Frances E.W. Harper
Part 2 out of 5
race? Don't eye me so curiously; I am not losing my senses."
"I think you have done that already," said Lorraine. "Don't you know
that if she is as fair as a lily, beautiful as a houri, and chaste as
ice, that still she is a negro?"
"Oh, come now; she isn't much of a negro."
"It doesn't matter, however. One drop of negro blood in her veins curses
all the rest."
"I know it," said Eugene, sadly, "but I have weighed the consequences,
and am prepared to take them."
"Well, Eugene, your course is _so_ singular! I do wish that you would
tell me why you take this unprecedented step?"
Eugene laid aside his cigar, looked thoughtfully at Lorraine, and said,
"Well, Alfred, as we are kinsmen and life-long friends, I will not
resent your asking my reason for doing that which seems to you the
climax of absurdity, and if you will have the patience to listen I will
"Proceed, I am all attention."
"My father died," said Eugene, "as you know, when I was too young to
know his loss or feel his care and, being an only child, I was petted
and spoiled. I grew up to be wayward, self-indulgent, proud, and
imperious. I went from home and made many friends both at college and in
foreign lands. I was well supplied with money and, never having been
forced to earn it, was ignorant of its value and careless of its use. My
lavish expenditures and liberal benefactions attracted to me a number
of parasites, and men older than myself led me into the paths of vice,
and taught me how to gather the flowers of sin which blossom around the
borders of hell. In a word, I left my home unwarned and unarmed against
the seductions of vice. I returned an initiated devotee to debasing
pleasures. Years of my life were passed in foreign lands; years in which
my soul slumbered and seemed pervaded with a moral paralysis; years, the
memory of which fills my soul with sorrow and shame. I went to the
capitals of the old world to see life, but in seeing life I became
acquainted with death, the death of true manliness and self-respect. You
look astonished; but I tell you, Alf, there is many a poor clod-hopper,
on whom are the dust and grime of unremitting toil, who feels more
self-respect and true manliness than many of us with our family
prestige, social position, and proud ancestral halls. After I had lived
abroad for years, I returned a broken-down young man, prematurely old,
my constitution a perfect wreck. A life of folly and dissipation was
telling fearfully upon me. My friends shrank from me in dismay. I was
sick nigh unto death, and had it not been for Marie's care I am certain
that I should have died. She followed me down to the borders of the
grave, and won me back to life and health. I was slow in recovering and,
during the time, I had ample space for reflection, and the past unrolled
itself before me. I resolved, over the wreck and ruin of my past life,
to build a better and brighter future. Marie had a voice of remarkable
sweetness, although it lacked culture. Often when I was nervous and
restless I would have her sing some of those weird and plaintive
melodies which she had learned from the plantation negroes. Sometimes I
encouraged her to talk, and I was surprised at the native vigor of her
intellect. By degrees I became acquainted with her history. She was all
alone in the world. She had no recollection of her father, but
remembered being torn from her mother while clinging to her dress. The
trader who bought her mother did not wish to buy her. She remembered
having a brother, with whom she used to play, but she had been separated
from him also, and since then had lost all trace of them. After she was
sold from her mother she became the property of an excellent old lady,
who seems to have been very careful to imbue her mind with good
principles; a woman who loved purity, not only for her own daughters,
but also for the defenseless girls in her home. I believe it was the
lady's intention to have freed Marie at her death, but she died
suddenly, and, the estate being involved, she was sold with it and fell
into the hands of my agent. I became deeply interested in her when I
heard her story, and began to pity her."
"And I suppose love sprang from pity."
"I not only pitied her, but I learned to respect her. I had met with
beautiful women in the halls of wealth and fashion, both at home and
abroad, but there was something in her different from all my experience
"I should think so," said Lorraine, with a sneer; "but I should like to
know what it was."
"It was something such as I have seen in old cathedrals, lighting up the
beauty of a saintly face. A light which the poet tells was never seen on
land or sea. I thought of this beautiful and defenseless girl adrift in
the power of a reckless man, who, with all the advantages of wealth and
education, had trailed his manhood in the dust, and she, with simple,
childlike faith in the Unseen, seemed to be so good and pure that she
commanded my respect and won my heart. In her presence every base and
unholy passion died, subdued by the supremacy of her virtue."
"Why, Eugene, what has come over you? Talking of the virtue of these
quadroon girls! You have lived so long in the North and abroad, that you
seem to have lost the cue of our Southern life. Don't you know that
these beautiful girls have been the curse of our homes? You have no idea
of the hearts which are wrung by their presence."
"But, Alfred, suppose it is so. Are they to blame for it? What can any
woman do when she is placed in the hands of an irresponsible master;
when she knows that resistance is vain? Yes, Alfred, I agree with you,
these women are the bane of our Southern civilization; but they are the
victims and we are the criminals."
"I think from the airs that some of them put on when they get a chance,
that they are very willing victims."
"So much the worse for our institution. If it is cruel to debase a
hapless victim, it is an increase of cruelty to make her contented with
her degradation. Let me tell you, Alf, you cannot wrong or degrade a
woman without wronging or degrading yourself."
"What is the matter with you, Eugene? Are you thinking of taking
"No, Alf," said Eugene, rising and rapidly pacing the floor, "you may
defend the system as much as you please, but you cannot deny that the
circumstances it creates, and the temptations it affords, are sapping
our strength and undermining our character."
"That may be true," said Lorraine, somewhat irritably, "but you had
better be careful how you air your Northern notions in public."
"Because public opinion is too sensitive to tolerate any such
"And is not that a proof that we are at fault with respect to our
"I don't know. I only know we are living in the midst of a magazine of
powder, and it is not safe to enter it with a lighted candle."
"Let me proceed with my story," continued Eugene. "During the long
months in which I was convalescing, I was left almost entirely to the
companionship of Marie. In my library I found a Bible, which I began to
read from curiosity, but my curiosity deepened into interest when I saw
the rapt expression on Marie's face. I saw in it a loving response to
sentiments to which I was a stranger. In the meantime my conscience was
awakened, and I scorned to take advantage of her defenselessness. I felt
that I owed my life to her faithful care, and I resolved to take her
North, manumit, educate, and marry her. I sent her to a Northern
academy, but as soon as some of the pupils found that she was colored,
objections were raised, and the principal was compelled to dismiss her.
During my search for a school I heard of one where three girls of mixed
blood were pursuing their studies, every one of whom would have been
ignominiously dismissed had their connection with the negro race been
known. But I determined to run no risks. I found a school where her
connection with the negro race would be no bar to her advancement. She
graduates next week, and I intend to marry her before I return home. She
was faithful when others were faithless, stood by me when others
deserted me to die in loneliness and neglect, and now I am about to
reward her care with all the love and devotion it is in my power to
bestow. That is why I am about to marry my faithful and devoted nurse,
who snatched me from the jaws of death. Now that I have told you my
story, what say you?"
"Madness and folly inconceivable!" exclaimed Lorraine.
"What to you is madness and folly is perfect sanity with me. After all,
Alf, is there not an amount of unreason in our prejudices?"
"That may be true; but I wasn't reasoned into it, and I do not expect to
be reasoned out of it."
"Will you accompany me North?"
"No; except to put you in an insane asylum. You are the greatest crank
out," said Lorraine, thoroughly disgusted.
"No, thank you; I'm all right. I expect to start North to-morrow. You
had better come and go."
"I would rather follow you to your grave," replied Lorraine, hotly,
while an expression of ineffable scorn passed over his cold, proud face.
SHADOWS IN THE HOME.
On the next morning after this conversation Leroy left for the North, to
attend the commencement and witness the graduation of his ward. Arriving
in Ohio, he immediately repaired to the academy and inquired for the
principal. He was shown into the reception-room, and in a few moments
the principal entered.
"Good morning," said Leroy, rising and advancing towards him; "how is my
ward this morning?"
"She is well, and has been expecting you. I am glad you came in time for
the commencement. She stands among the foremost in her class."
"I am glad to hear it. Will you send her this?" said Leroy, handing the
principal a card. The principal took the card and immediately left the
Very soon Leroy heard a light step, and looking up he saw a radiantly
beautiful woman approaching him.
"Good morning, Marie," he said, greeting her cordially, and gazing upon
her with unfeigned admiration. "You are looking very handsome this
"Do you think so?" she asked, smiling and blushing. "I am glad you are
not disappointed; that you do not feel your money has been spent in
"Oh, no, what I have spent on your education has been the best
investment I ever made."
"I hope," said Marie, "you may always find it so. But Mas----"
"Hush!" said Leroy, laying his hand playfully on her lips; "you are
free. I don't want the dialect of slavery to linger on your lips. You
must not call me that name again."
"Because I have a nearer and dearer one by which I wish to be called."
Leroy drew her nearer, and whispered in her ear a single word. She
started, trembled with emotion, grew pale, and blushed painfully. An
awkward silence ensued, when Leroy, pressing her hand, exclaimed: "This
is the hand that plucked me from the grave, and I am going to retain it
as mine; mine to guard with my care until death us do part."
Leroy looked earnestly into her eyes, which fell beneath his ardent
gaze. With admirable self-control, while a great joy was thrilling her
heart, she bowed her beautiful head and softly repeated, "Until death us
Leroy knew Southern society too well to expect it to condone his offense
against its social customs, or give the least recognition to his wife,
however cultured, refined, and charming she might be, if it were known
that she had the least infusion of negro blood in her veins. But he was
brave enough to face the consequences of his alliance, and marry the
woman who was the choice of his heart, and on whom his affections were
After Leroy had left the room, Marie sat awhile thinking of the
wonderful change that had come over her. Instead of being a lonely slave
girl, with the fatal dower of beauty, liable to be bought and sold,
exchanged, and bartered, she was to be the wife of a wealthy planter; a
man in whose honor she could confide, and on whose love she could lean.
Very interesting and pleasant were the commencement exercises in which
Marie bore an important part. To enlist sympathy for her enslaved race,
and appear to advantage before Leroy, had aroused all of her energies.
The stimulus of hope, the manly love which was environing her life,
brightened her eye and lit up the wonderful beauty of her countenance.
During her stay in the North she had constantly been brought in contact
with anti-slavery people. She was not aware that there was so much
kindness among the white people of the country until she had tested it
in the North. From the anti-slavery people in private life she had
learned some of the noblest lessons of freedom and justice, and had
become imbued with their sentiments. Her theme was "American
Civilization, its Lights and Shadows."
