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Iola Leroy by Frances E.W. Harper

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Harry's vacation had been very pleasant. Miss Delany, with her fine
conversational powers and ready wit, had added much to his enjoyment.
Robert had given his mother the pleasantest room in the house, and in
the evening the family would gather around her, tell her the news of the
day, read to her from the Bible, join with her in thanksgiving for
mercies received and in prayer for protection through the night. Harry
was very grateful to Dr. Latimer for the kindly interest he had shown in
accompanying Miss Delany and himself to places of interest and
amusement. He was grateful, too, that in the city of P---- doors were
open to them which were barred against them in the South.

The bright, beautiful days of summer were gliding into autumn, with its
glorious wealth of foliage, and the time was approaching for the
departure of Harry and Miss Delany to their respective schools, when Dr.
Latimer received several letters from North Carolina, urging him to come
South, as physicians were greatly needed there. Although his practice
was lucrative in the city of P----, he resolved he would go where his
services were most needed.

A few evenings before he started he called at the house, and made an
engagement to drive Iola to the park.

At the time appointed he drove up to the door in his fine equipage.
Iola stepped gracefully in and sat quietly by his side to enjoy the
loveliness of the scenery and the gorgeous grandeur of the setting sun.

"I expect to go South," said Dr. Latimer, as he drove slowly along.

"Ah, indeed," said Iola, assuming an air of interest, while a shadow
flitted over her face. "Where do you expect to pitch your tent?"

"In the city of C----, North Carolina," he answered.

"Oh, I wish," she exclaimed, "that you were going to Georgia, where you
could take care of that high-spirited brother of mine."

"I suppose if he were to hear you he would laugh, and say that he could
take care of himself. But I know a better plan than that."

"What is it?" asked Iola, innocently.

"That you will commit yourself, instead of your brother, to my care."

"Oh, dear," replied Iola, drawing a long breath. "What would mamma say?"

"That she would willingly resign you, I hope."

"And what would grandma and Uncle Robert say?" again asked Iola.

"That they would cheerfully acquiesce. Now, what would I say if they all

"I don't know," modestly responded Iola.

"Well," replied Dr. Latimer, "I would say:--

"Could deeds my love discover,
Could valor gain thy charms,
To prove myself thy lover
I'd face a world in arms."

"And prove a good soldier," added Iola, smiling, "when there is no
battle to fight."

"Iola, I am in earnest," said Dr. Latimer, passionately. "In the work to
which I am devoted every burden will be lighter, every path smoother, if
brightened and blessed with your companionship."

A sober expression swept over Iola's face, and, dropping her eyes, she
said: "I must have time to think."

Quietly they rode along the river bank until Dr. Latimer broke the
silence by saying:--

"Miss Iola, I think that you brood too much over the condition of our

"Perhaps I do," she replied, "but they never burn a man in the South
that they do not kindle a fire around my soul."

"I am afraid," replied Dr. Latimer, "that you will grow morbid and
nervous. Most of our people take life easily--why shouldn't you?"

"Because," she answered, "I can see breakers ahead which they do not."

"Oh, give yourself no uneasiness. They will catch the fret and fever of
the nineteenth century soon enough. I have heard several of our
ministers say that it is chiefly men of disreputable characters who are
made the subjects of violence and lynch-law."

"Suppose it is so," responded Iola, feelingly. "If these men believe in
eternal punishment they ought to feel a greater concern for the wretched
sinner who is hurried out of time with all his sins upon his head, than
for the godly man who passes through violence to endless rest."

"That is true; and I am not counseling you to be selfish; but, Miss
Iola, had you not better look out for yourself?"

"Thank you, Doctor, I am feeling quite well."

"I know it, but your devotion to study and work is too intense," he

"I am preparing to teach, and must spend my leisure time in study. Mr.
Cloten is an excellent employer, and treats his employes as if they had
hearts as well as hands. But to be an expert accountant is not the best
use to which I can put my life."

