Funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by
Apex Data Services, Inc.
Text encoded by Lee Ann Morawski and Natalia Smith
Images scanned by Melissa Graham
First edition, 2000
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
(title page) Bond and Free: A Tale of the South
(cover) Bond and Free
vi, 288 p., ill.
CARLON & HOLLENBECK, PRINTERS AND BINDERS.
Call number KE 1984 (Harvard University Libraries)
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH
digitization project, Documenting the American South.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved. Encountered typographical errors have been preserved, and appear in red type.
Any hyphens occurring in line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a word has been joined to the preceding line.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as " and " respectively.
All single right and left quotation marks are encoded as ' and ' respectively.
All em dashes are encoded as --
Indentation in lines has not been preserved.
Running titles have not been preserved.
Spell-check and verification made against printed text using Author/Editor (SoftQuad) and Microsoft Word spell check programs.
Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
LC Subject Headings:
[Title Page Image]
[Title Page Verso Image]
C. B. INGRAHAM,
UPON relating incidents which occurred under the observation of the writer, the suggestion has been frequently made to her that they should be recorded in a book, and placed within the reach of those who are interested in studying the habits of the Southern people before the late war.
This volume is presented to the public in compliance with that request, since slavery is now so far removed from us by time that it has become historical.
The contingencies of "the peculiar institution" invaded the domestic circle, made children masters and mistresses from infancy, causing them to be reared rulers over their sable playmates, and impressed on their unfolding minds ideas of superiority in birth, which, as they advanced to manhood or womanhood, qualified them to exercise authority to a degree inconceivable by those raised with different surroundings. That miscegenation was of frequent occurrence is not to be denied; but mulatto children, being held by their darker mothers, were identified with the maternal race; yet there were instances where amalgamation was extended to successive generations, and State laws were enacted liberating those who possessed a certain degree of consanguinity with the Caucasian race.
In the slave markets, among which that of New Orleans was pre-eminent, quadroon girls, possessing superior personal attractions, commanded a high price; and in exceptional instances, where they were received into families, and enjoyed advantages of mental and moral education, they became women of intelligence and sterling worth.
Our heroine is not a myth. There are persons who will recognize
individuals mentioned in this history, but their identity is veiled from the public by fictitious names and localities.
The author has not seen proper to testify to this or that occurrence as a fact, lest the repetition should become tiresome, or conclusions be drawn that all others not so specified are fabrications.
Read, and decide for yourselves, whether or not the history contained in the following pages is true to life; and remember, that where friends and families are separated, and pursue different paths in the mazy labyrinth of life, their spheres may widen in diverse channels, and the wiliest detective be unable to recover the clue; again, they may meet when least expecting, and bridge the lapse of years with reminiscences of the past.
Read, and learn not to undervalue the influence we exert over those around us.
Let that charity "which is kind, and endureth all things," throw a mantle over the imperfections of our fellow men. "Let love be without dissimulation," that we "be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
GEORGE MELBURN threw the bridle from the peg of an old Virginia horse-rack over the neck of his impatient steed, mounted, and rode slowly down the avenue, a rejected lover.
A review of the past presented itself to his mind as he wended his way homeward; for often during childhood had the same road been passed to receive instruction from the governess employed by Capt. Templeton; and early had Letitia's sweetness and grace so won his heart, that, during the few past years, while absent at college, her image had retained rule, and honors had been sought and won with anticipated commendation from his lady-love.
Each annual vacation he had found her developing in all the beauty and loveliness of womanhood, and now that college days were over, and the vows uttered that set him apart as a minister of holy
things, he had presented himself to Letitia with bright aspirations, and received a decided refusal.
For the first time, during his life of twenty-three years, was he thwarted in his plans. Sole heir to a large inheritance, with ample means at command to promote his interest or happiness, recognized as master of many slaves, he was accustomed to have the will of others yield to his own. With a noble, manly bearing, and the pride of birth known to a native born Virginian, it had required all the intensity of love to overcome inborn prejudices, and offer all that he was, and all that he had, to the keeping of one over whose birth rested a cloud.
Letitia still stood upon the vine-covered veranda, her large blue eyes watching his retreating form, with lips parted as if to call him back, and revoke the words which pronounced the doom to her own happiness. But, no; she had taken up the cross, and was resolved to bear it. Passionately clasping her hands, and raising her eyes, now overflowing with tears, to heaven, she exclaimed earnestly and trustingly, "I do love him so dearly! Help, oh help me, Heavenly Father, to tear this idol from my heart, and worship only thee!"
Then seeking the retirement of her room, she sank upon her knees, and struggled in prayer until the mastery was gained and peace came; then pillowing her head, she slept quietly and sweetly.
A few days later, Capt. Templeton, who was apparently recovering from a slight attack of neuralgia, was sitting at the breakfast table with his
daughter, and sipping a cup of fragrant coffee, as a servant brought to him, on a silver waiter, the county newspaper.
Glancing carelessly over its contents, an item arrested his attention, and he read aloud:
"Mr. George Melburn, of Oak Lawn, has made arrangements with Mr. Grigg to oversee his large estate, as he proposes making a tour on the continent of Europe, and subsequently devoting himself to missionary work in--."
Laying down the paper, without observing the flush which suffused the cheek of his daughter, he remarked, "So George is at home again, and ready to be off once more. I am heartily sorry that he is not to remain, and take charge of his servants. It must be a sudden move; for, the last time I saw him, he expressed a desire and longing to be on his place permanently; and, as he had received a call to take charge of G--Church, it seemed certain he would remain at 'The Lawn.'"
"But, papa," said Letitia, thinking she ought to reply, and scarce knowing what ground to take, "is not Mr. Grigg a good, responsible overseer?"
"Yes, dear; he is as good and responsible an overseer as can be found; but where there are so many hands, they need their own master to look in upon them once in a while. Mr. Grigg provides each servant his allowance, and George Melburn is not the man to want his hands stinted; but it is the business of the overseer to see that the crops come in full, so he is sometimes pretty hard on them. It is natural for a man to feel attached to
his own possessions, and to have a kind of family feeling toward his servants, aside from the dollars they cost, which an overseer can not have. He should have been neighborly enough to call upon you, little daughter."
Letitia replied, as she rose from the table to hide her confusion: "Yes, papa; he called the evening you were at G--."
A description of Temple Vale may carry some of our readers back a quarter of a century, to an old homestead in Virginia. The house was a plain frame building; a wide hall, extending from the front veranda to the rear, separated the parlor, or "big room," from the "family room." The former was honored with an ingrained carpet, cane-seated chairs, and two large wooden rockers, with chintz-covered cushions. A generous fire-place in winter diffused the warmth of blazing logs, and in summer the wide jambs furnished a niche for a vase of flowers. On the opposite side stood a massive sideboard, the compartments of which held hats and bonnets for Sunday wear, as well as demijohns of home-made wines and a plate of pound-cake. Of these refreshments every visitor who found his way hither, either by accident or upon business, was not only invited, but expected to partake.
The room across the hall was large enough to answer the various purposes to which it had been appropriated; namely, bed-room, sitting, and dining-room. On the second floor, corresponding apartments were used as sleeping rooms.
Capt. Templeton's frequent absence from home had made it necessary to have the end of the rear veranda enclosed for the accommodation of a trusty servant, who could be called at any moment, and before whose door a watch-dog kept guard.
Directly in rear of the house, at a few yards distance, was the kitchen; and, further on, to the left, a row of neatly whitewashed cabins, far enough apart to allow space for little gardens, where each family of servants was encouraged to cultivate, for sale, or for their own use, a supply of vegetables. Saturday afternoons, and time gained by completing an alloted task at an early hour, afforded leisure for this work. The experiment had originated with the late mistress of Temple Vale, who had discontinued the cultivation of a kitchen garden in order to encourage the servants by purchasing such produce as they might raise; and it had proved successful. The front yard had been laid out, and, under the supervision of Miss Letitia, flowers bloomed luxuriant and filled the air with their fragrance.
After breakfast, Capt. Templeton went out to give directions for the day's work, and his daughter sought the retirement of an arbor to quiet emotions that had been once more re-awakened by the remarks of her father.
This little retreat was formed by the branches of a carefully trained hawthorne, overhanging a singularly formed rock, which served as a bench.
The hardest battles fought by mankind are those with, or against, self; when reason, with its firm
convictions of right and duty, is set in array against the heart, against its natural tendencies, instinct, or ardent desires; when duty demands the voluntary yielding up of what has grown to be the joy, the hope of life. Alone, with none but the All-seeing one who was near to sustain, Letitia was glad to realize that she had obtained the mastery; that the dreaded words had been spoken, even if they had cut the cord that held the curtain uplifted which now enshrouded her young life like a pall. She was glad to be alone in the contest, to feel that not even her father knew of her first great sacrifice; she determined to maintain her usual cheerful manner, and, after an hour had passed, came out singing,
"Always a maiden, never a wife."
Approaching the house, she met her father riding his favorite horse, "Black Prince;" with an exclamation of surprise she addressed him,
"Please, father, do not go this morning, wait until to-morrow, when you will be better."
"I am better now, darling," he replied; although his pale face did not verify his words. "You remember the advice of our good doctor, and I must be ready, for your sake, if I have not neglected his warning too long already. The cool morning air will invigorate me. Good-bye, my daughter."
With a farewell kiss father and daughter parted, each full of thought, looking forward with the anticipation of accomplishing a large measure of life's work during the day.
Capt. Templeton rode toward the court house,
now and then checking his horse to a slow pace, as a sharp pain paled his face, or drew an involuntary groan from his lips. Then, as it passed off, he would hasten, as if his errand could not be delayed; occasionally muttering half aloud, "I must not be too late." Well did he know that a fatal disease was preying upon his heart, as a worm in the core; that vitality was liable to cease at any moment; and that like the apple, he would fall, and earth claim her dust.
Previous to the death of his wife, Capt. Templeton had executed a will; but since that event he felt that it would be well to avoid controversy, or litigation, by giving to his youngest child, Letitia, a deed to the homestead, as well as a document setting her emancipation beyond dispute.
Such papers had been given into the hands of a lawyer, and this was the day appointed for the final signing and sealing.
Upon Letitia devolved the household cares as mistress of a large family of servants, although scarcely nineteen years of age, and with these, after her father's departure, she was soon busily engaged; but an undercurrent of thought and anxiety for her father made the time pass slowly, as the cuckoo from the hall clock announced each passing hour.
When twilight approached she lingered on the veranda, hoping to see his figure, until the servants appeared, returning from work in the fields to their cabins.
Uncle Joe came up to the house; seeing his mistress, he stopped, removed his hat, and bowed.
"Have you seen your master, Uncle Joe?" enquired Letitia.
"No, Miss; but dat's jes w'at I's gwine speak 'bout. I's rollin' logs in de ole dead'nin' 'side de road, fur ter burn to-morrow, Miss, like ole Massa, he tole me fur ter do dis mornin', an' jes' as I an' Tom was hisin' a mighty big log on de pile, who comed 'long side de fence but Maus Hunt's Steve."
"Had Steve seen father, Uncle Joe?"
"Dat's jes what I's gwine speak 'bout, Miss 'Titia. Steve, he beckon' wid 'is head fur me to come to de fence, an' w'en I gets dar, he says, 'You jes go up to de big house, and tell Miss 'Titia as 'ow 'er fader's sick down to de hotel. Tell 'er as how Maus Hunt's dar wid 'im, an' said nobody should come an' tell 'er;' but I know'd I'd jes come dis way w'en he sent me ober to Maus Grigg's wid dis letter; so, Miss 'Titia, I's here."
"Yes, Joe; and we must go to him," were Letitia's composed words, although her heart beat with fear of evil. "Saddle the horses; you must be my escort."
"Yes, Miss; dar dey is; I knowed you'd say so; Tom's bringin' 'em."
The horses appeared, and, within five minutes, Letitia, accompanied by the faithful Joe, was on the way to G--.
Bolstered almost upright in the bed was the form of Capt. Templeton, his head drooping to one side, or moving restlessly against a pillow. The village
doctor held his almost pulseless wrist; and opposite sat Mr. Hunt Templeton, half-brother of the dying man, when Letitia entered.
Moving softly to his bed-side, she knelt, clasped her father's hand, and bowed in grief. Then raising her tear-stained face to his, she whispered, "Father, dear father, tell me--."
In vain he strove to speak; life was too far gone--just hovering on the brink of the dark river. A smile, a gentle pressure of the hand, a gasp, and all was over; the last step was taken, and the waters crossed.
There was left a lifeless body, a grief-stricken daughter, and a grasping Shylock, impatient to bury the dead, and scrape in long coveted dollars.
HUNT TEMPLETON was seated in a comfortable rocker, with his feet upon the fender. His countenance, as he looked into the fire, would convey a favorable impression, presenting a fine profile of the Jewish type, inherited from his mother; but, as he turned, an upward glance betrayed a dark, sinister expression lurking under shaggy eyebrows, which would change a stranger's first opinion, and cause a man, with whom he might have business dealings, to question his integrity.
His wife was knitting upon a fast lengthening stocking without appearing to observe its existence. She wore a dark linsey dress, and a long, full gingham apron tied round the waist; her face was hard, and the motion of her jaws indicated a devotion to the habit of gum-chewing. Dropping her knitting into a basket, she withdrew the gum from her mouth, stored it in her pocket for future use, and skillfully ejecting a mouthful of saliva across the fire, addressed her husband, while she resumed her knitting:
"I don't see w'at for you sold Joe and 'Titia together,
I told you the last thing for to be sure and put one in one place, and t'other some 'eres else."
"You need borrow no trouble on that score, old girl; I reckon they are both in Tophet by this time, for I sold 'em to Satan, or one of his colleagues. The captain of the 'Wildfire' said he had knowed him ever since he has been a tradin' 'long the coast. He is a runaway convict, and never shows himself away from his hut. There is a man in Jacksonville who sometimes sends him supplies under an alias; with this exception, and an occasional sailing vessel stopping there, he has no communication with the world. I did not get much money for the nigs, but I thought I could not get shed of 'em in a safer place."
"You may be right; but," lowering her voice to a whisper, and glancing around the room to assure herself that no other person was present, "do you really suppose either of 'em knowed about the will?"
At this question, Mr. Templeton contracted the muscles of the forehead till his scalp approached his eyebrows, as if Satan betrayed the guiding of his heart by disfiguring his face, and answered,
"I don't care whether they know it or not, now; I made a sure thing in getting the place cl'ar on 'em. Brother James trusted every thing to Joe. I know there were two copies of the will. One is safe, I bet; the other James had hidden away some'ers, and I charged you to make thorough hunt for it at the farm."
"Yes; didn't I spend three days a huntin', when
Sary Ann was down o' the fevers? I searched every nook and corner, and nary will is there, that is certain," insisted Mrs. Templeton, holding her stocking near the candle to see the last stitches as she "toed it off." "I don't see what has become of it, unless it was sent to Mary, or the boys, for safety."
"I don't think it was, because James told me he didn't want the boys to know he had so much bank stock laid by. You see there are seventy-five thousand in the Planter's Bank, with the interest piling on for three years; and, if the boys knowed it, James thought it would spile 'em."
"Suppose the boys come on, and find out how it is."
"I fixed that. I got 'Squire Munser to write that their father was dead, and they had best remain where they are, or they would be taken and sold if they return. The children, all having been born in slavery, could not claim the estate without the will. 'Squire Munser wrote to Mary that she could get nothing; so I think we shall have no trouble from any of them. But one thing is sure, Sue Templeton, it has taken a mighty sight of figurin' and thinkin' to fix this all up for our side; and 'Squire Munser wants an awful pile of money to fetch it out right for us."
"Well, I reckon he'll not get more'n honest pay."
"'Squire Munser is not the man to undertake a job like this without big pay, and he told me so. There is no 'whipping the devil 'round the stump'
with him. I had to sign a paper, making over to him one-half the proceeds of the sale of the tradin' vessels, and ten thousand out of the bank stock. It is bad; but there is no backin' out."
So greedy was this man over ill-gotten means, that he shrank from sharing the booty with him, by whose art and labor only it could be grasped; while the lawyer, knowing well his client, was careful enough to possess himself of a liberal share of dishonest money for dishonest work.
The Templeton family, having suddenly become the holders of so considerable a fortune, the next step was to decide how to use it. Their hitherto limited income, derived from the profits of a small stock of groceries, had demanded strict economy to provide all with the comforts of life, and left little for its luxuries. The two oldest sons had been necessarily deprived of school privileges; for, as soon as they were old enough, they had been obliged to aid in the sale of their father's wares; and the elder daughters were equally useful in domestic duties. It was resolved that they must now be sent to boarding schools, and servants employed to take their place in all labor. The grocery was disposed of, as well as the furniture of their humble home; while, at the farm, reconstruction and reorganization were accomplishing wonders. Under the supervision of an architect, painters and carpenters made the plain, comfortable farm house of James Templeton lose its identity in a Gothic villa. New carpets and new furniture came in as a necessity. Parents as well as children, were
bewildered at the novelty of a home with such surroundings, and knew not how to manage unaccustomed acquisitions.
"See here, ma;" said young John, a boy of ten years, "pa says you have bought six brocatelle chairs for the parlor. What is brocatelle, ma?"
"Don't expose your ignorance, boy; it is French for thirty dollars apiece; one would think you had never seen furniture before."
"Well, I never did see sich as this 'ere. And what's this thing for, all wadded like a pin-cushion?" throwing himself down, with his muddy boots elevated upon the polished veneering.
"That 'ere is a sociable. You, John, git off o' thar; see how you've scratched it. I'll show you what this is." Stooping down, she took off her slipper, and briskly exercised it about the boy's ears, who made a speedy retreat.
Among the servants an entire change of system had replaced the former order of things. Dinah had tucked away her five little ones, some in the trundle-bed (in which during happy days, now passed away, her dear "ole missus" had watched and cared for her own four darlings), some in the "big bed," and on her lap lay asleep her sixth child, a babe, born since the exile of its father, Joe. Nellie, a fellow-servant, was sitting near, trying, by the light of a rag, sputtering in the side of a "grease cup," to make a garment for herself.
"I's been tryin', Aunt Dinah, to find out w'ere at Maus Hunt took Miss 'Titia an' Joe. Steve, you know Steve, he druv the carriage that day,
an' he says as how he tuck 'em down to a sailin' vessel."
"W'ere at was the vessel gwine?" inquired Dinah.
"Steve, he said he din'no nuffin' 'bout dat; but he 'spects dat dey war gwine to Georgy."
"De Lord help us! my Joe gone to Georgy!"
"W'at fur, Aunt Dinah, is you been dar? W'at fur a place is Georgy?"
Dinah shook her head, took her babe, which had fallen asleep, laid it in the bed, as carefully tucking it in as if it had been the nursling of a free mother, and, taking an old split-bottomed chair, leaned back till it rested against the wall. Setting her feet upon a round, she said: "Nellie, did you never hear tell of Georgy? It's a big jail--bigger'n dis plantation--w'ere dey puts de blacks w'at don't 'bey orders. It's got a suller, an' a down sta'rs, an' a up sta'rs, an' dar ain't no winders; it's all like a mill w'ere dey grin' sugar cane an' pick cotton. Dey have to work all day an' all night, ebery day han' runnin', wid chains 'round dar legs. An' Nellie, if Maus Hunt's gone and tuck my Joe an' Miss 'Titia dar, de Lord'll pay him off, sure. Dar nebber was a better boy nor my Joe; an' as to Miss 'Titia, she's an angel, jes like 'er 'ma was 'fore her."
"Dar's a heap o' comfort, Aunt Dinah, in trustin' in de Lord; dar's no oder holt to hang by."
"Look a' dis yere Missus; she allus done 'er own cookin', an' now she 'lows I can do all de cookin' fur de house, an' all de han's, 'side lookin'
after de chillen. Nora, she' ten year ole Christmas, an' helps a heap 'bout nussin' de baby; now Missus, she says, 'Nora must wait in de house, an' let Carline nuss de baby,' an' she's so little."
A knock at the kitchen door; and without waiting for an invitation, Terence, a field hand entered: "Skuse me, Aunt Dinah, I comes in fur ter light my pipe. W'ats you an' Miss Nellie consolodatin' 'bout; you looks so solemn like?"
"I reckon w'es a right to be solemn, Terence, wi' Joe an' Miss 'Titia sold to Georgy."
"Don't say so. Dat's business in de navy. Wonder what all's Maus Hunt sold 'em to Georgy for? But you orter see how him an' dis 'ere oberseer bosses; gettin' us up 'fore day, an' workin' us like mules. No more Saturday evenin's to make shuck mats, nor baskets, nor nuffin'; but work on de place. Dat's all we's made for, I reckon he thinks."
Mr. Templeton, in taking up the thread of his brother's business, found that it did not glide smoothly through his own hands, but became sadly entangled.
Coming in one evening, in a disturbed state of mind, he said to his wife: "There's 'Squire Munser has had a man in tow who wanted to buy out the whole line of trading vessels. 'Squire says he has backed out, and will not buy. I've done my best to keep in with the agents, but somehow there is nothing coming in from them. Here I am kept running one way and another, and it is my opinion they are keeping me blindfolded, pullin' an' grabbin'
in all directions; the more I reach and grasp, finding nothing, the more these agents chuckle, and, in my opinion, pocket the profits. I must set out for Charleston to-night."
His scalp, like a storm-cloud, lowered; and the flash of his eyes was too well understood by Mrs. Templeton to attempt the use of any soothing influence.
Stepping out to the back porch, he raised his voice in a prolonged "Ho-o-o, Terence! Ho-o-o, Terence!"
That individual presenting himself at a cabin door, his master proceeded, "Saddle Daisy for me, and get on one of the work horses to bring her back. Right off; do you hear?"
Instead of obeying, Terence walked toward the house, "Yes, Massa; but Daisy's mighty bad, sir; I 'spects you'd better take Prince, sir."
"What's the matter now?"
"She got cast in the stable, sir; an' her foot's mighty bad, sir."
At this, Terence was made the victim of a torrent of invectives; curses of the entire African race were centred upon him; not because he had been guilty of any offense, but chance had thrown him in the path to receive pent up wrath from an irritated master. Having exhausted his supply of censures, he added:
"Tell Harry to put my saddle on Prince, and get ready to go with me to the river to bring him back; take care of that mare, and, if I lose her, you get fifty lashes; do you hear?"
The two older sons, Thomas and Jerry, were too idle to remain in school; in a few weeks they returned home, and devoted their abilities to rearing and fighting game cocks.
With other idle lads in the neighborhood, they assembled in the rear of a little school-house in the woods; and passers by, every Saturday, would meet the interested parties with gaily plumed fowls under their arms, and find them engaged in whetting gaffs to arm the cocks for the conflict. After the battle, when small stakes were risked, the winner was to "liquor up all around;" whisky bottles were emptied, and with cards the day's entertainment was completed.
To join in this weekly pastime, the boys sallied out of the house, and called Terence with the order, "Saddle Daisy and Prince right away; do you hear?"
"Maus Thomas, I hears; but Maus Hunt, he tole me fur to take good keer de mare; she's mighty bad crippled wid her foot, so I tuck off her shoes, an' keep her in de stable, sir."
"What do you mean, you saucy nigger; I tell you to saddle the horses, right away; do you understand?"
"I un'stan', sir; but I'm 'feared it 'll go hard wid 'er to put 'er on de road bar' foot, an' 'er foot so bad."
By this time the headstrong boy, who knew no will but his own, descended from the porch, and shook his fist at Terence. "You dare to disobey
my orders! I tell you to saddle that mare and Prince, and have 'em here inside of ten minutes, or I'll send you up for seventy-five lashes. You know it won't hurt her to get a little exercise."
Seeing remonstrance was in vain, the horses were saddled, and the boys started off.
Terence looked after them, as, urged to the utmost speed she could make over the rough road, Daisy limped onward at the will of her rider; and he indulged in one of his soliloquies:
"Uncle Joe, he used to say, dat Miss 'Titia read to him out o' de good book, dat it is mighty hard to serve two masters. Now, dar's dat ar mare, she's been nigh losin' her huff, since dat ar halter got cotched 'round it; an' Maus Hunt he telled me if I don't cure it, I gets fifty; an' now, jest as I's a curin' it, 'ere comes Maus Thomas an' tells me if I don't saddle 'er, he'll get de oberseer to gi' me seventy-five. So here I is 'twixt two masters, an' I got to b'ar de kwonsequence o' one or t'other, sure, an' if dat mare don't get used up, my name ain't Terence."
Mr. Templeton's tour of investigation at the offices of the agents was to him a fruitless errand. He knew nothing of the business of his late brother, and could learn nothing; since, as he had rightly conjectured, the agents had concerted to foil his attempts to obtain any insight into their affairs, and led him into a blindfolded chase after information. He returned, after an absence of several weeks, to the farm, in an unenviable frame of mind; where he could, at least, enjoy the privilege of venting
ill-humor towards his family, giving and countermanding orders to the servants. Having occasion to go to the village, he called Terence, and ordered his horse to be saddled.
After the imprudent use of poor Daisy, she had been in a sad condition. Inflammation followed, and her leg was so badly swollen that Mrs. Templeton had sent for a veterinary surgeon, who pronounced the mare crippled for life. Terence had worked with her faithfully, having taken his rest on the hay in the stable, so as to bathe and rub her in the night, in addition to his daily task. He humbly explained the case, but his master only saw his fine blooded mare a useless cripple; and, laying the fault on Terence's shoulders, ordered the overseer to give him fifty lashes.
This act of injustice was inflicted, and borne without a murmur; but, from that moment, every sentiment of kindly feeling hitherto kindling toward his master was extinguished, and in its place grew up a bitter hatred. He worked with a dogged submission to orders, because there was no alternative. Not only this, but joining his fellows in secret complaints of ill-treatment, he returned to the sullen moroseness of the African race, working as an eye-servant under fear of the lash.
TWO American students were busy in their lodgings, endeavoring to restore order out of confusion. Books that would not again be wanted were laid aside for the second-hand dealer, and others carefully packed away for future use; clothing was subjected to the same inspection, and an accumulation of papers and articles, rejected as useless, were ready for removal.
James Templeton had just received his degree as Doctor of Medicine, and his brother Oscar had completed the third year in the classical department of the same institution.
Their father had determined that if any opprobrium rested upon the birth of his children, it should be wiped out by educational advantages and an ample fortune. For this end he had labored unceasingly. Superior business qualifications enabled him to carry out his plans as long as life lasted. Both the sons had been sent to Germany, and placed in a university well known for its able corps of professors. Oscar was to remain one year longer to complete his course of study in the classical department;
and, that the brothers might return together, it had been arranged that James should improve the intervening time at various European hospitals, further qualifying himself for the practice of his profession in some place yet to be selected in his native country.
The last letter from their father contained a remittance double their usual quarterly allowance, that they might be enabled to recreate during the vacation, among the mountains and lakes of Switzerland; "For," wrote Capt. Templeton, "when another year has passed, I want to see both of you without delay."
For this trip the brothers were making preparations, when a letter was received causing them to drop their work--a letter containing intelligence that turned the current of their lives as effectually as a mountain, meeting a coming stream, turns its course in another direction. Enclosed was a certified statement of the brief illness and decease of Capt. James Templeton, signed by the attendant physician, also a communication in the following words:
"The property of the late James Templeton is inherited by his half-brother, Hunt Templeton, sole heir to the estate. At his request, the two boys, James and Oscar, are advised to remain where they are, lest in case of their imprudent return, they may be remanded to slavery.
C. W. MUNSER,
"Attorney at Law,
Conflicting emotions excited the minds of the brothers. Grief at their loss, disappointment at
not being able to accomplish their well-laid plans, and mental questioning as to what should be done, for a few moments caused them to look at each other in silence. Oscar stood holding the letter in his hand, and was the first to speak.
"What does this mean? Does this man presume to affirm that we, with our sisters, are not heirs to our father's estate? I would like to face him with the certificate of our parents' marriage, which mother was always so careful should be preserved. How does he dare to impugn father's honor, and disown us? Liar that he is, I will have him prove that Hunt Templeton is heir to my father's estate."
James Templeton, more self-possessed than his impetuous brother, approached and addressed him by the title he had always used since early childhood, "Little Buddie, the books tell us that law is founded upon justice, and executed for the preservation of social and moral rights; but wise men make law sometimes bend and adapt itself to existing customs, rather than change an existing custom for the sake of justice. Perhaps you do not fully understand the history of our parentage, as we rarely refer to it. Father found mother, a beautiful quadroon, in the New Orleans slave market, and bought her with the intention of making her his wife. The marriage ceremony was performed in New Orleans, and he brought her to Virginia. The certificate is still, I suppose, in sister Mary's possession. The laws of the slave
states do not legalize marriage between master and servant, nor indeed between slaves themselves."
"I see," replied Oscar; "but father certainly gave mother her freedom."
"Free," said James, "in every regard, as any lady born in freedom, in exercising her own will and pleasure, beloved and honored by our father, but she was never emancipated according to the laws of Virginia; and, were she living, would be entitled to inherit none of his property except it had been given her in his will. Emancipation papers were made out for sister Mary, as well as ourselves, at mother's earnest solicitation, as each of us severally left home to attend school."
"Do I understand, brother James, that the marriage certificate is null and void?"
"The certificate is evidence of a marriage in the sight of heaven, and doubtless would be recognized as such in Europe, and in every free state of our own country; but not in the state where it was executed, or where they subsequently resided."
"Suppose," continued Oscar, "father had given mother her freedom previous to their marriage."
"Then it would have done away with the question of our bondage," said James; "and I adhere to the principle yet, brother, 'Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.' I claim that no man, nor body of men, have a right to abrogate God's commands. Such a law as you speak of is unconstitutional, and God will overthrow it. Hunt Templeton will rue the day he deprived
us of our inheritance, by taking advantage of an unconstitutional law."
"And yet," said James, "Hunt Templeton is not the sole author of our trouble. 'The transgressions of fathers are visited upon children of the third and fourth generations.' We are those representatives, and rest under the curse. Our father's half-brother supposes we are yet children, and require advice. We must certainly change our plans, and in a day or two decide what steps are to be taken. There is little sister Letitia; we must look after her, at least, and not leave her in the clutches of this villain. Thanks to father's generosity, we can battle for ourselves and for her also."
"You are well able to command a good position," said Oscar, "and I must find something to do. Instead of traveling through Switzerland, we must secure passage on the first steamer and return to our native land."
"Yes, that will be our first move," said James. "Sister Mary has doubtless received duplicates of these documents before this, and will be anxious to hear from us. We must write this evening and send by the English mail, so that a letter will notify her of our coming. With no prospect of another remittance, we must husband our means and add to it a trifle by the sale of these books and all articles that we shall not now require."
Several days passed, which the brothers industriously employed in surmises regarding affairs at Temple Vale, and in speculations for the future, while their hands were as busily employed in making
preparations to leave Germany and return to America with but little baggage.
Oscar was in favor of advancing to the point at once, to demand justice at the hands of Mr. Templeton.
"That would never do," replied James. "We could gain nothing by so doing; the sum of money we have in our possession would be exhausted, and we should be powerless in accomplishing the desired end. We must fortify ourselves for a conflict before rushing into it."
Three months had barely passed by since Captain Templeton had gone to his final rest, when his two sons stood on the threshold of their sister's home, a pretty cottage in the suburbs of a manufacturing town in Connecticut. Their arrival was anticipated, as the letter announcing their intention had been received a week or two previous, and a heartfelt welcome awaited them.
Mr. and Mrs. Blue were comfortably provided for by her father, who had bought and furnished their home, and purchased a considerable share in a business house, where Mr. Blue had, at the time of his marriage, been employed. The young men were not kept long waiting, for Mrs. Blue opened the door herself; and once more they felt the force of a sister's love in her cordial reception. They talked over the happy days of childhood in Virginia; of their indulgent parents, both gone; and the question arose and remained unanswered, "Where is little sister Letitia?"
"Esquire Munser wrote," said Mrs. Blue, announcing
father's death very much in the same manner to myself as he did to you, except that he varied the tone of the last clause, knowing that I had been legally freed. I remember hearing father speak of making a will. I wonder if he ever did; although, if he did, it is not likely he would have remembered me in it, as he had already been so liberal, and probably considered that I had received my portion."
"It has been so many years since we were at home," said James, "except during vacations, and the three last years have been spent entirely in Germany--that the most of our knowledge of father has been through the mails; but he was always so demonstrative in his regard, and so liberal in providing for us, that I should think he would have been thoughtful for the future, especially as his health was so precarious; but it is vain to speculate, we must take the facts as they really exist."
"You are very well settled, sister Mary, and as to brother James, I am sure he has battled enough through books, lectures, experiments, surgical operations, and I know not what more, to be able to put up his name as a practitioner, and profess to earn a living by attending to suffering humanity. I have been studying over what I can do for myself, but my plans being frustrated, it will not be so easy to find business adapted to my capabilities. Have you received any letters from Virginia, sister?"
"Not one. Immediately after receiving Esquire Munser's letter, I wrote to a friend in G--, inquiring about sister, as it seemed so strange she
had not written. The reply was that Letitia had not been in town since the funeral. I have written twice since, but received no answer."
The brothers found many of their old schoolmates, visited places of interest near Mr. Blue's residence, and formed new acquaintances. James was introduced to the fraternity of medical men, and looked about for an opening where he could find employment.
At a meeting of the profession in New Haven, he made the acquaintance of an old graduate at Heidelburg, Dr. Weis, who had for many years been located at N--, where he had gained an extensive practice. As may be supposed, the old doctor lived his college days over again in recalling old associations, and insisted that James should accompany him to his home for a good long talk about Heidleburg.
A visit of two or three days extended to as many weeks, and found James still at N--. A patient under the care of Dr. Weis required surgical treatment, and James proved so valuable an assistant, that he could not be permitted to leave. Indeed, the longer time wore on, the more did Dr. Weis feel that his practice was more than he could attend to in his advancing years, and he made a proposition to James to enter into partnership with him.
"You will have to do the young man's part of the work," said the doctor, "for going out at all hours of the night is not the way to cure rheumatism. There are a great many visits you can make
to give me rest, to say nothing of the new hooks and crooks you have learned."
So the matter was settled, and James learned to know his title as "Dr. Templeton," and brought into use the knowledge he had obtained.
"You are just the man I have wanted for the past two years," said Dr. Weis, "and you need make no other arrangements for the future, but to remain with me."
"I would like," suggested James, "to take a few days furlough, to attend to some business in Virginia, before I become absorbed here."
Dr. Weis shook his head. "Ah! no; I can not spare you now. Your brother can be deputized to attend to your affairs; let him go."
Dr. Templeton had not forgotten his younger sister, and he was desirous, now that he felt permanently engaged in business, to endeaver to find some trace of her by visiting the old home. After well weighing the subject, he concluded it was best to let his brother undertake the errand, and wrote to him to do so.
A BROAD veranda, extending across the entire front, was an important adjunct to the tavern at G--. Split-bottomed chairs, left at a convenient distance to allow of a tilt back against the wall, offered the villagers a shaded rest from the summer's heat, or protection from the shower. It was a lounging place where all received a hospitable welcome.
A back-gammon board, or pack of cards, was at hand when conversation flagged, and they were frequently brought into use. The doctor could generally be found here when his services were required, as well as the lawyer; also the storekeeper, who selected a position commanding a view of his warehouse, lest a customer should enter unnoticed. The planter, when in the village for supplies, found it a convenient rendezvous while his horse was being cared for. It afforded, besides, a comfortable half-way place, where he who would not at once walk boldly in and ask for a glass of whisky, could linger, and gradually appease his conscience before entering the bar-room to throw down his "bit" and swallow a potion.
Every white man living within the radius of several miles, who could make his way thither, did not fail to do so several hours before the arrival of the rattling, cumbersome old stage that brought the mail twice a week from Norfolk. Should a passenger alight, it was an event in the history of G--which furnished gossip for a week.
One bright summer day, when the crowd was unusually large, a well-dressed stranger arrived and ascended the steps to the gallery without seeming to observe that the eyes of all were turned toward him.
The arrival had been observed at once by the stable-boy, Madison, who lost no time in offering his services as porter, and conveyed the dust-covered valise of the sole passenger, poised upon his head, leaving his hands as free as his bare feet, and limbs partly draped by the remnants of what had once been a pair of pantaloons, to perform various antics as he followed up the steps.
The landlord, congratulating himself upon the reception of a guest, welcomed him politely, and appropriated a room to his use.
Having removed the dust of travel, and bestowed his valise under the bed--as no other hiding-place was visible--he repassed the scrutiny of the villagers and walked out upon the street. Without asking any questions, he proceeded directly to a small unpainted frame building, designated by a tin sign nailed to the door-casing, as the "Office of C. W. Munser, Attorney at Law and Justice of the Peace."
His warm heart kindled upon seeing the gentleman at the desk, busily engaged in looking over letters and papers just received by mail; supposing that, having been a friend of his father, the 'Squire would be glad to aid him with the courtesy due to his position as a gentleman, he handed his card, expecting a cordial reception. The attorney rose, held the card, upon which the name "Oscar Templeton" was written in a plain bold hand, long enough to decipher it if it had been represented by hieroglyphics, then laying it upon the desk, frigidly pushed a chair toward the astonished visitor, and reseating himself, succeeded in clearing his throat enough to say:
"Ah! you are Oscar, are you? Let me see, you were in Germany, were you not?"
Repelled by so unexpected a reception, and not choosing to accept the chair thus offered, Mr. Templeton assumed his accustomed dignity and replied to the first question:
"I am Oscar Templeton, sir; son of the late Capt. James Templeton, and my errand here may be stated in a few words; I come in search of my sister Letitia, and have called upon you as administrator of my father's estate, to obtain information as to where I may find her."
"Letitia? Letitia?" repeated the lawyer to him self, as if endeavoring to recall a name passed from memory. "The name sounds as if I had heard it before. I do not remember whether there was a Letitia or not; but--understand this, I can not be
expected to keep track of--of--which were Capt. Templeton's own children."
"Beg your pardon, sir," interrupted Oscar; "I do not wish to hear such allusions. You took charge of the settlement of the estate, and should, from this, as well as from long acquaintance with father, be familiar with the details of his family and business affairs. You wrote to brother James and myself in Germany; also to my sister, Mrs. Blue. You were not ignorant of our several localities; you certainly must be able to tell me where Letitia is."
"Not so fast, boy, not so fast," replied the lawyer as he rose and expanded himself with all the dignity inspired by his late office as judge of the county court. "I had the honor to administer upon the estate of Capt. Templeton, and it is my duty to retain possession of any slave owned by him, or recover any who may have escaped from servitude. Be careful, boy, speak softly; I may have legal business with you, if you are not more careful."
The dark threat contained in these words he made more forcible by approaching and shaking his clenched fist in Oscar's face.
"And you, sir," said Mr. Templeton, "are the man who pretends to be a gentleman, and my father's friend. I perceive that you are an enemy. Good morning, sir."
Returning to the tavern, he succeeded in procuring the use of a horse, hoping that he might, by visiting Temple Vale, be able to find his sister, or,
at least, ascertain where she could be found. The landlord, supposing him to be unfamiliar with the roads, urged him to accept the escort of the stable boy.
