Frances E.W. Harper
Part 3 out of 5
"Yes," said Captain Sybil, "and in dealing with the negro we wanted his
labor; in dealing with the Indian we wanted his lands. For one we had
weapons of war; for the other we had real and invisible chains, the
coercion of force, and the terror of the unseen world."
"That's exactly so, Captain! When I was a boy I used to hear the old
folks tell what would happen to bad people in another world; about the
devil pouring hot lead down people's throats and stirring them up with a
pitch-fork; and I used to get so scared that I would be afraid to go to
bed at night. I don't suppose the Indians ever heard of such things,
or, if they had, I never heard of them being willing to give away all
their lands on earth, and quietly wait for a home in heaven."
"But, surely, Robert, you do not think religion has degraded the negro?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say that. But a man is in a tight fix when he takes his
part, like Nat Turner or Denmark Veasy, and is made to fear that he will
be hanged in this world and be burned in the next. And, since I come to
think of it, we colored folks used to get mightily mixed up about our
religion. Mr. Gundover had on his plantation a real smart man. He was
religious, but he would steal."
"Oh, Robert," queried Sybil, "how could he be religious and steal?"
"He didn't think," retorted Robert, "it was any harm to steal from his
master. I guess he thought it was right to get from his master all he
could. He would have thought it wrong to steal from his fellow-servants.
He thought that downright mean, but I wouldn't have insured the lives of
Gundover's pigs and chickens, if Uncle Jack got them in a tight place.
One day there was a minister stopping with Mr. Gundover. As a matter of
course, in speaking of his servants, he gave Jack's sins an airing. He
would much rather confess Jack's sins than his own. Now Gundover wanted
to do two things, save his pigs and poultry, and save Jack's soul. He
told the minister that Jack was a liar and a thief, and gave the
minister a chance to talk with Uncle Jack about the state of his soul.
Uncle Jack listened very quietly, and when taxed with stealing his
master's wheat he was ready with an answer. 'Now Massa Parker,' said
Jack, 'lem'me tell yer jis' how it war 'bout dat wheat. Wen ole Jack
com'd down yere, dis place war all growed up in woods. He go ter work,
clared up de groun' an' plowed, an' planted, an' riz a crap, an' den wen
it war all done, he hadn't a dollar to buy his ole woman a gown; an' he
jis' took a bag ob wheat.'"
"What did Mr. Parker say?" asked Sybil.
"I don't know, though I reckon he didn't think it was a bad steal after
all, but I don't suppose he told Jack so. When he came to the next
point, about Jack's lying, I suppose he thought he had a clear case; but
Jack was equal to the occasion."
"How did he clear up that charge?" interrogated Captain Sybil.
"Finely. I think if he had been educated he would have made a first-rate
lawyer. He said, 'Marse Parker, dere's old Joe. His wife don't lib on
dis plantation. Old Joe go ober ter see her, but he stayed too long, an'
didn't git back in time fer his work. Massa's oberseer kotched him an'
cut him all up. When de oberseer went inter de house, pore old Joe war
all tired an' beat up, an' so he lay down by de fence corner and go ter
sleep. Bimeby Massa oberseer com'd an' axed, "all bin a workin' libely?"
I say "Yes, Massa."' Then said Mr. Parker, 'You were lying, Joe had been
sleeping, not working.' 'I know's dat, but ef I tole on Joe, Massa
oberseer cut him all up again, and Massa Jesus says, "Blessed am de
Peacemaker."' I heard, continued Robert, that Mr. Parker said to
Gundover, 'You seem to me like a man standing in a stream where the
blood of Jesus can reach you, but you are standing between it and your
slaves. How will you answer that in the Day of Judgment?'"
"What did Gundover say?" asked Captain Sybil.
"He turned pale, and said, 'For God's sake don't speak of the Day of
Judgment in connection with slavery.'"
Just then a messenger brought a communication to Captain Sybil. He read
it attentively, and, turning to Robert, said, "Here are orders for an
engagement at Five Forks to-morrow. Oh, this wasting of life and
scattering of treasure might have been saved had we only been wiser. But
the time is passing. Look after your company, and see that everything is
in readiness as soon as possible."
Carefully Robert superintended the arrangements for the coming battle of
a strife which for years had thrown its crimson shadows over the land.
