Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Andrea Ball and the Online Distributed
Transcriber's Note: This document is the text of Trial and Triumph. Any
bracketed notations such as [?], and those inserting
letters or other comments are from the original text.
Transcriber's Note About the Author:
Francis Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was born to free parents in
Baltimore, Maryland. Orphaned at three, she was raised by her uncle, a
teacher and radical advocate for civil rights. She attended the Academy
for Negro Youth and was educated as a teacher. She became a professional
lecturer, activist, suffragette, poet, essayist, novelist, and the author
of the first published short story written by an African-American. Her
work spanned more than sixty years.
TRIAL AND TRIUMPH
A Rediscovered Novel by
Frances E.W. Harper
Edited by Frances Smith Foster
"Oh, that child! She is the very torment of my life. I have been the
mother of six children, and all of them put together, never gave me as
much trouble as that girl. I don't know what will ever become of her."
"What is the matter now, Aunt Susan? What has Annette been doing?"
"Doing! She is always doing something; everlastingly getting herself
into trouble with some of the neighbors. She is the most mischievous and
hard-headed child I ever saw."
"Well what has she been doing this morning which has so upset you?"
"Why, I sent her to the grocery to have the oil can filled, and after
she came back she had not been in the house five minutes before there
came such an uproar from Mrs. Larkins', my next door neighbor, that I
thought her house was on fire, but----"
"Instead of that her tongue was on fire, and I know what that means."
"Yes, that's just it, and I don't wonder. That little minx sitting up
there in the corner looking so innocent, stopped to pour oil on her
clean steps. Now you know yourself what an aggravating thing that must
"Yes, it must have been, especially as Mrs. Larkins is such a nice
housekeeper and takes such pride in having everything neat and nice
about her. How did you fix up matters with her."
"I have not fixed them up at all. Mrs. Larkins only knows one cure for
bad children, and that is beating them, and she always blames me for
spoiling Annette, but I hardly know what to do with her. I've scolded
and scolded till my tongue is tired, whipping don't seem to do her a bit
of good, and I hate to put her out among strangers for fear that they
will not treat her right, for after all she is very near to me. She is
my poor, dead Lucy's child. Sometimes when I get so angry with her that
I feel as though I could almost shake the life out of her, the thought
of her dying mother comes back to me and it seems to me as if I could
see her eyes looking so wistfully on the child and turning so trustingly
to me and saying, 'Mother, when I am gone won't you take care of
Annette, and try to keep her with you?' And then all the anger dies out
of me. Poor child! I don't know what is going to become of her when my
head is laid low. I'm afraid she is born for trouble. Nobody will ever
put up with her as I do. She has such an unhappy disposition. She is not
like any of my children ever were."
"Yes. I've often noticed that she does seem different from other
children. She never seems light-hearted and happy."
"Yes, that is so. She reminds me so of poor Lucy before she was born.
She even moans in her sleep like she used to do. It was a dark day when
Frank Miller entered my home and Lucy became so taken up with him. It
seemed to me as if my poor girl just worshiped him. I did not feel that
he was all right, and I tried to warn my dear child of danger, but what
could an old woman like me do against him with his handsome looks and
"Yes," said her neighbor soothingly, "you have had a sad time, but
still we cannot recall the dead past, and it is the living present with
which we have to deal. Annette needs wise guidance, a firm hand and a
loving heart to deal with her. To spoil her at home is only to prepare
her for misery abroad."
"I am afraid that I am not equal to the task."
"If any man lack wisdom we are taught to ask it of One who giveth
liberally to all men and upbraideth none. There would be so much less
stumbling if we looked earnestly within for 'the light which lighteth
every man that cometh into the world.'"
"Well," said Mrs. Harcourt, Annette's grandmother, "there is one thing
about Annette that I like. She is very attentive to her books. If you
want to keep that child out of mischief just put a book in her hand; but
then she has her living to get and she can't get it by nursing her hands
and reading books. She has got to work like the rest of us."
"But why not give her a good education? Doors are open to her which were
closed against us. This is a day of light and knowledge. I don't know
much myself, but I mean to give my girls a chance. I don't believe in
saying, let my children do as I have done, when I think some of us have
done poorly enough digging and delving from morning till night. I don't
believe the good Lord ever sent anybody into his light and beautiful
world to be nothing but a drudge, and I just think it is because some
take it so easy that others, who will do, have to take it so hard."
"It always makes my blood boil," said a maiden lady who was present, "to
see a great hulk of a man shambling around complaining of hard times,
and that he can't get work, when his wife is just working herself down
to the grave to keep up the family." I asked Mrs. Johnson, who just
lives in the wash tub and is the main stay of her family, what would her
husband do if she were to die? and she said, 'get another wife.' Now, I
just think she has spoiled that man and if she dies first, I hope that
he will never find another woman to tread in her footsteps. He ought to
have me to deal with. When he got through with me he would never want
to laze around another woman."
"I don't think he ever would," said Mrs. Harcourt, while a gleam of
humor sparkled in her eye. Her neighbor was a maiden lady who always
knew how to manage other people's husbands, but had never succeeded in
getting one of her own, and not having any children herself understood
perfectly well how to rate other people's.
Just then a knock was heard at the door and Mr. Thomas, Annette's former
school teacher, entered the room. After an exchange of courtesies he
asked, "How does Annette come on with her new teacher?"
"I have not heard any complaint," said Mrs. Harcourt. "At first Mrs.
Joseph's girl did not want to sit with Annette, but she soon got over it
when she saw how well the other girls treated Annette and how pleasant
the teacher was to her. Mr. Scott, who has been so friendly to us, told
us not to mind her; that her mother had been an ignorant servant girl,
who had married a man with a little money; that she was still ignorant,
loud and [dressy?] and liked to put on airs. The nearer the beggar the
greater the prejudice."
"I think it is true," said Mr. Thomas. "If you apply those words, not to
condition, but human souls, for none but beggarly souls would despise a
man because of circumstances over which he had no control; noble,
large-hearted men and women are never scornful. Contempt and ridicule
are the weapons of weak souls. I am glad however, that Annette is
getting on so well. I hope that she will graduate at the head of her
class, with high honors."
"What's the use of giving her so much education? there are no openings
for her here, and if she gets married she won't want it," and Mrs.
Harcourt sighed as she finished her sentence.
Mr. Thomas looked grave for a moment and then his face relaxed into a
smile. "Well, really, Mrs. Harcourt, that is not very complimentary to
us young men; do we have no need of intelligent and well educated
wives? I think our race needs educated mothers for the home more than we
do trained teachers for the school room. Not that I would ignore or
speak lightly of the value of good colored teachers nor suggest as a
race, that we can well afford to do without them; but to-day, if it were
left to my decision, whether the education of the race should be placed
in the hands of the school teacher or the mothers and there was no other
alternative, I should, by all means, decide for the education of the
race through its motherhood rather than through its teachers."
"But we poor mothers had no chance. We could not teach our children."
"I think you could teach some of them more than they wish to learn; but
I must go now; at some other time we will talk on this subject."
"Oh, Annette!" said Mrs. Harcourt, turning to her granddaughter after
Mr. Thomas had left the door; "What makes you so naughty? Why did you
pour that oil on Mrs. Larkin's steps; didn't you know it was wrong?"
Annette stood silent looking like a guilty culprit.
"Why don't you answer me; what makes you behave so bad?"
"I don't know, grandma, I 'specs I did it for the devil. The preacher
said the devil makes people do bad things."
"The preacher didn't say any such thing; he said the devil tempts people
to be bad, but you are not to mind every thing the devil tells you to
do, if you do, you will get yourself into a lot of trouble."
"Well, grandma, Mrs. Larkins is so mean and cross and she is always
telling tales on me and I just did it for fun."
"Well, that is very poor fun. You deserve a good whipping, and I've a
great mind to give it to you now."
"Why don't she let me alone; she is all the time trying to get you to
beat me. She's a spiteful old thing anyhow. I don't like her, and I know
she don't like me."
"Hush Annette, you must not talk that way of any one so much older than
yourself. When I was a child I wouldn't have talked that way about any
old person. Don't let me hear you talk that way again. You will never
rest till I give you a good whipping."
"Yes ma'm," said Annette very demurely.
"Oh, Annette!" said her grandmother with a sudden burst of feeling. "You
do give me so much trouble. You give me more worry than all my six
children put together; but there is always one scabby sheep in the flock
and you will be that one. Now get ready for school and don't let me hear
any more complaints about you; I am not going to let you worry me to
Annette took up her bonnet and glided quietly out of the door, glad to
receive instead of the threatened whipping a liberal amount of talk, and
yet the words struck deeper than blows. Her own grandmother had
prophesied evil things of her. She was to be the scabby sheep of the
flock. The memory of the blows upon her body might have passed soon away
after the pain and irritation of the infliction were over, but that
inconsiderate prophecy struck deep into her heart and left its impress
upon her unfolding life. Without intending it, Mrs. Harcourt had struck
a blow at the child's self-respect; one of the things which she should
have strengthened, even if it was "ready to die." Annette had entered
life sadly handicapped. She was the deserted child of a selfish and
unprincipled man and a young mother whose giddiness and lack of
self-control had caused her to trail the robes of her womanhood in the
dust. With such an ante-natal history how much she needed judicious, but
tender, loving guidance. In that restless, sensitive and impulsive child
was the germ of a useful woman with a warm, loving heart, ready to
respond to human suffering, capable of being faithful in friendship and
devoted in love. Before that young life with its sad inheritance seemed
to lay a future of trial, and how much, humanly speaking, seemed to
depend upon the right training of that life and the development within
her of self-control, self-reliance and self-respect. There was no
mother's heart for her to nestle upon in her hours of discouragement and
perplexity; no father's strong, loving arms to shelter and defend her;
no sister to brighten her life with joyous companionship, and no brother
to champion her through the early and impossible period of ripening
womanhood. Her grandmother was kind to her, but not very tender and
loving. Her struggle to keep the wolf from the door had absorbed her
life, and although she was neither hard nor old, yet she was not
demonstrative in her affections, and to her a restless child was an
enigma she did not know how to solve. If the child were hungry or cold
she could understand physical wants, but for the hunger of the heart she
had neither sympathy nor comprehension. Fortunately Annette had found a
friend who understood her better than her grandmother, and who, looking
beneath the perverseness of the child, saw in her rich possibilities,
and would often speak encouragingly to her. Annette early developed a
love for literature and poetry and would sometimes try to make rhymes
and string verses together and really Mrs. Lasette thought that she had
talent or even poetic genius and ardently wished that it might be
cultivated and rightly directed; but it never entered the minds of her
grandmother and aunts that in their humble home was a rarely gifted soul
destined to make music which would set young hearts to thrilling with
higher hopes and loftier aspirations.