"As a teacher you will need strong health and calm nerves. You had
better let me prescribe for you. You need," he added, with a merry
twinkle in his eyes, "change of air, change of scene, and change of

"Well, Doctor," said Iola, laughing, "that is the newest nostrum out.
Had you not better apply for a patent?"

"Oh," replied Dr. Latimer, with affected gravity, "you know you must
have unlimited faith in your physician."

"So you wish me to try the faith cure?" asked Iola, laughing.

"Yes, faith in me," responded Dr. Latimer, seriously.

"Oh, here we are at home!" exclaimed Iola. "This has been a glorious
evening, Doctor. I am indebted to you for a great pleasure. I am
extremely grateful."

"You are perfectly welcome," replied Dr. Latimer. "The pleasure has been
mutual, I assure you."

"Will you not come in?" asked Iola.

Tying his horse, he accompanied Iola into the parlor. Seating himself
near her, he poured into her ears words eloquent with love and

"Iola," he said, "I am not an adept in courtly phrases. I am a plain
man, who believes in love and truth. In asking you to share my lot, I am
not inviting you to a life of ease and luxury, for year after year I may
have to struggle to keep the wolf from the door, but your presence would
make my home one of the brightest spots on earth, and one of the fairest
types of heaven. Am I presumptuous in hoping that your love will become
the crowning joy of my life?"

His words were more than a tender strain wooing her to love and
happiness, they were a clarion call to a life of high and holy worth, a
call which found a response in her heart. Her hand lay limp in his. She
did not withdraw it, but, raising her lustrous eyes to his, she softly
answered: "Frank, I love you."

After he had gone, Iola sat by the window, gazing at the splendid stars,
her heart quietly throbbing with a delicious sense of joy and love. She
had admired Dr. Gresham and, had there been no barrier in her way, she
might have learned to love him; but Dr. Latimer had grown irresistibly
upon her heart. There were depths in her nature that Dr. Gresham had
never fathomed; aspirations in her soul with which he had never mingled.
But as the waves leap up to the strand, so her soul went out to Dr.
Latimer. Between their lives were no impeding barriers, no inclination
impelling one way and duty compelling another. Kindred hopes and tastes
had knit their hearts; grand and noble purposes were lighting up their
lives; and they esteemed it a blessed privilege to stand on the
threshold of a new era and labor for those who had passed from the old
oligarchy of slavery into the new commonwealth of freedom.

On the next evening, Dr. Latimer rang the bell and was answered by
Harry, who ushered him into the parlor, and then came back to the
sitting-room, saying, "Iola, Dr. Latimer has called to see you."

"Has he?" answered Iola, a glad light coming into her eyes. "Come,
Lucille, let us go into the parlor."

"Oh, no," interposed Harry, shrugging his shoulders and catching
Lucille's hand. "He didn't ask for you. When we went to the concert we
were told three's a crowd. And I say one good turn deserves another."

"Oh, Harry, you are so full of nonsense. Let Lucille go!" said Iola.

"Indeed I will not. I want to have a good time as well as you," said

"Oh, you're the most nonsensical man I know," interposed Miss Delany.
Yet she stayed with Harry.

"You're looking very bright and happy," said Dr. Latimer to Iola, as she

"My ride in the park was so refreshing! I enjoyed it so much! The day
was so lovely, the air delicious, the birds sang so sweetly, and the
sunset was so magnificent."

"I am glad of it. Why, Iola, your home is so happy your heart should be
as light as a school-girl's."

"Doctor," she replied, "I must be prematurely old. I have scarcely known
what it is to be light-hearted since my father's death."

"I know it, darling," he answered, seating himself beside her, and
drawing her to him. "You have been tried in the fire, but are you not
better for the crucial test?"

"Doctor," she replied, "as we rode along yesterday, mingling with the
sunshine of the present came the shadows of the past. I was thinking of
the bright, joyous days of my girlhood, when I defended slavery, and of
how the cup that I would have pressed to the lips of others was forced
to my own. Yet, in looking over the mournful past, I would not change
the Iola of then for the Iola of now."

