Part 2 out of 2
of people; they not only have their own burdens to bear but somebody
else's. You may call me an old fogy, but I would rather live cheap and
dress plain than shirk my burdens because I had wasted when they had
saved. You and John Hanson are both young and have got your health and
strength, and instead of buying sealskins, and velvets and furbelows,
you had better be laying up for a rainy day. You have no more need for a
sealskin cloak than a cat has for a catechism. Now you do as you please,
I have had my say."
It has been quite a length of time since we left Mr. Thomas and his
young friend facing an uncertain future. Since then he has not only been
successful in building up a good business for himself, but in opening
the gates to others. His success has not inflated him with pride.
Neither has he become self-abashed and isolated from others less
fortunate, who need his counsel and sympathy. Generous and noble in his
character, he was conservative enough to cling to the good of the past
and radical enough to give hospitality to every new idea which was
calculated to benefit and make life noble and better. Mr. Thomas, in
laying the foundation of his education, was thoughtful enough to enter
a manual labor school, where he had the double advantage of getting
an education and learning a trade, through which he was enabled to
rely on himself without asking aid from any one, which in itself was
an education in manliness, self-respect and self-reliance, that he
could not have obtained had he been the protege of the wealthiest
philanthropist in the land. As he had fine mechanical skill and
ingenuity, he became an excellent carpenter. But it is one thing to have
a trade and another thing to have an opportunity to exercise that trade.
It was a time when a number of colored churches were being erected. To
build large and even magnificent churches seemed to be a ruling passion
with the colored people. Their homes might be very humble, their walls
bare of pictured grace, but by united efforts they could erect large and
handsome churches in which they had a common possession and it was one
of the grand satisfactions of freedom that they were enabled to build
their own churches and carry on their own business without being
interfered with, and overlooked by a class of white ecclesiastics whose
presence was a reminder of their implied inferiority. The church of
which Mr. Thomas was a member was about to erect a costly edifice. The
trustees would probably have willingly put the work in the hands of a
colored man, had there been a sufficient number to have done the work,
but they did not seem to remember that white prejudice had barred the
Northern workshops against the colored man, that slavery, by degrading
and monopolizing labor had been the means of educating colored men in
the South to be good mechanics, and that a little pains and search on
their part might have brought to light colored carpenters in the South
who would have done the work as efficiently as those whom they employed,
but as the trustees were not very farsighted men, they did the most
available thing that came to hand; they employed a white man. Mr.
Thomas' pastor applied to the master builder for a place for his
"Can you give employment to one of my members, on our church?" Rev.
Mr. Lomax asked the master builder.
"I would willingly do so, but I can not."
"Because my men would all rise up against it. Now, for my part, I have
no prejudice against your parishioner, but my men will not work with a
colored man. I would let them all go if I could get enough colored men
to suit me just as well, but such is the condition of the labor market,
that a man must either submit to a number of unpalatable things or run
the risk of a strike and being boycotted. I think some of these men who
want so much liberty for themselves have very little idea of it for
After this conversation the minister told Mr. Thomas the result of his
interview with the master builder, and said,
"I am very sorry; but it is as it is, and it can't be any better."
"Do you mean by that that things are always going to remain as they
"I do not see any quick way out of it. This prejudice is the outgrowth
of ages; it did not come in a day, nor do I expect that it will vanish
in an hour."
"Nor do I; but I do not think the best way for a people to mend their
pastures is to sit down and bewail their fate."
"No; we must be up and going for ourselves. White people will----"
"White people," exclaimed Mr. Thomas somewhat impatiently. "Is there not
a great deal of bosh in the estimate some of us have formed of white
people. We share a common human feeling, from which the same cause
produces the same effect. Why am I today a social Pariah, begging for
work, and refused situation after situation? My father is a wealthy
Southerner; he has several other sons who are inheritors of his name and
heirs of his wealth. They are educated, cultured and occupy high social
positions. Had I not as good a right to be well born as any of them? And
yet, through my father's crime, I was doomed to the status of a slave
with its heritage of ignorance, poverty and social debasement. Talk of
the heathenism of Africa, of hostile tribes warring upon each other and
selling the conquered foes into the hands of white men, but how much
higher in the scale of moral progression was the white man who doomed
his own child, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, to a life of
slavery? The heathen could plead in his defence the fortunes of war, and
the hostility of an opposing tribe, but the white man who enslaved his
child warred upon his hapless offspring and wrote chattel upon his
condition when his hand was too feeble to hurl aside the accursed hand
and recognize no other ownership but God. I once felt bitterly on this
subject, and although it is impossible for my father to make full
reparation for the personal wrong inflicted on me, I owe him no grudge.
Hating is poor employment for any rational being, but I am not prepared
to glorify him at the expense of my mother's race. She was faithful to
me when he deserted me to a life of ignorance and poverty, and although
three-fourths of the blood in my veins belongs to my father's face, I
feel a kinship with my mother's people that I do not with his, and I
will defend that race from the aspersions of the meanest Negro hater in
the land. Heathenism and civilization live side by side on American
soil, but all the heathenism is not on the side of the Negro. Look at
slavery and kukluxism with their meanness and crimes, mormonism with its
vile abominations, lynch law with its burnings and hangings, our
national policy in regard to the Indians and Chinese."
"I do not think," said the minister, "that there is another civilized
country in the world where men are lynched for real or supposed crimes
outside of America."
"The Negro need not bow his head like a bulrush in the presence of a
race whose records are as stained by crime and dishonor as theirs. Let
others decry the Negro, and say hard things about him, I am not prepared
to join in the chorus of depreciation."
After parting with the minister, Mr. Thomas resolved, if pluck and
energy were of any avail, that he would leave no stone unturned in
seeking employment. He searched the papers carefully for advertisements,
walked from one workshop to the other looking for work, and was
eventually met with a refusal which meant, no negro need apply. At last
one day when he had tried almost every workshop in the place, he entered
the establishment of Wm. C. Nell, an Englishman who had not been long
enough in America to be fully saturated by its Christless and inhuman
prejudices. He was willing to give Mr. Thomas work, and put tools in his
hands, and while watching how deftly he handled them, he did not notice
the indignant scowls on the faces of his workmen, and their murmurs of
disapprobation as they uttered their dissatisfaction one to the other.
At length they took off their aprons, laid down their tools and asked to
be discharged from work.
"Why, what does this mean?" asked the astounded Englishman.
"It means that we will not work with a nigger."
"Why, I don't understand? what is the matter with him?"
"Why, there's nothing the matter, only he's a nigger, and we never put
niggers on an equality with us, and we never will."
"But I am a stranger in this country, and I don't understand you."
"Well, he's a nigger, and we don't want niggers for nothing; would you
have your daughter marry a nigger?"
"Oh, go back to your work; I never thought of such a thing. I think the
Negro must be an unfortunate man, and I do not wish my daughter to marry
any unfortunate man, but if you do not want to work with him I will put
him by himself; there is room enough on the premises; will that suit you
"No; we won't work for a man who employs a nigger."
The builder bit his lip; he had come to America hearing that it was a
land of liberty but he had found an undreamed of tyranny which had
entered his workshop and controlled his choice of workmen, and as much
as he deprecated the injustice, it was the dictum of a vitiated public
opinion that his field of occupation should be closed against the Negro,
and he felt that he was forced, either to give up his business or submit
to the decree.
Mr. Thomas then thought, "my money is vanishing, school rooms and
workshops are closed against me. I will not beg, and I can not resort to
any questionable means for bread. I will now take any position or do any
work by which I can make an honest living." Just as he was looking
gloomily at the future an old school mate laid his hand upon his
shoulder and said, "how do you do, old fellow? I have not seen you for a
week of Sundays. What are you driving at now?"
"Oh, nothing in particular. I am looking for work."
"Well, now this is just the ticket. I have just returned from the
Pacific coast and while I was there I did splendidly; everything I
touched turned to gold, and now I have a good job on hand if you are not
too squeamish to take it. I have just set up a tiptop restaurant and
saloon, and I have some of the best merchants of the city as my
customers, and I want a first rate clerk. You were always good at
figures and if you will accept the place come with me right away. Since
high license went into operation, I am making money hand over fist. It
is just like the big fish eating up the little fish. I am doing a
rushing business and I want you to do my clerking."
The first thought which rushed into Mr. Thomas' mind was, "Is thy
servant a dog that he should do this thing?" but he restrained his
indignation and said,
"No, Frank, I cannot accept your offer; I am a temperance man and a
prohibitionist, and I would rather have my hands clean than to have them
"You are a greater milksop than I gave you credit for. Here you are
hunting work, and find door after door closed against you, not because
you are not but because you are colored, and here am I offering you easy
employment and good wages and you refuse them."
"Frank," said Mr. Thomas, "I am a poor man, but I would rather rise up
early, and sit up late and eat the bread of carelessness, than to roll
in wealth by keeping a liquor saloon, and I am determined that no
drunkard shall ever charge me with having helped drag him down to
misery, shame and death. No drunkard's wife shall ever lay the wreck of
her home at my door."
"My business," said Frank Miller, "is a legitimate one; there is money
in it, and I am after that. If people will drink too much and make fools
of themselves I can't help it; it is none of my business, and if I don't
sell to them other people will. I don't think much of a man who does not
know how to govern himself, but it is no use arguing with you when you
are once set in your ways; good morning."
It was a gala day in Tennis Court. Annette had passed a highly
successful examination, and was to graduate from the normal school, and
as a matter of course, her neighbors wanted to hear Annette "speak her
piece" as they called the commencement theme, and also to see how she
was going to behave before all "them people." They were, generally
speaking, too unaspiring to feel envious toward any one of their race
who excelled them intellectually, and so there was little or no jealousy
of Annette in Tennis Court; in fact some of her neighbors felt a kind of
pride in the thought that Tennis Court would turn out a girl who could
stand on the same platform and graduate alongside of some of their
employers' daughters. If they could not stand there themselves they were
proud that one of their race could.