Mrs. Lasette had been her teacher before she married. After she became a
wife and mother, instead of becoming entirely absorbed in a round of
household cares and duties, the moment the crown of motherhood fell upon
her, as she often said, she had poured a new interest into the welfare
of her race. With these feelings she soon became known as a friend
and helper in the community in which she lived. Young girls learned to
look to her for council and encouragement amid the different passages of
their [lives?] sometimes with blushing cheeks they whispered in to her
ears tender secrets they did not always bring to their near relatives,
and young men about to choose their life work, often came to consult her
and to all her heart was responsive. With this feeling of confidence in
her judgment, Mr. Thomas had entered her home after leaving Mrs.
Harcourt's, educating himself for a teacher. He had spent several years
in the acquisition of knowledge and was proving himself an acceptable
and conscientious teacher, when the change came which deprived him of
his school, by blending his pupils in the different ward schools of the
city. Public opinion which moves slowly, had advanced far enough to
admit the colored children into the different schools, irrespective of
color, but it was not prepared, except in a few places to admit the
colored teachers as instructors in the schools. "What are you going to
do next?" inquired Mrs. Lasette of Mr. Thomas as he seated himself
somewhat wearily by the fire. "I hardly know, I am all at sea, but I am
going to be like the runaway slave who, when asked, 'Where is your
pass?' raised his fist and said 'Dem is my passes,' and if 'I don't see
an opening I will make one.'"
"Why don't you go into the ministry? When Mr. Pugh failed in his
examination he turned his attention to the ministry, and it is said that
he is succeeding admirably."
"Mrs. Lasette, I was brought up to respect the institutions of religion,
and not to lay rash hands on sacred things, and while I believe that
every man should preach Christ by an upright life, and chaste
conversation, yet I think one of the surest ways to injure a Church, and
to make the pulpit lose its power over the rising generation, is for men
without a true calling, or requisite qualifications to enter the
ministry because they have failed in some other avocation and find in
preaching an open door to success."
"But they often succeed."
"Why by getting into good churches, increasing their congregations and
paying off large church debts." "And is that necessarily success? We
need in the Church men who can be more than financiers and who can
attract large congregations. We need earnest thoughtful Christly men,
who will be more anxious to create and develop moral earnestness than to
excite transient emotions. Now there is Rev. Mr. Lamson who was educated
in R. College. I have heard him preach to, as I thought, an honest, well
meaning, but an ignorant congregation, and instead of lifting them to
more rational forms of worship, he tried to imitate them and made a
complete failure. He even tried to moan as they do in worship but it
didn't come out natural."
"Of course it did not. These dear old people whose moaning during
service, seems even now so pitiful and weird, I think learned to mourn
out in prayers, thoughts and feelings wrung from their agonizing hearts,
which they did not dare express when they were forced to have their
meetings under the surveillance of a white man."
"It is because I consider the ministry the highest and most sacred
calling, that I cannot, nay I dare not, rush into it unless I feel
impelled by the strongest and holiest motives."
"You are right and I think just such men as you ought to be in the
"Are you calling me?" "I wish it were in my power." "I am glad that it
is not, I think there are more in the ministry now than magnify their
"But Mr. Thomas are you not looking on the dark side of the question?
you must judge of the sun, not by its spots, but by its brightness."
"Oh I did not mean to say that the ministry is crowded with unworthy
men, who love the fleece more than the flock. I believe that there are
in the ministry a large number who are the salt of the earth and whose
life work bears witness to their fitness. But unfortunately there are
men who seem so lacking in reverence for God, by their free handling of
sacred things; now I think one of the great wants of our people is more
reverence for God who is above us, and respect for the man who is beside
us, and I do hope that our next minister will be a good man, of active
brain, warm heart and Christly sympathies, who will be among us a
living, moral, and spiritual force, and who will be willing to teach us
on the Bible plan of 'line upon line, precept upon precept, here a
little there a little.'"
"I hope he will be; it is said that brother Lomax our new minister is an
excellent young man."
"Well I hope that we will not fail to receive him as an apostle and try
to hold up his hands."
"I hope so. I think that to be called of God to be an ambassador for
Christ, to help him build the kingdom of righteousness, love and peace,
amid the misery, sin and strife, is the highest and most blessed
position that a man can hold, and because I esteem the calling so highly
I would not rush into it unless I felt divinely commissioned."
Mrs. Harcourt was a Southern woman by birth, who belonged to that class
of colored people whose freedom consisted chiefly in not being the
chattels of the dominant race--a class to whom little was given and from
whom much was required. She was naturally bright and intelligent, but
had come up in a day when the very book of the Christian's law was to
her a sealed volume; but if she had not been educated through the aid of
school books and blackboards, she had obtained that culture of manners
and behavior which comes through contact with well-bred people, close
observation and a sense of self-respect and self-reliance, and when
deprived of her husband's help by an untimely death, she took up the
burden of life bravely and always tried to keep up what she called "a
stiff upper lip." Feeling the cramping of Southern life, she became
restive under the privations and indignities which were heaped upon free
persons of color, and at length she and her husband broke up their home
and sold out at a pecuniary sacrifice to come North, where they could
breathe free air and have educational privileges for their children. But
while she was strong and healthy her husband, whose health was not very
firm, soon succumbed to the change of climate and new modes of living
and left Mrs. Harcourt a stranger and widow in a strange land with six
children dependent on her for bread and shelter: but during her short
sojourn in the North she had enlisted the sympathy and respect of
kind friends, who came to her relief and helped her to help herself, the
very best assistance they could bestow upon her. Capable and efficient,
she found no difficulty in getting work for herself and older children,
who were able to add their quota to the support of the family by running
errands, doing odd jobs for the neighbors and helping their mother
between school hours. Nor did she lay all the household burdens on the
shoulders of the girls and leave her boys to the mercy of the pavement;
she tried to make her home happy and taught them all to have a share in
adding to its sunshine. "It makes boys selfish," she would say, "to have
their sisters do all the work and let the boys go scot-free. I don't
believe there would be so many trifling men if the boys were trained to
be more helpful at home and to feel more for their mothers and sisters."
All this was very well for the peace and sunshine of that home, but as
the children advanced in life the question came to her with painful
emphasis----"What can I do for the future of my boys and girls?" She was
not anxious to have them all professional men and school teachers and
government clerks, but she wanted each one to have some trade or calling
by which a respectable and comfortable living could be made; but first
she consulted their tastes and inclinations. Her youngest boy was very
fond of horses, but instead of keeping him in the city, where he was in
danger of getting too intimate with horse jockeys and stable boys, she
found a place for him with an excellent farmer, who, seeing the tastes
of the boy, took great interest in teaching him how to raise stock and
he became a skillful farmer. Her second son showed that he had some
mechanical skill and ingenuity and she succeeded in getting him a
situation with a first-class carpenter, and spared no pains to have him
well instructed in all the branches of carpentry, and would often say to
him, "John, don't do any sham work if you are going to be a carpenter;
be thorough in every thing you do and try to be the best carpenter in
A.P., and if you do your work better than others, you won't have to be
all the time going around advertising yourself; somebody will find out
what you can do and give you work." Her oldest son was passionately fond
of books and she helped him through school till he was able to become a
school teacher. But as the young man was high spirited and ambitious, he
resolved that he would make his school teaching a stepping stone to a
more congenial employment. He studied medicine and graduated with M.D.,
but as it takes a young doctor some time to gain the confidence of an
old community, he continued after his graduation to teach and obtained a
certificate to practice medicine. Without being forced to look to his
mother for assistance, while the confidence of his community was slowly
growing, he depended on the school for his living and looked to the
future for his success as a physician.
For the girls, because they were colored, there were but few avenues
open, but they all took in sewing and were excellent seamstresses,
except Lucy, who had gone from home to teach school in a distant city as
there were no openings of the kind for her at her own home.
Mrs. Harcourt was very proud of her children and had unbounded
confidence in them. She was high-spirited and self-respecting and it
never seemed to enter her mind that any evil might befall the children
that would bring sorrow and shame to her home; but nevertheless it came
and Lucy, her youngest child, the pet and pride of the household
returned home with a great sorrow tugging at her heart and a shadow on
her misguided life. It was the old story of woman's weakness and folly
and man's perfidy and desertion. Poor child, how wretched she was till
"peace bound up her bleeding heart," and even then the arrow had pierced
too deep for healing. Sorrow had wasted her strength and laid the
foundation of disease and an early death. Religion brought balm to the
wounded spirit, but no renewed vigor to the wasted frame and in a short
time she fell a victim to consumption, leaving Annette to the care of
her mother. It was so pitiful to see the sorrow on the dear old face as
she would nestle the wronged and disinherited child to her heart and
would say so mournfully, "Oh, I never, never expected this!"
Although Annette had come into the family an unbidden and unwelcome
guest, associated with the saddest experience of her grandmother's life,
yet somehow the baby fingers had wound themselves around the tendrils of
her heart and the child had found a shelter in the warm clasp of loving
arms. To her, Annette was a new charge, an increased burden; but burden
to be defended by her love and guarded by her care. All her other
children had married and left her, and in her lowly home this young
child with infantile sweetness, beguiled many a lonely hour. She loved
Lucy and that was Lucy's child.
But where was he who sullied
Her once unspotted name;
Who lured her from life's brightness
To agony and shame?
