Mr. Jordan
Jackson, who was the white candidate for the Legislature upon the
same ticket with a colored man who had left the county in fright
immediately after the raid upon Red Wing. Hesden was somewhat
surprised at this call, for although he had known Mr. Jackson from
boyhood, yet there had never been more than a passing acquaintance
between them. It is true, Mr Jackson was a neighbor, living only
two or three miles from Mulberry Hill; but he belonged to such an
entirely different class of society that their knowledge of each
other had never ripened into anything like familiarity.
Mr. Jackson was what used to be termed a poor man. He and his father
before him, as Hesden knew, had lived on a little, poor plantation,
surrounded by wealthy neighbors. They owned no slaves, and lived,
scantily on the products of the farm worked by themselves. The
present occupant was about Hesden's own age. There being no free
schools in that county, and his father having been unable, perhaps
not even desiring, to educate him otherwise, he had grown up almost
entirely illiterate. He had learned to sign his name, and only
by strenuous exertions, after his arrival at manhood, had become
able, with difficulty, to spell out words from the printed page
and to write an ordinary letter in strangely-tangled hieroglyphics,
in a spelling which would do credit to a phonetic reformer. He
had entered the army, probably because he could not do otherwise,
and being of stalwart build, and having great endurance and native
courage, before the struggle was over had risen, despite his
disadvantages of birth and education, to a lieutenancy.
This experience had been of advantage to him in more ways than one.
Chief among these had been the opening of his eyes to the fact that
he himself, although a poor man, and the scion of a poor family,
was, in all the manly requisites that go to make up a soldier,
always the equal, and very often the superior, of his aristocratic
neighbors. Little by little, the self-respect which had been
ground out of him and his family by generations of that condition
of inferiority which the common-liver, the self-helper of the South,
was forced to endure under the old slave _regime_, began to
grow up in his heart. He began to feel himself a man, and prized
the rank-marks on his collar as the certificate and endorsement of
his manhood. As this feeling developed, he began to consider the
relations between himself, his family, and others like them, and
the rich neighbors by whom they were surrounded and looked down
upon. And more and more, as he did so, the feeling grew upon him
that he and his class had been wronged, cheated--"put upon," he
phrased it--in all the past. They had been the "chinking" between
the "mud" of slavery and the "house-logs" of aristocracy in the
social structure of the South--a little better than the mud because
of the same grain and nature as the logs; but useless and nameless
except as in relation to both. He felt the bitter truth of that
stinging aphorism which was current among the privates of the
Confederate army, which characterized the war of Rebellion as "the
poor man's war and the rich man's fight."
So, when the war was over, Lieutenant Jordan Jackson did not return
easily and contentedly to the niche in the social life of his native
region to which he had been born and bred. He found the habit of
leadership and command very pleasant, and he determined that he
would rise in the scale of Horsford society as he had risen in the
army, simply because he was brave and strong. He knew that to do
this he must acquire wealth, and looking about, he saw opportunities
open before him which others had not noticed. Almost before the smoke
of battle had cleared away, Jordan Jackson had opened trade with
the invaders, and had made himself a prime favorite in the Federal
camps. He coined money in those days of transition. Fortunately,
he had been too poor to be in debt when the war broke out. He was
independently poor, because beyond the range of credit.
He had lost nothing, for he had nothing but the few poor acres of
his homestead to lose.
So he started fair, and before the period of reconstruction began
he had by thrifty management accumulated quite a competency. He
had bought several plantations whose aristocratic owners could no
longer keep their grip upon half-worked lands, had opened a little
store, and monopolized a considerable trade. Looking at affairs as
they stood at that time, Jordan Jackson said to himself that the
opportunity for him and his class had come. He had a profound
respect for the power and authority of the Government of the United
States, _because_ it had put down the Rebellion. He had been
two or three times at the North, and was astounded at its collective
greatness. He said that the colored man and the poor-whites of
the South ought to put themselves on the side of this great, busy
North, which had opened the way of liberty and progress before them,
and establish free schools and free thought and free labor in the
fair, crippled, South-land. He thought he saw a great and fair future
looming up before his country. He freely gave expression to these
ideas, and, as he traded very largely with the colored people, soon
came to be regarded by them as a leader, and by "the good people
of Horsford" as a low-down white nigger, for whom no epithet was
Nevertheless, he grew in wealth, for he attended to his business
himself, early and late. He answered raillery with raillery,
curses with cursing, and abuse with defiance. He was elected to
conventions and Legislatures, where he did many foolish, some bad,
and a few wise things in the way of legislation. He knew what he
wanted--it was light, liberty, education, and a "fair hack" for
all men. How to get it he did not know.
