Bricks Without Straw
Albion W. Tourgee
Part 7 out of 9
she asked impetuously:
"Maggie, is your Master Hesden about the house?"
"Really now mistis," said the girl in some confusion, "I can't
edsackly tell. He war, de las' time I seed him; but then he mout
hev gone out sence dat, yer know."
"Where was he then?"
"He war in his room, ma'am, wid a strange gemmen."
"Yes," added the mistress, in a significant tone, "he seems to have
a great deal of strange company lately."
The girl glanced at her quickly as she arranged the bed-clothing,
and the young lady who sat in the easy chair chuckled knowingly.
So the woman answered artfully, but with seeming innocence:
"La, mistis, it certain am quare how you finds out t'ings. 'Pears
like a mouse can't stir 'bout de house, but you hears it quicker
nor de cat."
It was deft flattery, and the pleased mistress swallowed the bait
with a smile.
"I always try to know what is going on in my own house," she
"Should t'ink yer did," said the colored woman, gazing at her in
admiring wonder. "I don't 'llow dar's ennybody come inter dis yer
house in one while, dat yer didn't know all 'bout 'em widout settin'
eyes on 'em. I wouldn't be at all s'prised, dat I wouldn't," said
she to the young lady, "ter find dat she knows whose h'yer now,
an' whose been h'yer ebbery day sence Marse Hesden's been so busy.
La! she's a woman--she's got a headpiece, she hab!"
"Yes," said the invalid; "I know that that odious scallawag, Jordan
Jackson, has been here and has been shut up with my son, consulting
and planning the Lord knows what, here in this very house of mine.
Pretty business for a Le Moyne and a Richards to be in! You all
thought you'd keep it from me; but you couldn't."
"La, sakes!" said the girl, with a look of relief, "yer mustn't say
_me_. _I_ didn't never try ter keep it. I know'd yer'd find it out."
"When do you say you saw him?"
"I jes disremembers now what time it war. Some time dis mornin'
though. It mout hev been some two--free hours ago."
"Who was the gentleman with him--I hope he was a _gentleman?_"
"Oh la, ma'am, dat he war--right smart ob one, I should jedge,
though I nebber seen his face afo' in my born days."
"And don't know his name?"
"Not de fust letter ob it, mistis."
Maggie might well say that, since none of the letters of the alphabet
were known to her; but when she conveyed the idea that she did not
know the name of the visitor, it was certainly a stretch of the
truth; but then she did not know as "Marse Hesden" would care about
his mother knowing the name of his visitor, and she had no idea of
betraying anything which concerned him against his wish. So in order
to be perfectly safe, she deemed it best to deceive her mistress.
"Tell your Master Hesden I wish to see him immediately, Maggie,"
said Mrs. Le Moyne, imperiously.
"Yes'm," said the girl, as she left the room to perform her errand.
There was a broad grin upon her face as she crossed the passage
and knocked at the door of Hesden's room, thinking how she had
flattered her mistress into a revelation of her own ignorance. She
was demure enough, however, when Hesden himself opened the door
and inquired what she wished.
"Please, sah, de mistis tole me ter ax yer ter come inter her room,
"Anything the matter, Maggie?"
"Nuffin', only jes she wants ter talk wid yer 'bout sunthin', I
"Who is with her?"
"An' de mistis 'pears powerfully put out 'bout sunthin' or udder,"
volunteered the girl.
"Yes," repeated Hesden, absently. "Well. Maggie, say to my mother
that I am very closely engaged, and I hope she will please excuse
me for a few hours."
The girl returned and delivered her message.
"What!" exclaimed the sick woman, in amazement. "He must have turned
Radical sure enough, to send me such an answer as that! Maggie,"
she continued, with severe dignity, "you must be mistaken. Return
and tell my son that I am sure you are mistaken."
"Oh, dar ain't no mistake 'bout it, mistis. Dem's de berry words
Marse Hesden said, shore."
"Do as I bade you, Maggie," said the mistress, quietly.
"Oh, certain, mistis, certain--only dar ain't no mistake," said the
woman, as she returned with the message she was charged to deliver.
"Did you ever see such a change?" asked Mrs. Le Moyne of her
companion as soon as the door was closed upon the servant. "There
never was a time before when Hesden did not come the instant I
called, no matter upon what he might be engaged."
"Yes," said the other, laughingly, "I used to tell Julia that it
would make me awfully jealous to have a husband jump up and leave
me to go and pet his mother before the honeymoon was over."
"Poor Julia!" sighed the invalid. "Hesden never appreciated
her--never. He didn't feel her loss as I did."
"I should think not," replied the sister-in-law, sharply. "But he
might at least have had regard enough for her memory not to have
flirted so outrageously with that Yankee school-marm."
"What do you mean, Hetty!" said Mrs. Le Moyne, severely. "Please
remember that it is my son of whom you are speaking."
"Oh, yes," said Miss Hetty, sharply, "we have been speaking of him
all along, and--"
The door from the hall was opened quickly, and Hesden looking in,
"I hope you are not suffering, mother?"
"Not more than usual, Hesden," said Mrs. Le Moyne, "but I wish to
see you very particularly, my son."
"I am very busy, mother, on a most important matter; but you know
I will always make everything give way for you."
So saying, he stepped into the room and stood awaiting his mother's
pleasure, after bowing somewhat formally to the younger lady.
"What are these reports I hear about you, Hesden?" asked his mother,
with some show of anger.
"I beg your pardon, little mother," said Hesden smiling; "but was
it to make this inquiry you called me from my business?"
"Yes, indeed," was the reply; "I should like to know what there
could be of more importance to you than such slanderous reports as
Cousin Hetty tells me are being circulated about you."
"I have no doubt they are interesting if Cousin Hetty brings them,"
said Hesden; "but you will please excuse me now, as I have matters
of more importance to attend to."
He bowed, and would have passed out, but the good lady cried out
almost with a shriek,
"But Hesden! Hesden! Hetty says that--that--that they say--you--are
She started from her pillows, and leaned forward with one white
hand uplifted, as she waited his reply.
He turned back instantly, stepped quickly to the bedside, and put
his one arm caressingly about her as he said earnestly, "I am afraid,
mother, if one speaks of things which have occurred in Horsford
during the past few days as a man of honor ought, he must expect
to be called bad names."
"But Hesden--you are not--do tell me, my son," said his mother, in
a tone of entreaty, "that you are _not_ one of those horrid
"There, there; do not excite yourself, mother. I will explain
everything to you this evening," said he, soothingly.
"But you are not a Radical?" she cried, catching his hand.
"I am a man of honor, always," he replied, proudly.
"Then you cannot be a Radical," she said, with a happy smile.
"But he is--he is!" exclaimed the younger lady, starting forward
with flushed cheeks and pointing a trembling finger at his face,
as if she had detected a guilty culprit. "He is!" she repeated.
"Deny it if you dare, Hesden Le Moyne!"
"Indeed, Miss Hetty," said Hesden, turning upon her with dignified
severity. "May I inquire who constituted you either my judge or my
"Oh fie! Hesden," said his mother. "Isn't Hetty one of the family?"
"And has every Richards and Le Moyne on the planet a right to
challenge my opinions?" asked Hesden.
"Certainly!" said his mother, with much energy, while her pale face
flushed, and her upraised hand trembled--"certainly they have, my
son, if they think you are about to disgrace those names. But do
deny it! Do tell me you are not a Radical!" she pleaded.
"But suppose I were?" he asked, thoughtfully.
"I would disown you! I would disinherit you!" shrieked the excited
woman, shrinking away from his arm as if there were contagion
in the touch. "Remember, sir," she continued threateningly, "that
Mulberry Hill is still mine, and it shall never go to a Radical--never!"
"There, there, mother; do not excite yourself unnecessarily," said
Hesden. "It is quite possible that both these matters are beyond
either your control or mine."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I simply mean that circumstances over which we have no control
have formed my opinions, and others over which we have as little
control may affect the ownership of this plantation."
"Why--what in the world! Hesden, are you mad? You know that it is
mine by the will of my father! Who or what could interfere with
"I sincerely hope that no one may," answered Hesden; "but I shall
be able to tell you more about these matters after dinner, when I
promise that you shall know all, without any reservation."
There had been a calm, almost sorrowful, demeanor about Hesden during
this conversation, which had held the excited women unconsciously
in check. They were so astonished at the coolness of his manner
and the matter-of-fact sincerity of his tones that they were quite
unable to express the indignation and abhorrence they both felt
that his language merited. Now, however, as he moved toward the
door, the younger lady was no longer able to restrain herself,
"I knew it was so!" she said. "That miserable nigger-teacher wasn't
here for nothing! The mean, low hussy! I should think he would
have been ashamed to bring her here anyhow--under his mother's very
Hesden had almost reached the door of the room when these words
fell upon his ear. He turned and strode across the room until he
stood face to face with his mother once more. There was no lack
of excitement about him now. His face was pale as death, his eyes
blazed, and his voice trembled.
"Mother," said he, "I have often told you that I would never bring
to you a wife whom you did not approve. I hope never to do so; but
I wish to say one thing: Miss Ainslie is a pure and lovely woman.
None of us have ever known her superior. She is worthy of any man's
devotion. I would not have said this but for what has been spoken
here. But now I say, that if I ever hear that anyone having a
single drop of our blood in her veins has spoken ill of her--ay,
or if her name is linked with mine in any slighting manner, even
by the breath of public rumor--I will make her my wife if she will
accept my hand, whatever your wishes. And further, if any one speaks
slightingly of her, I will resent it as if she were my wife, so
help me God!"
He turned upon his heel, and strode out of the room.
He had not once looked or spoken to the lady whose words had given
the offense. The mother and cousin were overwhelmed with astonishment
at the intensity of the usually quiet and complaisant Hesden. Miss
Hetty soon made excuses for returning to her home, and Mrs. Le Moyne
waited in dull wonder for the revelation which the evening was to
bring. It seemed to her as if the world had lost its bearings and
everything must be afloat, now that Hesden had been so transformed
as to speak thus harshly to the mother for whom his devotion had
become proverbial all the country around.
THE PRICE OF HONOR.