Did society, which closed its doors against Lucy and left her to
struggle as best she might out of the depth into which she had fallen,
pour any righteous wrath upon his guilty head? Did it demand that he
should at least bring forth some fruit meet for repentance by at least
helping Mrs. Harcourt to raise the unfortunate child? Not so. He left
that poor old grandmother to struggle with her failing strength, not
only to bear her own burden, but the one he had so wickedly imposed upon
her. He had left A.P. before Lucy's death and gone to the Pacific coast
where he became wealthy through liquor selling, speculation, gambling
and other disreputable means, and returned with gold enough to hide a
multitude of sins, and then fair women permitted and even courted his
society. Mothers with marriageable daughters condoned his offences
against morality and said, "oh, well, young men will sow their wild
oats; it is no use to be too straight laced." But there were a few
thoughtful mothers old fashioned enough to believe that the law of
purity is as binding upon the man as the woman, and who, under no
conditions, would invite him to associate with their daughters. Women
who tried to teach their sons to be worthy of the love and esteem of
good women by being as chaste in their conversation and as pure in their
lives as their young daughters who sat at their side sheltered in their
pleasant and peaceful homes. One of the first things that Frank Miller
did after he returned to A.P. was to open a large and elegantly
furnished saloon and restaurant. The license to keep such a place was
very high, and men said that to pay it he resorted to very questionable
means, that his place was a resort for gamblers, and that he employed a
young man to guard the entrance of his saloon from any sudden invasion
of the police by giving a signal without if he saw any of them
approaching, and other things were whispered of his saloon which showed
it to be a far more dangerous place for the tempted, unwary and
inexperienced feet of the young men of A.P., than any low groggery in
the whole city. Young men who would have scorned to enter the lowest
dens of vice, felt at home in his gilded palace of sin. Beautiful
pictures adorned the walls, light streamed into the room through finely
stained glass windows, women, not as God had made them, but as sin had
debased them, came there to spend the evening in the mazy dance, or to
sit with partners in sin and feast at luxurious tables. Politicians came
there to concoct their plans for coming campaigns, to fix their slates
and to devise means for grasping with eager hands the spoils of
government. Young men anxious for places in the gift of the government
found that winking at Frank Miller's vices and conforming to the
demoralizing customs of his place were passports to political favors,
and lacking moral stamina, hushed their consciences and became partakers
of his sins. Men talked in private of his vices, and drank his
liquors and smoked his cigars in public. His place was a snare to their
souls. "The dead were there but they knew it not." He built a beautiful
home and furnished it magnificently, and some said that the woman who
married him would do well, as if it were possible for any woman to marry
well who linked her destinies to a wicked, selfish and base man, whose
business was a constant menace to the peace, the purity and progress of
society. I believe it was Milton who said that the purity of a man
should be more splendid than the purity of a woman, basing his idea upon
the declaration, "The head of the woman is the man, and the head of the
man is Jesus Christ." Surely if man occupies this high rank in the
creation of God he should ever be the true friend and helper of woman
and not, as he too often proves, her falsest friend and basest enemy.
"Annette," said Mrs. Harcourt one morning early, "I want you to stir
your stumps to-day; I am going to have company this evening and I want
you to help me to get everything in apple pie order."
"Who is coming, grandma?"
"Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Lasette."
"Mrs. Lasette!" Annette's eyes brightened. "I hope she will come; she is
just as sweet as a peach and I do love her ever so much; and who else?"
"Brother Lomax, the minister who preached last Sunday and gave us such a
"Is he coming, too?" Annette opened her eyes with pleased surprise. "Oh,
I hope he will come, he's so nice."
"What do you know about him?"
"Why, grandmother, I understood everything that he said, and I felt that
I wanted to be good just like he told us, and I went and asked aunt
'Liza how people got religion. She had been to camp-meeting and seen
people getting religion, and I wanted her to tell me all about it for I
wanted to get it too."
"What did she tell you?"
"She told me that people went down to the mourner's bench and prayed and
then they would get up and shout and say they had religion, and that was
all she knew about it."
"You went to the wrong one when you went to your aunt 'Liza. And what
did you do after she told you?"
"Why, I went down in the garden and prayed and I got up and shouted, but
I didn't get any religion. I guess I didn't try right."
"I guess you didn't if I judge by your actions. When you get older you
will know more about it."
"But, grandma, Aunt 'Liza is older than I am, why don't she know?"
"Because she don't try; she's got her head too full of dress and dancing
Grandmother Harcourt did not have very much faith in what she called
children's religion, and here was a human soul crying out in the
darkness; but she did not understand the cry, nor look for the
"perfecting of praise out of the mouths of babes and sucklings," not
discerning the emotions of that young spirit, she let the opportunity
slip for rightly impressing that young soul. She depended too much on
the church and too little on the training of the home. For while the
church can teach and the school instruct, the home is the place to train
innocent and impressible childhood for useful citizenship on earth and a
hope of holy companionship in heaven; and every Christian should strive
to have "her one of the provinces of God's kingdom," where she can plant
her strongest batteries against the ramparts of folly, sin and vice.
"Who else is coming, grandma?"
"Why, of course I must invite Mrs. Larkins; it would never do to leave
Annette shrugged her shoulders, a scowl came over her face and she said:
"I hope she won't come."
"I expect she will and when she comes I want you to behave yourself and
don't roll up your eyes at her and giggle at her and make ugly speeches.
She told me that you made mouths at her yesterday, and that when Mr.
Ross was whipping his horse you said you knew some one whom you wished
was getting that beating, and she said that she just believed you meant
her. How was that, Annette? If I were like you I would be all the time
keeping this neighborhood in hot water."
Annette looked rather crestfallen and said, "I did make mouths at her
house as I came by, but I didn't know that she saw me."
"Yes she did, and you had better mind how you cut your cards with her."
Annette finding the conversation was taking a rather disagreeable turn
suddenly remembered that she had something to do in the yard and ceased
to prolong the dialogue. If the truth must be confessed, Annette was not
a very earnest candidate for saintship, and annoying her next door
neighbor was one of her favorite amusements.
Grandma Harcourt lived in a secluded court, which was shut in on every
side but one from the main streets, and her environments were not of the
most pleasant and congenial kind. The neighbors, generally speaking,
belonged to neither the best nor worst class of colored people. The
court was too fully enclosed to be a thoroughfare of travel, but it was
a place in which women could sit at their doors and talk to one another
from each side of the court. Women who had no scruples about drinking as
much beer, and sometimes stronger drinks, as they could absorb, and some
of the men said that the women drank more than men, and under the
besotting influence of beer and even stronger drinks, a fearful amount
of gossiping, news-carrying and tattling went on, which often resulted
in quarrels and contentions, which, while it never resulted in blood,
sadly lowered the tone of social life. It was the arena of wordy strife
in which angry tongues were the only weapons of warfare, and poor little
Annette was fast learning their modes of battle. But there was one thing
against which grandmother Harcourt set her face like flint, and that was
sending children to saloons for beer, and once she flamed out with
righteous indignation when one of her neighbors, in her absence, sent
Annette to a saloon to buy her some beer. She told her in emphatic terms
she must never do so again, that she wanted her girl to grow up a
respectable woman, and that she ought to be ashamed of herself, not only
to be guzzling beer like a toper, but to send anybody's child to a
saloon to come in contact with the kind of men who frequented such
places, and that any women who sent their children to such places were
training their boys to be drunkards and their girls to be
street-walkers. "I am poor," she said, "but I mean to keep my credit up
and if you and I live in this neighborhood a hundred years you must
never do that thing again."
Her neighbor looked dazed and tried to stammer out an apology, but she
never sent Annette to a beer saloon again, and in course of time she
became a good temperance woman herself, influenced by the faithfulness
of grandmother Harcourt.
The court in which Mrs. Harcourt lived was not a very desirable place,
but, on account of her color, eligible houses could not always be
obtained, and however decent, quiet or respectable she might appear on
applying for a house, she was often met with the rebuff, "We don't rent
to colored people," and men who virtually assigned her race the lowest
place and humblest positions could talk so glibly of the degradation of
the Negro while by their Christless and inhuman prejudice they were
helping add to their low social condition. In the midst of her
unfavorable environments Mrs. Harcourt kept her home neat and tidy; sent
Annette to school constantly and tried to keep her out of mischief, but
there was moral contagion in the social atmosphere of Tennis Court and
Annette too often succumbed to its influence; but Annette was young and
liked the company of young girls and it seemed cruel to confine the
child's whole life to the home and schoolhouse and give her no chance to
be merry and playful with girls of her own age. So now and then
grandmother Harcourt would let her spend a little time with some of the
neighbors' girls but from the questions that Annette often asked her
grandmother and the conversations she sometimes repeated Mrs. Harcourt
feared that she was learning things which should only be taught by
faithful mothers in hours of sacred and tender confidence, and she
determined, even if it gave offence to her neighbors, that she would
choose among her own friends, companions for her granddaughter and not
leave all her social future to chance. In this she was heartily aided by
Mrs. Lasette, who made it a point to hold in that neighborhood, mothers'
meetings and try to teach mothers, who in the dark days of slavery had
no bolts nor bars strong enough to keep out the invader from scattering
their children like leaves in wintry weather, how to build up light and
happy homes under the new dispensation of freedom. To her it was a
labor of love and she found her reward in the peace and love which
flowed into the soul and the improved condition of society. In lowly
homes where she visited, her presence was a benediction and an
inspiration. Women careless in their household and slatternly in their
dress grew more careful in the keeping of their homes and the
arrangement of their attire. Women of the better class of their own
race, coming among them awakened their self-respect. Prejudice and pride
of race had separated them from their white neighbors and the more
cultured of their race had shrunk from them in their ignorance, poverty
and low social condition and they were left, in a great measure, to
themselves--ostracised by the whites on the one side and socially
isolated from the more cultured of their race on the other hand. The law
took little or no cognizance of them unless they were presented at its
bar as criminals; but if they were neither criminals nor paupers they
might fester in their vices and perpetuate their social condition. Who
understood or cared to minister to their deepest needs or greatest
wants? It was just here where the tender, thoughtful love of a
warm-hearted and intelligent woman was needed. To her it was a labor of
love, but it was not all fair sailing. She sometimes met with coldness
and distrust where she had expected kindness and confidence; lack of
sympathy where she had hoped to find ready and willing cooperation; but
she knew that if her life was in harmony with God and Christly sympathy
with man; for such a life there was no such word as fail.