He had been warned a thousand times that he must abandon this way
of life. The natural rulers of the county felt that if they could
neutralize his influence and that which went out from Red Wing, they
could prevent the exercise of ballatorial power by a considerable
portion of the majority, and by that means "redeem" the county.
They did not wish to hurt Jordan Jackson. He was a good enough man.
His father had been an honest man, and an old citizen. Nobody knew
a word against his wife or her family, except that they had been
poor. The people who had given their hearts to the Confederate
cause, remembered too, at first, his gallant service; but that had
all been wiped out from their minds by his subsequent "treachery."
Even after the attack on Red Wing, he had been warned by his friends
One morning, he had found on the door of his store a paper containing
the following words, written inside a little sketch of a coffin:
[Illustration: JORDAN JACKSON, If you don't get out of here in
three days, you will go to the bone yard. K.K.K.]
He had answered this by a defiant, ill-spelled notice, pasted just
beside it, in which he announced himself as always ready to meet any
crowd of "cowards and villains who were ashamed of their own faces,
at any time, night or day." His card was English prose of a most
vigorous type, interspersed with so much of illiterate profanity as
to satisfy any good citizen that the best people of Horsford were
quite right in regarding him as a most desperate and dangerous
man--one of those whose influence upon the colored people was to
array them against the whites, and unless promptly put down, bring
about a war of races--which the white people were determined never
to have in Horsford, if they had to kill every Radical in the county
in order to live in peace with their former slaves, whom they had
always nourished with paternal affection and still regarded with
a most tender care.
This man met Hesden as the latter came out upon the porch, and with
a flushed face and a peculiar twitching about his mouth, asked if
he could see him in private for a moment.
Hesden led the way to his own room. Jackson then, having first shut
the door, cautiously said:
"You know me, Mr. Le Moyne?"
"An' you knew my father before me?"
"Of course. I knew old man Billy Jackson very well in my young
"Did you ever know anything mean or disreputable about him?"
"No, certainly not; he was a very correct man, so far as I ever
"Poor but honest?"--with a sneer.
"Well, yes; a poor man, but a very correct man."
"Well, did you ever know anything disreputable about _me?_"
"Well--why--Mr. Jackson--you--" stammered Hesden, much confused.
"Out with it!" angrily. "I'm a Radical?"
"Yes--and--you know, your political course has rendered you very
"Of course! A man has no right to his own political opinions."
"Well, but you know, Mr. Jackson, yours have been so peculiar
and so obnoxious to our best people. Besides, you have expressed
them so boldly and defiantly. I do not think our people have any
ill-feeling against you, personally; but you cannot wonder that
so great a change as we have had should excite many of them very
greatly. You should not be so violent, Mr. Jackson."
"Violent--Hell! You'd better go and preach peace to Eliab Hill.
Poor fellow! I don't reckon the man lives who ever heard him say
a harsh thing to any one. He was always that mild I used to wonder
the Lord didn't take him long ago. Nigger as he was, and cripple
as he was, I'd ruther had his religion than that of all the mean,
hypocritical, murdering aristocrats in Horsford."
"But, Mr. Jackson, you should not speak in that way of our best
"Oh, the devil! I know--but that is no matter, Mr. Le Moyne. I
didn't come to argue with you. Did you ever hear anything agin' me
outside of my politics?"
"I don't know that I ever did."