When Hesden came to his mother's room that night, his countenance
wore an unusually sad and thoughtful expression. His mother had
not yet recovered from the shock of the morning's interview. The
more she thought of it, the less she could understand either his
language or his manner. That he would once think of allying himself
in political thought with those who were trying to degrade and
humiliate their people by putting them upon a level with the negro,
she did not for a moment believe, despite what he had said. Neither
did she imagine, even then, that he had any feeling for Mollie
Ainslie other than mere gratitude for the service she had rendered,
but supposed that his outburst was owing merely to anger at the
slighting language used toward her by Cousin Hetty. Yet she felt
a dim premonition of something dreadful about to happen, and was
ill at ease during the evening meal. When it was over, the table
cleared, and the servant had retired, Hesden sat quiet for a long
time, and then said, slowly and tenderly:
"Mother, I am very sorry that all these sad things should come up
at this time--so soon after our loss. I know your heart, as well
as mine, is sore, and I wish you to be sure that I have not, and
cannot have, one unkind thought of you. Do not cry," he added,
as he saw the tears pouring down her face, which was turned to him
with a look of helpless woe upon it--"do not cry, little mother,
for we shall both of us have need of all our strength."
"Oh, Hesden," she moaned, "if you only would not--"
"Please do not interrupt me," he said, checking her with a motion
of his hand; "I have a long story to tell, and after that we will
speak of what now troubles you. But first, I wish to ask you some
questions. Did you ever hear of such a person as Edna Richards?"
"Edna Richards--Edna Richards?" said Mrs. Le Moyne, wiping away
her tears and speaking between her sobs. "It seems as if I had,
but--I--I can't remember, my son. I am so weak and nervous."
"Calm yourself, little mother; perhaps it will come to your mind
if I ask you some other questions. Our grandfather, James Richards,
came here from Pennsylvania, did he not?"
"Certainly, from about Lancaster. He always promised to take me
to see our relatives there, but he never did. You know, son, I was
his youngest child, and he was well past fifty when I was born. So
he was an old man when I was grown up, and could not travel very
much. He took me to the North twice, but each time, before we got
around to our Pennsylvania friends, he was so tired out that he
had to come straight home."
"Did you ever know anything about his family there?"
"Not much--nothing except what he told me in his last days. He used
to talk about them a great deal then, but there was something that
seemed to grieve and trouble him so much that I always did all I
could to draw his mind away from the subject. Especially was this
the case after the boys, your uncles, died. They led rough lives,
and it hurt him terribly."
"Do you know whether he ever corresponded with any of our relatives
at the North?"
"I think not. I am sure he did not after I was grown. He often
spoke of it, but I am afraid there was some family trouble or
disagreement which kept him from doing so. I remember in his last
years he used frequently to speak of a cousin to whom he seemed to
have been very much attached. He had the same name as father, who
used to call him 'Red Jim.'"
"Was he then alive?"
"I suppose so--at least when father last heard from him. I think
he lived in Massachusetts. Let me see, what was the name of the
town. I don't remember," after a pause.
"Was it Marblehead?" asked the son, with some eagerness.
"That's it, dear--Marblehead. How funny that you should strike upon
the very name?"
"You think he never wrote?"
"Oh, I am sure not. He mourned about it, every now and then, to
the very last."
"Was my grandfather a bachelor when he came here?"
"Of course, and quite an old bachelor, too. I think he was about
thirty when he married your grandmother in 1794."
"She was a Lomax--Margaret Lomax, I believe?'
"Yes; that's how we come to be akin to all the Lomax connection."
"Just so. You are sure he had never married before?"
"Sure? Why, yes, certainly. How could he? Why, Hesden, what _do_
you mean? Why do you ask all these questions? You do not--you
cannot--Oh, Hesden!" she exclaimed, leaning forward and trembling
"Be calm, mother. I am not asking these questions without good
cause," he answered, very gravely.
After a moment, when she had recovered herself a little, he continued,
holding toward her a slip of paper, as he asked:
"Did you ever see that signature before?"
His mother took the paper, and, having wiped her glasses, adjusted
them carefully and glanced at the paper. As she did so a cry burst
from her lips, and she said,
"Oh, Hesden, Hesden, where did you get it? Oh, dear! oh, dear!"
"Why, mother, what is it?" cried Hesden in alarm, springing up and
going quickly to her side.
"That--that horrid thing, Hesden! Where _did_ you get it? Do
you know it was that which made that terrible quarrel between your
grandfather and Uncle John, when he struck him that--that last
night, before John's body was found in the river. He was drowned
crossing the ford, you know. I don't know what it was all about;
but there was a terrible quarrel, and John wrote that on a sheet of
paper and held it before your grandfather's face and said something
to him--I don't know what. I was only a little girl then, but, ah
me! I remember it as if it was but yesterday. And then father struck
him with his cane. John fell as if he were dead. I was looking in
at the window, not thinking any harm, and saw it all. I thought
he had killed John, and ran away, determined not to tell. I never
breathed a lisp of it before, son, and nobody ever knew of that
quarrel, only your grandfather and me. I know it troubled him
greatly after John died. Oh, I can see that awful paper, as John
held it up to the light, as plain as this one in my hand now."
The slip of paper which she held contained only the following
apparently unintelligible scrawl:
"And you never saw it but once?" asked Hesden, thoughtfully.
"Never but once before to-night, dear."
"It was not Uncle John's usual signature, then?"
"No, indeed. Is it a signature? She glanced curiously at the paper
while Hesden pointed out the letters,
"That is what I take it to be, at least," he said. "Sure enough,"
said Mrs. Le Moyne, "and that might stand for John Richards or
James Richards. It might be Uncle John or your grandfather, either,
child." "True, but grandfather always wrote his name plainly,
J. RICHARDS. I have seen a thousand of his signatures, I reckon.
Besides, Uncle John was not alive in 1790."
"Of course not. But what has that to do with the matter? What does
it all mean anyhow? There must be some horrid secret about it, I
"I do not know what it means, mother, but I am determined to find
out. That is what I have been at all day, and I will not stop until
I know all about it."
"But how did you come to find it? What makes you think there is
anything to be known about it?"
"This is the way it occurred, mother. The other day it became necessary
to cut a door from the chamber over my room into the attic of the
old kitchen, where I have been storing the tobacco. You know the
part containing the dining-room was the original house, and was
at first built of hewed logs. It was, in fact, two houses, with a
double chimney in the middle. Afterward, the two parts were made
into one, the rude stairs torn away, and the whole thing ceiled
within and covered with thick pine siding without. In cutting
through this, Charles found between two of the old logs and next
to the chinking put in on each side to keep the wall flush and
smooth, a pocketbook, carefully tied up in a piece of coarse linen,
and containing a yellow, dingy paper, which, although creased and
soiled, was still clearly legible. The writing was of that heavy
round character which marked the legal hand of the old time, and
the ink, though its color had somewhat changed by time, seemed to
show by contrast with the dull hue of the page even more clearly
than it could have done when first written. The paper proved to be a
will, drawn up in legal form and signed with the peculiar scrawl
of which you hold a tracing. It purported to have been made
and published in December, 1789, at Lancaster, in the State of
Pennsylvania, and to have been witnessed by James Adiger and Johan
Welliker of that town."
"How very strange!" exclaimed Mrs. Le Moyne. "I suppose it must
have been the will of your grandfather's father."
"That was what first occurred to me," answered Hesden, "but on
closer inspection it proved to be the will of James Richards, as
stated in the caption, of Marblehead, in the State of Massachusetts,
giving and bequeathing all of his estate, both real and personal,
after some slight bequests, to his beloved wife Edna, except--"
"Stop, my son," said Mrs. Le Moyne, quickly, "I remember now. Edna
was the name of the wife of father's cousin James--"Red Jim," he
called him. It was about writing to _her_ he was always talking
toward the last. So I suppose he must have been dead."
"I had come to much the same conclusion," said Hesden, "though I
never heard that grandfather had a cousin James until to-night. I
should never have thought any more of the document, however, except
as an old relic, if it had not gone on to bequeath particularly
'my estate in Carolina to my beloved daughter, Alice E., when she
shall arrive at the age of eighteen years,' and to provide for the
succession in case of her death prior to that time."
"That is strange," said Mrs. Le Moyne. "I never knew that we had
any relatives in the State upon that side."
"That is what I thought," said the son. "I wondered where the estate
was which had belonged to this James Richards, who was not our
ancestor, and, looking further, I found it described with considerable
particlarity. It was called Stillwater, and was said to be located
on the waters of the Hyco, in Williams County."
"But the Hyco is not in Williams County," said his listener.
"No, mother, but it was then," he replied. "You know that county
has been many times subdivided."
"Yes, I had forgotten that," she said. "But what then?"
"It went on," contined Hesden, "to say that he held this land by
virtue of a grant from the State which was recorded in Registry of
Deeds in Williams County, in Book A, page 391."
"It is an easy matter to find where it was, then, I suppose," said
"I have already done that," he replied, "and that is the strange
and unpleasant part of what I had to tell you."
"I do hope," she said, smiling, "that you have not made us out
cousins of any low-down family."
"As to that I cannot tell, mother; but I am afraid I have found
something discreditable in our own family history."
"Oh, I hope not, Hesden," she said, plaintively. "It is
so unpleasant to look back upon one's ancestors and not feel that
they were strictly honorable. Don't tell me, please. I had rather
not hear it."
"I wish you might not," said he; "but the fact which you referred
to to-day--that you are, under the will of my grandfather, the
owner of Mulberry Hill, makes it necessary that you should."
"Please, Hesden, don't mention that. I was angry then. Please forget
it. What can that have to do with this horrid matter?"
"It has this to do with it, mother," he replied. "The boundaries of
that grant, as shown by the record, are identical with the record
of the grant under which our grandfather claimed the estate of
which this is a part, and which is one of the first entered upon
the records of Horsford County."
"What do you say, Hesden? I don't understand you," said his mother,
"Simply that the land bequeathed in this will of J. Richards,
is the same as that afterward claimed and held by my grandfather,
James Richards, and in part now belonging to you."
"It cannot be, Hesden, it cannot be! There must be some mistake!"
she exclaimed, impatiently.