By dint of energy and perseverance grandmother Harcourt had succeeded in
getting everything in order when her guests began to arrive. She had
just put the finishing touches upon her well-spread table and was
reviewing it with an expression of pleasure and satisfaction. And now
while the guests are quietly taking their seats let me introduce you to
Mr. Thomas came bringing with him the young minister, Rev. Mr. Lomax,
whose sermon had so interested and edified Mrs. Harcourt the previous
Sunday. Mrs. Lasette, looking bright and happy, came with her daughter,
and Mrs. Larkins entered arrayed in her best attire, looking starched
and prim, as if she had made it the great business of her life to take
care of her dignity and to think about herself. Mrs. Larkins, though
for years a member of church, had not learned that it was unchristian to
be narrow and selfish. She was strict in her attendance at church and
gave freely to its support; but somehow with all her attention to the
forms of religion, one missed its warm and vivifying influence from her
life, and in the loving clasp of a helping hand, in the tender beam of a
sympathizing glance, weary-hearted mothers and wives never came to her
with their heartaches and confided to her their troubles. Little
children either shrank from her or grew quiet in her presence. What was
missing from her life was the magnetism of love. She had become so
absorbed in herself that she forgot everybody else and thought more of
her rights than her duties. The difference between Mrs. Lasette and Mrs.
Larkins was this, that in passing through life one scattered sunshine
and the other cast shadows over her path. Mrs. Lasette was a fine
conversationalist. She regarded speech as one of heaven's best gifts,
and thought that conversation should be made one of the finest arts, and
used to subserve the highest and best purposes of life, and always
regretted when it was permitted to degenerate into gossip and
backbiting. Harsh judgment she always tried to modify, often saying in
doubtful cases, "Had we not better suspend our judgments? Truly we do
not like people to think the worst of us and it is not fulfilling the
law of love to think the worst of them. Do you not know that if we wish
to dwell in his tabernacle we are not to entertain a reproach against
our neighbor, nor to back-bite with our lips and I do not think there is
a sin which more easily besets society than this." "Speech," she would
say, "is a gift so replete with rich and joyous possibilities," and she
always tried to raise the tone of conversation at home and abroad. Of
her it might be emphatically said, "She opened her mouth with wisdom and
in her lips was the law of kindness."
The young minister, Rev. Mr. Lomax, was an earnest, devout and gifted
young man. Born in the midst of poverty, with the shadows of slavery
encircling his early life, he had pushed his way upward in the world,
"toiling while others slept." His father was dead. While living he had
done what he could to improve the condition of his family, and had, it
was thought, overworked himself in the struggle to educate and support
his children. He was a kind and indulgent father and when his son had
made excellent progress in his studies, he gave him two presents so dear
to his boyish heart--a gun and a watch. But the hour came when the
loving hands were closed over the quiet breast, and the widowed wife
found herself unable to provide the respectable funeral she desired to
give him. Thomas then came bravely and tenderly to her relief. He sold
his watch and gun to defray the funeral expenses of his father. He was a
good son to his aged mother, and became the staff of her declining
years. With an earnest purpose in his soul, and feeling that knowledge
is power, he applied himself with diligence to his studies, passed
through college, and feeling within his soul a commission to teach and
help others to develop within themselves the love of nature, he entered
the ministry, bringing into it an enthusiasm for humanity and love of
Christ, which lit up his life and made him a moral and spiritual force
in the community. He had several advantageous offers to labor in other
parts of the country, but for the sake of being true to the heavenly
vision, which showed him the needs of his people and his adaptation to
their wants, he chose, not the most lucrative, but the most needed work
which was offered him with
A joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
He had seen many things in the life of the people with whom he was
identified which gave him intense pain, but instead of constantly
censuring and finding fault with their inconsistencies of conscience, he
strove to live so blamelessly before them that he would show them by
example a more excellent way and "criticise by creation." To him
religion was a reasonable service and he wished it to influence their
conduct as well as sway their emotions. Believing that right thinking is
connected with right living, he taught them to be conservative without
being bigoted, and liberal without being morally indifferent and
careless in their modes of thought. He wanted them to be able to give a
reason for the faith that was in them and that faith to be rooted and
grounded in love. He was young, hopeful, and enthusiastic and life was
opening before him full of hope and promise.
"It has been a beautiful day," said Mrs. Lasette, seating herself beside
Mrs. Larkins, who always waited to be approached and was ever ready
to think that some one was slighting her or ignoring her presence.
"It has been a fine day, but I think it will rain soon; I judge by my
"Oh! I think the weather is just perfect. The sun set gloriously this
evening and the sky was the brightest blue."
"I think the day was what I call a weather breeder. Whenever you see
such days this time of year, you may look out for falling weather. I
[expect?] that it will snow soon."
"How that child grows," said Mrs. Larkins, as Annette entered the room.
"Ill weeds grow apace; she has nothing else to do. That girl is going
to give her grandmother a great deal of trouble."
"Oh! I do not think so."
"Well, I do, and I told her grandmother so one day, but she did not
thank me for it."
"No, I suppose not."
"I didn't do it for thanks; I did it just to give her a piece of my mind
about that girl. She is the most mischievous and worrisome child I ever
saw. The partition between our houses is very thin and many a time when
I want to finish my morning sleep or take an afternoon nap, if Mrs.
Harcourt is not at home, Annette will sing and recite at the top of her
voice and run up and down the stairs as if a regiment of soldiers were
"Annette is quite young, full of life and brimful of mischief, and girls
of that age I have heard likened to persimmons before they are ripe; if
you attempt to eat them they will pucker your mouth, but if you wait
till the first frost touches them they are delicious. Have patience with
the child, act kindly towards her, she may be slow in developing womanly
sense, but I think that Annette has within her the making of a fine
"Do you know what Annette wants?"
"Yes, I know what she wants; but what do you think she wants?"
"She wants kissing."
"I'd kiss her with a switch if she were mine."
"I do not think it wise to whip a child of her age."
"I'd whip her if she were as big as a house."
"I do not find it necessary with my Laura; it is sufficient to deter her
from doing anything if she knows that I do not approve of it. I have
tried to establish perfect confidence between us. I do not think my
daughter keeps a secret from me. I think many young persons go astray
because their parents have failed to strengthen their characters and to
forewarn and forearm them against the temptations and dangers that
surround their paths. How goes the battle?" said Mrs. Lasette, turning
to Mr. Thomas.
"I am still at sea, and the tide has not yet turned in my favor. Of
course, I feel the change; it has taken my life out of its accustomed
channel, but I am optimist enough to hope that even this change will
result in greater good to the greatest number. I think one of our great
wants is the diversification of our industries, and I do not believe it
would be wise for the parents to relax their endeavors to give their
children the best education in their power. We cannot tell what a race
can do till it utters and expresses itself, and I know that there is an
amount of brain among us which can and should be utilized in other
directions than teaching school or seeking for clerkships. Mr. Clarkson
had a very intelligent daughter whom he wished to fit for some other
employment than that of a school teacher. He had her trained for a
physician. She went to B., studied faithfully, graduated at the head of
her class and received the highest medal for her attainments, thus
proving herself a living argument of the capability in her race. Her
friend, Miss Young, had artistic talent, and learned wood carving. She
developed exquisite taste and has become a fine artist in that branch of
industry. A female school teacher's work in the public schools is apt to
be limited to her single life, but a woman who becomes proficient in a
useful trade or business, builds up for herself a wall of defense
against the invasions of want and privation whether she is married or
single. I think that every woman, and man too, should be prepared for
the reverses of fortune by being taught how to do some one thing
thoroughly so as to be able to be a worker in the world's service, and
not a pensioner upon its bounty. And for this end it does not become us
as a race to despise any honest labor which lifts us above pauperism and
dependence. I am pleased to see our people having industrial fairs. I
believe in giving due honor to all honest labor, in covering idleness
with shame, and crowning labor with respect."
For awhile Mrs. Harcourt was busy in preparing the supper, to which they
all did ample justice. In her white apron, faultless neck handkerchief
and nicely fitting, but plain dress, Mrs. Harcourt looked the
impersonation of contented happiness. Sorrow had left deep furrows upon
her kindly face, but for awhile the shadows seemed to have been lifted
from her life and she was the pleasant hostess, forgetting her own
sorrows in contributing to the enjoyment of others. Supper being over,
her guests resumed their conversation.
"You do not look upon the mixing of the schools as being necessarily
disadvantageous to our people," said the minister.
"That," said Mr. Thomas, "is just in accordance to the way we adapt
ourselves to the change. If we are to remain in this country as a
component part of the nation, I cannot fail to regard with interest any
step which tends toward our unification with all the other branches of
the human race in this Western Hemisphere."
"Although," said Mrs. Lasette, "I have been educating my daughter and
have felt very sorry when I have witnessed the disappointment of parents
who have fitted their children for teachers and have seen door after
door closed against them, I cannot help regarding the mixing of the
schools as at least one step in a right direction."
"But Mrs. Lasette," said the minister, "as we are educated by other
means than school books and blackboards, such as the stimulus of hope,
the incentives of self-respect and the consensus of public opinion, will
it not add to the depression of the race if our children are made to
feel that, however well educated they may be or exemplary as pupils, the
color of their skin must debar them from entering avenues which are
freely opened to the young girls of every other nationality."
Mr. Thomas replied, "In considering this question, which is so much
broader than a mere local question, I have tried to look beyond the life
of the individual to the life of the race, and I find that it is through
obstacles overcome, suffering endured and the tests of trial that
strength is obtained, courage manifested and character developed. We are
now passing through a crucial period in our race history and what we so
much need is moral earnestness, strength of character and purpose to
guide us through the rocks and shoals on which so many life barques have
been stranded and wrecked."
"Yes," said Mrs. Lasette, "I believe that we are capable of being more
than light-hearted children of the tropics and I want our young people
to gain more persistence in their characters, perseverance in their
efforts and that esprit de corps, which shall animate us with higher,
nobler and holier purpose in the future than we have ever known in the
past; and while I am sorry for the parents who, for their children's
sake, have fought against the entailed ignorance of the ages with such
humble weapons as the washboard, flat iron and scrubbing brush, and who
have gathered the crumbs from the humblest departments of labor, still I
feel with Mr. Thomas that the mixing of the schools is a stride in the
march of the nation, only we must learn how to keep step in the progress
of the centuries."