"I feel," said one, "like the boy when some one threatened to slap off
his face who said 'you can slap off my face, but I have a big brother
and you can't slap off his face;'" and strange as it may appear, Annette
received more encouragement from a class of honest-hearted but ignorant
and well meaning people who knew her, than she did from some of the most
cultured and intelligent people of A.P. Nor was it very strange; they
were living too near the poverty, ignorance and social debasement of the
past to have developed much race pride, and a glowing enthusiasm in its
progress and development. Although they were of African descent, they
were Americans whose thoughts were too much Americanized to be wholly
free from imbibing the social atmosphere with which they were in
constant contact in their sphere of enjoyments. The literature they read
was mostly from the hands of white men who would paint them in any
colors which suited their prejudices or predilections. The religious
ideas they had embraced came at first thought from the same sources,
though they may have undergone modifications in passing through their
channels of thought, and it must be a remarkable man or woman who thinks
an age ahead of the generation in which his or her lot is cast, and who
plans and works for the future on the basis of that clearer vision. Nor
is it to be wondered at, if under the circumstances, some of the more
cultured of A.P. thought it absurd to look for anything remarkable to
come out of the black Nazareth of Tennis court. Her neighbors had an
idea that Annette was very smart; that she had a great "head piece," but
unless she left A.P. to teach school elsewhere, they did not see what
good her education was going to do her. It wasn't going to put any meal
in the barrel nor any potatoes in the bin. Even Mrs. Larkins relaxed her
ancient hostility to Annette and opened her heart to present her with a
basket of flowers. Annette within the last year had become very much
changed in her conduct and character. She had become friendly in her
manner and considerate in her behavior to Mrs. Larkins since she had
entered the church, during a protracted meeting. Annette was rather
crude in her religious views but here again Mrs. Lasette became her
faithful friend and advisor. In dealing with a young convert she thought
more was needed than getting her into the church and making her feel
that the moment she rose from the altar with rejoicing on her lips, that
she was a full blown christian. That, to Mrs. Lasette was the initial
step in the narrow way left luminous by the bleeding feet of Christ, and
what the young convert needed was to be taught how to walk worthy of her
high calling, and to make her life a thing of usefulness and
faithfulness to God and man, a growth in grace and in the saving
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Simply attired in a dress which Mrs.
Lasette thought fitted for the occasion, Annette took her seat quietly
on the platform and calmly waited till her turn came. Her subject was
announced: "The Mission of the Negro." It was a remarkable production
for a girl of her age. At first she portrayed an African family seated
beneath their bamboo huts and spreading palms; the light steps of the
young men and maidens tripping to music, dance and song; their pastimes
suddenly broken upon by the tramp of the merchants of flesh and blood;
the capture of defenceless people suddenly surprised in the midst of
their sports, the cries of distress, the crackling of flames, the cruel
oaths of reckless men, eager for gold though they coined it from tears
and extracted it from blood; the crowding of the slaveships, the horrors
of the middle passage, the landing of the ill-fated captives were
vividly related, and the sad story of ages of bondage. It seemed as if
the sorrow of centuries was sobbing in her voice. Then the scene
changed, and like a grand triumphal march she recounted the deliverance
of the Negro, and the wondrous change which had come over his condition;
the slave pen exchanged for the free school, the fetters on his wrist
for the ballot in his right hand. Then her voice grew musical when she
began to speak of the mission of the Negro, "His mission," she said, "is
grandly constructive." Some races had been "architects of destruction,"
but their mission was to build over the ruins of the dead past, the most
valuable thing that a man or woman could possess on earth, and that is
good character. That mission should be to bless and not to curse. To
lift up the banner of the Christian religion from the mire and dust into
which slavery and pride of caste had trailed it, and to hold it up as an
ensign of hope and deliverance to other races of the world, of whom the
greater portion were not white people. It seemed as if an inspiration
lit up the young face; her eye glowed with unwonted fervor; it seemed as
if she had fused her whole soul into the subject, which was full of
earnestness and enthusiasm. Her theme was the sensation of the hour. Men
grew thoughtful and attentive, women tender and sympathetic as they
heard this member of a once despised people, recount the trials and
triumphs of her race, and the hopes that gathered around their future.
The day before Annette graduated Mr. Thomas had met a friend of his at
Mrs. Lasette's, who had lately returned from an extensive tour. He had
mingled with many people and had acquired a large store of information.
Mr. Thomas had invited him to accompany him to the commencement. He had
expected that Annette would acquit herself creditably, but she had far
exceeded his most sanguine expectations. Clarence Luzerne had come
because his friend Mr. Thomas had invited him and because he and Mrs.
Lasette had taken such great interest in Annette's welfare, and his
curiosity was excited to see how she would acquit herself and compare
with the other graduates. He did not have much faith in graduating
essays. He had heard a number of such compositions at commencements
which had inspired him with glowing hopes for the future of the authors,
which he had never seen realized, and he had come more to gratify Mr.
Thomas than to please himself. But if he came through curiosity, he
remained through interest, which had become more and more absorbing as
"Clarence," said Mr. Thomas to his friend, noticing the deep interest he
was manifesting, "Are you entranced? You appear perfectly spell-bound."
"Well, I am; I am really delighted and indebted to you for a rare and
unexpected pleasure. Why, that young lady gave the finest production
that I have heard this morning. I hardly think she could have written it
herself. It seems wonderful that a girl of her age should have done it
so well. You are a great friend of hers; now own up, are not your finger
marks upon it? I wouldn't tell it out of our ranks, but I don't think
she wrote that all herself."
"Who do you think wrote it for her?"
"I do not think so; Mrs. Lasette is a fine writer, but that nervous,
fervid and impassioned style is so unlike hers, that I do not think she
wrote one line of it, though she might have overlooked it, and made
some suggestions, but even if it were so that some one else wrote it, we
know that no one else delivered it, and that her delivery was
"That is so; why, she excelled all the other girls. Do you know what was
the difference between her and the other girls?"
"No; what was it?" said Mr. Thomas.
"They wrote from their heads, she wrote from her heart. Annette has
begun to think; she has been left a great deal to herself, and in her
loneliness, she has developed a thoughtfulness past her years, and I
think that a love for her race and a desire to serve it has become a
growing passion in her soul; her heart has supplied her intellect."
"Ah, I think from what you say that I get the true clue to the power and
pathos with which she spoke this morning and that accounts for her
"Yes," said Mr. Luzerne, "it is the inner life which develops the
outer life, and just such young people as Annette make me more hopeful
of the future of the race."
Mrs. Lasette witnessed Annette's graduation with intense interest and
pleasure. Grandmother Harcourt looked the very impersonation of
satisfaction as she gathered up the floral gifts, and modestly waited
while Annette received the pleasant compliments of admiring friends.
At his request Mr. Thomas introduced Mr. Luzerne to Annette, who in the
most gracious and affable manner, tendered to Annette his hearty
congratulations which she modestly received, and for the time being all
went merry as a marriage bell.
"What a fool he is to refuse my offer," thought the saloon-keeper.
"What a pity it is," said Mr. Thomas to himself, "that a man of his
education and ability should be engaged in such accursed business."
After refusing the saloonkeeper's offer Mr. Thomas found a job of
work. It was not a job congenial to his feelings, but his motto was,
"If I do not see an opening I will make one." After he had turned
from Mr. Englishman's workshop, burning with a sense of wrong which
he felt powerless to overcome, he went on the levee and looked around
to see if any work might be picked up by him as a day laborer. He saw
a number of men singing, joking and plying their tasks with nimble
feet and apparently no other care upon their minds than meeting the
demands of the present hour, and for a moment he almost envied their
lightheartedness, and he thought within himself, where all men are born
blind, no man misses the light. These men are contented with privileges,
and I who have fitted myself for a different sphere in life, am chaffing
because I am denied rights. The right to sell my labor in any workshop
in this city same as the men of other nationalities, and to receive with
them a fair day's wages for a fair day's work. But he was strong and
healthy and he was too high spirited to sit moping at home depending
upon his mother to divide with him her scanty means till something
should turn up. The first thing that presented itself to him was the job
of helping unload a boat which had landed at the wharf, and a hand was
needed to assist in unloading her. Mr. Thomas accepted the position and
went to work and labored manfully at the unaccustomed task. That being
finished the merchant for whom he had done the work, hired him to labor
in his warehouse. He showed himself very handy in making slight repairs
when needed and being ready to turn his hand to any service out of his
routine of work, hammering a nail, adjusting a disordered lock and
showing a general concern in his employer's interests. One day his
employer had engaged a carpenter to make him a counter, but the man
instead of attending to his work had been off on a drunken spree, and
neglected to do the job. The merchant, vexed at the unnecessary delay,
said to Mr. Thomas in a bantering manner, "I believe you can do almost
anything, couldn't you make this counter?"
Mr. Thomas answered quite modestly, "I believe I could if I had my
"Tools! What do you mean by tools?"
Mr. Thomas told him how he learned to be a carpenter in the South and
how he had tried so unsuccessfully in the North to get an opportunity to
work at his trade until discouraged with the attempt, he had made up his
mind to take whatever work came to hand till he could see farther.
The merchant immediately procured the materials and set Mr. Thomas to
work, who in a short time finished the counter, and showed by his
workmanship that he was an excellent carpenter. The merchant pleased
with his work and satisfied with his ability, entrusted him with the
erection of a warehouse and, strange as it may appear, some of those men
who were too proud or foolish to work with him as a fellow laborer, were
humble enough to work under him as journeymen. When he was down they
were ready to kick him down. When he was up they were ready to receive
his helping hand. Mr. Thomas soon reached that "tide in his affairs
which taken at the flood leads on to fortune." Against the odds which
were against him his pluck and perseverance prevailed, and he was
enabled not only to build up a good business for himself, but also to
help others, and to teach them by his own experience not to be too
easily discouraged, but to trust to pluck more than luck, and learn in
whatever capacity they were employed to do their work heartily as unto
the Lord and not unto men.
Anxious to do what she could to benefit the community in which she
lived, Mrs. Lasette threw open her parlors for the gathering together
of the best thinkers and workers of the race, who choose to avail
themselves of the privilege of meeting to discuss any question of vital
importance to the welfare of the colored people of the nation. Knowing
the entail of ignorance which slavery had left them, she could not be
content by shutting up herself to mere social enjoyments within the
shadow of her home. And often the words would seem to ring within her
soul, "my people is destroyed for lack of knowledge," and with those
words would come the question, am I doing what I can to dispel the
darkness which has hung for centuries around our path? I have been
blessed with privileges which were denied others; I sat 'mid the light
of knowledge when some of my ill-fated sisters did not know what it was
to see daylight in their cabins from one week's end to the other.
Sometimes when she met with coldness and indifference where she least
expected it, she would grow sad but would not yield to discouragement.