"You can see," he remarked to a by-stander, as the two rode out of sight, "that he is a Yankee, by his clothes and his square-cut manners; none of your free and easy politeness about him. There are so many sly Yankees around these days, running off niggers and horses, it is well to keep watch of them."
"But are you not," asked one, "afraid he will take the nigger and the horses also?"
"Not at all. I will risk Madison any where; he is too trifling and lazy to be run off with. He is of no account except to stand around a stable, hold horses, and such like. If all the Yankee school teachers in the state should get after him, they could not run off such a lazy scamp; yet Madison has one good trait, he thinks a heap of horses; he will talk to them, never forgets to water nor fodder them, and that is the only thing he is good for; I will risk that upstart running him off, or the horses either."
Jogging along the road silently for two or three miles, his mind was busied with reflections upon his unpleasant interview with Esquire Munser. As he approached the old homestead, his birthplace, where the years of a happy childhood had been passed, and a warm welcome had awaited each vacation visit, he began to realize his loss, and feel
that the props of his youth were gone; a mother, gentle, loving, patient, had passed away, and her remains lay across the fields in the family burying ground, a silent spot, where the ripened leaves were fast falling to the ground; a father, steady, strong, true, and affectionate, was not laid beside her, but in the village churchyard. Without a clue, he had set out to search after the darling sister, whom he had left years before. The recollections of her as he gently released her little hands from around his neck, in loving embrace, bidding him "good bye," rose in his mind. Where was she now? In bondage or in freedom? With friends, or with a hard master?
The birds that knew, flew to and fro, singing their own song, but could not tell. The winds that knew, fanned his face, and scattered the leaves, but could not tell. The clouds that knew, moved lazily over the blue sky away off to where she was, but could not tell. Angels that knew, came down close to the brother's ear, and whispered, "We know, she is being trained for the great Father's work." They spoke so softly, and their language was in heaven's tongue; he did not understand them, but turned in his saddle, thinking he heard the soft notes of a bird hovering above him.
Coming to a place where landmarks did not seem familiar, he remarked to his guide, "The road is changed."
The negro replied, "Yes, Maus Oscar; de road used to go up dar ober de hill, you know. Dis 'ere is Oak Lawn. De oberseer, he clar'd up all
de lan', an' made de road go long yere. Dar's a heap things done different since ole Massa's gone."
Mr. Templeton, with surprise, met the eye of his companion, and exclaimed:
"Madison, can you be my boy, Madison?"
"Dat's jes' what I is; I's Madison." At the same time leaping up on the back of his horse he turned a complete somersault, and reseated himself, displaying his pearly teeth, with a truly African "Ya! ya! ya! I knowed you all de time, I did."
"Yes, yes; I see you are Madison yet; you have not forgotten your little boy tricks; but what has changed, Madison?"
"You'll see when you gets dar," the boy answered, changing his demeanor, and shaking his head. Then, reining his horse nearer, he asked, "Is you seen Joe and Miss 'Titia, any place where you's been at?"
"That's just why I am here. I have come to find Miss Letitia. Is Joe gone?"
"Dey all two went togedder; but dis new Massa he don't nebber tell nobody whar dey's at. Madison's mighty lucky to get outen dar' safe, he is."
The new moon shone silvery bright over the landscape when our travelers retraced the road to the tavern.
Upon leaving the breakfast table next morning, Mr. Templeton was accosted by an officer, and summoned to appear at the court house to answer charges made against him. A preliminary examination
was held, in the presence of an audience, adjourned from the tavern, to investigate two charges: First, that he was a fugitive slave; Second, that he was endeavoring to facilitate the escape of a slave. The exhibition of his own emancipation papers nullified the first; but, being unable to satisfy the court in the second, he was held over for trial, and committed to the custody of the jailor to insure an appearance.
Past the weary hour of midnight, when the village was wrapt in sleep, and no sound heard except the occasional hoot of an owl, or the crow of a cock, a figure crept along in the shadows from the tavern to the jail; then a low, but clear, sharp whistle penetrated the ears of the incarcerated man, partially awakening him from the troubled sleep into which he had fallen. The sound was familiar, and carried him back to the days of his boyhood, when Madison had amused him with exhibitions of wonderful skill in whistling.
Again it was heard, followed by a suppressed voice, close to the wall,
"It's jes me, don't be skeered, Maus Oscar; it's jes Madison."
"But where are you, Madison?"
"Jes' here, by de hole. I's come ober to say, keep up, Maus Oscar. I done heard 'em fix up dis business down to de tabern. Maus Hunt he comed in las' night, an' de 'Squire and dey all done dis. So I jes' come ober to tell you to keep up, an' we'll tree de 'possums dis time. I'll slip back now, 'fore de padder-roller come dis way."
The session of the county court was a season for fox hunting. A fine large animal had been brought in and confined to serve as game for the huntsmen. The best horses in the county were in the stalls, and trained dogs ready in anticipation of the chase next morning. The judge, lawyers, their clients, and invited guests, were fortifying themselves at supper with the landlord's fried chickens and biscuit, when Madison suddenly entered and, with an alarmed expression, announced:
"De fox, sir, he's done got out, sir." The interested parties precipitately left the table, called the dogs, and ran to search for the fox, preceded by the informant, whooping, hallooing, and calling the dogs to scent the track. "I done saw him run ober here."
The dogs found the track, which led to the side of the jail, and was lost at a small hole, where they dug furiously. Madison was sent to procure shovels, and a large excavation was made under the wall; until, fatigue and darkness intervening, it was decided to abandon the work until morning. "He must be under the floor and can not get out," said the landlord. "Madison, here, throw in these loose rocks, and chink up this hole."
An early riser sauntered across to view the spot where the fox was supposed to be safely imprisoned, and returned to inform the landlord of the boy's failure to secure the opening; and further investigation revealed the fact that floor boards had
been removed, and that the sole prisoner had escaped. Threatened vengeance hovered over the stable-boy. In vain was he sent for. Loud voices called, but no Madison appeared to obey the summons. Two of the fleetest horses were missing. The tale was told.
WHEN a young man steps out into the world to earn a maintenance, and to build for himself a position where he will be estimated according to moral worth, perseverance in accomplishing a desired end, or success in financiering, it is an important era in his life. If fortified by judicious preparatory training of mind and manners, sustained by relatives and friends with advice and capital, the road to success is widened; but errors in judgment may overthrow the best laid plans. A vigorous will-power and indomitable perseverance may accomplish more than wealth, friends, or personal influence; but it means work, deprivation, crosses and rebuffs; it means unflagging industry and energy until the goal is reached.
How is it with woman when she crosses the threshold of home, when she separates herself from its protection, and goes out with the same object in view?
The timidity characterizing her sex induces her to shrink from the ordeal, unless impelled by some great incentive. If it is poverty, society accepts
her apology, and encourages her with the same aid, mingled with pity, that is bestowed upon an unfortunate object of charity; while more favored sisters thank their own good fortunes that they are exempt. If ambition, or superior mental attainments cause woman to extend her sphere beyond her own circle, she may, under certain circumstances, unfurl her own standard and sustain it, and the world will be better or worse for her having lived in it.
Whether Grace Lintner was actuated by necessity or ambition, or whether she was in search of novelty for her own self-gratification, it matters not to the reader; we introduce her as she sits upon the deck of the steamship "Alabama," bound for the port of Savannah. She looks into the sea, watches the huge waves rolling and dashing unceasingly in ever-changing light and shadow, feeling that, literally as well as figuratively, she is embarking upon the sea of life, trusting to the ark of safety that she will be borne upon its bosom, whether peaceful or turbulent, to the haven whither she is bound.
Upon arriving in Georgia she was led to enjoy the contrast between the snow-clad hills of New England, to which she had bidden "adieu" a few days previous, and the mild atmosphere of a hitherto untried latitude. Shade trees were clothed in verdure, flowers were blooming, and many new varieties called forth both wonder and admiration. The few days of her stay were terminated by the announcement that the steamboat was ready, which was to convey her to the journey's end.
"The Bay," loaded with flour and bacon for Augusta, slowly pursued her course around the flexions of the Savannah river.
The magnolia, bay, cypress, and live oak overhung the water's edge, and held suspended garlands of moss. Acres of palmetto trees shook their long fingers in the wind; miles of canebrake nodded their tall heads to the sun, while here and there, a broad expanse of rice-field showed where busy hands had gathered the grain; and myriads of songsters filled the air with music.
Supper was announced in the little cabin, and, while all the passengers were engaged in partaking of it, an ominous crash was heard above, causing them to rush upon deck to learn what had happened. "The Bay" backed out, as the pilot replied to the inquiries of the captain:
"We're afoul a cypress, sir; and the guards are torn off; the wheel-house has a rub too, sir."
"Chips" was called to repair the damage, and the captain, not considering it safe to proceed in the darkness, remained until daybreak. Next morning all hands were called, and the little steamboat was soon tugging on up the river. Few stops were made, and just as night approached, the arrival at Mark's Landing was announced, and Grace prepared to disembark.
The captain came forward and offered to escort her, saying, "The nighest house, Miss, is Tom Jones', just on the risin' yonder," nodding his head to a slight elevation from the river. "I'll go 'long with you, it looks lonesome-like in the dark."
Then addressing some of the boat-hands, he added, "Here, boys, take the young lady's baggage."
The boys, with sailor-like promptness, obeyed; two of them caught up the trunk, the third took a valise, and a fourth a basket; and all proceeded toward Tom Jones' house.
Arriving at the gate, a pack of hounds came barking and howling as if ready to devour the whole group. The captain raised his stentorian voice in a prolonged shout, to which the owner of the premises responded by a similar whoop, terminating with an interrogative inflection; and, upon receiving information from the captain, that he had got the Major's governess in tow, and wanted him to take charge of her all night, Tom Jones drove the dogs back under the house, and came forward to escort the party through the yard.
The captain, after seeing that Miss Lintner with her baggage was safely disposed of, bade her "good-night," and returned to his boat, followed by the boys.
Grace was relieved from embarrassment when Mr. Jones addressed her:
"The Major was here this mornin', Miss, and telled me as how you war a comin' fur ter teach his chillun'; and he telled me and my woman to take good keer of you, and fur ter' sen' a boy over as soon as you come. It's nigh on to four mile to the Grove, so jes' rest easy 'til to-morrow mornin', and I'll sen' over."
Mrs. Jones, a dejected, sallow-faced woman, made her appearance, and invited Grace into her
room, where a fire of resinous pine knots hissed, flashed, and threw a fitful, glaring light around the apartment. Two or three chairs, seated with untanned cowhide, and two bedsteads that had evidently done service for a generation long since gone to their final rest, constituted the entire furniture.
A wild looking boy, about ten years of age, occasionally peeped in at the door, spat toward the new-comer, then ran off only to return in a few minutes, and repeat his ungracious salutation.
Retiring to the room designated to her use, she took the precaution to barricade the door with her trunk. By converting a chair into a ladder, she made the ascent to a high, old-fashioned bedstead.
Early next morning she arose, and after a vain effort to breakfast upon muddy coffee without cream or sugar, fried bacon, and bread of unbolted corn meal, she anxiously awaited the arrival of Mr. Ninus. It was, perhaps, ten o'clock when the carriage drove to the door, accompanied by one of the heavily built wagons used at that time in the South for transportation, and brought into requisition upon this occasion to convey the small trunk and valise of Miss Lintner.
A drive of four miles across a level, uninhabited country brought them to Mulberry Grove. When nearing their destination they were met by a motley group of negro children, of all ages, striving for the honor of opening and closing the three gates through which they passed before reaching the house. Following, and surrounding the carriage,
they expressed the natural exuberance of their race by exhibitions of gymnastic performances, leaping and turning somersaults.
Mr. Ninus was above the medium height, straight as an arrow, muscularly built, with broad shoulders and full chest. Chestnut hair was combed back so as to display an expansive forehead; and a cleanly-shaven face gave full expression to the mobility of features which varied in conversation to a degree common with ladies, but seldom found in gentlemen. Notwithstanding home-made jeans, unpolished linen, and coarse leather shoes, his elegance in manner, affability and ease in conversation, ranked him a Chesterfield.
"With such a master," thought Miss Lintner, "slavery must lose its terror, and servitude become easy."
Arriving at the house, Grace's idea of a planter's home failed to be realized. Instead of the elegant mansion her fancy had pictured, there stood upon piles, a large "double cabin," built of logs, connected by one roof, which extended over an unenclosed space of perhaps twelve feet or more, between the two sections. Galleries, extending across the entire front and rear, were important adjuncts, being occupied during the day by members of the family more than the interior. Two rooms on the left were used as sleeping apartments; on the right was the library and a room now appropriated to the sole use of the teacher.
The furniture was exceedingly primitive, and limited to such few articles as were absolutely essential.
Carpets and modern luxuries had never been introduced at "Mulberry Grove," so called from two rows of English mulberry trees which grew in the yard.
Grace was kindly received by Mrs. Ninus, who introduced her four daughters by their regal names, Elizabeth, Victoria, Maria Antoinette, and Eugenie. All were plainly and neatly attired in calico dresses, made without consulting fashion plates or styles. They had sprightly, intelligent faces, and Miss Lintner was glad to find promise of pleasure in giving instruction to minds unimpressed by "the pomps and vanity of this wicked world."
At a late hour dinner was served. Two servants were called to set the table. This was removed from its place by the wall into the middle of the open space or hall; drop leaves raised and secured; a table-cloth of Osnaburgh cotton was spread, on which were placed dishes of common ware. A turkey stuffed with corn bread, a boiled ham, hominy, and corn bread prepared in various ways, comprised the bill of fare.
After dinner, Mr. Ninus commenced giving his views with regard to the education of his daughters, which he wished to be carried out by Miss Lintner. Their instruction was to be confined to the acquisition of facts. Their minds were to be so unbiased by individual opinions that, when sufficiently matured, they would be unprejudiced, and able to reason for themselves. Mathematics, geography, and history, with the elements of their own language, would be enough to occupy their
time for the present, since the eldest was but thirteen years of age. He never had read any works of fiction, neither did he intend his daughters to do so; and, as long as it was possible, he desired that they should be kept in ignorance of the existence of such productions. He expressed an utter detestation of falsehood or prevarication in any form. "There is enough of self-evident truth in Nature," said he, "to occupy the mind; enough that is true and beautiful, without fanciful representations of what is unreal, and hypotheses, mischievous as well as absurd, about what may or may not be."
As the families of a brother and sister were to participate in forming the school, a temporary log building had been erected at a spot in the pine woods which would be equally distant for all.
The following Monday, being appointed for the commencement of co-operative labor on the part of teacher and pupils, Miss Lintner assumed the chair and surveyed the field. The novelty of the situation was such as would gratify the most romantic desire of youthful imagination. Unhewed pine logs emitted a pleasant, resinous odor; the interstices between them were convenient harbors for insects and lizards; the shingles were of domestic manufacture, and served to lead off some portion of the falling rain, but did not refuse to admit light between their irregular sides; and Grace learned from experience to invert her chair and such benches as were needed, when the school house was vacated, or they would be unfit for use in case of a shower. On opposite sides had been
left openings; but instead of glass windows there were shutters of rough boards; the desks and benches were finished in the same style. The chimney was built of pine sticks split about the size of laths, and covered both inside and outside with clay; the impression of the hand showing the absence of a trowel.
John, a boy about twelve years of age, was appointed janitor. Each morning, when cool enough to require a fire, he carried a smoking "chunk," with which to kindle one. Fallen branches from the pine trees served as fuel; young pines a few feet in height were used as brooms, soon worn out, and replenished without cost. At first, he was also entrusted with a bucket containing the luncheon, but that proving too serious a temptation, he was relieved of this part of his duty by one of the daughters.
Although the brilliant coloring that had illuminated Miss Lintner's fancied picture of Mr. Ninus' Arcadian home had become materially toned down in realization, she found much to enjoy that was genial both in the climate and in the individuals with whom she was brought in contact. So entirely different was this new sphere of life from what she had hitherto encountered that the novelty was sufficient to lend a charm of romance even to the luncheon as teacher and children encircled the fire in the clay chimney, toasting slices of fat bacon to sandwich in cold biscuits with corn-bread and molasses for dessert.
GRACE LINTNER anxiously looked forward to Saturday, when the weekly mail was brought from the county seat to a little store a mile beyond the school house.
John, being exempt from other duties that day, set out with a calico bag over his shoulders, leaving the teacher anxiously waiting till he should return with expected letters. Two hours rolled on and no John could be seen--one, two more, and still no sound of John's whistle could be heard through the woods. Except Miss Lintner, no one seemed to care whether he came or not, or even to remember that it was mail-day.
Absent from home, how she longed for tidings from the dear ones there. Tired of delay, she followed the course he had taken, as if to expedite his footsteps. Wandering through a forest of gigantic pines, one may believe that he is in a cathedral of God's architecture. Immense colonnades of pillars extend into the distance far upward; tufts of foliage fresco the ceiling of heaven's own blue; wild flowers decorate the pavement; a
choir of birds keep harmony with the winds as they harp through the wiry pine foliage, and chant, seldom disturbed by the footfall or voice of man.
Here, upon the trunk of a prostrate tree lay John, wrapt in deep sleep. On the ground was the mail-bag, and its precious contents.
Seating herself by the sleeping boy, she found several letters that brought news of the busy life at home, remembrances of friends; and one, bearing a foreign postmark, twice re-mailed, had reached her in that wild spot.
There she sat, thinking of the dear ones so far away, till lengthening shadows reminded her that she was in the woods alone, with nobody but John, and he was nobody. Yet John was something if not somebody, for that morning he had replied to a fellow-servant: "You says I's no 'count, does you? I reckon I is some 'count. Didn't you hear massa say I's wuf five hunner dollar? I reckon five hunner dollars some 'count." So valuable a commodity must be cared for. Arousing him, she proceeded toward Mulberry Grove.
In densely populated communities, where individuals are in constant intercourse with each other, we find the masses "measuring themselves by themselves," to a greater or less degree; stronger minds take the lead and weaker ones follow in the train; men think as others think, work as others work, and dress as others dress. Custom regulates the hours for rising, eating and retiring. Fashion cuts the patterns, and the majority employ tailors and dressmakers to make them
look as others do. What Mrs. Grundy says has far more influence over the gay world than the antiquated law of Moses. But where men live isolated from society, uninfluenced by what others may say or think, they are more independent in their views, and are more apt to form their own standard of propriety or moral obligation. If deep thinkers and close readers, they are likely to set aside the opinions of others, and establish their own theories, whether in philosophy, theology, or any other subject which may arrest their attention.
George Ninus was one of this class. Left an orphan at an early age, when only seventeen he married, having already devolving upon him the care of a sister, two younger brothers, a large plantation, and numerous slaves.
Physically and mentally matured, he was not a boy, but a man, better qualified for his duties than many ten years his senior. When Grace Lintner entered his family he was thirty-three. His sister and brothers had received such advantages of education as could be obtained at a respectable boarding school in a neighboring district, and were well settled near, on rice and cotton plantations. The slaves had been divided into four lots, and distributed among the heirs. By economy and good management, this elder brother had bought the claims to the old estate from his sister and younger brothers.
His library was stored with valuable authentic histories and standard works. He never hesitated purchasing a book on account of its high price;
while clothing, household conveniences, and the store house were provided for with rigid economy, and confined to such articles as were absolutely necessary. He would argue "Mind is immortal, it must be nourished, cultivated, improved and perfected; but the body is perishable; to deck it with finery, or pamper it with dainties, betokens the ignorance of savages or the effeminacy of weak minds." He willingly paid a liberal salary for the services of a well educated governess, and bought everything his children required for their mental improvement; but luxuries were as foreign to his own abode as to the cabins of his bond-servants. In the library, and with her sketch book, Miss Lintner passed many a leisure hour. Birds, butterflies, insects of various kinds were portrayed by her skillful hand, in water colors. Wild flowers in endless variety, found in her rambles, were collected, analyzed and pressed for an herbarium. Although the scenery presented little to admire as a landscape, there was many a gem in the tangled wilderness, and many a spot of beauty worthy of being preserved in memory by her pencil. So wonderful appeared these productions in the estimation of the children, that they also sought subjects for her handiwork, and were delighted to be permitted to draw and paint for themselves.
Amongst the servants who had been recently added to the family at Mulberry Grove was a waitress named Letitia. Miss Lintner had frequently observed, that while occupied in the many duties required, Letitia manifested intelligence far superior
to that of other servants. Unlike the negro dialect, her language was pure and correct, and every movement graceful. With golden hair, slightly wavy, and inclined to detach itself into ringlets, blue eyes and delicately modeled features, a yellow tint in the complexion was the only betrayal of African blood.
It was not long before Letitia begged the privilege of bringing in her bed, and sleeping in the room with Miss Lintner. Feeling lonely in her side of the house, the governess was glad to accede to the request and obtained the consent of Mrs. Ninus. A blanket and shuck pillow composed the entire bedding, which was easily brought in and conveyed away. During the day it was tucked out of sight in a corner of the kitchen, or spread for ventilation upon a fence. Being laid upon the uncarpeted floor it served to rest the tired girl, who was called early and employed till late at night.
As lady and bond-servant a barrier existed between the two; as girls of the same age, removed from early ties and associations, each without a sympathizing friend, in the quietude of their room, the barrier vanished; and, little by little, they came to confide in each other. Miss Lintner told of her early home and of fond dreams for the future. Letitia related her history.
"MY father was Capt. James Templeton. He owned a line of trading vessels running from Norfolk, Virginia, to Charleston and Jamaica. The estate where we were all born and lived was above Norfolk, not many miles from the James river. It was a dear home, and, under the superintendence of mother, with her overseer, we had an abundance of everything to make us happy and comfortable, for father was at home so little during my childhood that the management of the place devolved upon mother. Sometimes it seems so much like a dream to me that I do not like to think how happy we were then. Father owned all our workhands and house-servants; and mother often told me that she had been a slave and was bought by father at the market in New Orleans on account of her beauty. And she was beautiful, for I well remember her features; her eyes and hair were black, her cheeks red as roses, although her skin was like that of a light mulatto. None of us inherited her face, but father's. He had light hair, blue eyes, and, but for exposure to the sun, would have been very fair."
"Where were your parents married?" asked Miss Lintner.
"They were married in New Orleans. The Virginia plantation was bought soon afterwards, when father employed a governess to teach mother, who applied herself so diligently to study that she became as well educated as other ladies. Yet she never went into society, neither would father's relatives nor our neighbors visit at our house, except on business. We were all taught together at home until sister Mary was sixteen, when she went North and was placed in a boarding school at N--. She afterwards married a gentleman, in N--, and was living there when I left Virginia. Brothers James and Oscar (we always called the latter 'Little Buddie') were also sent North to be educated, as they grew up, but our governess continued to give me instructions. After spending several years at N--they went to Germany, where brother James was desirous to study for the medical profession. There was a classical department in the same college which 'Little Buddie' entered, as father wished his two sons to be together.
"Did not your father give his wife and children their freedom?" inquired Miss Lintner.
"He was either indifferent or negligent about it, and it was only at mother's earnest solicitation that father had emancipation papers made out for sister Mary at the time she was sent away to school, and the same for my brothers."
"I should think you would have gone also," suggested Miss Lintner.
"I could not leave mother when the rest were absent, so the governess remained with us till after mother's death, being a companion as well as a teacher. For several years father had been subject to attacks of neuralgia, during which he needed the best care we could bestow upon him at home, and he had been trying to arrange his business affairs so that he could remain at the plantation altogether. Mother died when I was nearly eighteen. Father never recovered from the effect of her death, and afterwards looked to me for care in sickness and for charge over the servants. It united us more than hitherto; and I found myself going to him for sympathy and advice upon matters that would have been carried to mother had she been living. Parent and child could not have been more dependent upon each other. Whenever it was necessary for him to go to Norfolk, Charleston or Jamaica, I went also. Anxiously did we look forward to the time when brothers would return, as the attacks of neuralgia increased in severity and frequency until the heart became involved, and our physician advised father to arrange his affairs, since he was liable to be taken suddenly away. Father said he had made a will; but, to avoid trouble, he was intending to have me legally emancipated, and to give me a deed to the old homestead, as sister Mary and my brothers had been otherwise provided for. By the time I was sixteen or seventeen years old I began to realize the stain that affected my social position, and I made a study of the miscegenation of races.
It was incidentally presented to my mind in reading history, and I made a thorough investigation of the subject among writings sacred and profane. The result was that I became convinced that it was a violation of God's law; for the three great nationalities descending from Noah remained distinct for thousands of years, and we only find now and then an isolated case of intermarriage until the use of large ships facilitated intercourse between remote countries. Fully impressed with the idea that my ancestors, on mother's side, had violated the law of nature, and that the curse would fall upon the children 'unto the third and fourth generation,' I resolved not to marry. The promise of a protecting arm from a noble lover, with all the ease and luxury that wealth could bestow, did not turn me from my resolution; nor do I regret the step, although it has cost me dear. Sometimes, however, the thought involuntarily presents itself that I made a mistake in refusing George Melburn; a thought that increases my misery. I can only banish it and assure myself that I have done right.
"Oh, Miss Lintner, when father's life went out, all that was bright and beautiful in this world faded away, and left nothing but darkness! The cloud hovers around low and thick and I have nothing to look forward to.
"O! my father, why did you not from earliest infancy, consign me to ignorance and servitude! If there be only one drop of African blood in my veins, and that drop diffused through my entire existence, and that existence continued during the
longest period allotted to man, it is enough to blot out from my life all happiness; to bar me against freedom; to exclude me from social intercourse with the Caucasian, and place me on a level with a race so recently removed from barbarism."
Sitting upon the dingy blanket, with her small, delicately formed hands, roughened by toil, clasped around her knees, her head drooped, and her whole frame was convulsed with grief. A large coil of golden hair slowly disengaged itself from a thorn which had served as a hair pin, and fell over her beautifully moulded shoulders in wild profusion, a wealth of which an empress might be proud. A coarse Osnaburg frock did not hide two well shaped feet that pressed the soiled blanket.
The last remnants of a tallow candle, flickering and sputtering in the socket, flashed up with a fitful glare and left the room in darkness. Miss Lintner then spoke.
"Letitia, there is a God who overrules all; let us put our trust in Him."
"I know it," said the weeping girl, "but He has forgotten me."
Several days elapsed before an opportunity was offered for Letitia to resume her narrative, which she did as follows:
"Father left us suddenly, as had been predicted, and away from home. On our place was the family burial ground, where mother was buried, and where father expected to rest by her side; but father's half-brother managed everything without consulting me. The funeral services were held in
the church, and he was buried in the cemetery at G--. Mr. Templeton and his family were dressed in deep mourning, and were very demonstrative in their grief. I went in our own carriage with Uncle Joe, and as many of the servants as could be spared followed, for father was a kind master and much beloved by all.
"After the burial, Mr. Templeton drove out to the farm, went all around inspecting the negroes and giving orders as if they were his own. Sending to me for the keys, which were never returned, he made a thorough examination of the storehouses of grain, tobacco, meat and other provisions, and left without coming into the house.
"Joe stopped his work and looked after him until he disappeared over the hill, then coming up on the porch, with the same troubled look he had worn when bringing the sad intelligence of father's illness, began, ''Skuse me, Miss 'Titia, but I jis want fur ter ax you, is you got your free papers?'
" 'Why, Joe?' I asked.
" 'I jis tells you what, Miss 'Titia, I don't like dat ar' Maus Hunt come bossin' roun' like he owned dis plantation. I seed 'im all time, pokin' all 'round ev'place. Did he sen' back de keys?'
" 'No, Joe; he did not,' I answered. 'He has all the keys, except this bunch, belonging in the house.'
"Joe shook his head. 'I don't mind for Joe, Miss Titia, but I hope you's got your free papers all safe. Dar's a dark cloud a comin', an' we orter be fix fur de storm.'
"I told Joe how it was, for in my loneliness and grief, the sympathy of the faithful creature called out my confidence. I told him that father's errand had been to get them, but I feared it had not been accomplished.
"That evening I wrote to sister Mary and to my brothers, informing them what had happened, and begged Mary to come on immediately, also to father's business agents, intending to send the letters to the postoffice the next morning. But Mr. Templeton foiled my plans by presenting himself before we had taken breakfast. When excited or annoyed, he had a habit of contracting the muscles of his forehead in such a way as to bring his scalp down to his eyes, at the same time elevating his heavy eyebrows, until I doubt whether Satan himself could wear a more diabolical expression. With this face he arrived, assumed the air of dictator, and ordered all the servants to stand before him. They assembled in the yard, while he addressed them from the porch. I was sitting in the family room, and, oh, Miss Lintner! may you never know what it is to be alone, without a protector, like a poor little bird, as a fierce hawk swoops down, grasps it in his talons, and bears it away to be torn by a cruel captor. He said he was sole heir to his brother's estate, and hereafter they must look to him as master. If they obeyed orders, they would all remain, as hitherto, under the oversight of a man who would soon be there to superintend the plantation. If, on the other hand,
any one of them dared to disobey, they would find out who was master.
"This threat he emphasized by raising a whip he held in his hand, and bringing it around through the air, with a snap as loud as the report of a pistol. Then, with a flash in his black eyes, he ordered them all off to their work, except Joe.
"Turning to him, he said, 'Get out your Sunday clothes.' 'As to you, Titia,' he added, coming into the house and addressing me, 'I'm thinking my fine lady will have something to do hereafter, 'cept makin' ruffles, and straightening the nigger kink out o' her hair; get your bonnet and shawl and come on; you won't find me like your old master, I 'll bet a gallon of whisky.' I was too much frightened to do otherwise, and, going to my room, I hastily crowded a few things into my valise and traveling belt. This was a buckskin belt containing a pocket for money, another for a brace of pistols, and a third for ammunition. It had been made at father's suggestion, and was already prepared for our anticipated visit to Charleston."
"Did you understand using the pistol?" interposed Miss Lintner.
"Oh, yes! Father taught me the use of the rifle and pistol.
"Poor Joe, I forgot my own trouble in his distress at parting with his family. 'De Lord knows what dis is all fur, Miss 'Titia, but he'll fix it right in de en',' was his consolation.
"At Norfolk, we were put aboard a schooner bound for the Florida coast. I suppose Mr[.] Templeton
was anxious to take the first means of conveying me beyond the reach of any who might recognize me. I had frequently been in Charleston and Savannah, and, had he taken us to either place he would have been likely to meet with father's friends. As we were salable commodities, he could more effectually accomplish his object and carry out his villainous plans in this manner, and at the same time pocket the value received for his trouble. After a long, tedious sail, during which I was subjected to every discomfort, and exposure to the weather, as well as jeers and insults that effervesced from a corrupt heart, where they had been concealed for so many years, we reached a spot near enough to the land to discover a cluster of orange trees and a cabin. An anchor was dropped and a boat sent ashore with the intention of buying oranges. Mr. Templeton went in the boat, and returned, bringing the man who dwelt in that lonely place. Both Joe and I were sold and put ashore with the man. Unless, like Cain, he had been guilty of some heinous crime, and was exiled from the abode of mankind, I could never understand how any one could choose to isolate himself in such a desert. With the exception of a few orange trees and a patch of sweet potatoes, his food was obtained by hunting and fishing. Joe was sent to hoe the potatoes and a few hills of sugar cane. The cooking was done by an old half-breed Indian hag, over a camp fire. The only building was a log cabin with no floor but the earth. In two corners were beds built by placing saplings upon
crotched sticks driven into the ground, and palmetto leaves laid across, supporting a collection of pine straw, covered by dirty blankets.
"At first it was a mystery to me why I had been bought; there was barely enough to keep Joe's time employed in the field, and there was little to be done in such a miserable hovel. His disgusting advances to familiarity, and coarse, profane flattery, excited my indignation in the extreme. When repelled, he would exclaim with a jerk of the head, 'Ho! ho! my pretty bird; you are in my trap now, and my game is caught for keeps;' and walk off with a loud, boisterous laugh that chilled the blood in my veins with horror to think of being in the power of such a wretch.
"This kind of persecution was continued until endurance seemed no longer possible. Having previously planned an escape, I watched the time when the man (Thomas Raredon) and the old hag were sleeping heavily from the effects of whisky obtained from the schooner, then I awoke Joe and together we started off. We did not forget to take a piece of venison that had been left from the last meal; and, with no guide but the polar star, no protection but my brace of pistols and a small quantity of ammunition, we entered upon the chance of saving ourselves by flight.
"Judging from the time we passed the mouth of the St. Johns before landing from the schooner, that we would be able to reach that river by pursuing a westerly course, proceeded in that direction, taking the precaution to walk some distance
in the edge of the inlet of water to avoid discovery by tracks. Then, penetrating through a dense growth of scrub palmetto, we toiled onward and westward. It was a hard night's work, whether wading in sand or water, or through forests inhabited only by stinging insects, reptiles and wild beasts; yet it was not so dreadful as remaining in the presence of such a man. When daylight dawned I could go no further, and began to look for a hiding place to rest. Uncle Joe discovered a huge live oak which, in some fierce storm, had been uprooted and thrown down. Under this was a considerable space, which he cleared from accumulated decayed vegetation, lest snakes or venomous insects might be harbored there. Then collecting pine-straw and palmetto leaves we made a cleanly resting place.
"We ate the venison and I lay down to sleep; I was just closing my eyes when, aroused by Uncle Joe's voice, I looked up to see him kneeling in prayer. As near as I remember, this was his petition:
"'Bress de Lord, O, my soul! an' praise 'is holy name, 'kase we's got away from dat ole willian. Make Miss 'Titia strong, O, Lord! to walk on de tudder way; an' make me strong, O, Lord, fur ter take keer on 'er. Stretch out your arm and take good keer o' Dinah an' de chillun. I's a mis'ble sinner, and don't 'sarve to ax for a crumb; but jis holp me, and keep on a holpin' me till we all come out right in de en'; den ketch us up in de w'ite cloud unto glory. Bress de Lord. Amen.'
"With eyes closed and hands clasped, Uncle Joe's prayer filled my soul with trust that the blessed Jesus, who knew what it was to wander forty days in the wilderness, would send his angels to protect us from harm, and strengthen us for the journey but just begun. With these thoughts I dropped asleep, and when again awake the sun had passed the meridian. Uncle Joe was sleeping, having concealed the entrance to our hiding place with brush. I quietly rose and examined our quarters, when a pair of eyes appeared gazing at me through the bushes. At first I was startled, but in a moment saw that it was a rabbit. Carefully withdrawing my pistol, I fired and killed the animal. Joe instantly sprang up, bewildered, and exclaimed, 'Who dat, honey; is ye killed? Who dat shootin'?'
"From this time he dropped the title by which he had hitherto addressed me, and seeming to regard me as a child under his care, called me 'Honey.'
"I picked up the rabbit, showed it to him, and explained that I had shot it. He examined it and the pistol in his own puzzled way. When the act became clear to his mind, he expressed himself, 'De Lord sent dat rabbit here, sure, jist a purpose fur de chile. Did I eber see de like? I use to skeer awful to see ole massa show you how to shoot guns an' sich, but the Lord knowed w'at he was a 'doin.' He'll make it come out right in de en'.' Taking the pistol he asked me how it was loaded, and would have been glad to learn how to use it, but the small quantity of ammunition in my possession
rendered it important to preserve every charge.
"The rabbit was dressed and cooked for our dinner."
"How did you succeed in making a fire? Had you matches?" inquired Miss Lintner.
"Uncle Joe had always been in the habit of smoking, and had an old tinder-box by means of which he was accustomed to light his pipe. It proved a great blessing."
"My shoes were in a sad condition, having been worn out previous to our night's walk. They were so badly torn as to afford but little protection to my feet. Joe discovered some bear grass, and ingeniously plaited the tough blades, forming moccasins; they were clumsy indeed, but I could walk in them with ease. As a cool breeze sprung up toward night we concluded to follow the sun once more, and did not rest until somewhere near midnight. Being attracted by a light, we approached and discovered a camp-fire burning near a cabin, where two or three persons were engaged in cooking. We also discovered a large unenclosed patch of sweet potatoes, and running his hand along in the hills, Uncle Joe procured some for food. Had we made ourselves known in offering to pay for them, very likely it would have led to our capture. There were a great many ponds where we could procure water, such as it was.
"On we traveled several days, through an almost uninhabited country, only two or three times passing clearings where we found sweet potatoes; at other times I shot a bird or some other game.
"We had many annoyances; the woods and all low places were filled with mosquitoes; sand flies would sometimes come in dense swarms, making us nearly wild with their poisonous stings; the darkness of night was made hideous by the screeching of birds, which were quiet during the day; wild animals prowling about, opossums, foxes, raccoons and wildcats frequently investigated our lodgings; toward morning alligators bellowed from pond to pond, and twice we encountered these creatures traveling in our path. One day we were without food, except a few huckleberries, and once or twice we came across wild oranges; this fruit, which, under other circumstances would have been considered very bitter, now seemed delicious.
"At last the broad waters of the St. John broke upon our view. It was a welcome sight; and, if it would carry us out to liberty upon its bosom, we were ready to forget the fact of its serving as drainage for such a forsaken region. My intention was, with the money I had, to find a way to Jacksonville, from thence to New York.
"It was necessary to find aid in carrying out this project, therefore we made ourselves known to a family of poor people living near the river, and through them obtained shoes and some necessary articles of clothing.
"We told them we were on our way to Jacksonville, and inquired for a boat in which to obtain passage. Fortunately they owned a small boat, which they used for transporting supplies for the people in that neighborhood, and we readily made
a contract for a conveyance down the river. Finding we were willing to repay their trouble, they provided us with stores of dried venison, corn-meal and sea-bread for the passage.
"After four days' sail, we set our feet upon land once more. Our efforts were now turned toward getting information as to the best method to reach New York.
"Seeing a paper tacked upon a tree near where we were standing I attracted Uncle Joe's attention to it, thinking it must be a notice of a steamboat. It read thus:
"'Ran away from Thomas Raredon, on the coast, Volusia county, Florida: Two slaves; Joe, five feet ten inches high, full blooded African, thirty-five years old, sound teeth. Letitia, light complexion, blue eyes, five feet four inches high, small sound teeth, nineteen years old. $100 reward offered for the capture of the above slaves.
(Signed.) EMERY JOHN,
"'Agent for Thomas Raredon.'
"Riveted to the spot, I read it. My tongue could not, or would not, stop till the last word was uttered. I saw nothing but that hideous paper staring at me; heard nothing but the sound of my voice pronouncing our own doom, and read in it a return to that horrid place and its servitude--a slavery the most to be feared both of soul and body. This, then, was the reward of our toil; all hope once more died out and left only despair.
"Two heavy hands came down, one upon my shoulder and one upon Joe's. A bushy head between us, with a coarse laugh and ejaculation, broke the spell. 'Them's you uns, all two on ye
dis time, I reckon. Joe's black enough, an' 'Titia's white enough to fill dat bill. Hand a stick, boys; let's measure 'em.' A rule was brought and we were duly measured. 'Just to the notch,' satisfactorily shouted our captor. 'Open your jaw. The chawers all there, too. Trot 'em 'long, boys, to the calaboose; I'll get the hunner dollar, an' liquor up all 'round.'