"Yes," responded Dr. Latimer, musingly,

"'Darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day.'"

"Oh, Doctor, you cannot conceive what it must have been to be hurled
from a home of love and light into the dark abyss of slavery; to be
compelled to take your place among a people you have learned to look
upon as inferiors and social outcasts; to be in the power of men whose
presence would fill you with horror and loathing, and to know that there
is no earthly power to protect you from the highest insults which brutal
cowardice could shower upon you. I am so glad that no other woman of my
race will suffer as I have done."

The flush deepened on her face, a mournful splendor beamed from her
beautiful eyes, into which the tears had slowly gathered.

"Darling," he said, his voice vibrating with mingled feelings of
tenderness and resentment, "you must forget the sad past. You are like a
tender lamb snatched from the jaws of a hungry wolf, but who still needs
protecting, loving care. But it must have been terrible," he added, in a
painful tone.

"It was indeed! For awhile I was like one dazed. I tried to pray, but
the heavens seemed brass over my head. I was wild with agony, and had I
not been placed under conditions which roused all the resistance of my
soul, I would have lost my reason."

"Was it not a mistake to have kept you ignorant of your colored blood?"

"It was the great mistake of my father's life, but dear papa knew
something of the cruel, crushing power of caste; and he tried to shield
us from it."

"Yes, yes," replied Dr. Latimer, thoughtfully, "in trying to shield you
from pain he plunged you into deeper suffering."

"I never blame him, because I know he did it for the best. Had he lived
he would have taken us to France, where I should have had a life of
careless ease and pleasure. But now my life has a much grander
significance than it would have had under such conditions. Fearful as
the awakening was, it was better than to have slept through life."

"Best for you and best for me," said Dr. Latimer. "There are souls that
never awaken; but if they miss the deepest pain they also lose the
highest joy."

Dr. Latimer went South, after his engagement, and through his medical
skill and agreeable manners became very successful in his practice. In
the following summer, he built a cosy home for the reception of his
bride, and came North, where, with Harry and Miss Delany as attendants,
he was married to Iola, amid a pleasant gathering of friends, by Rev.



It was late in the summer when Dr. Latimer and his bride reached their
home in North Carolina. Over the cottage porch were morning-glories to
greet the first flushes of the rising day, and roses and jasmines to
distill their fragrance on the evening air. Aunt Linda, who had been
apprised of their coming, was patiently awaiting their arrival, and
Uncle Daniel was pleased to know that "dat sweet young lady who had sich
putty manners war comin' to lib wid dem."

As soon as they arrived, Aunt Linda rushed up to Iola, folded her in her
arms, and joyfully exclaimed: "How'dy, honey! I'se so glad you's come. I
seed it in a vision dat somebody fair war comin' to help us. An' wen I
yered it war you, I larffed and jist rolled ober, and larffed and jist
gib up."

"But, Aunt Linda, I am not very fair," replied Mrs. Latimer.

"Well, chile, you's fair to me. How's all yore folks in de up kentry?"

"All well. I expect them down soon to live here."

"What, Har'yet, and Robby, an' yer ma? Oh, dat is too good. I allers
said Robby had san' in his craw, and war born for good luck. He war a
mighty nice boy. Har'yet's in clover now. Well, ebery dorg has its day,
and de cat has Sunday. I allers tole Har'yet ter keep a stiff upper lip;
dat it war a long road dat had no turn."

Dr. Latimer was much gratified by the tender care Aunt Linda bestowed
on Iola.

"I ain't goin' to let her do nuffin till she gits seasoned. She looks as
sweet as a peach. I allers wanted some nice lady to come down yere and
larn our gals some sense. I can't read myself, but I likes ter yere dem
dat can."

"Well, Aunt Linda, I am going to teach in the Sunday-school, help in the
church, hold mothers' meetings to help these boys and girls to grow up
to be good men and women. Won't you get a pair of spectacles and learn
to read?"