Her heart was in the right place. "Freely she had received and freely
she would give." It was at one of Mrs. Lasette's gatherings that Mr.
Thomas met Rev. Mr. Lomax on whose church he had been refused a place,
and Mr. Thurman, a tradesman who also had been ousted from his position
through pride of caste and who had gone into another avocation, and
also Charley Cooper, of whom we have lost sight for a number of years.
He is now a steady and prosperous young man, a constant visitor at
Mrs. Lasette's. Rumor says that Mrs. Lasette's bright-eyed and lovely
daughter is the magnet which attracts him to their pleasant home. Rev.
Lomax has also been absent for several years on other charges, but when
he meets Mr. Thomas, the past flows back and the incidents of their
latest interviews naturally take their place in the conversation. "It
has been some time since we met," said Mr. Thomas, heartily shaking the
"How has life used you since last we met?" said Rev. Lomax to Mr.
Thomas. "Are you well?"
"Perfectly well, I have had a varied experience since I met you, but
I have no reason to complain, and I think my experience has been
invaluable to me, and with this larger experience and closer
observation, I feel that I am more able to help others, and that, I
feel, has been one of my most valued acquirements. I sometimes think
of members of our people in some directions as sheep without a
shepherd, and I do wish from the bottom of my heart that I knew the
best way to help them."
"You do not," said the minister, somewhat anxiously, "ignore the power
of the pulpit."
"No, I do not; I only wish it had tenfold force. I wish we had ten
thousand ministers like Oberlin who was not ashamed to take the lead
in opening a road from Bande Roche to Strasburgh, a distance of several
miles to bring his parishioners in contact with the trade and business
of a neighboring village. I hope the time will come when every minister
in building a church which he consecrates to the worship of God will
build alongside of it or under the same roof, parish buildings or rooms
to be dedicated to the special wants of our people in their peculiar
"I do wish, Brother Lomax, those costly buildings which you erect will
cover more needs and wants of our people than some of them do now."
"What would you have in them?"
"I would have a parish building to every church, and I would have in
them an evening home for boys. I would have some persons come in and
teach them different handicrafts, so as at least to give them an
opportunity to be more expert in learning how to use their hands. I
would have that building a well warmed and well lighted room in winter,
where all should be welcome to come and get a sandwich and a warm cup
of tea or coffee and a hot bowl of soup, and if the grogshops were
selling liquor for five cents, I would sell the soup for three or four
cents, with a roll. I would have a room reserved for such ladies as Mrs.
Lasette, who are so willing to help, for the purpose of holding mother's
meetings. I would try to have the church the great centre of moral,
spiritual and intellectual life for the young, and try to present
counter attractions to the debasing influence of the low grogshops,
gambling dens and houses of ill fame."
"Part of our city (ought I confine myself to saying part of the city)
has not the whole city been cursed by rum? But I now refer to a special
part. I have seen church after church move out of that part of the city
where the nuisance and curse were so rife, but I never, to my knowledge,
heard of one of those churches offering to build a reading room and
evening home for boys, or to send out paid and sustained by their
efforts, a single woman to go into rum-cursed homes and teach their
inmates a more excellent way. I would have in that parish building the
most earnest men and women to come together and consult and counsel
with each other on the best means to open for ourselves, doors which
are still closed against us."
"I am sure," said the minister, "I am willing to do what I can for the
temporal and spiritual welfare of our people, and in this I have the
example of the great Physician who did not consider it beneath him to
attend to physical maladies as well as spiritual needs, and who did not
consider the synagogue too holy, nor the Sabbath day too sacred to
administer to the destitute and suffering."
"I was very sorry when I found out, Brother Thomas, that I could not
have you employed on my church, but I do not see what else I could have
done except submit."
"That was all you could have done in that stage of the work when I
applied, and I do not wish to bestow the slightest censure on you or the
trustees of your church, but I think, if when you were about to build
had you advertised for competent master-builders in the South, that you
could have gotten enough to have built the church without having
employed Mr. Hoog the master-builder. Had you been able to have gone to
him and said, 'we are about to build a church and it is more convenient
for us to have it done by our citizens than to send abroad for laborers.
We are in communication with a colored master builder in Kentucky, who
is known as an efficient workman and who would be glad to get the job,
and if your men refuse to work with a colored man our only alternative
will be to send for colored carpenters and put the building in their
hands.' Do you think he would have refused a thirty thousand dollar job
just because some of his men refused to work with colored men? I think
the greater portion of his workmen would have held their prejudices in
abeyance rather than let a thirty thousand dollar job slip out of their
hands. Now here is another thing in which I think united effort could
have effected something. Now, here is my friend Mr. Thurman; he was a
saddler versed in both branches of harness making. For awhile he got
steady work in a saddler's shop, but the prejudice against him was so
great that his employer was forced to dismiss him. He took work home,
but that did not heal the dissatisfaction, and at last he gave it up
and went to well-digging. Now, there were colored men in that place
who could have, as I think, invested some money in buying material
and helped him, not as a charity, but as a mere business operation
to set up a place for himself; he had the skill; they had the money,
and had they united both perhaps to-day there would be a flourishing
business carried on by the man who is now digging wells for a living.
I do hope that some time there will be some better modes of
communication between us than we now possess; that a labor bureau
will be established not as a charity among us, but as a business
with capable and efficient men who will try to find out the different
industries that will employ men irrespective of color and advertise
and find steady and reliable colored men to fill them. Colored men
in the South are largely employed in raising cotton and other produce;
why should there not be more openings in the South for colored men
to handle the merchandize and profit by it?"
"What hinders?" said Rev. Lomax.
"I will not say what hinders, but I will say what I think you can try
to do to help. Teach our young to dedicate their young lives to the
noble service of devoting them to the service of our common cause; to
throw away their cigars, dash down the foaming beer and sparkling wine
and strive to be more like those of whom it was said, 'I write unto you,
young men, because you are strong.'"
Grandmother Harcourt was failing. Annette was rising towards life's
summit. Her grandmother was sinking to death's vale.
The hours are rifting day by day
Strength from the walls of living clay.
Her two children who were living in A.P. wished her to break up her home
and come and live with them. They had room in their hearts and homes for
her, but not for Annette. There was something in Annette's temperament
with which other members of the family could not harmonize. They were
not considerate enough to take into account her antenatal history, and
to pity where they were so ready to condemn. Had Annette been born
deficient in any of her bodily organs, they could have made allowance
for her, and would have deemed it cruel to have demanded that she should
have performed the same amount of labor with one hand that she could
have done with both. They knew nothing of heredity, except its effects,
which they were not thoughtful enough to trace back to the causes over
which Annette had no control, and instead of trying to counteract them
as one might strive to do in a case of inherited physical tendencies,
they only aggravated, and constantly strengthened all the unlovely
features in Annette's character, and Annette really seemed like an
anomalous contradiction. There was a duality about her nature as if
the blood of two races were mingling in her veins. To some persons
Annette was loving and love-able, bright, intelligent, obliging and
companionable; to others, unsociable, unamiable and repelling. Her heart
was like a harp which sent out its harmonious discords in accordance
with the moods of the player who touched its chords. To some who swept
them it gave out tender and touching melody, to others its harshest and
saddest discords. Did not the Psalmist look beneath the mechanism of the
body to the constitution of the soul when he said that "We are fearfully
and wonderfully made?"
But the hour came when all discussion was ended as to who was to shelter
the dear old grandmother in her declining years. Mrs. Harcourt was
suddenly paralyzed, and in a few days Annette stood doubly orphaned.
Grandmother Harcourt's children gathered around the bedside of their
dying mother. She was conscious but unable to speak. Occasionally her
eyes would rest lovingly upon Annette and then turn wistfully to her
children. Several times she assayed to speak, but the words died upon
her lips. Her eldest son entered the room just as life was trembling on
its faintest chords. She recognized him, and gathering up her remaining
strength she placed his hand on Annette's, and tried again to speak. He
understood her and said very tenderly,
"Mother, I will look after Annette."
All the care faded from the dear old face. Amid the shadows that never
deceive flitted a smile of peace and contentment. The fading eye lit up
with a sudden gaze of joy and wonder. She reached out her hand as if to
meet a welcome and precious friend, and then the radiant face grew
deathly pale; the outstretched hands relaxed their position, and with a
smile, just such a smile as might greet a welcoming angel, her spirit
passed out into the eternities, and Annette felt as she had never felt
before, that she was all alone. The love that had surrounded and watched
over her, born with her perverseness, and sheltered her in its warm
clasp, was gone; it had faded suddenly from her vision, and left in its
stead a dull and heavy pain. After the funeral, Mrs. Harcourt's children
returned to the house where they quietly but earnestly discussed the
question what shall be done with Annette. Mrs. Hanson's house was rather
small; that is, it was rather small for Annette. She would have found
room in her house if she only had room in her heart for her. She had
nursed her mother through her sickness, and said with unnatural
coldness, "I have got rid of one trouble and I do not want another."
Another sister who lived some distance from A.P., would have taken
Annette, but she knew that other members of her family would object, as
they would be fearful that Annette would be an apple of discord among
them. At length, her uncle Thomas decided that she should go with him.
He felt that his mother had died with the assurance on her mind that he
would care for Annette, and he resolved to be faithful in accepting what
was to him the imposition of a new burden on his shoulders. His wife was
a cold and unsympathizing woman. She was comfortably situated but did
not wish that comfort invaded by her husband's relations. In household
matters her husband generally deferred to her judgment, but here was no
other alternative than that of taking Annette under the shadow of his
home, or leaving her unprotected in the wide world, and he was too
merciful and honorable to desert Annette in her saddest hour of need.
Having determined that Annette should share his home, he knew that it
was advisable to tell his wife about his decision, and to prepare her
for Annette's coming.
"Well," said Dr. Harcourt's wife after her husband's return from the
funeral, "what are you going to do with Annette?"
"She is coming here," said Dr. Harcourt quietly and firmly.
"Coming here?" said Mrs. Harcourt, looking aghast. "I think at least you
might have consulted me."
"That is true, my dear, I would have gladly done so had you been present
when the decision was made."
"But where are her aunts, and where was your brother, John; why didn't
they take her?"
"John was at home sick with the rheumatism and sister Jane did not
appear to be willing to have her come."
"I guess Jane is like I am; got enough to do to look after her own
"And sister Eliza said she hadn't any room."