"If you were in a tight place, would you have confidence in Jordan
Jackson as a friend?"
"You know I have reason to remember that," said Hesden, with feeling.
"You helped me when I could not help myself. It's not every man
that would care about his horse carrying double when he was running
away from the Yanks."
"Ah! you remember that, then?" with a touch of pride in his voice.
"Yes, indeed! Jackson," said Hesden, warmly.
"Well, would you do me a good turn to pay for that?"
"Certainly--anything that--" hesitating.
"Oh, damn it, man, don't strain yourself! I didn't ask any questions
when I helped you!"
"Mr. Jackson," said Hesden, with dignity, "I merely wished to say
that I do not care at this time to embroil myself in politics. You
know I have an old mother who is very feeble. I have long regretted
that affairs are in the condition that they are in, and have wondered
if something could not be done. Theoretically, you are right and
those who are with you. Practically, the matter is very embarrassing.
But I do not hesitate to say, Mr. Jackson, that those who commit
such outrages as that perpetrated at Red Wing disgrace the name
of gentleman, the county, and State, the age we live in, and the
religion we profess. That I _will_ say."
"And that's quite enough, Mr. Le Moyne. All I wanted was to ask
you to act as my trustee."
"Your trustee in what?"
"There is a deed I have just executed conveying everything I have
to you, and I want you to sell it off and dispose of it the best
you can, and send me the money."
"_Send_ it to you?"
"Yes, I'm going away."
"Going away? Why? You are not in debt?"
"I don't owe a hundred dollars."
"Then why are you doing this? I don't understand."
"Mr. Le Moyne," said Jackson, coming close to him and speaking in
a low intense tone, "I was _whipped_ last night!"
"By my own neighbors, in the sight of my wife and daughter!"
"By the Ku Klux?"
"That's what they call themselves."
"My God, it cannot be!"
"Cannot?" The man's face twitched nervously, as, dropping his hat,
he threw off his light coat and, opening his shirt-collar and
turning away his head, showed his shoulder covered with wales,
still raw and bleeding.
"My God!" cried Hesden, as he put up his hand and started back in
horror. "And you a white man?"
"Yes, Mr. Le Moyne," said Jackson, turning his face, burning with
shame and indignation, toward his high-bred neighbor, "and the
only reason this was done--the only thing agin me--is that I was
honestly in favor of giving to the colored man the rights which
the law of the land says he shall have, like other men. When the
war was over, Mr. Le Moyne, I didn't 'give up,' as all you rich
folks talked about doing, and try to put up with what was to come
afterward. I hadn't lost nothing by the war, but, on the contrary,
had gained what I had no chance to git in any other way. So I
jest looked things square in the face and made up my mind that it
was a good thing for me, and all such as me, that the damned old
Confederacy was dead. And the more I thought on't the more I couldn't
help seein' and believin' that it was right and fair to free the
niggers and let them have a fair show and a white man's chance--votin'
and all. That's what I call a fair hack, and I swear, Mr. Le Moyne,
I don't know how it may seem to you, but to my mind any man that
ain't willing to let any other man have that, is a damn coward!
I'm as white as anybody, and hain't no more reason to stand up for
niggers than any of the rest of the white people--no, nor half as
much as most of 'em, for, as fur as I know, I hain't got no relations
among 'em. But I do say that if the white folks of the South can't
stand up to a fair fight with the niggers at the polls, without
cuttin', and murderin', and burnin', and shootin', and whippin',
and Ku Kluxin', and cheatin', and swindlin', they are a damned
no-'count people, and don't deserve no sort of show in the world--no
more than a mean, sneakin', venomous moccasin-snake--there!"
"But you don't think--" Hesden began.
"Think? Damn it, I _know_!" broke in Jackson. "They said if
I would quit standin' up for the niggers, they'd let me off, even
after they'd got me stripped and hung up. I wouldn't do it! I didn't
believe then they'd cut me up this way; but they did! An' now I'm
goin'. I'd stay an' fight, but 'tain't no use; an' I couldn't look
a man in the eye who I thought tuk a hand in that whippin' without
killin' him. I've got to go, Le Moyne," he said with clenched fists,
"or I shall commit murder before the sun goes down."