"I do not think that I fully comprehend you," Mr. Lomax replied.
"Let me explain. I live in the 19th Ward. In that Ward are not a half
dozen colored children. When my husband bought the land we were more
than a mile from the business part of the city, but we were poor and the
land was very cheap and my husband said that paying rent was like
putting money in a sinking fund; so he resolved, even if it put us to a
little disadvantage, that he would buy the tract of land where we now
live. Before he did so, he called together a number of his
acquaintances, pointed out to them the tract of land and told them how
they might join with him in planting a small hamlet for themselves; but
except the few colored neighbors we now have, no one else would join
with us. Some said it was too far from their work, others that they did
not wish to live among many colored people, and some suspected my
husband of trying either to take the advantage of them, or of
agrandising himself at their expense, and I have now dear friends who
might have been living comfortably in their own homes, who, to-day, are
crowded in tenement houses or renting in narrow alleys and little
"That's true," said Mrs. Larkins, "I am one of them. I wanted my husband
to take up with your husband's offer, but he was one of those men who
knew it all and he never seemed to think it possible that any colored
man could see any clearer than he did. I knew your husband's head was
level and I tried to persuade Mr. Larkins to take up with his offer, but
he would not hear to it; said he knew his own business best, and shut me
up by telling me that he was not going to let any woman rule over him;
and here I am to-day, Larkins gone and his poor old widow scuffing night
and day to keep soul and body together; but there are some men you
couldn't beat anything into their heads, not if you took a sledge
hammer. Poor fellow, he is gone now and I ought not to say anything agin
him, but if he had minded me, I would have had a home over my head and
some land under my feet; but it is no use to grieve over spilled milk.
When he was living if I said, yes, he was always sure to say, no. One
day I said to him when he was opposing me, the way we live is like the
old saying, 'Pull Dick and pull devil,' and what do you think he said?"
"I don't know, I'm sure, what was it?"
"Why, he just looked at me and smiled and said, 'I am Dick.' Of course
he meant that I was the other fellow."
"But," said Mrs. Lasette, "this is a digression from our subject. What
I meant to say is this, that in our Ward is an excellent school house
with a half score of well equipped and efficient teachers. The former
colored school house was a dingy looking building about a mile and a
half away with only one young school teacher, who had, it is true,
passed a creditable examination. Now, when my daughter saw that the
children of all other nationalities, it mattered not how low and
debasing might be their environments, could enter the school for which
her father paid taxes, and that she was forced either to stay at home or
to go through all weathers to an ungraded school, in a poorly ventilated
and unevenly heated room, would not such public inequality burn into her
soul the idea of race-inferiority? And this is why I look upon the mixed
school as a right step in the right direction."
"Taking this view of the matter I see the pertinence of your position on
this subject. Do you know," continued Mr. Lomax, his face lighting up
with a fine enthusiasm, "that I am full of hope for the future of our
"That's more than I am," said Mrs. Larkins very coldly. "When you have
summered and wintered them as I have, you will change your tune."
"Oh, I hope not," he replied with an accent of distress in his voice.
"You may think me a dreamer and enthusiast, but with all our faults I
firmly believe that the Negro belongs to one of the best branches of the
human race, and that he has a high and holy mission in the great drama
of life. I do not think our God is a purposeless Being, but his ways are
not as our ways are, and his thoughts are not our thoughts, and I dare
not say 'Had I his wisdom or he my love,' the condition of humanity
would be better. I prefer thinking that in the crucible of pain and
apparent disaster, that we are held by the hand of a loving Father who
is doing for us all, the best he can to fit us for companionship with
him in the eternities, and with John G. Whittier, I feel:
Amid the maddening maze of things
When tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed stake my spirit clings
I know that God is good.
"I once questioned and doubted, but now I have learned to love and trust
in 'Him whom the heavens must receive till the time of the restitution
of all things.' By this trust I do not mean a lazy leaning on Providence
to do for us what we have ability to do for ourselves. I think that our
people need more to be taught how to live than to be constantly warned
to get ready to die. As Brother Thomas said, we are now passing through
a crucial period of our history and what we need is life--more abundant
life in every fibre of our souls; life which will manifest itself in
moral earnestness, vigor of purpose, strength of character and spiritual
"I do hope," said Mr. Thomas, "that as you are among us, you will impart
some of your earnestness and enthusiasm to our young people."
"As I am a new comer here, and it is said that the people of A.P., are
very sensitive to criticism, though very critical themselves and rather
set and conservative in their ways, I hope that I shall have the benefit
of your experience in aiding me to do all I can to help the people among
whom my lot is cast."
"You are perfectly welcome to any aid I can give you. Just now some of
us are interested in getting our people out of these wretched alleys and
crowded tenement houses into the larger, freer air of the country. We
want our young men to help us fight the battle against poverty,
ignorance, degradation, and the cold, proud scorn of society. Before our
public lands are all appropriated, I want our young men and women to get
homesteads, and to be willing to endure privations in order to place our
means of subsistence on a less precarious basis. The land is a basis of
power, and like Anteus in the myth, we will never have our full measure
of material strength till we touch the earth as owners of the soil. And
when we get the land we must have patience and perseverance enough to
"In one of our Western States is a city which suggests the idea of
Aladdin's wonderful lamp. Where that city now stands was once the
homestead of a colored man who came from Virginia and obtained it under
the homestead law. That man has since been working as a servant for a
man who lives on 80 acres of his former section, and who has plotted the
rest for the city of C."
"How did he lose it?"
"When he came from the South the country was new and female labor in
great demand. His wife could earn $1.50 a day, and instead of moving on
his land, he remained about forty miles away, till he had forfeited his
claim, and it fell into the hands of the present proprietor. Since then
our foresight has been developing and some months since in travelling in
that same State, I met a woman whose husband had taken up a piece of
land and was bringing it under cultivation. She and her children
remained in town where they could all get work, and transmit him help
and in a few years, I expect, they will be comfortably situated in a
home owned by their united efforts."
What next? was the question Mr. Thomas was revolving in his mind, when a
knock was heard at his door, and he saw standing on the threshold, one
of his former pupils.
"Well, Charley, how does the world use you? Everything going on
"Oh, no indeed. I have lost my situation."
"How is that? You were getting on so well. Mr. Hazleton seemed to be
perfectly satisfied with you, and I thought that you were quite a
favorite in the establishment. How was it that you lost your place?"
"I lost it through the meanness of Mr. Mahler."
"Mr. Mahler, our Superintendent of public schools?"
"Yes, it was through him that I lost my situation."
"Why, what could you have done to offend him?"
"Nothing at all; I never had an unpleasant word with him in my life."
"Do explain yourself. I cannot see why he should have used any influence
to deprive you of your situation."
"He had it in his power to do me a mean, low-life trick, and he did it,
and I hope to see the day when I will be even with him," said the lad,
with a flashing eye, while an angry flush mantled his cheek.
"Do any of the family deal at Mr. Hazleton's store? Perhaps you gave
some of them offence through neglect or thoughtlessness in dealing with
"It was nothing of the kind. Mr. Mahler knew me and my mother. He knew
her because she taught under him, and of course saw me often enough to
know that I was her son, and so last week when he saw me in the store, I
noticed that he looked very closely at me, and that in a few moments
after he was in conversation with Mr. Hazleton. He asked him, 'if he
employed a nigger for a cashier?' He replied, 'Of course not.' 'Well,'
he said, 'you have one now.' After that they came down to the desk where
I was casting up my accounts and Mr. Mahler asked, 'Is Mrs. Cooper your
mother?' I answered, 'yes sir.' Of course I would not deny my mother.
'Isn't your name Charley?' and again I answered, yes; I could have
resorted to concealment, but I would not lie for a piece of bread, and
yet for mother's sake I sorely needed the place.
"What did Mr. Hazleton say?"
"Nothing, only I thought he looked at me a little embarrassed, just as
any half-decent man might when he was about to do a mean and cruel
thing. But that afternoon I lost my place. Mr. Hazleton said to me when
the store was about to close, that he had no further use for me. Not
discouraged, I found another place; but I believe that my evil genius
found me out and that through him I was again ousted from that situation
and now I am at my wits end."
"But, Charley, were you not sailing under false colors?"
"I do not think so, Mr. Thompson. I saw in the window an advertisement,
'A boy wanted.' They did not say what color the boy must be and I
applied for the situation and did my work as faithfully as I knew how.
Mr. Hazleton seemed to be perfectly satisfied with my work and as he did
not seek to know the antecedents of my family I did not see fit to
thrust them gratuitously upon him. You know the hard struggle my poor
mother has had to get along, how the saloon has cursed and darkened our
home and I was glad to get anything to do by which I could honestly earn
a dollar and help her keep the wolf from the door, and I tried to do my
level best, but it made no difference; as soon as it was known that I
had Negro blood in my veins door after door was closed against me; not
that I was not honest, industrious, obliging and steady, but simply
because of the blood in my veins."
"I admit," said Mr. Thomas, trying to repress his indignation and speak
calmly, "that it was a hard thing to be treated so for a cause over
which you had not the least control, but, Charley, you must try to pick
"Oh, it seems to me that my courage has all oozed out. I think that I
will go away; maybe I can find work somewhere else. Had I been a convict
from a prison there are Christian women here who would have been glad to
have reached me out a helping hand and hailed my return to a life of
honest industry as a blessed crowning of their labors of love; while I,
who am neither a pauper nor felon, am turned from place after place
because I belong to a race on whom Christendom bestowed the curse of
slavery and under whose shadow has flourished Christless and inhuman
caste prejudice. So I think that I had better go and start life afresh."