"No room; when she has eight rooms in her house and only two children?
She could have made room for her had she chosen."
"May be her husband wasn't willing."
"Oh, it is no such thing. I know John Hanson better than that; Liza
is the head man of that house, and just leads him by the nose wherever
she wants him to go, and besides, Mrs. Lord's daughter is there
pretending to pay board, but I don't believe that she pays it one-half
"She is company for Alice and they all seem very fond of her."
"I do get so sick of that girl, mambying and jambying about that family;
calling Liza and her husband 'Ma and Pa,' I haven't a bit of faith in
"Well, I confess that I am not very much preposessed in her favor. She
just puts me in mind of a pussy cat purring around you."
"Well, now as to Annette. You do not want her here?"
"Not if I can help it."
"But can't she help you to work?"
"She could if she knew how. If wishes were horses beggars might ride.
Your mother made a great mistake in bringing Annette up. Annette has a
good education, but when that is said, all is said."
"Why, my dear mother was an excellent housekeeper. Did she not teach
"Your mother was out a great deal as a sick nurse, and when she went
away from home she generally boarded Annette with a friend, who did not,
as your mother paid her good board, exact any service from Annette, and
while with her she never learned to make a loaf of bread or to cook a
beefsteak, and when your mother was at home when she set Annette to do
any work, if she did it awkwardly and clumsily she would take it out of
her hand and do it herself rather than bother with her, and now I
suppose I am to have all the bother and worry with her."
"Well my dear."
"Oh don't come dearing me, and bringing me all this trouble."
"Well my dear, I don't see how it could be helped. I could not leave
Annette in the house all by herself. I couldn't afford to make myself
the town's talk. May be things will turn out better than you expect.
We've got children of our own, and we don't know when we are gone, how
they will fare."
"That is true, but I never mean to bring my children up in such a way
that they will be no use anywhere, and no one will want them."
"Well, I don't see any other way than bringing Annette here."
"Well, if I must, I must," she said with an air of despondency.
Dr. Harcourt rode over to his sister's where Annette was spending the
day and brought the doubly orphaned girl to his home. As she entered the
room, it seemed as though a chill struck to her heart when her Aunt bade
her good morning. There was no warm pressure in the extended hand. No
loving light in the cold unsympathizing eyes which seemed to stab her
through and through. The children eyed her inquisitively, as if wishing
to understand her status with their parents before they became sociable
with her. After supper Annette's uncle went out and her aunt sat quietly
and sewed till bed time, and then showed Annette to her room and left
the lonely girl to herself and her great sorrow. Annette sat silent,
tearless, and alone. Grief had benumbed her faculties. She had sometimes
said when grandmother had scolded her that "she was growing cross and
cold." But oh, what would she not have given to have had the
death-created silence broken by that dear departed voice, to have felt
the touch of a vanished hand, to have seen again the loving glance of
the death darkened eye. But it was all over; no tears dimmed her eye, as
she sat thinking so mournfully of her great sorrow, till she unfastened
from her neck a little keepsake containing a lock of grandmother's hair,
then all the floodgates of her soul were opened and she threw herself
upon her bed and sobbed herself to sleep. In the morning she awoke with
that sense of loss and dull agony which only they know, who have seen
the grave close over all they have held dearest on earth. The beautiful
home of her uncle was very different from the humble apartments; here
she missed all the freedom and sunshine that she had enjoyed beneath the
shelter of her grandmother's roof.
"Can you sew?" said her aunt to Annette, as she laid on the table a
package of handkerchiefs.
"Let me see how you can do this," handing her one to hem. Annette hemmed
the handkerchief nicely; her aunt examined it, put it down and gave her
some others to hem, but there was no word of encouragement for her, not
even a pleasant, "well done." They both relapsed into silence; between
them there was no pleasant interchange of thought. Annette was tolerated
and endured, but she did not feel that she was loved and welcomed. It
was no place to which she could invite her young friends to spend a
pleasant evening. Once she invited some of her young friends to her
home, but she soon found that it was a liberty which she should be
careful never to repeat. Soon after Annette came to live with her aunt
her aunt's mother had a social gathering and reunion of the members of
her family. All Dr. Harcourt's children were invited, from the least to
the greatest, but poor Annette was left behind. Mrs. Lasette, who
happened in the house the evening before the entertainment, asked, "Is
not Annette going?" when Mrs. Harcourt replied, very coldly, "She is not
one of the family," referring to her mother's family circle.
A shadow flitted over the face of Mrs. Lasette; she thought of her own
daughter and how sad it would be to have her live in such a chilly
atmosphere of social repression and neglect at a period of life when
there was so much danger that false friendship might spread their lures
for her inexperienced feet. I will criticize, she said to herself, by
creation. I, too, have some social influence, if not among the careless,
wine-bibbing, ease-loving votaries of fashion, among some of the most
substantial people of A.P., and as long as Annette preserves her
rectitude at my house she shall be a welcome guest and into that
saddened life I will bring all the sunshine that I can.
"Well mama," said Mrs. Lasette's daughter to her mother, "I cannot
understand why you take so much interest in Annette. She is very
unpopular. Scarcely any of the girls ever go with her, and even her
cousin never calls for her to go to church or anywhere else, and I
sometimes feel so sorry to see her so much by herself, and some of the
girls when I went with her to the exposition, said that they wouldn't
have asked her to have gone with them, that she isn't our set."
"Poor child," Mrs. Lasette replied; "I am sorry for her. I hope that you
will never treat her unkindly, and I do not think if you knew the sad
story connected with her life that you would ever be unkind enough to
add to the burden she has been forced to bear."
"But mamma, Annette is so touchy. Her aunt says that her tear bags must
lay near her eyes and that she will cry if you look at her, and that she
is the strangest, oddest creature she ever saw, and I heard she did not
wish her to come."
"Why, my dear child, who has been gossipping to you about your
"Why, Julia Thomas."
"Well, my daughter, don't talk after her; gossip is liable to degenerate
into evil speaking and then I think it tends to degrade and belittle the
mind to dwell on the defects and imperfections of our neighbors. Learn
to dwell on the things that are just and true and of good report, but I
am sorry for Annette, poor child."
"What makes her so strange, do you know?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Lasette somewhat absently.
"If you do, won't you tell me?"
Again Mrs. Lasette answered in the same absent manner.
"Why mama, what is the matter with you; you say yes to everything and
yet you are not paying any attention to anything that I say. You seem
like someone who hears, but does not listen; who sees, but does not
look. Your face reminds me of the time when I showed you the picture of
a shipwreck and you said, 'My brother's boat went down in just such a
"My dear child," said Mrs. Lasette, rousing up from a mournful reverie,
"I was thinking of a wreck sadder, far sadder than the picture you
showed me. It was the mournful wreck of a blighted life."
"Whose life, mama?"
"The life of Annette's [grand]mother. We were girls together and I loved
her dearly," Mrs. Lasette replied as tears gathered in her eyes when she
recalled one of the saddest memories of her life.
"Do tell me all about it, for I am full of curiosity."
"My child, I want this story to be more than food for your curiosity; I
want it to be a lesson and a warning to you. Annette's grandmother was
left to struggle as breadwinner for a half dozen children when her
husband died. Then there were not as many openings for colored girls as
there are now. Our chief resource was the field of domestic service, and
circumstances compelled Annette's mother to live out, as we called it.
In those days we did not look down upon a girl and try to ostracize her
from our social life if she was forced to be a servant. If she was poor
and respectable we valued her for what she was rather than for what she
possessed. Of course we girls liked to dress nicely, but fine clothes
was not the chief passport to our society, and yet I think on the whole
that our social life would compare favorably with yours in good
character, if not in intellectual attainments. Our dear old mothers were
generally ignorant of books, but they did try to teach good manners and
good behavior; but I do not think they saw the danger around the paths
of the inexperienced with the same clearness of vision we now do. Mrs.
Harcourt had unbounded confidence in her children, and as my mother
thought, gave her girls too much rein in their own hands. Our mother was
more strict with her daughters and when we saw Mrs. Harcourt's daughters
having what we considered such good times, I used to say, 'O, I wish
mother wasn't so particular!' Other girls could go unattended to
excursions, moonlight drives and parties of pleasure, but we never went
to any such pleasure unless we were attended by our father, brother or
some trusted friend of the family. We were young and foolish then and
used to chafe against her restrictions; but to-day, when I think of my
own good and noble husband, my little bright and happy home, and my
dear, loving daughter, I look back with gratitude to her thoughtful care
and honor and bless her memory in her grave. Poor Lucy Harcourt was not
so favored; she was pretty and attractive and had quite a number of
admirers. At length she became deeply interested in a young man who came
as a stranger to our city. He was a fine looking man, but there was
something about him from which I instinctively shrank. My mother felt
the same way and warned us to be careful how we accepted any attention
from him; but poor Lucy became perfectly infatuated with him and it was
rumored that they were to be shortly married. Soon after the rumor he
left the city and there was a big change in Lucy's manner. I could not
tell what was the matter, but my mother forbade me associating with her,
and for several months I scarcely saw her, but I could hear from others
that she was sadly changed. Instead of being one of the most
light-hearted girls, I heard that she used to sit day after day in her
mother's house and wring her hands and weep and that her mother's heart
was almost broken. Friends feared that Lucy was losing her mind and
might do some desperate deed, but she did not. I left about that time to
teach school in a distant village, and when I returned home I heard sad
tidings of poor Lucy. She was a mother, but not a wife. Her brothers had
grown angry with her for tarnishing their family name, of which they
were so proud; her mother's head was bowed with agony and shame. The
father of Lucy's child had deserted her in her hour of trial and left
her to bear her burden alone with the child like a millstone around her
neck. Poor Lucy; I seldom saw her after that, but one day I met her in
the Park. I went up to her and kissed her, she threw her arms around me
and burst into a flood of tears. I tried to restrain her from giving
such vent to her feelings. It was a lack of self-control which had
placed her where she was."
"'Oh Anna!' she said, 'it does me so much good to hold your hand in mine
once more. I reminds me of the days when we used to be together. Oh,
what would I give to recall those days.'"