"I wish there were," he answered, "but I fear there is not. The
will names as executor, 'my beloved cousin James Richards, of the
borough of Lancaster, in the State of Pennsylvania.' I presume
this to have been my grandfather. I have had the records of both
counties searched and find no record of any administration upon
"You do not think a Richards could have been so dishonorable as to
rob his cousin's orphans?"
"Alas! mother, I only know that we have always claimed title under
that very grant. The grant itself is among your papers in my desk,
and is dated in 1789. I have always understood that grandfather
married soon after coming here."
"Oh, yes, dear," was the reply, "I have heard mother tell of it a
"And that was in 1794?"
"Yes, yes; but he might have been here before, child."
"That is true, and I hope it may all turn out to have been only a
"But if it does not, Hesden?" said his mother, after a moment's
thought. "What do you mean to do?"
"I mean first to go to the bottom of this matter and discover the
"And then--if--if there was--anything wrong?"
"Then the wrong must be righted."
"But that--why, Hesden, it might turn us out of doors! It might
make us beggars!"
"We should at least be honest ones."
"But Hesden, think of me--think--" she began.
"So I will, little mother, of you and for you till the last hour of
your life or of mine. But mother, I would rather you should leave
all and suffer all, and that we should both die of starvation, than
that we should live bounteously on the fruit of another's wrong."
He bent over her and kissed her tenderly again and again. "Never
fear, mother," he said, "we may lose all else by the acts of others,
but we can only lose honor by our own. I would give my life for
you or to save your honor."
She looked proudly upon him, and reached up her thin white hand to
caress his face, as she said with overflowing eyes:
"You are right, my son! If others of our name have done wrong, there
is all the more need that we should do right and atone for it."
Mollie Ainslie had made all her preparations to leave Red Wing.
She had investigated the grounds of the suit brought by Winburn
against Nimbus and others. Indeed, she found herself named among
the "others," as well as all those who had purchased from Nimbus
or were living on the tract by virtue of license from him. Captain
Pardee had soon informed her that the title of Nimbus was, in fact,
only a life-estate, which had fallen in by the death of the life
tenant, while Winburn claimed to have bought up the interests of
the reversioners. He intimated that it was possible that Winburn
had done this while acting as the agent of Colonel Desmit, but this
was probably not susceptible of proof, on account of the death of
Desmit. He only stated it as a conjecture at best.
At the same time, he informed her that the small tract about the
old ordinary, which had come to Nimbus by purchase, and which was
all that she occupied, was not included in the life-estate, but
was held in fee by Walter Greer. She had therefore instructed him
to defend for her upon Nimbus's title, more for the sake of asserting
his right than on account of the value of the premises. The suit
was for possession and damages for detention and injury of the
property, and an attachment had been taken out against Nimbus's
property, on the claim for damages, as a non-resident debtor. As
there seemed to be no good ground for defense on the part of those
who had purchased under Nimbus, the attorney advised that resistance
to the suit would be useless. Thus they lost at once the labor of
their whole life of freedom, and were compelled to begin again where
slavery had left them. This, taken in connection with the burning
of the church, the breaking up of the school, and the absence of
Eliab and Nimbus, had made the once happy and busy little village
most desolate and forlorn.
The days which Mollie Ainslie had passed in the old hostel since
she left Mulberry Hill had been days of sorrow. Tears and moans
and tales of anxious fear had been in her ears continually. All
over the county, the process of "redemption" was being carried on.
The very air was full of horrors. Men with bleeding backs, women
with scarred and mutilated forms, came to her to seek advice and
consolation. Night after night, devoted men, who did not dare to
sleep in their own homes, kept watch around her, in order that her
slumbers might be undisturbed. It seemed as if all law had been
forgotten, and only a secret Klan had power in the land. She did
not dare, brave as she was, to ride alone outside of the little
village. She did not really think she would be harmed, yet she
trembled when the night came, and every crackling twig sent her
heart into her mouth in fear lest the chivalric masqueraders should
come to fulfil their vague threats against herself. But her heart
bled for the people she had served, and whom she saw bowed down
under the burden of a terrible, haunting fear.
If she failed to make due allowance for that savageness of nature
which generations of slavery are sure to beget in the master, let us
not blame her. She was only a woman, and saw only what was before
her. She did not see how the past injected itself into the present, and
gave it tone and color. She reasoned only from what met her sight.
It is not strange that she felt bitterly toward those who had
committed such seemingly vandal acts. No wonder she spoke bitterly,
wrote hard things to her Northern friends, and denied the civilization
and Christianity of those who could harry, oppress, and destroy
the poor, the ignorant, and the weak. It is not surprising that
she sneered at the "Southern Gentleman," or that she wrote him down
in very black characters in the book and volume of her memory. She
was not a philosopher nor a politician, and she had never speculated
on the question as to how near of kin virtue and vice may be.
She had never considered how narrow a space it is that very often
divides the hero from the criminal, the patriot from the assassin,
the gentleman from the ruffian, the Christian saint from the
red-handed savage. Her heart was hot with wrath and her tongue
was tipped with bitterness.
For the first time she blushed at the thought of her native land.
That the great, free, unmatched Republic should permit these things,
should shut its eyes and turn its back upon its helpless allies in
their hour of peril, was a most astounding and benumbing fact to
her mind. What she had loved with all that tenacity of devotion
which every Northern heart has for the flag and the country, was
covered with ignominy by these late events. She blushed with shame
as she thought of the weak, vacillating nation which had given the
promise of freedom to the ears of four millions of weak but trustful
allies, and broken it to their hearts. She knew that the country
had appealed to them in its hour of mortal agony, and they had
answered with their blood. She knew that again it had appealed to
them for aid to write the golden words of Freedom in its Constitution,
words before unwritten, in order that they might not be continued
in slavery, and they had heard and answered by their votes; and then,
while the world still echoed with boastings of these achievements,
it had taken away the protecting hand and said to those whose hearts
were full of hate, "Stay not thine hand."
She thought, too, that the men who did these things--the midnight
masqueraders--were rebels still in their hearts. She called them
so in hers at least--enemies of the country, striving dishonorably
to subvert its laws. She did not keep in mind that to every Southern
man and woman, save those whom the national act brought forth to
civil life, the Nation is a thing remote and secondary. To them
the State is first, and always so far first as to make the country
a dim, distant cloud, to be watched with suspicion or aversion as
a something hostile to their State or section. The Northern mind
thinks of the Nation first. The love of country centers there.
His pride in his native State is as a part of the whole. As
a _Northerner_, he has no feeling at all. He never speaks
of his section except awkwardly, and when reference to it is made
absolutely necessary by circumstances. He may be from the East or
the West or the Middle, from Maine or Minnesota, but he is first
of all things an American. Mollie thought that the result of the
war--defeat and destruction--ought to have made the white people
of the South just such Americans. In fact it never occurred to her
simple heart but that they had always been such. In truth, she did
not conceive that they could have been otherwise. She had never
dreamed that there were any Americans with whom it was not the
first and ever-present thought that they _were_ Americans.
She might have known, if she had thought so far, that in that
mystically-bounded region known as "the South," the people were
first of all "Southerners;" next "Georgians," or "Virginians," or
whatever it might be; and last and lowest in the scale of political
being, "Americans." She might have known this had she but noted
how the word "Southern" leaps into prominence as soon as the old
"Mason and Dixon's line" is crossed. There are "Southern" hotels
and "Southern" railroads, "Southern" steamboats, "Southern"
stage-coaches, "Southern" express companies, "Southern" books,
"Southern" newspapers, "Southern" patent-medicines, "Southern"
churches, "Southern" manners, "Southern" gentlemen, "Southern"
ladies, "Southern" restaurants, "Southern" bar-rooms, "Southern"
whisky, "Southern" gambling-hells, "Southern" principles, "Southern"
_everything!_ Big or little, good or bad, everything that courts
popularity, patronage or applause, makes haste to brand itself as
distinctively and especially "Southern."
Then she might have remembered that in all the North--the great,
busy, bustling, over-confident, giantly Great-heart of the
continent--there is not to be found a single "Northern" hotel,
steamer, railway, stage-coach, bar-room, restaurant, school,
university, school-book, or any other "Northern" institution. The
word "Northern" is no master-key to patronage or approval. There is
no "Northern" clannishness, and no distinctive "Northern" sentiment
that prides itself on being such. The "Northern" man may be "Eastern"
or "Western." He may be "Knickerbocker," "Pennamite," "Buckeye,"
or "Hoosier;" but above all things, and first of all things in his
allegiance and his citizenship, he is an American. The "Southern"
man is proud of the Nation chiefly because it contains his section
and State; the "Northern" man is proud of his section and State
chiefly because it is a part of the Nation.
But Mollie Ainslie did not stop to think of these differences, or
of the bias which habit gives to the noblest mind; and so her heart
was full of wrath and much bitterness. She had forgiven coldness,
neglect, and aspersion of herself, but she could not forgive
brutality and violence toward the weak and helpless. She saw the
futility of hope of aid from the Nation that had deserted its allies.
She felt, on the other hand, the folly of expecting any change in a
people steeped in intolerance and gloating in the triumph of lawless
violence over obnoxious law. She thought she saw that there was but
little hope for that people for whom she had toiled so faithfully
to grow to the full stature of the free man in the region where
they had been slaves. She was short-sighted and impatient, but she
was earnest and intense. She had done much thinking in the sorrowful
days just past, and had made up her mind that whatsoever others
might do, she, Mollie Ainslie, would do her duty.