"By this time a motley crowd of men and boys had assembled and we were escorted to the court house.
"Here, Mr. Emery John, acting under instructions received from Thomas Raredon, in a letter which was read with much difficulty, again made examination to prove our identity. That being satisfactory, we were confined in a loathsome jail, with several other miserable wretches.
"Miss Lintner, God forbid you should ever know what it is to endure toil, mental and physical, looking forward to a great reward; then, just as the work is done, find your prize an expanded bubble. Even Joe had not a word of encouragement for a favorable end, but sat in mute despair, how long, I can not tell.
"We were aroused by the entrance of several persons, Mr. Emery John and executive officers of the law. Their business was to carry into effect the order of Thomas Raredon, which was, to give each of us seventy-five lashes on the bare back, return Uncle Joe in irons to his master, and I was to be sold to the highest bidder to defray expenses.
"Uncle Joe, poor fellow, was first taken out,
and, after the whipping had been inflicted, brought back to the jail in irons, I was then made to go out to a post in the jail yard, and expose my back. In so doing, the belt was discovered and taken possession of by the Sheriff. They were so much astonished and occupied in examining its contents, that I was almost forgotten in the dissension arising from the division of the spoil. A number of stinging lashes were given, and I was remanded to jail."
Letitia at this point unfastened her dress and revealed to her listener, long, ugly scars, where the whip had cut the skin.
"I will hasten over the sale," she continued, "for the thought of being exposed on a block, subjected to the crafty witticisms of a public auctioneer, and a crowd of bystanders, is too revolting to dwell upon. My purchaser was a negro trader, who had collected a gang of slaves by buying small lots from planters on the way, as he had crossed the peninsula from New Orleans to Savannah. He and his assistant rode on horseback, and the negroes were chained together in pairs, traveling on foot. After I was added to the number, my companion was a poor creature who told me that she had been sold without having had an opportunity to say 'Good bye' to her husband; that her old mistress was dead, and she, being the only servant, had necessarily been disposed of to settle the estate. 'Young master was mighty good to me,' she said, 'but he didn't have the money to buy me in, so I had to go.' She did not know her own
age, but was certainly younger than I. From Jacksonville we walked to the mouth of the St. John's, several more slaves having been added to the number. The trader sold his horses, and took passage for all, on board a steam boat for Savannah.
"There the first sales were made, and there I was bought with several others of the gang, by an agent of Mr. Ninus.
"You may say that I ought not to complain at my lot. True, it is far better than to have remained in Florida. Mr. Ninus (for I will never call him master, except when compelled), is kind to his servants; he is not to blame for regarding me as the law does, a slave, bought with his money, bound to the same service as the most ignorant. He provides plain, wholesome food without stint, and coarse clothing. Had I been born and raised as a servant, my present condition would not be so hard to bear; but to be educated, and fill the position of a lady, and then to be dropped into servitude and expected not to chafe under it, is more than human nature can endure. Do you not think, Miss Lintner, that I am justified in saying my burden is greater than I can bear?"
"Surely, Letitia, you have been through severe trials, but you are young, it is not too late to hope on. Your sister or brothers may find you out, and the discipline you have endured, may be, for some wise end, yet to be revealed. God does not willingly afflict his children."
FEBRUARY enveloped the peach orchard in rose-colored beauty, filled the jasmine with bloom, and crowned the wilderness with charms.
The branch was not a running, murmuring brook, but a shallow, sluggish stream, from whose muddy bed rose the magnolia, bay, and a multitude of other trees and shrubs, brilliant with bloom and fragrant with perfume.
Climbing over the trunk of a tree which had fallen across the water, Miss Lintner and her pupils enjoyed gathering floral treasures, and made the woods echo with happy songs, as they joined their voices to the warbling of birds busy in building their nests or feeding their young.
Snakes were frequently encountered in the low, wet land, and instead of intimidating these young girls, led them in the same wild pursuit that inspires the huntsman. Sticks were the weapons of attack, and reptiles, once seen, seldom escaped alive.
With the opening of early spring, came the season for active operations upon the plantation. Negroes and mules prepared the soil for seed.
Miss Lintner was passing through a field on her way to school one morning, and observing in the freshly ploughed ground at regular intervals, small heaps of cotton seed, she appealed for information to a servant at work near.
"Is that the way you plant cotton seed?"
Fanny stopped the mule she was driving with one line, loosed her hold of the plough, and displaying two rows of ivories, as if quite amused at the question, replied:
"No, Miss; dat ar's corn plantin'."
"But is not that cotton seed?" persisted Miss Lintner, seeing the article on the ground.
Fanny, taking a handful answered, "Dis ere's cotton seed, sure 'nough, but dat ar's corn," pointing to the ground where lay two kernels that had been exposed to view by a removal of the former.
"Massa he tells Jim fur ter put all two corns, one dar and one dar, fur ter grow. Den Patsy, she comes on wid a sack o' cotton seed, an' puts so much as dis yere on ebery hill, so," replacing the seed.
"Then do you cover it with soil?" continued Miss Lintner.
"No, Miss, we neber cuber it wid sorrel, nor nuffin. Wen de corn grows we ploughs long side, an' de dirt cubers de cotton seed, we don't neber cuber de corn, it grows. If all two de corns come up, we pulls up de little un' an' let's de big un' grow."
"But I do not understand," insisted the interrogator, "why the cotton seed does not grow."
"Massa, he allers puts de woudou charm on de cotton seed w'at goes in de corn fiel', so it neber do grow, miss."
At this moment, Letitia approached on her way to the gin house, and Miss Lintner applied to her for information.
"Come with me," said Letitia, "and you will understand how the cotton seed is conjured or charmed, as expressed by Fanny. You will be surprised to learn that the idolatry of Africa still clings to the race in this country, surrounded by the light of civilization and religion. As many or perhaps the majority of them live in a sphere far remote from opportunities of improvement, it is not so astonishing that they adhere to the prejudices and superstitions of their ancestors."
"Superstition is not confined to the negro race," remarked Miss Lintner. "In the North, among ignorant people, and even among those who claim considerable intelligence, there is a tendency to look upon many of the trifling occurrences of life as ominous of good or evil."
"I am surprised that it is so," said Letitia, "but I can hardly suppose it to obtain so much ascendency as here. The blacks on this place believe in the voudou conjuration to which Fanny referred. Here we are at the gin house. You observe this bin where the seed is thrown in large quantities; it undergoes a spontaneous heating, which destroys vitality, and prevents it from germinating."
Taking a stout bit of light-wood, Letitia made
an excavation in the seed, and so great was the heat that steam rose from it.
"Put your hand down in this hole, and you will see how warm it is. I will dig still deeper; at this depth the seeds are decomposed."
"I see," said Miss Lintner; "and in this state it is used as a fertilizer for corn."
"And yet," continued Letitia, "I have tried in vain to make Fanny understand it, as well as others; they can not, or will not, but fully believe it is conjured.
"You have not seen old Aunt Dorah. She is too old to work, and remains in her cabin at 'the quarters.' She takes charge of the little negroes whose mothers are at work in the fields, and so fills the minds of her young charge with tales of spooks, conjuration and witchcraft that they regard her with the greatest fear and veneration."
"Perhaps," suggested Miss Lintner, "she has an object in so doing; namely, to bring the children under her restraint by fear."
"If that is the case," replied Letitia, "her object is successful; for she holds rule, not only over the young, but every negro on this plantation looks up to her with the same mingling of fear and respect. There seems to be no doubt but that she was born in Africa, stolen, and brought to this country while young, for she tells a straightforward story of her capture, voyage, and many incidents which she is too ignorant to fabricate; neither did she leave behind the heathenism of her native soil."
"I must make her acquaintance," said Miss Lintner, "but it is time for school now."
Silence reigned in the school-room. The children, from books, sought to know of the world and its history, as if it were far away from their lonely hall of learning. The teacher listened to the moaning of the turtle dove as she wailed her plaintive song; to the soughing of the wind through the pines, and now low, rumbling thunder is borne along the air and a flash of lightning follows a louder peal. Another sound breaks upon the stillness--a sharp, cracking noise; distant, but not to be mistaken by those who have once heard it. The forest in the distance is dimmed by blue smoke.
The elder students raise their heads, listen, look toward their teacher, then at each other, and through the door-way. In a moment the order of school is forgotten; the alarm is given, "The woods are on fire." All is confusion, and a general rush is made to survey the prospect. Along the north, in the distance, a dense smoke is rising, obscuring the woods beyond the branch. On the south, so far as the eye can reach, is one line of fire, advancing rapidly toward the school-house. The dry wire grass and resinous pine straw furnish fuel, greedily seized by the flames in their onward progress. Reaching living trees they leap up the trunks, sear the bark and die out. But many an old tree, standing with outspread, leafless branches, tells that vitality has fled; on the ground beneath lies an accumulation of bark and limbs; reaching these, the flames redouble their strength, rush upward
with long tongues, snapping, cracking, and burning as if impelled by demons. Onward comes the fire. Can a young girl with helpless children resist such an enemy?
Oak underbrush, pine boughs, a few shingles and bits of board were collected, and with them the little band of children were armed to fight for their lives.
It was not the first battle with fire Elizabeth had encountered, and she now proved an able leader, possessing the administrative abilities of her father.
"Come on, we must clear a fireguard," said she, and seizing a pine bough, went to work to clear a space several feet in width surrounding the school-house, in which she was aided by all, from teacher to the youngest child. In a short time every combustible was removed, pine-straw, decayed branches, and tufts of wire-grass even, were pulled up and thrown beyond the path. As the fire reached the edge on the south side, it was extinguished, and danger in that direction was at an end.
Then along either side the flames coursed their way, requiring a division of forces. The youngest children were soon tired out, or sent from the ranks as being more hinderance than help. The teacher went from one side to the other, with cheerful, hopeful words of encouragement; watching where a spark of fire would snap across the guard toward the school house, or upon the clothes of the children; exercising constant vigilance in subduing each kindling blaze; silently hoping and praying
that some one would suspect their danger, and come to the rescue. An old dead pine was standing near. Its great height and inclination caused apprehension lest it should ignite and fall amongst them, and faithfully they worked to protect its base from threatened danger. Vain the labor. A burning tree, fifty feet distant, toppled, and fell with a crash; brands were scattered far and near, some reaching the fire guard, and in an instant the dead tree was all ablaze. Several of the children barely escaped from the shower of fire. A panic followed, which the teacher was powerless to restrain; for, added to the impending danger of the burning school house, the threatening storm sent forth constantly flashing lightning and heavy rolling thunder. Trees were falling in various directions, under the force of the increasing wind. To attempt an escape over the ground where the fire had died out, would be hazardous. Yet, Miss Lintner, to prepare them for the worst, informed the pupils that if it did not rain soon, they would be compelled to seek safety by flight through the woods, for the school house had taken fire. Even the older children could no longer maintain their self-composure, but joined the little ones in clinging together, screaming and crying from fright.
In a few moments, down came a few great drops. These were followed by a dashing rain which fell in torrents, and never was it received with greater rejoicing; the school house was saved. For a full half hour the storm raged with unabated fury. Tree after tree fell, till the blackened ground was
literally covered with charred and smoking trunks and limbs, and dread of the tempest succeeded the terror of fire.
"Do not fear, dear children," said the teacher. "The same God, who sent the rain to extinguish the fire, will protect us in the storm."
"I reckon Aunt Dorah sent the fire," timidly suggested little Victoria.
"Do you think, dear, that Aunt Dorah is strong enough to make the fire burn the woods? She is a woman," said the teacher.
"She can conjure the fire and make it burn," persisted the child, with earnestness. "Mammy Fanny says so; and, if the good Angel came to put it out with the rain, Aunt Dorah fought with the lightning."
Miss Lintner did not think it wise to show the falsity of the child's ingenious sophistry, but said, "Look out now and see how beautifully the sun is shining! The same Heavenly Father who sent the rain to extinguish the fire, took care of us through the storm."
"Aunt Dorah is a witch," said another, "and there are other witches beside her; my mammy says so. I found a bag the other day, going home from school, and mammy made me give it to her, for she said, if I kept it, it would conjure me."
"Probably," rejoined Miss Lintner, "your nurse wanted the bag herself."
"She said she did," said the child, "and there were some pins and needles in it, and mammy told me, if I used them, they would conjure me; but
she has a charm which she would put in the bag, so they would not conjure her."
"Did you ever see it?" inquired one of the little listeners.
"O, yes! It is a big black snake skin. Mammy says Aunt Dorah charmed it for a bright red handkerchief she gave her."
"That is only a story, dear children," said the teacher; "when you are older, you will not believe such foolish notions."
"But we believe them now. Are there any ghosts where you live?"
"No, dear; no ghosts in my home, only angels whom God sends to take care of us. Neither are there any ghosts here. You must not believe the silly ideas of servants."
"Papa said that too; but Mamma says there used to be fairies, and now fairies are turned into ghosts."
The children continued the discussion, revealing the fact that they had imbibed a greater or less degree of faith in the superstition of their nurses.
It was later than usual when the teacher dismissed her little flock, hoping by the delay to diminish the danger encountered in returning to their homes.
THE question of purchasing a piano had been agitated, and an order sent to Savannah for the best instrument that could be found in that place, regardless of price.
For its reception the library was prepared by a thorough cleaning. The extensive collection of books, the writing desk, table and chairs had been deposited upon the gallery. Fanny drew out a long pine box from a corner, and being attracted by a rattling sound from within, wondered,
"What sort o' truck Maus George got in 'ere. Catch 'old tudder end, Cora, haul 'im out; O! Lord! it shakes like rocks!"
Cora rendered the aid required, and continued her work at scrubbing; but Fanny determined to examine the mysterious box. Finding the lid not well secured, she succeeded in introducing her hard, bony fingers, and endeavored to force it open. As she was stooping over, working it one way and the other, suddenly it yielded to her efforts; the contents were revealed and curiosity gratified. She stood paralyzed, with distended
eyes and open mouth, gazing into the box, still holding the lid, which seemed glued to her hand. Cora raised herself upon her knees; resting herself upon her shuck scrub-brush, and peering over the edge of the box, she exclaimed:
"O! Lord! Fan, dat's a ghost! Shut 'im in, shut 'im 'in, 'fore he jumps out. Let's go and tell Miss 'Liza."
"No, don't you neber tell Miss 'Liza," said Fanny, replacing the lid as quickly as possible and holding it down. "Don't you neber dare tell Miss 'Liza. It's a ghost, sure; he's jus' a histin' 'gain dis top fur to git out. Git a rock, Cora, an' hammer it down. If Maus George knows we've seed his ghost, won't we git 'bout forty?"
Cora disappeared in search of a rock as Miss Lintner, who had overheard the conversation in an adjoining room, entered to obtain a view of the phenomenon. Fanny could scarcely be prevailed upon to relax her hold, supposing that the occupant of the box was resisting her efforts to prevent its escape. But promises upon the part of Miss Lintner, that she should be shielded from personal harm, finally induced her to yield her hold and make a precipitous retreat across the threshold, where, concealing her person as much as possible behind the casing, she peeped back to observe the result. Miss Lintner raised the lid sufficiently to see--a human skeleton--and aided in securing it from view by tightening the loosened nails.
Order having been restored to the library, and space allowed for the expected instrument, the
timely news was received by Tom Jones' boy that the piano was at the landing.
There was commotion in the house, the stables, and the quarters. Four mules were geared to the timber-carriage, and horses saddled. A force of the strongest hands was made up to do the lifting. Mr. Ninus mounted upon Bowers, made an efficient commander-in-chief of the cavalcade as they started off toward the river.
In the kitchen, the cook and her aids put their best skill into practice in preparing a "big dinner" in honor of the gentleman who had taken charge of transportation, and was to see that the instrument was in perfect tone.
A distant whoop was heard from the little negroes, who had formed themselves into an advance guard to open the gates for the procession as it filed along toward the house.
It was heard even by Aunt Dorah, who was induced to leave her premises, followed by a troop of babies, some on foot and some carried by the larger ones. Aided by a cane, she managed to drag her aged limbs up to the house to see "W'at dat ar' was dey all make such a fuss 'bout."
The piano was properly adjusted and drew forth exclamations of astonishment and delight.
"Look inter it," whispered Fanny to her sister, venturing to draw near enough to look inside, "its a banjo, I sees de strings. Aint it a powerful big un?"
"Hush, you dummie, taint neither, don't you
know nuffin? I's seed a fiddle, an' dat's what 'tis," said the sister with a knowing look.
No one questioned whether the highly polished rosewood case, and inlaid mother-of-pearl harmonized with the humble surroundings; or whether a crimson plush stool corresponded with chairs seated with untanned hide. Music from the finely toned instrument was as duly appreciated as if it had emanated from a luxurious drawing-room. It is the diamond that sparkles, not the object it decorates.
Miss Lintner chose the early hours, when members of the family were still sleeping, for her practice. While making preparations for so doing the next morning, Letitia said:
"Would you mind if I go in and try the piano a few minutes, while you are dressing?"
"I suppose you may, but be careful and not play loud, it may awaken the family."
Miss Lintner was surprised to hear the scales performed with an execution known only to expert musicians; then followed an operatic piece upon which she had herself expended much time and had not yet been able to execute it without the music before her; yet the fingers of this slave glided through even the most intricate passages with a delicacy of touch rarely found. Then striking the notes of a minor key, with her bare foot pressed upon the soft pedal, one of David's penitential psalms was rendered in Beethoven's composition. A suppressed voice full of pathos, poured out a complaint as from the heart.
"He trusted in God, that He would deliver him if he will have Him." The last clause died away, and Miss Lintner stood behind the performer.
"And God did deliver him, Letitia. Continue to trust, as David did, and Uncle Joe's faith will yet be verified, that all will come out right in the end. You have been well taught in music."
"This carries me back to my old home; father, mother, all, so different from this life. If I can sometimes live in the past, and unburthen my heart here, it will enable me to bear my lot better; but I must call the servants."
In the vision of the past, she went out to the present "to do her duty in that state of life unto which it had pleased God to call her."
At the breakfast table, music and the piano were the absorbing topics.
"I wish," said Mrs. Ninus, "you would favor us with the first pieces you performed this morning, Miss Lintner. I was awakened by the softest, sweetest strains, and dreamed I was surrounded by angels or fairies; then your voice, so sweet and musical. I thought you told us you were not a singer. If any of our daughters learn to sing as well, we will be happy."
"I have but little strength of voice," said Miss Lintner, evasively, "and seldom sing in the presence of others."
A glance at Letitia, standing behind her mistress' chair, betrayed a twinkle in the eye, and a happier expression than she was accustomed to wear.
"Miss 'Titia, if I 'spress my lub, will you tell anybody?"
The speaker was one of Aunt Dorah's grandsons; his broad, flat nose scarce defined an outline upon a face of ebony; his expansive mouth and woolly hair told of blood unmixed, from the Guinea coast.
"Hush, William, your master sent me to tell you to water Bowers, saddle, and bring him up to the house."
"I knowed you wouldn't a comed out if you didn't had to, I does, and I tells you dis, Miss 'Titia, I's a gwine to hab you for a wife, dat's sartin. Dar she goes up to de big house, 'out speakin.' She's a mighty 'stakin' if she 'spects she's gwine to slip dis nigger dat way. If Massa don't bring 'er squar', old Mammy will, I low."
He proceeded to obey orders, and bringing the horse to the block, stood with uncovered head, and bowed low, as his master advanced to take the bridle.
"What is it, William?"
Repeating his bow with the humility of a suppliant, he made known his request.
"I jes 'lowed to ax you if I can have 'Titia for a wife, sir?"
"Have Letitia. I am surprised, William. What will you do with Fanny? You would not discard her, would you?"
"No, sir; but sir, I 'low'd six years was long enough to lib wid any one nigger, sir; so Jefferson,
son, he's done 'greed to take Fanny w'en I gits 'Titia, sir."
"I see, I see," said his master, "but you must get Letitia's consent, for I will not compel her to marry against her will; and remember this, William, neither will I allow any of my hands to marry off the place. If you discard Fanny, you must choose one of your fellow-servants."
"Yes, sir. Jes so, sir."
The incident having been related by Mr. Ninus during the evening, he remarked to Miss Lintner:
"You will observe in this, an embarrassment arising in slavery as it exists among us. There is no doubt but that God intended the negro as a servile race. Under the Mosaic dispensation slavery existed with certain limitations, and it is in the power of our legislators to make such laws as should ameliorate our institution; there would be less trouble to masters, and a greater degree of comfort and security to the servants."
"In what way?" inquired Miss Lintner.
"As our laws exist, marriage ties are not recognized, since husbands and wives are constantly being separated by sales, division of estates, and removals. By patterning after the laws of entail in England, families can be kept together. Sales of children under age should also be prohibited. Within a few years no doubt such laws will be enacted."
"Suppose they are liberated," said Miss Lintner, "as has been done in the North, would they not be equally useful as servants?"
"I think not," said Mr. Ninus. "There are serious objections to their emancipation, unless it can be done gradually and conditionally. They are not, as a people, sufficiently advanced in civilization. They are improvident; they know nothing of the value of money, or how to use it as a medium of commerce. I refer particularly to those employed in plantation work, and the same may be true of the majority owned in cities and towns, although there are, doubtless, some more intelligent and capable of self-support.
"They are also very reckless of their health," added Mrs. Ninus. "Do you not remember how we had to quarantine every one who was sick, at the time when 'the fevers' were so bad down around the Pond, and lock every cabin to keep the servants from exposing themselves to the night fogs?"
"Yes, I remember it," said Mr. Ninus; "and when the yellow fever or any other epidemic prevails, we have to watch them like children."
"It is a misfortune that they are kept in ignorance of reading and writing," remarked Miss Lintner.
"I would be glad if every one of my hands were willing to learn to read," said Mr. Ninus. "Now and then one of the more intelligent employed about the house has expressed a desire of so doing, and instruction has never been refused; but of those who undertake to learn, few have perseverance enough to continue till able to read understandingly.
It is not safe to teach them to write, as they can then forge passes."
"Letitia can read," said Mrs. Ninus, "and perhaps write, but we are cautious about keeping all writing materials under a lock, and she has no opportunity of procuring them. She is a good girl, and seems trusty, but I think you should be careful, Miss Lintner, that she has no opportunity of having access to your trunk, or of obtaining your paper and pen."
"I do not like to own so white a girl," said Mr. Ninus. "My factor sent her up with a lot of others, and as she is here, I give her as good a home in the house as she can desire, and would be sorry to put her in the field. I will be glad if she marries William, she seems always so low-spirited, and the full-blooded blacks have such a jealousy toward the light ones; she will be better off in identifying herself with old Aunt Dorah's family."
Upon retiring to her room, Miss Lintner found Letitia sitting upon the floor weeping. After relating the proposition that had been made by William, Letitia added:
"I was thinking, Miss Lintner, of the terrible fate I escaped in Florida. I believed then that God's hand led us through the trials of that fearful wilderness, with Uncle Joe's faith that all would be right in the end. I have tried to bear up under it here, but have repined under God's dispensation, and now must suffer the fulfillment of the fate before threatened."
"Stop, Letitia; God is not the author of evil. The same guiding hand that led you out once, can and will do so again. 'If ye have faith and doubt not,' ye shall say unto the mountain, 'Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea it shall be done.' And, 'all things, whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.' "
"O! Miss Lintner, pray for me; pray that I may have this faith, and pray with your faith that this evil may be averted from me."
Then clasping her hands, she earnestly repeated, "O! God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy upon me, a miserable sinner."
Miss Lintner dropped on her knees, and there rose in the silence of night, to the Throne of Heaven, a simple earnest petition for the slave girl beside her.
ON the morning of an appointed day, the three elder daughters and their teacher, with Letitia carrying the luncheon, set out for "the old summer house" to gather mulberries.
A walk of two miles led through a primeval forest. Thousands of mocking birds filled the air with music, and many a birdling started in its nest upon seeing brown eyes and blue, peering into its leafy hiding place. The wild jasmine, the passion flower, the sensitive plant, lovely violets and many other blossoms were torn from their wild-wood home to decorate the brows of children and teacher, while the forest echoed their merry shouts and songs.
Arriving at their destination, the children climbed upon the walls of the ruins to gather mulberries from the overhanging branches, and Miss Lintner seated herself upon a log to make a drawing of the scene.
The roof had fallen in and gone to decay; wild vines climbed in and out, or fell in luxuriance over what remained of the logs; gay butterflies flitted
about, timid lizards darted here and there, squirrels peeped out from their hiding places upon hearing such an unusual commotion, questioning, perhaps, the right of ownership to fruit seldom claimed by any but themselves and the birds. A young pine, rising from within the walls of the ruins, told that years had passed since they had been occupied as a dwelling.
Many, many years before (so the story runs), a French family, akin to royalty, fleeing from the Revolutionists, had found here a secure home. Reared in a marble palace, soft white hands had cut the trees and erected a rustic cabin. Their food was hunted from the woods, and their drink taken from "the branch."
For years they lived and toiled on, as only those know who, like them, have given up much to realize how few man's actual necessities are, and how much deprivation can be endured by those who undertake to exchange comfort, luxury and ease for a pioneer life.
Not far away was pointed out the old lot where they were buried. A few poles, crumbling to dust, once formed an enclosure. A sunken spot was almost hidden by a tangled rose-bush, covered with bloom; it proved to be, not a wild rose, but a degenerated growth of an old French variety.
So pleasantly had the day passed, that not till the lowing of cattle was heard did the little party prepare to return.
All through the woods cattle were coming from the east, the south and the west. Herds belonging
to different planters met in wild confusion, cows lowing and running hither and thither, bulls meeting, bellowing, tearing up the earth with their horns, as if preparing for a conflict.
The three girls, instead of being terrified, seized branches and ran screaming and shouting toward home, calling Miss Lintner and Letitia to follow. No alternative being presented, they attempted doing so, but soon discovered that one wild, infuriated creature was bearing down upon Miss Lintner, impeded only by a thick growth of underbrush, which also prevented the frightened girl from making rapid progress.
Letitia preceiving the danger, seized a loose red sacque from Miss Lintner's shoulders and hung it upon a stump, hoping thereby to attract the animal's attention, and both made as speedy a retreat as possible in the direction of a clearing. Looking back they saw the bull tossing the sacque upon its horns. On they ran toward a high fence which offered protection. The sacque was in a few moments trampled in the dust; then, as if comprehending the intrigue and discovering them in flight, the enemy once more rushed forward bellowing, plunging and tearing up the earth in mad pursuit.
Within the field they saw Fanny plowing with a pair of mules, and called to her for assistance.
Stopping her work, and looking into the woods, she shouted:
"Bill, you William, get out from 'hind dat tree, an' drive Sam Grundy off, or I'll tell Maus George
sure; you needn't hide dat black head 'round dar no longer. If I didn't hab dese yere mules to tote up to the stable, I'd drive 'im off, an' not say nuffin'."
"Shut your mouf, Fanny," said William, rushing forward with a rail. Flourishing it as if it were only a switch, he succeeded in heading off the animal, permitting the girls to reach the fence in safety. Then, turning round, he continued:
"I wan't a hidin', nor I didn't see Sam Grundy, nor the young ladies, nary on 'em."
Fanny retorted, "You's a very innocent sheep, you is. I seed you w'en I's tudder en' de fiel; I seed you go ober dar on de bottom, an' I hearn you, too, a hollerin', an' drivin' dem ar cattle up dis way, jis when you knowed dey all was comin' 'cross. I seed your devilment; you're as bad as your ole granny. You knowed de young ladies ud all start first, so you said to William, dat's you yessef, 'I'll get dese critters in dar, w'ile 'Titia's a pickin' up an' gittin' ready, so I'll cut off 'er comin',' an' de school misses 'long too. I jes reckon you didn't keer if Sam Grundy 'd hooked all two on 'em. Laws, the more I sees your meanness, de more madder I gits, an' de more I feels like tellin'."
"Shut your mouf," was the conciliatory advice of her accused husband. "W'en you gits dat jaw o' yourn started, you's jis as bad to head off as Sam Grundy. You let on to any one up to de house or down to de quarters, an' I'll mash you up like hominy."
All was quiet in Dorah's cabin. The little ones under her daily charge had been restored to their respective mammies, except a few motherless unfortunates, who had forgotten her iron sway, and lay in undisturbed slumber.
Hovering over the embers still glowing upon the clay hearth, crouched the figure of the old negress; her warped, bony fingers stirring an unsavory mass, that fizzed and sputtered in a skillet, as she repeated, in a monotonous sing-song tone, an enchantment in her native African tongue, finishing each stanza with--
"Lasses, an' grease, an' mishetum,
Lasses, an' grease, an' mishetum,
Lasses, an' grease, an' mishetum;
Devil, devil, devil, come, come, come.
Devil, devil, devil, come, come, come.
Devil, devil, devil, come, come, come."
A footstep was heard approaching the door, then a knock.
The negress ceased her incantation, removed the skillet from the coals, carefully covered it, and brushing the ashes back into the fire with a pine brush, drawled out,
"Is dat you, William?"
"Yes, granny, it's me."
Recognizing the voice, she opened the door, admitting William; and having secured the fastening, threw some pieces of fat light-wood upon the fire, and resumed her seat.
William found a block, used it as a chair and
handed a piece of tobacco to his grandmother, saying:
"Dat's all de backy I could git, an' I had a mighty try to find dat; bes' I can do."
Grasping the tobacco with a "Hem, dat's mighty little, boy," she tore off a fragment, dropped it into the skillet and tucked the remainder into a chink of the cabin. "An' whar's de wisky, boy? I can't do nuffin 'out de wisky, gal or no gal; an it's no fool job witchin' a wite nigger. I'll jis let 'er drap 'out you get de wisky."
"Skuse me, granny, I done forgot--here she is," drawing out a small bottle, and holding it up in the firelight.
Taking the bottle with the brightening of her bloodshot eyes, she exclaimed, "Dat's de kind, honey, as witches more nor 'lasses, nor grease, nor--; yes, dat's de kind."
Lifting the lid of the skillet, she poured into it a few drops of the liquid, and raising the bottle to her lips swallowed the contents in one draught. "Dat's de stuff as witches, honey; bring wisky, an' you can hab all de gals on de place."
Hunting around, she found an old gourd and poured into it the composition, and handing it to William, proceeded to give instructions as to its use.
"Jis git Hannah to put some in her wittals, de meat an' bread, a very little; be keerful, not too much, so it don't break the charm; if she gits too much it don't do no good."
"Hurry up, you slow huffs, you Susan, 'fore Sam is plum dead."
It was Aunt Dorah standing in her cabin door, looking after Susan who was making slow progress toward the house, digging her bare toes into the soil, evidently more interested in the height to which she could throw sand with her feet, than in the execution of her errand.
"Hurry up dar, or I'll gib you forty w'en you gits back."
Knowing from experience that Aunt Dorah's threats were frequently carried into execution, the child proceeded on her way to deliver her message, and, discovering her mistress upon the gallery, addressed her:
"Aunt Dorah says, please ma'am, to come down to de quarters wi' de tuffentime, fur de colic's done broke out; Mandy's got de yellow febers, an' Sam's got suffin, an', an' dey all's heavin' up, dey is."
Calls for any other remedy than quinine were seldom heard. Chills and fever were common, and lightly regarded; but other diseases rarely visited Mulberry Grove; hence, this announcement of sickness alarmed Mrs. Ninus, and, as soon as Letitia could procure the bottle of turpentine and the sugar bowl, they went down to the quarters.
Those who may be disposed to consider the lot of this lady with envy, having servants ready to do her bidding, know nothing of the responsibility of her position. Every garment was cut out by her, and made under her supervision. Whenever cases of
sickness occurred, she was called in, and exercised her practical judgment, as a mother with a family. In cases of mechanical injury, her hands bound up the wounds, and directed the treatment. Upon her shoulders rested the care and responsibility of preserving the health of the rising generation of blacks, as well as that of her own husband and children.
After reaching the seat of complaint, and making a diagnosis, Mrs. Ninus decided that the children suffering, had eaten something unwholesome; but the closest examination and cross-examination, threw no light upon the case, until one little bright-eyed boy pulled his mistress' sleeve, and said:
"If you won't let Uncle Bill whip me, I knows, Missis."
Being encouraged, he led the way around the corner of William's cabin, and drew out an old gourd, in which still remained a small quantity of what the child called "lasses."
Taking the gourd, Mrs. Ninus presented the case to Aunt Dorah, and demanded an explanation. The sight of the empty receptacle that had contained her diabolical compound, was doubtless the first intimation Aunt Dorah had as to the cause of the sickness. Her native wit and adroitness were sufficient for the emergency, for she exclaimed:
"O, Miss Liza, I see how 'tis. Bill done fix up some 'lasses, an' grease, an' 'backy, fur de mule's shoulder, whar it's sore, an' de chil'ens done eat it."
"They must have done so," said Mrs. Ninus, "and you tell Bill, hereafter to keep such things away from the children."
Letitia administered the remedy prescribed by her mistress, to each a few drops of turpentine upon a lump of sugar, a dose so palatable, that the number of patients increased till the sugar bowl was empty.
NOTICE had been received at Mulberry Grove, that there would be preaching at a small church about five miles distant. It had been built some years previous under the auspices of the Methodists, who, for a while, had sent an itinerant missionary to monthly appointments; but, whether from the want of a man to carry on the work, or loss of interest on the part of those whose duty it was to attend to the matter, the pulpit had for some months been declared vacant.
Mr. Ninus attributed the failure of the enterprise to the ignorance of the men who had been sent to the work. "One could neither read nor write, and those who could, were as equally incapable of inspiring respect or enlightening the hearers."
However, Miss Lintner, with Elizabeth and Maria Antoinette, decided to avail themselves of a break in the monotony of Sunday life. They rode through the forests, across the swamps, and found the church in a grove of magnolias and live oaks.
A number of carriages and saddle-horses standing in the shade, riding-skirts hanging across the
saddles or fluttering in the wind from pendant boughs, indicated a fair attendance. Young ladies, and half-grown boys and girls, clustered in groups; servants, coachmen and footmen, mostly hatless and shoeless, loitered about the woods or napped upon logs.
Upon entering the church, a few middle-aged people were grouped, talking in loud tones; in a corner sat a female figure in a home-spun, striped cotton gown, and a sun-bonnet, stiffened with paste-board, of such an extent as to preclude all possible view of her face; but from its depths proceeded a voice making quavers and variations to lengthy hymns; an exercise from which the owner must have received great solace.
A few more were added to the audience after Miss Lintner and the girls entered. Hymn succeeded hymn from the solo voice, and the waiting continued till the sun neared its meridian height, when the preacher entered, followed by a small part of the outsiders.
The reverend gentleman advanced to that portion of the edifice allotted to the dispensation of divine truth, placed a small table between himself and the congregation, and retaining his hold upon either end, leaned forward and spoke deliberately, as if he feared one word might tread upon the heels of its predecessor.
"I owe an apology, sisteren and brederen, fur keepin' you a-waitin' here till so late. I came early and thought I would walk through the woods to meditate, ah, and the time passed on, and when I
looked up and seed the sun nigh on to noon, I came right back, ah."
Then retiring to the rest offered by a split-bottom chair, he clasped his hands, closed his eyes and sang a hymn, the audience joining in the chorus.
"It is high noon, an' the Lord's on high,
Let us sing of his glory, as he reigns in the sky,
He did go in the clouds, an' he'll come soon again,
He'll come in the clouds, for to judge us men.
'O Canaan, bright Canaan, I'm bound for
the land of Canaan.
O Canaan, it is my happy home, I am
bound for the land of Canaan.'
"It is high noon, an' the Lord's on high.
He sits on the throne, an' he'll judge you and I,
He sits on the throne, but he'll come down again,
An he'll bring us up in the clouds o' rain.
'O Canaan,' etc.
"It is high noon, an' the Lord's on high,
He sees our sins, an' he'll make us sigh
When he comes in the clouds in the judgment day,
Wi' the angels all in thar bright array.
'O Canaan,' etc.
"It is high noon, an' the Lord's on high,
If sinners don't 'pent, he'll make 'em cry
When he drives 'em down to the fire o' hell,
Whar they will howl, an' they will yell
'O Canaan,' etc."
After a prayer he read the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and selected a text from which to preach; part of the seventeenth verse:
"Top not come down."
This announcement made, he stood with hands
folded behind his back, silent, long enough to scan, through a pair of greenish grey eyes, every individual before him. Then came the sermon; first in slow, measured sentences; but as the discourse progressed, the speaker became wrought up to a high degree of nervous excitement; his ideas were emphasized by vehement gesticulations and pounding upon the table; his words were so rapidly articulated, that there was little chance for breathing, except by means of the involuntary, long-drawn, gasping "ah," which scarce restored his lungs to their normal state, but sufficiently so to enable him to discharge another volley for the benefit of his audience. The close was an incoherent array of imperfect quotations from the scriptures, with the gasping "ah," frequently repeated.
Miss Lintner found a pencil, and paper enough to make an abstract, which is given for the benefit of those who may wish to read it.
"These words, my sistern an' my brederen, are those of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus himself. He was a carpenter, built houses, worked with his own hands. So far as I have read, I have never seed any 'count of his ever owning any servants; although you all know, he lived in the time of slavery, as well as ourselves, in this same latitude, but he never owned to niggers, not as we knows on; and I suppose that was how he come to have a trade. He came down from Heaven to save us sinners; we are all his servants; he owns the whole world and all that is in it. He worked with his own hands to teach us that we need not be ashamed
to work with our own hands, not even if we have great possessions. Some of you masters and mistresses own large tracts of land, and hundreds of servants bought by your money to cultivate your rice and cotton fields. But I say to all such, 'Top not come down'--ah.
"Some of you are not rich in goods, nor lands, nor horses, nor mules, nor servants; you are humble because you are poor; you must not covet the possessions of the rich man; stay right where you are, the humble 'cracker'; for I can tell you, if you undertake to climb out of your sphere, the Lord will say to you, as he did to the proud in the old time. 'Top not come down'--ah.
"Let me say to the sistern that the sin of pride is innervating into your hearts. It is turning your loom work out of the big house and giving it to your niggers, while you must dress yourselves in thinner, finer--yes--good-for-nothinger stuff that the Yankees make. A few years ago, you were satisfied with the work of the hand-loom; now you must buy for yourselves and your children store-goods. A few years ago, every planter had his own shoemaker, who made shoes good enough for his wife and children as well as his niggers; now you, my sistern, must buy store-shoes, made--by whom? made by the Yankees. A few years ago, you were content to stay at home the whole twelve-month; now you must slip off to the North, spend the money earned here on Yankee finery, headgear of flowers, ribbons and lace, instead of sunbonnets which hide the faces of modest mothers
and daughters as well as shelter them from the sun--ah. 'Top not come down'--ah. I hear there is a lady, a Yankee lady, hired to teach hereabouts, employed to teach some of our native born Car'lina children, and I have saw that she wears one of the new-fangled head-gear--ah. 'Top not come down'--ah.