"I said to her, Lucy, you can never recall the past, but you can try to
redeem the future. Try to be a faithful mother. Men may build over the
wreck and ruin of their young lives a better and brighter future, why
should not a woman? Let the dead past bury its dead and live in the
future for the sake of your child. She seemed so grateful for what I had
said. Others had treated her with scorn. Her brother Thomas had refused
to speak to her; her betrayer had forsaken her; all the joyousness had
faded from her life and, poor girl, I was glad that I was able to say a
helpful and hopeful word to her. Mother, of course, would not let us
associate with her, but she always treated her kindly when she came and
did what she could to lighten the burden which was pressing her down to
the grave. But, poor child, she was never again the same light-hearted
girl. She grew pale and thin and in the hectic flush and faltering
tread I read the death sign of early decay, and I felt that my misguided
young friend was slowly dying of a broken heart. Then there came a day
when we were summoned to her dying bed. Her brothers and sisters were
present; all their resentment against her had vanished in the presence
of death. She was their dear sister about to leave them and they bent in
tearful sorrow around her couch. As one of her brothers, who was a good
singer, entered the room, she asked him to sing 'Vital spark of heavenly
flame.' He attempted to sing, but there were tremors in his voice and he
faltered in the midst of the hymn. 'Won't you sing for your dying
"Again he essayed to sing, but [his?] voice became choked with emotion,
and he ceased, and burst into tears. Her brother Thomas who had been so
hard and cold, and had refused to speak to her, now wept and sobbed like
a child, but Lucy smiled as she bade them good bye, and exclaimed,
'Welcome death, the end of fear. I am prepared to die.' A sweet peace
settled down on her face, and Lucy had exchanged, I hope, the sorrow and
pain of life for the peace and rest of heaven, and left Annette too
young to know her loss. Do you wonder then my child that I feel such an
interest in Annette and that knowing as I do her antenatal history that
I am ever ready to pity where others condemn, and that I want to do what
I can to help round out in beauty and usefulness the character of that
sinned against and disinherited child, whose restlessness and
sensitiveness I trace back to causes over which she had no control."
"What became of Frank Miller? You say that when he returned to A.P. that
society opened its doors to him while they were closed to Annette's
mother. I don't understand it. Was he not as guilty as she was?"
"Guiltier, I think. If poor Lucy failed as a woman, she tried to be
faithful as a mother, while he, faithless as a man, left her to bear her
burden alone. She was frail as a woman, but he was base, mean, and
selfish as a man."
"How was it that society received him so readily?"
"All did not receive him so readily, but with some his money, like
charity, covered a multitude of sins. But from the depths of my heart I
despised him. I had not then learned to hate the sin with all my heart,
and yet the sinner love. To me he was the incarnation of social meanness
and vice. And just as I felt I acted. We young folks had met at a social
gathering, and were engaged in a pastime in which we occasionally
clasped hands together. Some of these plays I heartily disliked,
especially when there was romping and promiscuous kissing. During the
play Frank Miller's hand came in contact with mine and he pressed it. I
can hardly describe my feelings. It seemed as if my very veins were on
fire, and that every nerve was thrilling with repulsion and indignation.
Had I seen him murder Lucy and then turn with blood dripping hands to
grasp mine, I do not think that I should have felt more loathing than I
did when his hand clasped mine. I felt that his very touch was
pollution; I immediately left the play, tore off my glove, and threw it
in the fire."
"Oh, mother, how could you have done so? You are so good and gentle."
Mrs. Lasette replied, "I was not always so. I do not hate his sin any
less now than I did then but I think that I have learned a Christian
charity which would induce me to pluck such as he out of the fire while
I hated the garments spotted by his sins. I sat down trembling with
emotion. I heard a murmur of disapprobation. There was a check to the
gayety of the evening. Frank Miller, bold and bad as he was looked
crestfallen and uneasy. Some who appeared to be more careful of the
manners of society than its morals, said that I was very rude. Others
said that I was too prudish, and would be an old maid, that I was
looking for perfection in young men, and would not find it. That young
men sow their wild oats, and that I was more nice than wise, and that I
would frighten the gentlemen away from me. I told them if the young men
were so easily frightened, that I did not wish to clasp hands for life
with any such timid set, and that I was determined that I would have a
moral husband or none; that I was not obliged to be married, but that I
was obliged to be true to my conscience. That when I married I expected
to lay the foundation of a new home, and that I would never trust my
future happiness in the hands of a libertine, or lay its foundations
over the reeling brain of a drunkard, and I determined that I would
never marry a man for whose vices I must blush, and whose crimes I must
condone; that while I might bend to grief I would not bow to shame; that
if I brought him character and virtue, he should give me true manhood
and honor in return."
"And I think mother that you got it when you married father."
"I am satisfied that I did, and the respect and appreciation my daughter
has for her father is only part of my life's reward, but it was my dear
mother who taught me to distinguish between the true and the false, and
although she was [not?] what you call educated, she taught me that no
magnificence of fortune would atone for meanness of spirit, that without
character the most wealthy and talented man is a bankrupt in soul. And
she taught me how to be worthy of a true man's love."
"And I think you have succeeded splendidly."
"Thank you, my darling. But mother has become used to compliments."
"I do not think she gets any more than she deserves," said Mr. Lasette,
entering the room. "She is one of whom it may be said, 'Her children
arise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praiseth her;
many daughters have done virtuously but thou excellest them all.'"
"I do not think you will say that I am excelling if I do not haste
about your supper; you were not home to dinner and must be hungry by
this time, and it has been said that the way to a man's heart is through
"Oh, isn't that a libel on my sex!"
"Papa," said Laura Lasette, after her mother had left the room, "did you
know Frank Miller? Mother was telling me about him but she did not
finish; what became of him?"
"Now, you ask me two questions in one breath; let me answer one at a
"Well, papa, I am all attention."
"Do I know Frank Miller, the saloon keeper? Yes; he is connected with a
turning point in my life. How so? Well, just be patient a minute and I
will tell you. I was almost a stranger in A.P. when I first met your
mother. It was at a social where Frank Miller was a guest. I had heard
some very damaging reports concerning his reputation, but from the
manner in which he was received in society, I concluded that I had been
misinformed. Surely, I thought, if the man is as vicious as he has been
represented, good women, while they pity him, will shrink instinctively
from him, but I saw to my surprise, that with a confident and unblushing
manner, he moved among what was called the elite of the place, and that
instead of being withheld, attentions were lavished upon him. I had
lived most of my life in a small inland town, where people were old
fashioned enough to believe in honor and upright conduct, and from what
I had heard of Frank Miller I was led to despise his vices and detest
his character, and yet here were women whom I believed to be good and
virtuous, smiling in his face, and graciously receiving his attentions.
I cannot help thinking that in their case,
"Evil is wrought by want of thought"
As well as want of heart.
They were not conscious of the influence they might exert by being true
to their own womanhood. Men like Frank Miller are the deadliest foes of
women. One of the best and strongest safe guards of the home is the
integrity of its women, and he who undermines that, strikes a fearful
blow at the highest and best interests of society. Society is woman's
realm and I never could understand how, if a woman really loves purity
for its own worth and loveliness, she can socially tolerate men whose
lives are a shame, and whose conduct in society is a blasting, withering
"But, papa, tell me how you came to love my mother; but I don't see how
you could have helped it."
"That's just it, my daughter. I loved her because I could not help it;
and respected her because I knew that she was worthy of respect. I was
present at a social gathering where Frank was a guest, and was watching
your mother attentively when I saw her shrink instinctively from his
touch and leave the play in which she was engaged and throw her glove in
the fire. Public opinion was divided about her conduct. Some censured,
others commended her, but from that hour I learned to love her, and I
became her defender. Other women would tolerate Frank Miller, but here
was a young and gracious girl, strong enough and brave enough to pour on
the head of that guilty culprit her social disapprobation and I gloried
in her courage. I resolved she should be my wife if she would accept me,
which she did, and I have never regretted my choice and I think that I
have had as happy a life as usually falls to the lot of mortals."
"Papa," said Laura Lasette, "all the girls have had graduating parties
except Annette and myself. Would it not be nice for me to have a party
and lots of fun, and then my birthday comes next week; now wouldn't it
be just the thing for me to have a party?"
"It might be, darling, for you, but how would it be for me who would
have to foot the bill?"
"Well, papa, could you not just give me a check like you do mama
"But mama knows how to use it."
"But papa, don't I know how also?"
"I have my doubts on that score, but let me refer you to your mother.
She is queen of this realm, and in household matters I as a loyal
subject, abide by her decisions."
"Well, I guess mama is all right on this subject."
Mrs. Lasette was perfectly willing to gratify her daughter, and it was
decided to have an entertainment on Laura's birthday.
The evening of Mrs. Lasette's entertainment came bringing with it into
her pleasant parlors a bright and merry throng of young people. It was
more than a mere pleasure party. It was here that rising talent was
encouraged, no matter how humble the garb of the possessor, and Mrs.
Lasette was a model hostess who would have thought her entertainment a
failure had any one gone from it smarting under a sense of social
neglect. Shy and easily embarrassed Annette who was very seldom invited
anywhere, found herself almost alone in that gay and chattering throng.
Annette was seated next to several girls who laughed and chatted
incessantly with each other without deigning to notice her. Mrs. Lasette
entering the room with Mr. Luzerne whom she presented to the company,
and noticing the loneliness and social isolation of Annette, gave him a
seat beside her, and was greatly gratified that she had found the means
to relieve the tedium of Annette's position. Mrs. Lasette had known him
as a light hearted boy, full of generous impulses, with laughing eyes
and a buoyant step, but he had been absent a number of years, and had
developed into a handsome man with a magnificent physique, elegant in
his attire, polished in his manners and brilliant in conversation. Just
such a man as is desirable as a companion and valuable as a friend,
staunch, honorable and true, and it was rumored that he was quite
wealthy. He was generally cheerful, but it seemed at times as if some
sad memories came over him, dashing all the sunshine from his face and
leaving in its stead, a sadness which it was touching to behold. Some
mystery seemed to surround his life, but being reticent in reference to
his past history, there was a dignity in his manner which repelled all
intrusion into the secrecy over which he choose to cast a veil. Annette
was not beautiful, but her face was full of expression and her manner
winsome at times. Lacking social influence and social adaptation, she
had been ignored in society, her faults of temper made prominent her
most promising traits of character left unnoticed, but this treatment
was not without some benefit to Annette. It threw her more entirely on
her own resources. At first she read when she had leisure, to beguile
her lonely hours, and fortunately for her, she was directed in her
reading by Mrs. Lasette, who gave and lent her books, which appealed to
all that was highest and best in her nature, and kindled within her a
lofty enthusiasm to make her life a blessing to the world. With such an
earnest purpose, she was not prepared to be a social favorite in any
society whose chief amusement was gossip, and whose keenest weapon was
Mr. Luzerne had gone to Mrs. Lasette's with the hope of meeting some of
the best talent in A.P., and had come to the conclusion that there was
more lulliancy than depth in the intellectual life with which he came in
contact; he felt that it lacked earnestness, purpose and grand
enthusiasms and he was astonished to see the social isolation of
Annette, whose society had interested and delighted him, and after
parting with her he found his mind constantly reverting to her and felt
grateful to Mrs. Lasette for affording him a rare and charming pleasure.