The path seemed plain to her. She had been, as it seemed to her,
mysteriously led, step by step, along the way of life, always with
blindfolded eyes and feet that sought not to go in the way they
were constrained to take. Her father and mother dead, her brother's
illness brought her to the South; there his wish detained her;
a seeming chance brought her to Red Wing; duties and cares had
multiplied with her capacity; the cup of love, after one sweet
draught, had been dashed from her lips; desolation and destruction
had come upon the scene of her labors, impoverishment and woe upon
those with whom she had been associated, and a hopeless fate upon
all the race to which they belonged in the land wherein they were
She did not propose to change these things. She did not aspire to
set on foot any great movement or do any great deed, but she felt
that she was able to succor a few of the oppressed race. Those who
most needed help and best deserved it, among the denizens of Red
Wing, she determined to aid in going to a region where thought at
least was free. It seemed to her altogether providential that at
this time she had still, altogether untouched, the few thousands
which Oscar had given her of his army earnings, and also the little
homestead on the Massachusetts hills, toward which a little town
had been rapidly growing during the years of unwonted prosperity
succeeding the war, until now its value was greatly increased from
what it was but a few years before. She found she was quite an
heiress when she came to take an inventory of her estate, and made
up her mind that she would use this estate to carry out her new
idea. She did not yet know the how or the where, but she had got it
into her simple brain that somewhere and somehow this money might
be invested so as to afford a harbor of refuge for these poor
colored people, and still not leave herself unprovided for. She
had not arranged the method, but she had fully determined on the
This was the thought of Mollie Ainslie as she sat in her room at the
old ordinary, one afternoon, nearly two weeks after her departure
from the Le Moyne mansion. She had quite given up all thought of
seeing Hesden again. She did not rave or moan over her disappointment.
It had been a sharp and bitter experience when she waked out of
the one sweet dream of her life. She saw that it _was_ but a
dream, foolish and wild; but she had no idea of dying of a broken
heart. Indeed, she did not know that her heart _was_ broken.
She had loved a man whom she had fancied as brave and gentle as
she could desire her other self to be. She had neither proffered
her love to him nor concealed it. She was not ashamed that she
loved nor ashamed that he should know it, as she believed he did.
She thought he must have known it, even though she did not herself
realize it at the time. If he had been that ideal man whom she
loved, he would have come before, claimed her love, and declared
his own. That man could never have let her go alone into desolation
and danger without following at once to inquire after her. It
was not that she needed his protection, but she had desired--nay,
expected as a certainty--that he would come and proffer it. The
ideal of her love would have done so. If Hesden Le Moyne had come
then, she would have given her life into his keeping forever after,
without the reservation of a thought. That he did not come only
showed that he was not her ideal, not the one she had loved, but
only the dim likeness of that one. It was so much the worse for Mr.
Hesden Le Moyne, but none the worse for Mollie Ainslie. She still
loved her ideal, but knew now that it was only an ideal.
Thus she mused, although less explicitly, as the autumn afternoon
drew to its close. She watched the sun sinking to his rest, and
reflected that she would see him set but once more over the pines
that skirted Red Wing. There was but little more to be done--a
few things to pack up, a few sad farewells to be said, and then
she would turn her face towards the new life she had set her heart
There was a step upon the path. She heard her own name spoken and
heard the reply of the colored woman, who was sitting on the porch.
Her heart stopped beating as the footsteps approached her door. She
thought her face flushed burning red, but in reality it was of a
hard, pallid gray as she looked up and saw Hesden Le Moyne standing
in the doorway.
FACE ANSWERETH TO FACE.
"How do you do, Miss Mollie?"
She caught her breath as she heard his ringing, tone and noted his
expectant air. Oh, if he had only come before! If he had not left
her to face alone--he knew not what peril! But he had done so, and
she could not forget it. So she went forward, and, extending her
hand, took his without a throb as she said, demurely,
"I am very well, Mr. Le Moyne. How are you, and how have you left
all at home?"
She led the way back to the table and pointed to a chair opposite
her own as she spoke.
Hesden Le Moyne had grown to love Mollie Ainslie almost as
unconsciously as she had given her heart to him. The loss of his
son had been a sore affliction. While he had known no passionate
love for his cousin-wife, he yet had had the utmost respect for her,
and had never dreamed that there were in his heart deeper depths
of love still unexplored. After her death, his mother and his child
seemed easily and naturally to fill his heart. He had admired Mollie
Ainslie from the first. His attention had been first particularly
directed to her accomplishments and attractions by the casual
conversation with Pardee in reference to her, and by the fact that
the horse she rode was his old favorite. He had watched her at
first critically, then admiringly, and finally with an unconscious
yearning which he did not define.
The incident of the storm and the bright picture she made in his
somewhat somber home had opened his eyes as to his real feelings.
At the same time had come the knowledge that there was a wide gulf
between them, but he would have bridged it long before now had it
not been for his affliction, which, while it drew him nearer to the
object of his devotion than he had ever been before, also raised an
imperative barrier against words of love. Then the time of trial
came. He found himself likely to be stripped of all hope of wealth,
and he had been goaded into declaring to others his love for Mollie,
although he had never whispered a word of it to her.
Since that time, however, despite his somewhat dismal prospects,
he had allowed his fancy greater play. He had permitted himself
to dream that some time and somehow he might be permitted to call
Mollie Ainslie his wife. She seemed so near to him! There was such
a calm in her presence!
He had never doubted that his passion was reciprocated. He thought
that he had looked down into her heart through the soft, gray eyes,
and seen himself. She had never manifested any consciousness of
love, but in those dear days at the Hill she had seemed to come
so close to him that he thought of her love as a matter of course,
as much so as if it had been already plighted. He felt too that
her instinct had been as keen as his own, and that she must have
discovered the love he had taken no pains to conceal. But the
events which had occurred since she went to Red Wing had to his
mind forbidden any further expression of this feeling. For her
sake as well as for his own honor it must be put aside. He had no
wish to conceal or deny it. The fact that he must give her up was
the hardest element of the sacrifice which the newly discovered
will might require at his hands.
So he had come to tell her all, and he hoped that she would see
where honor led him, and would hold him excused from saying, "I
love you. Will you be my wife?" He believed that she would, and
that they would part without distrust and with unabated esteem for
each other. Never, until this moment, had he thought otherwise.
Perhaps he was not without hope still, but it was not such as could
be allowed to control his action. He could not say now why it was;
he could not tell what was lacking, but somehow there seemed to
have been a change. She was so far away--so intangible. It was the
same lithe form, the same bright face, the same pleasant voice; but
the life, the soul, seemed to have gone out of the familiar presence.
He sat and watched her keenly, wonderingly, as they chatted for a
moment of his mother. Then he said:
"We have had strange happenings at Mulberry Hill since you left
us, Miss Mollie."
"You don't tell me!" she said laughingly. "I cannot conceive such
a thing possible. Dear me! How strange to think of anything out of
the common happening there!"
The tone and the laugh hurt him.
"Indeed," said he, gravely, "except for that I should have made my
appearance here long ago."
"You are very kind. And I assure you, I am grateful that you did
not entirely forget me." Her tone was mocking, but her look was so
guileless as almost to make him disbelieve his ears.
"I assure you, Miss Mollie," said he, earnestly, "you do me
injustice. I was so closely engaged that I was not even aware of
your departure until the second day afterward."
He meant this to show how serious were the matters which claimed
his attention. To him it was the strongest possible proof of their
urgency. But she remembered her exultant ride to Red Wing, and said
to-herself, "And he did not think of me for two whole days!" As
she listened to his voice, her heart had been growing soft despite
her; but it was hard enough now. So she smiled artlessly, and
"Only two days? Why, Mr. Le Moyne, I thought it was two weeks. That
was how I excused you. Charles said you were too busy to ride with
me; your mother wrote that you were too busy to ask after me; and
I supposed you had been too busy to think of me, ever since."
"Now, Miss Mollie," said he, in a tone of earnest remonstrance,
"please do not speak in that way. Things of the utmost importance
have occurred, and I came over this evening to tell you of them.
You, perhaps, think that I have been neglectful."
"I had no right to demand anything from Mr. Le Moyne."
"Yes, you had, Miss Ainslie," said he, rising and going around the
table until he stood close beside her. "You know that only the
most pressing necessity could excuse me for allowing you to leave
my house unattended."
"That is the way I went there," she interrupted, as she looked up
at him, laughing saucily.
"But that was before you had, at my request, risked your life
in behalf of my child. Let us not hide the truth, Miss Ainslie.
We can never go back to the relation of mere acquaintanceship we
held before that night. If you had gone away the next morning it
might have been different, but every hour afterward increased my
obligations to you. I came here to tell you why I had seemed to
neglect them. Will you allow me to do so?"
"It is quite needless, because there is no obligation--none in the
least--unless it be to you for generous hospitality and care and
a pleasant respite from tedious duty."
"Why do you say that? You cannot think it is so," he said,
impetuously. "You know it was my duty to have attended you hither,
to have offered my services in that trying time, and by my presence
and counsel saved you such annoyance as I might. You know that I
could not have been unaware of this duty, and you dare not deny that
you expected me to follow you very speedily after your departure."
"Mr. Le Moyne," she said, rising, with flushed cheeks and flashing
eyes, "you have no right to address such language to me! It was
bad enough to leave me to face danger and trouble and horror alone;
but not so bad as to come here and say such things. But I am not
ashamed to let you know that you are right. I _did_ expect
you, Hesden Le Moyne. As I came along the road and thought of the
terrors which the night might bring, I said to myself that before
the sun went down you would be here, and would counsel and protect
the girl who had not shrunk from danger when you asked her to face
it, and who had come to look upon you as the type of chivalry.
Because I thought you better and braver and nobler than you are, I
am not ashamed to confess what I expected. I know it was foolish.
I might have known better. I might have known that the man who
would fight for a cause he hated rather than be sneered at by his
neighbors, would not care to face public scorn for the sake of a
'nigger-teacher'--no matter what his obligations to her."
She stood before him with quivering nostrils and flashing eyes. He
staggered back, raising his hand to check the torrent of her wrath.
"Don't, Miss Ainslie, don't!" he said, in confused surprise.
"Oh, yes!" she continued bitterly, "you no doubt feel very much
surprised that a 'Yankee nigger-teacher' should dare to resent such
conduct. You thought you could come to me, now that the danger and
excitement have subsided, and resume the relations we held before.
I know you and despise you, Hesden Le Moyne! I have more respect
for one of those who made Red Wing a scene of horror and destruction
than for you. Is that enough, sir? Do you understand me now?"
"Oh, entirely, Miss Ainslie," said Hesden, in a quick, husky tone,
taking his hat from the table as he spoke. "But in justice to
myself I must be allowed to state some facts which, though perhaps
not sufficient, in your opinion, to justify my conduct, will I hope
show you that you have misjudged me in part. Will you hear me?"
"Oh, yes, I will hear anything," she said, as she sat down. "Though
nothing can be said that will restore the past."