"No, Charley, don't go away. I know you could pass as a white man; but,
Charley, don't you know that to do so you must separate from your
kindred and virtually ignore your mother? A mother, who, for your sake,
would, I believe, take blood from every vein and strength from every
nerve if it were necessary. If you pass into the white basis your mother
can never be a guest in your home without betraying your origin; you
cannot visit her openly and crown her with the respect she so well
deserves without divulging the secret of your birth; and Charley, by
doing so I do not think it possible that however rich or strong or
influential you may be as a white man, that you can be as noble and as
true a man as you will be if you stand in your lot without compromise or
concealment, and feel that the feebler your mother's race is the closer
you will cling to it. Charley, you have lately joined the church; your
mission in the world is not to seek to be rich and strong, but because
there is so much sin and misery in the world by it is to clasp the hand
of Christ through faith and try to make the world better by your
influence and gladder and brighter by your presence."
"Mr. Thomas I try to be, and I hope I am a Christian, but if these
prejudices are consistent with Christianity then I must confess that I
do not understand it, and if it is I do not want it. Are these people
Christians who open the doors of charitable institutions to sinners who
are white and close them against the same class who are black? I do not
call such people good patriots, let alone clear-sighted Christians. Why,
they act as if God had done wrong in making a man black, and that they
have never forgiven him and had become reconciled to the workmanship of
"Charley, you are excited just now, and I think that you are making the
same mistake that better educated men than you have done. You are
putting Christianity and its abuses together. I do think, notwithstanding
all its perversions, and all the rubbish which has gathered around its
simplicity and beauty, that Christianity is the world's best religion.
I know that Christ has been wounded in what should have been the house
of his friends; that the banner of his religion which is broad enough
to float over the wide world with all its sin and misery, has been
drenched with the blood of persecution, trampled in the mire of slavery
and stained by the dust of caste proscription; but I believe that men
are beginning more fully to comprehend the claims of the gospel of
Jesus Christ. I am not afraid of what men call infidelity. I hold the
faith which I profess, to be too true, too sacred and precious to be
disturbed by every wave of wind and doubt. Amid all the religious
upheavals of the Nineteenth Century, I believe God is at the helm, that
there are petrifactions of creed and dogma that are to [be] broken up,
not by mere intellectual speculations, but by the greater solvent of
the constraining love of Christ, and it is for this that I am praying,
longing and waiting. Let schoolmen dispute and contend, the faith for
which I most ardently long and earnestly contend, is a faith which works
by love and purifies the soul."
"Mr. Thomas, I believe that there is something real about your religion,
but some of these white Christians do puzzle me awfully. Oh, I think
that I will go. I am sick and tired of the place. Everything seems to be
"No, Charley; stay for your mother's sake. I know a noble and generous
man who is brave enough to face a vitiated public opinion, and rich
enough to afford himself the luxury of a good conscience. I shall tell
him your story and try to interest him in your behalf. Will you stay?"
"I certainly will if he will give me any chance to get my living and
help my mother."
"It has been said that everything has two handles, and if you take it by
the wrong handle it will be too hard to hold."
"I should like to know which is the right handle to this prejudice
"I do not think that there is prejudice against color in this country."
"No prejudice against color!" said Charley Cooper, opening his eyes
with sudden wonder. "What was it that dogged my steps and shut door
after door against me? Wasn't that prejudice against color?"
"Whose color, Charley? Surely not yours, for you are whiter than several
of Mr. Hazleton's clerks. Do you see in your case it was not prejudice
"What was it, then?"
"It was the information that you were connected by blood with a once
enslaved and despised people on whom society had placed its ban, and to
whom slavery and a low social condition had given a heritage of scorn,
and as soon as he found out that you were connected with that race, he
had neither the manliness nor the moral courage to say, the boy is
capable and efficient. I see no cause why he should be dismissed for the
crimes of his white ancestors. I heard an eminent speaker once say that
some people would sing, 'I can smile at Satan's rage, and face a
frowning world,' when they hadn't courage enough to face their next door
neighbor on a moral question."
"I think that must be the case with Mr. Hazleton."
"I once used to despise such men. I have since learned to pity them."
"I don't see what you find to pity in Mr. Hazleton, unless it is his
"Well, I pity him for that. I think there never was slave more cowed
under the whip of his master than he is under the lash of public
opinion. The Negro was not the only one whom slavery subdued to the
pliancy of submission. Men fettered the slave and cramped their own
souls, denied him knowledge and then darkened their own spiritual
insight, and the Negro, poor and despised as he was, laid his hands upon
American civilization and has helped to mould its character. It is God's
law. As ye sow, so shall ye reap, and men cannot sow avarice and
oppression without reaping the harvest of retribution. It is a dangerous
thing to gather
The flowers of sin that blossom
Around the borders of hell."
"I never want to go to that school again," said Annette entering Mrs.
Lasette's sitting room, throwing down her books on the table and looking
as if she were ready to burst into tears.
"What is the matter now, my dear child? You seem to be all out of
"I've had a fuss with that Mary Joseph."
"Mary Joseph, the saloon-keeper's daughter?"
"How did it happen?"
"Yesterday in changing seats, the teacher put us together according to
the first letter in our last names. You know that I, comes next to J;
but there wasn't a girl in the room whose name begins with I, and so as
J comes next, she put Mary Joseph and myself together."
"Ireland and Africa, and they were not ready for annexation?"
"No, and never will be, I hope."
"Never is a long day, Annette, but go on with your story."
"Well, after the teacher put her in the seat next to me she began to
wriggle and squirm and I asked her if anything was biting her, because
if there was, I did not want it to get on me."
"Oh, Annette, what a girl you are; why did you notice her? What did she
"She said if there was, it must have got there since the teacher put
her on that seat, and it must have come from me."
"Well, Mary Joseph knows how to scratch as well as you do."
"Yes, she is a real scratch cat."
"And what are you, my dear; a pattern saint?"
"No," said Annette, as the ruefulness of her face relaxed into a smile,
"but that isn't all; when I went to eat my lunch, she said she wasn't
used to eating with niggers. Then I asked her if her mother didn't eat
with the pigs in the old country, and she said that she would rather eat
with them than to eat with me, and then she called me a nigger and I
called her a poor white mick."
"Oh, Annette, I am so sorry; I am afraid that trouble may come out of
this fuss, and then it is so wrong and unlady-like for you to be
quarrelling that way. Do you know how old you are?"
"I am almost fourteen years old."
"Where was the teacher all this time? Did she know anything about it?"
"No; she was out of the room part of the time, but I don't think she
likes colored people, because last week when Joe Smith was cutting up in
school, she made him get up and sit alongside of me to punish him."
"She should not have done so, but I don't suppose she thought for one
moment how it looked."
"I don't know, but when I told grandma about it, Mrs. Larkins was in the
room, and she said if she had done a child of hers so, she would have
gone there and sauced her head off; but grandma said that she would not
notice it; that the easiest way is the best."
"I think that your grandmother was right; but what did Joe say?"
He said that the teacher didn't spite him; that he would as lieve sit by
me as any girl in school, and that he liked girls."
"A little scamp."
"He says he likes girls because they are so jolly."
"But tell me all about Mary Joseph."
"Well, a mean old thing, she went and told her horrid old father, and
just as I was coming along he took hold of my arm and said he had heard
that I had called his daughter, Miss Mary Joseph, a poor white mick and
that if I did it again he would give me a good thrashing, and that for
two pins he would do it then."
"I guess I felt like Mrs. Larkins does when she says her Guinea gets up.
My Guinea was up but I was afraid to show it. Oh, but I do hate these
Irish. I don't like them for anything. Grandmother says that an Irishman
is only a negro turned wrong side out, and I told her so yesterday
morning when she was fussing with me."
"Say, rather, when we were fussing together; I don't think the fault was
all on her side."
"But, Mrs. Lasette, she had no business calling me a nigger."
"Of course not; but would you have liked it [any] better if she had
called you a negro?"
"No; I don't want her to call me anything of the kind, neither negro nor
nigger. She shan't even call me black."
"But, Annette, are you not black?"
"I don't care if I am, she shan't call me so."
"But suppose you were to say to Miss Joseph, 'How white your face is,'
do you suppose she would get angry because you said that she looked
"No, of course not."
"But suppose you met her hurrying to school, and you said to her, how
red and rosy you look this morning, would that make her angry?"
"I don't suppose that it would."
"But suppose she would say to you, 'Annette, how black your face is this
morning,' how would you feel?"
"I should feel like slapping her."
"Why so; do you think because Miss Joseph----"
"Don't call her Miss, she is so mean and hateful."
"But that don't hinder her from being Miss Joseph; If she is rude and
coarse, that is no reason why I should not have good manners."
"Oh, Mrs. Lasette you are too sweet for anything. I wish I was like
"Never mind my sweetness; that is not to the point. Will you listen to
me, my dear?"
"Of course I will. I could listen to you all night."
"Well, if it were not for signs there's no mistaking I should think you
had a lot of Irish blood in your veins, and had kissed the blarney
"No I haven't and if I had I would try to let----"
"Hush, my child; how you do rattle on. Do you think because Miss Joseph
is white that she is any better than you are."
"No, of course not."
"But don't you think that she can see and hear a little better than you
"Why, no; what makes you ask such a funny question?"
"Never mind, just answer me a few more questions. Don't you think if you
and she had got to fighting that she would have whipped you because she
"Why, of course not. Didn't she try to get the ruler out of my hand and
didn't because I was stronger."
"But don't you think she is smarter than you are and gets her lessons
"Now you are shouting."
"Why, Annette, where in the world did you get that slang?"
"Why, Mrs. Lasette, I hear the boys saying it in the street, and the
girls in Tennis Court all say it, too. Is there any harm in it?"
"It is slang, my child, and a young lady should never use slang. Don't
use it in private and you will not be apt to use it in public. However
humble or poor a person may be, there is no use in being coarse and
"But what harm is there in it?"
"I don't say that there is any, but I don't think it nice for young
ladies to pick up all sorts of phrases in the street and bring them into
the home. The words may be innocent in themselves, but they may not have
the best associations, and it is safer not to use them. But let us
return to Miss Joseph. You do not think that she can see or hear any
better than you can, learn her lessons any quicker than you can, and
when it comes to a trial of strength that she is stronger than you are,
now let me ask you one more question. Who made Miss Joseph?"
"Why, the Lord, of course."
"And who made you?"
"He made me, too."
"Are you sure that you did not make yourself?"