Graphically she portrayed the lights, faithfully she showed the shadows
of our American civilization. Earnestly and feelingly she spoke of the
blind Sampson in our land, who might yet shake the pillars of our great
Commonwealth. Leroy listened attentively. At times a shadow of annoyance
would overspread his face, but it was soon lost in the admiration her
earnestness and zeal inspired. Like Esther pleading for the lives of her
people in the Oriental courts of a despotic king, she stood before the
audience, pleading for those whose lips were sealed, but whose condition
appealed to the mercy and justice of the Nation. Strong men wiped the
moisture from their eyes, and women's hearts throbbed in unison with the
strong, brave words that were uttered in behalf of freedom for all and
chains for none. Generous applause was freely bestowed, and beautiful
bouquets were showered upon her. When it was known that she was to be
the wife of her guardian, warm congratulations were given, and earnest
hopes expressed for the welfare of the lonely girl, who, nearly all her
life, had been deprived of a parent's love and care. On the eve of
starting South Leroy procured a license, and united his destiny with the
young lady whose devotion in the darkest hour had won his love and
In a few days Marie returned as mistress to the plantation from which
she had gone as a slave. But as unholy alliances were common in those
days between masters and slaves, no one took especial notice that Marie
shared Leroy's life as mistress of his home, and that the family silver
and jewelry were in her possession. But Leroy, happy in his choice,
attended to the interests of his plantation, and found companionship in
his books and in the society of his wife. A few male companions visited
him occasionally, admired the magnificent beauty of his wife, shook
their heads, and spoke of him as being very eccentric, but thought his
marriage the great mistake of his life. But none of his female friends
ever entered his doors, when it became known that Marie held the
position of mistress of his mansion, and presided at his table. But she,
sheltered in the warm clasp of loving arms, found her life like a joyous
Into that quiet and beautiful home three children were born, unconscious
of the doom suspended over their heads.
"Oh, how glad I am," Marie would often say, "that these children are
free. I could never understand how a cultured white man could have his
own children enslaved. I can understand how savages, fighting with each
other, could doom their vanquished foes to slavery, but it has always
been a puzzle to me how a civilized man could drag his own children,
bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, down to the position of social
outcasts, abject slaves, and political pariahs."
"But, Marie," said Eugene, "all men do not treat their illegitimate
children in the manner you describe. The last time I was in New Orleans
I met Henri Augustine at the depot, with two beautiful young girls. At
first I thought that they were his own children, they resembled him so
closely. But afterwards I noticed that they addressed him as 'Mister.'
Before we parted he told me that his wife had taken such a dislike to
their mother that she could not bear to see them on the place. At last,
weary of her dissatisfaction, he had promised to bring them to New
Orleans and sell them. Instead, he was going to Ohio to give them their
freedom, and make provision for their future."
"What a wrong!" said Marie.
"Who was wronged?" said Leroy, in astonishment.
"Every one in the whole transaction," answered Marie. "Your friend
wronged himself by sinning against his own soul. He wronged his wife by
arousing her hatred and jealousy through his unfaithfulness. He wronged
those children by giving them the _status_ of slaves and outcasts. He
wronged their mother by imposing upon her the burdens and cares of
maternity without the rights and privileges of a wife. He made her crown
of motherhood a circlet of shame. Under other circumstances she might
have been an honored wife and happy mother. And I do think such men
wrong their own legitimate children by transmitting to them a weakened
"Oh, Marie, you have such an uncomfortable way of putting things. You
make me feel that we have done those things which we ought not to have
done, and have left undone those things which we ought to have done."
"If it annoys you," said Marie, "I will stop talking."
"Oh, no, go on," said Leroy, carelessly; and then he continued more
thoughtfully, "I know a number of men who have sent such children North,
and manumitted, educated, and left them valuable legacies. We are all
liable to err, and, having done wrong, all we can do is to make
"My dear husband, this is a wrong where reparation is impossible.
Neither wealth nor education can repair the wrong of a dishonored birth.
There are a number of slaves in this section who are servants to their
own brothers and sisters; whose fathers have robbed them not simply of
liberty but of the right of being well born. Do you think these things
will last forever?"
"I suppose not. There are some prophets of evil who tell us that the
Union is going to dissolve. But I know it would puzzle their brains to
tell where the crack will begin. I reckon we'll continue to jog along as
usual. 'Cotton fights, and cotton conquers for American slavery.'"
Even while Leroy dreamed of safety the earthquake was cradling its fire;
the ground was growing hollow beneath his tread; but his ear was too
dull to catch the sound; his vision too blurred to read the signs of the
"Marie," said Leroy, taking up the thread of the discourse, "slavery is
a sword that cuts both ways. If it wrongs the negro, it also curses the
white man. But we are in it, and what can we do?"
"Get out of it as quickly as possible."
"That is easier said than done. I would willingly free every slave on my
plantation if I could do so without expatriating them. Some of them have
wives and children on other plantations, and to free them is to separate
them from their kith and kin. To let them remain here as a free people
is out of the question. My hands are tied by law and custom."
"Who tied them?" asked Marie.
"A public opinion, whose meshes I cannot break. If the negro is the
thrall of his master, we are just as much the thralls of public
"Why do you not battle against public opinion, if you think it is
"Because I have neither the courage of a martyr, nor the faith of a
saint; and so I drift along, trying to make the condition of our slaves
as comfortable as I possibly can. I believe there are slaves on this
plantation whom the most flattering offers of freedom would not entice
"I do not think," said Marie, "that some of you planters understand your
own slaves. Lying is said to be the vice of slaves. The more intelligent
of them have so learned to veil their feelings that you do not see the
undercurrent of discontent beneath their apparent good humor and
jollity. The more discontented they are, the more I respect them. To me
a contented slave is an abject creature. I hope that I shall see the
day when there will not be a slave in the land. I hate the whole thing
from the bottom of my heart."
"Marie, your Northern education has unfitted you for Southern life. You
are free, yourself, and so are our children. Why not let well enough
"Because I love liberty, not only for myself but for every human being.
Think how dear these children are to me; and then for the thought to be
forever haunting me, that if you were dead they could be turned out of
doors and divided among your relatives. I sometimes lie awake at night
thinking of how there might be a screw loose somewhere, and, after all,
the children and I might be reduced to slavery."
"Marie, what in the world is the matter with you? Have you had a
presentiment of my death, or, as Uncle Jack says, 'hab you seed it in a
"No, but I have had such sad forebodings that they almost set me wild.
One night I dreamt that you were dead; that the lawyers entered the
house, seized our property, and remanded us to slavery. I never can be
satisfied in the South with such a possibility hanging over my head."
"Marie, dear, you are growing nervous. Your imagination is too active.
You are left too much alone on this plantation. I hope that for your own
and the children's sake I will be enabled to arrange our affairs so as
to find a home for you where you will not be doomed to the social
isolation and ostracism that surround you here."
"I don't mind the isolation for myself, but the children. You have
enjoined silence on me with respect to their connection with the negro
race, but I do not think we can conceal it from them very long. It will
not be long before Iola will notice the offishness of girls of her own
age, and the scornful glances which, even now, I think, are leveled at
her. Yesterday Harry came crying to me, and told me that one of the
neighbor's boys had called him 'nigger.'"
A shadow flitted over Leroy's face, as he answered, somewhat soberly,
"Oh, Marie, do not meet trouble half way. I have manumitted you, and the
children will follow your condition. I have made you all legatees of my
will. Except my cousin, Alfred Lorraine, I have only distant relatives,
whom I scarcely know and who hardly know me."
"Your cousin Lorraine? Are you sure our interests would be safe in his
"I think so; I don't think Alfred would do anything dishonorable."
"He might not with his equals. But how many men would be bound by a
sense of honor where the rights of a colored woman are in question? Your
cousin was bitterly opposed to our marriage, and I would not trust any
important interests in his hands. I do hope that in providing for our
future you will make assurance doubly sure."
"I certainly will, and all that human foresight can do shall be done for
you and our children."
"Oh," said Marie, pressing to her heart a beautiful child of six
summers, "I think it would almost make me turn over in my grave to know
that every grace and charm which this child possesses would only be so
much added to her value as an article of merchandise."
As Marie released the child from her arms she looked wonderingly into
her mother's face and clung closely to her, as if to find refuge from
some unseen evil. Leroy noticed this, and sighed unconsciously, as an
expression of pain flitted over his face.
"Now, Marie," he continued, "stop tormenting yourself with useless
fears. Although, with all her faults, I still love the South, I will
make arrangements either to live North or go to France. There life will
be brighter for us all. Now, Marie, seat yourself at the piano and
'Sing me the songs that to me were so dear,
Long, long ago.
Sing me the songs I delighted to hear,
Long, long ago."
As Marie sang the anxiety faded from her face, a sense of security stole
over her, and she sat among her loved ones a happy wife and mother. What
if no one recognized her on that lonely plantation! Her world was,
nevertheless, there. The love and devotion of her husband brightened
every avenue of her life, while her children filled her home with music,
mirth, and sunshine.
Marie had undertaken their education, but she could not give them the
culture which comes from the attrition of thought, and from contact with
the ideas of others. Since her school-days she had read extensively and
thought much, and in solitude her thoughts had ripened. But for her
children there were no companions except the young slaves of the
plantation, and she dreaded the effect of such intercourse upon their
lives and characters.
Leroy had always been especially careful to conceal from his children
the knowledge of their connection with the negro race. To Marie this
silence was oppressive.
One day she said to him, "I see no other way of finishing the education
of these children than by sending them to some Northern school."
"I have come," said Leroy, "to the same conclusion. We had better take
Iola and Harry North and make arrangements for them to spend several
years in being educated. Riches take wings to themselves and fly away,
but a good education is an investment on which the law can place no
attachment. As there is a possibility of their origin being discovered,
I will find a teacher to whom I can confide our story, and upon whom I
can enjoin secrecy. I want them well fitted for any emergency in life.
When I discover for what they have the most aptitude I will give them
especial training in that direction."
A troubled look passed over the face of Marie, as she hesitatingly said:
"I am so afraid that you will regret our marriage when you fully realize
the complications it brings."