"Unfortunately, I am aware of that. There is one thing, however,
that I prize even more than that, and that is my honor. Do not
take the trouble to sneer. Say, what I _call_ my honor, if
it pleases you better, and I will not leave a stain upon that, even
in your mind, if I can help it."
"Yes, I hear," she said, as he paused a moment. "Your _honor_,
I believe you said."
"Yes, Miss Ainslie," he replied with dignity; "my honor requires
that I should say to you now what I had felt forbidden to say
before--that, however exalted the opinion you may have formed of
me, it could not have equalled that which I cherished for you--not
for what you did, but for what you were--and this feeling, whatever
you may think, is still unchanged."
Mollie started with amazement. Her face, which had been pale, was
all aflame as she glanced up at Hesden with a frightened look,
while he went on.
"I do not believe that you would intentionally be unjust. So, if
you will permit me, I will ask you one question. If you knew that
on the day of your departure, and for several succeeding days, a
human life was absolutely dependent upon my care and watchfulness,
would you consider me excusable for failure to learn of your
unannounced departure, or for not immediately following you hither
on learning that fact?" He paused, evidently expecting a reply.
"Surely, Mr. Le Moyne," she said, looking up at him in wide-eyed
wonder, "you know I would."
"And would you believe my word if I assured you that this was the
"Of course I would."
"I am very glad. Such was the case; and that alone prevented my
following you and insisting on your immediate return."
"I did not know your mother had been so ill," she said, with some
contrition in her voice.
"It was not my mother. I am sorry, but I cannot tell you now who
it was. You will know all about it some time. And more than that,"
he continued, "on the fourth day after you had gone, one who had
saved my life in battle came and asked me to acknowledge my debt by
performing an important service for him, which has required nearly
all my time since that."
"Oh, Mr. Le Moyne!" she said, as the tears came into her eyes,
"please forgive my anger and injustice."
"I have nothing to forgive," he said. "You were not unjust--only
ignorant of the facts, and your anger was but natural."
"Yet I should have known better. I should have trusted you more,"
said she, sobbing.
"Well, do not mind it," he said, soothingly. "But if my explanation
is thus far sufficient, will you allow me to sit down while I tell
you the rest? The story is a somewhat long one."
"Oh, pray do, Mr. Le Moyne. Excuse my rudeness as well as my anger.
Please be seated and let me take your hat."
She took the hat and laid it on a table at the side of the room,
and then returned and listened to his story. He told her all that
he had told his mother the night before, explaining such things as
he thought she might not fully understand. Then he showed her the
pocket-book and the will, which he had brought with him for that
At first she listened to what he said with a constrained and
embarrassed air. He had not proceeded far, however, before she began
to manifest a lively interest in his words. She leaned forward and
gazed into his face with an absorbed earnestness that awakened his
surprise. Two or three times she reached out her hand, and her
lips moved, as though she would interrupt him. He stopped; but,
without speaking, she nodded for him to go on. When he handed her
the pocket-book and the will, she took them with a trembling hand
and examined them with the utmost care. The student-lamp had been
lighted before his story was ended. Her face was in the soft light
which came through the porcelain shade, but her hands were in the
circle of bright light that escaped beneath it. He noticed that
they trembled so that they could scarcely hold the paper she was
trying to read. He asked if he should not read it for her. She
handed him the will, but kept the pocketbook tightly clasped in
both hands, with the rude scrawl,
in full view. She listened nervously to the reading, never once
looking up. When he had finished, she said,
"And you say the land mentioned there is the plantation you now
"It embraces my mother's plantation and much more. Indeed, this
very plantation of Red Wing, except the little tract around the
house here, is a part of it. The Red Wing Ordinary tract is mentioned
as one of those which adjoins it upon the west. This is the west
line, and the house at Mulberry Hill is very near the eastern edge.
It is a narrow tract, running down on this side the river until it
comes to the big bend near the ford, which it crosses, and keeps
on to the eastward.
"It is a large belt, though I do not suppose it was then of any
great value--perhaps not worth more than a shilling an acre. It is
almost impossible to realize how cheap land was in this region at
that time. A man of moderate wealth might have secured almost a
county. Especially was that the case with men who bought up what
was termed "Land Scrip" at depreciated rates, and then entered
lands and paid for them with it at par."
"Was that the way this was bought?" she asked.
"I cannot tell," he replied. "I immediately employed Mr. Pardee
to look the matter up, and it seems from the records that an entry
had been made some time before, by one Paul Cresson, which was by
him assigned to James Richards. I am inclined to think that it was
a part of the Crown grant to Lord Granville, which had not been
alienated before the Revolution, and of which the State claimed the
fee afterward by reason of his adhesion to the Crown. The question
of the right of such alien enemies to hold under Crown grants was
not then determined, and I suppose the lands were rated very low
by reason of this uncertainty in the title."
"Do you think--that--that this will is genuine?" she asked, with
her white fingers knotted about the brown old pocket-book.
"I have no doubt about its proving to be genuine. That is evident
upon its face. I hope there may be something to show that my
grandfather did not act dishonorably," he replied.
"But suppose--suppose there should not be; what would be the effect?"
"Legally, Mr. Pardee says, there is little chance that any valid
claim can be set up under it. The probabilities are, he says, that
the lapse of time will bar any such claim. He also says that it
is quite possible that the devisee may have died before coming of
age to take under the will, and the widow, also, before that time;
in which case, under the terms of the will, it would have fallen
to my grandfather."
"You are not likely to lose by it then, in any event?"
"If it should prove that there are living heirs whose claims are
not barred by time, then, of course, they will hold, not only our
plantation, but also the whole tract. In that case, I shall make
it the business of my life to acquire enough to reimburse those
who have purchased of my grandfather, and who will lose by this
"But you are not bound to do that?" she asked, in surprise.
"Not legally. Neither are we bound to give up the plantation if the
heir is legally estopped. But I think, and my mother agrees with
me, that if heirs are found who cannot recover the land by reason
of the lapse of time, even then, honor requires the surrender of
what we hold."
"And you would give up your home?"
"I should gladly do so, if I might thereby right a wrong committed
by an ancestor."
"But your mother, Hesden, what of her?"
"She would rather die than do a dishonorable thing."
"Yes--yes; but--you know--"
"Yes, I know that she is old and an invalid, and that I am young
and--and unfortunate; but I will find a way to maintain her without
keeping what we had never any right to hold."
"You have never known the hardship of self-support!" she said.
"I shall soon learn," he answered, with a shrug.
She sprang up and walked quickly across the room. Her hands were
clasped in front of her, the backs upward and the nails digging
into the white flesh. Hesden wondered a little at her excitement.
"Thank God! thank God!" she exclaimed at last, as she sank again
into her chair, and pressed her clasped hands over her eyes.
"Why do you say that?" he asked, curiously.
"Because you--because I--I hardly know," she stammered.
She looked at him a moment, her face flushing and paling by turns,
and stretching out her hand to him suddenly across the table, she
said, looking him squarely in the face:
"Hesden Le Moyne, you are a brave man!"
He took the hand in his own and pressed it to his lips, which
trembled as they touched it.
"Miss Mollie," he said, tenderly, "will you forgive my not coming
"If you will pardon my lack of faith in you."
"You see," he said, "that my duty for the present is to my mother
and the name I bear.
"And mine," she answered, "is to the poor people whose wrongs I
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I mean that I will give myself to the task of finding a refuge for
those who have suffered such terrible evils as we have witnessed
here at Red Wing."
"You will leave here, then?"
"In a day or two."
Their hands were still clasped across the narrow table. He looked
into her eyes, and saw only calm, unflinching resolution. It piqued
his self-love that she should be so unmoved. Warmly as he really
loved her, self-sacrificing as he felt himself to be in giving
her up, he could not yet rid himself of the thought of her Northern
birth, and felt annoyed that she should excel him in the gentle
quality of self control. He had no idea that he would ever meet
her again. He had made up his mind to leave her out of his life
forever, though he could not cast her out of his heart. And yet,
although he had no right to expect it, he somehow felt disappointed
that she showed no more regret. He had not quite looked for her to
be so calm, and he was almost annoyed by it; so dropping her hand,
he said, weakly,
"Shall I never see you again?"
"When you are willing to acknowledge yourself proud of me because
of the work in which I have been engaged! Hesden Le Moyne,"
she continued, rising, and standing before him, "you are a brave
man and a proud one. You are so brave that you would not hesitate
to acknowledge your regard for me, despite the fact that I am a
'nigger-teacher.' It is a noble act, and I honor you for it. But
I am as proud as you, and have good reason to be, as you will know
some day; and I say to you that I would not prize any man's esteem
which coupled itself with an apology for the work in which I have
been engaged. I count that work my highest honor, and am more
jealous of its renown than of even my own good name. When you can
say to me, 'I am as proud of your work as of my own honor--so proud
that I wish it to be known of all men, and that all men should know
that I approve,' then you may come to me. Till then, farewell!"
She held out her hand. He pressed it an instant, took his hat from
the table, and went out into the night, dazed and blinded by the
brightness he had left behind.
HOW SLEEP THE BRAVE?
Two days afterward, Mollie Ainslie took the train for the North,
accompanied by Lugena and her children. At the same time went
Captain Pardee, under instructions from Hesden Le Moyne to verify
the will, discover who the testator really was, and then ascertain
whether he had any living heirs.
To Mollie Ainslie the departure was a sad farewell to a life which
she had entered upon so full of abounding hope and charity, so
full of love for God and man, that she could not believe that all
her bright hopes had withered and only ashes remained. The way was
dark. The path was hedged up. The South was "redeemed."
The poor, ignorant white man had been unable to perceive that
liberty for the slave meant elevation to him also. The poor,
ignorant colored man had shown himself, as might well have been
anticipated, unable to cope with intelligence, wealth, and the subtle
power of the best trained political intellects of the nation; and
it was not strange. They were all alone, and their allies were
either as poor and weak as themselves, or were handicapped with the
brand of Northern birth. These were their allies--not from choice,
but from necessity. Few, indeed, were there of the highest and the
best of those who had fought the nation in war as they had fought
against the tide of liberty before the war began--who would accept
the terms on which the nation gave re-established and greatly-increased
power to the States of the South.