The Rebels fought with a valor worthy of a better cause. The disaster of
Bull Run had been retrieved. Sherman had made his famous march to the
sea. Fighting Joe Hooker had scaled the stronghold of the storm king and
won a victory in the palace chamber of the clouds; the Union soldiers
had captured Columbia, replanted the Stars and Stripes in Charleston,
and changed that old sepulchre of slavery into the cradle of a new-born
freedom. Farragut had been as triumphant on water as the other generals
had been victorious on land, and New Orleans had been wrenched from the
hands of the Confederacy. The Rebel leaders were obstinate. Misguided
hordes had followed them to defeat and death. Grant was firm and
determined to fight it out if it took all summer. The closing battles
were fought with desperate courage and firm resistance, but at last the
South was forced to succumb. On the ninth day of April, 1865, General
Lee surrendered to General Grant. The lost cause went down in blood and
tears, and on the brows of a ransomed people God poured the chrism of a
new era, and they stood a race newly anointed with freedom.
AFTER THE BATTLE.
Very sad and heart-rending were the scenes with which Iola came in
constant contact. Well may Christian men and women labor and pray for
the time when nations shall learn war no more; when, instead of bloody
conflicts, there shall be peaceful arbitration. The battle in which
Robert fought, after his last conversation with Captain Sybil, was one
of the decisive struggles of the closing conflict. The mills of doom and
fate had ground out a fearful grist of agony and death,
"And lives of men and souls of States
Were thrown like chaff beyond the gates."
Numbers were taken prisoners. Pale, young corpses strewed the earth;
manhood was stricken down in the flush of its energy and prime. The
ambulances brought in the wounded and dying. Captain Sybil laid down his
life on the altar of freedom. His prediction was fulfilled. Robert was
brought into the hospital, wounded, but not dangerously. Iola remembered
him as being the friend of Tom Anderson, and her heart was drawn
instinctively towards him. For awhile he was delirious, but her presence
had a soothing effect upon him. He sometimes imagined that she was his
mother, and he would tell her how he had missed her; and then at times
he would call her sister. Iola, tender and compassionate, humored his
fancies, and would sing to him in low, sweet tones some of the hymns
she had learned in her old home in Mississippi. One day she sang a few
verses of the hymn beginning with the words--
"Drooping souls no longer grieve,
Heaven is propitious;
If on Christ you do believe,
You will find Him precious."
"That," said he, looking earnestly into Iola's face, "was my mother's
hymn. I have not heard it for years. Where did you learn it?"
Iola gazed inquiringly upon the face of her patient, and saw, by his
clear gaze and the expression of his face, that his reason had returned.
"In my home, in Mississippi, from my own dear mother," was Iola's reply.
"Do you know where she learned it?" asked Robert.
"When she was a little girl she heard her mother sing it. Years after, a
Methodist preacher came to our house, sang this hymn, and left the book
behind him. My father was a Catholic, but my mother never went to any
church. I did not understand it then, but I do now. We used to sing
together, and read the Bible when we were alone."
"Do you remember where she came from, and who was her mother?" asked
"My dear friend, you must be quiet. The fever has left you, but I will
not answer for the consequences if you get excited."
Robert lay quiet and thoughtful for awhile and, seeing he was wakeful,
Iola said, "Have you any friends to whom you would like to send a
A pathetic expression flitted over his face, as he sadly replied, "I
haven't, to my knowledge, a single relation in the world. When I was
about ten years old my mother and sister were sold from me. It is more
than twenty years since I have heard from them. But that hymn which you
were singing reminded me so much of my mother! She used to sing it when
I was a child. Please sing it again."
Iola's voice rose soft and clear by his bedside, till he fell into a
quiet slumber. She remembered that her mother had spoken of her brother
before they had parted, and her interest and curiosity were awakened by
Robert's story. While he slept, she closely scrutinized Robert's
features, and detected a striking resemblance between him and her
"Oh, I _do_ wonder if he can be my mother's brother, from whom she has
been separated so many years!"
Anxious as she was to ascertain if there was any relationship between
Robert and her mother, she forebore to question him on the subject which
lay so near her heart. But one day, when he was so far recovered as to
be able to walk around, he met Iola on the hospital grounds, and said to
"Miss Iola, you remind me so much of my mother and sister that I cannot
help wondering if you are the daughter of my long-lost sister."
"Do you think," asked Iola, "if you saw the likeness of your sister you
would recognize her?"
"I am afraid not. But there is one thing I can remember about her: she
used to have a mole on her cheek, which mother used to tell her was her
"Look at this," said Iola, handing him a locket which contained her
Robert grasped the locket eagerly, scanned the features attentively,
then, handing it back, said: "I have only a faint remembrance of my
sister's features; but I never could recognize in that beautiful woman
the dear little sister with whom I used to play. Oh, the cruelty of
slavery! How it wrenched and tore us apart! Where is _your_ mother now?"