"No, no," said Leroy, tenderly, "it is not that I regret our marriage,
or feel the least disdain for our children on account of the blood in
their veins; but I do not wish them to grow up under the contracting
influence of this race prejudice. I do not wish them to feel that they
have been born under a proscription from which no valor can redeem them,
nor that any social advancement or individual development can wipe off
the ban which clings to them. No, Marie, let them go North, learn all
they can, aspire all they may. The painful knowledge will come all too
soon. Do not forestall it. I want them simply to grow up as other
children; not being patronized by friends nor disdained by foes."
"My dear husband, you may be perfectly right, but are you not preparing
our children for a fearful awakening? Are you not acting on the plan,
'After me the deluge?'"
"Not at all, Marie. I want our children to grow up without having their
self-respect crushed in the bud. You know that the North is not free
from racial prejudice."
"I know it," said Marie, sadly, "and I think one of the great mistakes
of our civilization is that which makes color, and not character, a
"I think so, too," said Leroy. "The strongest men and women of a
down-trodden race may bare their bosoms to an adverse fate and develop
courage in the midst of opposition, but we have no right to subject our
children to such crucial tests before their characters are formed. For
years, when I lived abroad, I had an opportunity to see and hear of men
of African descent who had distinguished themselves and obtained a
recognition in European circles, which they never could have gained in
this country. I now recall the name of Ira Aldridge, a colored man from
New York City, who was covered with princely honors as a successful
tragedian. Alexander Dumas was not forced to conceal his origin to
succeed as a novelist. When I was in St. Petersburg I was shown the
works of Alexander Sergevitch, a Russian poet, who was spoken of as the
Byron of Russian literature, and reckoned one of the finest poets that
Russia has produced in this century. He was also a prominent figure in
fashionable society, and yet he was of African lineage. One of his
paternal ancestors was a negro who had been ennobled by Peter the
Great. I can't help contrasting the recognition which these men had
received with the treatment which has been given to Frederick Douglass
and other intelligent colored men in this country. With me the wonder is
not that they have achieved so little, but that they have accomplished
so much. No, Marie, we will have our children educated without being
subjected to the depressing influences of caste feeling. Perhaps by the
time their education is finished I will be ready to wind up my affairs
and take them abroad, where merit and ability will give them entrance
into the best circles of art, literature, and science."
After this conversation Leroy and his wife went North, and succeeded in
finding a good school for their children. In a private interview he
confided to the principal the story of the cross in their blood, and,
finding him apparently free from racial prejudice, he gladly left the
children in his care. Gracie, the youngest child, remained at home, and
her mother spared no pains to fit her for the seminary against the time
her sister should have finished her education.
THE PLAGUE AND THE LAW.
Years passed, bringing no special change to the life of Leroy and his
wife. Shut out from the busy world, its social cares and anxieties,
Marie's life flowed peacefully on. Although removed by the protecting
care of Leroy from the condition of servitude, she still retained a deep
sympathy for the enslaved, and was ever ready to devise plans to
ameliorate their condition.
Leroy, although in the midst of slavery, did not believe in the
rightfulness of the institution. He was in favor of gradual
emancipation, which would prepare both master and slave for a moral
adaptation to the new conditions of freedom. While he was willing to
have the old rivets taken out of slavery, politicians and planters were
devising plans to put in new screws. He was desirous of having it ended
in the States; they were clamorous to have it established in the
But so strong was the force of habit, combined with the feebleness of
his moral resistance and the nature of his environment, that instead of
being an athlete, armed for a glorious strife, he had learned to drift
where he should have steered, to float with the current instead of nobly
breasting the tide. He conducted his plantation with as much lenity as
it was possible to infuse into a system darkened with the shadow of a
Leroy had always been especially careful not to allow his children to
spend their vacations at home. He and Marie generally spent that time
with them at some summer resort.
"I would like," said Marie, one day, "to have our children spend their
vacations at home. Those summer resorts are pleasant, yet, after all,
there is no place like home. But," and her voice became tremulous, "our
children would now notice their social isolation and inquire the cause."
A faint sigh arose to the lips of Leroy, as she added: "Man is a social
being; I've known it to my sorrow."
There was a tone of sadness in Leroy's voice, as he replied: "Yes,
Marie, let them stay North. We seem to be entering on a period fraught
with great danger. I cannot help thinking and fearing that we are on the
eve of a civil war."
"A civil war!" exclaimed Marie, with an air of astonishment. "A civil
war about what?"
"Why, Marie, the thing looks to me so wild and foolish I hardly know how
to explain. But some of our leading men have come to the conclusion that
North and South had better separate, and instead of having one to have
two independent governments. The spirit of secession is rampant in the
land. I do not know what the result will be, and I fear it will bode no
good to the country. Between the fire-eating Southerners and the
meddling Abolitionists we are about to be plunged into a great deal of
trouble. I fear there are breakers ahead. The South is dissatisfied with
the state of public opinion in the North. We are realizing that we are
two peoples in the midst of one nation. William H. Seward has
proclaimed that the conflict between freedom and slavery is
irrepressible, and that the country cannot remain half free and half
"How will _you_ go?" asked Marie.
"My heart is with the Union. I don't believe in secession. There has
been no cause sufficient to justify a rupture. The North has met us time
and again in the spirit of concession and compromise. When we wanted the
continuance of the African slave trade the North conceded that we should
have twenty years of slave-trading for the benefit of our plantations.
When we wanted more territory she conceded to our desires and gave us
land enough to carve out four States, and there yet remains enough for
four more. When we wanted power to recapture our slaves when they fled
North for refuge, Daniel Webster told Northerners to conquer their
prejudices, and they gave us the whole Northern States as a hunting
ground for our slaves. The Presidential chair has been filled the
greater number of years by Southerners, and the majority of offices has
been shared by our men. We wanted representation in Congress on a basis
which would include our slaves, and the North, whose suffrage represents
only men, gave us a three-fifths representation for our slaves, whom we
count as property. I think the step will be suicidal. There are
extremists in both sections, but I hope, between them both, wise
counsels and measures will prevail."
Just then Alfred Lorraine was ushered into the room. Occasionally he
visited Leroy, but he always came alone. His wife was the only daughter
of an enterprising slave-trader, who had left her a large amount of
Her social training was deficient, her education limited, but she was
too proud of being a pure white woman to enter the home of Leroy, with
Marie as its presiding genius. Lorraine tolerated Marie's presence as a
necessary evil, while to her he always seemed like a presentiment of
trouble. With his coming a shadow fell upon her home, hushing its music
and darkening its sunshine. A sense of dread oppressed her. There came
into her soul an intuitive feeling that somehow his coming was fraught
with danger. When not peering around she would often catch his eyes bent
on her with a baleful expression.
Leroy and his cousin immediately fell into a discussion on the condition
of the country. Lorraine was a rank Secessionist, ready to adopt the
most extreme measures of the leaders of the movement, even to the
reopening of the slave trade. Leroy thought a dissolution of the Union
would involve a fearful expenditure of blood and treasure for which,
before the eyes of the world, there could be no justification. The
debate lasted late into the night, leaving both Lorraine and Leroy just
as set in their opinions as they were before they began. Marie listened
attentively awhile, then excused herself and withdrew.
After Lorraine had gone Marie said: "There is something about your
cousin that fills me with nameless dread. I always feel when he enters
the room as if some one were walking over my grave. I do wish he would
stay at home."
"I wish so, too, since he disturbs you. But, Marie, you are growing
nervous. How cold your hands are. Don't you feel well?"
"Oh, yes; I am only a little faint. I wish he would never come. But, as
he does, I must make the best of it."
"Yes, Marie, treat him well for my sake. He is the only relative I have
who ever darkens our doors."
"I have no faith in his friendship for either myself or my children. I
feel that while he makes himself agreeable to you he hates me from the
bottom of his heart, and would do anything to get me out of the way. Oh,
I am _so_ glad I am your lawful wife, and that you married me before you
brought me back to this State! I believe that if you were gone he
wouldn't have the least scruple against trying to prove our marriage
invalid and remanding us to slavery."
Leroy looked anxiously and soberly at his wife, and said: "Marie, I do
not think so. Your life is too lonely here. Write your orders to New
Orleans, get what you need for the journey, and let us spend the summer
somewhere in the North."
Just then Marie's attention was drawn to some household matters, and it
was a short time before she returned.
"Tom," continued Leroy, "has just brought the mail, and here is a letter
Marie noticed that he looked quite sober as he read, and that an
expression of vexation was lingering on his lips.
"What is the matter?" asked Marie.
"Nothing much; only a tempest in a teapot. The presence of a colored
girl in Mr. Galen's school has caused a breeze of excitement. You know
Mr. Galen is quite an Abolitionist, and, being true to his principles,
he could not consistently refuse when a colored woman applied for her
daughter's admission. Of course, when he took her he was compelled to
treat her as any other pupil. In so doing he has given mortal offense to
the mother of two Southern boys. She has threatened to take them away if
the colored girl remains."
"What will he do about it?" asked Marie, thoughtfully.
"Oh, it is a bitter pill, but I think he will have to swallow it. He is
between two fires. He cannot dismiss her from the school and be true to
his Abolition principles; yet if he retains her he will lose his
Southern customers, and I know he cannot afford to do that."
"What does Iola say?"
"He has found another boarding place for her, but she is to remain in
the school. He had to throw that sop to the whale."
"Does she take sides against the girl?"
"No, I don't think she does. She says she feels sorry for her, and that
she would hate to be colored. 'It is so hard to be looked down on for
what one can't help.'"
"Poor child! I wish we could leave the country. I never would consent to
her marrying any one without first revealing to him her connection with
the negro race. This is a subject on which I am not willing to run any
"My dear Marie, when you shall have read Iola's letter you will see it
is more than a figment of my imagination that has made me so loth to
have our children know the paralyzing power of caste."
Leroy, always liberal with his wife and children, spared neither pains
nor expense to have them prepared for their summer outing. Iola was to
graduate in a few days. Harry was attending a school in the State of
Maine, and his father had written to him, apprising him of his intention
to come North that season. In a few days Leroy and his wife started
North, but before they reached Vicksburg they were met by the
intelligence that the yellow fever was spreading in the Delta, and that
pestilence was breathing its bane upon the morning air and distilling
its poison upon the midnight dews.
"Let us return home," said Marie.