"Why, of course not," said Annette with an accent of wonder in her
"Does God ever make any mistakes?"
"Then if any one calls you black, why should you get angry? You say it
would not make Miss Joseph angry to say she looked white, or red and
"I don't know; I know I don't like it and it makes me mad."
"Now, let me explain the reason why it makes you angry to be called
black. Suppose I were to burn my hand in that stove, what would I have
on my hand?"
"A sore place."
"If it were your hand, what would you do?"
"I would put something on it, wrap it up to keep from getting cold into
it and try to get it well as soon as I could."
"Well, that would be a very sensible way of dealing with it. In this
country, Annette, color has been made a sore place; it has been
associated with slavery, poverty and ignorance. You cannot change your
color, but you can try to change the association connected with our
complexions. Did slavery force a man to be servile and submissive? Learn
to hold up your head and respect yourself. Don't notice Mary Joseph's
taunts; if she says things to tease you don't you let her see that she
has succeeded. Learn to act as if you realized that you were born into
this world the child of the Ruler of the universe, that this is his
world and that you have as much right in it as she has. I think it was
Gilbert Haven, a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a man for
whose tombstone I do not think America has any marble too white or any
laurel too green, who saw on his travels a statue of Cleopatra, which
suggested to him this thought, 'I am black, but comely, the sun has
looked down upon me, but I will make you who despise me feel that I am
your superior,' and, Annette, I want you to be so noble, true and pure
that if everybody should hate you, that no one could despise you. No,
Annette, if Miss Joseph ever attempts to quarrel with you don't put
yourself on the same level by quarreling with her. I knew her parents
when they were very poor; when a half dozen of them slept in one room.
He has made money by selling liquor; he is now doing business in one of
the most valuable pieces of property I see in East L street. He has been
a curse, and his saloon a nuisance in that street. He has gone up in
property and even political influence, but oh, how many poor souls have
gone down, slain by strong drink and debauchery."
True to his word, Mr. Thomas applied to Mr. Hastings, the merchant, of
whom he had spoken to his young friend. He went to his counting-room and
asked for a private interview, which was readily granted. They had
kindred intellectual and literary tastes and this established between
them a free masonry of mind which took no account of racial differences.
"I have a favor to ask," said Mr. Thomas, "can you spare me a few
"I am at your service," Mr. Hasting replied, "what can I do for you?"
"I have," he said, "a young friend who is honest and industrious and
competent to fill the place of clerk or cashier in your store. He has
been a cashier for Hazleton & Co., and while there gave entire
"Why did he leave?"
"I cannot say, because he was guilty of a skin not colored like your
own, but because a report was brought to Mr. Hazleton that he had Negro
blood in his veins."
"And what then?"
"He summarily dismissed him."
"What a shame!"
"Yes, it was a shame, but this pride of caste dwarfs men's moral
perception so that it prepares them to do a number of contemptible
things which, under other circumstances, they would scorn to do."
"Yes, it is so, and I am sorry to see it."
"There are men, Mr. Hastings, who would grow hotly indignant if you
would say that they are not gentlemen who would treat a Negro in a
manner which would not be recognized as fair, even by ruffians of the
ring, for, I believe, it is their code of honor not to strike a man when
he is down; but with respect to the colored man, it seems to be a
settled policy with some not only to push him down, but to strike him
when he is down. But I must go; I came to ask a favor and it is not
right to trespass on your time."
"No; sit still. I have a little leisure I can give you. My fall trade
has not opened yet and I am not busy. I see and deplore these things of
which you complain, but what can be done to help it?"
"Mr. Hastings, you see them, and I feel them, and I fear that I am
growing morbid over them, and not only myself, but other educated men
of my race, and that, I think, is a thing to be deprecated. Between the
white people and the colored people of this country there is a unanimity
of interest and I know that our interests and duties all lie in one
direction. Can men corrupt and intimidate voters in the South without a
reflex influence being felt in the North? Is not the depression of labor
in the South a matter of interest to the North? You may protect yourself
from what you call the pauper of Europe, but you will not be equally
able to defend yourself from the depressed laborer of the new South, and
as an American citizen, I dread any turn of the screw which will lower
the rate of wages here; and I like to feel as an American citizen that
whatever concerns the nation concerns me. But I feel that this prejudice
against my race compresses my soul, narrows my political horizon and
makes me feel that I am an alien in the land of my birth. It meets me in
the church, it confronts me in business and I feel its influence in
almost every avenue of my life."
"I wish, Mr. Thomas, that some of the men who are writing and talking
about the Negro problem would only come in contact with the thoughtful
men of your race. I think it would greatly modify their views."
"Yes, you know us as your servants. The law takes cognizance of our
crimes. Your charitable institutions of our poverty, but what do any of
you know of our best and most thoughtful men and women? When we write
how many of you ever read our books and papers or give yourselves any
trouble to come near us as friends and help us? Even some of your
professed Christians are trying to set us apart as if we were social
"You draw a dark picture. I confess that I feel pained at the condition
of affairs in the South, but what can we do in the South?"
"Set the South a better example. But I am hindering you in your
"Not at all. I want to see things from the same standpoint that you do."
"Put yourself then in my place. You start both North and South from the
premise that we are an inferior race and as such you have treated us.
Has not the consensus of public opinion said for ages, 'No valor redeems
our race, no social advancement nor individual development wipes off the
ban which clings to us'; that our place is on the lowest round of the
social ladder; that at least, in part of the country we are too low for
the equal administrations of religion and the same dispensations of
charity and a fair chance in the race of life?"
"You bring a heavy verdict against us. I hardly think that it can be
sustained. Whatever our motives may have been, we have been able to
effect in a few years a wonderful change in the condition of the Negro.
He has freedom and enfranchisement and with these two great rights he
must work out his social redemption and political solution. If his means
of education have been limited, a better day is dawning upon him. Doors
once closed against him in the South are now freely opened to him, and I
do not think that there ever was a people who freed their slaves who
have given as much for their education as we have, and my only hope is
that the moral life of the race will keep pace with its intellectual
growth. You tell me to put myself in your place. I think if I were a
colored young man that I would develop every faculty and use every power
which God had given me for the improvement and development of my race.
And who among us would be so blind and foolish as to attempt to keep
down an enlightened people who were determined to rise in the scale of
character and condition? No, Mr. Thomas, while you blame us for our
transgressions and shortcomings, do not fail to do all you can to rouse
up all the latent energies of your young men to do their part worthily
as American citizens and to add their quota to the strength and progress
of the nation."
"I am conscious of the truth and pertinence of your remarks, but bear
with me just a few moments while I give an illustration of what I mean."
"Speak on, I am all attention. The subject you bring before me is of
too vital importance to be constantly ignored."
"I have a friend who is presiding elder in the A.M.E. Church and his
wife, I think, is capable of being a social and intellectual accession
in any neighborhood in which they might live. He rented a house in the
city of L. and being of a fair complexion I suppose the lessee rented to
him without having a suspicion of his race connection. When it was
ascertained that he and his family were colored, he was ordered to
leave, and this man, holding among the ministers of that city the
position of ambassador for Christ, was ordered out of the house on
account of the complexion of his family. Was there not a screw loose in
the religious sentiment of that city which made such an act possible? A
friend of mine who does mission work in your city, some time since,
found a young woman in the slums and applied at the door of a midnight
mission for fallen women, and asked if colored girls could be received,
and was curtly answered, 'no.' For her in that mission there was no room.
The love of Christ constrained no hand to strive to rescue her from the
depths of degradation. The poor thing went from bad to worse till at
last, wrecked and blighted, she went down to an early grave the victim
of strong drink. That same lady found on her mission a white girl;
seeing a human soul adrift, regardless of color, she went, in company
with some others, to that same mission with the poor castaway; to her
the door was opened without delay and ready admittance granted. But I
might go on reciting such instances until you would be weary of hearing
and I of relating them; but I appeal to you as a patriot and Christian,
is it not fearfully unwise to keep alive in freedom the old animosities
of slavery? To-day the Negro shares citizenship with you. He is not
arraying himself against your social order; his hands are not dripping
with dynamite, nor is he waving in your face the crimson banners of
anarchy, but he is increasing in numbers and growing in intelligence,
and is it not madness and folly to subject him to social and public
inequalities, which are calculated to form and keep alive a hatred of
race as a reaction against pride of caste?"
"Mr. Thomas, you have given me a new view of the matter. To tell you the
truth, we have so long looked upon the colored man as a pliable and
submissive being that we have never learned to look at any hatred on his
part as an element of danger, and yet I should be sorry to know that by
our Southern supineness we were thoughtlessly helping create a black
Ireland in our Gulf States, that in case the fires of anarchy should
ever sweep through our land, that a discontented and disaffected people
in our midst might be as so much fuel to fire."
"But really I have been forgetting my errand. Have you any opening in
your store for my young friend?"
"I have only one vacancy, and that is the place of a utility man."
"What are the duties of that position?"
"Almost anything that comes to hand; tying up bundles, looking after the
mails, scattering advertisements. A factotum whose work lies here, there
"I am confident that he will accept the situation and render you
"Well, then send him around tomorrow and if there is anything in him I
may be able to do better by him when the fall trade opens."
And so Charley Cooper was fortunate enough in his hour of perplexity to
find a helping hand to tide him over a difficult passage in his life.
Gratefully and faithfully did he serve Mr. Hastings, who never regretted
the hour when he gave the struggling boy such timely assistance. The
discipline of the life through which he was passing as the main stay of
his mother, matured his mind and imparted to it a thoughtfulness past
his years. Instead of wasting his time in idle and pernicious pleasure,
he learned how to use his surplus dollar and how to spend his leisure
hours, and this knowledge told upon his life and character. He was not
very popular in society. Young men with cigars in their mouths and the
perfume of liquor on their breaths, shrugged their shoulders and called
him a milksop because he preferred the church and Sunday school to the
liquor saloon and gambling dens. The society of P. was cut up and
divided into little sets and coteries; there was an amount of
intelligence among them, but it ran in narrow grooves and scarcely
one intellect seemed to tower above the other, and if it did, no
people knew better how to ignore a rising mind than the society people
of A.P. If the literary aspirant did not happen to be of their set. As
to talent, many of them were pleasant and brilliant conversationalists,
but in the world of letters scarcely any of them were known or
recognized outside of their set. They had leisure, a little money and
some ability, but they lacked the perseverance and self-denial
necessary to enable them to add to the great resources of natural
thought. They had narrowed their minds to the dimensions of their set
and were unprepared to take expansive views of life and duty. They
took life as a holiday and the lack of noble purposes and high and holy
aims left its impress upon their souls and deprived them of that joy and
strength which should have crowned their existence and given to their
lives its "highest excellence and beauty."
