Part 2 out of 5
When the sheriff had reached this conclusion he fell into an unquiet
slumber, from which he awoke late the next morning.
He went over to the jail before breakfast and found the prisoner lying
on his pallet, his face turned to the wall; he did not move when the
sheriff rattled the door.
"Good-morning," said the latter, in a tone intended to waken the
There was no response. The sheriff looked more keenly at the recumbent
figure; there was an unnatural rigidity about its attitude.
He hastily unlocked the door and, entering the cell, bent over the
prostrate form. There was no sound of breathing; he turned the body
over--it was cold and stiff. The prisoner had torn the bandage from his
wound and bled to death during the night. He had evidently been dead
A Matter of Principle
"What our country needs most in its treatment of the race problem,"
observed Mr. Cicero Clayton at one of the monthly meetings of the Blue
Vein Society, of which he was a prominent member, "is a clearer
conception of the brotherhood of man."
The same sentiment in much the same words had often fallen from Mr.
Clayton's lips,--so often, in fact, that the younger members of the
society sometimes spoke of him--among themselves of course--as
"Brotherhood Clayton." The sobriquet derived its point from the
application he made of the principle involved in this oft-repeated
The fundamental article of Mr. Clayton's social creed was that he
himself was not a negro.
"I know," he would say, "that the white people lump us all together as
negroes, and condemn us all to the same social ostracism. But I don't
accept this classification, for my part, and I imagine that, as the
chief party in interest, I have a right to my opinion. People who belong
by half or more of their blood to the most virile and progressive race
of modern times have as much right to call themselves white as others
have to call them negroes."
Mr. Clayton spoke warmly, for he was well informed, and had thought much
upon the subject; too much, indeed, for he had not been able to escape
entirely the tendency of too much concentration upon one subject to make
even the clearest minds morbid.
"Of course we can't enforce our claims, or protect ourselves from being
robbed of our birthright; but we can at least have principles, and try
to live up to them the best we can. If we are not accepted as white, we
can at any rate make it clear that we object to being called black. Our
protest cannot fail in time to impress itself upon the better class of
white people; for the Anglo-Saxon race loves justice, and will
eventually do it, where it does not conflict with their own interests."
Whether or not the fact that Mr. Clayton meant no sarcasm, and was
conscious of no inconsistency in this eulogy, tended to establish the
racial identity he claimed may safely be left to the discerning reader.
In living up to his creed Mr. Clayton declined to associate to any
considerable extent with black people. This was sometimes a little
inconvenient, and occasionally involved a sacrifice of some pleasure for
himself and his family, because they would not attend entertainments
where many black people were likely to be present. But they had a social
refuge in a little society of people like themselves; they attended,
too, a church, of which nearly all the members were white, and they were
connected with a number of the religious and benevolent associations
open to all good citizens, where they came into contact with the better
class of white people, and were treated, in their capacity of members,
with a courtesy and consideration scarcely different from that accorded
to other citizens.
Mr. Clayton's racial theory was not only logical enough, but was in his
own case backed up by substantial arguments. He had begun life with a
small patrimony, and had invested his money in a restaurant, which by
careful and judicious attention had grown from a cheap eating-house into
the most popular and successful confectionery and catering establishment
in Groveland. His business occupied a double store on Oakwood Avenue. He
owned houses and lots, and stocks and bonds, had good credit at the
banks, and lived in a style befitting his income and business standing.
In person he was of olive complexion, with slightly curly hair. His
features approached the Cuban or Latin-American type rather than the
familiar broad characteristics of the mulatto, this suggestion of
something foreign being heightened by a Vandyke beard and a carefully
waxed and pointed mustache. When he walked to church on Sunday mornings
with his daughter Alice, they were a couple of such striking appearance
as surely to attract attention.
Miss Alice Clayton was queen of her social set. She was young, she was
handsome. She was nearly white; she frankly confessed her sorrow that
she was not entirely so. She was accomplished and amiable, dressed in
good taste, and had for her father by all odds the richest colored
man--the term is used with apologies to Mr. Clayton, explaining that it
does not necessarily mean a negro--in Groveland. So pronounced was her
superiority that really she had but one social rival worthy of the
name,--Miss Lura Watkins, whose father kept a prosperous livery stable
and lived in almost as good style as the Claytons. Miss Watkins, while
good-looking enough, was not so young nor quite so white as Miss
Clayton. She was popular, however, among their mutual acquaintances, and
there was a good-natured race between the two as to which should make
the first and best marriage.
Marriages among Miss Clayton's set were serious affairs. Of course
marriage is always a serious matter, whether it be a success or a
failure, and there are those who believe that any marriage is better
than no marriage. But among Miss Clayton's friends and associates
matrimony took on an added seriousness because of the very narrow limits
within which it could take place. Miss Clayton and her friends, by
reason of their assumed superiority to black people, or perhaps as much
by reason of a somewhat morbid shrinking from the curiosity manifested
toward married people of strongly contrasting colors, would not marry
black men, and except in rare instances white men would not marry them.
They were therefore restricted for a choice to the young men of their
own complexion. But these, unfortunately for the girls, had a wider
choice. In any State where the laws permit freedom of the marriage
contract, a man, by virtue of his sex, can find a wife of whatever
complexion he prefers; of course he must not always ask too much in
other respects, for most women like to better their social position when
they marry. To the number thus lost by "going on the other side," as the
phrase went, add the worthless contingent whom no self-respecting woman
would marry, and the choice was still further restricted; so that it had
become fashionable, when the supply of eligible men ran short, for those
of Miss Clayton's set who could afford it to go traveling, ostensibly
for pleasure, but with the serious hope that they might meet their fate
away from home.
Miss Clayton had perhaps a larger option than any of her associates.
Among such men as there were she could have taken her choice. Her
beauty, her position, her accomplishments, her father's wealth, all made
her eminently desirable. But, on the other hand, the same things
rendered her more difficult to reach, and harder to please. To get
access to her heart, too, it was necessary to run the gauntlet of her
parents, which, until she had reached the age of twenty-three, no one
had succeeded in doing safely. Many had called, but none had been
There was, however, one spot left unguarded, and through it Cupid, a
veteran sharpshooter, sent a dart. Mr. Clayton had taken into his
service and into his household a poor relation, a sort of cousin several
times removed. This boy--his name was Jack--had gone into Mr. Clayton's
service at a very youthful age,--twelve or thirteen. He had helped about
the housework, washed the dishes, swept the floors, taken care of the
lawn and the stable for three or four years, while he attended school.
His cousin had then taken him into the store, where he had swept the
floor, washed the windows, and done a class of work that kept fully
impressed upon him the fact that he was a poor dependent. Nevertheless
he was a cheerful lad, who took what he could get and was properly
grateful, but always meant to get more. By sheer force of industry and
affability and shrewdness, he forced his employer to promote him in time
to a position of recognized authority in the establishment. Any one
outside of the family would have perceived in him a very suitable
husband for Miss Clayton; he was of about the same age, or a year or two
older, was as fair of complexion as she, when she was not powdered, and
was passably good-looking, with a bearing of which the natural manliness
had been no more warped than his training and racial status had rendered
inevitable; for he had early learned the law of growth, that to bend is
better than to break. He was sometimes sent to accompany Miss Clayton to
places in the evening, when she had no other escort, and it is quite
likely that she discovered his good points before her parents did. That
they should in time perceive them was inevitable. But even then, so
accustomed were they to looking down upon the object of their former
bounty, that they only spoke of the matter jocularly.
"Well, Alice," her father would say in his bluff way, "you 'll not be
absolutely obliged to die an old maid. If we can't find anything better
for you, there 's always Jack. As long as he does n't take to some other
girl, you can fall back on him as a last chance. He 'd be glad to take
you to get into the business."
Miss Alice had considered the joke a very poor one when first made, but
by occasional repetition she became somewhat familiar with it. In time
it got around to Jack himself, to whom it seemed no joke at all. He had
long considered it a consummation devoutly to be wished, and when he
became aware that the possibility of such a match had occurred to the
other parties in interest, he made up his mind that the idea should in
due course of time become an accomplished fact. He had even suggested as
much to Alice, in a casual way, to feel his ground; and while she had
treated the matter lightly, he was not without hope that she had been
impressed by the suggestion. Before he had had time, however, to follow
up this lead, Miss Clayton, in the spring of 187-, went away on a visit
The occasion of her visit was a presidential inauguration. The new
President owed his nomination mainly to the votes of the Southern
delegates in the convention, and was believed to be correspondingly well
disposed to the race from which the Southern delegates were for the most
part recruited. Friends of rival and unsuccessful candidates for the
nomination had more than hinted that the Southern delegates were very
substantially rewarded for their support at the time when it was given;
whether this was true or not the parties concerned know best. At any
rate the colored politicians did not see it in that light, for they were
gathered from near and far to press their claims for recognition and
patronage. On the evening following the White House inaugural ball, the
colored people of Washington gave an "inaugural" ball at a large public
hall. It was under the management of their leading citizens, among them
several high officials holding over from the last administration, and a
number of professional and business men. This ball was the most
noteworthy social event that colored circles up to that time had ever
known. There were many visitors from various parts of the country. Miss
Clayton attended the ball, the honors of which she carried away easily.
She danced with several partners, and was introduced to innumerable
people whom she had never seen before, and whom she hardly expected ever
to meet again. She went away from the ball, at four o'clock in the
morning, in a glow of triumph, and with a confused impression of
senators and representatives and lawyers and doctors of all shades, who
had sought an introduction, led her through the dance, and overwhelmed
her with compliments. She returned home the next day but one, after the
most delightful week of her life.
One afternoon, about three weeks after her return from Washington, Alice
received a letter through the mail. The envelope bore the words "House
of Representatives" printed in one corner, and in the opposite corner,
in a bold running hand, a Congressman's frank, "Hamilton M. Brown, M.C."
The letter read as follows:----
House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C., March 30, 187-.
Miss Alice Clayton, Groveland.
Dear Friend (if I may be permitted to call you so after so brief an
acquaintance),--I remember with sincerest pleasure our recent meeting at
the inaugural ball, and the sensation created by your beauty, your
amiable manners, and your graceful dancing. Time has so strengthened the
impression I then received, that I should have felt inconsolable had I
thought it impossible ever to again behold the charms which had
brightened the occasion of our meeting and eclipsed by their brilliancy
the leading belles of the capital. I had hoped, however, to have the
pleasure of meeting you again, and circumstances have fortunately placed
it in my power to do so at an early date. You have doubtless learned
that the contest over the election in the Sixth Congressional District
of South Carolina has been decided in my favor, and that I now have the
honor of representing my native State at the national capital. I have
just been appointed a member of a special committee to visit and inspect
the Sault River and the Straits of Mackinac, with reference to the needs
of lake navigation. I have made arrangements to start a week ahead of
the other members of the committee, whom I am to meet in Detroit on the
20th. I shall leave here on the 2d, and will arrive in Groveland on the
3d, by the 7.30 evening express. I shall remain in Groveland several
days, in the course of which I shall be pleased to call, and renew the
acquaintance so auspiciously begun in Washington, which it is my fondest
hope may ripen into a warmer friendship.