"It is useless," answered Leroy. "It is nearly two days since we left
home. The fever is spreading south of us with fearful rapidity. To
return home is to walk into the jaws of death. It was my intention to
have stopped at Vicksburg, but now I will go on as soon as I can make
Early next morning Leroy and his wife started again on their journey.
The cars were filled with terror-stricken people who were fleeing from
death, when death was everywhere. They fled from the city only to meet
the dreaded apparition in the country. As they journeyed on Leroy grew
restless and feverish. He tried to brace himself against the infection
which was creeping slowly but insidiously into his life, dulling his
brain, fevering his blood, and prostrating his strength. But vain were
all his efforts. He had no armor strong enough to repel the invasion of
death. They stopped at a small town on the way and obtained the best
medical skill and most careful nursing, but neither skill nor art
availed. On the third day death claimed Leroy as a victim, and Marie
wept in hopeless agony over the grave of her devoted husband, whose sad
lot it was to die from home and be buried among strangers.
But before he died he placed his will in Marie's hands, saying: "I have
left you well provided for. Kiss the children for me and bid them
He tried to say a parting word to Gracie, but his voice failed, and he
fainted into the stillness of death. A mortal paleness overspread his
countenance, on which had already gathered the shadows that never
deceive. In speechless agony Marie held his hand until it released its
pressure in death, and then she stood alone beside her dead, with all
the bright sunshine of her life fading into the shadows of the grave.
Heart-broken and full of fearful forebodings, Marie left her cherished
dead in the quiet village of H---- and returned to her death-darkened
It was a lovely day in June, birds were singing their sweetest songs,
flowers were breathing their fragrance on the air, when Mam Liza,
sitting at her cabin-door, talking with some of the house servants, saw
a carriage approaching, and wondered who was coming.
"I wonder," she said, excitedly, "whose comin' to de house when de folks
is done gone."
But her surprise was soon changed to painful amazement, when she saw
Marie, robed in black, alighting from the carriage, and holding Gracie
by the hand. She caught sight of the drooping head and grief-stricken
face, and rushed to her, exclaiming:--
"Whar's Marse Eugene?"
"Dead," said Marie, falling into Mammy Liza's arms, sobbing out, "dead!
_ died_ of yellow fever."
A wild burst of sorrow came from the lips of the servants, who had
"Where is he?" said Mam Liza, speaking like one suddenly bewildered.
"He is buried in H----. I could not bring him home," said Marie.
"My pore baby," said Mam Liza, with broken sobs. "I'se drefful sorry. My
heart's most broke into two." Then, controlling herself, she dismissed
the servants who stood around, weeping, and led Marie to her room.
"Come, honey, lie down an' lem'me git yer a cup ob tea."
"Oh, no; I don't want anything," said Marie, wringing her hands in
"Oh, honey," said Mam Liza, "yer musn't gib up. Yer knows whar to put
yer trus'. Yer can't lean on de arm of flesh in dis tryin' time."
Kneeling by the side of her mistress she breathed out a prayer full of
tenderness, hope, and trust.
Marie grew calmer. It seemed as if that earnest, trustful prayer had
breathed into her soul a feeling of resignation.
Gracie stood wonderingly by, vainly trying to comprehend the great
sorrow which was overwhelming the life of her mother.
After the first great burst of sorrow was over, Marie sat down to her
desk and wrote a letter to Iola, informing her of her father's death. By
the time she had finished it she grew dizzy and faint, and fell into a
swoon. Mammy Liza tenderly laid her on the bed, and helped restore her
Lorraine, having heard of his cousin's death, came immediately to see
Marie. She was too ill to have an interview with him, but he picked up
the letter she had written and obtained Iola's address.
Lorraine made a careful investigation of the case, to ascertain whether
Marie's marriage was valid. To his delight he found there was a flaw in
the marriage and an informality in the manumission. He then determined
to invalidate Marie's claim, and divide the inheritance among Leroy's
white relations. In a short time strangers, distant relatives of her
husband, became frequent visitors at the plantation, and made themselves
offensively familiar. At length the dreadful storm burst.
Alfred Lorraine entered suit for his cousin's estate, and for the
remanding of his wife and children to slavery. In a short time he came
armed with legal authority, and said to Marie:--
"I have come to take possession of these premises."
"By what authority?" she gasped, turning deathly pale. He hesitated a
moment, as if his words were arrested by a sense of shame.
"By what authority?" she again demanded.
"By the authority of the law," answered Lorraine, "which has decided
that Leroy's legal heirs are his white blood relations, and that your
marriage is null and void."
"But," exclaimed Marie, "I have our marriage certificate. I was Leroy's
"Your marriage certificate is not worth the paper it is written on."
"Oh, you must be jesting, cruelly jesting. It can't be so."
"Yes; it is so. Judge Starkins has decided that your manumission is
unlawful; your marriage a bad precedent, and inimical to the welfare of
society; and that you and your children are remanded to slavery."
Marie stood as one petrified. She seemed a statue of fear and despair.
She tried to speak, reached out her hand as if she were groping in the
dark, turned pale as death as if all the blood in her veins had receded
to her heart, and, with one heart-rending cry of bitter agony, she fell
senseless to the floor. Her servants, to whom she had been so kind in
her days of prosperity, bent pityingly over her, chafed her cold hands,
and did what they could to restore her to consciousness. For awhile she
was stricken with brain fever, and her life seemed trembling on its
Gracie was like one perfectly dazed. When not watching by her mother's
bedside she wandered aimlessly about the house, growing thinner day by
day. A slow fever was consuming her life. Faithfully and carefully Mammy
Liza watched over her, and did all she could to bring smiles to her lips
and light to her fading eyes, but all in vain. Her only interest in life
was to sit where she could watch her mother as she tossed to and fro in
delirium, and to wonder what had brought the change in her once happy
home. Finally she, too, was stricken with brain fever, which intervened
as a mercy between her and the great sorrow that was overshadowing her
young life. Tears would fill the servants' eyes as they saw the dear
child drifting from them like a lovely vision, too bright for earth's
dull cares and weary, wasting pain.
During Iola's stay in the North she found a strong tide of opposition
against slavery. Arguments against the institution had entered the
Church and made legislative halls the arenas of fierce debate. The
subject had become part of the social converse of the fireside, and had
enlisted the best brain and heart of the country. Anti-slavery
discussions were pervading the strongest literature and claiming, a
place on the most popular platforms.
Iola, being a Southern girl and a slave-holder's daughter, always
defended slavery when it was under discussion.
"Slavery can't be wrong," she would say, "for my father is a
slave-holder, and my mother is as good to our servants as she can be. My
father often tells her that she spoils them, and lets them run over her.
I never saw my father strike one of them. I love my mammy as much as I
do my own mother, and I believe she loves us just as if we were her own
children. When we are sick I am sure that she could not do anything more
for us than she does."
"But, Iola," responded one of her school friends, "after all, they are
not free. Would you be satisfied to have the most beautiful home, the
costliest jewels, or the most elegant wardrobe if you were a slave?"
"Oh, the cases are not parallel. Our slaves do not want their freedom.
They would not take it if we gave it to them."
"That is not the case with them all. My father has seen men who have
encountered almost incredible hardships to get their freedom. Iola, did
you ever attend an anti-slavery meeting?"
"No; I don't think these Abolitionists have any right to meddle in our
affairs. I believe they are prejudiced against us, and want to get our
property. I read about them in the papers when I was at home. I don't
want to hear my part of the country run down. My father says the slaves
would be very well contented if no one put wrong notions in their
"I don't know," was the response of her friend, "but I do not think that
that slave mother who took her four children, crossed the Ohio River on
the ice, killed one of the children and attempted the lives of the other
two, was a contented slave. And that other one, who, running away and
finding herself pursued, threw herself over the Long Bridge into the
Potomac, was evidently not satisfied. I do not think the numbers who are
coming North on the Underground Railroad can be very contented. It is
not natural for people to run away from happiness, and if they are so
happy and contented, why did Congress pass the Fugitive Slave Bill?"
"Well, I don't think," answered Iola, "any of our slaves would run away.
I know mamma don't like slavery very much. I have often heard her say
that she hoped the time would come when there would not be a slave in
the land. My father does not think as she does. He thinks slavery is not
wrong if you treat them well and don't sell them from their families. I
intend, after I have graduated, to persuade pa to buy a house in New
Orleans, and spend the winter there. You know this will be my first
season out, and I hope that you will come and spend the winter with me.
We will have such gay times, and you will so fall in love with our sunny
South that you will never want to come back to shiver amid the snows and
cold of the North. I think one winter in the South would cure you of
"Have you seen her yet?"
This question was asked by Louis Bastine, an attorney who had come North
in the interests of Lorraine. The scene was the New England village
where Mr. Galen's academy was located, and which Iola was attending.
This question was addressed to Camille Lecroix, Bastine's intimate
friend, who had lately come North. He was the son of a planter who lived
near Leroy's plantation, and was familiar with Iola's family history.
Since his arrival North, Bastine had met him and communicated to him his
"Yes; just caught a glimpse of her this morning as she was going down
the street," was Camille's reply.
"She is a most beautiful creature," said Louis Bastine. "She has the
proud poise of Leroy, the most splendid eyes I ever saw in a woman's
head, lovely complexion, and a glorious wealth of hair. She would bring
$2000 any day in a New Orleans market."
"I always feel sorry," said Camille, "when I see one of those Creole
girls brought to the auction block. I have known fathers who were deeply
devoted to their daughters, but who through some reverse of fortune were
forced to part with them, and I always think the blow has been equally
terrible on both sides. I had a friend who had two beautiful daughters
whom he had educated in the North. They were cultured, and really belles
in society. They were entirely ignorant of their lineage, but when their
father died it was discovered that their mother had been a slave. It was
a fearful blow. They would have faced poverty, but the knowledge of
their tainted blood was more than they could bear."
"What became of them?"
"They both died, poor girls. I believe they were as much killed by the
blow as if they had been shot. To tell you the truth, Bastine, I feel
sorry for this girl. I don't believe she has the least idea of her negro
"No, Leroy has been careful to conceal it from her," replied Bastine.
"Is that so?" queried Camille. "Then he has made a great mistake."
"I can't help that," said Bastine; "business is business."
"How can you get her away?" asked Camille. "You will have to be very
cautious, because if these pesky Abolitionists get an inkling of what
you're doing they will balk your game double quick. And when you come to
look at it, isn't it a shame to attempt to reduce that girl to slavery?