Annette sat alone in her humble room with a new light in her eyes and a
sense of deep enjoyment flooding her soul. Never before had she met
with such an interesting and congenial gentleman. He seemed to
understand as scarcely as any one else had done or cared to do. In the
eyes of other guests she had been treated as if too insignificant for
notice, but he had loosened her lips and awakened within her a dawning
sense of her own ability, which others had chilled and depressed. He had
fingered the keys of her soul and they had vibrated in music to his
touch. Do not smile, gentle reader, and say that she was very easily
impressed, it may be that you have never known what it is to be hungry,
not for bread, but for human sympathy, to live with those who were never
interested in your joys, nor sympathized in your sorrows. To whom your
coming gave no joy and your absence no pain. Since Annette had lost her
grandmother, she had lived in an atmosphere of coldness and repression
and was growing prematurely cold. Her heart was like a sealed fountain
beneath whose covering the bright waters dashed and leaped in imprisoned
boundary. Oh, blessed power of human love to lighten human suffering,
well may we thank the giver of every good and perfect gift for the love
which gladdens hearts, brightens homes and sets the solitary in the
midst of families. Mr. Luzerne frequently saw Annette at the house of
Mrs. Lasette and occasionally called at her uncle's, but there was an
air of restraint in the social atmosphere which repressed and chilled
him. In that home he missed the cordial freedom and genial companionship
which he always found at Mrs. Lasette's but Annette's apparent
loneliness and social isolation awakened his sympathy, and her bright
intelligence and good character commanded his admiration and respect,
which developed within him a deep interest for the lovely girl. He often
spoke admiringly of her and never met her at church, or among her
friends that he did not gladly avail himself of the opportunity of
accompanying her home. Madame rumor soon got tidings of Mr. Luzerne's
attentions to Annette and in a shout the tongues of the gossips of A.P.
began to wag. Mrs. Larkins who had fallen heir to some money, moved out
of Tennis court, and often gave pleasant little teas to her young
friends, and as a well spread table was quite a social attraction in
A.P., her gatherings were always well attended. After rumor had caught
the news of Mr. Luzerne's interest in Annette, Mrs. Larkins had a social
at her house to which she invited him, and a number of her young
friends, but took pains to leave Annette out in the cold. Mr. Luzerne on
hearing that Annette was slighted, refused to attend. At the supper
table Annette's prospects were freely discussed.
"I expected that Mr. Luzerne would have been here this evening, but he
sent an apology in which he declined to come."
"Did you invite Annette?" said Miss Croker.
"No, I did not. I got enough of her when I lived next door to her."
"Well that accounts for Mr. Luzerne's absence. They remind me of the
Siamese twins; if you see one, you see the other."
"How did she get in with him?"
"She met him at Mrs. Lasette's party, and he seemed so taken up with her
that for a while he had neither eyes nor ears for any one else."
"That girl, as quiet as she looks, is just as deep as the sea."
"It is not that she's so deep, but we are so shallow. Miss Booker and
Miss Croker were sitting near Annette and not noticing her, and we girls
were having a good time in the corner to ourselves, and Annette was
looking so lonely and embarrassed I think Mr. Luzerne just took pity on
her and took especial pains to entertain her. I just think we stepped
our feet into it by slighting Annette, and of course, as soon as we saw
him paying attention to her, we wouldn't change and begin to make much
"I don't know what he sees in Annette with her big nose and plain face."
"My father," said Laura Lasette, "says that Annette is a credit to her
race and my mother is just delighted because Mr. Luzerne is attracted
to her, but, girls, had we not better be careful how we talk about her?
People might say that we are jealous of her and we know that we are
taught that jealousy is as cruel as the grave."
"We don't see anything to be jealous about her. She is neither pretty
"But my mother says she is a remarkable girl," persisted Laura.
"Your mother," said Mrs. Larkins, "always had funny notions about
Annette, and saw in her what nobody else did."
"Well, for my part, I hope it will be a match."
"It is easy enough for you to say so, Laura. You think it is a sure
thing between you and Charley Cooper, but don't be too sure; there's
many a slip between the cup and the lip."
There was a flush on Laura's cheek as she replied, "If there are a
thousand slips between the cup and the lip and Charlie and I should
never marry, let me tell you that I would almost as soon court another's
husband as a girl's affianced lover. I can better afford to be an old
maid than to do a dishonorable thing."
"Well, Laura, you are a chip off the old block; just like your mother,
always ready to take Annette's part."
"I think, Mrs. Larkins, it is the finest compliment you can pay me, to
tell me that I am like my dear mother."
"Good morning," said Mr. Luzerne, entering Mr. Thomas' office. "Are you
"Not very; I had just given some directions to my foreman concerning a
job I have undertaken, and had just settled down to read the paper. Well
how does your acquaintance with Miss Harcourt prosper? Have you popped
the question yet?"
"No, not exactly; I had been thinking very seriously of the matter, but
I have been somewhat shaken in my intention."
"How so," said Mr. Thomas, laying down his paper and becoming suddenly
"You know that I have had an unhappy marriage which has overshadowed all
my subsequent life, and I cannot help feeling very cautious how I risk,
not only my own, but another's happiness in a second marriage. It is
true that I have been thinking of proposing to Miss Harcourt and I do
prefer her to any young lady I have ever known; but there is a
depreciatory manner in which people speak of her, that sorely puzzles
me. For instance, when I ask some young ladies if they know Annette,
they shrug their shoulders, look significantly at each other and say,
'Oh, yes, we know her; but she don't care for anything but books; oh she
is so self conceited and thinks she knows more than any one else.' But
when I spoke to Mrs. Larkins about her, she said Annette makes a fine
appearance, but all is not gold that glitters. By this time my curiosity
was excited, and I asked, 'What is the matter with Miss Harcourt? I had
no idea that people were so ready to pick at her.' She replied, 'No
wonder; she is such a spitfire.'"
"Well," said Mr. Thomas, a little hotly, "if Annette is a spitfire, Mrs.
Larkins is a lot of combustion. I think of all the women I know, she has
the greatest genius for aggravation. I used to board with her, but as I
did not wish to be talked to death I took refuge in flight."
"And so you showed the white feather that time."
"Yes, I did, and I could show it again. I don't wonder that people have
nick-named her 'Aunty talk forever.' I have known Annette for years and
I known that she is naturally quick tempered and impulsive, but she is
not malicious and implacable and if I were going to marry to-morrow I
would rather have a quick, hot-tempered woman than a cold, selfish one,
who never thought or cared about anyone but herself. Mrs. Larkins' mouth
is not a prayer-book; don't be uneasy about anything she says against
Reassured by Mr. Thomas, Clarence Luzerne decided that he would ask Dr.
Harcourt's permission to visit his niece, a request which was readily
granted and he determined if she would consent that she should be his
wife. He was wealthy, handsome and intelligent; Annette was poor and
plain, but upright in character and richly endowed in intellect, and no
one imagined that he would pass by the handsome and stylish girls of
A.P. to bestow his affections on plain, neglected Annette. Some of the
girls who knew of his friendship for Annette, but who never dreamed of
its termination in marriage would say to Annette, "Speak a good word for
me to Mr. Luzerne;" but Annette kept her counsel and would smile and
think: I will speak a good word for myself. Very pleasant was the
growing friendship between Annette and Mr. Luzerne. Together they read
and discussed books and authors and agreed with wonderful unanimity,
which often expressed itself in the words:
"I think as you do." Not that there was any weak compliance for the sake
of agreement, but a unison of thought and feeling between them which
gave a pleasurable zest to their companionship.
"Miss Annette," said Luzerne, "do you believe that matches are made in
"I never thought anything about it."
"But have you no theory on the subject?"
"Not the least; have you?"
"Yes; I think that every human soul has its counterpart, and is never
satisfied till soul has met with soul and recognized its spiritual
"Affinity! I hate the word."
"Because I think it has been so wrongly used, and added to the social
misery of the world."
"What do you think marriage ought to be?"
"I think it should be a blending of hearts, an intercommunion of souls,
a tie that only love and truth should weave, and nothing but death
Luzerne listened eagerly and said, "Why, Miss Annette, you speak as if
you had either loved or were using your fine imaginative powers on the
subject with good effect. Have you ever loved any one?"
Annette blushed and stammered, and said, "I hardly know, but I think I
have a fine idea of what love should be. I think the love of a woman for
the companion of her future life should go out to him just as naturally
as the waves leap to the strand, or the fire ascends to the sun."
"And this," said Luzerne, taking her hand in his, "is the way I feel
towards you. Surely our souls have met at last. Annette," said he, in a
voice full of emotion, "is it not so? May I not look on your hand as a
precious possession, to hold till death us do part?"
"Why, Mr. Luzerne," said Annette, recovering from her surprise, "this is
so sudden, I hardly know what to say. I have enjoyed your companionship
and I confess have been pleased with your attentions, but I did not
dream that you had any intentions beyond the enjoyment of the hour."
"No, Annette, I never seek amusement in toying with human hearts. I
should deem myself a villain if I came into your house and stole your
purse, and I should think myself no better if I entered the citadel of a
woman's heart to steal her affections only to waste their wealth. Her
stolen money I might restore, but what reparation could I make for
wasted love and blighted affections? Annette, let there be truth between
us. I will give you time to think on my proposal, hoping at the same
time that I shall find favor in your eyes."