Two years have elapsed since we left Annette recounting her school
grievances to Mrs. Lasette. She has begun to feel the social contempt
which society has heaped upon the colored people, but she has determined
not to succumb to it. There is force in the character of that fiery,
impetuous and impulsive girl, and her school experience is bringing it
out. She has been bending all her mental energies to compete for the
highest prize at the commencement of her school, from which she expects
to graduate in a few weeks. The treatment of the saloon-keeper's
daughter, and that of other girls of her ilk, has stung her into
strength. She feels that however despised her people may be, that a
monopoly of brains has not been given to the white race. Mr. Thomas has
encouraged her efforts, and taught her to believe that not only is her
own honor at stake as a student, but that as a representative of her
branch of the human race, she is on the eve of winning, or losing, not
only for herself, but for others. This view of the matter increases her
determination and rouses up all the latent energies of her nature, and
she labors day and night to be a living argument of the capability in
her race. For other girls who will graduate in that school, there will
be open doors, and unclosed avenues, while she knows that the color of
her skin will bar against her the doors of workshops, factories and
school rooms, and yet Mr. Thomas, knowing all the discouragements around
her path, has done what he could to keep her interest in her studies
from flagging. He knows that she has fine abilities, but that they must
be disciplined by trial and endeavor before her life can be rounded by
success and triumph. He has seen several of her early attempts at
versification; pleased and even delighted with them, he has shown them
to a few of his most intellectual friends. Eager and earnest for the
elevation of the colored people, he has been pained at the coldness with
which they have been received.
"I do not call that poetry," said one of the most intelligent women of
"Neither do I see anything remarkable about her," said another.
"I did not," said Mr. Thomas, "bring you the effusions of an
acknowledged poet, but I think that the girl has fine ability, which
needs encouragement and recognition."
But his friends could not see it; they were very charry of their
admiration, lest their judgment should be found at fault, and then it
was so much easier to criticise than it was to heartily admire; and they
knew it seemed safer to show their superior intelligence by dwelling on
the defects, which would necessarily have an amount of crudeness in them
than to look beneath the defects for the suggestions of beauty, strength
and grace which Mr. Thomas saw in these unripe, but promising effusions.
It seemed perfectly absurd with the surroundings of Tennis Court to
expect anything grand or beautiful [to] develop in its midst; but with
Annette, poetry was a passion born in her soul, and it was as natural
for her to speak in tropes and figures as it was for others to talk in
plain, common prose. Mr. Thomas called her "our inveterate poet," and
encouraged her, but the literary aspirants took scarcely any interest in
the girl whom they left to struggle on as best she might. In her own
home she was doomed to meet with lack of encouragement and appreciation
from her relatives and grandmother's friends. One day her aunt, Eliza
Hanson, was spending the day with her mother, and Annette showed her
some of her verses and said to her, "that is one of my best pieces."
"Oh, you have a number of best pieces," said her aunt, carelessly. "Can
you cook a beefsteak?"
"I suppose I could if I tried."
"Well, you had better try than to be trying to string verses together.
You seem to think that there must be something very great about you. I
know where you want to get. You want to get among the upper tens, but
you haven't got style enough about you for that."
"That's just what I tell her," said her grandmother. "She's got too many
airs for a girl in her condition. She talks about writing a book, and
she is always trying to make up what she calls poetry. I expect that she
will go crazy some of these days. She is all the time talking to
herself, and I just think it is a sin for her to be so much taken up
with her poetry."
"You had better put her to work; had she not better go out to service?"
"No, I am going to let her graduate first."
"What's the use of it? When she's through, if she wants to teach, she
will have to go away."
"Yes, I know that, but Mrs. Lasette has persuaded me to let Annette
graduate, and I have promised that I would do so, and besides I think to
take Annette from school just now would almost break her heart."
"Well, mother, that is just like you; you will work yourself almost to
death to keep Annette in school, and when she is through what good will
it do her?"
"Maybe something will turn up that you don't see just now. When a good
thing turns up if a person ain't ready for it they can't take hold of
"Well, I hope a good husband will turn up for my Alice."
"But maybe the good husband won't turn up for Annette."
"That is well said, for they tell me that Annette is not very popular,
and that some of the girls are all the time making fun of her."
"Well, they had better make fun of themselves and their own bad manners.
Annette is poor and has no father to stand by her, and I cannot
entertain like some of their parents can, but Annette, with all her
faults, is as good as any of them. Talk about the prejudice of the white
people, I think there is just as much prejudice among some colored as
there is among them, only we do not get the same chance to show it; we
are most too mixed up and dependent on one another for that." Just then
Mrs. Lasette entered the room and Mrs. Hanson, addressing her, said, "We
were just discussing Annette's prospects. Mother wants to keep Annette
at school till she graduates, but I think she knows enough now to teach
a country school and it is no use for mother to be working as she does
to keep Annette in school for the sake of letting her graduate. There
are lots of girls in A.P. better off than she who have never graduated,
and I don't see that mother can afford to keep Annette at school any
"But, Eliza, Annette is company for me and she does help about the
"I don't think much of her help; always when I come home she has a book
stuck under her nose."
"Annette," said Mrs. Lasette, "is a favorite of mine; I have always a
warm place in my heart for her, and I really want to see the child do
well. In my judgment I do not think it advisable to take her from school
before she graduates. If Annette were indifferent about her lessons and
showed no aptitude for improvement I should say as she does not
appreciate education enough to study diligently and has not aspiration
enough to keep up with her class, find out what she is best fitted for
and let her be instructed in that calling for which she is best
"I think," said Mrs. Hanson, "you all do wrong in puffing up Annette
with the idea that she is something extra. You think, Mrs. Lasette, that
there is something wonderful about Annette, but I can't see it, and I
hear a lot of people say she hasn't got good sense."
"They do not understand the child."
"They all say that she is very odd and queer and often goes out into the
street as if she never saw a looking glass. Why, Mrs. Miller's daughter
just laughed till she was tired at the way Annette was dressed when she
went to call on an acquaintance of hers. Why, Annette just makes herself
a perfect laughing stock."
"Well, I think Mary Miller might have found better employment than
laughing at her company."
"Now, let me tell you, Mary Miller don't take her for company, and that
very evening Annette was at my house, just next door, and when Mary
Miller went to church she never asked her to go along with her, although
she belongs to the same church."
"I am sorry to say it," said grandmother Harcourt, "but your Alice
hardly ever comes to see Annette, and never asks her to go anywhere with
her, but may be in the long run Annette will come out better than some
who now look down upon her. It is a long road that has no turn and
Annette is like a singed cat; she is better than she looks."
"I think," said Mrs. Lasette, "while Annette is very bright and
intelligent as a pupil, she has been rather slow in developing in some
other directions. She lacks tact, is straightforward to bluntness and
has not any style about her and little or no idea of company manners,
but she is never coarse nor rude. I never knew her to read a book whose
author I would blush to name, and I never heard her engage in any
conversation I would shrink to hear repeated. I don't think there is a
girl of purer lips in A.P. than Annette, and I do not think your set, as
you call it, has such a monopoly of either virtue or intelligence that
you can afford to ridicule and depress any young soul who does not
happen to come up to your social standard. Where dress and style are
passports Annette may be excluded, but where brain and character count
Annette will gain admittance. I fear," said Mrs. Lasette, rising to go,
"that many a young girl has gone down in the very depths who might have
been saved if motherly women, when they saw them unloved and lonely, had
reached out to them a helping hand and encouraged them to live useful
and good lives. We cry am I my sister's keeper? [I?] will not wipe the
blood off our hands if through pride and selfishness we have stabbed by
our neglect souls we should have helped by our kindness. I always feel
for young girls who are lonely and neglected in large cities and are in
danger of being ensnared by pretended sympathies and false friendship,
and, to-day, no girl is more welcome at any social gathering than
"Mrs. Lasette," said Mrs. Hanson, "you are rich and you can do as you
choose in A.P. You can set the fashion."
"No; I am not rich, but I hope that I will always be able to lend a
hand to any lonely girl who is neglected, slighted and forgotten while
she is trying to do right, who comes within my reach while I live in
A.P. Good morning."
"Annette," said Mrs. Hanson, "has a champion who will stand by her."
"Yes," said Mrs. Harcourt, "Anna is true as steel; the kind of woman
you can tie to. When my great trouble came, she was good as gold, and
when my poor heart was almost breaking, she always had a kind word for
me. I wish we had ten thousand like her."
"Well, mother, I must go, but if Annette does graduate don't let her go
on the stage looking like a fright. General H's daughter has a beautiful
new silk dress and a lovely hat which she got just a few weeks before
her mother's death; as she has gone in black she wants to sell it, and
if you say so, and will pay for it on installments, I can get if for
Annette, and I think with a little alteration it would be splendid for
her graduation dress."
"No; Eliza, I can't afford it."
"Why, mother, Annette will need something nice for the occasion, and it
will not cost any more than what you intend to pay for her dress and
hat. Why not take them?"
"Because Annette is not able to wear them. Suppose she had that one fine
dress and hat, would she not want more to match with them? I don't want
her to learn to dress in a style that she cannot honestly afford. I
think this love of dress is the ruination of many a young girl. I think
this straining after fine things when you are not able to get them, is
perfectly ridiculous. I believe in cutting your coat according to your
cloth. I saw Mrs. Hempstead's daughter last Sunday dressed up in a
handsome light silk, and a beautiful spring hat, and if she or her
mother would get sick to-morrow, they would, I suppose, soon be objects
of public charity or dependent on her widowed sister, who is too proud
to see her go to the poor house; and this is just the trouble with a lot