"Oh, I cannot tell," answered Iola. "I left her in Mississippi. My
father was a wealthy Creole planter, who fell in love with my mother.
She was his slave, but he educated her in the North, freed, and married
her. My father was very careful to have the fact of our negro blood
concealed from us. I had not the slightest suspicion of it. When he was
dead the secret was revealed. His white relations set aside my father's
will, had his marriage declared invalid, and my mother and her children
were remanded to slavery." Iola shuddered as she pronounced the horrid
word, and grew deadly pale; but, regaining her self-possession,
continued: "Now, that freedom has come, I intend to search for my mother
until I find her."
"I do not wonder," said Robert, "that we had this war. The nation had
sinned enough to suffer."
"Yes," said Iola, "if national sins bring down national judgments, then
the nation is only reaping what it sowed."
"What are your plans for the future, or have you any?" asked Robert.
"I intend offering myself as a teacher in one of the schools which are
being opened in different parts of the country," replied Iola. "As soon
as I am able I will begin my search for my dear mother. I will advertise
for her in the papers, hunt for her in the churches, and use all the
means in my power to get some tidings of her and my brother Harry. What
a cruel thing it was to separate us!"
FLAMES IN THE SCHOOL-ROOM.
"Good morning," said Dr. Gresham, approaching Robert and Iola. "How are
you both? You have mended rapidly," turning to Robert, "but then it was
only a flesh wound. Your general health being good, and your blood in
excellent condition, it was not hard for you to rally."
"Where have you been, Doctor? I have a faint recollection of having seen
you on the morning I was brought in from the field, but not since."
"I have been on a furlough. I was running down through exhaustion and
overwork, and I was compelled to go home for a few weeks' rest. But now,
as they are about to close the hospital, I shall be permanently
relieved. I am glad that this cruel strife is over. It seemed as if I
had lived through ages during these last few years. In the early part of
the war I lost my arm by a stray shot, and my armless sleeve is one of
the mementos of battle I shall carry with me through life. Miss Leroy,"
he continued, turning respectfully to Iola, "would you permit me to ask
you, as I would have someone ask my sister under the same circumstances,
if you have matured any plans for the future, or if I can be of the
least service to you? If so, I would be pleased to render you any
service in my power."
"My purpose," replied Iola, "is to hunt for my mother, and to find her
if she is alive. I am willing to go anywhere and do anything to find
her. But I will need a standpoint from whence I can send out lines of
inquiry. It must take time, in the disordered state of affairs, even to
get a clue by which I may discover her whereabouts."
"How would you like to teach?" asked the Doctor. "Schools are being
opened all around us. Numbers of excellent and superior women are coming
from the North to engage as teachers of the freed people. Would you be
willing to take a school among these people? I think it will be uphill
work. I believe it will take generations to get over the duncery of
slavery. Some of these poor fellows who came into our camp did not know
their right hands from their left, nor their ages, nor even the days of
the month. It took me some time, in a number of cases, to understand
their language. It saddened my heart to see such ignorance. One day I
asked one a question, and he answered, "I no shum'."
"What did he mean?" asked Iola.
"That he did not see it," replied the doctor. "Of course, this does not
apply to all of them. Some of them are wide-awake and sharp as steel
traps. I think some of that class may be used in helping others."
"I should be very glad to have an opportunity to teach," said Iola. "I
used to be a great favorite among the colored children on my father's
In a few days after this conversation the hospital was closed. The sick
and convalescent were removed, and Iola obtained a position as a
teacher. Very soon Iola realized that while she was heartily appreciated
by the freedmen, she was an object of suspicion and dislike to their
former owners. The North had conquered by the supremacy of the sword,
and the South had bowed to the inevitable. But here was a new army that
had come with an invasion of ideas, that had come to supplant ignorance
with knowledge, and it was natural that its members should be unwelcome
to those who had made it a crime to teach their slaves to read the name
of the ever blessed Christ. But Iola had found her work, and the freed
men their friend.
When Iola opened her school she took pains to get acquainted with the
parents of the children, and she gained their confidence and
co-operation. Her face was a passport to their hearts. Ignorant of
books, human faces were the scrolls from which they had been reading for
ages. They had been the sunshine and shadow of their lives.