After Mr. Luzerne left, Annette, sat alone by the fireside, a delicious
sense of happiness filling her soul with sudden joy. Could it be that
this handsome and dignified man had honored her above all the girls in
A.P., by laying his heart at her feet, or was it only a dream from
which would come a rude awakening? Annette looked in the glass, but no
stretch of imagination could make her conceive that she was beautiful in
either form or feature. She turned from the glass with a faint sigh,
wishing for his sake that she was as beautiful as some of the other
girls in A.P., whom he had overlooked, not thinking for one moment that
in loving her for what she was in intellect and character he had paid
her a far greater compliment than if she had been magnificently
beautiful and he had only been attracted by an exquisite form and lovely
face. In a few days after Mr. Luzerne's proposal to Annette he came for
the answer, to which he looked with hope and suspense.
"I am glad," he said, "to find you at home."
"Yes; all the rest of the family are out."
"Then the coast is clear for me?" There was tenderness and decision in
his voice as he said, "Now, Annette, I have come for the answer which
cannot fail to influence all my future life." He clasped the little hand
which lay limp and passive in his own. His dark, handsome eyes were bent
eagerly upon her as if scanning every nook and corner of her soul. Her
eye fell beneath his gaze, her hand trembled in his, tears of joy were
springing to her eyes, but she restrained them. She withdrew her hand
from his clasp; he looked pained and disappointed. "Have I been too
hasty and presumptuous?"
Annette said no rather faintly, while her face was an enigma he did not
know how to solve.
"Why did you release your hand and avert your eyes?"
"I felt that my will was succumbing to yours, and I want to give you an
answer untrammeled and uncontrolled by your will."
Mr. Luzerne smiled, and thought what rare thoughtfulness and judgment
she has evinced. How few women older than herself would have thought as
quickly and as clearly, and yet she is no less womanly, although she
seems so wise.
"What say you, my dear Annette, since I have released your hand. May I
not hope to hold this hand as the most precious of all my earthly
possessions until death us do part?"
Annette fixed her eyes upon the floor as if she were scanning the
figures on the carpet. Her heart beat quickly as she timidly repeated
the words, "Until death us do part," and placed her hand again in his,
while an expression of love and tender trust lit up the mobile and
expressive face, and Annette felt that his love was hers; the most
precious thing on earth that she could call her own. The engagement
being completed, the next event in the drama was preparation for the
wedding. It was intended that the engagement should not be long.
Together they visited different stores in purchasing supplies for their
new home. How pleasant was that word to the girl, who had spent such
lonely hours in the home of her uncle. To her it meant one of the
brightest spots on earth and one of the fairest types of heaven. In the
evening they often took pleasant strolls together or sat and chatted in
a beautiful park near their future home. One evening as they sat quietly
enjoying themselves Annette said, "How happened it that you preferred me
to all the other girls in A. P.? There are lots of girls more stylish
and better looking; what did you see in poor, plain me?" He laughingly
"I chose you out from all the rest,
The reason was I loved you best."
"And why did you prefer me?" She answered quite archly:
"The rose is red, the violet's blue,
Sugar is sweet and so are you."
"I chose you because of your worth. When I was young, I married for
beauty and I pierced my heart through with many sorrows."
"You been married?" said Annette with a tremor in her tones. "Why, I
never heard of it before."
"Did not Mr. Thomas or Mrs. Lasette tell you of it? They knew it, but it
is one of the saddest passages of my life, to which I scarcely ever
refer. She, my wife, drifted from me, and was drowned in a freshet near
"Oh, how dreadful, and I never knew it."
"Does it pain you?"
"No, but it astonishes me."
"Well, Annette, it is not a pleasant subject, let us talk of something
else. I have not spoken of it to you before, but to-day, when it pressed
so painfully upon my mind, it was a relief to me to tell you about it,
but now darling dismiss it from your mind and let the dead past bury its
Just then there came along where they were sitting a woman whose face
bore traces of great beauty, but dimmed and impaired by lines of sorrow
and disappointment. Just as she reached the seat where they were
sitting, she threw up her hands in sudden anguish, gasped out,
"Clarence! my long lost Clarence," and fell at his feet in a dead faint.
As Mr. Luzerne looked on the wretched woman lying at his feet, his face
grew deathly pale. He trembled like an aspen and murmured in a
bewildered tone, "has the grave restored its dead?"
But with Annette there was no time for delay. She chaffed, the rigid
hands, unloosed the closely fitting dress, sent for a cab and had her
conveyed as quickly as possible to the home for the homeless. Then
turning to Luzerne, she said bitterly, "Mr. Luzerne, will you explain
your encounter with that unfortunate woman?" She spoke as calmly as she
could, for a fierce and bitter anguish was biting at her heartstrings.
"What claim has that woman on you?"
"She has the claim of being my wife and until this hour I firmly
believed she was in her grave." Annette lifted her eyes sadly to his;
he calmly met her gaze, but there was no deception in his glance; his
eyes were clear and sad and she was more puzzled than ever.
"Annette," said he, "I have only one favor to ask; let this scene be a
secret between us as deep as the sea. Time will explain all. Do not
judge me too harshly."
"Clarence," she said, "I have faith in you, but I do not understand you;
but here is the carriage, my work at present is with this poor,
unfortunate woman, whose place I was about to unconsciously supplant."
And thus they parted. All their air castles and beautiful chambers of
imagery, blown to the ground by one sad cyclone of fate. In the city of
A.P., a resting place was found for the stranger who had suddenly dashed
from their lips the scarcely tasted cup of happiness. Mr. Luzerne
employed for her the best medical skill he could obtain. She was
suffering from nervous prostration and brain fever. Annette was constant
in her attentions to the sufferer, and day after day listened to her
delirious ravings. Sometimes she would speak of a diamond necklace, and
say so beseechingly, "Clarence, don't look at me so. You surely can't
think that I am guilty. I will go away and hide myself from you.
Clarence, you never loved me or you would not believe me guilty."
But at length a good constitution and careful nursing overmastered
disease, and she showed signs of recovery. Annette watched over her when
her wild ravings sounded in her ears like requiems for the loved and
cherished dead. Between her and the happiness she had so fondly
anticipated, stood that one blighted life, but she watched that life
just as carefully as if it had been the dearest life on earth she knew.
One day, as Annette sat by her bedside, she surmised from the look on
her face that the wandering reason of the sufferer had returned.
Beckoning to Annette she said "Who are you and where am I?"
Annette answered, "I am your friend and you are with friends."
"Poor Clarence," she murmured to herself; "more sinned against than
"My dear friend," Annette said very tenderly, "you have been very ill,
and I am afraid that if you do not be very quiet you will be very sick
again." Annette gently smoothed her beautiful hair and tried to soothe
her into quietness. Rest and careful nursing soon wrought a wondrous
change in Marie Luzerne, but Annette thoughtfully refrained from all
reference to her past history and waited for time to unravel the mystery
she could not understand, and with this unsolved mystery the match
between her and Luzerne was broken off. At length, one day when Marie's
health was nearly restored, she asked for writing materials, and said,
"I mean to advertise for my mother in a Southern paper. It seems like a
horrid dream that all I knew or loved, even my husband, whom I deserted,
believed that I was dead, till I came suddenly on him in the park with a
young lady by his side. She looked like you. Was it you?"
"Yes," said Annette, as a sigh of relief came to her lips. If Clarence
had wooed and won her he had not willfully deceived her. "Oh, how I
would like to see him. I was wayward and young when I left him in anger.
Oh, if I have sinned I have suffered; but I think that I could die
content if I could only see him once more." Annette related the strange
sad story to her physician, who decided that it was safe and desirable
that there should be an interview between them. Luzerne visited his long
lost wife and after a private interview, he called Annette to the room,
who listened sadly while she told her story, which exonerated Luzerne
from all intent to deceive Annette by a false marriage while she had a
legal claim upon him.
"I was born," she said, "in New Orleans. My father was a Spaniard and
my mother a French Creole. She was very beautiful and my father met her
at a French ball and wished her for his companion for life, but as she
was an intelligent girl and a devout Catholic she would not consent to
live a life by which she would be denied the Sacrament of her Church; so
while she could not contract a civil marriage, which would give her the
legal claims of a wife, she could enter into an ecclesiastical marriage
by which she would not forfeit her claim to the rights and privileges of
the Church as a good Catholic. I was her only child, loved and petted by
my father, and almost worshipped by my mother, and I never knew what it
was to have a wish unfilled if it was in her power to gratify it. When I
was about 16 I met Clarence Luzerne. People then said that I was very
beautiful. You would scarcely think so now, but I suppose he thought so,
too. In a short time we were married, and soon saw that we were utterly
unfitted to each other; he was grave and I was gay; he was careful and
industrious, I was careless and extravagant; he loved the quiet of his
home and books; I loved the excitements of pleasure and the ball room,
and yet I think he loved me, but it was as a father might love a wayward
child whom he vainly tried to restrain. I had a cousin who had been
absent from New Orleans a number of years, of whose antecedents I knew
not scarcely anything. He was lively, handsome and dashing. My husband
did not like his society, and objected to my associating with him. I did
not care particularly for him, but I chafed against the restraint, and
in sheer waywardness I continued the association. One day he brought me
a beautiful diamond necklace which he said he had obtained in a distant
land. I laid it aside intending to show it to my husband; in the
meantime, a number of burglaries had been committed in the city of B.,
and among them was a diamond necklace. My heart stood still with sudden
fear while I read of the account and while I was resolving what to do,
my husband entered the house followed by two officers, who demanded the
necklace. My husband interfered and with a large sum of money obtained
my freedom from arrest. My husband was very proud of the honor of his
family and blamed me for staining its record. From that day my husband
seemed changed in his feelings towards me. He grew cold, distant and
abstracted, and I felt that my presence was distasteful to him. I could
not enter into his life and I saw that he had no sympathy with mine, and
so in a fit of desperation I packed my trunk and took with me some money
I had inherited from my father and left, as I said in a note, forever. I
entered a convent and resolved that I would devote myself to the service
of the poor and needy, for life had lost its charms for me. I had
scarcely entered the convent before the yellow fever broke out and raged
with fearful intensity. I was reckless of my life and engaged myself as
a nurse. One day there came to our hospital a beautiful girl with a
wealth of raven hair just like mine was before I became a nurse. I
nursed her through a tedious illness and when she went out from the
hospital, as I had an abundance of clothing, I supplied her from my
wardrobe with all she needed, even to the dress she wore away. The
clothing was all marked with my name. Soon after I saw in the paper that
a young woman who was supposed from the marks on her clothing and the
general description of her person to be myself was found drowned in a
freshet. I was taken ill immediately afterwards and learned on
recovering that I had been sick and delirious for several weeks. I
sought for my mother, inquired about my husband, but lost all trace of
them both till I suddenly came across my husband in Brightside Park. But
Clarence, if you have formed other ties don't let me come between you
and the sunshine. You are free to apply for a divorce; you can make the
plea of willful desertion. I will not raise the least straw in your way.