So there were ignorance and poverty and a hated race upon one side,
and, upon the other, intelligence, wealth, and pride. The former
_outnumbered_ the latter; but the latter, as compared with the
former, were a Grecian phalanx matched against a scattered horde
of Scythian bowmen. The Nation gave the jewel of liberty into the
hands of the former, armed them with the weapons of self-government,
and said: "Ye are many; protect what ye have received." Then it
took away its hand, turned away its eyes, closed its ears to every
cry of protest or of agony, and said: "We will not aid you nor
protect you. Though you are ignorant, from you will we demand
the works of wisdom. Though you are weak, great things shall be
required at your hands." Like the ancient taskmaster, the Nation
said: "_There shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver
the tale of bricks._"
But, alas! they were weak and inept. The weapon they had received
was two-edged. Sometimes they cut themselves; again they caught it
by the blade, and those with whom they fought seized the hilt and
made terrible slaughter. Then, too, they were not always wise--which
was a sore fault, but not their own. Nor were they always brave,
or true--which was another grievous fault; but was it to be believed
that one hour of liberty would efface the scars of generations of
slavery? Ah! well might they cry unto the Nation, as did Israel
unto Pharaoh: "Theree is no straw given unto thy servants, and they
say to us, 'Make brick': and behold thy servants are beaten; but
the fault is in thine own people." They had simply demonstrated
that in the years of Grace of the nineteenth century liberty could
not be maintained nor prosperity achieved by ignorance and poverty,
any more than in the days of Moses adobe bricks could be made without
straw. The Nation gave the power of the South into the hands of
ignorance and poverty and inexperience, and then demanded of them
the fruit of intelligence, the strength of riches, and the skill of
experience. It put before a keen-eyed and unscrupulous minority--a
minority proud, aggressive, turbulent, arrogant, and scornful
of all things save their own will and pleasure--the temptation to
enhance their power by seizing that held by the trembling hands
of simple-minded and unskilled guardians. What wonder that it was
ravished from their care?
Mollie Ainslie thought of these things with some bitterness. She
did not doubt the outcome. Her faith in truth and liberty, and
her proud confidence in the ultimate destiny of the grand Nation
whose past she had worshiped from childhood, were too strong to
permit that. She believed that some time in the future light would
come out of the darkness; but between then and the present was a
great gulf, whose depth of horror no man knew, in which the people
to serve whom she had given herself must sink and suffer--she
could not tell how long. For them there was no hope.
She did not, indeed, look for a continuance of the horrors which
then prevailed. She knew that when the incentive was removed the
acts would cease. There would be peace, because there would no
longer be any need for violence. But she was sure there would be
no real freedom, no equality of right, no certainty of justice.
She did not care who ruled, but she knew that this people--she
felt almost like calling them her people--needed the incentive of
liberty, the inspiriting rivalry of open and fair competition, to
enable them to rise. Ay, to prevent them from sinking lower and
lower. She greatly feared that the words of a journal which gloried
in all that had been done toward abbreviating and annulling the
powers, rights, and opportunities of the recent slaves might yet
become verities if these people were deprived of such incentives.
She remembered how deeply-rooted in the Southern mind was the idea
that slavery was a social necessity. She did not believe, as so
many had insisted, that it was founded merely in greed. She believed
that it was with sincere conviction that a leading journal had
declared: "The evils of free society are insufferable. Free society
must fail and give way to a _class society_--a social system
old as the world, universal as man."
She knew that the leader of a would-be nation had declared: "A
thousand must die as slaves or paupers in order that one gentleman
may live. Yet they are cheap to any nation, even at that price."
So she feared that the victors in the _post-bellum_ strife
which was raging around her would succeed, for a time at least, in
establishing this ideal "class society." While the Nation slumbered
in indifference, she feared that these men, still full of the spirit
of slavery, in the very name of law and order, under the pretense
of decency and justice, would re-bind those whose feet had just
begun to tread the path of liberty with shackles only less onerous
than those which had been dashed from their limbs by red-handed
war. As she thought of these things she read the following words
from the pen of one who had carefully watched the process of
"redemption," and had noted its results and tendency--not bitterly
and angrily, as she had done, but coolly and approvingly:
"We would like to engrave a prophecy on stone, to be read of generations
in the future. The Negro, in these [the Southern] States, will be
slave again or cease to be. His sole refuge from extinction will
be in slavery to the white man." [Footnote: Out of the numerous
declarations of this conviction which have been made by the
Southern press every year since the war, I have selected one from
the _Meridian (Miss.) Mercury_ of July 31st, 1880. I have done
this simply to show that the sentiment is not yet dead.]
She remembered to have heard a great man say, on a memorable
occasion, that "the forms of law have always been the graves of buried
liberties." She feared that, under the "forms" of _subverted_
laws, the liberties of a helpless people would indeed be buried.
She had little care for the Nation. It was of those she had served
and whose future she regarded with such engrossing interest that she
thought. She did not dream of remedying the evil. That was beyond
her power. She only thought she might save some from its scath. To
that she devoted herself.
The day before, she had visited the cemetery where her brother's
ashes reposed. She had long ago put a neat monument over his grave,
and had herself supplemented the national appropriation for its
care. It was a beautiful inclosure, walled with stone, verdant
with soft turf, and ornamented with rare shrubbery. Across it ran
a little stream, with green banks sloping either way. A single great
elm drooped over its bubbling waters. A pleasant drive ran with
easy grade and graceful curves down one low hill and up another.
The iron gate opened upon a dusty highway. Beside it stood the
keeper's neat brick lodge. In front, and a little to the right,
lay a sleepy Southern town half hidden in embowering trees. Across
the little ravine within the cemetery, upon the level plateau, were
the graves, marked, in some cases, by little square white monuments
of polished marble, on which was but the single word, "Unknown." A
few bore the names of those who slept below. But on one side there
were five long mounds, stretching away, side by side, as wide as
the graves were long, and as long as four score graves. Smoothly
rounded from end to end, without a break or a sign, they seemed a
fit emblem of silence. Where they began, a granite pillar rose high,
decked with symbols of glory interspersed with emblems of mourning.
Cannon, battered and grim, the worn-out dogs of war, gaped with
silent jaws up at the silent sky. No name was carved on base or
capital, nor on the marble shield upon the shaft. Only, "Sacred to
the memory of the unknown heroes who died--."
How quick the memory fills out the rest! There had been a military
prison of the Confederacy just over the hill yonder, where the
corn now grew so rank and thick. Twelve thousand men died there
and were thrown into those long trenches where are now heaped-up
mounds that look like giants' graves--not buried one by one, with
coffin, shroud, and funeral rite, but one upon another heaped and
piled, until the yawning pit would hold no more. No name was kept,
no grave was marked, but in each trench was heaped one undistinguishable
mass of dead humanity!
Mollie Ainslie, when she had bidden farewell to her brother's grave,
looked on these piled-up trenches, scanned the silent shaft, and
going into the keeper's office just at hand, read for herself the
Died in Prison 11,700
As she wandered back to the town, she gleaned from what she had
seen a lesson of charity for the people toward whom her heart had
been full of hardness.
"It was thus," she said to herself, "that they treated brave foemen
of their own race and people, who died, not on the battle-field,
but of lingering disease in crowded prison pens, in the midst of
pleasant homes and within hearing of the Sabbath chimes. None cared
enough to give to each a grave, put up a simple board to mark the
spot where love might come and weep--nay, not enough even to make
entry of the name of the dead some heart must mourn. And if they
did this to their dead foemen and kinsmen, their equals, why should
we wonder that they manifest equal barbarity toward the living
freedman--their recent slave, now suddenly exalted. _It is the
lesson and the fruitage of slavery!"_
And so she made excuse both for the barbarity of war and the
savagery which followed it by tracing both to their origin. She
did not believe that human nature changed in an hour, but that
centuries past bore fruit in centuries to come. She thought that
the former master must be healed by the slow medicament of time
before he could be able to recognize in all men the sanctity of
manhood; as well as that the freedman must be taught to know and
to defend his rights.
When she left the cemetery, she mounted Midnight for a farewell
ride. The next morning, before he arose, Hesden Le Moyne heard the
neigh of his old war-horse, and, springing from his bed, he ran
out and found him hitched at his gate. A note was tied with a blue
ribbon to his jetty forelock. He removed it, and read:
"I return your noble horse with many thanks for the long loan. May
I hope that he will be known henceforth only as Midnight?
He thought he recognized the ribbon as one which he had often seen
encircling the neck of the writer, and foolishly treasured it upon
his heart as a keepsake.
The train bore away the teacher, and with her the wife and children
who fled, not knowing their father's fate, and the lawyer who
sought an owner for an estate whose heir was too honorable to hold
REDEEMED OUT OF THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE.
Three months passed peacefully away in Horsford. In the "redeemed"
county its "natural rulers" bore sway once more. The crops which
Nimbus had cultivated were harvested by a Receiver of the Court.
The families that dwelt at Red Wing awaited in sullen silence the
outcome of the suits which had been instituted. Of Nimbus and Eliab
not a word had been heard. Some thought they had been killed; others
that they had fled. The family of Berry Lawson had disappeared from
the new home which he had made near "Bre'er Rufe Patterson's," in
Hanson County. Some said that they had gone South; others that they
had gone East. "Bre'er Rufe" declared that he did not know where
they had gone. All he knew was that he was "ober dar ob a Saturday
night, an' dar dey was, Sally an' de chillen; an' den he went dar
agin ob a Monday mornin' arly, an' dar dey wasn't, nary one ob'
The excitement with regard to the will, and her fear that Hesden
was infected with the horrible virus of "Radicalism," had most
alarmingly prostrated the invalid of Mulberry Hill. For a long time
it was feared that her life of sufferirig was near its end. Hesden
did not leave home at all, except once or twice to attend to some
business as the trustee for the fugitive Jackson. Cousin Hetty had
become a regular inmate of the house. All the invalid's affection
for her dead daughter-in-law seemed to have been transferred to
Hetty Lomax. No one could serve her so well. Even Hesden's attentions
were less grateful. She spoke freely of the time when she should
see Hetty in her sister's place, the mistress of Mulberry Hill.