"Where are you going?"
"God knows! Somewhere where the world's free and the earth's fresh,
and where it's no crime to have been born poor or to uphold and
maintain the laws of the land."
"I'm sorry, Jackson, but I don't blame you. You can't live here in
peace, and you are wise to go," said Hesden, extending his hand.
"Will you be my trustee?"
"God bless you!"
The angry, crushed, and outraged man broke into tears as he shook
the hand he held.
There was an hour or two of close consultation, and then Hesden Le
Moyne looked thoughtfully after this earnest and well-meaning man,
who was compelled to flee from the land for which he had fought,
simply because he had adopted the policy and principles which the
conquering power had thrust into the fundamental law, and endeavored
to carry them out in good faith. Like the fugitive from slavery in
the olden time, he had started toward the North Pole on the quest
BACKWARD AND FORWARD.
The task which Hesden Le Moyne undertook when he assumed the care and
protection of Eliab Hill, was no trivial one, as he well understood.
He realized as fully as did Nimbus the necessity of absolute
concealment, for he was well aware that the blaze of excitement
which would sweep over Horsford, when the events that had occurred
at Red Wing should become known, would spare no one who should harbor
or conceal any of the recognized leaders of the colored men. He
knew that not only that organization which had just shown its
existence in the county, but the vast majority of all the white
inhabitants as well, would look upon this affair as indubitable
evidence of the irrepressible conflict of races, in which they all
believed most devoutly.
He had looked forward to this time with great apprehension.
Although he had scrupulously refrained from active participation
in political life, it was not from any lack of interest in the
political situation of the country. He had not only the ordinary
instinct of the educated Southern man for political thought--an
instinct which makes every man in that section first of all things
a partisan, and constitutes politics the first and most important
business of life--but besides this general interest in public
affairs he had also an inherited bias of hostility to the right
of secession, as well as to its policy. His father had been what
was termed a "Douglas Democrat," and the son had absorbed his views.
With that belief in a father's infallibility which is so general
in that part of the country, Hesden, despite his own part in the
war and the chagrin which defeat had brought, had looked only for
evil results to come out of the present struggle, which he believed
to have been uselessly precipitated.
It was in this state of mind that he had watched the new phase of
the "irrepressible conflict" which supervened upon the downfall of
the Rebellion In so doing, he had arrived at the following conclusions:
1. That it was a most fortunate and providential thing that
the Confederacy had failed. He had begun to realize the wisdom
of Washington when he referred to the dogma of "State rights" as
"that bantling--I like to have said _that monster._"
2. That the emancipation of the slaves would ultimately prove
advantageous to the white man,
3. That it was the part of honorable men fairly and honestly to carry
out and give effect to all the conditions, expressed and implied,
on which power, representation, and autonomy were restored to the
recently rebellious States. This he believed to be a personal duty,
and a failure so to do he regarded as a disgrace to every man in
any way contributing to it, especially if he had been a soldier
and had shared the defeat of which these conditions were a consequence.
4. He did not regard either the war or the legislation known as
reconstructionary as having in any manner affected the natural
relation of the races. In the old times he had never felt or believed
that the slave was inherently endowed with the same rights as the
master; and he did not see how the results of war could enhance
his natural rights. He did not believe that the colored man had an
inherent right to freedom or to self-government. Whatever right
of that kind he might now have was simply by the free grace of the
conqueror. He had a right to the fruit of his own labor, to the
care, protection, and service of his own children, to the society
and comfort of his wife, to the protection of his own person, to
marriage, the ballot, possessory capacity, and all those things
which distinguish the citizen from the chattel--not because of
his manhood, nor because of inherent co-equality of right with the
white man; but simply because the national legislation gave it to
him as a condition precedent of statal rehabilitation.