She is just as white as we are, as good as any girl in the land, and
better educated than thousands of white girls. A girl with her apparent
refinement and magnificent beauty, were it not for the cross in her
blood, I would be proud to introduce to our set. She would be the
sensation of the season. I believe to-day it would be easier for me to
go to the slums and take a young girl from there, and have her
introduced as my wife, than to have society condone the offense if I
married that lovely girl. There is not a social circle in the South that
would not take it as a gross insult to have her introduced into it."
"Well," said Bastine, "my plan is settled. Leroy has never allowed her
to spend her vacations at home. I understand she is now very anxious to
get home, and, as Lorraine's attorney, I have come on his account to
take her home."
"How will you do it?"
"I shall tell her her father is dangerously ill, and desires her to come
as quickly as possible."
"And what then?"
"Have her inventoried with the rest of the property."
"Don't she know that her father is dead?"
"I think not," said Bastine. "She is not in mourning, but appeared very
light-hearted this morning, laughing and talking with two other girls. I
was struck with her great beauty, and asked a gentleman who she was. He
said, 'Miss Leroy, of Mississippi.' I think Lorraine has managed the
affair so as to keep her in perfect ignorance of her father's death. I
don't like the job, but I never let sentiment interfere with my work."
Poor Iola! When she said slavery was not a bad thing, little did she
think that she was destined to drink to its bitter dregs the cup she was
so ready to press to the lips of others.
"How do you think she will take to her situation?" asked Camille.
"O, I guess," said Bastine, "she will sulk and take it pretty hard at
first; but if she is managed right she will soon get over it. Give her
plenty of jewelry, fine clothes, and an easy time."
"All this business must be conducted with the utmost secrecy and speed.
Her mother could not have written to her, for she has been suffering
with brain fever and nervous prostration since Leroy's death. Lorraine
knows her market value too well, and is too shrewd to let so much
property pass out of his hands without making an effort to retain it."
"Has she any brothers or sisters?"
"Yes, a brother," replied Bastine; "but he is at another school, and I
have no orders from Lorraine in reference to him. If I can get the girl
I am willing to let well enough alone. I dread the interview with the
principal more than anything else. I am afraid he will hem and haw, and
have his doubts. Perhaps, when he sees my letters and hears my story, I
can pull the wool over his eyes."
"But, Louis, this is a pitiful piece of business. I should hate to be
engaged in it."
A deep flush of shame overspread for a moment the face of Lorraine's
attorney, as he replied: "I don't like the job, but I have undertaken
it, and must go through with it."
"I see no '_must_' about it. Were I in your place I would wash my hands
of the whole business."
"I can't afford it," was Bastine's hard, business-like reply. On the
next morning after this conversation between these two young men, Louis
Bastine presented himself to the principal of the academy, with the
request that Iola be permitted to leave immediately to attend the
sick-bed of her father, who was dangerously ill. The principal
hesitated, but while he was deliberating, a telegram, purporting to come
from Iola's mother, summoned Iola to her father's bedside without delay.
The principal, set at rest in regard to the truthfulness of the
dispatch, not only permitted but expedited her departure.
Iola and Bastine took the earliest train, and traveled without pausing
until they reached a large hotel in a Southern city. There they were
obliged to wait a few hours until they could resume their journey, the
train having failed to make connection. Iola sat in a large, lonely
parlor, waiting for the servant to show her to a private room. She had
never known a great sorrow. Never before had the shadows of death
mingled with the sunshine of her life.
Anxious, travel-worn, and heavy-hearted, she sat in an easy chair, with
nothing to divert her from the grief and anxiety which rendered every
delay a source of painful anxiety.
"Oh, I hope that he will be alive and growing better!" was the thought
which kept constantly revolving in her mind, until she fell asleep. In
her dreams she was at home, encircled in the warm clasp of her father's
arms, feeling her mother's kisses lingering on her lips, and hearing the
joyous greetings of the servants and Mammy Liza's glad welcome as she
folded her to her heart. From this dream of bliss she was awakened by a
burning kiss pressed on her lips, and a strong arm encircling her.
Gazing around and taking in the whole situation, she sprang from her
seat, her eyes flashing with rage and scorn, her face flushed to the
roots of her hair, her voice shaken with excitement, and every nerve
trembling with angry emotion.
"How dare you do such a thing! Don't you know if my father were here he
would crush you to the earth?"
"Not so fast, my lovely tigress," said Bastine, "your father knew what
he was doing when he placed you in my charge."
"My father made a great mistake, if he thought he had put me in charge
of a gentleman."
"I am your guardian for the present," replied Bastine. "I am to see you
safe home, and then my commission ends."
"I wish it were ended now," she exclaimed, trembling with anger and
mortification. Her voice was choked by emotion, and broken by smothered
sobs. Louis Bastine thought to himself, "she is a real spitfire, but
beautiful even in her wrath."
During the rest of her journey Iola preserved a most freezing reserve
towards Bastine. At length the journey was ended. Pale and anxious she
rode up the avenue which led to her home.
A strange silence pervaded the place. The servants moved sadly from
place to place, and spoke in subdued tones. The windows were heavily
draped with crape, and a funeral air pervaded the house.
Mammy Liza met her at the door, and, with streaming eyes and convulsive
sobs, folded her to her heart, as Iola exclaimed, in tones of hopeless
"Oh, papa's dead!"
"Oh, my pore baby!" said mammy, "ain't you hearn tell 'bout it? Yore
par's dead, an' your mar's bin drefful sick. She's better now."
Mam Liza stepped lightly into Mrs. Leroy's room, and gently apprised her
of Iola's arrival. In a darkened room lay the stricken mother, almost
distracted by her late bereavement.
"Oh, Iola," she exclaimed, as her daughter entered, "is this you? I am
so sorry you came."
Then, burying her head in Iola's bosom, she wept convulsively. "Much as
I love you," she continued, between her sobs, "and much as I longed to
see you, I am sorry you came."
"Why, mother," replied Iola, astonished, "I received your telegram last
Wednesday, and I took the earliest train I could get."
"My dear child, I never sent you a telegram. It was a trick to bring you
down South and reduce you to slavery."
Iola eyed her mother curiously. What did she mean? Had grief dethroned
her reason? Yet her eye was clear, her manner perfectly rational.
Marie saw the astounded look on Iola's face, and nerving herself to the
task, said: "Iola, I must tell you what your father always enjoined me
to be silent about. I did not think it was the wisest thing, but I
yielded to his desires. I have negro blood in my veins. I was your
father's slave before I married him. His relatives have set aside his
will. The courts have declared our marriage null and void and my
manumission illegal, and we are all to be remanded to slavery."
An expression of horror and anguish swept over Iola's face, and, turning
deathly pale, she exclaimed, "Oh, mother, it can't be so! you must be
"No, my child; it is a terrible reality."
Almost wild with agony, Iola paced the floor, as the fearful truth broke
in crushing anguish upon her mind. Then bursting into a paroxysm of
tears succeeded by peals of hysterical laughter, said:--
"I used to say that slavery is right. I didn't know what I was talking
about." Then growing calmer, she said, "Mother, who is at the bottom of
this downright robbery?"
"Alfred Lorraine; I have always dreaded that man, and what I feared has
come to pass. Your father had faith in him; I never had."
"But, mother, could we not contest his claim. You have your marriage
certificate and papa's will."
"Yes, my dear child, but Judge Starkins has decided that we have no
standing in the court, and no testimony according to law."
"Oh, mother, what can I do?"
"Nothing, my child, unless you can escape to the North."
"And leave you?"
"Mother, I will never desert you in your hour of trial. But can nothing
be done? Had father no friends who would assist us?"
"None that I know of. I do not think he had an acquaintance who approved
of our marriage. The neighboring planters have stood so aloof from me
that I do not know where to turn for either help or sympathy. I believe
it was Lorraine who sent the telegram. I wrote to you as soon as I could
after your father's death, but fainted just as I finished directing the
letter. I do not think he knows where your brother is, and, if possible,
he must not know. If you can by any means, _do_ send a letter to Harry
and warn him not to attempt to come home. I don't know how you will
succeed, for Lorraine has us all under surveillance. But it is according
"What law, mother?"
"The law of the strong against the weak."
"Oh, mother, it seems like a dreadful dream, a fearful nightmare! But I
cannot shake it off. Where is Gracie?"
"The dear child has been running down ever since her papa's death. She
clung to me night and day while I had the brain fever, and could not be
persuaded to leave me. She hardly ate anything for more than a week. She
has been dangerously ill for several days, and the doctor says she
cannot live. The fever has exhausted all her rallying power, and yet,
dear as she is to me, I would rather consign her to the deepest grave
than see her forced to be a slave."
"So would I. I wish I could die myself."
"Oh, Iola, do not talk so. Strive to be a Christian, to have faith in
the darkest hour. Were it not for my hope of heaven I couldn't stand all
"Mother, are these people Christians who made these laws which are
robbing us of our inheritance and reducing us to slavery? If this is
Christianity I hate and despise it. Would the most cruel heathen do
"My dear child, I have not learned my Christianity from them. I have
learned it at the foot of the cross, and from this book," she said,
placing a New Testament in Iola's hands. "Some of the most beautiful
lessons of faith and trust I have ever learned were from among our lowly
people in their humble cabins."
"Mamma!" called a faint voice from the adjoining room. Marie
immediately arose and went to the bedside of her sick child, where Mammy
Liza was holding her faithful vigils. The child had just awakened from a
"I thought," she said, "that I heard Iola's voice. Has she come?"
"Yes, darling; do you want to see her?"
"Oh, yes," she said, as a bright smile broke over her dying features.
Iola passed quickly into the room. Gracie reached out her thin,
bloodless hand, clasped Iola's palm in hers, and said: "I am so glad you
have come. Dear Iola, stand by mother. You and Harry are all she has. It
is not hard to die. You and mother and Harry must meet me in heaven."
Swiftly the tidings went through the house that Gracie was dying. The
servants gathered around her with tearful eyes, as she bade them all
good-bye. When she had finished, and Mammy had lowered the pillow, an
unwonted radiance lit up her eye, and an expression of ineffable
gladness overspread her face, as she murmured: "It is beautiful, so
beautiful!" Fainter and fainter grew her voice, until, without a
struggle or sigh, she passed away beyond the power of oppression and
A REJECTED SUITOR.