Iola had found a school-room in the basement of a colored church, where
the doors were willingly opened to her. Her pupils came from miles
around, ready and anxious to get some "book larnin'." Some of the old
folks were eager to learn, and it was touching to see the eyes which had
grown dim under the shadows of slavery, donning spectacles and trying to
make out the words. As Iola had nearly all of her life been accustomed
to colored children she had no physical repulsions to overcome, no
prejudices to conquer in dealing with parents and children. In their
simple childish fashion they would bring her fruits and flowers, and
gladden her lonely heart with little tokens of affection.
One day a gentleman came to the school and wished to address the
children. Iola suspended the regular order of the school, and the
gentleman essayed to talk to them on the achievements of the white race,
such as building steamboats and carrying on business. Finally, he asked
how they did it?
"They've got money," chorused the children.
"But how did they get it?"
"They took it from us," chimed the youngsters. Iola smiled, and the
gentleman was nonplussed; but he could not deny that one of the powers
of knowledge is the power of the strong to oppress the weak.
The school was soon overcrowded with applicants, and Iola was forced to
refuse numbers, because their quarters were too cramped. The school was
beginning to lift up the home, for Iola was not satisfied to teach her
children only the rudiments of knowledge. She had tried to lay the
foundation of good character. But the elements of evil burst upon her
loved and cherished work. One night the heavens were lighted with lurid
flames, and Iola beheld the school, the pride and joy of her pupils and
their parents, a smouldering ruin. Iola gazed with sorrowful dismay on
what seemed the cruel work of an incendiary's torch. While she sat,
mournfully contemplating the work of destruction, her children formed a
procession, and, passing by the wreck of their school, sang:--
"Oh, do not be discouraged,
For Jesus is your friend."
As they sang, the tears sprang to Iola's eyes, and she said to herself,
"I am not despondent of the future of my people; there is too much
elasticity in their spirits, too much hope in their hearts, to be
crushed out by unreasoning malice."
SEARCHING FOR LOST ONES.
To bind anew the ties which slavery had broken and gather together the
remnants of his scattered family became the earnest purpose of Robert's
life. Iola, hopeful that in Robert she had found her mother's brother,
was glad to know she was not alone in _her_ search. Having sent out
lines of inquiry in different directions, she was led to hope, from some
of the replies she had received, that her mother was living somewhere in
Hearing that a Methodist conference was to convene in that State, and
being acquainted with the bishop of that district, she made arrangements
to accompany him thither. She hoped to gather some tidings of her mother
through the ministers gathered from different parts of that State.
From her brother she had heard nothing since her father's death. On his
way to the conference, the bishop had an engagement to dedicate a
church, near the city of C----, in North Carolina. Iola was quite
willing to stop there a few days, hoping to hear something of Robert
Johnson's mother. Soon after she had seated herself in the cars she was
approached by a gentleman, who reached out his hand to her, and greeted
her with great cordiality. Iola looked up, and recognized him
immediately as one of her last patients at the hospital. It was none
other than Robert Johnson.
"I am so glad to meet you," he said. "I am on my way to C---- in search
of my mother. I want to see the person who sold her last, and, if
possible, get some clew to the direction in which she went."
"And I," said Iola, "am in search of _my_ mother. I am convinced that
when we find those for whom we are searching they will prove to be very
nearly related. Mamma said, before we were parted, that her brother had
a red spot on his temple. If I could see that spot I should rest assured
that my mother is your sister."
"Then," said Robert, "I can give you that assurance," and smilingly he
lifted his hair from his temple, on which was a large, red spot.
"I am satisfied," exclaimed Iola, fixing her eyes, beaming with hope and
confidence, on Robert. "Oh, I am so glad that I can, without the least
hesitation, accept your services to join with me in the further search.
What are your plans?"
"To stop for awhile in C----," said Robert, "and gather all the
information possible from those who sold and bought my mother. I intend
to leave no stone un-turned in searching for her."
"Oh, I _do_ hope that you will succeed. I expect to stop over there a
few days, and I shall be so glad if, before I leave, I hear your search
has been crowned with success, or, a least, that you have been put on
the right track. Although I was born and raised in the midst of
slavery, I had not the least idea of its barbarous selfishness till I
was forced to pass through it. But we lived so much alone I had no
opportunity to study it, except on our own plantation. My father and
mother were very kind to their slaves. But it was slavery, all the same,
and I hate it, root and branch."
Just then the conductor called out the station.