If you do not regard my visit as presumptuous, and do not write me in
the mean while forbidding it, I shall do myself the pleasure of waiting
on you the morning after my arrival in Groveland.
With renewed expressions of my sincere admiration and profound esteem, I
Hamilton M. Brown, M.C.
To Alice, and especially to her mother, this bold and flowery letter had
very nearly the force of a formal declaration. They read it over again
and again, and spent most of the afternoon discussing it. There were few
young men in Groveland eligible as husbands for so superior a person as
Alice Clayton, and an addition to the number would be very acceptable.
But the mere fact of his being a Congressman was not sufficient to
qualify him; there were other considerations.
"I 've never heard of this Honorable Hamilton M. Brown," said Mr.
Clayton. The letter had been laid before him at the supper-table. "It 's
strange, Alice, that you have n't said anything about him before. You
must have met lots of swell folks not to recollect a Congressman."
"But he was n't a Congressman then," answered Alice; "he was only a
claimant. I remember Senator Bruce, and Mr. Douglass; but there were so
many doctors and lawyers and politicians that I could n't keep track of
them all. Still I have a faint impression of a Mr. Brown who danced with
She went into the parlor and brought out the dancing programme she had
used at the Washington ball. She had decorated it with a bow of blue
ribbon and preserved it as a souvenir of her visit.
"Yes," she said, after examining it, "I must have danced with him. Here
are the initials--'H.M.B.'"
"What color is he?" asked Mr. Clayton, as he plied his knife and fork.
"I have a notion that he was rather dark--darker than any one I had ever
danced with before."
"Why did you dance with him?" asked her father. "You were n't obliged to
go back on your principles because you were away from home."
"Well, father, 'when you 're in Rome'--you know the rest. Mrs.
Clearweather introduced me to several dark men, to him among others.
They were her friends, and common decency required me to be courteous."
"If this man is black, we don't want to encourage him. If he 's the
right sort, we 'll invite him to the house."
"And make him feel at home," added Mrs. Clayton, on hospitable thoughts
"We must ask Sadler about him to-morrow," said Mr. Clayton, when he had
drunk his coffee and lighted his cigar. "If he 's the right man he shall
have cause to remember his visit to Groveland. We 'll show him that
Washington is not the only town on earth."
The uncertainty of the family with regard to Mr. Brown was soon removed.
Mr. Solomon Sadler, who was supposed to know everything worth knowing
concerning the colored race, and everybody of importance connected with
it, dropped in after supper to make an evening call. Sadler was familiar
with the history of every man of negro ancestry who had distinguished
himself in any walk of life. He could give the pedigree of Alexander
Pushkin, the titles of scores of Dumas's novels (even Sadler had not
time to learn them all), and could recite the whole of Wendell
Phillips's lecture on Toussaint l'Ouverture. He claimed a personal
acquaintance with Mr. Frederick Douglass, and had been often in
Washington, where he was well known and well received in good colored
"Let me see," he said reflectively, when asked for information about
the Honorable Hamilton M. Brown. "Yes, I think I know him. He studied at
Oberlin just after the war. He was about leaving there when I entered.
There were two H.M. Browns there--a Hamilton M. Brown and a Henry M.
Brown. One was stout and dark and the other was slim and quite light;
you could scarcely tell him from a dark white man. They used to call
them 'light Brown' and 'dark Brown.' I did n't know either of them
except by sight, for they were there only a few weeks after I went in.
As I remember them, Hamilton was the fair one--a very good-looking,
gentlemanly fellow, and, as I heard, a good student and a fine speaker."
"Do you remember what kind of hair he had?" asked Mr. Clayton.
"Very good indeed; straight, as I remember it. He looked something like
a Spaniard or a Portuguese."
"Now that you describe him," said Alice, "I remember quite well dancing
with such a gentleman; and I 'm wrong about my 'H.M.B.' The dark man
must have been some one else; there are two others on my card that I
can't remember distinctly, and he was probably one of those."
"I guess he 's all right, Alice," said her father when Sadler had gone
away. "He evidently means business, and we must treat him white. Of
course he must stay with us; there are no hotels in Groveland while he
is here. Let 's see--he 'll be here in three days. That is n't very
long, but I guess we can get ready. I 'll write a letter this
afternoon--or you write it, and invite him to the house, and say I 'll
meet him at the depot. And you may have _carte blanche_ for making the
"We must have some people to meet him."
"Certainly; a reception is the proper thing. Sit down immediately and
write the letter and I 'll mail it first thing in the morning, so he 'll
get it before he has time to make other arrangements. And you and your
mother put your heads together and make out a list of guests, and I 'll
have the invitations printed to-morrow. We will show the darkeys of
Groveland how to entertain a Congressman."
It will be noted that in moments of abstraction or excitement Mr.
Clayton sometimes relapsed into forms of speech not entirely consistent
with his principles. But some allowance must be made for his
atmosphere; he could no more escape from it than the leopard can change
his spots, or the--In deference to Mr. Clayton's feelings the quotation
will be left incomplete.
Alice wrote the letter on the spot and it was duly mailed, and sped on
its winged way to Washington.
The preparations for the reception were made as thoroughly and
elaborately as possible on so short a notice. The invitations were
issued; the house was cleaned from attic to cellar; an orchestra was
engaged for the evening; elaborate floral decorations were planned and
the flowers ordered. Even the refreshments, which ordinarily, in the
household of a caterer, would be mere matter of familiar detail, became
a subject of serious consultation and study.
The approaching event was a matter of very much interest to the
fortunate ones who were honored with invitations, and this for several
reasons. They were anxious to meet this sole representative of their
race in the --th Congress, and as he was not one of the old-line colored
leaders, but a new star risen on the political horizon, there was a
special curiosity to see who he was and what he looked like. Moreover,
the Claytons did not often entertain a large company, but when they did,
it was on a scale commensurate with their means and position, and to be
present on such an occasion was a thing to remember and to talk about.
And, most important consideration of all, some remarks dropped by
members of the Clayton family had given rise to the rumor that the
Congressman was seeking a wife. This invested his visit with a romantic
interest, and gave the reception a practical value; for there were other
marriageable girls besides Miss Clayton, and if one was left another
might be taken.
On the evening of April 3d, at fifteen minutes of six o'clock, Mr.
Clayton, accompanied by Jack, entered the livery carriage waiting at his
gate and ordered the coachman to drive to the Union Depot. He had taken
Jack along, partly for company, and partly that Jack might relieve the
Congressman of any trouble about his baggage, and make himself useful in
case of emergency. Jack was willing enough to go, for he had foreseen
in the visitor a rival for Alice's hand,--indeed he had heard more or
less of the subject for several days,--and was glad to make a
reconnaissance before the enemy arrived upon the field of battle. He had
made--at least he had thought so--considerable progress with Alice
during the three weeks since her return from Washington, and once or
twice Alice had been perilously near the tender stage. This visit had
disturbed the situation and threatened to ruin his chances; but he did
not mean to give up without a struggle.
Arrived at the main entrance, Mr. Clayton directed the carriage to wait,
and entered the station with Jack. The Union Depot at Groveland was an
immense oblong structure, covering a dozen parallel tracks and
furnishing terminal passenger facilities for half a dozen railroads. The
tracks ran east and west, and the depot was entered from the south, at
about the middle of the building. On either side of the entrance, the
waiting-rooms, refreshment rooms, baggage and express departments, and
other administrative offices, extended in a row for the entire length of
the building; and beyond them and parallel with them stretched a long
open space, separated from the tracks by an iron fence or _grille_.
There were two entrance gates in the fence, at which tickets must be
shown before access could be had to trains, and two other gates, by
which arriving passengers came out.
Mr. Clayton looked at the blackboard on the wall underneath the station
clock, and observed that the 7.30 train from Washington was five minutes
late. Accompanied by Jack he walked up and down the platform until the
train, with the usual accompaniment of panting steam and clanging bell
and rumbling trucks, pulled into the station, and drew up on the third
or fourth track from the iron railing. Mr. Clayton stationed himself at
the gate nearest the rear end of the train, reasoning that the
Congressman would ride in a parlor car, and would naturally come out by
the gate nearest the point at which he left the train.
"You 'd better go and stand by the other gate, Jack," he said to his
companion, "and stop him if he goes out that way."
The train was well filled and a stream of passengers poured through.
Mr. Clayton scanned the crowd carefully as they approached the gate, and
scrutinized each passenger as he came through, without seeing any one
that met the description of Congressman Brown, as given by Sadler, or
any one that could in his opinion be the gentleman for whom he was
looking. When the last one had passed through he was left to the
conclusion that his expected guest had gone out by the other gate. Mr.
Clayton hastened thither.
"Did n't he come out this way, Jack?" he asked.
"No, sir," replied the young man, "I have n't seen him."
"That 's strange," mused Mr. Clayton, somewhat anxiously. "He would
hardly fail to come without giving us notice. Surely we must have missed
him. We 'd better look around a little. You go that way and I 'll go
Mr. Clayton turned and walked several rods along the platform to the
men's waiting-room, and standing near the door glanced around to see if
he could find the object of his search. The only colored person in the
room was a stout and very black man, wearing a broadcloth suit and a
silk hat, and seated a short distance from the door. On the seat by his
side stood a couple of valises. On one of them, the one nearest him, on
which his arm rested, was written, in white letters, plainly
"H.M. Brown, M.C.
Mr. Clayton's feelings at this discovery can better be imagined than
described. He hastily left the waiting-room, before the black gentleman,
who was looking the other way, was even aware of his presence, and,
walking rapidly up and down the platform, communed with himself upon
what course of action the situation demanded. He had invited to his
house, had come down to meet, had made elaborate preparations to
entertain on the following evening, a light-colored man,--a white man by
his theory, an acceptable guest, a possible husband for his daughter, an
avowed suitor for her hand. If the Congressman had turned out to be
brown, even dark brown, with fairly good hair, though he might not have
desired him as a son-in-law, yet he could have welcomed him as a guest.
But even this softening of the blow was denied him, for the man in the
waiting-room was palpably, aggressively black, with pronounced African
features and woolly hair, without apparently a single drop of redeeming
white blood. Could he, in the face of his well-known principles, his
lifelong rule of conduct, take this negro into his home and introduce
him to his friends? Could he subject his wife and daughter to the rude
shock of such a disappointment? It would be bad enough for them to learn
of the ghastly mistake, but to have him in the house would be twisting
the arrow in the wound.