"Oh, yer can't git dat book froo my head, no way you fix it. I knows
nuff to git to hebben, and dat's all I wants to know." Aunt Linda was
kind and obliging, but there was one place where she drew the line, and
that was at learning to read.

Harry and Miss Delany accompanied Iola as far as her new home, and
remained several days. The evening before their departure, Harry took
Miss Delany a drive of several miles through the pine barrens.

"This thing is getting very monotonous," Harry broke out, when they had
gone some distance.

"Oh, I enjoy it!" replied Miss Delany. "These stately pines look so
grand and solemn, they remind me of a procession of hooded monks."

"What in the world are you talking about, Lucille?" asked Harry, looking

"About those pine-trees," replied Miss Delany, in a tone of surprise.

"Pshaw, I wasn't thinking about them. I'm thinking about Iola and

"What about them?" asked Lucille.

"Why, when I was in P----, Dr. Latimer used to be first-rate company,
but now it is nothing but what Iola wants, and what Iola says, and what
Iola likes. I don't believe that there is a subject I could name to him,
from spinning a top to circumnavigating the globe, that he wouldn't
somehow contrive to bring Iola in. And I don't believe you could talk
ten minutes to Iola on any subject, from dressing a doll to the latest
discovery in science, that she wouldn't manage to lug in Frank."

"Oh, you absurd creature!" responded Lucille, "this is their honeymoon,
and they are deeply in love with each other. Wait till you get in love
with some one."

"I am in love now," replied Harry, with a serious air.

"With whom?" asked Lucille, archly.

"With you," answered Harry, trying to take her hand.

"Oh, Harry!" she exclaimed, playfully resisting. "Don't be so
nonsensical! Don't you think the bride looked lovely, with that dress of
spotless white and with those orange blossoms in her hair?"

"Yes, she did; that's a fact," responded Harry. "But, Lucille, I think
there is a great deal of misplaced sentiment at weddings," he added,
more seriously.

"How so?"

"Oh, here are a couple just married, and who are as happy as happy can
be; and people will crowd around them wishing much joy; but who thinks
of wishing joy to the forlorn old bachelors and restless old maids?"

"Well, Harry, if you want people to wish you much happiness, why don't
you do as the doctor has done, get yourself a wife?"

"I will," he replied, soberly, "when you say so."

"Oh, Harry, don't be so absurd."

"Indeed there isn't a bit of absurdity about what I say. I am in
earnest." There was something in the expression of Harry's face and the
tone of his voice which arrested the banter on Lucille's lips.

"I think it was Charles Lamb," replied Lucille, "who once said that
school-teachers are uncomfortable people, and, Harry, I would not like
to make you uncomfortable by marrying you."

"You will make me uncomfortable by not marrying me."

"But," replied Lucille, "your mother may not prefer me for a daughter.
You know, Harry, complexional prejudices are not confined to white

"My mother," replied Harry, with an air of confidence, "is too noble to
indulge in such sentiments."

"And Iola, would she be satisfied?"

"Why, it would add to her satisfaction. She is not one who can't be
white and won't be black."

"Well, then," replied Lucille, "I will take the question of your comfort
into consideration."

The above promise was thoughtfully remembered by Lucille till a bridal
ring and happy marriage were the result.

Soon after Iola had settled in C---- she quietly took her place in the
Sunday-school as a teacher, and in the church as a helper. She was
welcomed by the young pastor, who found in her a strong and faithful
ally. Together they planned meetings for the especial benefit of mothers
and children. When the dens of vice are spreading their snares for the
feet of the tempted and inexperienced her doors are freely opened for
the instruction of the children before their feet have wandered and gone
far astray. She has no carpets too fine for the tread of their little
feet. She thinks it is better to have stains on her carpet than stains
on their souls through any neglect of hers. In lowly homes and
windowless cabins her visits are always welcome. Little children love
her. Old age turns to her for comfort, young girls for guidance, and
mothers for counsel. Her life is full of blessedness.