"We stop here," said Robert. "I am going to see Mrs. Johnson, and hunt
up some of my old acquaintances. Where do you stop?"
"I don't know," replied Iola. "I expect that friends will be here to
meet us. Bishop B----, permit me to introduce you to Mr. Robert Johnson,
whom I have every reason to believe is my mother's brother. Like myself,
he is engaged in hunting up his lost relatives."
"And I," said Robert, "am very much pleased to know that we are not
without favorable clues."
"Bishop," said Iola, "Mr. Johnson wishes to know where I am to stop. He
is going on an exploring expedition, and wishes to let me know the
"We stop at Mrs. Allston's, 313 New Street," said the bishop. "If I can
be of any use to you, I am at your service."
"Thank you," said Robert, lifting his hat, as he left them to pursue his
inquiries about his long-lost mother.
Quickly he trod the old familiar streets which led to his former home.
He found Mrs. Johnson, but she had aged very fast since the war. She was
no longer the lithe, active woman, with her proud manner and resolute
bearing. Her eye had lost its brightness, her step its elasticity, and
her whole appearance indicated that she was slowly sinking beneath a
weight of sorrow which was heavier far than her weight of years. When
she heard that Robert had called to see her she was going to receive him
in the hall, as she would have done any of her former slaves, but her
mind immediately changed when she saw him. He was not the light-hearted,
careless, mischief-loving Robby of former days, but a handsome man,
with heavy moustache, dark, earnest eyes, and proud military bearing. He
smiled, and reached out his hand to her. She hardly knew how to address
him. To her colored people were either boys and girls, or "aunties and
uncles." She had never in her life addressed a colored person as "Mr. or
Mrs." To do so now was to violate the social customs of the place. It
would be like learning a new language in her old age. Robert immediately
set her at ease by addressing her under the old familiar name of "Miss
Nancy." This immediately relieved her of all embarrassment. She invited
him into the sitting-room, and gave him a warm welcome.
"Well, Robby," she said, "I once thought that you would have been the
last one to leave me. You know I never ill-treated you, and I gave you
everything you needed. People said that I was spoiling you. I thought
you were as happy as the days were long. When I heard of other people's
servants leaving them I used to say to myself, 'I can trust my Bobby; he
will stick to me to the last.' But I fooled myself that time. Soon as
the Yankee soldiers got in sight you left me without saying a word. That
morning I came down into the kitchen and asked Linda, 'Where's Robert?
Why hasn't he set the table?' She said 'she hadn't seen you since the
night before.' I thought maybe you were sick, and I went to see, but you
were not in your room. I couldn't believe at first that you were gone.
Wasn't I always good to you?"
"Oh, Miss Nancy," replied Robert; "you were good, but freedom was
"Yes," she said, musingly, "I suppose I would have done the same. But,
Robby, it did go hard with me at first. However, I soon found out that
my neighbors had been going through the same thing. But its all over
now. Let by-gones be by-gones. What are you doing now, and where are
"I am living in the city of P----. I have opened a hardware store there.
But just now I am in search of my mother and sister."
"I hope that you may find them."
"How long," asked Robert, "do you think it has been since they left
"Let me see; it must have been nearly thirty years. You got my letter?"
"Yes, ma'am; thank you."
"There have been great changes since you left here," Mrs. Johnson said.
"Gundover died, and a number of colored men have banded together, bought
his plantation, and divided it among themselves. And I hear they have a
very nice settlement out there. I hope, since the Government has set
them free, that they will succeed."
After Robert's interview with Mrs. Johnson he thought he would visit the
settlement and hunt up his old friends. He easily found the place. It
was on a clearing in Gundover's woods, where Robert and Uncle Daniel had
held their last prayer-meeting. Now the gloomy silence of those woods
was broken by the hum of industry, the murmur of cheerful voices, and
the merry laughter of happy children. Where they had trodden with fear
and misgiving, freedmen walked with light and bounding hearts. The
school-house had taken the place of the slave-pen and auction-block.
"How is yer, ole boy?" asked one laborer of another.
"Everything is lobly," replied the other. The blue sky arching overhead
and the beauty of the scenery justified the expression.
Gundover had died soon after the surrender. Frank Anderson had grown
reckless and drank himself to death. His brother Tom had been killed in
battle. Their mother, who was Gundover's daughter, had died insane.
Their father had also passed away. The defeat of the Confederates, the
loss of his sons, and the emancipation of his slaves, were blows from
which he never recovered. As Robert passed leisurely along, delighted
with the evidences of thrift and industry which constantly met his eye,
he stopped to admire a garden filled with beautiful flowers, clambering
vines, and rustic adornments.