I will go back to the convent and spend the rest of my life in penitence
and prayer. I have sinned; it is right that I should suffer." Clarence
looked eagerly into the face of Annette; it was calm and peaceful, but
in it he read no hope of a future reunion.
"What say you, Annette, would you blame me if I accepted this release?"
"I certainly would. She is your lawful wife. In the church of her father
you pledged your faith to her, and I do not think any human law can
absolve you from being faithful to your marriage vows. I do not say it
lightly. I do not think any mother ever laid her first born in the grave
with any more sorrow than I do to-day when I make my heart the sepulchre
in which I bury my first and only love. This, Clarence, is the saddest
trial of my life. I am sadder to-day than when I stood a lonely orphan
over my grandmother's grave, and heard the clods fall on her coffin and
stood lonely and heart-stricken in my uncle's house, and felt that I was
unwelcome there. But, Clarence, the great end of life is not the
attainment of happiness but the performance of duty and the development
of character. The great question is not what is pleasant but what is
"Annette, I feel that you are right; but I am too wretched to realize
the force of what you say. I only know that we must part, and that means
binding my heart as a bleeding sacrifice on the altar of duty."
"Do you not know who drank the cup of human suffering to its bitter
dregs before you? Arm yourself with the same mind, learn to suffer and
be strong. Yes, we must part; but if we are faithful till death heaven
will bring us sweeter rest." And thus they parted. If Luzerne had felt
any faltering in his allegiance to duty he was too honorable and upright
when that duty was plainly shown to him to weakly shrink from its
performance, and as soon as his wife was able to travel he left A.P.,
for a home in the sunny South. After Luzerne had gone Annette thought,
"I must have some active work which will engross my mind and use every
faculty of my soul. I will consult with my dear friend Mrs. Lasette."
All unnerved by her great trial, Annette rang Mrs. Lasette's front door
bell somewhat hesitatingly and walked wearily into the sitting-room,
where she found Mrs. Lasette resting in the interval between twilight
and dark. "Why Annette!" she said with pleased surprise, "I am so glad
to see you. How is Clarence? I thought you would have been married
before now. I have your wedding present all ready for you."
"Mrs. Lasette," Annette said, while her voice trembled with
inexpressible sorrow, "it is all over."
Mrs. Lasette was lighting the lamp and had not seen Annette's face in
the dusk of the evening, but she turned suddenly around at the sound of
her voice and noticed the wan face so pitiful in its expression of
"What is the matter, my dear; have you and Luzerne had a lover's
"No," said Annette, sadly, and then in the ears of her sympathizing
friend she poured her tale of bitter disappointment. Mrs. Lasette folded
the stricken girl to her heart in tenderest manner.
"Oh, Mrs. Lasette," she said, "you make me feel how good it is for girls
to have a mother."
"Annette, my brave, my noble girl, I am so glad."
"Glad of what, Mrs. Lasette?"
"Glad that you have been so true to conscience and to duty; glad that
you have come through your trial like gold tried in the fiercest fire;
glad that my interest in you has not been in vain, and that I have been
able to see the blessed fruitage of my love and labors. And now, my dear
child, what next?"
"I must have a change; I must find relief in action. I feel so weak and
bruised in heart."
"A bruised reed will not break," murmured Mrs. Lasette to herself.
"Annette," said Mrs. Lasette, "this has been a fearful trial, but it
must not be in vain; let it bring you more than happiness; let it bring
you peace and blessedness. There is only one place for us to bring our
sins and our sorrows, and that is the mercy seat. Let us both kneel
there to-night and ask for grace to help in this your time of need. We
are taught to cast our care upon Him for he careth for us. Come, my
child, with the spirit of submission and full surrender, and consecrate
your life to his service, body, soul and spirit, not as a dead offering,
but a living sacrifice."
Together they mingled their prayers and tears, and when Annette rose
from her knees there was a look of calmness on her face, and a deep
peace had entered her soul. The strange trial was destined to bring joy
and gladness and yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness in the
future. Mrs. Lasette wrote to some friends in a distant Southern town
where she obtained a situation for Annette as a teacher. Here she soon
found work to enlist her interest and sympathy and bring out all the
activity of her soul. She had found her work and the people among whom
she labored had found their faithful friend.
Luzerne's failure to marry Annette and re-instatement of his wife was
the sensation of the season. Some pitied Annette; others blamed Luzerne,
but Annette found, as a teacher, opportunity among the freedmen to be a
friend and sister to those whose advantages had been less than hers.
Life had once opened before her like a fair vision enchanted with
delight, but her beautiful dream had faded like sun rays mingling with
the shadows of night. It was the great disappointment of her life, but
she roused up her soul to bear suffering and to be true to duty, and
into her soul came a joy which was her strength. Little children learned
to love her, the street gamins knew her as their friend, aged women
blessed the dear child as they called her, who planned for their comfort
when the blasts of winter were raging around their homes. Before her
great trial she had found her enjoyment more in her intellectual than
spiritual life, but when every earthly prop was torn away, she learned
to lean her fainting head on Christ the corner-stone and the language of
her heart was "Nearer to thee, e'en though it be a cross that raiseth
me." In surrendering her life she found a new life and more abundant
life in every power and faculty of her soul.
Luzerne went South and found Marie's mother who had mourned her child as
dead. Tenderly they watched over her, but the seeds of death were sown
too deeply in her wasted frame for recovery, and she wasted away and
sank into a premature grave, leaving Luzerne the peaceful satisfaction
of having smoothed her passage to the grave, and lengthened with his
care, her declining days. Turning from her grave he plunged into active
life. It was during the days of reconstruction when tricksters and
demagogues were taking advantage of the ignorance and inexperience of
the newly enfranchised citizens. Honorable and upright, Luzerne
preserved his integrity among the corruptions of political life. Men
respected him too much to attempt to swerve him from duty for personal
advantage. No bribes ever polluted his hands, nor fraud, nor political
chicanery ever stained his record.
He was the friend and benefactor of his race, giving them what gold is
ever too poor to buy--the benefit of a good example and a noble life,
and earned for himself the sobriquet by which he was called, "honest
Luzerne." And yet at times he would turn wistfully to Annette and the
memory of those glad, bright days when he expected to clasp hands with
her for life. At length his yearning had become insatiable and he
returned to A. P.
Laura Lasette had married Charley Cooper who by patience and industry
had obtained a good position in the store of a merchant who was manly
enough to let it be known that he had Negro blood in his veins, but that
he intended to give him a desk and place in his establishment and he
told his employees that he intended to employ him, and if they were not
willing to work with him they could leave. Charley was promoted just the
same as others according to his merits. Time had dealt kindly with Mrs.
Lasette, as he scattered his silvery crystals amid her hair, and of her
it might be said,
Each silver hair, each wrinkle there
Records some good deed done,
Some flower she scattered by the way
Some spark from love's bright sun.
Mrs. Larkins had grown kinder and more considerate as the years passed
by. Mr. Thomas had been happily married for several years. Annette was
still in her Southern home doing what she could to teach, help and
befriend those on whose chains the rust of ages had gathered. Mr.
Luzerne found out Annette's location and started Southward with a fresh
hope springing up in his heart.
It was a balmy day in the early spring when he reached the city where
Annette was teaching. Her home was a beautiful place of fragrance and
flowers. Groups of young people were gathered around their teacher
listening eagerly to a beautiful story she was telling them. Elderly
women were scattered in little companies listening to or relating some
story of Annette's kindness to them and their children.
"I told her," said one, "that I had a vision that some one who was fair,
was coming to help us. She smiled and said she was not fair. I told her
she was fair to me."
"I wish she had been here fifteen years ago," said another one. "Before
she came my boy was just as wild as a colt, but now he is jist as stiddy
as a judge."
"I just think," said another one, "that she has been the making of my
Lucy. She's just wrapped up in Miss Annette, thinks the sun rises and
sets in her." Old mothers whose wants had been relieved, came with the
children and younger men too, to celebrate Annette's 31st birthday.
Happy and smiling, like one who had passed through suffering into peace
she stood, the beloved friend of old and young, when suddenly she heard
a footstep on the veranda which sent the blood bounding in swift
currents back to her heart and left her cheek very pale. It was years
since she had heard the welcome rebound of that step, but it seemed as
familiar to her as the voice of a loved and long lost friend, or a
precious household word, and before her stood, with slightly bowed form
and hair tinged with gray, Luzerne. Purified through suffering, which to
him had been an evangel of good, he had come to claim the love of his
spirit. He had come not to separate her from her cherished life work,
but to help her in uplifting and helping those among whom her lot was
cast as a holy benediction, and so after years of trial and pain, their
souls had met at last, strengthened by duty, purified by that faith
which works by love, and fitted for life's highest and holiest truths.
And now, in conclusion, permit me to say under the guise of fiction, I
have essayed to weave a story which I hope will subserve a deeper
purpose than the mere amusement of the hour, that it will quicken and
invigorate human hearts and not fail to impart a lesson of usefulness
1. In the original, this sentence reads: "After she became a wife and
mother, instead of becoming entirely absorbed in a round of household
cares and duties, and she often said, that the moment the crown of
motherhood fell upon her how that she had poured a new interest in the
welfare of her race."
2. The original reads "But Mr. Thompson."
3. The original reads "but during her short sojourn in the South."
4. In the original this sentence reads: "Young men anxious for places in
the gift of government found that by winking at Frank Miller's vices and
conforming to the demoralizing customs of his place, were the passports
to political favors, and lacking moral stamina, hushed their consciences
and became partakers of his sins."
5. The original reads "Mrs. Larking."
6. The original reads "said Mrs. Larkins, seating herself beside Mrs.
7. The original reads "continued Mr. Slocum."
8. The original reads "'Isn't your name Benny?'"
9. The original reads "said Charley Hastings."
10. The original reads "scarcely on intellect."
11. The original reads "expensive views."
12. The original reads "Mrs. Harcourt."
13. The original reads "Mrs. Hanson."
14. The original reads "Mr. Thomas."
15. The original reads "Tom Hanson."