Mr. Clayton had the instincts of a gentleman, and realized the delicacy
of the situation. But to get out of his difficulty without wounding the
feelings of the Congressman required not only diplomacy but dispatch.
Whatever he did must be done promptly; for if he waited many minutes the
Congressman would probably take a carriage and be driven to Mr.
A ray of hope came for a moment to illumine the gloom of the situation.
Perhaps the black man was merely sitting there, and not the owner of the
valise! For there were two valises, one on each side of the supposed
Congressman. For obvious reasons he did not care to make the inquiry
himself, so he looked around for his companion, who came up a moment
"Jack," he exclaimed excitedly, "I 'm afraid we 're in the worst kind of
a hole, unless there 's some mistake! Run down to the men's waiting-room
and you 'll see a man and a valise, and you 'll understand what I mean.
Ask that darkey if he is the Honorable Mr. Brown, Congressman from South
Carolina. If he says yes, come back right away and let me know, without
giving him time to ask any questions, and put your wits to work to help
me out of the scrape."
"I wonder what 's the matter?" said Jack to himself, but did as he was
told. In a moment he came running back.
"Yes, sir," he announced; "he says he 's the man."
"Jack," said Mr. Clayton desperately, "if you want to show your
appreciation of what I 've done for you, you must suggest some way out
of this. I 'd never dare to take that negro to my house, and yet I 'm
obliged to treat him like a gentleman."
Jack's eyes had worn a somewhat reflective look since he had gone to
make the inquiry. Suddenly his face brightened with intelligence, and
then, as a newsboy ran into the station calling his wares, hardened into
"Clarion, special extry 'dition! All about de epidemic er dipt'eria!"
clamored the newsboy with shrill childish treble, as he made his way
toward the waiting-room. Jack darted after him, and saw the man to whom
he had spoken buy a paper. He ran back to his employer, and dragged him
over toward the ticket-seller's window.
"I have it, sir!" he exclaimed, seizing a telegraph blank and writing
rapidly, and reading aloud as he wrote. "How's this for a way out?"----
"Dear Sir,--I write you this note here in the depot to inform you of an
unfortunate event which has interfered with my plans and those of my
family for your entertainment while in Groveland. Yesterday my daughter
Alice complained of a sore throat, which by this afternoon had developed
into a case of malignant diphtheria. In consequence our house has been
quarantined; and while I have felt myself obliged to come down to the
depot, I do not feel that I ought to expose you to the possibility of
infection, and I therefore send you this by another hand. The bearer
will conduct you to a carriage which I have ordered placed at your
service, and unless you should prefer some other hotel, you will be
driven to the Forest Hill House, where I beg you will consider yourself
my guest during your stay in the city, and make the fullest use of every
convenience it may offer. From present indications I fear no one of our
family will be able to see you, which we shall regret beyond expression,
as we have made elaborate arrangements for your entertainment. I still
hope, however, that you may enjoy your visit, as there are many places
of interest in the city, and many friends will doubtless be glad to make
"With assurances of my profound regret, I am
"Splendid!" cried Mr. Clayton. "You 've helped me out of a horrible
scrape. Now, go and take him to the hotel and see him comfortably
located, and tell them to charge the bill to me."
"I suspect, sir," suggested Jack, "that I 'd better not go up to the
house, and you 'll have to stay in yourself for a day or two, to keep up
appearances. I 'll sleep on the lounge at the store, and we can talk
business over the telephone."
"All right, Jack, we 'll arrange the details later. But for Heaven's
sake get him started, or he 'll be calling a hack to drive up to the
house. I 'll go home on a street car."
"So far so good," sighed Mr. Clayton to himself as he escaped from the
station. "Jack is a deuced clever fellow, and I 'll have to do something
more for him. But the tug-of-war is yet to come. I 've got to bribe a
doctor, shut up the house for a day or two, and have all the ill-humor
of two disappointed women to endure until this negro leaves town. Well,
I 'm sure my wife and Alice will back me up at any cost. No sacrifice is
too great to escape having to entertain him; of course I have no
prejudice against his color,--he can't help that,--but it is the
_principle_ of the thing. If we received him it would be a concession
fatal to all my views and theories. And I am really doing him a
kindness, for I 'm sure that all the world could not make Alice and her
mother treat him with anything but cold politeness. It 'll be a great
mortification to Alice, but I don't see how else I could have got out of
He boarded the first car that left the depot, and soon reached home. The
house was lighted up, and through the lace curtains of the parlor
windows he could see his wife and daughter, elegantly dressed, waiting
to receive their distinguished visitor. He rang the bell impatiently,
and a servant opened the door.
"The gentleman did n't come?" asked the maid.
"No," he said as he hung up his hat. This brought the ladies to the
"He did n't come?" they exclaimed. "What 's the matter?"
"I 'll tell you," he said. "Mary," this to the servant, a white girl,
who stood in open-eyed curiosity, "we shan't need you any more
Then he went into the parlor, and, closing the door, told his story.
When he reached the point where he had discovered the color of the
honorable Mr. Brown, Miss Clayton caught her breath, and was on the
verge of collapse.
"That nigger," said Mrs. Clayton indignantly, "can never set foot in
this house. But what did you do with him?"
Mr. Clayton quickly unfolded his plan, and described the disposition he
had made of the Congressman.
"It 's an awful shame," said Mrs. Clayton. "Just think of the trouble
and expense we have gone to! And poor Alice 'll never get over it, for
everybody knows he came to see her and that he 's smitten with her. But
you 've done just right; we never would have been able to hold up our
heads again if we had introduced a black man, even a Congressman, to the
people that are invited here to-morrow night, as a sweetheart of Alice.
Why, she would n't marry him if he was President of the United States
and plated with gold an inch thick. The very idea!"
"Well," said Mr. Clayton, "then we 'we got to act quick. Alice must wrap
up her throat--by the way, Alice, how _is_ your throat?"
"It 's sore," sobbed Alice, who had been in tears almost from her
father's return, "and I don't care if I do have diphtheria and die, no,
I don't!" and she wept on.
"Wrap up your throat and go to bed, and I 'll go over to Doctor
Pillsbury's and get a diphtheria card to nail up on the house. In the
morning, first thing, we 'll have to write notes recalling the
invitations for to-morrow evening, and have them delivered by messenger
boys. We were fools for not finding out all about this man from some one
who knew, before we invited him here. Sadler don't know more than half
he thinks he does, anyway. And we 'll have to do this thing thoroughly,
or our motives will be misconstrued, and people will say we are
prejudiced and all that, when it is only a matter of principle with us."
The programme outlined above was carried out to the letter. The
invitations were recalled, to the great disappointment of the invited
guests. The family physician called several times during the day. Alice
remained in bed, and the maid left without notice, in such a hurry that
she forgot to take her best clothes.
Mr. Clayton himself remained at home. He had a telephone in the house,
and was therefore in easy communication with his office, so that the
business did not suffer materially by reason of his absence from the
store. About ten o'clock in the morning a note came up from the hotel,
expressing Mr. Brown's regrets and sympathy. Toward noon Mr. Clayton
picked up the morning paper, which he had not theretofore had time to
read, and was glancing over it casually, when his eye fell upon a column
headed "A Colored Congressman." He read the article with astonishment
that rapidly turned to chagrin and dismay. It was an interview
describing the Congressman as a tall and shapely man, about thirty-five
years old, with an olive complexion not noticeably darker than many a
white man's, straight hair, and eyes as black as sloes.
"The bearing of this son of South Carolina reveals the polished manners
of the Southern gentleman, and neither from his appearance nor his
conversation would one suspect that the white blood which flows in his
veins in such preponderating measure had ever been crossed by that of a
darker race," wrote the reporter, who had received instructions at the
office that for urgent business considerations the lake shipping
interest wanted Representative Brown treated with marked consideration.
There was more of the article, but the introductory portion left Mr.
Clayton in such a state of bewilderment that the paper fell from his
hand. What was the meaning of it? Had he been mistaken? Obviously so, or
else the reporter was wrong, which was manifestly improbable. When he
had recovered himself somewhat, he picked up the newspaper and began
reading where he had left off.
"Representative Brown traveled to Groveland in company with Bishop Jones
of the African Methodist Jerusalem Church, who is _en route_ to attend
the general conference of his denomination at Detroit next week. The
bishop, who came in while the writer was interviewing Mr. Brown, is a
splendid type of the pure negro. He is said to be a man of great power
among his people, which may easily be believed after one has looked upon
his expressive countenance and heard him discuss the questions which
affect the welfare of his church and his race."
Mr. Clayton stared at the paper. "'The bishop,'" he repeated, "'is a
splendid type of the pure negro.' I must have mistaken the bishop for
the Congressman! But how in the world did Jack get the thing balled up?
I 'll call up the store and demand an explanation of him.
"Jack," he asked, "what kind of a looking man was the fellow you gave
the note to at the depot?"
"He was a very wicked-looking fellow, sir," came back the answer. "He
had a bad eye, looked like a gambler, sir. I am not surprised that you
did n't want to entertain him, even if he was a Congressman."
"What color was he--that 's what I want to know--and what kind of hair
did he have?"
"Why, he was about my complexion, sir, and had straight black hair."
The rules of the telephone company did not permit swearing over the
line. Mr. Clayton broke the rules.
"Was there any one else with him?" he asked when he had relieved his
"Yes, sir, Bishop Jones of the African Methodist Jerusalem Church was
sitting there with him; they had traveled from Washington together. I
drove the bishop to his stopping-place after I had left Mr. Brown at the
hotel. I did n't suppose you 'd mind."
Mr. Clayton fell into a chair, and indulged in thoughts unutterable.
He folded up the paper and slipped it under the family Bible, where it
was least likely to be soon discovered.
"I 'll hide the paper, anyway," he groaned. "I 'll never hear the last
of this till my dying day, so I may as well have a few hours' respite.
It 's too late to go back, and we 've got to play the farce out. Alice
is really sick with disappointment, and to let her know this now would
only make her worse. Maybe he 'll leave town in a day or two, and then
she 'll be in condition to stand it. Such luck is enough to disgust a
man with trying to do right and live up to his principles."
Time hung a little heavy on Mr. Clayton's hands during the day. His wife
was busy with the housework. He answered several telephone calls about
Alice's health, and called up the store occasionally to ask how the
business was getting on. After lunch he lay down on a sofa and took a
nap, from which he was aroused by the sound of the door-bell. He went to
the door. The evening paper was lying on the porch, and the newsboy, who
had not observed the diphtheria sign until after he had rung, was
hurrying away as fast as his legs would carry him.