Doctor Latimer by his kindness and skill has won the name of the "Good
Doctor." But he is more than a successful doctor; he is a true patriot
and a good citizen. Honest, just, and discriminating, he endeavors by
precept and example to instill into the minds of others sentiments of
good citizenship. He is a leader in every reform movement for the
benefit of the community; but his patriotism is not confined to race
lines. "The world is his country, and mankind his countrymen." While he
abhors their deeds of violence, he pities the short-sighted and besotted
men who seem madly intent upon laying magazines of powder under the
cradles of unborn generations. He has great faith in the possibilities
of the negro, and believes that, enlightened and Christianized, he will
sink the old animosities of slavery into the new community of interests
arising from freedom; and that his influence upon the South will be as
the influence of the sun upon the earth. As when the sun passes from
Capricorn to Cancer, beauty, greenness, and harmony spring up in his
path, so he hopes that the future career of the negro will be a greater
influence for freedom and social advancement than it was in the days of
yore for slavery and its inferior civilization.

Harry and Lucille are at the head of a large and flourishing school.
Lucille gives her ripening experience to her chosen work, to which she
was too devoted to resign. And through the school they are lifting up
the homes of the people. Some have pitied, others blamed, Harry for
casting his lot with the colored people, but he knows that life's
highest and best advantages do not depend on the color of the skin or
texture of the hair. He has his reward in the improved condition of his
pupils and the superb manhood and noble life which he has developed in
his much needed work.

Uncle Daniel still lingers on the shores of time, a cheery, lovable old
man, loved and respected by all; a welcome guest in every home. Soon
after Iola's marriage, Robert sold out his business and moved with his
mother and sister to North Carolina. He bought a large plantation near
C----, which he divided into small homesteads, and sold to poor but
thrifty laborers, and his heart has been gladdened by their increased
prosperity and progress. He has seen the one-roomed cabins change to
comfortable cottages, in which cleanliness and order have supplanted the
prolific causes of disease and death. Kind and generous, he often
remembers Mrs. Johnson and sends her timely aid.

Marie's pale, spiritual face still bears traces of the beauty which was
her youthful dower, but its bloom has been succeeded by an air of
sweetness and dignity. Though frail in health, she is always ready to
lend a helping hand wherever and whenever she can.

Grandmother Johnson was glad to return South and spend the remnant of
her days with the remaining friends of her early life. Although feeble,
she is in full sympathy with her children for the uplifting of the race.
Marie and her mother are enjoying their aftermath of life, one by
rendering to others all the service in her power, while the other, with
her face turned toward the celestial city, is

"Only waiting till the angels
Open wide the mystic gate."

The shadows have been lifted from all their lives; and peace, like
bright dew, has descended upon their paths. Blessed themselves, their
lives are a blessing to others.


From threads of fact and fiction I have woven a story whose mission will
not be in vain if it awaken in the hearts of our countrymen a stronger
sense of justice and a more Christlike humanity in behalf of those whom
the fortunes of war threw, homeless, ignorant and poor, upon the
threshold of a new era. Nor will it be in vain if it inspire the
children of those upon whose brows God has poured the chrism of that new
era to determine that they will embrace every opportunity, develop every
faculty, and use every power God has given them to rise in the scale of
character and condition, and to add their quota of good citizenship to
the best welfare of the nation. There are scattered among us materials
for mournful tragedies and mirth-provoking comedies, which some hand may
yet bring into the literature of the country, glowing with the fervor of
the tropics and enriched by the luxuriance of the Orient, and thus add
to the solution of our unsolved American problem.

The race has not had very long to straighten its hands from the hoe, to
grasp the pen and wield it as a power for good, and to erect above the
ruined auction-block and slave-pen institutions of learning, but

There is light beyond the darkness,
Joy beyond the present pain;
There is hope in God's great justice
And the negro's rising brain.
Though the morning seems to linger
O'er the hill-tops far away,
Yet the shadows bear the promise
Of a brighter coming day.

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