She had given up all fear of the property being claimed by others,
since she had heard how small were the chances of discovering an
heir whose claims were not barred; and though she had consented
to forego her legal rights, she trusted that a way would be found
to satisfy any who might be discovered. At any rate, she was sure
that her promise would not bind her successor, and, with the usual
stubbornness of the chronic invalid, she determined that the estate
should not pass out of the family. In any event, she did not expect
to live until the finding of an heir, should there chance to be
One of the good citizens of the county began to show himself in
public for the first time since the raid on Red Wing. An ugly scar
stretched from his forehead down along his nose and across his
lips and chin. At the least excitement it became red and angry,
and gave him at all times a ghastly and malevolent appearance. He
was a great hero with the best citizens; was _feted_, admired,
and praised; and was at once made a deputy sheriff under the new
_regime_. Another most worthy citizen, the superintendent of
a Sabbath-school, and altogether one of the most estimable citizens
of the county, had been so seriously affected with a malignant
brain-fever since that bloody night that he had not yet left his
The colored men, most of whom from a foolish apprehension had
slept in the woods until the election, now began to perceive that
the nights were wholesome, and remained in their cabins. They seemed
sullen and discontented, and sometimes whispered among themselves
of ill-usage and unfair treatment; but they were not noisy
and clamorous, as they had been before the work of "redemption."
It was especially noted that they were much more respectful and
complaisant to their superiors than they had been at any time since
the Surrender. The old time "Marse" was now almost universally used,
and few "niggers" presumed to speak to a white man in the country
districts without removing their hats. In the towns the improvement
was not so perceptible. The "sassy" ones seemed to take courage
from their numbers, and there they were still sometimes "boisterous"
and "obstreperous." On the whole, however, the result seemed eminently
satisfactory, with a prospect of growing better every day. Labor
was more manageable, and there were much fewer appeals to the law
by lazy, impudent, and dissatisfied laborers. The master's word was
rarely disputed upon the day of settlement, and there was every
prospect of reviving hope and continued prosperity on the part of men
who worked their plantations by proxy, and who had been previously
very greatly annoyed and discouraged by the persistent clamor of
their "hands" for payment.
There had been some ill-natured criticism of the course of Hesden
Le Moyne. It was said that he had made some very imprudent remarks,
both in regard to the treatment of Jordan Jackson and the affair
at Red Wing. There were some, indeed, who openly declared that he
had upheld and encouraged the niggers at Red Wing in their insolent
and outrageous course, and had used language unworthy of a "Southern
gentleman" concerning those patriotic men who had felt called upon,
for the protection of their homes and property, to administer the
somewhat severe lesson which had no doubt nipped disorder in the
bud, saved them from the war of races which had imminently impended,
and brought "redemption" to the county. Several of Hesden's personal
friends called upon him and remonstrated with him upon his course.
Many thought he should be "visited," and "Radicalism in the county
stamped out" at once, root and branch. He received warning from the
Klan to the effect that he was considered a dangerous character, and
must change his tone and take heed to his footsteps. As, however,
his inclination to the dangerous doctrines was generally attributed
in a great measure to his unfortunate infatuation for the little
"nigger-teacher," it was hoped that her absence would effect a
cure. Especially was this opinion entertained when it became known
that his mother was bitterly opposed to his course, and was fully
determined to root the seeds of "Radicalism" from his mind. His
attachment for her was well known, and it was generally believed
that she might be trusted to turn him from the error of his ways,
particularly as she was the owner of Red Wing, and had freely
declared her intention not to leave him a foot of it unless he
abandoned his absurd and vicious notions. Hesden himself, though
he went abroad but little, saw that his friends had grown cool and
that his enemies had greatly multiplied.
This was the situation of affairs in the good County of Horsford
when, one bright morning in December--the morning of "that day
whereon our Saviour's birth is celebrate"--Hesden Le Moyne rode to
the depot nearest to his home, purchased two tickets to a Northern
city, and, when the morning train came in, assisted his "boy"
Charles to lift from a covered wagon which stood near by, the weak
and pallid form of the long-lost "nigger preacher," Eliab Hill,
and place him upon the train. It was noticed by the loungers about
the depot that Hesden carried but half concealed a navy revolver
which seemed to have seen service. There was some excitement in
the little crowd over the reappearance of Eliab Hill, but he was
not interfered with. In fact, the cars moved off so quickly after
he was first seen that there was no time to recover from the surprise
produced by the unexpected apparition. It was not until the smoke
of the engine had disappeared in the distance that the wrath of
the bystanders clothed itself in words.
Then the air reeked with expletives. What ought to have been done
was discussed with great freedom. An excited crowd gathered around
Charles as he was preparing to return home, and plied him with
questions. His ignorance was phenomenal, but the look of stupefied
wonder with which he regarded his questioners confirmed his words.
It was not until he had proceeded a mile on his homeward way, with
Midnight in leading behind the tail-board, that, having satisfied
himself that there was no one within hearing, by peeping from
beneath the canvas covering of the wagon, both before and behind,
he tied the reins to one of the bows which upheld the cover,
abandoned the mule to his own guidance, and throwing himself upon
the mattress on which Eliab had lain, gave vent to roars of laughter.
"Yah, yah, yah!" he cried, as the tears rolled down his black face.
"It du take Marse Hesden to wax dem fellers! Dar he war, jest ez
cool an' keerless ez yer please, a'standin' roun' an' waitin' fer
de train an' payin' no 'tention at all ter me an' de wagon by de
platform, dar. Swar, but I war skeered nigh 'bout ter death, till
I got dar an' seed him so quiet and keerless; an' Bre'er 'Liab, he
war jest a-prayin' all de time--but dat's no wonder. Den, when de
train whistle, Marse Hesden turn quick an' sharp an' I seed him gib
dat ole pistol a jerk roun' in front, an' he come back an' sed,
jest ez cool an' quiet, 'Now, Charles!' I declar' it stiddied me up
jes ter hear him, an' den up comes Bre'er 'Liab in my arms. Marse
Hesden helps a bit an' goes fru de crowd wid his mouf shet like a
steel trap. We takes him on de cars. All aboard! _Whoo-oop--puff,
puff!_ Off she goes! an' dat crowd stan's dar a-cussin' all
curration an' demselves to boot! Yah, yah, yah! 'Rah for Marse
IN THE CYCLONE.
Then the storm burst. Every possible story was set afloat. The more
absurd it seemed the more generally was it credited. Men talked
and women chattered of nothing but Hesden Le Moyne, his infamous
"negro-loving Radicalism," his infatuation with the "Yankee
school-marm," the anger of his mother, his ill-treatment of his
cousin, Hetty Lomax; his hiding of the "nigger preacher" in the loft
of the dining-room, his alliance with the Red Wing desperadoes to
"burn every white house on that side of the river"--in short, his
treachery, his hypocrisy, his infamy.
On the street, in the stores, at the churches--wherever men met--this
was the one unfailing theme of conversation. None but those who have
seen a Southern community excited over one subject or one man can
imagine how much can be said about a little matter. The newspapers
of that and the adjoining counties were full of it. Colored men
were catechized in regard to it. His friends vied with his enemies
in vituperation, lest they should be suspected of a like offense.
He was accounted a monster by many, and an enemy by all who had been
his former associates, and, strangely enough, was at once looked
upon as a friend and ally by every colored man, and by the few
white men of the county who secretly or silently held with the
"Radicals." It was the baptism of fire which every Southern man
must face who presumes to differ from his fellows upon political
Nothing that he had previously done or said or been could excuse or
palliate his conduct. The fact that he was of a good family only
rendered his alliance with "niggers" against his own race and
class the more infamous. The fact that he was a man of substantial
means, and had sought no office or aggrandizement by the votes of
colored men, made his offence the more heinous, because he could
not even plead the poor excuse of self-interest. The fact that he
had served the Confederacy well, and bore on his person the indubitable
proof of gallant conduct on the field of battle, was a still further
aggravation of his act, because it marked him as a renegade and
a traitor to the cause for which he had fought. Compared with a
Northern Republican he was accounted far more infamous, because of
his desertion of his family, friends, comrades, and "the cause of
the South"--a vague something which no man can define, but which
"fires the Southern heart" with wonderful facility. Comparison
with the negro was still more to his disadvantage, since he had
"sinned against light and knowledge," while they did not even know
their own "best friends." And so the tide of detraction ebbed and
flowed while Hesden was absent, his destination unknown, his return
a matter of conjecture, and his purpose a mystery.
The most generally-accepted theory was that he had gone to Washington
for the purpose of maliciously misrepresenting and maligning the good
people of Horsford, in order to secure the stationing of soldiers
in that vicinity, and their aid in arresting and bringing to trial,
for various offences against the peace and persons of the colored
people, some of the leading citizens of the county. In support of
this they cited his intimate relations with Jordan Jackson, as well
as with Nimbus and Eliab. It was soon reported that Jackson had
met him at Washington; that Nimbus Desmit had also arrived there;
that the whole party had been closeted with this and that leading
"Radical"; and that the poor, stricken, down-trodden South--the
land fairest and richest and poorest and most peaceful and most
chivalric, the most submissive and the most defiant; in short, the
most contradictory in its self-conferred superlatives--that this
land of antipodal excellences must now look for new forms of tyranny
and new measures of oppression.
The secrecy which had been preserved for three months in regard to
Eliab's place of concealment made a most profound impression upon
Hesden's neighbors of the County of Horsford. They spoke of it in
low, horrified tones, which showed that they felt deeply in regard
to it. It was ascertained that no one in his family knew of the
presence of Eliab until the morning of his removal. Miss Hetty
made haste to declare that in her two months and more of attendance
upon the invalid she had never dreamed of such a thing. The servants
stoutly denied all knowledge of it, except Charles, who could not
get out of having cut the door through into the other room. It was
believed that Hesden had himself taken all the care of the injured
man, whose condition was not at all understood. How badly he had
been hurt, or in what manner, none could tell. Many visited the
house to view the place of concealment. Only the closed doors could
be seen, for Hesden had taken the key with him. Some suggested
that Nimbus was still concealed there, and several advised Mrs.