On the porch sat an elderly woman, darning stockings, the very
embodiment of content and good humor. Robert looked inquiringly at her.
On seeing him, she almost immediately exclaimed, "Shore as I'se born,
dat's Robert! Look yere, honey, whar did yer come from? I'll gib my head
fer a choppin' block ef dat ain't Miss Nancy's Bob. Ain't yer our Bobby?
Shore yer is."
"Of course I am," responded Robert. "It isn't anybody else. How did you
"How did I know yer? By dem mischeebous eyes, ob course. I'd a knowed
yer if I had seed yer in Europe."
"In Europe, Aunt Linda? Where's that?"
"I don't know. I specs its some big city, somewhar. But yer looks jis'
splendid. Yer looks good 'nuff ter kiss."
"Oh, Aunt Linda, don't say that. You make me blush."
"Oh you go 'long wid yer. I specs yer's got a nice little wife up dar
whar yer comes from, dat kisses yer ebery day, an' Sunday, too."
"Is that the way your old man does you?"
"Oh, no, not a bit. He isn't one ob de kissin' kine. But sit down," she
said, handing Robert a chair. "Won't yer hab a glass ob milk? Boy, I'se
a libin' in clover. Neber 'spected ter see sich good times in all my
"Well, Aunt Linda," said Robert, seating himself near her, and drinking
the glass of milk which she had handed him, "how goes the battle? How
have you been getting on since freedom?"
"Oh, fust rate, fust rate! Wen freedom com'd I jist lit out ob Miss
Johnson's kitchen soon as I could. I wanted ter re'lize I war free, an'
I couldn't, tell I got out er de sight and soun' ob ole Miss. When de
war war ober an' de sogers war still stopping' yere, I made pies an'
cakes, sole em to de sogers, an' jist made money han' ober fist. An' I
kep' on a workin' an' a savin' till my ole man got back from de war wid
his wages and his bounty money. I felt right set up an' mighty big wen
we counted all dat money. We had neber seen so much money in our lives
befo', let alone hab it fer ourselbs. An' I sez, 'John, you take dis
money an' git a nice place wid it.' An' he sez, 'Dere's no use tryin',
kase dey don't want ter sell us any lan'.' Ole Gundover said, 'fore he
died, dat he would let de lan' grow up in trees 'fore he'd sell it to
us. An' dere war Mr. Brayton; he buyed some lan' and sole it to some
cullud folks, an' his ole frien's got so mad wid him dat dey wouldn't
speak ter him, an' he war borned down yere. I tole ole Miss Anderson's
daughter dat we wanted ter git some homes ob our ownselbs. She sez, 'Den
you won't want ter work for us?' Jis' de same as ef we could eat an'
drink our houses. I tell yer, Robby, dese white folks don't know
"That's a fact, Aunt Linda."
"Den I sez ter John, 'wen one door shuts anoder opens.' An' shore
'nough, ole Gundover died, an' his place war all in debt, an' had to be
sole. Some Jews bought it, but dey didn't want to farm it, so dey gib us
a chance to buy it. Dem Jews hez been right helpful to cullud people wen
dey hab lan' to sell. I reckon dey don't keer who buys it so long as dey
gits de money. Well, John didn't gib in at fust; didn't want to let on
his wife knowed more dan he did, an' dat he war ruled ober by a woman.
Yer know he is an' ole Firginian, an' some ob dem ole Firginians do so
lub to rule a woman. But I kep' naggin at him, till I specs he got tired
of my tongue, an' he went and buyed dis piece ob lan'. Dis house war on
it, an' war all gwine to wrack. It used to belong to John's ole marster.
His wife died right in dis house, an' arter dat her husband went right
to de dorgs; an' now he's in de pore-house. My! but ain't dem tables
turned. When we knowed it war our own, warn't my ole man proud! I seed
it in him, but he wouldn't let on. Ain't you men powerful 'ceitful?"
"Oh, Aunt Linda, don't put me in with the rest!"
"I don't know 'bout dat. Put you all in de bag for 'ceitfulness, an' I
don't know which would git out fust."
"Well, Aunt Linda, I suppose by this time you know how to read and
"No, chile, sence freedom's com'd I'se bin scratchin' too hard to get a
libin' to put my head down to de book."
"But, Aunt Linda, it would be such company when your husband is away, to
take a book. Do you never get lonesome?"