Very unexpected was Dr. Gresham's proposal to Iola. She had heartily
enjoyed his society and highly valued his friendship, but he had never
been associated in her mind with either love or marriage. As he held her
hand in his a tell-tale flush rose to her cheek, a look of grateful
surprise beamed from her eye, but it was almost immediately succeeded by
an air of inexpressible sadness, a drooping of her eyelids, and an
increasing pallor of her cheek. She withdrew her hand from his, shook
her head sadly, and said:--
"No, Doctor; that can never be. I am very grateful to you for your
kindness. I value your friendship, but neither gratitude nor friendship
is love, and I have nothing more than those to give."
"Not at present," said Dr. Gresham; "but may I not hope your friendship
will ripen into love?"
"Doctor, I could not promise. I do not think that I should. There are
barriers between us that I cannot pass. Were you to know them I think
you would say the same."
Just then the ambulance brought in a wounded scout, and Iola found
relief from the wounds of her own heart in attending to his.
Dr. Gresham knew the barrier that lay between them. It was one which his
love had surmounted. But he was too noble and generous to take advantage
of her loneliness to press his suit. He had lived in a part of the
country where he had scarcely ever seen a colored person, and around the
race their misfortunes had thrown a halo of romance. To him the negro
was a picturesque being, over whose woes he had wept when a child, and
whose wrongs he was ready to redress when a man. But when he saw the
lovely girl who had been rescued by the commander of the post from the
clutches of slavery, all the manhood and chivalry in his nature arose in
her behalf, and he was ready to lay on the altar of her heart his first
grand and overmastering love. Not discouraged by her refusal, but
determined to overcome her objections, Dr. Gresham resolved that he
would abide his time.
Iola was not indifferent to Dr. Gresham. She admired his manliness and
respected his character. He was tall and handsome, a fine specimen of
the best brain and heart of New England. He had been nurtured under
grand and ennobling influences. His father was a devoted Abolitionist.
His mother was kind-hearted, but somewhat exclusive and aristocratic.
She would have looked upon his marriage with Iola as a mistake and
feared that such an alliance would hurt the prospects of her daughters.
During Iola's stay in the North, she had learned enough of the racial
feeling to influence her decision in reference to Dr. Gresham's offer.
Iola, like other girls, had had her beautiful day-dreams before she was
rudely awakened by the fate which had dragged her into the depths of
slavery. In the chambers of her imagery were pictures of noble deeds; of
high, heroic men, knightly, tender, true, and brave. In Dr. Gresham she
saw the ideal of her soul exemplified. But in her lonely condition,
with all its background of terrible sorrow and deep abasement, she had
never for a moment thought of giving or receiving love from one of that
race who had been so lately associated in her mind with horror,
aversion, and disgust. His kindness to her had been a new experience.
His companionship was an unexpected pleasure. She had learned to enjoy
his presence and to miss him when absent, and when she began to question
her heart she found that unconsciously it was entwining around him.
"Yes," she said to herself, "I do like him; but I can never marry him.
To the man I marry my heart must be as open as the flowers to the sun. I
could not accept his hand and hide from him the secret of my birth; and
I could not consent to choose the happiest lot on earth without first
finding my poor heart-stricken and desolate mother. Perhaps some day I
may have the courage to tell him my sad story, and then make my heart
the sepulchre in which to bury all the love which might have gladdened
and brightened my whole life."
During the sad and weary months which ensued while the war dragged its
slow length along, Dr. Gresham and Iola often met by the bedsides of the
wounded and dying, and sometimes he would drop a few words at which her
heart would beat quicker and her cheek flush more vividly. But he was so
kind, tender, and respectful, that Iola had no idea he knew her race
affiliations. She knew from unmistakable signs that Dr. Gresham had
learned to love her, and that he had power to call forth the warmest
affection of her soul; but she fought with her own heart and repressed
its rising love. She felt that it was best for his sake that they should
not marry. When she saw the evidences of his increasing love she
regretted that she had not informed him at the first of the barrier that
lay between them; it might have saved him unnecessary suffering.
Thinking thus, Iola resolved, at whatever cost of pain it might be to
herself, to explain to Dr. Gresham what she meant by the insurmountable
barrier. Iola, after a continuous strain upon her nervous system for
months, began to suffer from general debility and nervous depression.
Dr. Gresham saw the increasing pallor on Iola's cheek and the loss of
buoyancy in her step. One morning, as she turned from the bed of a young
soldier for whom she had just written a letter to his mother, there was
such a look of pity and sorrow on her face that Dr. Gresham's whole
heart went out in sympathy for her, and he resolved to break the silence
he had imposed upon himself.
"Iola," he said, and there was a depth of passionate tenderness in his
voice, a volume of unexpressed affection in his face, "you are wronging
yourself. You are sinking beneath burdens too heavy for you to bear. It
seems to me that besides the constant drain upon your sympathies there
is some great sorrow preying upon your life; some burden that ought to
be shared." He gazed upon her so ardently that each cord of her heart
seemed to vibrate, and unbidden tears sprang to her lustrous eyes, as
she said, sadly:--
"Doctor, you are right."
"Iola, my heart is longing to lift those burdens from your life. Love,
like faith, laughs at impossibilities. I can conceive of no barrier too
high for my love to surmount. Consent to be mine, as nothing else on
earth is mine."
"Doctor, you know not what you ask," replied Iola. "Instead of coming
into this hospital a self-sacrificing woman, laying her every gift and
advantage upon the altar of her country, I came as a rescued slave, glad
to find a refuge from a fate more cruel than death; a fate from which I
was rescued by the intervention of my dear dead friend, Thomas Anderson.
I was born on a lonely plantation on the Mississippi River, where the
white population was very sparse. We had no neighbors who ever visited
us; no young white girls with whom I ever played in my childhood; but,
never having enjoyed such companionship, I was unconscious of any sense
of privation. Our parents spared no pains to make the lives of their
children (we were three) as bright and pleasant as they could. Our home
was so happy. We had a large number of servants, who were devoted to us.
I never had the faintest suspicion that there was any wrongfulness in
slavery, and I never dreamed of the dreadful fate which broke in a storm
of fearful anguish over our devoted heads. Papa used to take us to New
Orleans to see the Mardi Gras, and while there we visited the theatres
and other places of amusement and interest. At home we had books,
papers, and magazines to beguile our time. Perfectly ignorant of my
racial connection, I was sent to a Northern academy, and soon made many
friends among my fellow-students. Companionship with girls of my own age
was a new experience, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I spent several years
in New England, and was busily preparing for my commencement exercises
when my father was snatched away--died of yellow fever on his way North
to witness my graduation. Through a stratagem, I was brought hurriedly
from the North, and found that my father was dead; that his nearest
kinsman had taken possession of our property; that my mother's marriage
had been declared illegal, because of an imperceptible infusion of negro
blood in her veins; and that she and her children had been remanded to
slavery. I was torn from my mother, sold as a slave, and subjected to
cruel indignities, from which I was rescued and a place given to me in
this hospital. Doctor, I did not choose my lot in life, but I have no
other alternative than to accept it. The intense horror and agony I felt
when I was first told the story are over. Thoughts and purposes have
come to me in the shadow I should never have learned in the sunshine. I
am constantly rousing myself up to suffer and be strong. I intend, when
this conflict is over, to cast my lot with the freed people as a helper,
teacher, and friend. I have passed through a fiery ordeal, but this
ministry of suffering will not be in vain. I feel that my mind has
matured beyond my years. I am a wonder to myself. It seems as if years
had been compressed into a few short months. In telling you this, do you
not, can you not, see that there is an insurmountable barrier between
"No, I do not," replied Dr. Gresham. "I love you for your own sake. And
with this the disadvantages of birth have nothing to do."
"You say so now, and I believe that you are perfectly sincere. Today
your friendship springs from compassion, but, when that subsides, might
you not look on me as an inferior?"
"Iola, you do not understand me. You think too meanly of me. You must
not judge me by the worst of my race. Surely our country has produced a
higher type of manhood than the men by whom you were tried and tempted."
"Tried, but not tempted," said Iola, as a deep flush overspread her
face; "I was never tempted. I was sold from State to State as an article
of merchandise. I had outrages heaped on me which might well crimson the
cheek of honest womanhood with shame, but I never fell into the clutches
of an owner for whom I did not feel the utmost loathing and intensest
horror. I have heard men talk glibly of the degradation of the negro,
but there is a vast difference between abasement of condition and
degradation of character. I was abased, but the men who trampled on me
were the degraded ones."
"But, Iola, you must not blame all for what a few have done."
"A few have done? Did not the whole nation consent to our abasement?"
asked Iola, bitterly.
"No, Miss Iola, we did not all consent to it. Slavery drew a line of
cleavage in this country. Although we were under one government we were
farther apart in our sentiments than if we had been divided by lofty
mountains and separated by wide seas. And had not Northern sentiment
been brought to bear against the institution, slavery would have been
intact until to-day."
"But, Doctor, the negro is under a social ban both North and South. Our
enemies have the ear of the world, and they can depict us just as they
"That is true; but the negro has no other alternative than to make
friends of his calamities. Other men have plead his cause, but out of
the race must come its own defenders. With them the pen must be
mightier than the sword. It is the weapon of civilization, and they must
use it in their own defense. We cannot tell what is in them until they
"Yes, and I think there is a large amount of latent and undeveloped
ability in the race, which they will learn to use for their own benefit.
This my hospital experience has taught me."
"But," said Dr. Gresham, "they must learn to struggle, labor, and
achieve. By facts, not theories, they will be judged in the future. The
Anglo-Saxon race is proud, domineering, aggressive, and impatient of a
rival, and, as I think, has more capacity for dragging down a weaker
race than uplifting it. They have been a conquering and achieving
people, marvelous in their triumphs of mind over matter. They have
manifested the traits of character which are developed by success and
"And yet," said Iola, earnestly, "I believe the time will come when the
civilization of the negro will assume a better phase than you
Anglo-Saxons possess. You will prove unworthy of your high vantage
ground if you only use your superior ability to victimize feebler races
and minister to a selfish greed of gold and a love of domination."