Mr. Clayton opened the paper and looked it through to see if there was
any reference to the visiting Congressman. He found what he sought and
more. An article on the local page contained a resume of the information
given in the morning paper, with the following additional paragraph:----
"A reporter, who called at the Forest Hill this morning to interview
Representative Brown, was informed that the Congressman had been invited
to spend the remainder of his time in Groveland as the guest of Mr.
William Watkins, the proprietor of the popular livery establishment on
Main Street. Mr. Brown will remain in the city several days, and a
reception will be tendered him at Mr. Watkins's on Wednesday evening."
"That ends it," sighed Mr. Clayton. "The dove of peace will never again
rest on my roof-tree."
But why dwell longer on the sufferings of Mr. Clayton, or attempt to
describe the feelings or chronicle the remarks of his wife and daughter
when they learned the facts in the case?
As to Representative Brown, he was made welcome in the hospitable home
of Mr. William Watkins. There was a large and brilliant assemblage at
the party on Wednesday evening, at which were displayed the costumes
prepared for the Clayton reception. Mr. Brown took a fancy to Miss Lura
Watkins, to whom, before the week was over, he became engaged to be
married. Meantime poor Alice, the innocent victim of circumstances and
principles, lay sick abed with a supposititious case of malignant
diphtheria, and a real case of acute disappointment and chagrin.
"Oh, Jack!" exclaimed Alice, a few weeks later, on the way home from
evening church in company with the young man, "what a dreadful thing it
all was! And to think of that hateful Lura Watkins marrying the
The street was shaded by trees at the point where they were passing, and
there was no one in sight. Jack put his arm around her waist, and,
leaning over, kissed her.
"Never mind, dear," he said soothingly, "you still have your 'last
chance' left, and I 'll prove myself a better man than the Congressman."
* * * * *
Occasionally, at social meetings, when the vexed question of the future
of the colored race comes up, as it often does, for discussion, Mr.
Clayton may still be heard to remark sententiously:----
"What the white people of the United States need most, in dealing with
this problem, is a higher conception of the brotherhood of man. For of
one blood God made all the nations of the earth."
The old woman stood at the back door of the cabin, shading her eyes with
her hand, and looking across the vegetable garden that ran up to the
very door. Beyond the garden she saw, bathed in the sunlight, a field of
corn, just in the ear, stretching for half a mile, its yellow,
pollen-laden tassels overtopping the dark green mass of broad glistening
blades; and in the distance, through the faint morning haze of
evaporating dew, the line of the woods, of a still darker green, meeting
the clear blue of the summer sky. Old Dinah saw, going down the path, a
tall, brown girl, in a homespun frock, swinging a slat-bonnet in one
hand and a splint basket in the other.
"Oh, Cicely!" she called.
The girl turned and answered in a resonant voice, vibrating with youth
"Be sho' and pick a good mess er peas, chile, fer yo' gran'daddy's gwine
ter be home ter dinner ter-day."
The old woman stood a moment longer and then turned to go into the
house. What she had not seen was that the girl was not only young, but
lithe and shapely as a sculptor's model; that her bare feet seemed to
spurn the earth as they struck it; that though brown, she was not so
brown but that her cheek was darkly red with the blood of another race
than that which gave her her name and station in life; and the old woman
did not see that Cicely's face was as comely as her figure was superb,
and that her eyes were dreamy with vague yearnings.
Cicely climbed the low fence between the garden and the cornfield, and
started down one of the long rows leading directly away from the house.
Old Needham was a good ploughman, and straight as an arrow ran the
furrow between the rows of corn, until it vanished in the distant
perspective. The peas were planted beside alternate hills of corn, the
cornstalks serving as supports for the climbing pea-vines. The vines
nearest the house had been picked more or less clear of the long green
pods, and Cicely walked down the row for a quarter of a mile, to where
the peas were more plentiful. And as she walked she thought of her dream
of the night before.
She had dreamed a beautiful dream. The fact that it was a beautiful
dream, a delightful dream, her memory retained very vividly. She was
troubled because she could not remember just what her dream had been
about. Of one other fact she was certain, that in her dream she had
found something, and that her happiness had been bound up with the thing
she had found. As she walked down the corn-row she ran over in her mind
the various things with which she had always associated happiness. Had
she found a gold ring? No, it was not a gold ring--of that she felt
sure. Was it a soft, curly plume for her hat? She had seen town people
with them, and had indulged in day-dreams on the subject; but it was not
a feather. Was it a bright-colored silk dress? No; as much as she had
always wanted one, it was not a silk dress. For an instant, in a dream,
she had tasted some great and novel happiness, and when she awoke it was
dashed from her lips, and she could not even enjoy the memory of it,
except in a vague, indefinite, and tantalizing way.
Cicely was troubled, too, because dreams were serious things. Dreams had
certain meanings, most of them, and some dreams went by contraries. If
her dream had been a prophecy of some good thing, she had by forgetting
it lost the pleasure of anticipation. If her dream had been one of those
that go by contraries, the warning would be in vain, because she would
not know against what evil to provide. So, with a sigh, Cicely said to
herself that it was a troubled world, more or less; and having come to a
promising point, began to pick the tenderest pea-pods and throw them
into her basket.
By the time she had reached the end of the line the basket was nearly
full. Glancing toward the pine woods beyond the rail fence, she saw a
brier bush loaded with large, luscious blackberries. Cicely was fond of
blackberries, so she set her basket down, climbed the fence, and was
soon busily engaged in gathering the fruit, delicious even in its wild
She had soon eaten all she cared for. But the berries were still
numerous, and it occurred to her that her granddaddy would like a
blackberry pudding for dinner. Catching up her apron, and using it as a
receptacle for the berries, she had gathered scarcely more than a
handful when she heard a groan.
Cicely was not timid, and her curiosity being aroused by the sound, she
stood erect, and remained in a listening attitude. In a moment the sound
was repeated, and, gauging the point from which it came, she plunged
resolutely into the thick underbrush of the forest. She had gone but a
few yards when she stopped short with an exclamation of surprise and
Upon the ground, under the shadow of the towering pines, a man lay at
full length,--a young man, several years under thirty, apparently, so
far as his age could be guessed from a face that wore a short soft
beard, and was so begrimed with dust and incrusted with blood that
little could be seen of the underlying integument. What was visible
showed a skin browned by nature or by exposure. His hands were of even a
darker brown, almost as dark as Cicely's own. A tangled mass of very
curly black hair, matted with burs, dank with dew, and clotted with
blood, fell partly over his forehead, on the edge of which, extending
back into the hair, an ugly scalp wound was gaping, and, though
apparently not just inflicted, was still bleeding slowly, as though
reluctant to stop, in spite of the coagulation that had almost closed
Cicely with a glance took in all this and more. But, first of all, she
saw the man was wounded and bleeding, and the nurse latent in all
womankind awoke in her to the requirements of the situation. She knew
there was a spring a few rods away, and ran swiftly to it. There was
usually a gourd at the spring, but now it was gone. Pouring out the
blackberries in a little heap where they could be found again, she took
off her apron, dipped one end of it into the spring, and ran back to the
wounded man. The apron was clean, and she squeezed a little stream of
water from it into the man's mouth. He swallowed it with avidity. Cicely
then knelt by his side, and with the wet end of her apron washed the
blood from the wound lightly, and the dust from the man's face. Then she
looked at her apron a moment, debating whether she should tear it or
"I 'm feared granny 'll be mad," she said to herself. "I reckon I 'll
jes' use de whole apron."
So she bound the apron around his head as well as she could, and then
sat down a moment on a fallen tree trunk, to think what she should do
next. The man already seemed more comfortable; he had ceased moaning,
and lay quiet, though breathing heavily.
"What shall I do with that man?" she reflected. "I don' know whether
he 's a w'ite man or a black man. Ef he 's a w'ite man, I oughter go an'
tell de w'ite folks up at de big house, an' dey 'd take keer of 'im. If
he 's a black man, I oughter go tell granny. He don' look lack a black
man somehow er nuther, an' yet he don' look lack a w'ite man; he 's too
dahk, an' his hair's too curly. But I mus' do somethin' wid 'im. He
can't be lef' here ter die in de woods all by hisse'f. Reckon I 'll go
an' tell granny."
She scaled the fence, caught up the basket of peas from where she had
left it, and ran, lightly and swiftly as a deer, toward the house. Her
short skirt did not impede her progress, and in a few minutes she had
covered the half mile and was at the cabin door, a slight heaving of her
full and yet youthful breast being the only sign of any unusual
Her story was told in a moment. The old woman took down a black bottle
from a high shelf, and set out with Cicely across the cornfield, toward
the wounded man.
As they went through the corn Cicely recalled part of her dream. She had
dreamed that under some strange circumstances--what they had been was
still obscure--she had met a young man--a young man whiter than she and
yet not all white--and that he had loved her and courted her and married
her. Her dream had been all the sweeter because in it she had first
tasted the sweetness of love, and she had not recalled it before because
only in her dream had she known or thought of love as something
With the memory of her dream, however, her fears revived. Dreams were
solemn things. To Cicely the fabric of a vision was by no means
baseless. Her trouble arose from her not being able to recall, though
she was well versed in dream-lore, just what event was foreshadowed by a
dream of finding a wounded man. If the wounded man were of her own race,
her dream would thus far have been realized, and having met the young
man, the other joys might be expected to follow. If he should turn out
to be a white man, then her dream was clearly one of the kind that go by
contraries, and she could expect only sorrow and trouble and pain as the
proper sequences of this fateful discovery.
The two women reached the fence that separated the cornfield from the
"How is I gwine ter git ovuh dat fence, chile?" asked the old woman.
"Wait a minute, granny," said Cicely; "I 'll take it down."
It was only an eight-rail fence, and it was a matter of but a few
minutes for the girl to lift down and lay to either side the ends of the
rails that formed one of the angles. This done, the old woman easily
stepped across the remaining two or three rails. It was only a moment
before they stood by the wounded man. He was lying still, breathing
regularly, and seemingly asleep.
"What is he, granny," asked the girl anxiously, "a w'ite man, or not?"
Old Dinah pushed back the matted hair from the wounded man's brow, and
looked at the skin beneath. It was fairer there, but yet of a decided
brown. She raised his hand, pushed back the tattered sleeve from his
wrist, and then she laid his hand down gently.
"Mos' lackly he 's a mulatter man f'om up de country somewhar. He don'
look lack dese yer niggers roun' yere, ner yet lack a w'ite man. But de
po' boy's in a bad fix, w'ateber he is, an' I 'spec's we bettah do w'at
we kin fer 'im, an' w'en he comes to he 'll tell us w'at he is--er w'at
he calls hisse'f. Hol' 'is head up, chile, an' I 'll po' a drop er dis
yer liquor down his th'oat; dat 'll bring 'im to quicker 'n anything
e'se I knows."