"Chile, I ain't got no time ter get lonesome. Ef you had eber so many
chickens to feed, an' pigs squealin' fer somethin' ter eat, an' yore
ducks an' geese squakin' 'roun' yer, yer wouldn't hab time ter git
"But, Aunt Linda, you might be sick for months, and think what a comfort
it would be if you could read your Bible."
"Oh, I could hab prayin' and singin'. Dese people is mighty good 'bout
prayin' by de sick. Why, Robby, I think it would gib me de hysterics ef
I war to try to git book larnin' froo my pore ole head. How long is yer
gwine to stay? An' whar is yer stoppin?"
"I got here to-day," said Robert, "but I expect to stay several days."
"Well, I wants yer to meet my ole man, an' talk 'bout ole times.
Couldn't yer come an' stop wid me, or isn't my house sniptious 'nuff?"
"Yes, thank you; but there is a young lady in town whom I think is my
niece, my sister's daughter, and I want to be with her all I can."
"Your niece! Whar did you git any niece from?"
"Don't you remember," asked Robert, "that my mother had a little
daughter, when Mrs. Johnson sold her? Well, I believe this young lady is
that daughter's child."
"Laws a marcy!" exclaimed Aunt Linda, "yer don't tell me so! Whar did
yer ketch up wid her?"
"I met her first," said Robert, "at the hospital here, when our poor Tom
was dying; and when I was wounded at Five Forks she attended me in the
field hospital there. She was just as good as gold."
"Well, did I eber! You jis' fotch dat chile to see me, ef she ain't too
fine. I'se pore, but I'se clean, an' I ain't forgot how ter git up good
dinners. Now, I wants ter hab a good talk 'bout our feller-sarvants."
"Yes, and I," said Robert, "want to hear all about Uncle Daniel, and
Jennie, and Uncle Ben Tunnel."
"Well, I'se got lots an' gobs ter tell yer. I'se kep' track ob dem all.
Aunt Katie died an' went ter hebben in a blaze ob glory. Uncle Dan'el
stayed on de place till Marse Robert com'd back. When de war war ober he
war smashed all ter pieces. I did pity him from de bottom ob my heart.
When he went ter de war he looked so brave an' han'some; an' wen he
com'd back he looked orful. 'Fore he went he gib Uncle Dan'el a bag full
ob money ter take kere ob. 'An wen he com'd back Uncle Dan'el gibed him
ebery cent ob it. It warn't ebery white pusson he could hab trusted wid
it. 'Cause yer know, Bobby, money's a mighty temptin' thing. Dey tells
me dat Marster Robert los' a heap ob property by de war; but Marse
Robert war always mighty good ter Uncle Dan'el and Aunt Katie. He war
wid her wen she war dyin' an' she got holt his han' an' made him promise
dat he would meet her in glory. I neber seed anybody so happy in my
life. She singed an' prayed ter de last. I tell you dis ole time
religion is good 'nuff fer me. Mr. Robert didn't stay yere long arter
her, but I beliebs he went all right. But 'fore he went he looked out
fer Uncle Dan'el. Did you see dat nice little cabin down dere wid de
green shutters an' nice little garden in front? Well, 'fore Marse Robert
died he gib Uncle Dan'el dat place, an' Miss Mary and de chillen looks
arter him yet; an' he libs jis' as snug as a bug in a rug. I'se gwine
ter axe him ter take supper wid you. He'll be powerful glad ter see
"Do you ever go to see old Miss?" asked Robert.
"Oh, yes; I goes ebery now and den. But she's jis' fell froo. Ole
Johnson jis' drunk hisself to death. He war de biggest guzzler I eber
seed in my life. Why, dat man he drunk up ebery thing he could lay his
han's on. Sometimes he would go 'roun' tryin' to borrer money from pore
cullud folks. 'Twas rale drefful de way dat pore feller did frow hisself
away. But drink did it all. I tell you, Bobby, dat drink's a drefful
thing wen it gits de upper han' ob you. You'd better steer clar ob it."
"That's so," assented Robert.