"Don't, my brederen, let the vanity and the notions, and the extravagance, and the folly of the Yankees, find a lodging place among you, or my dear brederen, if you let them get in the wedge right good, they'll give it a lick that'll bust the South all to smash-ah, an' free every nigger in Car'lina-ah. 'Top not come down'-ah.
"Sinners, I say to you right here-ah, an' right now-ah, if you don't get religion right here, and now is salvation offered-ah, you may never have another invite-ah. 'Come ye that thirst-ah; drink of the water of life freely-ah.' 'Top not come down'-ah."
At the close of the sermon, the preacher stumbled back and fell, exhausted, into the chair, groaning and heaving his chest, while tears coursed down the furrows of his sallow and emaciated cheeks.
The sun-bonneted figure in the corner struck up with a trembling, wailing voice, a solo, the preacher and congregation joining in the chorus:
"There is a balm in Gilead,
A sweet fresh balm;
It is good for you, it is good for me,
That sweet, fresh balm."
The hymn was sufficiently long for the excited
preacher to become partially restored, and when the singing ceased, he knelt in prayer.
During the services (or perhaps we had better say, exercises), Grace Lintner sat uneasily upon a puncheon bench, so high that her feet scarcely touched the floor; behind her, preventing an upright position, was a shelf, upon which lay a few hymn books, covered with dust, stumps of pine boughs and bunches of sedge-grass, that had been used as substitutes for brooms.
In this uncomfortable seat, a realizing sense of the present came up in vivid contrast with the recollection of the past.
The building in which she sat, with its rude furniture and bad arrangement, was compared with the grand old church at home, its high arches and beautiful stained windows, its comfortable pews and handsome appointments.
She heard the uncertain, wavering voice of the sun-bonneted sister in the corner, and remembered the music of the organ as it pealed forth an accompaniment to the voice of the congregation, joining in the invitation, "O, come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation." Before her was the lank form of the preacher, his sallow skin and sunken eyes indicating the ravages of chills and premature old age. His garments gave evidence that the hand-loom had been used in their manufacture, as well as the shears of an unprofessional tailor, and, perhaps, before his figure had attained its present attenuated proportions. From vehement gesticulations, and
habitually thrusting his fingers through his long, thin locks that hung in tangled masses about his ears and coat collar, she thought of the noble face of her dear old rector, clad in white, administering at the altar; and while jotting down notes of the sermon, as she had been accustomed to do at home, the charmed veil that had hitherto gilded imagination, and lent to it the colors of the rainbow, dropped at her feet; gathering it up, she threw it back over the past, and from that moment a longing for home crept into her heart, growing stronger with each coming day.
At the dinner table, the preaching was the topic of conversation.
Mr. Ninus remarked: "There is intelligence enough within the neighborhood of the church to maintain, at least, the monthly services of an educated man. As it is, we have abandoned the habit of attending. I have frequently encountered the man you heard to-day. He is conscientious, and practices what he preaches; but he is extremely ignorant, and so radical in his political views that he will never use an article of Northern manufacture in his family. It was said that a nail keg, in which some goods had been shipped from Savannah, came under his condemnation; he caused it to be removed some distance from his house, and destroyed by fire. Pardon me, Miss Lintner, if I say that the old gentleman's views are right in the main, if he would follow the precepts of St. Paul in regard to courtesy and liberality, instead of the warp of prejudice and selfishness. Our simple
habits and plain dress allow more time and money for books, while the extra cost involved in an ostentatious style of living may be put to better uses. I have been led to infer that the laboring class in the North, and the subordinates in mercantile houses, exert themselves to make as good an appearance as those possessed of ample incomes; the result of which is that they seldom accumulate sufficient means to engage in business of their own, or even to provide against sickness, or reverses in finances, which so frequently overthrow large establishments upon which they depend for employment and support."
MULBERRY GROVE was situated midway between sea breezes on the southeast and ranges of hills to the northwest, in the tract of low-land well known as productive of rice and cotton. From the soil of this region emanated malarial gases, vitiating air and water; under their influences vegetable and the lower order of animal life flourished, while the human race shook with ague or burned with fever.
Aided by summer heat and daily showers, these influences were developed to such an extent that all who could, sought more healthful locations for part of the year, and left those who remained to suffer till the frosts of winter should come to their relief.
Flies were everywhere from dawn till dark, out of doors and in doors, buzzing in the sunlight or crawling in the shade. Every person habitually carried a fan or fresh bough, and kept it in constant motion. If tired human nature demanded rest, or it became imperative to use the hands for other work, the fan or bough was given to a servant.
When food was brought from the cook's premises and placed upon the table, swarms of gnats were seen coming from the woods to obtain possession. Perseverance on the part of servants with bushes could banish flies to some extent, but gnats could only be driven away by creating a smoke, and it was frequently necessary to remove dishes of food, in which myriads had fallen victims to their own rapacity.
Fleas hopped from every grain of sand; ticks and chigoes populated every blade of grass, every shrub or tree, ready to leap upon the unfortunate wayfarer.
At night the air seemed alive with mosquitoes, piping their shrill voices in a discordant lullaby to all who desired sleep. If some of them were expelled from the house by smoke, enough remained, refusing to be driven from the field, to display their powers in defying the ingenuity of man. A broken thread or a loose fold in the netting did not escape their vigilant search for ingress to the sleeper, who considered himself fortified against their blood-thirsty attacks. As morning dawned, countless numbers lodged upon the ceilings, there to lie in wait for another night's depredations.
There were dragon-flies, beetles and gaily decked butterflies. Insect life was busy carrying out the decree of nature, "be fruitful and multiply," while snakes and lizards, not a few, crawled and darted about in quest of food according to their instinct.
Morning dawned, terminating a restless night;
the air was sultry, giving promise of an oppressive day. Grace Lintner listlessly proceeded with her toilet, when Letitia was first to break the silence: "I wish I had my pistol."
"And what would you do with a pistol, Letitia?" said Miss Lintner, looking about as if expecting to encounter an enemy of more venemous nature than had hitherto assailed them. "Would you shoot snakes, or do you mediate a serious attack upon any one, or are you afraid of losing your skill in firing at a mark?"
"I do not want to injure myself, nor any one else, but I do wish to frighten William out of annoying me as he does. I reached into the corn-house last evening to get a few ears of corn for Bowers, and was startled by a snake, which was partially hidden under the corn, but upon examination I found it to be a skin, stuffed. It was probably placed there by William--one of Aunt Dorah's charms. There will be no limit to my persecutions; all the servants hold the old creature in great veneration, having implicit faith in her power, and it is plain that William is courting her aid; and, now that the master favors his suit, I am helpless.
"You are my only friend; tell me, O, tell me, what I can do to thwart him!"
"To thwart him?" repeated Miss Lintner. "I would be sorry to feel unable, by some means, to thwart such a low wretch as William. I can not tell you what to do, either. I am free to will and to do; if harm follows, I am as free to go. A
Yankee who can not claim some ingenuity in an emergency, would discredit the reputation of his people. The negroes are superstitious, and we can best attack them upon this point, and with their own weapons circumvent old Aunt Dorah's mischief. I have a project in view, which may, or may not, prove successful. Time will show."
Night came slowly on. When all was quiet, and the murmur of voices from house and kitchen hushed, Grace Lintner slipped quietly into the library, lifted the cover of a box, drew out a skeleton, and carrying it into her room, laid it upon the floor. The rattling bones aroused Letitia, who started up, exclaiming:
"O, Miss Grace, what are you doing?"
"Never you mind what I am doing; lie down and go to sleep;" a command that the girl did not seem disposed to obey, but silently sat watching the young lady, who raised the skeleton, by a ring riveted in the top of the skull, to a perpendicular, and found that she was not tall enough, in this way, to prevent the feet from dragging on the floor. "Since you are awake, help me to contrive how I can carry this so that it may just touch the ground, without tiring my arms."
Stepping into the library, Letitia brought out a gold-headed cane, valued highly by Mr. Ninus, having been cut by a friend, from a wild orange tree in Florida. Placing the head within the skull, and securing it at the neck with a string, the skeleton could be raised and carried at any desired height.
Letitia shuddered as she assisted in the arrangement, by the light of the moon, which shone full, through the open window, penetrating the ghastly skeleton, and reflecting a bright light upon the white clad figure behind.
"Mother used to say that beauty was only skin deep, but I never before realized that the bones could be so fearfully repulsive," said Letitia.
"Repulsiveness is not necessarily combined with fear," said Miss Lintner. "When bones are endowed with life, muscular strength, and the promptings of a bad heart, we have cause to fear what they may do; but this poor, lifeless framework can do no harm, and may serve a good purpose." Seeing Letitia preparing to accompany her, Miss Lintner added: "You can not go. I did not propose to involve you in the least; it is my project, and there is no necessity for you to take a part."
Lowering the skeleton as much as possible, and enveloping it, as well as her own figure, in a large, dark traveling shawl, she lightly crossed the gallery and went down the steps into the yard. Then, following a course where the shadows favored concealment, she proceeded along past the store house and kitchen, by the fence, to the fodder house and stables, then again along the fence toward the negro quarters.
The sultry heat of the day had not abated after sunset. The servants had left open their cabin doors, and out of most of them was still issuing a blue smoke from the smudges, that had been made to expel mosquitoes. No sounds proceeded from
within, except sonorous breathings of the sleepers. Outside, the melancholy night-birds repeated their monotonous calls, and mocking birds warbled in the moonlight.
Before Aunt Dorah's cabin, sat two figures near the embers of a light-wood fire.
The old negress was leaning her elbows upon her knees, still puffing at an exhausted cob pipe.
"Dat ar' charm'll fotch de gal, Billy, sho;" the individual addressed did not appear to observe the remark, but was looking intently across the lot.
"Mammy look ober dar, by de corn crib--dar it go; to de fence."
"W'at you sees, boy?" said Aunt Dorah, looking in the direction indicated. "Nuffin dar."
"Dar was somefin, I seed 'em went ober to de fence, fum de corn crib,--must be a spook."
"Reckon was a wil' cat," said Aunt Dorah, as her aged eyes, in vain endeavored to penetrate the distance.
"Dat ar's a pa'arful high wil' cat," returned William; "wonder whar at he's went."
The native element of superstition, and fear of supernatural appearances, was fully aroused in the minds of both, and when a voice was heard from a ghostly apparition, standing within a few feet of them, they were transfixed with terror and did not attempt flight.
"Dorah and William, I command you by the power within me, to leave off persecutions, charms, and conjurations in behalf of Letitia. Dare either
of you to lay a hand to injure her in any way, and the curse of heaven will fall upon you."
The apparition disappeared, and, a few minutes later, Miss Lintner entered her room, and having replaced the cane and skeleton, retired to rest.
As the summer advanced, one after another yielded to the sway of malarial poison; members of the white family and black, alike suffered.
Letitia continued in usual health, and found employment in taking care of the sufferers, dealing out quinine and turpentine in liberal doses, according to directions. Her self-possession, her sympathetic heart, her experience in happier days as nurse for those nearer and dearer, aided by a strong constitution, rendered her capable of the duty. Her hands spread the plaster, prepared the bitter dose, or smoothed a disordered pillow, while words of comfort and encouragement were so aptly and cheeringly spoken, that she forgot herself, and was ennobled in the estimation of mistress as well as fellow-servants. All grew to respect and appreciate, looking to her for counsel and advice, as well as for care. Night after night it was her duty to visit the quarters and lock each cabin, to prevent the inmates from exposing themselves to night vapors, and each morning it devolved upon her to release them. Alone she passed, but no attempt at molestation disturbed her by night or day. While working to relieve the pain of others, she forgot the bondage of slavery, and came out through the ordeal with a heart purified and strengthened.
The day came when she, too, yielded to the subtle
fever which burned in her veins and stopped her work. Then it was the teacher's turn to repay the careful nursing she had herself received, till the time arrived when she was able to return to her northern home, with the incidents and scenes of the past few months indelibly impressed upon the page of memory.
Under escort of the overseer, who was to see her safe as far as Savannah, Miss Lintner bade farewell to Mulberry Grove.
Reader, have you ever sat under the broiling heat of a semi-tropical sun, scarce softened by the shade of a tree, contending with insects, watching for the smoke of an expected steamboat? Have you waited from dawn till dark, day after day; each night seeking rest at the nearest house, where you can scarcely breathe without inhaling mosquitoes? If not, words can not express the weariness of the ordeal. At a season of the year when the river is shallow, and but few of the smallest boats venture to carry by daylight loads over the sandbars, waiting for one of them is no pleasant pastime. There may be one or two in a week, leaving port at any indefinite time, that is, when they have obtained a cargo. Two may pass the landing at about the same time; or, if delayed on sandbars, several days may intervene. For aught the traveler knows, a boat may have passed just before he came in view.
Speculation is vain; and the only wise course for a man to pursue is to submit to the inevitable, leave his baggage upon the landing, and, with the
perspiration oozing from every pore, fan away insects, and watch for a smoke curling above the tree-tops around the bend.
Three times had the scorching rays of a midday sun rolled over the heads of the would-be travelers, when a cloud not larger than a man's hand was discovered in the distance. It might be from a camp-fire and it might be from a steamboat. Hope brightened as the smoke traced its way along the course of the river, and, in time, the smallest specimen of a flat-bottomed, stern-wheel steamboat came in sight, recognized the signal and made its way, with difficulty, to the landing.
Leaving Miss Lintner embarked, we will carry our readers to another scene of action.
WHEN Esquire Munser was informed of the escape of the prisoner, his heart quaked lest the same far-sighted, obstinate determination in the accomplishment of a desired end which had characterized Capt. Templeton, and made him so successful in business, might be inherited by his son, and render him a formidable enemy. He lost no time, therefore, in repairing to the tavern, where he made an excited speech to the assembled crowd of disappointed fox-hunters, taking care not to identify the prisoner as an individual in whom he had personal interest, but denouncing him as "a horse and nigger stealer," whose capture was essential to the preservation of law and order in the state of Virginia, and volunteering to head a party in pursuit.
At daylight Oscar Templeton and his faithful aid found themselves upon the bank of the James river. Turning the horses loose to retrace their steps homeward at leisure, they awaited the coming of a steamboat, whose smoke could be seen above the tree-tops as she came steaming down on
her way to Norfolk. Madison gave way to an outburst of exuberance, turning somersaults upon the grass, and displaying his ivories with uproarious glee.
"O, Lord, Maus Osca', wont ole Maus, an' all on 'em, be sw'arin' mad, w'en dey finds de fox all dar in de box, an' nobody in de jail, an' dis nigger done gone? O, Lord! I hears 'em jes now, a cussin', an' a sw'arin', an' a huntin' all ober; an' w'en dey finds all two de hosses done gone, won't dey t'ar 'roun? 'F dey jes cotch me, dey jes 'bout as well kill me plum dead. Wish dat ar boat'd hurry 'long. Is you got money 'nough to pay fur me too, sah? I'll go 'long wid you whar you's gwine."
Oscar paced the bank impatiently, watching the steamboat as she made toward the landing.
"After having served me so good a turn, I will not forsake you. You can not safely return, so must go with me. But you say the fox had not escaped. How then, did you manage to get the dogs on the track?"
"Yes, Maus Osca', I'll tell you jes how I fixed it, sah. I's stan'in' by de fox box, thinkin' as how I'd get a burry under de jail, 'cause I done seed a big rat 'ole dar 'fore, an' I knowed if I had all dem 'ar houn's scratchin', dey'd make de dirt fly. So de fox, he put 'is tail out de crack, dat mindered me to cut it off, an' make de track w'en dey all went to supper. 'F I'd had all dat diggin' to do, I don't reckon it had been done 'fore day."
"I see, it was one of your labor-saving tricks,
put to a good account, for once. Here we are, Madison, come aboard; we are now beyond pursuit."
Mr. Templeton procured passage for himself and servant, arriving at Norfolk without further trouble.
Here investigation, based upon what information Madison had obtained from his fellow servants, elicited a confirmation of his statement, that Letitia and Joe had been shipped for some unknown port.
Feeling the embarrassment of the charge of Madison, and want of means to continue the search, he secured passage on a sloop about to sail for New York.
During his absence, no news had been received from Connecticut, and when he entered the dwelling where the cheering heart and helping hand of his sister had done so much to aid him, instead of a greeting, came the sad intelligence of her illness and death. Mr. Blue offered a sad welcome, but, without sister Mary, he chafed to receive hospitality from one who was absorbed in business and his own personal loss.
With Madison the case differed. Free from work or care, he lived once more in the happiness of childhood with his young master. The responsibility of self-ownership had never once occurred to him. Trivial services that were asked of him at Mr. Blue's were willingly performed, but the thought of to-morrow, or necessity of maintaining himself, had not disturbed the serenity of his mind.
Having allowed some days to pass, that the boy might be able to use his own observation in the new surroundings, Mr. Templeton concluded it was time to place him upon a proper footing.
"Madison, this is a free state."
"So I hearn tell, sah; but you jes tell me whar at de free part is, den I'll know what dat means, sah."
"I mean that here all the blacks are free, just as the white people."
"Don't say so! Dey all's no 'count, is dey? Free niggers neber is," expressing the impression he had received in Virginia.
"They would be, I suppose, of little account if they were like the few, lazy, free blacks near the old plantation; but you will find, here and there, some who are quite well educated, and as able to take care of themselves as white people. They all have their own time, earn their own money, and use it as they please."
Madison gave a long, sharp whistle, as if such a statement were incredible. "Now Maus Oscar, you jes know dat's one o' yer little boy jokes; you don't reckon all dese yer niggers gets der own time, ebery day han' runnin', does yer?"
Seeing two of the individuals under discussion across the lot, on their way to a factory beyond, Madison called them for a corroboration of the statement which was so hard to be believed. "Halloo, you uns, where at yer gwine?"
Scarcely slacking their gait, one replied: "What
do you want? We are going to work in the factory."
"I jes wants to know 'f you all's free an' hab yer own time?"
"Of course, we are free," was the response, "and earn a support for our families; but we have no time to talk to a contraband like you are."
"I want you to understand, Madison," resumed Mr. Templeton, "that you do not belong to me; you are your own master, and must find some employment, by which you can earn your living. I feel under great obligations to you for restoring me to liberty; and your own freedom, obtained by your coming with me to a free state, was without preconcerted intention on my part; purely an accident resulting from circumstances; or, as mother would have said, providentially you are free. I will aid you as far as lies in my power; but I am poor, and must work for my own support as well as you. It is as new to me as to you, my boy; each of us must be his own master to plan, and his own servant to do. Think over what business you know most about, or would like to follow, and get employment in it."
Mr. Templeton then left him to his own reflections, knowing that he would thus better study over the problem, for the first time presented for his solution.
Born a slave, without a care for food or clothing, or an aspiration higher than a large allowance of meat and bread, with an occasional levy's worth of tobacco, he had been contented with his lot,
performing the smallest possible amount of labor for the landlord to whom he had been hired, since the new master, Mr. Hunt Templeton, had taken possession of Temple Vale. Yet, with the laziness and stupidity, which had been ascribed as chief traits of his character while there employed, his fondness for horses, and faithfulness in supplying their necessities, had rendered him invaluable, and covered a multitude of other shortcomings.
It is probable that words had never made a greater impression upon his mind than those just spoken. Strolling across the lot, he sat upon a rock and reasoned with himself.
"Your own master to plan, and your own servant to do; Maus Oscar says so, an' he knows; he's pa-arful smart, allus wus, an' he's larnt a heap sense. I, Madison, is a free nigger, an' free niggers is some 'count, cause dey's all free yere; Maus Oscar knows, an' he's pa-arful smart, allus wus. Dat's one thing I's done foun' out. Maus Oscar says, 'Think up wa't I knows best, an' work at it, for I's got ter make my own libin'.' Dat's nudder thing I's done foun' out. I knows hosses an' nuffin else. Maus Hunt, he said so, an' dat's how I's hired to de tabern, an' dat's how I got ter see Maus Oscar, and how I got ter be free. Yes, sah, hosses is all right, an' I'll tell Maus Oscar hire me to de tabern yere, an' he may hab de money."
So powerful is force of habit over an untutored mind, that the glimmering light of the truth breaks in gradually, the main point to be arrived at, grasped; while the old ways and means by which
the end may be accomplished, are still clung to with tenacity. Had he not still felt that he could lean upon his young master for aid and guidance, Madison would have been as much the object of pity as thousands of those who were liberated at a later day, and left to rise or fall in their own helplessness.
Springing, with the agility of an acrobat, from the rock where he had been sitting, he ran toward the palings, cleared them with a leap, and found himself in the road. Stopping abruptly, he looked first one way, then the other:
"Whar at wus dat ar' tabern, I seed? Dar it is, down dis way; won't Maus Cscar be s'prised ef Madison's done hired hisself out? I'll do it, sure."
Pursuing his course in the direction where he remembered having seen a livery stable, he reached it, and stood surveying the premises, till he discovered a man engaged in sweeping. Removing his hat, he bowed. The man nodded a hasty "Good morning," without stopping his work; but, perceiving that his visitor remained, with uncovered head, he added, "Can I do anything for you, this morning?"
"Yes, sah; please sah, I can do something for you, sah. I can sweep out de stable, sah," laying his hat down in a corner, and taking the broom. "I can't see a w'ite gentleman workin' 'round, doin' de nigger work, sah."
The man seemed amused at his visitor, relinquished the broom, and kept him at work the remainder of the day; and before evening contracted
to give him employment permanently, should he continue to do so well.
At the expiration of a week, the payment for his labor was an important event in his new life. Of so much money he had never before been the possessor. With childish delight, he carried it to Mr. Templeton.
"Here's your money, Maus Oscar; two big dollars, an' a little un."
"I see, Madison, you have done credit to yourself. This little one, as you call it, is half a dollar, equal to four bits. It is all your's, enough to buy you a pair of good shoes which you need badly. Since you have shown that you are able to hire yourself out, and have earned the money, let me see if you are able to buy a pair of shoes. Then I must teach you one more lesson: do not call me Maus Oscar, but Mr. Templeton."
Madison shook his head, as if that were a difficult step to take. "I don't know if I can, dat's a big word, sah, Mr. Templeton; but Maus Oscar comes a heap easier."
"Think about it and buy your shoes now."
UPON the approach of winter, we find Oscar Templeton engaged at book-keeping in the factory of his brother-in-law, while Madison continued in the same employment where he made his first strike at self-support. He is also engaged in learning to read, occupying his leisure moments in study; and but few evenings pass when he does not present himself to his former master for instruction.
Having entered Mr. Templeton's room at the usual hour one evening, he made an unexpected announcement.
"O, Maus Oscar" (you said I might say Maus Oscar, w'en we's in yer, all by ourselves), "w'at I'se gwine say, I'se got de track o' Miss 'Titia."
"Track of Miss 'Titia!" repeated Mr. Templeton in astonishment.
"Yes, sah; our Miss 'Titia; I jes' knows it; you listen now. We got out all de teams, las' night, for a big sleigh ride; all de horses and sleighs we could skeer up, an' den dey all piled in (I mean de gentlemen an' ladies), 'til we couldn't tote no mo'. An' de boss, he sent me 'long fur to drive. We all
went clean to Waterbury an' back. 'Twas pa'arful cold; colder 'n ole Wirginny; an' dey all, de ladies an' de gentlemen, sung a heap o' nice songs, till dey dun know no mo'."
"But what has all that to do with the track of Miss 'Titia?" inquired Mr. Templeton impatiently.
"You jes listin, till I tells yer all 'bout it. Whar at did I leave off? O, we got to Waterbury, an' de gentlemen an' ladies, dey all stop at de tabern, an' go in, an' eat dar suppers, till de hosses rest, den dey all gets in an' comes back. Dey gets tired o' singin' an' so dey tells tales. You listin, Maus Oscar: dar's one young lady as telled all 'bout down Souf. She went dar las' winter, an' our Miss 'Titia's dar. She done seed 'er."
"Why do you think it is our Miss 'Titia?"
"She said, the young lady said, as 'Titia (she didn't say Miss 'Titia) had blue eyes an' yeller ha'r, an' fair complected, an' was raised in Wirginny."
"Madison, you must have dreamed that."
"No, sah; it was nary dream. Not much sleepin' nor dreamin' wi' dem skeery hosses. I done heard it wid my two ears, an' seed de young lady wid my two eyes, an' ye can ax de gentlemen an' ladies, fur dey heard it wid dar two ears, an' seed her wid dar two eyes. No, sir; it's no dream, it's sure 'nough."
"Who was the young lady?"
"Dun know, sah."
"Who hired the sleigh?"
"Dun know, sah; ax de boss, he knows."
Mr. Templeton drew on his overcoat and prepared to make a call upon the proprietor of the stable. Not that he felt the same confidence expressed by Madison, but the possibility of tracing his sister through an unexpected source, was sufficient to cause him to look up any clew, however vague. He learned the names of the parties hiring teams for the occasion referred to, and after making inquiries from one person and another, was directed to the residence of Miss Grace Lintner.
An interview with that lady satisfied him that Madison's surmises were correct. Mr. Blue and Dr. Templeton, having been informed of the evidence, made such arrangements as should enable Oscar to recover the sister by purchasing her freedom, in case she should be found.
As soon as the subject was agitated, Madison considered himself as much interested, and entitled to take a part, as any one else; laying aside his earnings.
The evening previous to Mr. Templeton's departure to the South, the faithful servant brought his hoard and placed it in the hand of his former master, saying, "Dar's nine dollars, an' a half a dollar, an' two bits."
Mr. Templeton did not understand his motive, but, supposing he intended giving it into his care for temporary safe keeping, said:
"You had better let some one else keep it for
you during my absence, you may need it before I return."
"Keep it, sah; it is to help pay for Miss 'Titia, sah; she's so good, de young lady said so, an' dey all found it out down dar; it'll take a heap o' money to buy her; keep it sah, an' tell 'er Madison didn't forget 'is missus."
When Mr. Templeton arrived at Mulberry Grove, all signs of malaria had been dissipated by the winter frost, and nature once more appeared in her most attractive mood.
A letter of introduction from Miss Lintner was the precedent of a warm reception; but, when informed that it was the desire of the visitor to purchase one of the servants, Mr. Ninus withdrew his cordiality, and, with the dignity he could well assume, assured his guest that he had none for sale.
Mr. Templeton had flattered himself that he could avoid revealing their family secret; but, perceiving that a frank explanation would be the only course to pursue, he gave a brief sketch of their history, presented credentials in proof of his statements, and explained his object in restoring his sister to the freedom in which she had been educated.
This had the desired effect of softening Mr. Ninus in manner; and, while he commended Mr. Templeton for endeavoring to recover his sister, said: "There must be evidence to prove the identity of the girl. I will send for Letitia, and should
she recognize you, and tell the same story as yourself, I shall be satisfied."
Letitia, in answer to the summons, presented herself to the master, scarce glancing toward the visitor, who was sitting near on the gallery.
"Letitia, do you know that gentleman?" asked Mr. Ninus.
Looking up, her eyes met those of Mr. Templeton. Her hands clasped, for a moment she stood transfixed, then rushing forward she was in his embrace, her hands nestling around his neck. "Brother Oscar!" "Little sister!" while tears of joy expressed more than words.
Adrift on the tumultuous sea, tossed by its rolling waves, drifting farther and farther from shore, hope had almost died out with the ebbing tide, when a firm rock was trodden upon, and a strong arm held out for support. With the tenacity of a drowning person she clung to her brother, and, as soon as she could speak, her words were, "Take me home."
"Letitia, come and tell your history," said Mr. Ninus. "Who were your parents, and where were you raised?"
The evidence of the brother having been proven by her account, Mr. Ninus turned to Mr. Templeton and said, "I acknowledge the priority of your claim, sir. During the time your sister has been here, she has more than earned her freedom--were I to regard it in a pecuniary light--in serving faithfully, those who were sick during the summer and fall; yet for the same reason we shall feel the loss.
It will afford me pleasure to sign my name to her emancipation, and rejoice with you in her restoration to family ties, and I know that her duty will be done in any sphere in which she may be placed."
In a few days the family of Mr. Ninus accompanied Mr. Templeton and his sister to the river. Mrs. Ninus pressed upon Letitia a well-filled purse, saying, "Buy something that you can always keep as a souvenir."
At Savannah her striped cotton dress was replaced by a neat traveling suit; a new trunk was bought, and filled with such articles as would be required on her voyage to New York.
With the gift of Mrs. Ninus, she purchased an elegant watch and chain. Said Letitia: "Gold will not rust, and is a suitable emblem of friendship; may time teach me to so number my days, that they may be devoted to wisdom."
Upon their arrival in N--, they were met by Dr. Templeton, who had found time to leave his practice and participate in a reunion, prepared by Mr. Blue, at his residence, which was hereafter to be recognized as headquarters for the Templetons; Madison taking part upon the happy occasion as waiter.
"No use habin' outsiders 'round, Mr. Blue; you's to de head, Maus Jeems, Maus Oscar, an' Miss 'Titia comes in fur special jubilants, an' I's de on'y darkey as represents dar faumer quality, sah, in Wirginny."
After supper, Dr. Templeton rose and addressed Madison, in behalf of the family: "We wish to
acknowledge our gratitude for the services you have rendered; first, in delivering one of our number from imprisonment, while under a false accusation; and second, for your vigilance in discovering the clue leading to the recovery of our sister; neither do we overlook the general interest you manifest toward us, and the efforts you have made in your own advancement in self-support. Accept this, a substantial silver watch, and let its constant ticking tell you that the Templeton heart beats warmly toward you."
Madison was overcome by the unexpected gift, and stood holding it in mute admiration.
"Don't you wish you were out of doors, where you could turn somersaults?" said Oscar.
Madison placed the watch in his pocket, drew himself erect, and said: "Maus Jeems, I can't make a speech, 'cause I's jes learnin' the right words to talk wid. If I say 'Thank you,' it's too small. I neber speck to be so happy again, 'out I's back on de ole plantation, an' Miss 'Titia de missus once more."
Mr. Templeton was so proud to introduce the beautiful girl, who accompanied him to public gatherings, as "My sister," that it called forth the remark: "One would think she was a sweetheart, they are so devoted to each other." Mr. Blue also appreciated the grace with which she presided over his household affairs, a position that had, for two years, been vacant. Her spare time she devoted to the practice of music, and to reading up the current literature of the day.
The spring and summer had passed, when the following item in the daily paper of N--, attracted her attention:
"If heirs of the late Capt. James Templeton, of--Co[.], Virginia, will address J. Bruner, Attorney-at-Law, G--,--Co., Virginia, valuable information may be obtained."
In reply to inquiries by letter, Mr. Bruner wrote that he had "succeeded to the practice and business of Esquire Munser, deceased, and had found, in looking over papers left by him, some that would be of great value to Letitia, daughter of James Templeton."
Acknowledging the superior judgment of his brother-in-law, and his familiarity with business matters, Mr. Templeton prevailed on Mr. Blue to go to Virginia with Letitia.
A fortnight after the receipt of Mr. Bruner's letter, they presented themselves at his office, and solicited information.
After some conversation, he brought out documents legally signed and sealed, whereby James Templeton emancipated his daughter, Letitia, from slavery; a deed, in which he conveyed to the same, the estate described and known as Temple Vale; together with all slaves owned by him at the time of his decease.
Mr. Bruner stated that he had made a special study of the memoranda of the late Esquire Munser, and found the date of the signatures to coincide with that of Capt. Templeton's decease, and from what he could gather by indirect inquiry, the signatures
had been made the morning of the day upon which Captain Templeton had died.
"They have not been recorded," said Mr. Bruner, "for reasons best known to Mr. Hunt Templeton, and to my predecessor. I did not send that advertisement to your town until I had fully investigated the case, and there is evidence enough to convict the present occupant of Temple Vale of obtaining possession by artifice."
Turning to a memorandum book of Esquire Munser, there was an item under a date, two years prior to the death of Capt. Templeton, "Executed will for Capt. Templeton." Then taking down a ledger he showed them, charged on the corresponding date, to the accountof James Templeton, "For will, $--." "You can see," said Mr. Bruner, "there was a will, but it is not on these premises. I have searched thoroughly; it must have been either destroyed, or probably taken by Capt. Templeton and put away by him. Have you no knowledge of it, Miss Letitia?"
"No, sir," replied Letitia. "Father seldom communicated details of his business to me. I do remember his mentioning that he had made provision for all of us, but he did not say in what way, except that he always referred to Temple Vale as if it belonged to me."
Mr. Blue advised Letitia to leave the case in the hands of Mr. Bruner, and recover her just rights by litigation.
Letitia was anxious, before returning to Connecticut, to revisit the scenes of her childhood. In
order to gratify her, Mr. Blue secured at the tavern a pair of riding horses; and, with the anticipation of being once more at her old home--her's in right, and in deed--she prepared for the ride. Attired in a closely fitting habit of navy-blue, and cap of the same color, encircled by a heavy ostrich plume, from beneath which a few golden curls, refusing restraint, toyed with the breeze, Letitia Templeton with one foot scarcely pressed the hand of her brother-in-law as she sprang into the saddle; then adjusting the folds of her skirt upon the sorrel horse, she sat a moment while Mr. Blue prepared to accompany her. In reply to an inquiry of the landlord as to their being able to find the way, Letitia, with sparkling eyes, smilingly replied:
"Thank you, Mr. Carter, I will be pilot."
After they had gone beyond hearing, the land-lord, looking up to those who were sitting upon the porch, exclaimed: "Say, gentlemen, that's the captain's geeurl. I'd like to know where she hails from and what is her business in these parts."
The gentlemen addressed had been quite as much occupied in observing the strangers as in their game of backgammon, and continued to watch the couple till they disappeared at a turn in the road.
"I thought," resumed the landlord, "her face looked familiar like. The names on the book, 'Lawrence Blue and sister,' threw me off the track, and, till she spoke, I never knowed her."
"She is handsome, though," said one of the
spectators. "Did you see her foot? I'll pay for drinks, if she wears a number one."
"Stake your wager," said the landlord; "Herkimer, go across and get a one, to see if it fits the print."
The space in front of the tavern having been recently swept with a brush-broom, it was easy to find distinct impressions of footprints in the sand. The gentlemen clustered around and examined the ground.
"Here's one, fair and square--heel and toe. Hand on the shoe, Herkimer."
"Hold, that's no way to do!" said another. "Here's a rule. Now we'll measure the footprint," placing a rule against the impression and marking its length. "Now for the shoe--you can't fool me on the number of a girl's shoe."
"I'm dogoned if it ain't just the size," exclaimed the landlord, as the heads came together over the measurement. "Come gentlemen, walk in, and we'll indulge at Bob's expense."
"O, Dinah! did you see a lady an' a genleman, ridin' 'long down de ab'nue, pa'arful slow, lookin' 'round on de place, 'bout two hours by sun?"
Dinah was busily occupied dropping corn dodgers on an oven pan, and scarce noticed the question of Terence, who had just come in from the field, and stood in the kitchen doorway, obstructing the entrance with his great soil-stained hands either side of the casing.
"O, Dinah! does yer hear?"
"You hush! Reckon I has time be lookin' out de kitchen, see who goes by?" shoving the pan full of dodgers into the oven and shutting the door with a slam, "I don't get to poke my nose out o' dis kitchen all day, nor ter look down de road (de ab'nue as you calls it), eben o' Sunday. Git out de pa'f, till I tote in a bucket o' water. Here's ebery boy an' girl on de place big enough to tote water, out in de backy or corn field."
Terence held his position without a move to accede to the request.
"You jes' hol' you hosses now, Aunt Dinah, till I s'prise you; drop down your lef' year."
Whether from a desire to expedite procuring the water, or from curiosity, she compromised her dignity by inclining her head, as if ready to hear what Terence had to communicate.
"Dat ar' young lady as rode by, as I's tellin', was our Miss 'Titia."
Had the earth opened at her feet, she would not have been more astonished. The bucket fell from her hands; and she stumbled back into a chair.
Terence seated himself upon the sill and continued: "I ain't a foolin', Aunt Dinah, dat war Miss Letitia, sartin an' sure; I don't forgit in three Christmases. S'pose I disremember dat yaller har o' 'hern, how it allus fell out de fixin's we'n she rode hossback, an' dropped down 'er back long an' curly-like?"
"Don't talk 'bout Miss 'Titia's ha'r, boy; didn't I comb an' brush it 'round my fingers w'en she wa'nt bigger'n my Becky thar, an' w'en she growed up to a young lady? Jes think 'f 'er ma had a knowed when she died, what would come to dis plantation. It don't do no good grievin'," stopping to wipe the tears with her apron, "I've grieved, an' grieved, 'till I'm hardened to it, an' dar 'aint no use grievin' no mo'."
"What I's gwine say, Aunt Dinah, I was a settin' under de fence, pickin a thorn outen my foot, w'en I seed 'em come 'long; so I keeps still like, an' w'en dey gets 'long side, dey didn't see me. Miss 'Titia spoke 'bout de quarters, how dey's changed, an' de house, too. An' I know'd 'er voice."
"Wish 'twas me; wouldn't a cotch me hidin'
under a fence like a runaway. I'd a spoken, said 'howdy,' an' axed 'er whar Joe is at."
"Aunt Dinah, I don't reckon I's quite as old as you is, but I's learned one thing, ter keep my jaw shet, an' I 'vise you to do the same 'striction to you'rn, sometimes."
"O, Lord!" said Dinah, with a long-drawn sigh, "I knowed dis mornin' sumfin's gwine ter happen. Dat minders me as how de rooster flew up top de gate an' crowed three times; dat's a sure sign. Ef I'd only dropped my dish rag, she'd a come in. Poor honey; I can't blame 'er for not comin' to see Aunt Dinah. Missus was allus so tender on 'er, an' Maus Jeems too. It went pa'aful hard to see er tuck off, and my Joe, too, by dat willin. Dear me, I must fill de tea-kettle, an' kill de chickens ter fry. Dar comes de han's, dodgers mos done; jes haf soak a little yet--go 'way, boy, I 'aint got no mo' time be foolin 'round dis time o' day."
The field hands came in and partook of their usual evening meal, corn dodgers and buttermilk, or clabber, while Dinah was occupied preparing supper for the house.
Nora, her oldest child, who had been at work in the field all day, was sent in to set the table.
The biscuits were made by Mrs. Templeton, in the dining room, counted, and sent into the kitchen to be baked. Correct returns were exacted from the waiters, in default of which, trouble was sure to ensue.
"Twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two and two's
twenty-four, and two's twenty-six, and one more is twenty-seven--and where is it?" fiercely inquired the mistress, as she took a plate of biscuits from the hands of the slender girl, Nora, who might be twelve years of age. "Bring in that other biscuit, this minute, or I'll give you forty."
With a frightened look, the child retraced her steps to the kitchen, and Mrs. Templeton gave attention to her family, surrounding the table, asserting her intention "to break up lying and stealing among every last one," meaning, not her own children, but the servants. The meal was concluded before Nora reappeared, coming up the steps of the porch without the article demanded; here she was faced by the angry mistress.
"You stole that biscuit, I know you did."
"I bringed 'em all in, Miss Susan," said the child, timidly.
"Yes, you did, did you? I'll teach you lying is lying, and stealing is stealing; go and bring that cowhide, I say."