Cicely lifted the sick man's head, and Dinah poured a few drops of the
whiskey between his teeth. He swallowed it readily enough. In a few
minutes he opened his eyes and stared blankly at the two women. Cicely
saw that his eyes were large and black, and glistening with fever.
"How you feelin', suh?" asked the old woman.
There was no answer.
"Is you feelin' bettah now?"
The wounded man kept on staring blankly. Suddenly he essayed to put his
hand to his head, gave a deep groan, and fell back again unconscious.
"He 's gone ag'in," said Dinah. "I reckon we 'll hafter tote 'im up ter
de house and take keer er 'im dere. W'ite folks would n't want ter fool
wid a nigger man, an' we doan know who his folks is. He 's outer his
head an' will be fer some time yet, an' we can't tell nuthin' 'bout 'im
tel he comes ter his senses."
Cicely lifted the wounded man by the arms and shoulders. She was strong,
with the strength of youth and a sturdy race. The man was pitifully
emaciated; how much, the two women had not suspected until they raised
him. They had no difficulty whatever, except for the awkwardness of such
a burden, in lifting him over the fence and carrying him through the
cornfield to the cabin.
They laid him on Cicely's bed in the little lean-to shed that formed a
room separate from the main apartment of the cabin. The old woman sent
Cicely to cook the dinner, while she gave her own attention exclusively
to the still unconscious man. She brought water and washed him as though
he were a child.
"Po' boy," she said, "he doan feel lack he 's be'n eatin' nuff to feed a
sparrer. He 'pears ter be mos' starved ter def."
She washed his wound more carefully, made some lint,--the art was well
known in the sixties,--and dressed his wound with a fair degree of
"Somebody must 'a' be'n tryin' ter put yo' light out, chile," she
muttered to herself as she adjusted the bandage around his head. "A
little higher er a little lower, an' you would n' 'a' be'n yere ter tell
de tale. Dem clo's," she argued, lifting the tattered garments she had
removed from her patient, "don' b'long 'roun' yere. Dat kinder weavin'
come f'om down to'ds Souf Ca'lina. I wish Needham 'u'd come erlong. He
kin tell who dis man is, an' all erbout 'im."
She made a bowl of gruel, and fed it, drop by drop, to the sick man.
This roused him somewhat from his stupor, but when Dinah thought he had
enough of the gruel, and stopped feeding him, he closed his eyes again
and relapsed into a heavy sleep that was so closely akin to
unconsciousness as to be scarcely distinguishable from it.
When old Needham came home at noon, his wife, who had been anxiously
awaiting his return, told him in a few words the story of Cicely's
discovery and of the subsequent events.
Needham inspected the stranger with a professional eye. He had been
something of a plantation doctor in his day, and was known far and wide
for his knowledge of simple remedies. The negroes all around, as well as
many of the poorer white people, came to him for the treatment of common
"He 's got a fevuh," he said, after feeling the patient's pulse and
laying his hand on his brow, "an' we 'll hafter gib 'im some yarb tea
an' nuss 'im tel de fevuh w'ars off. I 'spec'," he added, "dat I knows
whar dis boy come f'om. He 's mos' lackly one er dem bright mulatters,
f'om Robeson County--some of 'em call deyse'ves Croatan Injins--w'at's
been conscripted an' sent ter wu'k on de fo'tifications down at
Wimbleton er some'er's er nuther, an' done 'scaped, and got mos' killed
gittin' erway, an' wuz n' none too well fed befo', an' nigh 'bout
starved ter def sence. We 'll hafter hide dis man, er e'se we is lackly
ter git inter trouble ou'se'ves by harb'rin' 'im. Ef dey ketch 'im yere,
dey 's liable ter take 'im out an' shoot 'im--an' des ez lackly us too."
Cicely was listening with bated breath.
"Oh, gran'daddy," she cried with trembling voice, "don' let 'em ketch
'im! Hide 'im somewhar."
"I reckon we 'll leave 'im yere fer a day er so. Ef he had come f'om
roun' yere I 'd be skeered ter keep 'im, fer de w'ite folks 'u'd prob'ly
be lookin' fer 'im. But I knows ev'ybody w'at's be'n conscripted fer ten
miles 'roun', an' dis yere boy don' b'long in dis neighborhood. W'en 'e
gits so 'e kin he'p 'isse'f we 'll put 'im up in de lof an' hide 'im
till de Yankees come. Fer dey 're comin', sho'. I dremp' las' night dey
wuz close ter han', and I hears de w'ite folks talkin' ter deyse'ves
'bout it. An' de time is comin' w'en de good Lawd gwine ter set his
people free, an' it ain' gwine ter be long, nuther."
Needham's prophecy proved true. In less than a week the Confederate
garrison evacuated the arsenal in the neighboring town of Patesville,
blew up the buildings, destroyed the ordnance and stores, and retreated
across the Cape Fear River, burning the river bridge behind them,--two
acts of war afterwards unjustly attributed to General Sherman's army,
which followed close upon the heels of the retreating Confederates.
When there was no longer any fear for the stranger's safety, no more
pains were taken to conceal him. His wound had healed rapidly, and in a
week he had been able with some help to climb up the ladder into the
loft. In all this time, however, though apparently conscious, he had
said no word to any one, nor had he seemed to comprehend a word that was
spoken to him.
Cicely had been his constant attendant. After the first day, during
which her granny had nursed him, she had sat by his bedside, had fanned
his fevered brow, had held food and water and medicine to his lips. When
it was safe for him to come down from the loft and sit in a chair under
a spreading oak, Cicely supported him until he was strong enough to walk
about the yard. When his strength had increased sufficiently to permit
of greater exertion, she accompanied him on long rambles in the fields
In spite of his gain in physical strength, the newcomer changed very
little in other respects. For a long time he neither spoke nor smiled.
To questions put to him he simply gave no reply, but looked at his
questioner with the blank unconsciousness of an infant. By and by he
began to recognize Cicely, and to smile at her approach. The next step
in returning consciousness was but another manifestation of the same
sentiment. When Cicely would leave him he would look his regret, and be
restless and uneasy until she returned.
The family were at a loss what to call him. To any inquiry as to his
name he answered no more than to other questions.
"He come jes' befo' Sherman," said Needham, after a few weeks, "lack
John de Baptis' befo' de Lawd. I reckon we bettah call 'im John."
So they called him John. He soon learned the name. As time went on
Cicely found that he was quick at learning things. She taught him to
speak her own negro English, which he pronounced with absolute fidelity
to her intonations; so that barring the quality of his voice, his
speech was an echo of Cicely's own.
The summer wore away and the autumn came. John and Cicely wandered in
the woods together and gathered walnuts, and chinquapins and wild
grapes. When harvest time came, they worked in the fields side by
side,--plucked the corn, pulled the fodder, and gathered the dried peas
from the yellow pea-vines. Cicely was a phenomenal cotton-picker, and
John accompanied her to the fields and stayed by her hours at a time,
though occasionally he would complain of his head, and sit under a tree
and rest part of the day while Cicely worked, the two keeping one
another always in sight.
They did not have a great deal of intercourse with other people. Young
men came to the cabin sometimes to see Cicely, but when they found her
entirely absorbed in the stranger they ceased their visits. For a time
Cicely kept him away, as much as possible, from others, because she did
not wish them to see that there was anything wrong about him. This was
her motive at first, but after a while she kept him to herself simply
because she was happier so. He was hers--hers alone. She had found him,
as Pharaoh's daughter had found Moses in the bulrushes; she had taught
him to speak, to think, to love. She had not taught him to remember; she
would not have wished him to; she would have been jealous of any past to
which he might have proved bound by other ties. Her dream so far had
come true. She had found him; he loved her. The rest of it would as
surely follow, and that before long. For dreams were serious things, and
time had proved hers to have been not a presage of misfortune, but one
of the beneficent visions that are sent, that we may enjoy by
anticipation the good things that are in store for us.
But a short interval of time elapsed after the passage of the warlike
host that swept through North Carolina, until there appeared upon the
scene the vanguard of a second army, which came to bring light and the
fruits of liberty to a land which slavery and the havoc of war had
brought to ruin. It is fashionable to assume that those who undertook
the political rehabilitation of the Southern States merely rounded out
the ruin that the war had wrought--merely ploughed up the desolate land
and sowed it with salt. Perhaps the gentler judgments of the future may
recognize that their task was a difficult one, and that wiser and
honester men might have failed as egregiously. It may even, in time, be
conceded that some good came out of the carpet-bag governments, as, for
instance, the establishment of a system of popular education in the
former slave States. Where it had been a crime to teach people to read
or write, a schoolhouse dotted every hillside, and the State provided
education for rich and poor, for white and black alike. Let us lay at
least this token upon the grave of the carpet-baggers. The evil they did
lives after them, and the statute of limitations does not seem to run
against it. It is but just that we should not forget the good.
Long, however, before the work of political reconstruction had begun, a
brigade of Yankee schoolmasters and schoolma'ams had invaded Dixie, and
one of the latter had opened a Freedman's Bureau School in the town of
Patesville, about four miles from Needham Green's cabin on the
It had been quite a surprise to Miss Chandler's Boston friends when she
had announced her intention of going South to teach the freedmen. Rich,
accomplished, beautiful, and a social favorite, she was giving up the
comforts and luxuries of Northern life to go among hostile strangers,
where her associates would be mostly ignorant negroes. Perhaps she might
meet occasionally an officer of some Federal garrison, or a traveler
from the North; but to all intents and purposes her friends considered
her as going into voluntary exile. But heroism was not rare in those
days, and Martha Chandler was only one of the great multitude whose
hearts went out toward an oppressed race, and who freely poured out
their talents, their money, their lives,--whatever God had given
them,--in the sublime and not unfruitful effort to transform three
millions of slaves into intelligent freemen. Miss Chandler's friends
knew, too, that she had met a great sorrow, and more than suspected that
out of it had grown her determination to go South.
When Cicely Green heard that a school for colored people had been
opened at Patesville she combed her hair, put on her Sunday frock and
such bits of finery as she possessed, and set out for town early the
next Monday morning.
There were many who came to learn the new gospel of education, which was
to be the cure for all the freedmen's ills. The old and gray-haired, the
full-grown man and woman, the toddling infant,--they came to acquire the
new and wonderful learning that was to make them the equals of the white
people. It was the teacher's task, by no means an easy one, to select
from this incongruous mass the most promising material, and to
distribute among them the second-hand books and clothing that were sent,
largely by her Boston friends, to aid her in her work; to find out what
they knew, to classify them by their intelligence rather than by their
knowledge, for they were all lamentably ignorant. Some among them were
the children of parents who had been free before the war, and of these
some few could read and one or two could write. One paragon, who could
repeat the multiplication table, was immediately promoted to the
position of pupil teacher.