These may seem to the Northern reader very narrow views; and so they
are, as compared with those that underlay the spirit of resistance
to rebellion, and the fever heat for human rights, which was the
animating principle in the hearts of the people when they endorsed
and approved those amendments which were the basis of reconstructionary
legislation. It should be remembered, however, that even these views
were infinitely in advance of the ideas generally entertained by
his white fellow-citizens of the South. Nearly all of them regarded
these matters in a very different light; and most naturally, too,
as any one may understand who will lemember what had gone before,
and will keep in mind that defeat does not mean a new birth, and
that warfare leaves _men_ unchanged by its results, whatever
may be its effects on nations and societies.
They regretted the downfall of the Confederacy as the triumph of
a lower and baser civilization--the ascendency of a false idea and
an act of unrighteous and unjustifiable subversion. To their minds
it was a forcible denial of their rights, and, to a large portion
of them, a dishonorable violation of that contract or treaty upon
which the Federal Union was based, and by which the right for which
they fought had, according to their construction, been assured. As
viewed by them, the result of the war had not changed these facts,
nor justified the infraction of the rights of the South.
In the popular phrase of that day, they "accepted the situation"--which
to _their_ minds, simply meant that they would not fight any
more for independent existence. The North understood it to mean
that they would accept cheerfully and in good faith any terms
and conditions which might be imposed upon them as a condition of
The masses of the Southern whites regarded the emancipation of
the negro simply as an arbitrary exercise of power, intended as
a punishment for the act of attempted secession--which act, while
many believed it to have been impolitic, few believed to be in
conflict with the true theory of our government. They considered
the freeing of the slave merely a piece of wanton spite, inspired,
in great measure, by sheer envy of Southern superiority, in part
by angry hate because of the troubles, perils, and losses of the
war, and, in a very small degree, by honest though absurd fanaticism.
They did not believe that it was done for the sake of the slave,
to secure his liberty or to establish his rights; but they believed
most devoutly that it was done solely and purposely to injure
the master, to punish the rebel, and to still further cripple and
impoverish the South. It was, to them, an unwarrantable measure of
unrighteous retribution inspired by the lowest and basest motives.
But if, to the mass of Southern white men, emancipation was a
measure born of malicious spite in the breast of the North, what
should they say of that which followed--the _enfranchisement_
of the black? It was a gratuitous insult--a causeless infamy! It
was intended to humiliate, without even the mean motive of advantage
to be derived. They did not for a moment believe--they do not
believe to-day--that the negro was enfranchised for his own sake,
or because the North believed that he was entitled to self-government,
or was fit for self-government; but simply and solely because it
was hoped thereby to degrade, overawe, and render powerless the
white element of the Southern populations. They thought it a fraud
in itself, by which the North pretended to give back to the South
her place in the nation; but instead, gave her only a debased and
degraded co-ordination with a race despised beyond the power of
words to express.
This anger seemed--and still seems to the Northern mind--useless,
absurd, and ridiculous. It appears to us as groundless and almost
as laughable as the frantic and impotent rage of the Chinaman who
has lost his sacred queue by the hand of the Christian spoiler.
To the Northern mind the cause is entirely incommensurate with the
anger displayed. One is inclined to ask, with a laugh, "Well, what
of it?" Perhaps there is not a single Northern resident of the
South who has not more than once offended some personal friend by
smiling in his face while he raged, with white lips and glaring
eyes, about this culminating ignominy. Yet it was sadly real to
them. In comparison with this, all other evils seemed light and
trivial, and whatever tended to prevent it, was deemed fair and
just. For this reason, the Southerners felt themselves not only
justified, but imperatively called upon, in every way and manner,
to resist and annul all legislation having this end in view.
Regarding it as inherently fraudulent, malicious, and violent, they
felt no compunctions in defeating its operation by counter-fraud
It was thus that the elements of reconstruction affected the hearts
and heads of most of the Southern whites. To admit that they were
honest in holding such views as they did is only to give them the
benefit of a presumption which, when applied to the acts and motives
of whole peoples, becomes irrefutable. A mob may be wrong-headed,
but it is always right-hearted. What it does may be infamous, but
underlying its acts is always the sting of a great evil or the hope
of a great good.