Mrs. Templeton always kept such an article on hand, not for intimidation, as may have been the case with some, who had less physical strength, or more delicacy of feeling, but for use; and it was her custom to require the offender to bring the weapon and hand it to her in an approved manner, before receiving a punishment--hence the order was well understood.
In handing the whip to her mistress, she ventured to plead her own defense, however little it might avail in softening the penalty.
"Please, Miss Susan, I didn't take de biscuit, I bringed 'em all in."
Down came the whip with a crack, over the shoulders of the cringing child, and left a sting through the single garment that protected her.
"You dare tell me you didn't take it?" another and another blow was wielded with muscular strength.
"I made twenty-seven, and you took them to the kitchen. You stole one, you know you did." Lash after lash fell upon the quivering flesh, bringing shrieks from the little sufferer, with exclamations of "O, don't, Miss Susan, please don't."
The violence of an uncontrolled temper absorbed reason, and, with the fury of a maniac, she reversed the cowhide and struck upon the child's head with the butt.
Jerry came around the corner of the house in time to witness this last act as Nora fell, rolled down the steps, and lay insensible upon the ground; and he called out, "You've finished your work this time, mother."
"O, my God; she has killed Nora!" exclaimed Dinah, as watching at the kitchen window, she had witnessed the whole transaction, and knew from experience that interference on her part would only increase the anger of her mistress.
"What's all this row about?" continued Jerry, "That biscuit? I took the biscuit, myself, out of the oven, just as Nora was taking in supper, but I didn't think you would kill a nigger for a biscuit. A smart girl like her can't be bought for less than
five hundred dollars, now she is big enough to drop corn and worm tobacco."
Mrs. Templeton felt somewhat discomfited that the effects of her anger had resulted so seriously, but replied. "Hum! you can't kill a nigger that easy; she'll drop corn and worm tobacco yet. Get the camphor bottle, Nellie; she'll come to."
Nellie procured the remedy, followed Dinah as she tenderly raised the limp form of her child, carried her into the kitchen, and laid her upon a bed; then bringing a noggin of water, she bathed the head, and absorbed with a bit of soft rag the blood that trickled from an ugly cut on the temple, speaking in low, soothing tones, "Mammy's here, honey, she's got you now. Is you killed, honey? don't you hear mammy?"
Those of the servants who had witnessed the scene, retired to the quarters; and those who had not, upon being informed, stealthily approached the kitchen, peeped in, or made an excuse to enter.
If any one came near to render assistance, they were repelled by Aunt Dinah's strong bare arm, and emphatic command, "Go 'way, go 'way off."
Looking up at one time she encountered the face of her mistress, stooping near, and looking at the apparently lifeless victim of her violent temper.
With the fury of a tigress robbed of her young, her eyes flashed; she advanced a step, and clenching her fist screamed: "You've killed my Nora! May the day come w'en your husband's tuck off, an' your children's knocked down in your sight, an' your hand is too feeble to save! Go 'way, go
'way off, I say; I don't want you here," stamping her foot and pointing to the door.
Was it the instinct of revenge, measuring the depth of grief she was suffering, that led her to realize the enormity of the penalty, and induced her to pronounce such a curse? Was that curse written by the recording angel, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord?"
Mrs. Templeton quailed, shrank away, and locked herself in her own room.
Aunt Dinah returned to her charge; placing her fingers upon the wrist, a feeble pulse could be felt, and breathing was restored. Calling Nellie to prepare a mustard plaster, she placed it for several inches in length along the upper part of her spine, saying, "We can jes try if it'll cure dis head; ole missus used to cure her headache so."
Nora slept; sometimes moving from spasmodic action of the muscles, but slept on, all night; slept on, day after day, the mother always near, watching and waiting. A fortnight passed before she awoke. Gradually physical health was restored, but not reason.
Words came slow and inarticulate, but finally resolved themselves into the last sentence she had spoken: "O, don't, Miss Susan, please don't. I didn't take de biscuit; I bringed 'em all in;" with a meaningless stare, she would drawl it out, whenever addressed.
"I WISH it were possible to restore the house to its former simplicity; you will please see that all the furniture used by Mr. Hunt Templeton's family is removed by him."
Thus wrote Letitia in a letter to Mr. Bruner, after he had successfully carried her case through the courts, and taken possession of Temple Vale as attorney for his client.
In Connecticut she had been unavoidably delayed. It had been necessary to train the new house-keeper in what best suited the taste and habits of Mr. Blue. His wardrobe, as well as those of her brothers, must be left in good order. Furniture and carpets were to be selected and shipped to Virginia; bedding and table linen must be made. She must dine with one, spend the evening with another, and as the time for her departure approached, every moment seemed crowded with imperative duties.
Mr. Blue, as well as Dr. Templeton, endeavored to persuade Letitia to sell her property in Virginia and settle permanently in Connecticut, but no inducement
could in the least affect her determination.
"Do not agitate the subject any more, please," she said at last; "every tree and fence on the old plantation is dear to me; and the servants, what should I do with them? Were I to sell them, separation of families could not be prevented, and a vast amount of misery would result. If they are liberated, they do not know how to take care of themselves, and would suffer the consequences. My duty is plain; to let all remain as during our parents' lifetime, and I will spend my years at Temple Vale."
The brothers could not but see the wise arguments of their sister, however much they might shrink from allowing her to undertake the responsibility without the aid of either of them. But each had his own sphere of labor, and could not abandon it. Relying upon the honorable lawyer, Mr. Bruner, to stand by her in case of difficulty, they desisted making further objections, and allowed her to do as she pleased.
"Miss Letitia, will I send my trunk up here, to go wid de truck, or will I take it down to de depot from de stable?"
"Why, Madison, are you intending to go to Virginia with us?" asked Letitia in surprise, "I thought you would prefer to remain here."
"I don't prefer ter 'main here, Miss, an' I'se a gwine to Wirginny wid you," said Madison, emphatically. "Didn't you say as how all on us
'longs to you. Don't I know I isn't free no more? I'se a gwine back wid you."
"If you wish to remain here, I will emancipate you; that is, I will give you free papers; you are under no obligations to return to slavery."
"You jis' hush, Miss Letitia, 'bout free papers, an' 'turn to slavery, an' all sich talk. Do you 'spose I'se gwine let you go down dar, on de ole plantation, an' pay out a heap o' money hirin' oberseers, bossin' 'round, an' I stay up here, hirin' my own time? No, miss, you can't 'suade me out o' what is dissided. I'se gwine whar you goes. If you'd stay, so would I; you goes, so does Madison."
"I will be glad to have you go, if you do so of your own will."
"I won't cost you anything, Miss Letitia, my trunk 's full o' good clothes, an' de Bible you gi' me Christmas, an' de spellin' book, an' a slate. I'se saved up de money fur to pay my fare, so it won't cost you anything. Don't reckon Uncle Joe's got back yet, so I don't see as I could be spared, to look after things."
The tears came in Letitia's eyes at this expression of faithfulness, as she said: "Very well, send your trunk here, and it will go with mine."
"Thank you, Miss; Madison 'll stand true to Miss Letitia, an' true to ole maus' chillun', an' true to de ole plantation."
Leaping over the fence (he rarely used a gate), he walked down the street, singing:
"Carry me back to ole Wirginny."
In the decision of the court, the stock and all appurtenances of the farm, belonged to Miss Templeton, having been purchased out of the profits arising therefrom.
An overseer had been placed in charge until the owner should come, and he granted a holiday to all the servants on the day of her arrival. The old carriage had not been used since the occasion of Captain Templeton's funeral, and upon it Terence had spent considerable time and ingenuity to render it fit for the conveyance of his mistress to her old home. Shabby as it was, he ascended to his seat with a lighter bound than he had been accustomed to, in taking out the finer equipage that had been used and taken away by the recently deposed master.
The servants went in a body down on the public road. When the carriage came in sight, bringing Mr. Oscar and Miss Letitia, Terence halted, that they might receive a welcome home; neither would the servants be satisfied till the horses were unhitched and led on by Madison, while they hauled the carriage by hand up the avenue to the house.
The dinner had been prepared over a camp fire, in the absence of a cook-stove, and displayed the thoughtfulness of all who could bring an offering procured by their own hands. Upon a bench beneath the branches of a shady tree, was spread a repast of Aunt Dinah's own cooking. Odds and ends of dishes from the cabins received savory meats; there was a turkey, delightfully browned, a pig, game of a variety furnished from the woods,
cabbage and sweet potatoes from Uncle Dan's truck patch, beaten hominy, pickled walnuts and peaches, and biscuits that could not be excelled. For dessert there was clabber, served with cream, and watermelons, cooled in the running spring.
Such a dinner might not suit some of my readers, but every one likes to have dishes prepared "just as mother used to;" and, for the same reason, Mr. and Miss Templeton enjoyed such a bill of fare, as their mother used to have, much more than the choicest delicacies from a different cuisine.
Aunt Dinah was rewarded by the praises of the recipients. "Did you use soda in these delightful biscuits?" asked Letitia.
"No, Miss; I never puts in sich truck; jes a pinch o' salt an' not too much water; takes a heap o' beatin' make 'em good."
The house had been already cleaned, and, when the wagons came with the furniture, many hands made the work light, in preparation for a comfortable night's rest. A large box was opened containing presents for all. There was a package of gay bandanna handkerchiefs distributed; patterns of calico and gingham for Sunday wear; colored shirts and neck-ties; something for every one on the place. Neither had sweets been forgotten; not concentrated in bon-bons, but consisting of long sticks of red and white peppermint twist, candy gooseberries, kisses and caraway seeds, which were bestowed upon all, from old Uncle Si. down to the toothless baby, and received with shining
eyes and "thank you Maus Osca' and Miss 'Titia," and "mus' be Christmas, sure."
The servants had all retired to their cabins, except Dinah, who lingered in her mistress' room, completing arrangements for the night. She spoke, hesitatingly: "Please, Miss 'Titia, tell me all 'bout Joe, whar he is at."
"I can not tell you where Uncle Joe is now; we separated in Florida, a few weeks after leaving here; but it is my intention to find him, if possible, and have him with us again. I may not be able to fetch him this winter, for there is much to be done here just now; but as soon as I find leisure, he must be hunted for. You are very tired, Aunt Dinah. Good night."
Mr. Templeton returned to his business in the North as soon as everything was in running order at Temple Vale. To Madison was appropriated a room in the house, communicating with that of his mistress by means of a speaking tube; and Jane, his sister, occupied a small apartment adjoining. For additional protection, Dr. Templeton had presented his sister with a brace of silver-mounted pistols and committed to Madison's keeping a pair of large mastiffs.
Assembling all the hands in the yard, Miss Templeton, on the day following his departure, made her first address in language adapted to their comprehension, explaining the course marked out for them. At the sound of the bell they were to present themselves every morning for devotion, which consisted of reading and explaining a few verses
from the Scriptures, followed by a simple petition, and the Lord's prayer, in which all were desired to join. The whole exercises occupying about ten minutes.
Miss Templeton determined to abolish corporal punishment among the adults, and furnish every possible inducement to develop mental power and moral impulses, by means of encouragement and rewards. Labor was systematized, and daily tasks expected. All deserving merit were allowed a weekly half-holiday, which time, such as desired, could spend on the farm and receive payment for it or devote to making wooden bowls, shuck mats, or any other articles which they could sell in the village.
With the intention of returning in the spring to the method of gardening adopted by her mother, a piece of ground was offered to all obeying orders during the winter.
The young mistress dealt with those in her charge as with children. Cases of perverseness and disobedience arose, violations of law and order, requiring decision; but her task was light compared with that of many ladies. Some had husbands, only masters in name, who spent their time in lounging about the nearest tavern, leaving to their wives the management of large estates. There were mothers, with large families of children, whose husbands had leisure to pass the time at winter or summer resorts, and, when at home, caused trouble by promoting disorder, or inciting rebellion among the negroes. There were mothers,
who, in addition to rearing and educating their own children, must superintend the cutting and making of every garment worn by their large families; mothers, who must, in sickness, for want of a physician's advice, suffer themselves and see their families suffer, when disease appeared that was beyond their power to alleviate. There were wives and children without protection on plantations miles distant from neighbors, with vicious servants whom the mistress feared to command.
When Miss Templeton discovered the condition of the unfortunate child Nora, and learned the cause, she made a careful examination as to the character of the injury and the reason of but partial recovery. Having found out that medical advice had never been procured, she wrote out a statement of the case and submitted it to her brother, desiring his opinion as to the possibility of deriving benefit from medical treatment. His reply was quite encouraging, advising her to send Aunt Dinah with the child to him, when he would place them in a hospital, and see what could be done to restore the brain to healthy action.
The younger children were left in the care of Jane, and Miss Templeton went as far as Norfolk, to place Dinah and Nora on a vessel bound for Connecticut.
Upon the approach of winter, the large dining-room was converted into a chapel for daily as well as Sunday worship.
Commencing with the history of the creation, in the first chapter of Genesis, Miss Templeton read
and explained from day to day, and from week to week, the account of Moses, suiting her language to their capacities, and she was surprised at the interest manifested.
As soon as it was known that Madison could read, he was beset with questions and solicitations to repeat Miss Letitia's account, and make still further explanations, so that unconsciously he became a valuable assistant in instruction.
With the piano for accompaniment, they were taught to sing hymns, which, with the native African fondness for music, rendered Sunday a day of pleasurable anticipation; so much so that, by spring, requests came from Oak Lawn and adjacent plantations, that others might be allowed to come to "the preaching" at Temple Vale. Several of the hands employed their half holidays in hewing out puncheon benches, for the back yard, which the increasing number made it necessary to use in favorable weather.
Whether their worship was canonically authorized or not, was a question that had not suggested itself to the mind of Miss Templeton or that of her unbaptised people. A desire to diffuse a knowledge of the truth, and improve the condition of her servants, rendered her as true a missionary as if she had gone out, with that object in view, to a foreign land, instead of working within the limits of her own sphere. She did not realize that she had abandoned social life, with its attractions, its enjoyments, its advantages, and was devoting her best years and best abilities to the good of those
who came under her influence; doing the Great Master's work in the way in which he had guided her. Often would she mentally revert to the time when the dark cloud hung heavy over her own young life, when she had thought God had forgotten her, and realize that the discipline she had experienced was of inestimable value.
Madison's elucidation of Miss Templeton's scriptural lessons encouraged him to conceive an idea that he could preach, an impression strengthened by the flattering solicitations of his fellows, who looked up to him as their superior, from the fact of his having been abroad and from his ability to tell wonderful stories of another people, coupled with his accomplishments of reading and writing.
With the permission of his mistress he made the attempt, announced a text, and addressed an appreciative audience.
"'Where de hen scratch, dar be de bug also.'
"You all's seed a hen, a many a time I reckon, gwine 'long, wid 'er chickens all 'round, a cluckin, and a turnin' fus' one eye, den tudder, down to de groun', huntin' fur a bug. You all's seed her a scratchin' an' a diggin', wid 'er sharp claws, makin' de dus' fly, turnin' fus' one eye, den tudder; for, 'Whar de hen scratch, dar be de bug also.'
"She spreads 'er fedders till she is as big as a turkey, an' keeps on a callin' de chickens, an' keeps on a scratchin' fur ter git mo' bugs 'nough fur 'er big family; dat shows as how we all has ter pussewere till we gits our work done like de missus tells us fur to do. An' w'en de task's done, we
'low ter hab our own time fur ter scratch fur Sunday close, an' backy money. 'Whar de hen scratches, dar be de bug also.'"
"What kin' o' bug does de hen scratch fur? My frens, dat is a very 'portant topic to my 'scourse? A wery 'portant quesshun fur ter know how to answer. Do you reckon she's gwine scratch fur de pisen bug, fur de harry caterpillar, or fur de fousan'-leg worm? I jes tell you she don't do no such business. 'F she comes 'cross de pisen bug, she kicks it clean out de road; 'f she sees a harry caterpillar crawlin' on de leaf or de groun', she jes walks 'long, an' says cluck, cluck, an' don't let on like she sees it; 'f she scratches de fousan'-leg worm out de dirt, she lets it stay right dar whar it lit. 'F she picks up one o' dem warmints fur ax'dent, she'll drap it right quick--clar outen dar, an' go to some place whar dar 'aint no pisen bug, nor harry caterpillar, nor fousan'-leg worm.
"Now, my frien's, w'at all's you gwine l'arn from dis persition ob de hen? Does you all do dat away? Does you all scratch fur de good, an' 'spise de bad? Does you all pass 'em right by, an' don't let on like you see 'em? 'Whar de hen scratch, dar be de bug, also.'
"The next thing what I want to call your obserwation to, is dat de hen, w'en she's let out fur ter scratch, in de mornin', don't stop; she jes keeps on till she gits done. Does you all do dat away? Or does you slip off, an' w'en Miss 'Titia 'aint a lookin', set down under de shade, w'en you orter
be scratchin' in de dirt, an' a plantin' de corn? 'Whar de hen scratch, dar be de bug, also.'
"Dar's nudder idy in de tex wuf speakin' 'bout. Whar at do de hen scratch? Is you eber seed 'er scratchin' on de board, or any place 'cept in de ground? I don't reckon you ever did. Dat's de place whar you all's got scratch at, in de groun', on dis plantation--de main thing is de cultivation ob de groun'. Dat has be made sof' fur young plants to grow in. De weeds haf be clar'd out 'fore we can make a crap; all dis yere work takes a heap o' scratchin', fur 'Whar de hen scratch, dar be de bug, also.'
"Does you all dis'member de great fousan'-leg worm de good book tells 'bout; he swaded Miss Eve fur ter dis'bey orders, an' eat de apple? Dat same fousin'-leg worm sneaks 'roun' now-a-days, an' if you don't drive 'im clean off, an' git shet of 'im, he'll 'swade you to dis'bey orders. 'Whar de hen scratch, dar be de bug, also.'
"De good Lord wrote dis book hisself, by de han' o' holy men, an' 'f you don't 'bey orders wrote down dar, you'll be frowed into de bottomless pit full o' caterpillars an' fousan' leg worm, an' if you scratch eber so long, you'll neber scratch out, an dar'll be weepin' an' wailin' an' nashun' ob de teef; for, 'Whar de hen scratch, dar be de bug also.'"
IN February, 1861, the alarm of war resounded through the land, and the people who had so long reposed in peace, sharpened their battle axes, oiled their muskets, and unsheathed their swords.
In every city and hamlet was heard the tattoo beating "to arms;" and the names of strong-hearted men were enrolled to do their country service. Husbands shouldered their knapsacks and bade adieu to cherished wives and children. Fathers, brothers, and sons joined the ranks, and marched away from the endearments of home, leaving anxious hearts to learn the hard lesson of watching and laboring.
O, the dreadful battle cry, calling men to weary marches, under the scorching rays of a summer sun, or in the icy blasts of winter, in fair weather or in foul; calling men to face hunger, thirst, pestilence, or death! Let the high powers of a nation weigh well the cause before calling to battle, and let all Christians pray for the time when human warfare shall be ranked among the customs of unenlightened races!
In one spot, removed from the public eye, was
peace. A single woman, alone with her slaves, lived in contentment; away from newspapers; away from gossip and rumors of war, in a little world of her own. Her battle was against evil, her warfare against the influence of the serpent whose trail is found wherever has trodden the foot of man.
After the close of the law suit, which re-instated Miss Templeton at Temple Vale, Mr. Hunt Templeton found himself with very limited resources.
Collecting the remnants of means at command, he opened a store at the seat of an adjoining county for the sale of such staple articles as the citizens demanded. The day was devoted to business, while at night young men, and some not so young, made there a rendezvous for social gatherings. Their pastimes were card playing, relating anecdotes not fitted for the home circle, discussions upon the demerits of individuals not in their set, introducing some "smart little darkey" or half-witted adult, whether white or black, who could be hired, or plied with whisky, to make amusement in "playing the fool" for the company; and Tom, as he was familiarly called, had a particular fancy for holding "sham pra'r meetin's." Upon the introduction of the latter into the programme, Tom would "line" a hymn, partly in his own rendering to pervert the sense, and sing, joined by others, in discordant tones, imitating some village "brother or sister," whose imperfections exaggerated, would excite the ridicule of jesters. In like manner, an acknowledged mimic would be invited to pray, and the tremulous, agitated voice of good
old Sister Gray was reproduced, or the heavy bass of Father Mason, in his customary negro dialect, but with the interlarding of low jests and profane expressions that called forth applause from the debased listeners.
During the summer they organized a band for guerilla warfare, and under the pretext of acting according to their principles, succeeded in accomplishing a great amount of mischief. Horses and cattle disappeared from their pastures, granaries were robbed, and incendiarism was frequent.
The plantation lying adjacent to Temple Vale was owned by Mr. Grovener, a wealthy gentleman, whose family consisted of a wife and one daughter, about the age of Miss Templeton. Mr. Grovener was proud of his ancestry, and between his family and that at Temple Vale there had never been social intercourse. He held an office which required his absence from home a part of the year, and after the marriage of his daughter, she remained with her mother, who was an invalid. Col. Lemar, his son-in-law, was engaged in military service, and absent at this time.
One morning, as the hands at Temple Vale were about to begin their daily tasks, Madison, who had been looking in a northerly direction, called his mistress' attention to a smoke visible.
"Please, Miss Letitia, get out your spy-glass and see what all dat smoke is." Although the buildings on Mr. Grovener's place were more than a mile distant, low ground intervening enabled them to be seen.
"Looks to me like its mighty close up to de house, like it might do some damage."
Procuring a field-glass, Miss Templeton raised it, and looking through it, said, "I think so; but the trees at the end of the grove cut off the view. I will go up and look from the tower."
Ascending where a fine view was commanded of the surrounding country, and where the trees referred to were out of the line of sight, she looked again.
"There is a building burning, certainly, in rear of the house. It must be the kitchen. Flames and smoke are rising from the whole roof. I can see persons running about the yard, but they seem to be doing nothing to stop the fire from spreading. Look, Madison. Do you see plain? A little higher."
"Yes, miss; I sees it; dat's de kitchen, sure; de smoke ouse plum burned down. Why don't dey t'ar down dat fence 'fore de fire goes to de big house? Dey all runs 'bout like dey got no sense."
"Go down, Madison--go directly; call all the best hands and go right over to help; Mr. Grovener and Col. Lemar are not at home."
The bell was rung and a half dozen men delegated to go with Madison and render what aid was possible. Fleetfoot was saddled, and before the field of action was reached Miss Templeton joined her servants.
Giving her horse into the keeping of a boy, she entered the premises of her neighbor for the first time.
"Terence, there must be horses in that stable, I hear them stamping; get some of the boys to lead them out and tie them at a little distance away. Madison, let down the bars yonder, so that the mules can get out of that lot."
Terence opened the stable door and, calling assistance, four fine animals were led out and tied where they would be safe. The mules had been enclosed in a small lot adjoining the stable, and were already much frightened at seeing the fire. When liberated from confinement they went careering about the yard, creating consternation amongst the servants' children.
"Madison, take down a panel of that fence and let the mules into the field. Harry, do you see the fire running along the fence toward the quarters? Get some of the boys to help, and pull it down, beat out the fire all around, and keep it out of the field."
This order was more easily given than executed. A thick growth of brush and rank weeds, along both sides of the fence, spread the fire and rendered it exceedingly difficult to be subdued without the aid of water. By removing a part of the fence, and all combustibles near the negro quarters, the cabins were saved from threatened destruction.
Mr. Grovener's strong force needed only to know what to do, and they were ready to do it. Their constant dependence upon the command of a master prevented them from exercising any judgment; like children, they expected to be directed. When
they heard the voice of authority, although it was that of a woman, they rallied, and following the example of her men, obeyed orders.
Coming upon the scene from the rear, and giving her attention to what came first, she waited till she saw that the work was being effectually done, and proceeded toward the house. Fire had been communicated to it from the kitchen, and the roof was blazing. Looking within, all was confusion; Mrs. Grovener, her daughter, Mrs. Lemar, and the children were helpless from fear and excitement. The former was an invalid and lay upon the bed, while the others gathered around, crying and screaming, either ignorant that the house had already taken fire, or too much frightened to remove themselves from danger.
Calling two able-bodied men, Miss Templeton commanded them to take the mattress with the sick lady upon it, and convey her to a place of safety beneath a shady tree. Then taking the youngest child in her arms and leading the other to the same place, she quieted their fears; and, assuring both ladies that she would try to save the furniture, returned to do so. Every movable article was taken from the lower floor, but the fire had made such progress from the roof that nothing in the story above could be saved. Under her direction, a cabin was vacated and the goods were stored in it. While this was being done, she returned to the houseless family and inquired of them where the overseer was.
"He left early this morning," said Mrs. Lemar,
"and probably will not return until late to-night."
"Then," said Miss Templeton, "if you will accept my hospitality, allow me to order the mules to be geared to the wagon; the bed can be placed in it, and you can be made comfortable in my house."
Mrs. Grovener was quite exhausted and offered no objection. Mrs. Lamar thought they might be able to find rooms in the village, but it was several miles distant; so, realizing their forlorn condition, she yielded with but very little hesitation.
Miss Templeton arranged them as comfortably as possible in the wagon, and saw them start off for the road; then retracing her steps to where Fleet-foot was patiently waiting under a tree, she sprang into the saddle and crossed the fields back to her home. By the time the wagon drove up to the house, a suite of rooms was ready for her guests. She assisted them in alighting from the wagon and sent in cake and wine for refreshment.
In a day or two Mrs. Grovener rallied from the effects of fright and the fatigue of removal, but Mrs. Lemar became seriously ill. The physician was called from G--, and within a week an infant's cry led all to hope that the worst was over.
A few days after the fire, a band of desperadoes met at the store-house of "Hunt Templeton and Sons."
Jerry rose, much under the influence of liquor, and shaking his fist in the face of a dark-browed, evil-looking man, exclaimed:
"What in--did you light up Grovener's house
for? Didn't I tell you, plain enough which 'twas? An' you stopped two mile by the road this side, an' cleaned out the best customer we have."
"Dog on if I keer," answered the other dogishly, "Thought I'd gone far as you said. Light up 'tother yourself then. You can't hire me no more to pay your spites and burn the roofs off women's heads, whar' there ain't no man round; 'pon honor I won't, I'll swar to it."
MR. GROVENOR and Col. Lemar returned home as soon as they knew of the disaster, but could not remain long away from their duties. They were embarrassed in being obliged to leave their little family at Temple Vale, but no alternative presented itself; so, seeing that everything was done which could contribute to their comfort, they left, hoping that a termination of the war would, in a few months, enable them to rebuild, and return to their own place.
If well concerted plans fail to be accomplished, those based upon hopes alone may vanish in disappointment. Mrs. Lemar lingered a few weeks and was laid to rest, leaving her mother and three little children in care of Miss Templeton.
Uncle Dan was the shoemaker. As soon as the pressure of field work was over, he began to make preparations to provide a stock of shoes for the ensuing winter.
Necessary materials were procured in Norfolk; and, if the products of his mechanism were not so
well finished as imported articles, they had one qualification, which recommended them in the estimation of the master, if not in that of the wearer--they were serviceable.
When Miss Letitia examined his work critically, he would say, "Strong, miss; good and strong; dey'll outwar two par boughten shoes. No use spen' time, shine off de sole; dat'l all huff off right away."
Dan presented himself in answer to a call from his mistress for consultation as to the amount of stock on hand. "I reckon dar's 'ficient to do, miss; dar's a few more hide nor we had las' year, an' de chillun comin' up, so we'll have to make a few more shoes.
"About enough for our own hands, Uncle Dan," said Miss Letitia, looking over what were made, and the material, "but none to spare. Mr. Grigg was here this morning, and wants you to make a lot for his hands also. He is so well pleased with what you made last winter that he wants you to furnish a full supply, since none are being shipped from the North. If we can get the leather, one of the boys can help, and I think we can accommodate him."
"I reckon so, Miss."
"And I will see that you have a nice Sunday coat."
"Thank you, miss."
One secret of Miss Templeton's success in obtaining what might have been considered extra
service was, that she invariably made compensation in a way that was satisfactory.
"And I have been thinking, Uncle Dan, that, if the war continues, there may be difficulty in getting leather. Economise in cutting as much as you can, and try the experiment of curing hides. I have seen it done near the Savannah river. You may, at least, make it useful for many purposes. It makes strong lead lines, and likely you will find other uses for it, and save leather."
"Yes, miss; how is it?"
"When there are fresh hides, secure them in the branch where the water is shallow; every three or four days take them out, scrape the inside thoroughly and replace them. After three weeks they may be well salted and nailed upon the side of a cabin. I have seen them cured in this way, and used for many purposes instead of tanned leather."
"Jes so, miss; dar's a couple now 'hind de meat house."
"Tell Madison to saddle Fleetfoot, and I will go with you down to the branch. Take the hides, and we will try the experiment."
When another year had passed, there seemed less prospect of a cessation of hostilities than hitherto.
There was considerable inconvenience felt from the scarcity of imported goods, and many items of luxury were necessarily omitted from both the table and toilet. In village stores the shelves were fast
becoming empty. Reports from Norfolk were not encouraging. The supply was meagre, prices were enormous, and the risk of shipping was precarious. To provide the usual allowance of winter clothing was out of the question, but there must be a way to satisfy positive demands.
All garments were brought into the sewing room and carefully repaired under Miss Templeton's supervision. Every yard of goods for servants' wear was made up, and still there was a lack in quantity. The young mistress puzzled herself over the problem of ways and means, when her seamstress offered a key to its solution.
"What's the matter we can't weave like we used to? There's the loom yet, an' I don't reckon Mammy's done forgot how."
"A good thought, Maria; we will go and see."
Calling at Mammy's door, the old negress was invited to join the investigating committee.
Examining the loom through the accumulation of dust for a decade, Mammy went back into the past. "Lord, honey, many a day's weavin' I done for de missus, a frowin' de shuttle dis away, an' dat away; many a stripe cotton coat I's wove on dis yer. Is it good now, does you say? Lord, honey, jis as good's de day ole Uncle Si tote it up from de river, an' set it yer--right yer, in dis wery place. Just clar out all dis truck, an' clean it up, an' it'll go like it usen to."
"Do you suppose you have forgotten how to weave?" inquired Miss Templeton.
"Jes' you git a bale o' cotton, an' set some dem lazy niggers a spinnin', an' see 'f Ise done forgot."
After some difficulty, the bale of cotton was obtained, spinning wheels were brought into use, and Mammy proved that she had not forgotten her former employment. Under her tuition, a younger woman was trained, and aided in producing a serviceable fabric, in quantities to meet the demand.
During the administration of Letitia's mother, cotton had been raised on the plantation sufficient for wearing apparel, and material for that purpose woven at home; but for the past few years that branch of industry had fallen into disuse; tobacco was cultivated, and goods for servants were bought.
Miss Templeton, under the circumstances, concluded to avoid similar embarrassment the coming year, procured seed, and made her calculations to cultivate cotton.
Uncle Dan's experiments in curing hides were so successful, that, when other resources failed, he could make use of his own stock.
Miss Templeton was sitting before a fire of blazing logs, with the proclamation of the President for the emancipation of slaves, in her hand. Mrs. Grovenor was reclining in an easy chair, still an invalid, watching her three motherless grandchildren building cob houses, while Miss Templeton read some passages to her guest.
"Dear! dear! how dreadful it will be," said Mrs. Grovenor, "if the slaves are liberated! The overseer says it is almost impossible to control them, now that John and Susan have run away. He does
not dare to use severe measures, lest more may escape. They are such a lazy set. Only think of it; the corn not all in yet. If they are all freed, they will turn upon us, and we shall all be killed."
"Do not be alarmed, my dear Mrs. Grovenor," said Miss Templeton, observing the agitation of that lady. "I hope no trouble will follow, although I admit that, if the measure is enforced, it will revolutionize the habits of a vast people, and will doubtless serve to increase the bitterness toward the United States government, and prolong the controversy. But, as women, we can take no part in political affairs; and, even if so severe an overthrow is permitted to take place, we can only deal with the stern reality, and make the best of it, whether it accords with our own habits and convictions, or not. Free labor is employed in so large a proportion of the civilized world, that there is reason to believe it may be successful here. At all events, it is important that we give the subject attention, for, if this proclamation is carried into effect, it is certain that we must employ free labor. Our soil must be made to yield its crops, we must be fed and clothed, and so must our people."
"Dear! dear! was there ever such a girl? You are a perfect enigma. You take everything just as it comes; so quiet and patient-like. I really do not think it would put you out if the world were to come to an end."
"Why should it?" said Miss Templeton, smiling. "If we are doing our duty from day to day, trusting to our heavenly Father for guidance, confident
that He will work all things together for good, and pardon our shortcomings, ought we not to rest confidingly in his Providence?"
"Yes, yes; the judgment day may not be so dreadful after all; not nearly so bad as freeing the blacks. For, if they are all at liberty, they may become desperate, rise against the whites, and kill all of us. Dear! dear! how dreadful! Sarah, here; put these children to bed; they make so much noise that I have become exceedingly nervous. Don't let the baby cry to-night. Stop, Sarah, call Martha to put me to bed. These children have been so noisy, I don't expect to sleep a wink before morning. Look at you, Martha; you came right in out of the mud, without cleaning your shoes. Go back now; clean them off, and sweep out the mud you have tracked in. O, dear! O, dear! these negroes will kill me yet!"
Miss Templeton rose to see if everything was in order in Mrs. Grovener's room. Martha wheeled in her mistress, and made ready the bed upon which she was to rest.
"You've done that same thing again; folded the quilt and put it in the chair, when I have always told you to lay it upon the table. Not crooked, lay it square and spread a towel over it. When do you think I shall be able to piece another quilt? You do try my patience so every day. I believe you do it just to annoy me."
Martha, having complied with the request, proceeded to undress her mistress; a task not easily accomplished, since it involved lifting her several
times to remove day clothing and adjust a night wrapper. Then she must be raised and carefully placed in exact position in the bed.
On the opposite side of the room was a cot, where Martha slept, ready to be aroused at any time to attend to wants, real or imaginary.
The girl had just dropped to sleep, when her mistress called, "Martha, Martha; O! Martha, awake, are you? You go and call Sarah and tell her not to let the baby cry in the night."
The commission executed, the girl returned, and was soon asleep. In half an hour the wakeful lady again aroused her nurse.
"Martha; Martha; wake up here."
It was a minute or two before she was sufficiently aroused to answer, "Yes ma'am; here I am."
"How stupid and sleepy you are. I was a thinking over, Martha, when all the blacks get free, will you go and leave me, so that I shall have no one to attend to me?"
"Don't know, ma'am; reckon, if I should, you'd get a better nurse nor I is."
"Yes, yes; may be I might; I didn't think of that. Go to bed, Martha, you are of no earthly account."
The house was quiet. Miss Templeton went to her book-case, selected several volumes of agricultural reports, and other works treating upon the same subject. She spent two hours in reading, and making memoranda of large farms, in different
localities, cultivated by free labor; the same of plantations where compulsory slave labor was employed; carefully estimating expenses, and balance of profit.
Her opinion upon the subject was not expressed, but she put away the books with her usual serene manner, as if the tenor of her life had not been unfavorably disturbed.
WHEN the emancipation from slavery had become an established fact, Miss Templeton called her people to council. She explained to them, as far as necessary, the change that had been made in the National Constitution, by which they were rendered free--no longer her property, subservient to her will, but free to go when they wished, or to remain with her as hired servants.
"You are a free people," said she, "but this plantation still belongs to me, and it is not my intention to abandon it. God did not design that we should be idle. The soil will not yield her crops unless we prepare the ground, sow the seed, keep down the weeds, and gather in the harvest. All this is work; I must have hands to do it. You will still need, as much as hitherto, cabins, food, and clothing. To procure them you must work, and earn the means. The question is left for your decision, Will you work for me, or will you go elsewhere, and work for some one else?"
"For you, Miss 'Titia; we'll work for you," was responded by many listeners. "We wouldn't knew whar at to go."
"There is another thing you must think of. I can not pay you money for your labor. First, I have not enough on hand. If I had, you can not count money, and do not know how much your necessities will cost; all this you have got to learn, and you are not ready for taking such a stand. I will let each have as much land as he can cultivate; I will furnish the seed and the mules, and you will return to me a share of the crops. Will that be fair?"
"Yes, miss; I reckon so, miss," came from many voices.
"After the crops are harvested, we can divide them, or sell them, and afterwards divide the money. With my money I shall have to pay taxes, keep up the mules, pay the expenses of keeping everything in order. With your money you pay for your food and clothing."
With more forethought than most of the others, who could not, at a glance, fully comprehend the proposition of their mistress, Terence inquired:
"If we all's got to buy our wittles, an' close, an' ain't gwine git no money till we grows de corn, w'at's we all gwine live on till den?"
"Yes, Terence; that is an important question for our consideration. Being now mid-winter, and several months intervening before you can expect to receive any reward for your labor, some way must be thought of to provide for yourselves and your families till harvest. We have, as you know, the meat-houses and corn-cribs, with the usual store of provisions. We have our cattle and hogs.
I will appoint Jane, as she has learned to read and write, to keep an account, and sell to you what you need for yourselves and your families. When you get the money for your crops, you must pay me what you shall then owe. Try to be saving, and not buy anything to waste, so that you may have money left, and save up enough to buy land and mules of your own. Would you not be pleased to do so?"
"Yes, Miss," said Terence, "I'll do dat sure."
"So will I; so will I," chimed in others.
Old Mammy and her aged husband, Uncle Si, or "Daddy," as he was familiarly called by his numerous children and grandchildren, had remained silent spectators during the council.
With choking voice, and nervously twisting her hands under her spotless apron, Mammy asked:
"Miss 'Titia, is Uncle Si an' me free, too?"
"Yes, Mammy; you and Uncle Si are both free."
"De Lord help us!" exclaimed Mammy.
"De Lord help us!" echoed Uncle Si, as the tears coursed down his furrowed cheeks, and his head shook disapprovingly. "Please, Miss 'Titia, we don't want no free papers, we don't."
Bent with infirmities, he leaned upon a stout staff, gnarled like himself, and continued: "Your fader bought me, de fust boy he ever owned, and Mammy, yere, afore he bought 'is own wife, your mudder; an' w'en he got dis plantation, wil' lan', Si helped to clar up, an' done de fust plowin' on many an acre. We's raised a big family o' chillun, smart un's, too; an' dey all's worked on de
place, an' dar chillun', right smart on 'em, is big enough to work, too. An' now, Miss 'Titia, jis' as we're most ready fur ter cross ober to de tudder shore, you says we's free. No, no; we don't want no free papers, Miss."
"Don't blame Miss 'Titia, Daddy," said Mammy; "don't blame de chile, taint her as done it. It's Maus Linkum; I hearn 'em tell so. No, honey, Mammy knowed you'd neber turned her off, an' Uncle Si, wid free papers. She's her fader's own chile, she is."
"I can not get along without you, Mammy, or Uncle Si, either," said Miss Templeton. "I need you to look after the chickens; and, if you were not able to do any service, so long as I have a home, it is yours."