"But, Iola," said Dr. Gresham, a little impatiently, "what has all this
to do with our marriage? Your complexion is as fair as mine. What is to
hinder you from sharing my Northern home, from having my mother to be
your mother?" The tones of his voice grew tender, as he raised his eyes
to Iola's face and anxiously awaited her reply.
"Dr. Gresham," said Iola, sadly, "should the story of my life be
revealed to your family, would they be willing to ignore all the
traditions of my blood, forget all the terrible humiliations through
which I have passed? I have too much self-respect to enter your home
under a veil of concealment. I have lived in New England. I love the
sunshine of her homes and the freedom of her institutions. But New
England is not free from racial prejudice, and I would never enter a
family where I would be an unwelcome member."
"Iola, dear, you have nothing to fear in that direction."
"Doctor," she said, and a faint flush rose to her cheek, "suppose we
should marry, and little children in after years should nestle in our
arms, and one of them show unmistakable signs of color, would you be
She looked steadfastly into his eyes, which fell beneath her
truth-seeking gaze. His face flushed as if the question had suddenly
perplexed him. Iola saw the irresolution on his face, and framed her
"Ah, I see," she said, "that you are puzzled. You had not taken into
account what might result from such a marriage. I will relieve you from
all embarrassment by simply saying I cannot be your wife. When the war
is over I intend to search the country for my mother. Doctor, were you
to give me a palace-like home, with velvet carpets to hush my tread, and
magnificence to surround my way, I should miss her voice amid all other
tones, her presence amid every scene. Oh, you do not know how hungry my
heart is for my mother! Were I to marry you I would carry an aching
heart into your home and dim its brightness. I have resolved never to
marry until I have found my mother. The hope of finding her has colored
all my life since I regained my freedom. It has helped sustain me in the
hour of fearful trial. When I see her I want to have the proud
consciousness that I bring her back a heart just as loving, faithful,
and devoted as the last hour we parted."
"And is this your final answer?"
"It is. I have pledged my life to that resolve, and I believe time and
patience will reward me."
There was a deep shadow of sorrow and disappointment on the face of Dr.
Gresham as he rose to leave. For a moment he held her hand as it lay
limp in his own. If she wavered in her determination it was only for a
moment. No quivering of her lip or paling of her cheek betrayed any
struggle of her heart. Her resolve was made, and his words were
powerless to swerve her from the purpose of her soul.
After Dr. Gresham had gone Iola went to her room and sat buried in
thought. It seemed as if the fate of Tantalus was hers, without his
crimes. Here she was lonely and heart-stricken, and unto her was
presented the offer of love, home, happiness, and social position; the
heart and hand of a man too noble and generous to refuse her
companionship for life on account of the blood in her veins. Why should
she refuse these desirable boons? But, mingling with these beautiful
visions of manly love and protecting care she saw the anguish of her
heart-stricken mother and the pale, sweet face of her dying sister, as
with her latest breath she had said, "Iola, stand by mamma!"
"No, no," she said to herself; "I was right to refuse Dr. Gresham. How
dare I dream of happiness when my poor mamma's heart may be slowly
breaking? I should be ashamed to live and ashamed to die were I to
choose a happy lot for myself and leave poor mamma to struggle alone. I
will never be satisfied till I get tidings of her. And when I have found
her I will do all I can to cheer and brighten the remnant of her life."
It was several weeks after Iola had written to her brother that her
letter reached him. The trusty servant to whom she delivered it watched
his opportunity to mail it. At last he succeeded in slipping it into
Lorraine's mail and dropping them all into the post office together.
Harry was studying at a boys' academy in Maine. His father had given
that State the preference because, while on a visit there, he had been
favorably impressed with the kindness and hospitality of the people. He
had sent his son a large sum of money, and given him permission to spend
awhile with some school-chums till he was ready to bring the family
North, where they could all spend the summer together. Harry had
returned from his visit, and was looking for letters and remittances
from home, when a letter, all crumpled, was handed him by the principal
of the academy. He recognized his sister's handwriting and eagerly
opened the letter. As he read, he turned very pale; then a deep flush
overspread his face and an angry light flashed from his eyes. As he read
on, his face became still paler; he gasped for breath and fell into a
swoon. Appalled at the sudden change which had swept over him like a
deadly sirocco, the principal rushed to the fallen boy, picked up the
missive that lay beside him, and immediately rang for help and
dispatched for the doctor. The doctor came at once and was greatly
puzzled. Less than an hour before, he had seen him with a crowd of
merry, laughter-loving boys, apparently as light-hearted and joyous as
any of them; now he lay with features drawn and pinched, his face deadly
pale, as if some terrible suffering had sent all the blood in his veins
to stagnate around his heart. Harry opened his eyes, shuddered, and
relapsed into silence. The doctor, all at sea in regard to the cause of
the sudden attack, did all that he could to restore him to consciousness
and quiet the perturbation of his spirit. He succeeded, but found he was
strangely silent. A terrible shock had sent a tremor through every
nerve, and the doctor watched with painful apprehension its effect upon
his reason. Giving him an opiate and enjoining that he should be kept
perfectly quiet, the doctor left the room, sought the principal, and
"Mr. Bascom, here is a case that baffles my skill. I saw that boy pass
by my window not more than half an hour ago, full of animation, and now
he lies hovering between life and death. I have great apprehension for
his reason. Can you throw any light on the subject?"
Mr. Bascom hesitated.
"I am not asking you as a matter of idle curiosity, but as a physician.
I must have all the light I can get in making my diagnosis of the case."
The principal arose, went to his desk, took out the letter which he had
picked up from the floor, and laid it in the physician's hand. As the
doctor read, a look of indignant horror swept over his face. Then he
said: "Can it be possible! I never suspected such a thing. It must be a
cruel, senseless hoax."
"Doctor," said Mr. Bascom, "I have been a life-long Abolitionist and
have often read of the cruelties and crimes of American slavery, but
never before did I realize the low moral tone of the social life under
which such shameless cruelties could be practiced on a defenseless widow
and her orphaned children. Let me read the letter again. Just look at
it, all tear-blotted and written with a trembling hand:--
'DEAR BROTHER:--I have dreadful news for you and I hardly know how
to tell it. Papa and Gracie are both dead. He died of yellow fever.
Mamma is almost distracted. Papa's cousin has taken possession of
our property, and instead of heirs we are chattels. Mamma has
explained the whole situation to me. She was papa's slave before she
married. He loved her, manumitted, educated, and married her. When
he died Mr. Lorraine entered suit for his property and Judge
Starkins has decided in his favor. The decree of the court has made
their marriage invalid, robbed us of our inheritance, and remanded
us all to slavery. Mamma is too wretched to attempt to write
herself, but told me to entreat you not to attempt to come home. You
can do us no good, and that mean, cruel Lorraine may do you much
harm. Don't attempt, I beseech you, to come home. Show this letter
to Mr. Bascom and let him advise you what to do. But don't, for our
sake, attempt to come home.
'Your heart-broken sister,
"This," said the doctor, "is a very awkward affair. The boy is too ill
to be removed. It is doubtful if the nerves which have trembled with
such fearful excitement will ever recover their normal condition. It is
simply a work of mercy to watch over him with the tenderest care."
Fortunately for Harry he had fallen into good hands, and the most tender
care and nursing were bestowed upon him. For awhile Harry was strangely
silent, never referring to the terrible misfortune which had so suddenly
overshadowed his life. It seemed as if the past were suddenly blotted
out of his memory. But he was young and of an excellent constitution,
and in a few months he was slowly recovering.
"Doctor," said he one day, as the physician sat at his bedside, "I seem
to have had a dreadful dream, and to have dreamt that my father was
dead, and my mother and sister were in terrible trouble, but I could not
help them. Doctor, was it a dream, or was it a reality? It could not
have been a dream, for when I fell asleep the grass was green and the
birds were singing, but now the winds are howling and the frost is on
the ground. Doctor, tell me how it is? How long have I been here?"
Sitting by his bedside, and taking his emaciated hand in his, the doctor
said, in a kind, fatherly tone: "My dear boy, you have been very ill,
and everything depends on your keeping quiet, very quiet."
As soon as he was strong enough the principal gave him his letter to
"But, Mr. Bascom," Harry said, "I do not understand this. It says my
mother and father were legally married. How could her marriage be set
aside and her children robbed of their inheritance? This is not a
heathen country. I hardly think barbarians would have done any worse;
yet this is called a Christian country."
"Christian in name," answered the principal. "When your father left you
in my care, knowing that I was an Abolitionist, he confided his secret
to me. He said that life was full of vicissitudes, and he wished you to
have a good education. He wanted you and your sister to be prepared for
any emergency. He did not wish you to know that you had negro blood in
your veins. He knew that the spirit of caste pervaded the nation, North
and South, and he was very anxious to have his children freed from its
depressing influences. He did not intend to stay South after you had
finished your education."
"But," said Harry, "I cannot understand. If my mother was lawfully
married, how could they deprive her of her marital rights?"
"When Lorraine," continued Mr. Bascom, "knew your father was dead, all
he had to do was to find a flaw in her manumission, and, of course, the
marriage became illegal. She could not then inherit property nor
maintain her freedom; and her children followed her condition."
Harry listened attentively. Things which had puzzled him once now became
perfectly clear. He sighed heavily, and, turning to the principal, said:
"I see things in a new light. Now I remember that none of the planters'
wives ever visited my mother; and we never went to church except when my
father took us to the Cathedral in New Orleans. My father was a
Catholic, but I don't think mamma is."
"Now, Harry," said the principal, "life is before you. If you wish to
stay North, I will interest friends in your behalf, and try to get you a
situation. Going South is out of the question. It is probable that by
this time your mother and sister are removed from their home. You are
powerless to fight against the law that enslaved them. Should you fall
into the clutches of Lorraine, he might give you a great deal of
trouble. You would be pressed into the Confederate service to help them
throw up barricades, dig trenches, and add to the strength of those who
enslaved your mother and sister."
"Never! never!" cried Harry. "I would rather die than do it! I should
despise myself forever if I did."
"Numbers of our young men," said Mr. Bascom, "have gone to the war which
is now raging between North and South. You have been sick for several
months, and much has taken place of which you are unaware. Would you
like to enlist?"
"I certainly would; not so much for the sake of fighting for the
Government, as with the hope of finding my mother and sister, and
avenging their wrongs. I should like to meet Lorraine on the
"What kind of a regiment would you prefer, white or colored?"