Le Moyne to get some one to go into the room. However, as no one
volunteered to go, nothing came of this advice. It was rumored,
too, that Hesden had brought into the county several detectives, who
had stolen into the hearts of the unsuspecting people of Horsford,
and had gone Northward loaded down with information that would make
trouble for some of the "best men."
It was generally believed that the old attic over the dining-room
had long been a place where "Radicals" had been wont to meet in
solemn conclave to "plot against the whites." A thousand things
were remembered which confirmed this view. It was here that Hesden
had harbored the detectives, as Rahab had hidden the spies. It was
quite evident that he had for a long time been an emissary of the
Government at Washington, and no one could guess what tales of
outrage he might not fabricate in order to glut his appetite for
inhuman revenge. The Southern man is always self-conscious. He
thinks the world has him in its eye, and that he about fills the
eye. This does not result from comparative depreciation of others
so much as from a habit of magnifying his own image. He always poses
for effect. He walks, talks, and acts "as if he felt the eyes of
Europe on his tail," almost as much as the peacock.
There are times, however, when even he does not care to be seen, and
it was observed that about this time there were a goodly number of
the citizens of Horsford who modestly retired from the public gaze,
some of them even going into remote States with some precipitation
and an apparent desire to remain for a time unknown. It was even
rumored that Hesden was with Nimbus, disguised as a negro, in the
attack made on the Klan during the raid on Red Wing, and that, by
means of the detectives, he had discovered every man engaged in
that patriotic affair, as well as those concerned in others of like
character. The disappearance of these men was, of course, in no
way connected with this rumor. Since the "Southern people" have
become the great jesters of the world, their conduct is not at all
to be judged by the ordinary rules of cause and effect as applied
to human action. It might have been mere buffoonery, quite as well
as modesty, that possessed some of the "best citizens of Horsford"
with an irrepressible desire to view the Falls of Niagara from the
Canadian side in mid-winter. There is no accounting for the acts
of a nation of masqueraders!
But perhaps the most generally-accepted version of Hesden's journey
was that he had run away to espouse Mollie Ainslie. To her was
traced his whole bias toward the colored population and "Radical"
principles. Nothing evil was said of her character. She was admitted to
be as good as anybody of her class could be--intelligent, bigoted,
plucky, pretty, and malicious. It was a great pity that a man
belonging to a good family should become infatuated by one in her
station. He could never bring her home, and she would never give
up her "nigger-equality notions." She had already dragged him down
to what he was. Such a man as he, it was strenuously asserted, would
not degrade himself to stand up for such a man as Jordan Jackson
or to associate with "niggers," without some powerful extraneous
influence. That influence was Mollie Ainslie, who, having inveigled
him into "Radicalism," had now drawn him after her into the North
But nowhere did the conduct of Hesden cause more intense or
conflicting feelings than at Mulberry Hill. His achievement in
succoring, hiding, and finally rescuing Eliab Hill was a source of
never-ending wonder, applause, and mirth in the kitchen. But Miss
Hetty could not find words to express her anger and chagrin. Without
being at all forward or immodest, she had desired to succeed her
dead sister in the good graces of Hesden Le Moyne, as well as in
the position of mistress of the Hill. It was a very natural and
proper feeling. They were cousins, had always been neighbors, and
Hesden's mother had encouraged the idea, almost from the time of
his first wife's death. It was no wonder that she was jealous of
the Yankee school-marm. Love is keen-eyed, and she really loved
her cousin. She had become satisfied, during her stay at the Hill,
that he was deeply attached to Mollie Ainslie, and knew him too well
to hope that he would change; and such a conviction was, of course,
not pleasant to her vanity. But when she was convinced that he had
degraded himself and her by espousing "Radicalism" and associating
with "niggers," her wrath knew no bounds. It seemed an especial
insult to her that the man whom she had honored with her affection
should have so demeaned himself.
Mrs. Le Moyne was at first astonished, then grieved, and finally
angry. She especially sympathized with Hetty, the wreck of whose
hope she saw in this revelation. If Mollie Ainslie had been "one
of our people," instead of "a Northern nigger school-teacher,"
there would have been nothing so very bad about it. He had never
professed any especial regard or tenderness for Miss Hetty, and
had never given her any reason to expect a nearer relation than she
had always sustained toward him. Mollie was good enough in her way,
bright and pretty and--but faugh! the idea! She would not believe
it! Hesden was not and could not be a "Radical." He might have
sheltered Eliab--ought to have done so; that she _would_ say.
He had been a slave of the family, and had a right to look to her
son for protection. But to be a "Radical!" She would not believe
it. There was no use in talking to her. She remained stubbornly
silent after she had gotten to the conclusive denial: "He could
not do it!"
Nevertheless, she thought it well to use her power while she had any.
If he was indeed a "Radical," she would never forgive him--never!
So she determined to make her will. A man learned in the law was
brought to the Hill, and Hester Le Moyne, in due form, by her last
will and testament devised the plantation to her beloved son Hesden
Le Moyne, and her affectionate cousin Hetty Lomax, jointly, and
to their heirs forever, on condition that the said devisees should
intermarry with each other within one year from the death of the
devisor; and in case either of the said devisees should refuse to
intermarry with the other, then the part of such devisee was to
go to the other, who should thereafter hold the fee in severalty,
free of all claim from the other.
The New York and Boston papers contained, day after day, this
"The heirs of James Richards, deceased, formerly of Marblehead,
Massachusetts, will learn something to their advantage by addressing
Theron Pardee, care of James & Jones, Attorneys, at No. -- Broadway,
Mrs. Le Moyne was well aware of this, and also remembered her
promise to surrender the estate, should an heir be found. But that
promise had been made under the influence of Hesden's ardent zeal
for the right, and she found by indirection many excuses for avoiding
its performance. "Of course," she said to herself, "if heirs should
be found in my lifetime, I would revoke this testament; but it is
not right that I should bind those who come after me for all time
to yield to his Quixotic notions. Besides, why should I be juster
than the law? This property has been in the family for a long time,
and ought to remain there."
Her anger at Hesden burned very fiercely, and she even talked of
refusing to see him, should he return, as she had no real doubt he
would. The excitement, however, prostrated her as usual, and her
anger turned into querulous complainings as she grew weaker.
The return of Hesden, hardly a week after his departure, brought
him to face this tide of vituperation at its flood. All that had
been said and written and done in regard to himself came forthwith
to his knowledge. He was amazed, astounded for a time, at the
revelation. He had not expected it. He had expected anger, and was
prepared to meet it with forbearance and gentleness; but he was not
prepared for detraction and calumny and insult. He had not been so
very much surprised at the odium which had been heaped upon Jordan
Jackson. He belonged to that class of white people at the South
to whom the better class owed little duty or regard. It was not so
strange that they should slander that man. He could understand,
too, how it was that they attributed to the colored people such
incredible depravity, such capacity for evil, such impossible
designs, as well as the reason why they invented for every Northern
man that came among them with ideas different from their own a
fictitious past, reeking with infamy.
He could sympathize in some degree with all of this. He had not
thought, himself, that it was altogether the proper thing for the
illiterate "poor-white" man, Jordan Jackson, to lead the negroes
of the county in political hostility to the whites. He had felt
naturally the distrust of the man of Northern birth which a century
of hostility and suspicion had bred in the air of the South. He had
grown up in it. He had been taught to regard the "Yankees" (which
meant all Northerners) as a distinct people--sometimes generous
and brave, but normally envious, mean, low-spirited, treacherous,
and malignant. He admitted the exceptions, but they only proved the
rule. As a class he considered them cold, calculating, selfish,
greedy of power and wealth, and regardless of the means by which
these were acquired. Above all things, he had been taught to regard
them as animated by hatred of the South. Knowing that this had been
his own bias, he could readily excuse his neighbors for the same.
But in his own case it was different. _He_ was one of
themselves. They knew him to be brave, honorable, of good family,
of conservative instincts, fond of justice and fair play, and governed
in his actions only by the sincerest conviction. That they should
accuse him of every mean and low impossibility of act and motive,
and befoul his holiest purposes and thoughts, was to him a most
horrible thing. His anger grew hotter and hotter, as he listened
to each new tale of infamy which a week had sufficed to set afloat.
Then he heard his mother's reproaches, and saw that even her love
was not proof against a mere change of political sentiment on his
part. These things set him to thinking as he had never thought
before. The scales fell from his eyes, and from the kindly gentle
Southern man of knightly instincts and gallant achievements was
born--the "pestiferous Radical." He did not hesitate to avow his
conviction, and from that moment there was around him a wall of
fire. He had lost his rank, degraded his caste, and fallen from
his high estate. From and after that moment he was held unworthy
to wear the proud appellation, "A Southern Gentleman."
However, as he took no active part in political life, and depended
in no degree upon the patronage or good will of his neighbors for
a livelihood, he felt the force of this feeling only in his social
relations. Unaware, as yet, of the disherison which his mother
had visited upon him in his absence, he continued to manage the
plantation and conduct all the business pertaining to it in his own
name, as he had done ever since the close of the war. At first he
entertained a hope that the feeling against him would die out. But
as time rolled on, and it continued still potent and virulent, he
came to analyze it more closely, judging his fellows by himself,
and saw that it was the natural fruit of that intolerance which
slavery made necessary--which was essential to its existence. Then
he no longer wondered at them, but at himself. It did not seem
strange that they should feel as they did, but rather that he should
so soon have escaped from the tyrannical bias of mental habit. He
saw that the struggle against it must be long and bitter, and he
determined not to yield his convictions to the prejudices of others.
It was a strange thing. In one part of the country--and that the
greater in numbers, in wealth, in enterprise and vigor, in average
intelligence and intellectual achievements--the sentiments he had
espoused were professed and believed by a great party which prided
itself upon its intelligence, purity, respectability, and devotion
to principle. In two thirds of the country his sentiments were held
to be honorable, wise, and patriotic. Every act he had performed,
every principle he had reluctantly avowed, would there have
been applauded of all men. Nay, the people of that portion of the
country were unable to believe that any one could seriously deny
those principles. Yet in the other portion, where he lived, they
were esteemed an ineffaceable brand of shame, which no merit of a
spotless life could hide.
The _Southern Clarion_, a newspaper of the County of Horsford,
in referring to his conduct, said:
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