"De Lord bress de chile," said Uncle Si.
"Didn't I tell you so?" said Mammy, turning to her husband. "Didn't I tell you Miss 'Titia's a true-born lady? She's an angel, like 'er ma 'fore 'er!"
To divide the arable land without a chart, was no easy task. Without a surveyor, or any knowledge of the art of surveying, Miss Templeton saw the necessity of having a plan of the plantation, locating high and low ground, what was productive and what was not worth cultivating, with patches of woodland, and the branch.
Accompanied by Madison and Terence to assist in pacing distances, Miss Templeton, mounted on Fleetfoot, day after day, with a pocket compass, paper, and pencil, made rough diagrams, understood
best by herself. At night, when the house was quiet, she worked them out into a draft, which answered her purpose as well as if it had been executed upon strictly mathematical principles.
Divisions of land were marked off, and the name of each family or individual specified upon their several appropriations, with a description of boundary marks.
"As to you, Madison," said Miss Templeton, "I do not propose to give you any land. You are a poor planter. Both your share and mine would be small, if left to your cultivation. Another reason is, there is other work for you. If we leave the mules in the care of the hands, they will run down. You can look after them as well as Fleetfoot and the carriage horses. And I think you will have time to begin a school. We can count twenty-three children old enough to learn to read, and too young to work in the field. Two or three hours a day will suffice at the beginning. Teach them to count; teach them the alphabet, and how to read and spell. If it will suit you, you shall have my share of Terence's crop for payment."
Early in March, all were busily employed in putting in their crops, when the overseer of Oak Lawn came up the avenue riding upon a sorry mule; the appearance of a visitor being at all times a rare occurrence. As soon as the dogs made the discovery, they growled ominous threats; but when a hand was laid upon the gate, through which an entrance to the yard was had, their disapproval became so expressive, that it required the
presence of Madison to quiet them, and conduct Mr. Grigg in safety to the house.
Upon being invited into the family room, he met Miss Templeton's salutation with embarrassment; accepted a proffered chair; fitted a weather-beaten hat over his knee, and began with apologizing for his mud-bespattered boots and leggings.
That subject being concluded by the assurance of the hostess that no harm was done, by way of diverting the topic, she inquired after the health of his family, and the prospect at Oak Lawn, thus leading the way unintentionally to what was uppermost in Mr. Grigg's mind; whereupon he proceeded to unburden himself without further preface.
"It's eight year come June, since I've tuck the oversight o' that place; twelve hundred acres of as good land as anywhar in Wirginny; and I know I've growed as good crops as the best, an' turned over to the agent as hansome a pile o' money as if Mr. Melburn had been here hisself. Everything gwine 'long neat, till this dog oned war come (beggin' your pardon, miss), riles up the niggers, and three on'em run off, jist in cornshucken' time--same time as Mr. Govener's went; there's no doubtin' they all went to oncet."
"Unfortunate, very unfortunate," said Miss Templeton, sympathizingly.
"Wery unfortunate," echoed Mr. Grigg, balancing his chair upon its rear legs, "wery. We didn't have no trouble with the rest on 'em, till they all got so oneasy to come over to your preachin's, whar they hearn tell o' the war, an' how the niggers
were bein' freed. An' when you let yourn go free, an' hired 'em yourself, that capped the sheaf, an' our han's all cl'ared out."
"Indeed," said Miss Templeton, in astonishment, "I am very sorry to hear it. Why did you not make such plans as would ensure you of their continuing at work?"
"No, sir--begging your pardon--no, miss. Do you reckon I, a Wirginian, purposes to hire my own niggers? No, miss; I don't make no such plans."
"Why not? I have; and I expect to get along as well as before, if not better. My hands have never taken hold of their work with the energy they now manifest."
"It may do for you, bein', as you ar', jest a woman," said Mr. Grigg, in a tone not complimentary to the executive abilities of the sex; "but it is not to be expected that a man will give in so easy to this 'mancipation question. It's more the pity that a woman can upset the calculations o' us planters, an' set the niggers oneasy, so they run off."
"I am very sorry, Mr. Griggs, if I have caused any injury to the interests of my neighbors unwittingly, but I fail to see it in that light. Facts are stubborn; we must face them bravely, whether man or woman; it is not becoming to shirk them, or try to shield ourselves from the inevitable. I was, at first, disposed to deplore the liberation of our slaves, and must admit venturing the system I have adopted with doubt as to its success. Thus
far it works well, yet I shall not consider the experiment proved till after the crops are in."
"But then, if all on us had joined in keepin' the niggers, an' not let 'em know 'bout this 'mancipation business, I reckon we'd been able to hold 'em till the war ends, an' come out game; but tellin' the niggers 'head o' time, slippin off your own, an' stirrin' up the neighbors' niggers, is a bad job. Beggin' your pardon for makin' bold to say so, if you hadn't been a woman, you reckon thar'd been some trouble 'round your plantation."
"I have been prompted by my convictions of right, and have considered the weight of responsibility in holding so many under my protection, and it is my intention to pursue a course which will render them capable of self-support. All kinds of business, as well as farming, are carried on successfully by free labor, and we can follow the example of others."
"No, miss; I ain't gwine to do nothing o' that sort myself. I'm forty-five years old, or tharabout, an' as for runnin' the place wid two or three ole an' cripple niggers, an' a heap o' chillun to feed, I ain't makin' no calculation on. I'm gwine to take my family to town, an' 'list. I can get a colonel's post, an' that'll pay better 'n stayin' here."
"Perhaps you might find hands to supply the vacancies, and remain."
"If George Melburn, or anybody else, thinks I'm gwine to hunt up han's, they're powerful mistaken. I'm on the road now to tell the agent so, an' I thought it might be well enough to stop an'
tell you, bein' a neighbor, how matters is. Good day, miss; hopin' you luck in nigger trainin'. Good day, miss."
Miss Templeton had not revealed the fact that several of the Oak Lawn hands had applied to her for employment, which, under the circumstances, had been declined. The interview with Mr. Grigg had presented a suggestion to her mind, which caused Madison to be sent for, with an order to saddle Fleetfoot, and prepare himself to accompany her to the village. After going to the store, and making a few purchases from the exhausted stock, she called at the office of Mr. Bruner, who had acted as agent for Mr. Melburn, since the death of Esquire Munser.
Some business matters had been settled, when Mr. Bruner remarked: "Mr. Grigg has resigned his office as overseer of Oak Lawn. Bad business just at this time, when the country is in such a turmoil; bad for Mr. Melburn, who relies upon the profits of his farm for a support. The servants had been in a state of rebellion for some time, and were ripe for an outbreak a year ago. Mr. Grigg tells me they were a troublesome set."
"Mr. Bruner," said Miss Templeton abruptly, "are you willing that I should undertake to oversee Oak Lawn? You understand my theory, and know what is being done at home. I know most of the hands, and think they will return, as they have applied to me for work."
"Miss Templeton, you have a great deal to look
after now; perhaps you do not realize how greatly your time and energies will be taxed."
"I have thought it all over, Mr. Bruner, and have no doubt that a capable man would do better, and bring in larger returns; but, at present you may not be able to find one, and I do not want a neighbor's place to go to ruin during his absence. The season will not admit of delay, and, if you will allow me to do what lies in my power, till you get a man, in case I can not manage it, I will get servants to work it on shares, as on my own place."
"May be a good idea, rather than have no one there. It will do no harm to get the crops planted; and, when it is too much for you, I will come over and help you out till we do find some one."
Returning home, Miss Templeton explained to Madison the proposition to superintend planting at Oak Lawn, and told him that she would expect him to be her chief aid in recovering the labor of such of the servants as had not gone too far distant.
A few days later, a conference with the old couple remaining, revealed the fact that several were still lurking in the neighborhood, who would be glad to remain, and work upon the conditions organized at Temple Vale.
The charge of Oak Lawn fell, to a certain extent, upon Madison, who was obliged to have an assistant, in attending to the mules and horses, while the school was adjourned till a more favorable opportunity should be offered.
"Where do you reckon we are going to put all
this grain at?" inquired Madison, one morning during the ensuing harvest, as his mistress was taking her usual ride of investigation around the farm. "The old cribs are chock full now, and here's David's lot," waving his arm around, where David, assisted by his wife and children, was busily employed in stripping down the shucks, breaking off the yellow ears, and throwing them into the wagon.
"Yes, and across the branch you have not brought the corn yet; but continue to gather in all from the bottom land and this side, this week, for Monday we must commence hauling it to the river. I have made a contract with Col. Lemar, for the army. He will take all we can spare, and ship it to Norfolk. A boat will be at the landing, Monday, and we must be ready for her. Mr. Grovener's teams will be here to help. Did you finish measuring and storing the east fields yesterday?"
"Yes, Miss," replied Madison, taking out a blank book, and opening it, he showed his memoranda. "Terence, nine hundred and sixty-eight; George, twelve hundred and twenty-seven; John, six hundred and twenty-five. These are what we finished yesterday. Don't reckon we can get it all in this week."
"Get in as much as possible," said Miss Templeton. "The Guerrillas are doing a good deal of mischief. The boat will send up a guard for the wagons, and there is no time to be lost. From all the fields across the branch, and adjoining Oak Lawn, we will ship afterwards, direct to the upper landing, with what comes off Mr. Melburn's
land. What comes in last, we will reserve for our own use, and for seed."
After giving necessary directions to the hands on her own place, she rode on to Oak Lawn, accompanied by Madison, to take note of the grain harvested there, the measuring of which had been committed to Harry.
Their method may be explained in a few words. As each producer's crop was harvested it was measured, and for every bushel a kernel of grain was dropped into his gourd. Every man knew his own gourd, and even when the grain was delivered in different lots, there was no confusion. The gourds were kept locked in a crib, and, when the quarter bell was struck to announce the arrival of Miss Templeton, it was understood as a summons to assemble for the final count.
There was a group fit for an artist. The fair, blue-eyed girl, seated upon a black, lithe-limbed horse; her hair had not forgotten its old way of straying over her shoulders in golden ringlets; her face, still young, strengthened with lines of thought and decision, was more beautiful than in early girl-hood; Madison, note-book in hand, leaning across his mule, as it employed the leisure in nibbling the grass at its feet, evidently feeling the dignity of his office in acting as chief aide to his mistress; the men, with their gourds, ranging from the young, muscular athlete to old Uncle Jonas, whose bald head, and decrepit frame, accounted for the small record he had to render; all these formed a picture, and a contrast, such as the artist may conjure up
from imagination, but which it seldom falls to his lot to see in actual life.
One by one Madison took the gourds, counted the contents, and noted the result.
"Bring me yours, Uncle Jonas, I will count them," said Miss Templeton, adding a handful from her pocket; then dropping one after another into her lap, she announced the result; and, upon her returning the gourd to Uncle Jonas he received it saying, with a trembling voice, "Thank you, Miss; if we all had a missus like you it'd saved a heap o' trouble."
After the returns came in from the harvest, all the hands were invited to join in "a real old-time corn-shucking," such as had not occurred upon either place for many a year.
A moonlight night was appointed, and the jigs that were danced, the songs that were sung, the shouts that echoed through the woods till morning dawned, carried all back, as Mammy said, "to de good ole time, w'en dar warn't no free niggers no whar."
"'Peared," said Aunt Sarah, "like we'd neber get shet o' all de corn bread we baked, nor meat we barbecued; but it's all done gone, sure."
THE expense account had involved no small amount of time and labor, even with the aid of Jane; for the provisions at Oak Lawn had been soon exhausted, and supplies provided from Temple Vale. But when the balance was reached, Miss Templeton went to G--, to render an account of her stewardship, and to adjust the payments with those whose earnings exceeded their expenses.
Mr. Bruner presented an estimate of the commission he had been accustomed to pay Mr. Grigg.
"My commission," said Miss Templeton, looking up with an offended expression, "I do not wish you to make any such estimate. If I have done a favor for a neighbor, in his absence, it is nothing. Another year, the business could be managed more successfully; but please remember not to mention my name in your correspondence with Mr. Melburn. If you are satisfied, let the arrangement continue another year; if not, find an overseer."
Mr. Bruner urged that such was not a proper way of transacting business, but without influencing her determination.
"You are a lawyer, and look at it your way. I am a law to myself, and look at it in my own way. There is no wrong; my convictions of right do not allow me to receive Mr. Melburn's money; please remit it to him."
It was not the first time Mr. Bruner had been brought in antagonism with her peculiar ideas in business matters, and he had learned, from experience, that it was best to yield the point without further argument.
A chill wind swept the valley, whisking about a few scattering snowflakes, threatening a storm, as the carriage stopped for the footman to open the gate giving admittance to the avenue.
Fatigued with a long ride, Miss Lintner looked out into the early twilight, attracted by the announcement of Col. Lemar, that their journey was nearly ended.
Dinah called Norah's attention to the fact, "Here we is, home at last, honey. Won't de chillun be glad to see us?"
Nora flattened her nose against the pane, and answered: "Dar dey all comes, Mammy."
There they were, all along the avenue, a group of woolly heads and dark skins, running and shouting, peering into the carriage to get a view of the occupants, approaching so closely as scarce to escape danger from hoofs and wheels.
"Dey all's in dar. Howdy Mammy; howdy Nora. Hi! hi!" shouted a babel of voices.
"Out de road, you all, niggers," called Madison,
checking the pace of the horses. "Out de road, I say, 'fore you all gets crippled. Jes wait tell we gits to de house, 'fore you cut up so. You all's gwine crazy."
On they ran, whooping, shouting, as Madison said, "Like dey all's run wild, an' din know dar's white folks inside."
When the travelers alighted, Miss Templeton and the three little ones, who had been watching from the window, took possession of Miss Lintner and Col. Lemar, while Dinah and Nora were dragged into the kitchen.
Mrs. Grovenor was not forgotten, and received the newcomers with grace and cordiality, expressing a relief to her monotonous life of suffering.
Miss Lintner could scarce realize that in the commanding presence of the hostess, was the Letitia of a few years previous.
"I am so glad that you were able to meet Col. Lemar in Washington. I was in doubt whether you would receive my letter in time, now that the mails are so uncertain, and made him promise to telegraph you, when he would take a furlough home, that you might meet him, with Aunt Dinah and Nora, and come under his escort."
"Did you go all the way from Connecticut to Washington, alone?" inquired Mrs. Grovenor of Miss Lintner. "Is it possible? Dear me, I don't know what would have been thought, if a lady had taken such a journey, when I was a girl--and this dreadful war time, too! Did you see anybody get killed or hurt? You didn't, I'm so glad. Every
time Mr. Grovenor goes to Washington, I beg him to tell Mr. Lincoln, please not to have any more war, it is so dreadful. But the dear man always did have his own way, and always will, I reckon."
Supper being announced, the family surrounded the table.
"It is unnecessary to apologize to a soldier," said Miss Templeton, handing a cup of steaming beverage, "for the variety of tea offered during civil war, even if it is served without sugar; but you, Miss Lintner, may feel it a deprivation not to enjoy the imported article."
"Fortunately," said Miss Lintner, sipping from her spoon, "I do not use sugar in tea. This is very agreeable; may I ask, if it is the product of your soil?"
"It is," replied Miss Templeton, "we have a field of tea plants growing spontaneously; where I do not think grain can be induced to thrive, if even the soil were susceptible of being prepared for it. Our tea plants render us a double service, and supply us, also, with fruit, which, when dried, is a passable substitute for raisins."
"So valuable a plant," suggested Col. Lemar, "I hope, is understood by our agricultural department in Washington. Can you show us some of the fruit?"
Being instructed by his mistress, the waiter brought in some on a plate, and passed it around for examination. Mrs. Grovenor took several of the berries in her hand, and tasting them, exclaimed:
"Dear me, dear me, they are nothing but dried huckleberries!"
"That is their common name," said Miss Templeton, smiling; "but if Col. Lemar wishes for a scientific report, we must appeal to Miss Lintner for the botanical name."
"Pardon me," said Miss Lintner, "if I inquire, how you came in possession of the recipe for its preparation?"
"In my embarrassment at not being able to procure any tea at the store," replied Miss Templeton, "I recollected reading in the history of New England that the people, suffering a similar inconvenience during the Revolutionary war, used leaves of the huckleberry plant. I made the experiment, and finding it palatable had a large quantity collected and dried in the spring."
"Is she not a wonderful girl, Miss Lintner?" inquired Mrs. Grovener. "And what do you think the dear child does? She keeps the little sugar we get from Washington when Mr. Grovener or Col. Lemar makes us a visit for my use. She sets this little sugar bowl by my plate, and will not take a spoonful herself. You could never think how she makes coffee."
"Then we will not try," said Col. Lemar. "I shall be rejoiced if she can give us her recipe, provided the materials are available in camp, for I must admit having a weakness for coffee, and sometimes we are deprived of it."
"If you can procure sweet potatoes and field corn," said Miss Templeton, "you may try it. Here
it is in 'The Housewife,' a book containing valuable recipes and hints to a housekeeper. You can copy this article, among the 'substitutes for coffee.' The author has placed it here for the benefit of persons who can not use that beverage. Wash and scrape sweet potatoes, cut in thick slices and bake slowly till the color of roasted coffee. Parch field corn, grind in a coffee mill and mix one part potatoes with two of corn."
"Thank you, Miss Letitia," said Col. Lemar, placing the memorandum in his pocket-book. "I think that will compensate me for making this trip, if it proves as successful as the tea."
A few days later, Col. Lemar was consulting with Miss Templeton in regard to the children's wardrobe, while Walter, now a sprightly boy of four, was sitting upon one knee, and the baby occupied the other.
"Papa," said Walter, "Mammy says you are going to build house, and carry us off from Cousin 'Titia; mayn't Cousin 'Titia go too, an' live with us, papa?"
"Cousin 'Tita do too, papa," echoed the baby, "her do too?"
Col. Lemar raised his eyes to Miss Templeton, but did not meet her's, as he answered his children. "Papa does wish Cousin 'Titia would go--so much, he does. That is right darlings, coax Cousin 'Titia real hard for papa."
Down sprang both little ones, climbing up on "Cousin 'Titia's" lap, and putting their tender arms around her neck, smothered her with embraces
and kisses. "P'ease Tousin 'Titia, papa says you may do live in our new house; g'amma can't spare you; Walter can't spare you; papa can't spare you; sister can't spare you."
With no husband to share her trials, with no child to love and train with a mother's affection, was there no longing in her heart for either? For nearly three years she had supplied a mother's place; for nearly three years' acquaintance with Col. Lemar had found him to be a man of honor, dignity, nobility of character, and delicacy of feeling. Clasping an arm around each little petitioner she answered:
"Stay with Cousin 'Titia and be her darlings as long as you can. Cousin 'Titia can't go away, she has a field to plow, and having put her hand to the work can not look back."
"Tell Cousin 'Titia papa will plow beside her," said Col. Lemar, as his eldest daughter entered the room and joined the family group.
"But the furrows will not run together, my darlings, the work is in different fields."
After the departure of Col. Lemar, Miss Lintner prepared to perform the duties of her engagement.
"I was anxious to have your society and aid," said Miss Templeton, "knowing you could sympathize with me. Sooner or later our people will be scattered and must learn the lesson of self-reliance. They are near to me, and my interest in them has not abated since their emancipation. They must be prepared to battle with the world,
and must learn to read, write, count money, and obtain such a knowledge of business as will enable them to manage for themselves. I do not think you will find the position agreeable, but doubt not that you may become interested so that the labor will not be irksome. I want them to value knowledge, which they will do only by paying for it. I have told them that they are to pay a small tuition fee, and it is optional whether they attend school or not. To induce them to do so, I offer rewards, and am desirous that they shall appreciate the privilege. I have not encouraged the adults, but there are several who will be able to devote a limited time to study. We have put up a rough log school-house, not unlike the one you occupied in South Carolina, except that our climate demands more attention to warmth at this season. Brother James writes that Nora is not to be urged to any mental effort."
"Yes," said Miss Lintner, "Dr. Templeton mentioned the same precaution in conversation before I left home. He said that a depression of the skull had caused chronic inflammation of the brain. The pressure was removed by the art of surgery, and her restoration to health is only a question of time and caution. Your brother thought it would be safe to allow her to be in the school-room, and gather what she could by observation, if she wished to do so.
"Have you been able to get any information of Uncle Joe?"
"Not a word," answered Miss Templeton. "I
had hoped to find him before this time, and have him here to meet Dinah, but it has been impossible for me to leave my duties, and brother wrote that cruising around the coast is not to be thought of so long as the Alabama is in existence. I can only live in anticipation that hostilities will not continue much longer. What seemed to be the prospect in the North?"
"There is a diversity of opinion; the question was warmly discussed on the train, by parties expressing opposite views. Upon one point they were agreed, that but a short time would ensue before the question was settled, each side giving forcible arguments in favor of the final victory of his own party."
AT the rendezvous of the Guerrilla Club, were a dozen hard looking characters, assembled for a so-called business meeting. There were Hunt Templeton and his two elder sons, and others of the same stamp; men who had taken advantage of political turbulence, and thrown off the moral influence which had held them in check at other times; men who followed their leader's example and influence, active to plot, and heartless to execute. When deterred by cowardice, the short, low-browed wretch, called Dodger, was the tool for their work. Yet Dodger, with all his baseness, was inflexible in his own code of honor. Feeling his power as an indispensable member, he was imperious in demanding liberal payment for his services, and in refusing to take part in acts violating his ideas of bandit law.
Sitting with his short legs astride a chair, which had been placed rearwards, his chin covered with a week's growth of black beard stubble, his small eyes peering like jet beads from under heavy eye-brows, meeting above a hooked nose, he was a
problem unsolved by the party he had undertaken to serve.
Tom was opposite, and looking around, he addressed the motley assembly:
"Say, boys, what do you reckon? Dodger's turned pious."
"Demmit, that's a good joke," said one, raising his head to get a view of the individual under discussion. "Don't make him any whiter 's I see."
"But he is, though," returned Tom, with an oath, "piouser 'n a preacher. Has you got to like fried chicken, Dodger? You'll never do to preach the gospel 'thout you can match 'em in fried chicken."
"Heard the news over 't the Vale," asked one of the number.
"Don't talk about the Vale," said Jerry Templeton, "the geeurl's flying her kite high 'mongst the niggers."
"You bet," interrupted the other; "made the biggest crop in the valley; on that and Melburn's place, too. Hadn't been for Dodger, here, we'd pulled in the harvest. An' now they've built a school-house, an got a Yankee geeurl teachin' the niggers. How's that for neutrality in politics an' religion?"
"Dodger, d'you hear that?" shouted Tom, refilling his glass.
"Pitch in, go ahead," replied the individual interrogated, "I stick to my colors. I don't go ag'in lone women nor chil'en, no whar, 'pon honor.
Cuss away; I telled ye so from de fust; demme if I give in."
Finding it useless to urge Dodger to participate in a hostile undertaking at Temple Vale, the two brothers, Tom and Jerry, with another accomplice, appointed a night to meet at the school-house.
Half an hour before midnight the short figure of a man, dodging under the shadows, reached the little log school-house, raised the latch and entered. Peering around in the dim light of the moon, he lowered his head and looked up the clay chimney. With a satisfactory grunt, he went out and hunted around till he found a stout stick, about four feet long. Returning to the chimney, he reached up, and after some effort succeeded in securing it across the interior, as high up as he could reach. This done, he raised himself up by grasping it in both hands, and sat upon the narrow roost. He had not waited long when his quick ear detected the approach of horses.
Three men came across the field to a thicket and secured their horses by the bridles to pendant boughs. They collected a quantity of dried fuel and carried it into the school-house. Piling the benches together, they kindled a fire, expressing a certainty of annihilating the educational prospects of Temple Vale. Trusting they could spread the mischief to the dwelling house, and effectually accomplish their evil intentions, they crossed to the fence, and within a corner repeated the incendiarism. Then returning to their horses, they
mounted and soon disappeared in a direction opposite to that from whence they came.
Scarce had the sound of hoofs died away, when the short man alighted from his perch, hastened to the rapidly kindling flames, removed from them the benches, and brushed the fire from the floor to the hearth, where it could do no harm. Then rushing across to the fence, was intently engaged in scattering the pile of fuel, when his attention was diverted by a large mastiff, which, without a premonitory bark, rushed upon him and bore him to the ground.
For several days, old Uncle Jonas had been ill, and daily had Miss Templeton visited his bedside, endeavoring in vain to relieve his sufferings, till death had gained the victory. Although the hour was untimely, she had not hesitated to return home under the escort of Madison, with one of the dogs. Without encountering any sounds, but those of night-birds, and an occasional rabbit dodging across the path, they were nearing the house, when, just as they were coming out of the thicket by the school-house, they were in time to see Bruno, who was in advance, pounce upon a figure almost hidden by the shadow of the fence-corner. With a firm grip, the game was held, till Miss Templeton rode near. Fleetfoot, for the first time, discovered the pair, and started back with a snort. A few words from his mistress reassured him, and like Madison, he became quiet and stood firm, awaiting orders.
The unfortunate man cried, as soon as he was aware of the presence of spectators:
"Take him off, oh, take him off, he'll kill me."
"That's just what you d'sarve," said Madison; "sneakin' 'round here, an' settin' fire to de fence, you willian, look at de smoke, there. Let Bruno shake him, Miss Letitia, he's just a waitin' for you to say, 'shake 'em.'"
"Hold on Bruno," said Miss Templeton, who had recovered her presence of mind, and was ready for the emergency. "Hold your game, Bruno." Drawing a brace of pistols from her belt, and handing one to Madison, she addressed Bruno's prisoner: "We are both of us armed, and you must obey."
"I'll 'bey, Miss Templeton, if it's you. Please take him off," implored the man, submissively.
At the command of his mistress, the dog released his hold, but kept close by, ready to recapture the prisoner, should it be necessarry. By order of Miss Templeton, he delivered to her a brace of revolvers, also an ugly looking bowie knife, and was marched toward the house. Bruno kept close by, growling out disapprobation, and occasionally showing his teeth in a manner that expressed a preference to use them upon the person of his captive, rather than to follow the command of his mistress. Miss Templeton and Madison, with pistols in hand, were ready for action, in case of an attempt to escape.
Reaching the house, two stout men were called
to reinforce the guard, and the prisoner was invited to enter under their custody.
The light revealed the dark, swarthy features of a suspicious looking individual, whose keen, black eyes dropped under the steady survey of Miss Templeton, as with calm demeanor she addressed him:
"I wish to see how a man looks, who prowls around at night like a beast of prey, without bravery to face the daylight, and sets on fire premises occupied by ladies and children."
"You's got to look at somebody else, ma'am," said the prisoner, "to see the like as you makes out. It's enough, a villain like me has to answer for, but no man can show I don't stan' by lone women an' little chil'en."
"Tell me the truth, man, if you know what truth is. Remember the God above hears you and will record against you in the great day, whether you tell me the truth or not. What is your name?"
"I'm Dodger--Sam Dodger, ma'am."
"Mr. Dodger have I ever injured you, that you should, in the dead of night, come on my place to destroy my property?"
"Pardon, ma'am," answered the captive, "I came on your place in the night, but I wouldn't hurt a ha'r o' your head. If you knowed what all I did come for, you'd treat me different; but I don't 'low to 'peach nobody, let alone the Club boys an' your own kin."
"I do not ask you to betray others, speak only for yourself. Can you truthfully say that you were not setting fire to the fence?"
"Jes' as true as I live an' breathe. I comed on your place to put out the fire."
"That is a very singular account, Mr. Dodger; but I feel disposed to credit your word, although circumstances are not in your favor."
"It is true, all the time, ma'am, I allus don't 'prove o' comin' down on a lone woman, if 'tis war times; an' if you'll jis look 'round the State, the county, an' this neighborhood, you'll see over a pile o' mischief done on t'other places, fences an' buildin's burned, niggers run off, hosses an' mules gone, crops sot afire, an' a heap o' diviltry, an' nary spear o' grass on your place hurt. Mebbe Dodger ain't nuthin' to do in it. I ain't pious, ma'am, but my mother is, an' I ain't goin' to let no lone woman get hurt if I'm 'round, you bet. You look in the school-house an' see whar I put the fire out, an' fence too. 'Taint the first time I've done it, an' figured so's to keep you cl'ar. I'll swar it's all true, ma'am; I'm an awful sinner, the Lord knows, but I wa'nt hurtin' nobody when that brute o' yourn come on me, like he'd tear every leader out o' me. I can't blame him nor you, nary one; it looked agin me. All I've got to say for Dodger is, if you put the matter into court, it 'll be oncomfortable for him wi' the Club boys; but if he can slip back easy, an' nothin' said, Dodger 'll keep his honor with my lady, till the war ends."
"I am disposed to accept your defense," said Miss Templeton, "and allow you to leave without further hindrance. I hope you will, hereafter, elevate your code of honor to the laws of God, and
endeavor to live in the light given by his word. Take these weapons, and may you never raise them to the hurt of your fellow man."
"Thank you, thank you, ma'am," said Dodger, placing the pistols in his belt; then raising the knife above his head, he slipped it dextrously into a sheath, hidden by the coat collar, at the back of the neck. "Let them stay where they are, till I have occasion to draw them in defense of my lady."
Upon the conclusion of this chivalrous speech, the guard was delegated to accompany him out of the house and see that he did not remain any where on the grounds.
When information was received at the club that no harm had been done to the buildings at Temple Vale, expressions of surprise, mingled with oaths, burst from the members, one of whom ventured the assertion:
"Demme if I don't think the geeurl's a witch. 'Tain't no use tryin' to do damage there any more. Might jis well not waste any more powder there. You can't carry out nothin' in that part o' the valley."
"Better let the geeurl alone," suggested Dodger, "or she'll be flying 'round you on a broomstick. I never want to see that kind o' steed 'round me. Git a witch once started after a man, an' her curses 'll stick to him in the day o' judgment. I'd rather fight wi' Beelsebub himself, nor one on 'em."
"Humph," said Tom, "I reckon Dodger's seed one his own self, an' that's how he lets that sort alone."
MRS. GROVENER manifested an increasing interest in the daily morning service, which had been continued without interruption. During the long nights she lay sleepless, waiting for the clock to toll the requiem of each passing hour, and welcome to her was the dawn, when she called her nurse, as the bell at the quarters was rung to arouse the servants for another day's work.
Reclining in an easy chair, she was wheeled out to her favorite corner, and gave strict attention, while Miss Templeton or Miss Lintner read and explained a few passages of Scripture; and after the offering of a simple petition, her voice joined in the Lord's prayer.
The services concluded, Mrs. Grovener partook of a cup of coffee, returned to her apartment and slept till mid-day. After dinner, she liked to engage one of the ladies in conversation, usually in discussing the subject of the morning lesson.
Having one evening held Miss Lintner captive, to hear an oft-repeated account of the circumstances that had caused her to become a member of the family at Temple Vale, said:
"I used to mourn our loss, and at night, think over the destruction of the house, and all the things that burned up stairs, and how dreadful it was to have to come to Miss Templeton's, where everything was strange. Then my darling daughter dying here and leaving the children for me to take care of, it seems as if I could not bear such trials."
"No doubt," said Miss Lintner, "Miss Temple-did all she could to promote your happiness."
"Indeed she did, the dear girl; it must have been a great trial to her. Minnie was three years old, and Walter but fourteen months. My daughter was never well after the fire. Miss Templeton cared for all of us, as if we had been her own kin. Her kindness melted away all the prejudice I had before cherished toward her, and now it seems as if I could not live without her."
"We little realize," said Miss Lintner, "how all things work together for good, when misfortunes befall us."
"That is not all the verse; Miss Letitia read and explained it one morning some time ago. 'And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.' She said, that God first loved us, and sent his Son to redeem us; that, if we avail ourselves of this redemption, the love of God will dwell in us. At first, it did not seem as if I ought to claim a share in the promise, 'that all things work together for good,' but the idea took possession of my mind; I studied it over night after night. The fire had led Miss Letitia to go over and bring
us all here, and you know what a guardian angel she is. All this kindness, too, after we had lived neighbors, and I had never before been on this place. She led my daughter to a knowledge of the Saviour, and in my suffering and weakness I am learning to love Him, who first 'loved us and sent his son to be a propitiation for our sins.' "
" 'If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his spirit,' " repeated Miss Lintner.
"Is that from the Bible? Then it must be the love of God that makes Miss Letitia so kind and loving to every one. I suppose one thing that makes it so easy for her, is, that she never has anything to trouble her. She never even complains of a headache, she has no husband or children to worry about, the servants don't annoy her, and her life glides as smoothly as rowing a boat down the stream."
So little does one know of another's trials! Had man the power to read the heart of his fellow-man, as through a glass, to find there portrayed the disappointments, the sorrows, the rifts in dark clouds through which hope beams a brilliant star, opening and closing as if playing with a bauble; had husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children, the power to read each others' hearts unveiled, what a world of misery this would be. It is more than many can bear, to know their own; hence, the All-wise, in his providence, has surrounded each individual with a veil of mystery, into
which he may withdraw with his own heart, and dwell in sacred communion alone with the Comforter.
"Miss Letitia has not told you anything of her life, while Mr. Hunt Templeton was on the place, I suppose," said Miss Lintner.
"Oh! no; she was in the North all the time, and has not told me anything about it. She speaks of hearing of her brothers frequently; one of them is a doctor and has an extensive practice. Have you ever seen them?"
"I have. Dr. Templeton resides in a town not far from my home. He was, at first, partner of an old physician, who has given up the profession on account of his infirmities, and Dr. Templeton has the reputation of being one of the most successful practitioners in our part of the State. His wife is an accomplished German lady, whose acquaintance he made while at college in Germany."
"Is it possible! Dear me, dear me! How the world does turn things over! Have they any children?"
"They have one, a little girl two years old."
"Is it possible! And will you pardon me if I ask what is her complexion?"
Miss Lintner well understood the purport of the question and was able to relieve the curiosity of Mrs. Grovener, by saying, "Certainly, madam, she is decidedly a Teuton, as fair as a lily, with light blue eyes, and straight hair."
"Is it possible! Dear me, dear me! How the
world does turn things over! Is the other brother there also?"
"Mr. Oscar Templeton resides about twenty-five miles from his brother. He is partner in a factory, and is making a fortune by large contracts from Government. He is not married."
"How wonderful! She never boasted of either of them, or mentioned that they were so successful in business. She speaks of them as 'Buddie,' and 'Little Bud.' And now, Miss Lintner, I am going to tell you what I have never told any one (but my husband knows it). We lived neighbors all the time when my daughter was growing up from childhood, and I would not let her be acquainted with Letitia Templeton, because of the taint on her mother's side. I feel better to have told some one. It has been a great weight upon my mind and I hope it will not trouble me any more."
"Do not think of it again, my dear Mrs. Grovener, I am sure Miss Letitia does not. Like St. Paul, she may say, 'This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are before, I press forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'"
"And a blessed thing it is," said Mrs. Grovenor, "that we can forget things that are behind, and look forward to what is before. I am glad you think Miss Letitia forgets how we used to look upon her father's family."
"In her desire to promote the welfare of those
around her," said Miss Lintner, "she is certainly doing her duty in that state of life in which it has pleased God to call her."
Newspapers sent from Washington by Mr. Grovener, giving details of the progress of the war, were read by the ladies, with earnest prayers that scenes of battles with destruction of life and property might not be repeated.
Victories were achieved by the desolation of Virginia's fairest valleys, by the groans of the wounded, and the outpouring of the life-blood of the brave.
"Victories," said Miss Templeton, "dearly bought. God grant the time may come when 'wars and rumors of wars' are no longer heard!"
Mrs. Grovener had, for some time, been failing in strength; medical advice was of no avail, and she seemed to be conscious that her days were numbered.
"Please, Miss Letitia," she said, "write to Mr. Grovener, that he must come home. The war is ended, and Mr. Lincoln does not need him so much as I do. I shall not want him long."
"I will write by to-morrow's mail, to the telegraph operator in Norfolk, to send him a despatch, if you wish, so that he may receive it in time to come this week. We can send the carriage to the river, hoping he will come by the steamboat on Saturday."
"Saturday," repeated Mrs. Grovener, "can I wait so long? Almost a week. What was that you read about patience, this morning?"
Miss Templeton repeated: "Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."
Mrs. Grovener clasped her thin hands and closed her eyes a few moments, then looking up to Miss Templeton, said, "The love of God works patience. I will wait till Saturday."
The few days passed and the expected husband came. Sunday morning dawned, finding Mr. Grovener and Miss Templeton still watching at the bedside of the sufferer, refusing to leave their post. The first rays of the rising sun streamed in an east window, as if to bridge her way across the dark valley, awakening her once more to earth. Mrs. Grovener looked toward Miss Templeton and whispered, "Sing."
A reply to the request was heard in the familiar hymn, "I would not live alway," sung in clear, soft tones. At its conclusion, Mr. Grovener was still holding the hand of his wife, but the wrist was pulseless; the heart had ceased to beat; while listening to the voice of one of "earth's angels," her spirit had winged its flight to Paradise.
The nurse brought from a drawer an elegant silk dress, made in a style worn a quarter of a century before, and fine linen under-garments, beautifully embroidered by the hands that had long since discontinued the use of the needle, and now
lay folded in the coldness of death. In these her last toilet was made.
The construction of a coffin was committed to Terence. Caskets had disappeared from the stock in the village stores, and, save an old packing-box, there was utter want of boards on the plantation, all having been used for various purposes since the wheel of the saw-mill had ceased its busy hum.
The coffin was made and its inspection by Miss Templeton called forth a sigh.
"Just the thought of using so rough a box is shocking to me; and Mr. Grovener, poor man, will be greatly distressed."
"I think we can improve its appearance by covering it," suggested Miss Lintner.
"So we might," said Miss Templeton, "had we the goods; but I have not a yard of anything suitable, not even a black dress that is not worn out."
"How would it do to use the black alpaca dress Mrs. Grovener sometimes wore?" asked Miss Lintner.
"Very well. The skirt is full, and there will be enough to cover and line it."
The suggestion was carried out, and with some white Swiss lawn a pillow was covered, upon which the head of the dead lady rested as sweetly as if it had been upon a bed of flowers.
The coffin was not heavy; four of the servants reverently bared their heads and carried it easily, by means of two strips of untanned hide upon which it rested. The bereaved husband and grandchildren followed, then the two ladies and the
servants of the three plantations formed a procession that wound its way to the branch, across the foot-bridge, over the fields and up the hill to the burying ground of the Grovener family.
There was no undertaker, no friend to aid in the last obsequies, no clergyman to offer a prayer for the repose of the departed or to console the living. Relying solely upon their own resources, with the help of high Heaven, this little band buried their dead.
Miss Lintner read from a book containing a burial service some passages of Scripture adapted to the occasion. The coffin was lowered into the grave and covered with earth, then all joined in the Lord's Prayer and returned to their homes.
"WHOO-O-OP! Whoo-o-op!" rang out upon the air one morning, an hour before dawn.
The dogs sprang from their kennels and bade defiance to the early visitor.
"Whoo-o-op! Whoo-o-op!" was repeated in tones that might have been heard from the gate down at the public road, a half mile distant; but this time the voice was nearer, and appeared to proceed from just beyond the gate that gave entrance from the avenue to the grounds surrounding the house.