Harry winced when the question was asked. He felt the reality of his
situation as he had not done before. It was as if two paths had suddenly
opened before him, and he was forced to choose between them. On one side
were strength, courage, enterprise, power of achievement, and memories
of a wonderful past. On the other side were weakness, ignorance,
poverty, and the proud world's social scorn. He knew nothing of colored
people except as slaves, and his whole soul shrank from equalizing
himself with them. He was fair enough to pass unchallenged among the
fairest in the land, and yet a Christless prejudice had decreed that he
should be a social pariah. He sat, thoughtful and undecided, as if a
great struggle were going on in his mind. Finally the principal said, "I
do not think that you should be assigned to a colored regiment because
of the blood in your veins, but you will have, in such a regiment,
better facilities for finding your mother and sister."
"You are right, Mr. Bascom. To find my mother and sister I call no task
too heavy, no sacrifice too great."
Since Harry had come North he had learned to feel profound pity for the
slave. But there is a difference between looking on a man as an object
of pity and protecting him as such, and being identified with him and
forced to share his lot. To take his place with them on the arena of
life was the test of his life, but love was stronger than pride.
His father was dead. His mother and sister were enslaved by a mockery of
justice. It was more than a matter of choice where he should stand on
the racial question. He felt that he must stand where he could strike
the most effective blow for their freedom. With that thought strong in
his mind, and as soon as he recovered, he went westward to find a
colored regiment. He told the recruiting officer that he wished to be
assigned to a colored regiment.
"Why do you wish that," said the officer, looking at Harry with an air
"Because I am a colored man."
The officer look puzzled. It was a new experience. He had seen colored
men with fair complexions anxious to lose their identity with the
colored race and pose as white men, but here was a man in the flush of
his early manhood, to whom could come dreams of promotion from a simple
private to a successful general, deliberately turning his back upon
every gilded hope and dazzling opportunity, to cast his lot with the
despised and hated negro.
"I do not understand you," said the officer. "Surely you are a white
man, and, as such, I will enlist you in a white regiment."
"No," said Harry, firmly, "I am a colored man, and unless I can be
assigned to a colored regiment I am not willing to enter the army."
"Well," said the officer, "you are the d----d'st fool I ever saw--a man
as white as you are turning his back upon his chances of promotion! But
you can take your choice."
So Harry was permitted to enter the army. By his promptness and valor he
soon won the hearts of his superior officers, and was made drill
sergeant. Having nearly all of his life been used to colored people, and
being taught by his mother to be kind and respectful to them, he was
soon able to gain their esteem. He continued in the regiment until Grant
began the task of opening the Mississippi. After weeks of fruitless
effort, Grant marched his army down the west side of the river, while
the gunboats undertook the perilous task of running the batteries. Men
were found for the hour. The volunteers offered themselves in such
numbers that lots were cast to determine who should have the opportunity
to enlist in an enterprise so fraught with danger. Harry was one on whom
the lot fell.
Grant crossed the river below, coiled his forces around Vicksburg like
a boa-constrictor, and held it in his grasp. After forty-seven days of
endurance the city surrendered to him. Port Hudson, after the surrender
of Vicksburg, gave up the unequal contest, and the Mississippi was open
to the Gulf.
ROBERT AND HIS COMPANY.
"Good morning, gentlemen," said Robert Johnson, as he approached Colonel
Robinson, the commander of the post, who was standing at the door of his
tent, talking with Captain Sybil.
"Good morning," responded Colonel Robinson, "I am glad you have come. I
was just about to send for you. How is your company getting on?"
"First rate, sir," replied Robert.
"In good health?"
"Excellent. They are all in good health and spirits. Our boys are used
to hardship and exposure, and the hope of getting their freedom puts new
snap into them."
"I am glad of it," said Colonel Robinson. "They make good fighters and
very useful allies. Last night we received very valuable intelligence
from some fugitives who had escaped through the Rebel lines. I do not
think many of the Northern people realize the service they have been to
us in bringing information and helping our boys when escaping from Rebel
prisons. I never knew a full-blooded negro to betray us. A month ago,
when we were encamped near the Rebel lines, a colored woman managed
admirably to keep us posted as to the intended movements of the enemy.
She was engaged in laundry work, and by means of hanging her sheets in
different ways gave us the right signals."
"I hope," said Captain Sybil, "that the time will come when some
faithful historian will chronicle all the deeds of daring and-service
these people have performed during this struggle, and give them due
"Our great mistake," said Colonel Robinson, "was our long delay in
granting them their freedom, and even what we have done is only partial.
The border States still retain their slaves. We ought to have made a
clean sweep of the whole affair. Slavery is a serpent which we nourished
in its weakness, and now it is stinging us in its strength."
"I think so, too," said Captain Sybil. "But in making his proclamation
of freedom, perhaps Mr. Lincoln went as far as he thought public opinion
would let him."
"It is remarkable," said Colonel Robinson, "how these Secesh hold out.
It surprises me to see how poor white men, who, like the negroes, are
victims of slavery, rally around the Stripes and Bars. These men, I
believe, have been looked down on by the aristocratic slaveholders, and
despised by the well-fed and comfortable slaves, yet they follow their
leaders into the very jaws of death; face hunger, cold, disease, and
danger; and all for what? What, under heaven, are they fighting for?
Now, the negro, ignorant as he is, has learned to regard our flag as a
banner of freedom, and to look forward to his deliverance as a
consequence of the overthrow of the Rebellion."
"I think," said Captain Sybil "that these ignorant white men have been
awfully deceived. They have had presented to their imaginations utterly
false ideas of the results of Secession, and have been taught that its
success would bring them advantages which they had never enjoyed in the
"And I think," said Colonel Robinson, "that the women and ministers have
largely fed and fanned the fires of this Rebellion, and have helped to
create a public opinion which has swept numbers of benighted men into
the conflict. Well might one of their own men say, 'This is a rich man's
war and a poor man's fight.' They were led into it through their
ignorance, and held in it by their fears."
"I think," said Captain Sybil, "that if the public school had been
common through the South this war would never have occurred. Now things
have reached such a pass that able-bodied men must report at
headquarters, or be treated as deserters. Their leaders are desperate
men, of whom it has been said: 'They have robbed the cradle and the
"They are fighting against fearful odds," said Colonel Robinson, "and
their defeat is only a question of time."
"As soon," said Robert, "as they fired on Fort Sumter, Uncle Daniel, a
dear old father who had been praying and hoping for freedom, said to me:
'Dey's fired on Fort Sumter, an' mark my words, Bob, de Norf's boun'
"Had we freed the slaves at the outset," said Captain Sybil, "we
wouldn't have given the Rebels so much opportunity to strengthen
themselves by means of slave labor in raising their crops, throwing up
their entrenchments, and building their fortifications. Slavery was a
deadly cancer eating into the life of the nation; but, somehow, it had
cast such a glamour over us that we have acted somewhat as if our
national safety were better preserved by sparing the cancer than by
cutting it out."
"Political and racial questions have sadly complicated this matter,"
said Colonel Robinson. "The North is not wholly made up of anti-slavery
people. At the beginning of this war we were not permeated with justice,
and so were not ripe for victory. The battle of Bull Run inaugurated the
war by a failure. Instead of glory we gathered shame, and defeat in
place of victory."
"We have been slow," said Captain Sybil, "to see our danger and to do
our duty. Our delay has cost us thousands of lives and millions of
dollars. Yet it may be it is all for the best. Our national wound was
too deep to be lightly healed. When the President issued his
Emancipation Proclamation my heart overflowed with joy, and I said:
'This is the first bright rift in the war cloud.'"
"And did you really think that they would accept the terms of freedom
and lay down their arms?" asked Robert.
"I hardly thought they would," continued Captain Sybil. "I did not think
that their leaders would permit it. I believe the rank and file of their
army are largely composed of a mass of ignorance, led, manipulated, and
moulded by educated and ambitious wickedness. In attempting to overthrow
the Union, a despotism and reign of terror were created which
encompassed them as fetters of iron, and they will not accept the
conditions until they have reached the last extremity. I hardly think
they are yet willing to confess that such extremity has been reached."
"Captain," said Robert, as they left Colonel Robinson's tent, "I have
lived all my life where I have had a chance to hear the 'Secesh' talk,
and when they left their papers around I used to read everything I could
lay my hands on. It seemed to me that the big white men not only ruled
over the poor whites and made laws for them, but over the whole nation."
"That was so," replied Captain Sybil. "The North was strong but
forbearing. It was busy in trade and commerce, and permitted them to
make the Northern States hunting-grounds for their slaves. When we sent
back Simms and Burns from beneath the shadow of Bunker Hill Monument and
Faneuil Hall, they mistook us; looked upon us as a lot of
money-grabbers, who would be willing to purchase peace at any price. I
do not believe when they fired on the 'Star of the West' that they had
the least apprehension of the fearful results which were to follow their
madness and folly."
"Well, Captain," asked Robert, "if the free North would submit to be
called on to help them catch their slaves, what could be expected of us,
who all our lives had known no other condition than that of slavery? How
much braver would you have been, if your first recollections had been
those of seeing your mother maltreated, your father cruelly beaten, or
your fellow-servants brutally murdered? I wonder why they never enslaved
"You are mistaken, Robert, if you think the Indians were never enslaved.
I have read that the Spaniards who visited the coasts of America
kidnapped thousands of Indians, whom they sent to Europe and the West
Indies as slaves. Columbus himself, we are informed, captured five
hundred natives, and sent them to Spain. The Indian had the lesser power
of endurance, and Las Cassas suggested the enslavement of the negro,
because he seemed to possess greater breadth of physical organization
and stronger power of endurance. Slavery was an old world's crime which,
I have heard, the Indians never practiced among themselves. Perhaps it
would have been harder to reduce them to slavery and hold them in
bondage when they had a vast continent before them, where they could
hide in the vastnesses of its mountains or the seclusion of its forests,
than it was for white men to visit the coasts of Africa and, with their
superior knowledge, obtain cargoes of slaves, bring them across the
ocean, hem them in on the plantations, and surround them with a pall of
"I remember," said Robert, "in reading a history I once came across at
our house, that when the Africans first came to this country they did
not all speak one language. Some had only met as mutual enemies. They
were not all one color, their complexions ranging from tawny yellow to
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