Miss Chandler took a liking to the tall girl who had come so far to sit
under her instruction. There was a fine, free air in her bearing, a
lightness in her step, a sparkle in her eye, that spoke of good
blood,--whether fused by nature in its own alembic, out of material
despised and spurned of men, or whether some obscure ancestral strain,
the teacher could not tell. The girl proved intelligent and learned
rapidly, indeed seemed almost feverishly anxious to learn. She was
quiet, and was, though utterly untrained, instinctively polite, and
profited from the first day by the example of her teacher's quiet
elegance. The teacher dressed in simple black. When Cicely came back to
school the second day, she had left off her glass beads and her red
ribbon, and had arranged her hair as nearly like the teacher's as her
skill and its quality would permit.
The teacher was touched by these efforts at imitation, and by the
intense devotion Cicely soon manifested toward her. It was not a
sycophantic, troublesome devotion, that made itself a burden to its
object. It found expression in little things done rather than in any
words the girl said. To the degree that the attraction was mutual,
Martha recognized in it a sort of freemasonry of temperament that drew
them together in spite of the differences between them. Martha felt
sometimes, in the vague way that one speculates about the impossible,
that if she were brown, and had been brought up in North Carolina, she
would be like Cicely; and that if Cicely's ancestors had come over in
the Mayflower, and Cicely had been reared on Beacon Street, in the
shadow of the State House dome, Cicely would have been very much like
Miss Chandler was lonely sometimes. Her duties kept her occupied all
day. On Sundays she taught a Bible class in the schoolroom.
Correspondence with bureau officials and friends at home furnished her
with additional occupation. At times, nevertheless, she felt a longing
for the company of women of her own race; but the white ladies of the
town did not call, even in the most formal way, upon the Yankee
school-teacher. Miss Chandler was therefore fain to do the best she
could with such companionship as was available. She took Cicely to her
home occasionally, and asked her once to stay all night. Thinking,
however, that she detected a reluctance on the girl's part to remain
away from home, she did not repeat her invitation.
Cicely, indeed, was filling a double role. The learning acquired from
Miss Chandler she imparted to John at home. Every evening, by the light
of the pine-knots blazing on Needham's ample hearth, she taught John to
read the simple words she had learned during the day. Why she did not
take him to school she had never asked herself; there were several other
pupils as old as he seemed to be. Perhaps she still thought it necessary
to protect him from curious remark. He worked with Needham by day, and
she could see him at night, and all of Saturdays and Sundays. Perhaps it
was the jealous selfishness of love. She had found him; he was hers. In
the spring, when school was over, her granny had said that she might
marry him. Till then her dream would not yet have come true, and she
must keep him to herself. And yet she did not wish him to lose this
golden key to the avenues of opportunity. She would not take him to
school, but she would teach him each day all that she herself had
learned. He was not difficult to teach, but learned, indeed, with what
seemed to Cicely marvelous ease,--always, however, by her lead, and
never of his own initiative. For while he could do a man's work, he was
in most things but a child, without a child's curiosity. His love for
Cicely appeared the only thing for which he needed no suggestion; and
even that possessed an element of childish dependence that would have
seemed, to minds trained to thoughtful observation, infinitely pathetic.
The spring came and cotton-planting time. The children began to drop out
of Miss Chandler's school one by one, as their services were required at
home. Cicely was among those who intended to remain in school until the
term closed with the "exhibition," in which she was assigned a leading
part. She had selected her recitation, or "speech," from among half a
dozen poems that her teacher had suggested, and to memorizing it she
devoted considerable time and study. The exhibition, as the first of its
kind, was sure to be a notable event. The parents and friends of the
children were invited to attend, and a colored church, recently
erected,--the largest available building,--was secured as the place
where the exercises should take place.
On the morning of the eventful day, uncle Needham, assisted by John,
harnessed the mule to the two-wheeled cart, on which a couple of
splint-bottomed chairs were fastened to accommodate Dinah and Cicely.
John put on his best clothes,--an ill-fitting suit of blue jeans,--a
round wool hat, a pair of coarse brogans, a homespun shirt, and a bright
blue necktie. Cicely wore her best frock, a red ribbon at her throat,
another in her hair, and carried a bunch of flowers in her hand. Uncle
Needham and aunt Dinah were also in holiday array. Needham and John took
their seats on opposite sides of the cart-frame, with their feet
dangling down, and thus the equipage set out leisurely for the town.
Cicely had long looked forward impatiently to this day. She was going to
marry John the next week, and then her dream would have come entirely
true. But even this anticipated happiness did not overshadow the
importance of the present occasion, which would be an epoch in her life,
a day of joy and triumph. She knew her speech perfectly, and timidity
was not one of her weaknesses. She knew that the red ribbons set off her
dark beauty effectively, and that her dress fitted neatly the curves of
her shapely figure. She confidently expected to win the first prize, a
large morocco-covered Bible, offered by Miss Chandler for the best
Cicely and her companions soon arrived at Patesville. Their entrance
into the church made quite a sensation, for Cicely was not only an
acknowledged belle, but a general favorite, and to John there attached a
tinge of mystery which inspired a respect not bestowed upon those who
had grown up in the neighborhood. Cicely secured a seat in the front
part of the church, next to the aisle, in the place reserved for the
pupils. As the house was already partly filled by townspeople when the
party from the country arrived, Needham and his wife and John were
forced to content themselves with places somewhat in the rear of the
room, from which they could see and hear what took place on the
platform, but where they were not at all conspicuously visible to those
at the front of the church.
The schoolmistress had not yet arrived, and order was preserved in the
audience by two of the elder pupils, adorned with large rosettes of red,
white, and blue, who ushered the most important visitors to the seats
reserved for them. A national flag was gracefully draped over the
platform, and under it hung a lithograph of the Great Emancipator, for
it was thus these people thought of him. He had saved the Union, but the
Union had never meant anything good to them. He had proclaimed liberty
to the captive, which meant all to them; and to them he was and would
ever be the Great Emancipator.
The schoolmistress came in at a rear door and took her seat upon the
platform. Martha was dressed in white; for once she had laid aside the
sombre garb in which alone she had been seen since her arrival at
Patesville. She wore a yellow rose at her throat, a bunch of jasmine in
her belt. A sense of responsibility for the success of the exhibition
had deepened the habitual seriousness of her face, yet she greeted the
audience with a smile.
"Don' Miss Chan'ler look sweet," whispered the little girls to one
another, devouring her beauty with sparkling eyes, their lips parted
over a wealth of ivory.
"De Lawd will bress dat chile," said one old woman, in soliloquy. "I
t'ank de good Marster I 's libbed ter see dis day."
Even envy could not hide its noisome head: a pretty quadroon whispered
to her neighbor:----
"I don't b'liebe she 's natch'ly ez white ez dat. I 'spec' she 's be'n
powd'rin'! An' I know all dat hair can't be her'n; she 's got on a
switch, sho 's you bawn."
"You knows dat ain' so, Ma'y 'Liza Smif," rejoined the other, with a
look of stern disapproval; "you _knows_ dat ain' so. You 'd gib yo'
everlastin' soul 'f you wuz ez white ez Miss Chan'ler, en yo' ha'r wuz
ez long ez her'n."
"By Jove, Maxwell!" exclaimed a young officer, who belonged to the
Federal garrison stationed in the town, "but that girl is a beauty." The
speaker and a companion were in fatigue uniform, and had merely dropped
in for an hour between garrison duty. The ushers had wished to give them
seats on the platform, but they had declined, thinking that perhaps
their presence there might embarrass the teacher. They sought rather to
avoid observation by sitting behind a pillar in the rear of the room,
around which they could see without attracting undue attention.
"To think," the lieutenant went on, "of that Junonian figure, those
lustrous orbs, that golden coronal, that flower of Northern
civilization, being wasted on these barbarians!" The speaker uttered an
exaggerated but suppressed groan.
His companion, a young man of clean-shaven face and serious aspect,
nodded assent, but whispered reprovingly,----
"'Sh! some one will hear you. The exercises are going to begin."
When Miss Chandler stepped forward to announce the hymn to be sung by
the school as the first exercise, every eye in the room was fixed upon
her, except John's, which saw only Cicely. When the teacher had uttered
a few words, he looked up to her, and from that moment did not take his
eyes off Martha's face.
After the singing, a little girl, dressed in white, crossed by ribbons
of red and blue, recited with much spirit a patriotic poem.
When Martha announced the third exercise, John's face took on a more
than usually animated expression, and there was a perceptible deepening
of the troubled look in his eyes, never entirely absent since Cicely had
found him in the woods.
A little yellow boy, with long curls, and a frightened air, next
ascended the platform.
"Now, Jimmie, be a man, and speak right out," whispered his teacher,
tapping his arm reassuringly with her fan as he passed her.
Jimmie essayed to recite the lines so familiar to a past generation of
"I knew a widow very poor,
Who four small children had;
The eldest was but six years old,
A gentle, modest lad."
He ducked his head hurriedly in a futile attempt at a bow; then,
following instructions previously given him, fixed his eyes upon a large
cardboard motto hanging on the rear wall of the room, which admonished
him in bright red letters to
"ALWAYS SPEAK THE TRUTH,"
and started off with assumed confidence
"I knew a widow very poor,
At this point, drawn by an irresistible impulse, his eyes sought the
level of the audience. Ah, fatal blunder! He stammered, but with an
effort raised his eyes and began again:
"I knew a widow very poor,
Again his treacherous eyes fell, and his little remaining
self-possession utterly forsook him. He made one more despairing
"I knew a widow very poor,
Who four small"----
and then, bursting into tears, turned and fled amid a murmur of
Jimmie's inglorious retreat was covered by the singing in chorus of "The
Star-spangled Banner," after which Cicely Green came forward to recite
"By Jove, Maxwell!" whispered the young officer, who was evidently a
connoisseur of female beauty, "that is n't bad for a bronze Venus. I 'll
"'Sh!" said the other. "Keep still."
When Cicely finished her recitation, the young officers began to
applaud, but stopped suddenly in some confusion as they realized that
they were the only ones in the audience so engaged. The colored people
had either not learned how to express their approval in orthodox
fashion, or else their respect for the sacred character of the edifice
forbade any such demonstration. Their enthusiasm found vent, however, in
a subdued murmur, emphasized by numerous nods and winks and suppressed
exclamations. During the singing that followed Cicely's recitation the
two officers quietly withdrew, their duties calling them away at this
At the close of the exercises, a committee on prizes met in the
vestibule, and unanimously decided that Cicely Green was entitled to the
first prize. Proudly erect, with sparkling eyes and cheeks flushed with
victory, Cicely advanced to the platform to receive the coveted reward.