That anyone should be bold enough to appear so near without permission, during the night, especially, was an unusual occurrence, and so excited the dogs that Miss Templeton feared they would go beyond their prescribed limits, and attack the intruder before they could be prevented.
Madison was aroused, and appeared at the door. Accustomed to communicate with those who thus made known their desire for an interview, his voice responded:
"Halloo! Who's there?"
Answer came above the howling of dogs:
"Tell Miss Templeton it's Dodger, meanin' no harm, wid a couple o' women an' a baby."
The cry of a child was distinctly heard, and that, perhaps, induced the cautious negro to continue the parley.
"An' what are you doin' here, this time o' night, wid women an' a baby?"
"I've fotched 'em out o' danger. Let us in, my good fellow, an' I'll tell you all about it."
From an open window, Miss Templeton had heard the conversation, and hesitated as to the wisdom of admitting them within the grounds. Madison came near enough to say:
"It's Dodger, Miss; the villain as set fire to the fence, an' scared us so the night Uncle Jonas died. I 'low he's got a couple o' low down, onnery women 'long, an' the Lord knows what devilment they all's got in thar heads. Baby, or no baby, if you'll jes let me, I'll get 'em off this plantation powerful lively."
"Let them into the yard, Madison, and keep the dogs close by till daylight. Call Terence and Harry to be on the watch with you. They must have a reason for coming here, but whether good or bad, we can not ascertain till it is light."
After they had been admitted, a period of suspense transpired until dawn dissipated the gloom of night, and the mystery of the unwelcome visitors.
Near the court house, lived a family of low, ignorant whites, well known through the country for
immorality. Madison recognized in the two women with Dodger, the mother and a daughter.
"We can only hear what they have to say, Madison, and if they have a bad motive, we shall probably discover it. Call the man first, and let him tell his story."
Dodger having answered the summons, came to explain the object of his errand.
"I'm here, ma'am, 'cause I didn't know where else to take 'em," he began his apology, nodding toward his companions. "We've been in the woods two days, an' nary bite's one on us had ter eat, 'cept a little corn meal we brought along?"
"Why did you go to the woods?" said Miss Templeton.
"Lord, ma'am, didn't you hear how the court house an' the tavern, an' all the houses beyond Farwell's branch, is all clean burnt up? It's the biggest blaze the boys 'as lit up yet. I got out my woman, 'an the old un, an' the baby; that ar's my baby, ma'am. I can lie 'round myself 'thout a bite fur two or three days; but it's hard on the women, an' the baby cries a heap. Dodger don't go sneakin' 'round nights no more, since--, since--, well, since--, you 'lowed he set fire to your fence. But he didn't though, I'll sw'ar to that."
"Do you tell me that G--is destroyed by fire."
"Plum cleaned out. I ain't lyin'; nothin' thar but ashes."
"Where are the people?"
"Couldn't say, ma'am; here's us, don't know 'bout the rest on 'em."
Miss Templeton ordered food to be provided for the unfortunate family; and as the school-house had been abandoned, they were allowed to take possession of it for a few days.
Dodger was quite uneasy while there, lest he should be discovered by members of the club, and expressed a desire to leave that part of the State. Miss Templeton did not oppose him, and furnishing a supply of corn meal and meat for two days' provision, bade him and his family "good-bye." as they set out to walk the entire distance to Norfolk.
"I might have sent them a few miles in a wagon," said she to Miss Lintner, "but I did not think it would be prudent. I would not like to place either driver or mules in their power, or in the power of those whom they might encounter."
Both ladies and several of the servants stood watching them, till they disappeared from view.
Dinah, with arms akimbo, turned to her mistress, saying: "Miss 'Titia, I's powerful glad fur ter see them ar' low-down w'ite trash's backs clean out o' sight. Did you see the ole woman, how she had on my gingham apron, an' de tudder stole my bes' turban? 'Pears like such kind o' truck aint so easy bought now-a-days."
"We all don't shed no tears, sayin' 'good-bye' to their likes," said Madison, going toward the kitchen. "We don't want no more dat sort o' company on dis plantation."
The work of the guerrillas had hitherto gone unpunished. Flames had lighted up the darkness of the night, rendering helpless families homeless.
Suspicion had traced the source to its headquarters, but fear had quieted investigation and the perpetrators were still unmolested. The sign of "Hunt Templeton & Sons" had become dingy and hung upon its rusty fastenings, creaking as it was swayed by the wind. The windows were covered with dust, and not a few of the panes broken. Shutters had been originally made to close over them, and secured by iron bolts to keep out burglars; these, from neglect and decay, had ceased to render any service, and lay upon the ground half covered with a rank growth of weeds, and an accumulation of rubbish. A view through the windows was obstructed by soiled blankets tacked upon the casings inside.
Any show of merchandise had long since disappeared from the shelves, a few empty boxes alone remained to tell the story of former use.
Outside the building was a rickety flight of stairs, in so dangerous a condition, that only those accustomed to make the ascent, would venture to do so with a prospect of reaching the top in safety.
In two rooms were remnants of the furniture bought for the villa at Temple Vale; only remnants, for much had been sold or worn out by hard usage. Two beds were in the front apartment and in the other were crowded a bed, table, chairs and other articles used for domestic purposes.
Hunt Templeton and his family called this "home."
In the rear yard was a little old log cabin used as a kitchen. An old negress, once a slave, earned
her own irregular rations, by serving as cook. She gathered from decaying fences of surrounding property, fuel with which to prepare food that was brought to her; sometimes in abundant supplies, and as often deficient in quantity as well as quality. From whence it came, no one asked.
One night, soon after the burning of the village of G--, as the clock struck twelve, dark figures could be seen approaching the building from different directions. Those who came on horseback left their horses under the sheds of the forsaken tavern, and joined their comrades on foot. All were armed, masked, and silently obeyed the signal or whispered command of a leader. The house being surrounded and all ready, a sharp knock was made at the door.
There was no answer. All was silent. Another knock, louder and sharper than before.
Above, a sound was heard, as if a window was being raised; a slat moved in the blinds, and a female voice inquired:
"Tom and Jerry Templeton are wanted," came from below.
"They are not here; they are away from the county," answered the speaker above.
"Tom and Jerry Templeton are in this house. We know it. We will have them, or we will burn up this old trap, and every sneaking rat in it."
Meantime, a window was raised in the rear so quietly, that, but for a guard stationed near, it would have escaped observation. A rope was
dropped, and a man descended, hand over hand. No sooner had he reached the ground, than another appeared at the window, and followed in the same way.
The guard who first made the discovery had been joined by two others, and while the second man was still suspended in the air, a low, sharp whistle brought reinforcements enough to seize the two, after a desparate struggle, pinion their arms, deprive them of weapons, and lead them around to the commander.
The light of a dark lantern flashed in the faces of the captives, and they were identified as the objects of the search.
Another knock was made at the door, with the demand that "The old gentleman must now present himself for duty."
The same voice answered that responded to the first summons; a voice tremulous with fear:
"You have my sons; will you take my husband?"
"Madam, we are not here to parley, but to carry out orders."
Two men ascended the rickety staircase, and with an ax crushed in the door. Seizing their prisoner in the midst of cries and screams of the wife and daughters, he was dragged down the stairs and led to the place where his sons were. All three were taken across the street to a vacant lot. The two sons were blindfolded and made to kneel. A sharp report was heard. Two bodies fell.
The father was blindfolded and led away to the shed where the horses were tied. There he was made to mount one of them, and, surrounded by a strong force, rode away.
Mrs. Templeton had thrown open the blinds, and the moon coming up lighted the scene. She and her daughter were witnesses of the last acts in the tragedy. Then came to her mind, like an old half-forgotten story, revived by the scene of blood before her, words that had been uttered by a frantic mother, bemoaning her half-murdered child; words that rang in her ears, and brought back the past in vivid remembrance: "May the day come, when your husband's tuck off, an' your chillun's knocked down in your sight, an' your hand 's too feeble to save."
With a heavy thud she fell upon the floor senseless.
"Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."
AFTER a storm has wreaked its fury upon a sin-stained world, it is said that poisonous gases are dissipated, the air is purer, vegetation is washed and all nature rises refreshed and purified. Perhaps so; but it has left a mark to tell of its visitation, which time may never entirely efface. The labor of man may have been brought to naught, gigantic trees uprooted and lie prostrate, rocks loosened, water-courses break their bounds and seek new channels.
The same is true of outbreaks that convulse nations. The political atmosphere becomes charged with the sins of Adam's race, and the pent up venom finds vent at the cannon's mouth. Sectional parties are revolutionized, difficult problems are solved, and questions that have been the study of wise heads are found answered in the clamor of war, where man is arrayed against his fellow man, brother against brother; right and left flashes the sword and booms the artillery, till humanity, sated, cries, "Hold! enough!"
The smoke dissipated--the light of peace broke
through--but alas--the devastation was sickening to behold.
Thousands of regiments of young men who had gone out with stout hearts and manly forms, returned to their homes sadly thinned in numbers, as well as weakened both morally and physically. Amid shouts of welcome to the living, was heard a wail for the lost who were never to return--for those whose bodies had corrupted in trenches, or whose bones bleached upon unknown fields; for those who had died from starvation in prisons, or from neglect in hospitals.
After the storm, the billows continued to heave; the great lump in the throat of the conquered child, choked his utterance, when told to return to his allegiance and kiss the rod.
Mr. Grovener remained at Temple Vale after the death of his wife, supervising the labor of putting in the crops on his estate, a matter in which he had but little interest, having hitherto given it into the hands of an overseer, and devoted his own mind to his profession.
A broken plow, a sick mule, a field showing how unevenly the seed had been sown, here and there the ground nearly bare, interspersed with places where the grain had sprouted too thickly, were annoyances he had not been accustomed to contend with.
After an irritating day, he returned to the house of his hostess, and threw himself, exhausted, into a
chair. Wiping the perspiration from his face and bald head, he exclaimed:
"It seems to me I can never enjoy country life. You seem to, and I wish you would buy my place."
It was a hasty remark, as it had never occurred to his mind that Miss Templeton had either means or desire to enlarge the boundaries of her possessions.
"Do you?" she asked smiling, "at what price?"
"What price? O, I do not know. If I could find a good cash buyer, I would sell the whole place for--," naming a very low sum. Actuated by a desire to dispose of the property, and relieve himself from care, at a time when but few sales were made, his first impulse was to sell out at any price.
"Will you sell it to me for that amount?"
"Sell it to you? Of course I will."
"From your tone of voice, you think I am jesting; but I was never more in earnest. If you will sell to me for the price you have mentioned, I will give you a draft for the amount; or, if that would not be fair, and you think you have hastily undervalued it, supposing I was in jest, reconsider the matter and state your proper estimate."
The successful crops and high prices obtained during the few years past, had gathered a considerable amount to Miss Templeton's credit, while her personal expenses had been so trifling that she had drawn little from it.
Mr. Grovener was amused at her proposition, and said: "That is a woman's way of transacting business, is it? I state the price, and you suggest
that I have not placed it high enough. Had I named but a quarter of its value, I would not compromise my word. Permit me to suggest that you should be more acute in dealing, or some persons might take advantage of you."
"I hope not. I see but few gentlemen, and those with whom I have business dealing are honorable. Does it make any difference whether it be a man's or a woman's way, if it is only right? Moses presented his code of laws to both man and woman. So far as I know, our laws recognize the same right for one as for the other, in holding property. Do they not? You ought to know, spending so much time as you do in the study of law."
"When you make enough to retire from farming, sell out and go to Washington. The discussion of the rights of your sex is an important topic, and engrosses the attention of ladies there."
"Thank you; I never expect to have leisure to devote to discussions with the charge of three farms, and can not form plans extending so far into the future."
"You are wise. I wish there were many more who reasoned thus. But to return to the subject of buying my place. I adhere to my proposition. When it will suit your convenience, Mr. Bruner will execute a deed. For many years the greater portion of my time has been passed in the excitement of the political arena; the quietude of plantation life has only been enjoyed as a period of recuperation with my little family; now that those
ties are severed, I should be happier without the responsibility. One request I have to make; that, when overburdened with mental work, you will allow me to come here and exist without a care or anxious thought."
After the purchase was concluded, sections were parceled off for several of the servants, who were ambitious to own land, and had been able to save of their earnings, during the past two years, sufficient to make part payment. They were to occupy their cabins at the quarters, and return, as before, a share of the harvest, until they had fully paid for the land.
"I can see," said Miss Templeton, "that after the men have saved up a little money, they feel a degree of independence, and will be better off if they invest it. I have no desire to own a large estate, with the responsibility of its care, but I want these fields on the east, that belonged to Mr. Grovener, and in buying the whole plantation, I can take them, and sell off portions of the rest for snug little farms to those who desire.
"The people are gradually learning what it is to be free, and continue useful in laboring for their own maintenance. When I am led to realize their dependence, and the incapacity of the majority, it seems as if it must be the work of this generation of masters and mistresses to prepare the black race for leading lives of independence."
"I agree with you," said Miss Lintner, "as to the position occupied by this liberated people; but a right perception of it may not be arrived at by
all of them, even if they have time and means to acquire it. Those within the sphere of your influence are fortunate in the possession of advantages offered for their improvement."
"I sometimes feel that the responsibility is too great," continued Miss Templeton. "Had you not come to help me out, I should have been found wanting in the discharge of duties, and many things left undone that ought to have been done. There is one urgent necessity that, I hope, will cease to exist, as it has sometimes alarmed me. There is no medical practitioner within a radius of fifteen miles; and then, after the necessary delay, we have only the poor advice of a man who knows little more than my 'Family Practice.' Had not Mrs. Grovener consulted able physicians in her case, previous to the war, and been told that nothing could be done for her relief, I should always have felt that she might have been cured."
"It is well," said Miss Lintner, "that we are in a healthy location, and that your knowledge, and care of the sick, have to a great degree diminished the necessity of employing a doctor."
"Brother James appreciates our position, and writes, that a gentleman who has been a surgeon in the army, is looking about for a location. Buddie has advised him to come here, and I think he will be welcome."
AFTER the cessation of hostilities and disbanding of the guerrilla club, precaution gradually diminished, and confidence in personal security increased. The cabin, used after the abandonment of the school-house, became so much crowded by reinforcements of children, some of whom came a distance of two, three, or even four miles, that it was necessary to re-occupy their former premises.
Jane had been a faithful student, and made such progress that Miss Lintner called upon her for aid in instructing the younger pupils.
The Sunday services were also held at the same place, and from a large range of country came adults with their children, white people and black, to take part in the exercises.
Division into classes became necessary, and before the ladies were aware of it, they had an organized Sunday-school. Books were received from the North, which contained a form of prayer, for opening and closing, with hymns set to music, in which Miss Templeton took the lead. They used no instrument, but there were good voices that
joined heartily in singing, adding greatly to the interest in worship.
By some means, a clergyman, at the head of evangelical work in Virginia, had heard of what was being done in one corner of the diocese, and a letter was received from him, announcing his intention to visit the place.
Both ladies were rejoiced to know that their efforts were recognized, and joined in extending a welcome to the expected visitor.
"Our governess was a member of the church," said Miss Templeton, "and her brother was a clergyman. He occasionally visited his sister, while she was engaged in teaching us, and we were all baptised by him. I have several times attended public worship with father in Charleston and Savannah, when too young to remember much about it. During my stay in Connecticut, I attended regularly, and enjoyed it exceedingly."
"It seems strange to one who has always been accustomed to attend public worship from early childhood, to realize a deprivation of the privilege," said Miss Lintner. "When I went to Mulberry Grove, that was my first real want; and here, in our Sunday-school, it seems as if we were preparing for the services of an authorized clergyman, who will collect the people and accomplish more than we can."
"There are several," said Miss Templeton, "among our adults who would gladly be baptized, and many more children, whose parents would desire
it for them; Col. Lemar's children have not been baptized."
"And you, my dear Miss Letitia, have never renewed your baptismal vows in the rite of confirmation."
"And I must confess not to have given it much thought. Have you any books that treat upon the subject?"
"I have one or two small pamphlets, but little is contained in their pages, except explanations of what is found in the Bible and prayer book. They may be of some aid to you."
"Thank you, I shall be glad to borrow them, and may be obliged to call upon you for light when it seems dark."
"Do so, I will aid you with pleasure. And we must take the subject of baptism for our daily lessons in the morning, as well as on Sunday, that as many as can be prepared may lose no time."
"It is a pity that the Bishop can do nothing for you, at this visit," said Miss Templeton, looking archly into the face of her friend. "Can you not persuade the Colonel to expedite matters a little, and let the ceremony be performed at the same time?"
"Ah, no; not by any means," answered Miss Lintner, blushing. "That would debar me from a visit to my old home, relatives and friends."
In the midst of the Spring planting, came the Bishop on his errand of mercy and love, hoping, trusting, and laboring to collect into the fold the lost, scattered, and wounded sheep. From city to
city, from village to village, from house to house, he sought to gather up his people. Did not his heart faint at the sight of a little church here and there, with a door broken off its hinges, and marked by the battle ax, its windows shattered, and its altars desecrated? The little flock that had assembled within its walls for worship were--where?
Echo answered, "Where." He looked within, where worshipers had joined; upon the benches were dark stains, telling the story of blood; upon the floor, evidence that horses had been stabled there. From under the sills the fox and the rabbit darted out, alarmed at the sound of man's footstep. Well might he say, "The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O, God of hosts, look down from Heaven and behold and visit this vine and the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself."
Perhaps it was an encouragement to discover an oasis, however small, in the region made desolate by the ravages of war. The man who could, with dignified bearing, do honor to a cathedral and fill its arches with the clear, distinct tones of his voice; who could match the reasoning of great minds, could also stand in a little log school-house filled with blacks and a few of the humblest of God's sin-smitten people, and point the way leading to the fountain of life, to the waters that could wash them "whiter than snow." He could show to the most ignorant among his hearers, that
baptism was a fulfillment of the Saviour's command, a rite whereby men are received into Christ's flock and ranked with those who are not ashamed to confess their faith in a crucified Master, a rite wherein they pledge themselves to fight under His banner against the world, the flesh and the devil. True missionary as he was, he could relish plain fare shared at the table of a back-woodsman.
The number presented for baptism was a surprise and gratification to him. He could scarcely realize that in a spot so remote from religious privileges, there should be a field ripened for the sickle.
In confirmation Miss Templeton was not alone; Madison and two others presented themselves. At the renewal of their baptismal vows, the hands of the Bishop passed from mistress to servants while he invoked the aid of divine grace, that they might continue God's children forever, and "daily increase in His Holy Spirit more and more;" mistress and servants knelt side by side as joint heirs to the kingdom of Heaven.
The stay of the Bishop was prolonged, that he might visit the fatherless and the widows; that he might encourage those who "beat their swords into plow shares, and their spears into pruning hooks."
He made inquiries as to the method adopted by Miss Templeton in improving the condition of the blacks, and encouraged her to continue her efforts.
"I would be glad," said he, "if I could send a missionary here, where you have made so noble a beginning, but it is impossible at present. There
are few available men, and our resources are very limited. Do not relax your labor, and after a time we may hope to supply you. I shall visit you on my next tour through the diocese."
"Miss Letitia, I just want to know what all I had better go into. Here's Harry, Terence, Thomas and Robinson, all wid their own ground, an' pears like, I've been knockin' 'round an' got nothin'. I don't 'low to complain, since Terence makes good crops; but 'pears like I want to do something myself. Don't reckon I'd git 'long wid a farm. What do you think 'bout turnin' preacher or keepin' a tabern?"
Madison still retained his fancy for horses, and from early impressions persisted in calling a stable a "tabern."
"Yes, Madison, I have been expecting you would want to slip into something, since Terence, your partner, is established. So you think you might be a preacher--that may do--but it is my impression that you would have to devote considerable time to study, first. As to the tavern business, our settlement will hardly support it yet. There is one thing, I think you can do, that has been suggested to my mind. A lady sent to me last week, from ten miles distant, to get a spool of cotton and two needles. I do not suppose there has been a bolt of muslin or calico brought into this county for more than two years; needles, thread, pins, and many other articles are much needed. Since G--was burned, the want of a
post-office was such that Mr. Grovener has had one established here, for our own convenience. I have been thinking if you will put up a cabin down on the road, by the two elms, it will be a good place to open a store, and keep the mail for the neighborhood. You can get some of the boys to help about raising the logs; most of the work you can do yourself, and save your money to buy goods."
Madison studied over the question a few moments, and said. "Tobacco 'd sell, an' coffee; I think I'd like that kind of business, miss; I know how to count money, and make change. Wher'll I get the things to sell?"
"Send your money to brother Oscar, with a memorandum of such articles as would be salable here. He will go to some dealer and order the goods."
"I see, I see, miss. Do you reckon I could 'tend to the horses and mules like I've been doing, and 'tend to the store too?"
"For a while, at least, you can, Madison. It will take some time before the goods arrive, meanwhile, you can select the site, and have your store ready. You will be obliged to buy some sawed lumber for the doors, floor and windows, which you will not be able to get, without sending to Norfolk."
"Yes, miss; I can hew out the logs, and haul 'em down so as to get some of the boys to help on the raisin,' 'fore they gets into plowin.' Mr. Farwell's done got back; if his old saw mill was runnin',
we could get him to saw us some plank; but I don't reckon it's any 'count now."
Mr. Farwell owned a farm on the road to G--, through which flowed a tributary affording, during a part of the year, sufficient water power to turn a wheel. Previous to the time when that gentleman absented himself to enlist as a Confederate soldier, the mill had not only earned a considerable income, but had been a great convenience to the community, preventing the necessity of shipping small lots of lumber from a considerable distance.
After the defeat of the cause Mr. Farwell had maintained, he returned to his home with a determination to resume his duties there. Two sons had fallen in the conflict, all his able-bodied hands were gone, his house had been destroyed by fire with the kitchen and adjacent outbuildings; his wife and children had taken possession of the sawmill and a cabin near it, which had escaped destruction. Where, a few years before, had been broad fields of grain, grassy slopes and shady pastures with herds of sleek cattle feeding, was desolation; underbrush in the forest, brambles in the fields, fences thrown down or entirely carried off. Mr. Farwell's plantation presented the same discouraging prospects to the owner as those of many others who had gone off and left them without proper attention.
In the days of their prosperity, Mr. and Mrs. Farwell had rolled past in their carriage, with driver and footman, disdaining to recognize a family of children through whose veins run the
blood of a servile race. Perhaps it was for her own children's sake, that Mrs. Farwell accepted corn from one of those whom she had refused to know; had ground it with her own hands, and baked of it a cake in the ashes.
War carries both fire and the sword, leveling high places. Pride experienced a fall in many a home; Letitia Templeton's day of humiliation when she was sold into slavery, and her encounter with adversity, had passed; with faith and trust she accepted the work for which she had been disciplined, and did her best to accomplish it.
Mr. Farwell, after his return from the war, called upon Miss Templeton for the first time, and, apologizing for so doing, asked the privilege of investigating her successful system of farming. She received him kindly and gave satisfactory information.
"I can do but little on my place this year," said he, "it is too late for anything, unless I can plant some corn, and I have neither seed nor teams for that."
"My hands have about done planting, sir," said Miss Templeton, "if you would like to have a pair of mules, I can lend them; also some seed corn."
"Thank you miss, it will confer a great favor; I will be happy to avail myself of your kindness."
"Is it not your intention to get your saw-mill in order, Mr. Farwell? There will be great demand for building material, as soon as people have the means with which to purchase. We are in need
of lumber and must get it from Norfolk, and haul it from the river, unless you get your mill in running order."
"Need of lumber, I know there is; but the mill requires repairs, the saw is rusted out completely, and the wheel a good deal rotted."
"Don't you think it could be mended, if you can get a new saw?"
"Maybe so, but I have not the means to buy one."
"If you will write down a description of the article you need, I will order it immediately to be sent with the goods for which we have already written. Don't speak of the money, sir; it is no trouble. The accommodation of getting lumber so near, will place the obligation on our part, and the bill can be arranged afterward. It will afford me pleasure to furnish anything I can loan to a neighbor. You will soon be able to make up lost time."
Mr. Farwell returned home with a lighter heart than he had felt in many days. After telling his wife of his kind reception by Miss Templeton, and her offer, one of the children said:
"And what do you think, Papa, Miss Lintner came over here herself, and asked us to go to school, and Mamma would not let us go."
"Why not, my dear?"
"I don't know. The young lady said we need not be taught with negroes, either; we could go and study with the little girl, Minnie Lemar."
BY the side of the public road, where the shadows of the great elms reached, Madison built a little store. Trees were felled by his axe, and hewed the desired dimensions. Log after log was brought to its proper place, till the eye of the builder pronounced the walls sufficiently high. Saplings, straight as a line, were selected for rafters, and stripped of bark. The same hands found trees, whose smooth grain favored the work, and split shingles for the roof. Openings were cut for doors at either end, for windows in front and at the sides. From a bed of clay upon the hill side, was made a plaster with which to fill the chinks. For the chimney there were no bricks; but, from the same inexhaustible source, a frame-work of sticks was plastered within and without.
The work had progressed thus far, when all was brought to a stand by the non-arrival of the saw, and consequent want of lumber.
Madison went to consult his mistress, as was his habit before taking any step in business matters, with a little more embarrassment than usual.
"Miss Letitia, I's been speakin' wi' Sarah 'bout gettin' married when we gets the store fixed; an' 'pears like de saw is good w'ile comin', so I's speakin' 'bout not waitin' no longer, but jes get married anyhow."
"I supposed you were making some such calculations, Madison, and you wish me to understand you are becoming impatient.
"You know the goods were to be shipped by a sailing vessel, because the expense would be considerably less than if sent through by land. Had they not been delayed by contrary winds, they would have been here before this; but I can see no reason why you should wait, if you and Sarah can agree to do without the articles of clothing you desired for the occasion."
"Just so, I 'lowed we could make out, an' Miss Grace says she'll fix up Sarah, so we needn't wait; if we can get some one to do my work a Thursday, an' Sarah's, we 'lowed to go to the 'Squire."
"Very well, Madison, find one of the boys willing to do your work the day you have selected, and I will see that a substitute is provided for Sarah. It is best to have the affair over before the goods come, for Mr. Farwell has everything in readiness at the mill, and it will not take him long to get out the lumber after the saw is in its place. You will have enough to do marking prices on your goods and getting ready to make sales."
On the appointed morning the bridegroom appeared in a suit presented by Col. Lemar; a navy blue dress coat, white vest and light drab pants.
They were rather short and tight for the muscular proportions of the wearer--a fact of which he was entirely unconscious--and he seemed perfectly satisfied by the added effect of a high standing collar and sky blue neck tie. His hair was usually worn in short plaits, but, for this full dress occasion, they were unbraided, well greased and lay in one unbroken mass, upon which was balanced, with difficulty, a military hat.
At that period hoops were worn of an unlimited circumference, and Sarah had, from "the branch," procured green-briar vines, and manufactured an apparatus to inflate her drapery to the standard laid down by fashion.
Miss Lintner made her happy, with a white tarletan dress that had done service upon festive occasions in the North, and Sarah was arrayed in a style that did not deteriorate from her preposessing beauty in the estimation of her sable lover. Wide, full sleeves, open to the shoulder, upon which were pinned cherry colored bows of ribbon, harmonized with the brilliant colored bandanna turban, which Aunt Dinah loaned, and tied with great precision.
The same instinct that induces ladies to bestow a large amount of time and money upon the selection of head attire, prompted Aunt Dinah to display her taste and ingenuity in decorating her own head. An indulgent mistress, humoring her weakness, had from time to time increased her store of turbans, which she was equally liberal in loaning to her fellow servants, claiming the privilege of exhibiting her skill in their arrangement.
Madison assisted in seating his lady-love upon as fine a mule as ever hauled a plow; and springing, with his usual agility, upon the back of another, the happy couple rode off for the residence of Esquire Bruner to plight their troth.
At night there was a dance, and a supper. A fatted calf was barbecued, and Aunt Dinah had a knack of producing a variety of dishes, by different compounds of the same materials. No one observed a lack of delicacies, when there was an abundance of substantials.
Uncle Dan seated himself upon the grass-covered roots of an old oak, and picked away upon his banjo, with his toughened, awl-pricked fingers, keeping time for the dancers, who threw off their shoes, and obeyed the call to "forward an' back," "cross over," "hands all 'round," or "down the middle."
Thus, out on the grass near their quarters, they ate, shouted, and danced the night away; Uncle Dan's fingers playing the same strain, whether he nodded or whether he waked; tired no doubt, but infinitely happy in feeling that his beloved instrument was appreciated by the merry crowd.
Dawn was just heralding, above the eastern horizon, the light of day, when Miss Templeton sounded the bell, and bade all to retire.
After the destruction of the village by fire, Mr. Bruner had occupied a room at his farm house as an office, and continued to serve his neighbors when called upon for legal counsel, and other duties
embraced in the power delegated to an attorney-at-law and justice of the peace.
He had succeeded to the agency of the business affairs of Rev. George Melburn, without having any personal acquaintance with that gentleman, and was taken by surprise, when, one morning, he entered the office and introduced himself.
For awhile they talked over changes that had occurred in the neighborhood, the effects of war, and state of the country.
"Reports of the deplorable condition of society," said Mr. Melburn, "reached me at the Station, through journals received from America, and I decided to return and transfer my missionary efforts to my native State. I shall remain at the old plantation to rest, and may investigate other districts."
"You will find a missionary at work in this vicinity," said Mr. Bruner, "but one who, I think, would be glad to abandon the field, in favor of a more experienced person."
"I am happy to hear that the ground is occupied; I must try to find a horse, and ride out," said Mr. Melburn, rising to leave.
"It will afford me pleasure to accompany you, sir; pray, be seated. I will order horses to be brought."
Mr. Bruner had respected Miss Templeton's request, and while Mr. Melburn had been informed of Mr. Grigg's resignation, he was still in ignorance as to the person then in charge. The attorney's fondness for humor, and curiosity to observe
the effect of the discovery that a lady was supervising the estate, may have been one motive that induced him to be present at the denouement.
"You must be prepared for some changes at your place," said Mr. Bruner, as they rode along.
"I expect it, although you have conveyed the impression that my old servants, or most of them, remained. This, if I remember rightly, is the old Grovener place, but it does not look familiar."
"It was formerly owned by Mr. Grovener. He sold out last Spring, and resides in Washington. His wife and daughter are dead, and he was so unhappy here that he did not wish to remain. His dwelling was burned during the war."
"And this property belonged to Capt. Templeton. I remember hearing of his decease soon after I went abroad. Ah! here is a little store, I see by the plow at the door and display of goods in the window. Has this passed into the hands of strangers."
"Oh, no, it is still in the family. Here is a good place to water our horses," said Mr. Bruner, as they had instinctively turned toward an excavated log, into which trickled the cool water of a spring, led thither by a spout.
"These elms are an old landmark," said Mr. Melburn, looking into the shady branches overhead. "I have stopped here many a time to crack nuts and sip from the spring up on the hill side."
"This store is kept by one of Capt. Templeton's old servants; that cabin is where he lives. He must do considerable business; and has charge of the
post-office. Do you see that log building across the field, by the corner of the grove yonder? That is the only school-house I know of in this county, and is the missionary station to which I made reference."
"Is it possible? Is there public worship every Sunday?"
"There is a flourishing Sunday-school held weekly, and I am told the day school has a large attendance."
"Glad to hear it; glad to hear that our county is not entirely demoralized; that she is still loyal to advancement and encourages education."
Mr. Melburn's return to Oak Lawn caused him to reflect upon the past, and to realize that he stood once more on his own ground.
The house, which had been stripped of the greater part of the furniture when Mr. Grigg left, did not appear inviting, still; as the home of his boyhood, it was dear, and he expressed an intention to remain, and send a wagon for his trunk.
"You can not stay here," said Mr. Bruner, "till you can be made comfortable. If you insist upon being nearer than my house, come over to Temple Vale; we are all used to hospitality and have no need of hotels and boarding houses. I think you can find a room, and a hostess who can aid in preparing your house for a bachelor's hall." Seeing Mr. Melburn hesitate to accede to the proposition, he continued, "I think you will find it to your advantage, since your present overseer is there."
"Indeed," said Mr. Melburn, "then I will go, since I must make his acquaintance."
Following the path made by frequently passing back and forth, the gentlemen reached Miss Templeton's yard in a short time. Giving their horses into the charge of a boy, they ascended the steps and seated themselves upon the veranda to await the appearance of the hostess.
Miss Templeton came forward, clad in a neat white linen dress, fastened at the throat with a gold pin, and no ornaments except a spray of forget-me-not in her hair. Extending her hand cordially to Mr. Bruner, she bowed toward Mr. Melburn as if expecting an introduction, not recognizing him at first glance.
"Seems to me, you are rather cool to an old neighbor, Miss Letitia: do you not remember this gentleman? Mr. Melburn, beg your pardon, allow me to introduce your overseer, Miss Letitia Templeton."
The confusion on both sides was indescribable, and not understood by Mr. Bruner, who, however, seemed to enjoy it.
"Shake hands--that is the way we do in this country. Pardon him, Miss Letitia, he has faced barbarians for so many years, that he is as bashful as a school boy in meeting a civilized lady. Be seated, be seated; you can talk over old times when I am gone, and remember I have kept the secret. Mr. Melburn, she made me promise not to tell you that she was overseeing your place. I do not see that it can be kept any longer; so, after I leave, you
can quarrel about it. By the way, perhaps, as he is so bashful, I may as well make known his errand this evening. He is determined to stay at his homestead, but I insisted that we should come here and get you to keep him, till he has his 'bachelor's hall' fitted up."
"I shall be happy to accommodate Mr. Melburn," said Miss Templeton, "if he desires it. Shall I have your horse put up?"
"Never mind the horse, it is mine," said Mr. Bruner, "I will lead him home."
"Do not think of it," said Miss Templeton, "one of the boys will ride down, and returning, can bring anything Mr. Melburn may wish to have."
"Thank you, Miss Templeton; if my valise can be brought up, it will be a favor."
The next morning being Sunday. Miss Templeton invited her guest to take a part in the exercises at the school-house.
"I hope you will be disposed to overlook deficiencies in our efforts to impart instruction, since we have no leader, and only work up to the extent of our abilities."
"I understood from Mr. Bruner, that there was a missionary in charge of this station."
"Mr. Bruner, as you observed, is disposed to jest. There has been a lady here, Miss Lintner, who was a useful teacher, but she laid no claims to be called a missionary. The Bishop spent a few days with us--there is work enough to be done; but he says. 'the demands of the diocese are so great, and resources so limited, that he can give no
encouragement of being able to provide us with a clergyman at present.' "
The little building was, as usual upon pleasant days, so crowded that the benches were placed around under the shade of the little thicket, which had been purposely cleared of underbrush, and the audience impressed Mr. Melburn with the conviction that it was not necessary to cross the seas, or even go far from his own home, in search of a harvest for the Master's sickle. Without family ties he had been out in the wide world, and, upon returning, the fact that some one had cared for his interests while absent, rekindled the hope that some one might continue to care for him when present.
Mr. Melburn led the opening exercises, and the school proceeded with lessons as usual.
Miss Templeton had been in the habit of receiving from her brother Oscar, by mail, papers and lessons for the use of the pupils, containing texts in explanation of selected topics.
The lesson for the day, given out the preceding Sunday, was the vision of St. Peter, found in the tenth chapter of Acts. Mr. Melburn's elucidation of the subject was forcible, closing with the words of the Apostle, "Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
During the week, Mr. Melburn succeeded in purchasing a horse, and in ordering from Norfolk furniture for his apartments. Letters were written
to the higher powers; and, in due time, Rev. George Melburn was settled as pastor over the church in his own county.
Information spread through the county that a post-office and store were established at Temple Vale. Customers came from a distance, to make purchases and receive mails, so that it was soon found necessary to replenish the stock of goods.
The hum of Mr. Farwell's mill-wheel could be heard, and many were looking forward to the sale of crops for means to rebuild or improve their homes.
"MISS 'TITIA, Mammy says, wont you please, Miss, come ober 'n see Uncle Simon; he's awful bad to-day. An' she says, please Miss, bring some med'cine fur de baby; she's got de colic."
"Tell your Mammy I will come directly. You needn't wait for me; go right home and wait on Uncle Simon."
The servants upon the three plantations had not forgotten their accustomed dependence upon a mistress, and especially in want or sickness, appealed to Miss Templeton, and never in vain. In heat or cold she was accustomed to obey calls, and render service to these dependent people. The infirm and helpless relied upon her bounty for a maintenance, as in time of slavery, and from her hand received food and clothing.
After sending out an order to have Fleetfoot saddled, she selected a key from a large bunch, and unlocked the door of the storeroom. Placing a napkin in a basket, she laid into it a loaf of light bread, some eggs, a pair of dressed chickens, and a cup of jelly. Covering them carefully,
she went to the medicine chest, from which she took a bottle of liniment, also one labeled, "Cholera Mixture," and placed them in the end of the basket.
By the time Fleetfoot was at the horse block, she was ready, and a boy, who attended her upon expeditions of this kind, took the basket, mounted his horse, without saddle or bridle, and followed.
Stopping at a vegetable garden, she ordered the boy to alight and get a cabbage; then passing down the avenue to the public road, and out of the gate, on to the mill, she halted a few moments and inquired about some lumber Mr. Farwell had been sawing for her. Handing a parcel wrapped in a towel, she said:
"Please give this to your wife; she made so late a start with her poultry, that her chickens must be too small for use, yet. Be careful, please, not to drop out that loaf of light bread. I thought Mrs. Farwell would enjoy it, as she tells me she does not succeed well in making it. No thanks; you are quite welcome. Good morning, sir."
Mr. Farwell laid the parcel down upon a bench, while he turned to his work; and whether the dampness wiped from his eyes with a shirt-sleeve, was perspiration, it matters not to us. Leave him with his own trials, and follow Miss Templeton.
"Trot along, Fleetfoot, I shall have to call you 'Slowfoot,' now-a-days, you are getting so lazy. Here we are at last, at Uncle Simon's."
It was on the old Grovener estate, a little weather-beaten cabin, where Uncle Simon had outlived
his usefulness as a farm hand; and scrofula, that curse of a pork-eating people, was gnawing his vitals.
Propped up in his bed, by an old split-bottom chair, made easy with a quilt and small pillows, Uncle Simon sat, looking out of the door, when Miss Templeton rode up. His bloodshot eyes seemed to lose their dimness as he welcomed her;
"Bress your heart, honey, I knowed you'd come; Mammy, yere, 'lowed you wouldn't, 'cause you's ober tudder day; I's gittin' so down-spirited, sittin' yere all day, an' all night han' runnin', 'peared jis like I want to look at you an' see you."
"That was right, Uncle Simon, I'm not so very busy, just now, and will try to come oftener; and if the baby is sick, she needs medicine."
"Yes, Miss, she crawls out under the trees, an' eats green apples," said Aunt Milly.
"I have brought medicine, but you must keep her in, or I will take her home with me and take care of her; do not let her out again, as long as the apples are falling."