Thus it was, too, that to the subtler mind and less selfish heart
of Hesden Le Moyne, every attempt to nullify the effect or evade
the operation of the Reconstruction laws was tinged with the idea
of personal dishonor. To his understanding, the terms of surrender
were, not merely that he would not again fight for a separate
governmental existence, but, also, that he would submit to such
changes in the national polity as the conquering majority might
deem necessary and desirable as conditions precedent to restored
power; and would honestly and fairly, as an honorable man and a
brave soldier, carry out those laws either to successful fruition
or to fair and legitimate repeal.
He was not animated by any thought of advantage to himself or to
his class to arise from such ideas. Unlike Jordan Jackson, and men
of his type, there was nothing which his class could gain thereby,
except a share in the ultimate glory and success of an enlarged and
solidified nation. The self-abnegation which he had learned from
three years of duty as a private soldier and almost a lifetime
of patient attendance upon a loved but exacting invalid, inclined
to him to study the movements of society and the world, without
especial reference to himself, or the narrow circle of his family
or class. To his mind, _honor_--that honor which he accounted
the dearest birthright his native South had given--required that
from and after the day of his surrender he should seek and desire,
not the gratification of revenge nor the display of prejudice,
but the success and glory of the great republic. He felt that the
American Nation had become greater and more glorious by the very
act of overcoming rebellion. He recognized that the initial right
or wrong of that struggle, whatever it might have been, should be
subordinated in all minds to the result--an individual Nation. It
was a greater and a grander thing to be an American than to have
been a Confederate! It was more honorable and knightly to be true
in letter and in spirit to every law of his reunited land than to
make the woes of the past an excuse for the wrongs of the present.
He felt all the more scrupulous in regard to this, because those
measures were not altogether such as he would have adopted, nor
such as he could yet believe would prove immediately successful. He
thought that every Southern man should see to it especially that,
if any element of reconstruction failed, it should not be on account
of any lack of honest, sincere and hearty co-operation on his part.
It was for this reason that he had taken such interest in the
experiment that was going on at Red Wing in educating the colored
people. He did not at first believe at all in the capacity of the
negro for culture, progress, self-support, or self-government; but
he believed that the experiment, having been determined on by the
nation, should be fairly and honestly carried out and its success
or failure completely demonstrated. He admitted frankly that, if
they had such capacity, they undoubtedly had the right to use it;
because he believed the right inherent and inalienable with any
race or people having the capacity. He considered that it was only
the lack of co-ordinate capacity that made the Africans unfit to
exercise co-ordinate power with individuals of the white race.
He thought they should be encouraged by every means to develop
what was in them, and readily admitted that, should the experiment
succeed and all distinction of civil right and political power be
successfully abolished, the strength and glory of the nation would
be wonderfully enhanced. His partiality for the two chief promoters
of the experiment at Red Wing had greatly increased his interest in
the result, which had by no means been diminished by his acquaintance
with Mollie Ainslie.
It was not, however, until he bent over his unconscious charge in
the stillness of the morning, made an examination of the wounds of
his old playmate by the flickering light of the lamp, and undertook
the process of resuscitation and cure, that he began to realize
how his ancient prejudice was giving way before the light of what
he could not but regard as truth. The application of some simple
remedies soon restored Eliab to consciousness, but he found that
the other injuries were so serious as to demand immediate surgical
attendance, and would require considerable time for their cure.