As she turned away, her eyes, shining with gratified vanity, sought
those of her lover.
John sat bent slightly forward in an attitude of strained attention; and
Cicely's triumph lost half its value when she saw that it was not at
her, but at Miss Chandler, that his look was directed. Though she
watched him thenceforward, not one glance did he vouchsafe to his
jealous sweetheart, and never for an instant withdrew his eyes from
Martha, or relaxed the unnatural intentness of his gaze. The imprisoned
mind, stirred to unwonted effort, was struggling for liberty; and from
Martha had come the first ray of outer light that had penetrated its
Before the audience was dismissed, the teacher rose to bid her school
farewell. Her intention was to take a vacation of three months; but what
might happen in that time she did not know, and there were duties at
home of such apparent urgency as to render her return to North Carolina
at least doubtful; so that in her own heart her _au revoir_ sounded very
much like a farewell.
She spoke to them of the hopeful progress they had made, and praised
them for their eager desire to learn. She told them of the serious
duties of life, and of the use they should make of their acquirements.
With prophetic finger she pointed them to the upward way which they
must climb with patient feet to raise themselves out of the depths.
Then, an unusual thing with her, she spoke of herself. Her heart was
full; it was with difficulty that she maintained her composure; for the
faces that confronted her were kindly faces, and not critical, and some
of them she had learned to love right well.
"I am going away from you, my children," she said; "but before I go I
want to tell you how I came to be in North Carolina; so that if I have
been able to do anything here among you for which you might feel
inclined, in your good nature, to thank me, you may thank not me alone,
but another who came before me, and whose work I have but taken up where
_he_ laid it down. I had a friend,--a dear friend,--why should I be
ashamed to say it?--a lover, to whom I was to be married,--as I hope all
you girls may some day be happily married. His country needed him, and I
gave him up. He came to fight for the Union and for Freedom, for he
believed that all men are brothers. He did not come back again--he gave
up his life for you. Could I do less than he? I came to the land that he
sanctified by his death, and I have tried in my weak way to tend the
plant he watered with his blood, and which, in the fullness of time,
will blossom forth into the perfect flower of liberty."
She could say no more, and as the whole audience thrilled in sympathy
with her emotion, there was a hoarse cry from the men's side of the
room, and John forced his way to the aisle and rushed forward to the
"Arthur! O Arthur!"
Pent-up love burst the flood-gates of despair and oblivion, and caught
these two young hearts in its torrent. Captain Arthur Carey, of the 1st
Massachusetts, long since reported missing, and mourned as dead, was
restored to reason and to his world.
It seemed to him but yesterday that he had escaped from the Confederate
prison at Salisbury; that in an encounter with a guard he had received a
wound in the head; that he had wandered on in the woods, keeping himself
alive by means of wild berries, with now and then a piece of bread or a
potato from a friendly negro. It seemed but the night before that he
had laid himself down, tortured with fever, weak from loss of blood, and
with no hope that he would ever rise again. From that moment his memory
of the past was a blank until he recognized Martha on the platform and
took up again the thread of his former existence where it had been
* * * * *
And Cicely? Well, there is often another woman, and Cicely, all
unwittingly to Carey or to Martha, had been the other woman. For, after
all, her beautiful dream had been one of the kind that go by contraries.
The Passing of Grandison
When it is said that it was done to please a woman, there ought perhaps
to be enough said to explain anything; for what a man will not do to
please a woman is yet to be discovered. Nevertheless, it might be well
to state a few preliminary facts to make it clear why young Dick Owens
tried to run one of his father's negro men off to Canada.
In the early fifties, when the growth of anti-slavery sentiment and the
constant drain of fugitive slaves into the North had so alarmed the
slaveholders of the border States as to lead to the passage of the
Fugitive Slave Law, a young white man from Ohio, moved by compassion for
the sufferings of a certain bondman who happened to have a "hard
master," essayed to help the slave to freedom. The attempt was
discovered and frustrated; the abductor was tried and convicted for
slave-stealing, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the
penitentiary. His death, after the expiration of only a small part of
the sentence, from cholera contracted while nursing stricken fellow
prisoners, lent to the case a melancholy interest that made it famous in
Dick Owens had attended the trial. He was a youth of about twenty-two,
intelligent, handsome, and amiable, but extremely indolent, in a
graceful and gentlemanly way; or, as old Judge Fenderson put it more
than once, he was lazy as the Devil,--a mere figure of speech, of
course, and not one that did justice to the Enemy of Mankind. When asked
why he never did anything serious, Dick would good-naturedly reply, with
a well-modulated drawl, that he did n't have to. His father was rich;
there was but one other child, an unmarried daughter, who because of
poor health would probably never marry, and Dick was therefore heir
presumptive to a large estate. Wealth or social position he did not need
to seek, for he was born to both. Charity Lomax had shamed him into
studying law, but notwithstanding an hour or so a day spent at old Judge
Fenderson's office, he did not make remarkable headway in his legal
"What Dick needs," said the judge, who was fond of tropes, as became a
scholar, and of horses, as was befitting a Kentuckian, "is the whip of
necessity, or the spur of ambition. If he had either, he would soon need
the snaffle to hold him back."
But all Dick required, in fact, to prompt him to the most remarkable
thing he accomplished before he was twenty-five, was a mere suggestion
from Charity Lomax. The story was never really known to but two persons
until after the war, when it came out because it was a good story and
there was no particular reason for its concealment.
Young Owens had attended the trial of this slave-stealer, or
martyr,--either or both,--and, when it was over, had gone to call on
Charity Lomax, and, while they sat on the veranda after sundown, had
told her all about the trial. He was a good talker, as his career in
later years disclosed, and described the proceedings very graphically.
"I confess," he admitted, "that while my principles were against the
prisoner, my sympathies were on his side. It appeared that he was of
good family, and that he had an old father and mother, respectable
people, dependent upon him for support and comfort in their declining
years. He had been led into the matter by pity for a negro whose master
ought to have been run out of the county long ago for abusing his
slaves. If it had been merely a question of old Sam Briggs's negro,
nobody would have cared anything about it. But father and the rest of
them stood on the principle of the thing, and told the judge so, and the
fellow was sentenced to three years in the penitentiary."
Miss Lomax had listened with lively interest.
"I 've always hated old Sam Briggs," she said emphatically, "ever since
the time he broke a negro's leg with a piece of cordwood. When I hear of
a cruel deed it makes the Quaker blood that came from my grandmother
assert itself. Personally I wish that all Sam Briggs's negroes would run
away. As for the young man, I regard him as a hero. He dared something
for humanity. I could love a man who would take such chances for the
sake of others."
"Could you love me, Charity, if I did something heroic?"
"You never will, Dick. You 're too lazy for any use. You 'll never do
anything harder than playing cards or fox-hunting."
"Oh, come now, sweetheart! I 've been courting you for a year, and it 's
the hardest work imaginable. Are you never going to love me?" he
His hand sought hers, but she drew it back beyond his reach.
"I 'll never love you, Dick Owens, until you have done something. When
that time comes, I 'll think about it."
"But it takes so long to do anything worth mentioning, and I don't want
to wait. One must read two years to become a lawyer, and work five more
to make a reputation. We shall both be gray by then."
"Oh, I don't know," she rejoined. "It does n't require a lifetime for a
man to prove that he is a man. This one did something, or at least tried
"Well, I 'm willing to attempt as much as any other man. What do you
want me to do, sweetheart? Give me a test."
"Oh, dear me!" said Charity, "I don't care what you _do_, so you do
_something_. Really, come to think of it, why should I care whether you
do anything or not?"
"I 'm sure I don't know why you should, Charity," rejoined Dick humbly,
"for I 'm aware that I 'm not worthy of it."
"Except that I do hate," she added, relenting slightly, "to see a really
clever man so utterly lazy and good for nothing."
"Thank you, my dear; a word of praise from you has sharpened my wits
already. I have an idea! Will you love me if I run a negro off to
"What nonsense!" said Charity scornfully. "You must be losing your wits.
Steal another man's slave, indeed, while your father owns a hundred!"
"Oh, there 'll be no trouble about that," responded Dick lightly; "I 'll
run off one of the old man's; we 've got too many anyway. It may not be
quite as difficult as the other man found it, but it will be just as
unlawful, and will demonstrate what I am capable of."
"Seeing 's believing," replied Charity. "Of course, what you are talking
about now is merely absurd. I 'm going away for three weeks, to visit my
aunt in Tennessee. If you 're able to tell me, when I return, that you 've
done something to prove your quality, I 'll--well, you may come and tell
me about it."
Young Owens got up about nine o'clock next morning, and while making his
toilet put some questions to his personal attendant, a rather bright
looking young mulatto of about his own age.
"Tom," said Dick.
"Yas, Mars Dick," responded the servant.
"I 'm going on a trip North. Would you like to go with me?"
Now, if there was anything that Tom would have liked to make, it was a
trip North. It was something he had long contemplated in the abstract,
but had never been able to muster up sufficient courage to attempt in
the concrete. He was prudent enough, however, to dissemble his feelings.
"I would n't min' it, Mars Dick, ez long ez you 'd take keer er me an'
fetch me home all right."
Tom's eyes belied his words, however, and his young master felt well
assured that Tom needed only a good opportunity to make him run away.
Having a comfortable home, and a dismal prospect in case of failure, Tom
was not likely to take any desperate chances; but young Owens was
satisfied that in a free State but little persuasion would be required
to lead Tom astray. With a very logical and characteristic desire to
gain his end with the least necessary expenditure of effort, he decided
to take Tom with him, if his father did not object.
Colonel Owens had left the house when Dick went to breakfast, so Dick
did not see his father till luncheon.
"Father," he remarked casually to the colonel, over the fried chicken,
"I 'm feeling a trifle run down. I imagine my health would be improved
somewhat by a little travel and change of scene."
"Why don't you take a trip North?" suggested his father. The colonel
added to paternal affection a considerable respect for his son as the
heir of a large estate. He himself had been "raised" in comparative
poverty, and had laid the foundations of his fortune by hard work; and
while he despised the ladder by which he had climbed, he could not
entirely forget it, and unconsciously manifested, in his intercourse
with his son, some of the poor man's deference toward the wealthy and
"I think I 'll adopt your suggestion, sir," replied the son, "and run
up to New York; and after I 've been there awhile I may go on to Boston
for a week or so. I 've never been there, you know."
"There are some matters you can talk over with my factor in New York,"
rejoined the colonel, "and while you are up there among the Yankees, I
hope you 'll keep your eyes and ears open to find out what the rascally
abolitionists are saying and doing. They 're becoming altogether too
active for our comfort, and entirely too many ungrateful niggers are
running away. I hope the conviction of that fellow yesterday may
discourage the rest of the breed. I 'd just like to catch any one trying
to run off one of my darkeys. He 'd get short shrift; I don't think any
Court would have a chance to try him."