With her quiet manners and few words, her commands were understood as imperative, and she expected no further trouble from the same cause.
Mammy was examining the contents of the basket.
"Eggs and fine corn flour; just what Uncle Simon's beggin' for dis mornin'--he wants an egg pone. W'at's dis yere?" holding up the cup of jelly, "reckon dis 'll sharpen his appetite--an' a cabbage too. Thank you, miss; thank you. I
lowed cabbage 's headin' up in your garden; our 'n's small yet."
Miss Templeton found a spoon, and administered a dose of medicine to the complaining child. Giving the bottle into Aunt Milly's charge, with directions for its use, she renewed Uncle Simon's supply of liniment.
"Is you got your Bible, Miss 'Titia?" said Uncle Simon. Seeing his mistress take it out, he continued, "I'd jus' so like to hear dat ar' you read tudder day, 'bout who all's de bressed." Opening her testament, she read "Christ's sermon upon the Mount," to which both Uncle Simon and Aunt Milly gave attention.
"Bressed are de pure in heart," he repeated. "Dem's precious words; don't make no difference how brack in color, how d'seased, an' sore, if on'y de heart 's pure, washed wi' Jesus' blood; dey all shall see God; dat's a mighty comfort, miss; it cures me to hear it, least I done forgits de pain."
Returning home, she led the way around through the fields of Robinson and Terence. A few words in favor of their fine corn, encouraged them; for they were not too old (and who is) to be pleased with praise.
When school was re-opened for the fall and winter term, Jane assumed the entire charge, under the supervision of the rector and Miss Templeton.
From a letter written about this time, we make a quotation:
"My family is so reduced that I am quite lonely. Mr. Melburn's return has not only relieved me from duties at Oak Lawn, but the responsibilities of the Sunday-school are not so great. Every alternate week he officiates at Compton, and is bringing in to the church a large number, who are too remote to attend services here.
"Write me whether Col. Lemar has decided about his future location; there are some valuable estates in this vicinity, that can be bought at low prices. There is one three miles distant, which is healthful and delightfully located. The buildings and fences met the almost universal fate; but before the war, it was considered the most productive plantation within the limits of our observation.
"I do so much miss you, and the dear children. If Col. Lemar decides to remain in Washington, make allowance for a long visit here."
"Miss Letitia, I's 'bout dissided fur ter buy some good teams, an' carry the mail myself, from de river up here, an' on to Compton," said Madison.
"What will be done with the store while you are absent?" inquired Miss Templeton.
"Why, I 'lowed ter sell out to Uncle Dan, miss; the boys know how to sell goods, an' Uncle Dan says he 's 'most too old to keep on shoemaking; he can move up here, an' 'ten to customers. The boys can keep on their trade, an' help 'bout countin' money, an' makin' change."
"Has Uncle Dan means to buy out your stock?"
"He thinks so; if Jane can go an' help us count
up how much they all come to, we 'll know how 'tis. She's a good hand at figuring."
"If you decide to carry the mail, Madison, you may as well get a carriage that will accommodate passengers. There is considerable passing on the road now, and it will pay you better, if you have a sort of stage line."
"Yes, miss, it might so, I never thought 'bout that. Reckon if I could get Mr. Grovener's old carriage, it could be fixed up, an' do very well, till the business gets 'stablished."
"How are you progressing, Madison, with the reading Mr. Melburn recommended?"
"No so very well, miss; there's a heap I can't make out any sense to. Mr. Melburn was 'quirin' 'bout it, an' he 'vised me to go over to him, w'en I gits bothered, an' he will 'splain it to me."
"Mr. Melburn thinks you will be able to preach to your own people; but says you can do so when opportunity offers, without interfering with your business. If you sell the store and drive the stage twice a week, it will give you a little more leisure for study, but need not prevent you from doing your work."
LATE in autumn, Col. Lemar arrived with his family, having resigned his commission, intending to find a plantation, where he would make a permanent home.
The children expressed their joy in getting back to Temple Vale. Minnie manifested her disgust with traveling.
"It is a dreadful noisy place where our new mamma's home is, for, Cousin Titia, papa says, 'Miss Lintner is our mamma, now.'"
"Miss Lintner is our mamma," echoed Walter, "and she's going to live with us always, and we are so glad we've got her away from the big noise and the big hotels, and big Washington, to our dear old home."
"An' to Tousin 'Titia, too--an' me's doin' stay all time, be Cousin 'Titia's baby," exclaimed the youngest, throwing himself into Miss Templeton's arms.
"Yes, and you will all stay here, and not let Cousin 'Titia be so lonely, will you not, darlings?"
Col. Lemar spent some time in looking about,
and finally purchased a plantation, a few miles distant; one that required considerable improvement to make it a desirable place of residence.
On the ground were mineral springs, said to possess valuable medicinal qualities, which, previous to the war, had been resorted to by invalids afflicted with certain maladies.
"We may as well," said Col. Lemar, "build a house large enough to accommodate those who may choose to try the virtue of the water, and have the springs cleared out, so as to be attractive and accessible. If we exclude ourselves wholly, I am afraid my wife will be lonely. The site is lovely, and a little expense, rightly laid out, will render it quite desirable."
"I am very fortunate in consequence of your decision," said Miss Templeton. "While improvements are being made, you will be with me, and I shall take advantage of your kindness; for I think Mrs. Lemar will be willing to take charge for me a few weeks during the winter, and let me have a vacation."
"I shall be most happy," said Mrs. Lemar, "to do what I can to relieve you. You have been here six years without a change, and will have a good opportunity to run away from care."
"I desire," returned Miss Templeton, "to visit my brothers in Connecticut, and brother Oscar has promised to join me in the trip I have long had in anticipation."
Pursuing a southerly course along past where the
St. John empties her waters into the Atlantic, floating, like a bird, with her sails set to the breeze, was the Sea Gull, tacking to and fro against the south wind, now approaching the coast so near that objects could be distinguished, then away so far that only a blue streak appeared on the western horizon.
One, two days passed, and the third was drawing to a close. The sun dipped into the blue mist, a gorgeous opal, diffusing a golden halo far over the sky; while all along toward the Sea Gull, in a widening path of light, the waves tossed up their caps, and caught sparkling jewels, brilliant with carmine and cadmium.
Two passengers sat upon the deck absorbed in their own reflections, watching the scene till the sun had set and the beauty faded into night.
The spell was broken by the Captain, who came with his glass to make his last observations for the day.
"How long do you think it will be, Captain, before we reach the northern line of Volusia county?" inquired the lady.
"I guess 'taint far, since we passed the fort, ma'am," answered the Captain in broad Yankee dialect, without lowering the glass, which was leveled toward the coast. "Thar she is, now; take a look through here, ma'am, and I'll show whar 'tis. You p'int the glass due west. If 'twas lighter, you could see sharper, but we're making to shore. Thar now, don't you see that clump o'
trees an' a little inlet to the southward? That's the place whar the line comes."
"Can you not lie by till morning, Captain? It would be a great mistake if we should pass in the darkness the place where we want to stop."
"Wal, no ma'am, I guess we couldn't anchor out here, an' 'taint safe huggin' to shore 'long these parts. I like a wide berth nights. I've seen a storm spring up, little more suddent 'n pleasant, down here. You needn't be oneasy 'bout passin' whar you want me to lie to. For quite a piece it's all flat land; not much chance to get into Skeeter Lagoon for some miles yet further to the south. The wind's 'bout died out, an' if it don't spring up 'fore day, we won't get fur, anyhow."
"You appear to locate the point where we want to stop," said the gentleman.
"Wal, no, can't say 's I do 'xactly, only there ain't no place, jes here, whar a boat could be put to shore. That's all I know 'bout it. Tomorrow we'll hug in, an' creep 'long little keerful; if there's a chance to land, an' anybody's livin' 'bout here, we'll be apt to find 'em."
"Come, little sister," said the gentleman, after the Captain had left them, "you will want to be on the lookout early, better retire to your cabin."
Soon after daylight, next morning, the two passengers went upon deck, as the boat was being lowered, and preparations made to put in to the shore about half a mile distant. The mate and two hands took their seats, and Mr. Templeton stepped in after them. The oars dipped in the
water, "little sister" waved her handkerchief, and and they were gone.
During the two hours of their absence, the lady did not cease to watch, walking up and down the deck, and looking toward the shore, till the little boat was visible, making for the Sea Gull.
It hauled up alongside with a supply of fruit, fish and oysters.
A satisfactory smile lightened up the sister's face, as her brother nodded in answer to her inquiry, said something about "next inlet," and handed her a bough, upon which was hanging a cluster of oranges.
The Sea Gull was once more put on her course, near to the shore, for a few hours. The Captain remained upon deck, frequently referring to his chart, and using his glass to reconnoiter the coast. When he had reached the locality designated by informants at the former anchorage, he ordered the anchor to be dropped, and the boat lowered.
Mr. Templeton and his sister stood looking on, till all was ready. As he was about to make a descent into the boat, she said:
"Help me down first, please, Buddie; I am not to be left behind this time."
Seated in the boat, the sailors pulled for the shore. Nearing the point, an old cabin was seen, and a small thicket of orange trees. As they landed, Miss Templeton clung closely to her brother, and whispered:
"It is the same place--O, how dreadful it is here!"
"Not a very desirable place of abode, surely," said Mr. Templeton, "but there is nothing to fear, sister, do not tremble."
"Thar aint no bears here, ma'am," said the mate, who had overheard her remark, "they are further in the woods, and I guess there aint no folks here, either," he added, striding ahead, and looking into the cabin. "All gone visiting the neighbors, I guess; look a here, George, jis see how they fix bunks down in this country."
George answered the call, and entered the cabin, following his comrade on a tour of investigation.
The floor was sand, in which were footprints showing that the foot of man had recently been there. There was no furniture except hewn blocks, and in two of the corners, what the sailors called "bunks," raised a foot above the ground, covered with beds of pine-straw.
"Wal," said the mate, "'fore I'd live in such a hole as this, I'd go 'fore the mast three years, an' hunt up Robinson Crusoe's Island; 'd rather go to Sing Sing, Blackwell's Island, anywhere."
"I do not see any gun here," said Mr. Templeton, looking around within the doorway, while his sister still clinging to his arm, drew him out, saying:
"Do not go in, please, it is a horrid place."
The rest of the party, who had gone through the house, and out at an open doorway on the opposite side, announced that they had discovered a path.
"The gentleman has probably gone on a hunting expedition and taken his gun," remarked Mr.
Tempteton. "If his stay is not prolonged, we might await his return and fare sumptuously on his game; but let us follow his path, we may meet him and announce our intention."
In single file they passed through a dense thicket of palmetto trees and other growth of the hummock till their footsteps were arrested by sounds that caused them to halt. They listened--again were heard sounds which all agreed in pronouncing to be those of the human voice.
"This way--this way," whispered the mate, as they came out of the high growth, and followed where the path was lost in the low, wet ground; "softly, all keep close."
Again the voice was heard, more distinct than before.
"Go ahead, boys, we're on the right track to find some one," said Mr. Templeton, in a suppressed tone. "Keep close, sister."
The precaution was useless, as Miss Templeton made every effort to keep pace with the rest while struggling over the treacherous soil, and clung still to her brother's hand for assistance, until they reached a strip of high land, where the scrub growth disappeared, and a forest of tall pine came in view.
Near them--near enough to be understood--was heard the voice; "O Lord, make me strong! O Lord, bress Dinah an' de chil'en! O Lord bress Miss 'Titia and make 'er strong! an' w'en you's done wid us here, ketch us up in de w'ite cloud into glory."
Wafted by the warm breezes of that sunny
climate, the words were heard by the advancing party.
Miss Templeton started forward, forgetting her hesitation and timidity, exclaiming. "It is he, I know his voice," outran the others, and in a few moments was by the side of Uncle Joe.
There he stood against a large tree; a rope was passed under his arms, around the tree, and tied on the opposite side beyond his reach.
Miss Templeton knelt down, took his great black hands in hers, and bathed them in tears. "O, Uncle Joe! poor Uncle Joe! poor boy! poor boy!" was all she could say.
Mr. Templeton drew a knife from his pocket and cut the rope; coiling it up in his hand, he threw it from him as if it had been a snake.
The sailors stood back in mute surprise; the mate wiped the back of his hand across his eyes, saying, "But ain't it a good thing the niggers is all free, boys?"
As soon as the rope was cut, Uncle Joe dropped down upon the ground in a sitting posture, and tears streamed from his eyes in thankfulness for his deliverance.
"O, Miss 'Titia! I know'd you'd come. The Lord allus answers pra'r. I know'd you'd come. I've prayed an' waited till I mos' gin out. O, Maus Oscar! de Lord sent you right yere. Take me home, Maus Oscar, 'twont take much money to buy me now. I aint no 'count, no more. But oh, how I'd love to see de ole plantation, Dinah an' de chil'en, jes once more!"
"Uncle Joe," said Mr. Templeton, "do you not know that you are free?"
Uncle Joe shook his head, "Ole massa didn't give me no free papers, Maus Oscar; no, sir; I 'longs to--well, you know--he sold me."
Mr. Templeton perceiving that he was either bewildered or had not heard the story of the emancipation, thought it wise to divert the subject, and said:
"We will not remain here; are you able to walk, Uncle Joe?"
"Yes, sir, I am better now, sir." Rising with difficulty, he lifted a heavy ball, which was attached to one ankle by a chain several feet in length.
One of the seamen took it out of his hands, and all joined in examination of the chain, and found it secured by a manacle and could not be removed without a tool. The poor fellow attempted taking it from the seaman, saying:
"I'm used to totin' it, I've had it on ever since Miss 'Titia an ' I parted."
"But it is heavy," said the sailor, "an' you don't look overly strong; I'll take it to the boat, 'pears like all you can do to tote yourself."
"Don't reckon Maus Thomas 'll be 'long 'fore night."
"Devil take your Maus Thomas," said the sailor, "I'd like to have him on that ar' end o' this chain, I'd drop him overboard quicker'n scat. Tell me now, what did he have you tied up to a tree for?"
"He allus does w'en he goes off huntin'. He says he's feared I'll run off, or drown myself."
"That's worse nor bein' board a man-o'-war. How fur 'd he think a man 'd travel with this? Might be a good thing to keep a fellow down 'mong the fishes."
With other comments from the sailors, the path was retraced to the cabin.
Here Uncle Joe objected to going any farther till his master should arrive.
"Don't ax me to go off again. I wouldn't a gone 'fore, ef't hadn't been for her; but--if Miss 'Titia says so, I'll go; she won't ax me to do wrong."
"Then I say, come. Uncle Joe; come with us, and I will take you right home to the old plantation, where Aunt Dinah and your children are waiting for you."
Making no more objection, Uncle Joe was led to the boat, and in a short time, all were safe on board the Sea Gull. Anchor was weighed; tacking about, with sails set to the breeze, they were soon sailing in a northerly direction.
Miss Templeton had been careful not to reveal the object of her absence to Aunt Dinah or any of the servants, lest expectation should become elevated and never realized.
Madison was surprised to find Maus Oscar and Miss Letitia among the passengers by the regular Norfolk boat, but he could scarce believe the evidence of his senses, when Uncle Joe fell into their wake, carrying a new valise.
He at once recognized him, and gave him a
hearty grip. "Howdy, Uncle Joe; howdy. Where you been at, all dis time, growin' so old? I 'clar if you' ha'r aint turn gray."
"Howdy Madison, howdy; glad to see you; glad to be home again."
Mr. and Miss Templeton entered the stage, with two other passengers, and Uncle Joe, with some assistance, succeeded in climbing up and seating himself beside Madison, where he listened to an account of the chances and changes that had occurred during the years intervening since they met.
"The old place don't look much like it used to, Uncle Joe; you never would know it."
"Dis yere Miss 'Titia's carriage?" inquired Uncle Joe.
"No sir," answered Madison, extending his broad shoulders to their fullest breadth, "dis yere's my team, hosses an' stage. I runs de mail line, from the river, through Temple Vale to Compton."
If Madison had been ambitious to be the owner of horses, this was a happy hour, and he felt himself master of the situation. Step by step had he ascended the ladder, elevating himself by his own efforts, till he had reached thus far.
"Uncle Joe, you's been out de country, I 'lows you don't know what's goin' on. 'F you'd stayed yere all time, you'd reckon free niggers is some 'count. 'Taint like it used to was. Ole Wirginny progressnin, an' Madison's progressnin also. Who you reckon's done bought dis yere place, used to be Mr. Grovener's? Course you don't know; Miss
Letitia's done bought it, an' a heap o' the boys done bought their own land."
"I 'clar, if dar aint de elums? I know'd 'em, sure. But w'at's all dis yere?" inquired Uncle Joe, as they drew up to water the horses near the store.
"You keep on 'sprisin' yerself. Uncle Joe; I don't gen'ly turn up de 'abnue yere, but 's my load's heap fur de big house, I'll dribe in."
Madison had turned his horses up toward the gates, which, to Uncle Joe's amazement, opened automatically, and closed after they had passed through.
"How'd dat gate git open an' shut, all to itself. Madison," he exclaimed, continuing to look at the gate.
"You jes keep on 'sprisin' youself, Uncle Joe. But look a here jes now, an' 'sprise yourself again." Uncle Joe looked where the plain old farm house had been, and saw, instead, the elegant home erected by the man who did not long occupy it."
"I ain't no more to say, Madison, I reckon my head'll git clar again' sometime."
Col. Lemar, his wife and children ran out as they saw Miss Templeton alight with her brother, and amid the warmth of reception, did not observe the outside passenger, whose descent Madison was assisting, till Miss Templeton announced:
"And here is Uncle Joe, let him come in for a share of your congratulations."
The attention was immediately diverted to that individual, who stood dazed in the midst of handshaking and "welcome home again," till Aunt
Dinah made her appearance around the corner of the house, transfixed in amazement, with her uplifted hands covered with flour. For as soon as the stage had turned in through the gate, she "knowed Miss 'Titia's come, an'd want supper, right off." So she had gone into the kitchen to beat some biscuit, and was busily engaged when Caroline darkened the kitchen door, long enough to exclaim, "Mammy, pap's done got home"--and disappeared.
The announcement was enough to cause Aunt Dinah to leave the dough and follow the child.
As she advanced, the group encircling Uncle Joe opened for her, and seizing him by the hand in speechless joy she drew him on to her cabin. There she tossed her "week's washing" from the embrace of an old wooden rocker, beat up and turned over the chintz-covered feather cushion. Upon this he lowered himself as if the infirmities of old age had already crept upon him.
Separating her own children from the crowd that followed and filled the cabin, she motioned the rest to leave, saying with a choking voice:
"Go 'way, go 'way off; he's my Joe."
It is not for us to investigate what transpired in their humble home. Under dark skins throb human hearts, with the same emotions of sorrow or joy as are found actuating the Caucasian. With a rough exterior and peculiar manner of expression, their human nature intuitively felt the sacredness of the family ties in which none other can sympathize; and Aunt Dinah in collecting once more
their number unbroken, more perfectly enjoyed the reunion by the exclusion of all others. That fullness of joy which takes possession of the heart but seldom during a lifetime was theirs; oblivious to the trials and pains of the intervening years their cup ran over; and as lights are brought out by vivid contrasts, so the dark shadows just behind rendered this sudden emergence replete with unspeakable happiness.
"Aunt Dinah will want to have a little talk with her husband, Sarah," said Miss Templeton; "go and finish preparing the supper."
The news of Uncle Joe's return spread, and the hands, upon coming in from the field, could not permit Aunt Dinah's door to remain long closed. Each must step in, shake hands and say "Howdy," and "Mighty glad to see you, Uncle Joe."
Aunt Chloe brought in a sparkling glass, and handing it to him, said:
"It's elderberry cordial, drink it all, it's mighty good for tiredness, an' you looks 'bout gin out. Reckon you didn't drink any cordial like mine down whar you's at."
Uncle Joe drained the glass and returned it, saying:
"Thank you, thank you, Aunt Chloe, wery freshnin'; wery freshnin' 'deed. I's seed many a time sence I left Wirginny, w'en I's most dead for a drink o' water, an' would 'a been glad to git at a pon' in de gutter. But de Lord's good, he's fotched it out all right in de en'. An' I'll try to forgit w'at's done passed now. I 'lowed ef Miss
'Titia 'd got home, she 'd buy me back again. Dinah's been here all time, an' de chil'en growin' up. I's happy now, an' paid for all I's put up wid."
"Did you have a hard time in de war?" inquired Aunt Chloe, believing that the trouble alluded to had arisen from that cause.
"Didn't hear tell no war, down dar, 'cept Maus Thomas, holp by de debil, an' Uncle Joe, holp by de Lord. De Lord beat; an' he allus do beat."
A PEEP at Oak Lawn, would find the owner employed in superintending farming operations, and looking after the spiritual welfare of the people included within a large district. Localities so remote that it was impossible to congregate the people inhabiting them at one point for weekly worship, had rendered necessary a division into two parishes, with public services alternating between Compton and Temple Vale.
The day school at the latter point gained in reputation and numbers. A new school-house was erected down on the road near the store, and an accomplished lady, residing in the county, employed to give instruction to the white children, while Jane remained at her old post with the blacks.
The new school-house being the larger and more accessible, was occupied as a place for public worship.
Every family within Mr. Melburn's charge, whether rich or poor, found in their pastor a judicious counsellor and prudent advisor. Ease of manner, combined with dignity of character, rendered
him popular with young and old, while it inspired respect. In every matter where Miss Templeton was interested, he consulted her taste and judgment, manifesting the highest regard for her wishes. While visiting among the people of their vicinity, they frequently met on errands of love and charity.
One evening when the days were lengthening, and the mildness of spring creeping on, Miss Templeton took a pitcher of buttermilk and walked across the fields to Uncle Simon's cabin, intending to spend a half hour in reading to him. She was surprised to find Mr. Melburn had forestalled her. She left the pitcher, and, after inquiries about the old negro, set out to return.
Mr. Melburn also bade the family "Good bye," and said: "With your permission, Miss Letitia, I will go your way."
"Thank you, I shall be pleased to have your company. The air is so delightfully bracing, a walk is pleasanter than riding, and it is also my remedy for 'the blues.'"
"I did not think a lady, whose time is so much employed as yours, would ever be troubled with that malady."
"So you think it is caused by want of employment, and that I have not leisure to indulge. Your conclusion would hardly apply in my case. Sometimes it seems to me as if we have a double existence; one floating along on the surface, through which we are brought into contact with people and things tangible, the other an undercurrent that ebbs and flows down deep, out of sight of man."
"To continue your analogy, Miss Letitia; as the undercurrents wash out and form the channel for the river, so the undercurrents of thought, however seldom they may appear in our intercourse with man, guide our lives and mould our destinies."
"Was it an undercurrent," asked Miss Templeton smiling, "that brought you home from a foreign station, to transfer your missionary labors to your own people?"
"It was. Will you answer me a question as frankly? Was it an undercurrent that influenced you when you decided not to become my wife twelve years ago?"
"Yes," briefly answered Miss Templeton, as the blood rushed to her cheeks.
"I thought so, or rather hoped so; and that hope has been the undercurrent that has borne me up and brought me home. Have you forgotten this wild cherry tree? Do you remember the time I climbed up to get you some cherries? You cried and begged me to come down, lest I should fall and be killed."
"Yes, and I remember how you laughed at my fears. I was a little girl then."
"Boy as I was, I was happy in the thought that you cared for me; I saw in your tears a demonstration of your childish regard for my personal safety. That was the happiest moment of my life and has sustained me till this time."
"We were children then; we thought the fruit of this tree sweet, now we call it bitter."
"Yes, we have changed--our childhood has passed--youth is fleeting--the realities of life with their bitterness as well as their sweets have begun to be felt; the fancies of youthful imagination have been toned down and both of us have taken hold on our life's work with a will to perform it. Tell me, Miss Letitia, if the obstacles that influenced your decision then have diminished; if the time that has changed us, has reduced the barrier that was between us."
"I think they have, George."
"Will you not give me a different answer to the proposition then made?"
No matter what the reply was. Mr. Melburn was invited to supper, an incident of rare occurrence.
As they entered the yard, Uncle Joe stood leaning on his crutch, watching his boy gather up the garden tools to put them away for the day. Lifting his hat in respect to his mistress and her friend, he limped around to the kitchen.
"Dinah, you jis try yesef. Dar's company for supper. Maus George don't come often to de big house like he used to in ole times. 'Pears like he neber do come now-a-days, 'thout he has some 'portant queshion ter 'scuss 'long Miss 'Titia."
"What do you think of Uncle Joe's ankle?" asked Miss Templeton of the physician, who was building a neat little cottage near the store.
"It is a bad case," answered the doctor. "It is astonishing that he walked upon it in that inflamed
condition, when he returned. The constant abrasion of the skin by iron, and irritation from venomous insects, continued so great a length of time, are the causes. Ill treatment, and irregular, insufficient food, have undermined his constitution, rendering it more susceptible to the poison."
"He tells me that his master was usually absent two, three, or even four days; that he never went out on a hunt, except when they were destitute of food, and of course, Uncle Joe, being tied to a tree, was exposed to the sun during the day, and cool night winds, common to that latitude, without food or drink."
"Poor creature! He must come to me daily and have the limb dressed. It appears to be healing, but the cords are becoming contracted, and it is not likely that he will ever recover their use."
"He was a faithful servant to my father, and I hope you will spare no pains to accomplish a cure."
Although unable to do much work, Uncle Joe took upon himself the care of the flowers. His younger children, under his directions, performed the labor of loosening the soil and removing weeds, while he, leaning upon a crutch, trained the plants and sowed the seeds.
One day he was resting upon the old stone, trimming out branches of the hawthorne, that had encroached within the bower, when Miss Templeton carried to him a package of poppy seeds.
"Miss 'Titia, did you eber know what all dat was in de box, your fader put under dis big rock?"
"Why, no. I did not know that he ever put any thing under there."
"I done dis'membered all 'bout it too, till jes now, I's sittin' yere, a cuttin' off dese branches, an' all to oncet, I 'members how one ebenin', he come from de court house. He tole me fur to git a bar an' hise up dis yere rock. All two on us histed, an' got a block unner. Den Maus Jeems dug out de dirt, an' put a little box 'way in. Den I tuck holt de bar an' histed, till Maus Jeems tuck out de block, an' I let de rock down."
"Did he say anything about the contents of the box?"
"Let me see. It comes to me--what Maus Jeems did say--yes, I 'members now. He said, 'Joe ef anything happens, that I never come back;' that 'minds me it was one time 'fore he went off from home; 'if I neber come back, an' your missus wants de box, you know where 'tis.' That 'minds me it was 'fore missus died. Yes, it was a good while ago, an' I done forget all 'bout it."
Miss Templeton went into the house, and communicated to Col. Lemar, Uncle Joe's revelation.
"We can soon ascertain," said Col. Lemar, "whether it is true, or whether it is only the impression of some half-forgotten dream."
The stone was raised, and beneath was found a small box imbedded as described.
Col. Lemar opened it, and brought to light a will executed by Capt. Templeton, two years prior to his decease. In it the testator, demised to his two sons, James and Oscar, equal shares in his stock
in the Planters' Bank in--. To his wife the plantation known as Temple Vale, during her natnral life; after which it was to revert in fee simple to the youngest child, Letitia. The line of trading vessels was to be sold, and from the proceeds, first, the expenses of settling the estate were to be paid and the remainder equally divided between the two daughters, Mary Blue and Letitia Templeton.
The will purported to be a duplicate copy of one executed by the testator. James Templeton, through his attorney, Esquire Munser, witnessed by his half-brother, Hunt Templeton, by Thomas Jones (a neighbor, who died previous to the testator) and the landlord of G--tavern, who had evidently been paid to preserve silence upon the subject.
"Allow me to congratulate you, Miss Letitia," said Mrs. Lemar, "upon this discovery, although, had it been in your possession previous to the war, it would have served your family better."
"I am certainly rejoiced that we have this evidence of father's watchfulness in regard to his children, although it is useless otherwise. If the bank stock was not all drawn out before the war, it has ceased to exist, for the bank suspended five years ago. The trading vessels were scattered. This plantation is all that remains of father's work for us children so many years. This will accounts for his desire to give the place to me by a deed, after mother's death."
"Mr. Grovener tells me," said Col. Lemar, "how ambitious Capt. Templeton was to elevate
and educate his children. Your brothers are an honor to his efforts, while if they had received the money intended for them, it is probable they would not have made the men they are. The additional revenue derived from the sale of the vessels, might have been of some service to you; I will not be the judge."
"I am satisfied," said Miss Templeton, "without having had any more care. We may as well philosophize with Uncle Joe, that 'all comes out right in the end.'"
WHEN the Bishop made his next visitation at Temple Vale, there was a wedding. The rector and his bride stood out on the veranda and plighted their troth, each to the other, in the presence of an audience who filled the house and covered the lawn.
The bride was nearly thirty, and if there was less of youthfulness in her face than twelve years before, there was more decision of character, which did not detract from beauty of feature; not a gray hair could be found in the golden braid that was wreathed in forget-me-nots. Bouquets of the same little flowers were pinned here and there in the soft illusion, by Mrs. Lemar, who robbed Uncle Joe's flower beds for the purpose.
"Jes' take 'em all, take 'em, ebery las' one, Miss Grace. Ef Miss 'Titia'd tole me she's gwine git married, an' wanted 'em, I'd sowed a heap more. You take all you wants. We can git more seed in de store."
The evening after the wedding, two wayfarers made their appearance, walking along the dusty
road, and, attracted by the dripping water under the shady trees, sat down to quench their thirst, and rest. The woman was large, and felt the oppressiveness of the heat from a superabundance of flesh. The man was thin, leaned on a staff, and his sight was gone. Nora and Caroline watched them from the store door, and their sympathies were excited by the dejected appearance of the travelers.
Nora was disposed to make acquaintance with them, and persuaded Caroline to join her.
"Is you got far to go?" asked Nora.
"Yes, girl, it seems a powerful long walk, considerin' it's so hot an' dusty. We've come from Compton, since mornin', and are bound for the landing," said the woman.
"Don't reckon you's gwine git dar to-night, does you? Why didn't you go in de stage?"
"The stage don't take people as don't have money to pay their fare. We're some tired; such a warm day. If we can get kept till mornin' hereabouts, we might go on to-morrow."
"The doctor lives in that little new house, 'cross the road," suggested Nora; "his wife's mighty kind, mebbe she'd keep you. Is your husband blind?"
"Plum blind, yes; can't see daylight."
"Come Sue, let's go," said the man, "and see if we can get to stay all night somewhere."
They rose and crossed the road to the little cottage designated as the doctor's house. Here they stopped and begged a night's lodging.
The kind lady invited them to be seated upon the porch, and placed refreshments before them. The doctor soon appeared, asked their destination, and consented to provide lodging for the night.
"Have you always been blind?" he inquired.
"Oh, no," was the reply, "I could see as well as anybody till about the close of the war, the dreadful war that stripped us of everything. A party of men came to my house one night, took out my two oldest sons and shot them dead before my eyes. They blindfolded and took me off horseback many miles, and left me alone in the woods. Exposure and want, while making my way home, brought on a long sickness; my eyes became inflamed and it finally resulted in total blindness."
"Have you been residing in this county?" asked the doctor.
"Not late years; we did before the war. There used to be a plantation between Compton and the river--I thought we must be near it, but Sue says there's a heap o' changes 'long the road. May be you don't know, as you are a newcomer, where a place is, 'at used to belong to Captain Templeton--'Temple Vale,' he called it."
"This postoffice is called Temple Vale," answered the doctor, "it is across in that store by the spring, where you stopped. I have understood that the name was first applied to Captain Templeton's plantation. It is here to the west, and a valuable place it is. Did you ever know Captain Templeton?"
"I did know him," replied the blind man, "he was my half-brother."
"Your half-brother," echoed the doctor's wife, as if doubting the assertion. "It can not be possible that you are an uncle of Mrs. Melburn. I thought her relations were all in the North. Maybe you have not heard of the wedding to-day--Miss Templeton was married to Rev. George Melburn, the clergyman, and a grand dinner they had, too. I don't suppose there was a white person in the county not present; and for that matter, I may as well say a black one, either, for the preacher gave out a general invitation. She is a splendid, noble-hearted woman, and you may be proud to claim kin to her."
"Hear that, do you, Hunt?" said the woman, "Curious, ain't it, how some folks do turn out?"
"Sue," said the man, without noticing her remark, "how comes it, you couldn't see where we were at? We'd better start along, now. I'm rested, and don't want to stay around here."
"You can not think of going now," said the doctor, "the sun is about down. To-morrow, I will see that you are provided with seats in the stage, if you wish to continue your journey."
The doctor soon disappeared, leaving the travelers with his wife, while he retraced his steps to the scene of the late festivities.
The newly married couple were sitting out on the veranda, enjoying the twilight, while many hands were busy passing to and fro, clearing away tables that had been spread under the trees. The
doctor apologized for his intrusion, made known his errand, and retired.
"He was father's half-brother, and out of respect to dear father's memory, they must be provided for," said Mrs. Melburn, in discussing the subject announced by the doctor.
"You are right," said Mr. Melburn, "I have understood from persons in Compton, that they are quite destitute, and have been living with one and another of their children, so long as they will keep them, and I suspect are now on the way to Norfolk, where the youngest son resides. It would be embarrassing to them and unpleasant for us, to have them here; but if they would be willing to accept a home at Oak Lawn, it will be near enough for us to look after them, and see that they want for nothing."
"Thank you, George; you always think of the best thing. I will leave you to propose it to them."
During the summer there was considerable increase of travel, and Madison's stage was well patronized. The curative qualities of the medicinal springs were remembered, and again resorted to by many who were glad to reach it in a public conveyance.
Col. Lemar's accommodations for a few guests proved inadequate to meet the demands of the many who sought to be supplied with comfortable apartments, and were compelled to go elsewhere.
One warm mid-summer day, Mrs. Lemar was
bidding "good bye" to a party preparing to leave by the stage, with a sense of relief--smothered down, out of the way of expression--that her cares would thereafter be diminished.
Vain the anticipation--for when one care goes, another comes. Madison leaped down from his seat, opened the door and let down the steps. Out leaped a lad, followed by a middle-aged gentleman and four ladies. Mrs. Lemar was about making a retreat when familiar faces met hers. Gladly she advanced, recognized and welcomed friends whom she had never expected to meet again--friends whom she introduced to her husband as Mr. Ninus and his family from South Carolina.
To provide for so many required considerable maneuvering on the part of Mrs. Lemar, who verified the old adage, "Where there is a will, there is a way."
"Our youngest daughter has just completed her education," said Mr. Ninus, "and we intend leaving our son at a boarding-school in this State, that has been highly recommended. Meantime we propose spending a few weeks here and try the benefit of the Springs upon the health of Mrs. Ninus. She suffers from malarial fever during the summer and our physician has recommended her to come here."
Nothing was said about their former handmaid, Letitia, but a messenger was secretly despatched to Temple Vale, with a note which read thus: "My dear Mrs. Melburn--Do not fail coming
over to-morrow. There are friends here, whom you will be glad to see. Affectionately, Grace Lemar."
An elegant carriage rolled in through the graveled driveway to the springs, a gentleman and lady alighted and sent in their cards to the hostess.
Mrs. Lemar received Mr. and Mrs. Melburn and sent for Mr. Ninus and his family. It is needless to say there was a mutual surprise, fully enjoyed by the interested parties.
AFTER an absence of seven years, we will re visit Temple Vale, the name borne by a little village whose population numbers from one hundred and fifty to two hundred.
An old established line of stages, running between the river and Compton, passes through it and a new road, constructed a year since, takes in the Springs without going out of the way as hitherto.
Two grand old elms mark the center, and the cool running water beneath their shade has been analysed by a chemist and pronounced valuable for its recuperative properties. Near it rises the spire of a neat little gothic church. On both sides of the street (for we must not now call it a road), are stores and dwelling houses. Not far from the church is an inn owned by the man whose name swings from a sign at its side, where there is an entrance to a large stable in the rear.
HORSES AND MULES
FOR SALE AND TO LET."
That frame house is where he lives. The inn is hired by a white man, who accomodates his guests with neat lodgings and good meals without the adjunct of a bar.
There are two school-houses, one for white and one for the black children. At the latter, the stable-keeper, who is a licensed preacher, holds Sunday services for his own people.
Half a mile from the village, upon a hill commanding a view of the surrounding country, is a well-kept villa with extensive grounds laid out in good taste. Large beds of gay, old-fashioned flowers bloom under the fostering care of a florist, who limps around with a crutch and cane, pointing here and there to a hiding weed or withered leaf, which is removed by his boy.
Playing under the trees are two children, Grace will soon be six, fair and graceful as a lilly, with the deep thoughtful gray eyes of her father; and George, a happy romping boy of four, with a face so beautiful that you would not soon forget it. His eyes are very dark, his hair hangs in golden brown ringlets, while his cheeks are the shade of the wild rose.
The parents are watching the sports of their children, when Mrs. Melburn says:
"You can never realize how dreadful once seemed to me the thought of entailing upon children any trace of African descent, nor my happiness now in believing that in our family it is extinct. Even after this lapse of years, my mind will sometimes revert to the period when the transgressions
of the fathers were visited upon me as a representative of the third and fourth generations, and my heart overflows with gratitude toward the love of a Saviour, whose blood 'cleanseth us from all sin. Is not that a beautiful picture?"
The rector looked out upon the lawn and smiled an assent to the question of his wife.
Dinah in her white apron and gay-colored turban has brought out the baby in long clothes, spread a crimson blanket upon the grass, and there the children and nurse seat themselves. Bruno, the grey old mastiff, with one eye open, from the veranda watches the group for a few moments, then walks down the steps and lies down upon the blanket, stretching out his nose across his little master's lap--in his old age he appreciates an easy spot.
Uncle Joe examines carefully among the flowers with his cane, while he leans upon the crutch and collects a few sprays of forget-me-nots.
Carrying them to his mistress, he hands them to her, saying, "Dey's de fust ones, Miss 'Titia--dey's late, wery late, dis year, but I 'lowed you'd like 'em, bein's you anniwusity day, t' stick in you' har."
"Thank you, thank you, Joe; you are quite thoughtful," said Mr. Melburn, taking the proffered flowers and placing them in his wife's hair.
Near the children, under the shade of a tree, is an aged couple. A man whose thin locks and wasted features would excite compassion, as we reflect
upon the infirmities of age; but, when we approach and observe that he is sightless, our warmest sympathies are aroused. By his side sits his wife, knitting bright colored yarn into socks for little George.
"It's just seven years to-night, Hunt, since we came here."
"Seven years, is it, Sue; so long as that?"
"Everything looked so different when we got to the gate, that night, and both of us were so tired. I didn't know the old place. I'd starved before I'd gone to her door for a night's lodging or a bite of bread."
"Nor I, either, after all we'd done; but we can't say now we were not led by the Lord. Seven years is it? Well, they've done their part for us. My half-brother's child had a heap to forgive, but I think she's done it."
"Yes, Hunt, I know she has; and if the Lord has forgiven us, we have nothing more to live for."