His first idea had been to keep Eliab's presence at his house
entirely concealed; but as soon as he realized the extent of his
injuries, he saw that this would be impossible, and concluded that
the safer way would be to entrust the secret to those servants
who were employed "about the lot," which includes, upon a Southern
plantation, all who are not regularly engaged in the crop. He felt
the more willing to do this because of the attachment felt for the
sweet-tempered but deformed minister at Red Wing by all of his
race in the county. He carefully impressed upon the two women
and Charles, the stable-boy, the necessity of the utmost caution
in regard to the matter, and arranged with them to care for his
patient by turns, so as never to leave him alone. He sent to the
post at Boyleston for a surgeon, whose coming chanced not to be
noticed by the neighbors, as he arrived just after dark and went
away before daylight to return to his duty. A comfortable cot was
arranged for the wounded man, and, to make the care of him less
onerous, as well as to avoid the remark which continual use of
the ladder would be sure to excite, Charles was directed to cut a
doorway through the other gable of the old house into one of the
rooms in a newer part. Charles was one of those men found on almost
every plantation, who can "turn a hand to almost anything." In
a short time he had arranged a door from the chamber above "Marse
Hesden's room," and the task of nursing the stricken man back to
life and such health as he might thereafter have, was carried on
by the faithful band of watchers in the dim light of the old attic
and amid the spicy odor of the "bulks" of tobacco, which was stored
there awaiting a favorable market.
Hesden was so occupied with fhis care that it was not until the
next day that he became aware of Mollie's absence. As she had gone
without preparation or farewell, he rightly judged that it was her
intention to return. At first, he thought he would go at once to
Red Wing and assure himself of her safety, but a moment's consideration
showed him not only that this was probably unnecessary, but also
that to do so would attract attention, and perhaps reveal the
hiding-place of Eliab. Besides, he felt confident that she would
not be molested, and thought it quite as well that she should not
be at Mulberry Hill for a few days, until the excitement had somewhat
On the next day, Eliab inquired so pitifully for both Miss Mollie
and Nimbus, that Hesden, although he knew it was a half-delirious
anxiety, had sent Charles on an errand to a plantation in that
vicinity, with directions to learn all he could of affairs there,
if possible without communicating directly with Miss Ainslie.
This he did, and reported everything quiet--Nimbus and Berry not
heard from; Eliab supposed to have been killed; the colored people
greatly alarmed; and "Miss Mollie a-comfortin' an encouragin' on
'em night an' day."
Together with this anxiety came the trust confided to Hesden by
Jordan Jackson, and the new, and at first somewhat arduous, duties
imposed thereby. In the discharge of these he was brought into
communication with a great many of the best people of the county,
and did not hesitate to express his opinion freely as to the outrage
at Red Wing. He was several times warned to be prudent, but he
answered all warnings so firmly, and yet with so much feeling, that
he was undisturbed. He stood so high, and had led so pure a life,
that he could even be allowed to entertain obnoxious sentiments
without personal danger, so long as he did not attempt to reduce
them to practice or attempt to secure for colored people the rights
to which he thought them entitled. However, a great deal of remark
was occasioned by the fact of his having become trustee for the
fugitive Radical, and he was freely charged with having disgraced
and degraded himself and his family by taking the part of a "renegade,
Radical white nigger," like Jackson. This duty took him from home
during the day in a direction away from Red Wing, and a part of each
night he sat by the bedside of Eliab. So that more than a week had
passed, during which he had found opportunity to take but three
meals with his mother, and had not yet been able to visit Red Wing.
BREASTING THE TORRENT.
To make up for the sudden loss of society occasioned by the
simultaneous departure of Mollie and the unusual engrossment of
Hesden in business matters of pressing moment, as he had informed
her, Mrs. Le Moyne had sent for one of the sisters of her son's
deceased wife, Miss Hetty Lomax, to come and visit her. It was to
this young lady that Hesden had appealed when the young teacher was
suddenly stricken down in his house, and who had so rudely refused.
Learning that the object of her antipathy was no longer there,
Miss Hetty came and made herself very entertaining to the invalid
by detailing to her all the horrors, real and imagined, of the
past few days. Day by day she was in the invalid's room, and it was
from her that Mrs. Le Moyne had learned all that was contained in
her letter to Mollie concerning the public feeling and excitement.
A week had elapsed, when Miss Hetty one day appeared with a most
interesting budget of news, the recital of which seemed greatly to
excite Mrs. Le Moyne. At first she listened with incredulity and
resentment; then conviction seemed to force itself upon her mind,
and anger succeeded to astonishment. Calling her serving woman,