"They are a pestiferous lot," assented Dick, "and dangerous to our
institutions. But say, father, if I go North I shall want to take Tom
Now, the colonel, while a very indulgent father, had pronounced views on
the subject of negroes, having studied them, as he often said, for a
great many years, and, as he asserted oftener still, understanding them
perfectly. It is scarcely worth while to say, either, that he valued
more highly than if he had inherited them the slaves he had toiled and
"I don't think it safe to take Tom up North," he declared, with
promptness and decision. "He 's a good enough boy, but too smart to
trust among those low-down abolitionists. I strongly suspect him of
having learned to read, though I can't imagine how. I saw him with a
newspaper the other day, and while he pretended to be looking at a
woodcut, I 'm almost sure he was reading the paper. I think it by no
means safe to take him."
Dick did not insist, because he knew it was useless. The colonel would
have obliged his son in any other matter, but his negroes were the
outward and visible sign of his wealth and station, and therefore sacred
"Whom do you think it safe to take?" asked Dick. "I suppose I 'll have
to have a body-servant."
"What 's the matter with Grandison?" suggested the colonel. "He 's handy
enough, and I reckon we can trust him. He 's too fond of good eating,
to risk losing his regular meals; besides, he 's sweet on your mother's
maid, Betty, and I 've promised to let 'em get married before long. I 'll
have Grandison up, and we 'll talk to him. Here, you boy Jack," called
the colonel to a yellow youth in the next room who was catching flies
and pulling their wings off to pass the time, "go down to the barn and
tell Grandison to come here."
"Grandison," said the colonel, when the negro stood before him, hat in
"Have n't I always treated you right?"
"Have n't you always got all you wanted to eat?"
"And as much whiskey and tobacco as was good for you, Grandison?"
"I should just like to know, Grandison, whether you don't think yourself
a great deal better off than those poor free negroes down by the plank
road, with no kind master to look after them and no mistress to give
them medicine when they 're sick and--and"----
"Well, I sh'd jes' reckon I is better off, suh, dan dem low-down free
niggers, suh! Ef anybody ax 'em who dey b'long ter, dey has ter say
nobody, er e'se lie erbout it. Anybody ax me who I b'longs ter, I ain'
got no 'casion ter be shame' ter tell 'em, no, suh, 'deed I ain', suh!"
The colonel was beaming. This was true gratitude, and his feudal heart
thrilled at such appreciative homage. What cold-blooded, heartless
monsters they were who would break up this blissful relationship of
kindly protection on the one hand, of wise subordination and loyal
dependence on the other! The colonel always became indignant at the mere
thought of such wickedness.
"Grandison," the colonel continued, "your young master Dick is going
North for a few weeks, and I am thinking of letting him take you along.
I shall send you on this trip, Grandison, in order that you may take
care of your young master. He will need some one to wait on him, and no
one can ever do it so well as one of the boys brought up with him on the
old plantation. I am going to trust him in your hands, and I 'm sure
you 'll do your duty faithfully, and bring him back home safe and
sound--to old Kentucky."
Grandison grinned. "Oh yas, marster, I 'll take keer er young Mars
"I want to warn you, though, Grandison," continued the colonel
impressively, "against these cussed abolitionists, who try to entice
servants from their comfortable homes and their indulgent masters, from
the blue skies, the green fields, and the warm sunlight of their
southern home, and send them away off yonder to Canada, a dreary
country, where the woods are full of wildcats and wolves and bears,
where the snow lies up to the eaves of the houses for six months of the
year, and the cold is so severe that it freezes your breath and curdles
your blood; and where, when runaway niggers get sick and can't work,
they are turned out to starve and die, unloved and uncared for. I
reckon, Grandison, that you have too much sense to permit yourself to be
led astray by any such foolish and wicked people."
"'Deed, suh, I would n' low none er dem cussed, low-down abolitioners
ter come nigh me, suh. I 'd--I 'd--would I be 'lowed ter hit 'em, suh?"
"Certainly, Grandison," replied the colonel, chuckling, "hit 'em as hard
as you can. I reckon they 'd rather like it. Begad, I believe they
would! It would serve 'em right to be hit by a nigger!"
"Er ef I did n't hit 'em, suh," continued Grandison reflectively, "I 'd
tell Mars Dick, en _he 'd_ fix 'em. He 'd smash de face off'n 'em, suh,
I jes' knows he would."
"Oh yes, Grandison, your young master will protect you. You need fear no
harm while he is near."
"Dey won't try ter steal me, will dey, marster?" asked the negro, with
"I don't know, Grandison," replied the colonel, lighting a fresh cigar.
"They 're a desperate set of lunatics, and there 's no telling what they
may resort to. But if you stick close to your young master, and remember
always that he is your best friend, and understands your real needs, and
has your true interests at heart, and if you will be careful to avoid
strangers who try to talk to you, you 'll stand a fair chance of getting
back to your home and your friends. And if you please your master Dick,
he 'll buy you a present, and a string of beads for Betty to wear when
you and she get married in the fall."
"Thanky, marster, thanky, suh," replied Grandison, oozing gratitude at
every pore; "you is a good marster, to be sho', suh; yas, 'deed you is.
You kin jes' bet me and Mars Dick gwine git 'long jes' lack I wuz own
boy ter Mars Dick. En it won't be my fault ef he don' want me fer his
boy all de time, w'en we come back home ag'in."
"All right, Grandison, you may go now. You need n't work any more
to-day, and here 's a piece of tobacco for you off my own plug."
"Thanky, marster, thanky, marster! You is de bes' marster any nigger
ever had in dis worl'." And Grandison bowed and scraped and disappeared
round the corner, his jaws closing around a large section of the
colonel's best tobacco.
"You may take Grandison," said the colonel to his son. "I allow he 's
Richard Owens, Esq., and servant, from Kentucky, registered at the
fashionable New York hostelry for Southerners in those days, a hotel
where an atmosphere congenial to Southern institutions was sedulously
maintained. But there were negro waiters in the dining-room, and mulatto
bell-boys, and Dick had no doubt that Grandison, with the native
gregariousness and garrulousness of his race, would foregather and
palaver with them sooner or later, and Dick hoped that they would
speedily inoculate him with the virus of freedom. For it was not Dick's
intention to say anything to his servant about his plan to free him, for
obvious reasons. To mention one of them, if Grandison should go away,
and by legal process be recaptured, his young master's part in the
matter would doubtless become known, which would be embarrassing to
Dick, to say the least. If, on the other hand, he should merely give
Grandison sufficient latitude, he had no doubt he would eventually lose
him. For while not exactly skeptical about Grandison's perfervid
loyalty, Dick had been a somewhat keen observer of human nature, in his
own indolent way, and based his expectations upon the force of the
example and argument that his servant could scarcely fail to encounter.
Grandison should have a fair chance to become free by his own
initiative; if it should become necessary to adopt other measures to get
rid of him, it would be time enough to act when the necessity arose; and
Dick Owens was not the youth to take needless trouble.
The young master renewed some acquaintances and made others, and spent a
week or two very pleasantly in the best society of the metropolis,
easily accessible to a wealthy, well-bred young Southerner, with proper
introductions. Young women smiled on him, and young men of convivial
habits pressed their hospitalities; but the memory of Charity's sweet,
strong face and clear blue eyes made him proof against the blandishments
of the one sex and the persuasions of the other. Meanwhile he kept
Grandison supplied with pocket-money, and left him mainly to his own
devices. Every night when Dick came in he hoped he might have to wait
upon himself, and every morning he looked forward with pleasure to the
prospect of making his toilet unaided. His hopes, however, were doomed
to disappointment, for every night when he came in Grandison was on hand
with a bootjack, and a nightcap mixed for his young master as the
colonel had taught him to mix it, and every morning Grandison appeared
with his master's boots blacked and his clothes brushed, and laid his
linen out for the day.
"Grandison," said Dick one morning, after finishing his toilet, "this is
the chance of your life to go around among your own people and see how
they live. Have you met any of them?"
"Yas, suh, I 's seen some of 'em. But I don' keer nuffin fer 'em, suh.
Dey 're diffe'nt f'm de niggers down ou' way. Dey 'lows dey 're free,
but dey ain' got sense 'nuff ter know dey ain' half as well off as dey
would be down Souf, whar dey 'd be 'predated."
When two weeks had passed without any apparent effect of evil example
upon Grandison, Dick resolved to go on to Boston, where he thought the
atmosphere might prove more favorable to his ends. After he had been at
the Revere House for a day or two without losing Grandison, he decided
upon slightly different tactics.
Having ascertained from a city directory the addresses of several
well-known abolitionists, he wrote them each a letter something like
Dear Friend and Brother:----
A wicked slaveholder from Kentucky, stopping at the Revere House, has
dared to insult the liberty-loving people of Boston by bringing his
slave into their midst. Shall this be tolerated? Or shall steps be taken
in the name of liberty to rescue a fellow-man from bondage? For obvious
reasons I can only sign myself,
A Friend of Humanity.
That his letter might have an opportunity to prove effective, Dick made
it a point to send Grandison away from the hotel on various errands. On
one of these occasions Dick watched him for quite a distance down the
street. Grandison had scarcely left the hotel when a long-haired,
sharp-featured man came out behind him, followed him, soon overtook him,
and kept along beside him until they turned the next corner. Dick's
hopes were roused by this spectacle, but sank correspondingly when
Grandison returned to the hotel. As Grandison said nothing about the
encounter, Dick hoped there might be some self-consciousness behind this
unexpected reticence, the results of which might develop later on.
But Grandison was on hand again when his master came back to the hotel
at night, and was in attendance again in the morning, with hot water, to
assist at his master's toilet. Dick sent him on further errands from day
to day, and upon one occasion came squarely up to him--inadvertently of
course--while Grandison was engaged in conversation with a young white
man in clerical garb. When Grandison saw Dick approaching, he edged away
from the preacher and hastened toward his master, with a very evident
expression of relief upon his countenance.
"Mars Dick," he said, "dese yer abolitioners is jes' pesterin' de life
out er me tryin' ter git me ter run away. I don' pay no 'tention ter
'em, but dey riles me so sometimes dat I 'm feared I 'll hit some of 'em
some er dese days, an' dat mought git me inter trouble. I ain' said
nuffin' ter you 'bout it, Mars Dick, fer I did n' wanter 'sturb yo'
min'; but I don' like it, suh; no, suh, I don'! Is we gwine back home
'fo' long, Mars Dick?"
"We 'll be going back soon enough," replied Dick somewhat shortly, while
he inwardly cursed the stupidity of a slave who could be free and would
not, and registered a secret vow that if he were unable to get rid of