"I know'd Miss Nancy's fadder and mudder. Dey war mighty rich. Some ob
de real big bugs. Marse Jim used to know dem, an' come ober ter de
plantation, an' eat an' drink wen he got ready, an' stay as long as he
choose. Ole Cousins used to have wine at dere table ebery day, an' Marse
Jim war mighty fon' ob dat wine, an' sometimes he would drink till he
got quite boozy. Ole Cousins liked him bery well, till he foun' out he
wanted his darter, an' den he didn't want him fer rags nor patches. But
Miss Nancy war mighty headstrong, an' allers liked to hab her own way;
an' dis time she got it. But didn't she step her foot inter it? Ole
Johnson war mighty han'some, but when dat war said all war said. She
run'd off an' got married, but wen she got down she war too spunkey to
axe her pa for anything. Wen you war wid her, yer know she only took big
bugs. But wen de war com'd 'roun' it tore her all ter pieces, an' now
she's as pore as Job's turkey. I feel's right sorry fer her. Well,
Robby, things is turned 'roun' mighty quare. Ole Mistus war up den, an'
I war down; now, she's down, an' I'se up. But I pities her, 'cause she
warn't so bad arter all. De wuss thing she eber did war ta sell your
mudder, an' she wouldn't hab done dat but she snatched de whip out ob
her han' an gib her a lickin'. Now I belieb in my heart she war 'fraid
ob your mudder arter dat. But we women had ter keep 'em from whippin'
us, er dey'd all de time been libin' on our bones. She had no man ter
whip us 'cept dat ole drunken husband ob hern, an' he war allers too
drunk ter whip hisself. He jis' wandered off, an' I reckon he died in
somebody's pore-house. He warn't no 'count nohow you fix it. Weneber I
goes to town I carries her some garden sass, er a little milk an'
butter. An' she's mighty glad ter git it. I ain't got nothin' agin her.
She neber struck me a lick in her life, an' I belieb in praising de
bridge dat carries me ober. Dem Yankees set me free, an' I thinks a
powerful heap ob dem. But it does rile me ter see dese mean white men
comin' down yere an' settin' up dere grog-shops, tryin' to fedder dere
nests sellin' licker to pore culled people. Deys de bery kine ob men dat
used ter keep dorgs to ketch de runaways. I'd be chokin' fer a drink
'fore I'd eber spen' a cent wid dem, a spreadin' dere traps to git de
black folks' money. You jis' go down town 'fore sun up to-morrer
mornin' an' you see ef dey don't hab dem bars open to sell dere drams to
dem hard workin' culled people 'fore dey goes ter work. I thinks some
niggers is mighty big fools."
"Oh, Aunt Linda, don't run down your race. Leave that for the white
"I ain't runnin' down my people. But a fool's a fool, wether he's white
or black. An' I think de nigger who will spen' his hard-earned money in
dese yere new grog-shops is de biggest kine ob a fool, an' I sticks ter
dat. You know we didn't hab all dese low places in slave times. An' what
is dey fer, but to get the people's money. An' its a shame how dey do
sling de licker 'bout 'lection times."
"But don't the temperance people want the colored people to vote the
"Yes, but some ob de culled people gits mighty skittish ef dey tries to
git em to vote dare ticket 'lection time, an' keeps dem at a proper
distance wen de 'lection's ober. Some ob dem say dere's a trick behine
it, an' don't want to tech it. Dese white folks could do a heap wid de
culled folks ef dey'd only treat em right."
"When our people say there is a trick behind it," said Robert, "I only
wish they could see the trick before it--the trick of worse than wasting
their money, and of keeping themselves and families poorer and more
ignorant than there is any need for them to be."
"Well, Bobby, I beliebs we might be a people ef it warn't for dat
mizzable drink. An' Robby, I jis' tells yer what I wants; I wants some
libe man to come down yere an' splain things ter dese people. I don't
mean a politic man, but a man who'll larn dese people how to bring up
dere chillen, to keep our gals straight, an' our boys from runnin' in de
saloons an' gamblin' dens."
"Don't your preachers do that?" asked Robert.
"Well, some ob dem does, an' some ob dem doesn't. An' wen dey preaches,
I want dem to practice wat dey preach. Some ob dem says dey's called,
but I jis' thinks laziness called some ob dem. An' I thinks since
freedom come deres some mighty pore sticks set up for preachers. Now
dere's John Anderson, Tom's brudder; you 'member Tom."
"Yes; as brave a fellow and as honest as ever stepped in shoe leather."
"Well, his brudder war mighty diffrent. He war down in de lower kentry
wen de war war ober. He war mighty smart, an' had a good head-piece, an'
a orful glib tongue. He set up store an' sole whisky, an' made a lot ob
money. Den he wanted ter go to de legislatur. Now what should he do but
make out he'd got 'ligion, an' war called to preach. He had no more
'ligion dan my ole dorg. But he had money an' built a meetin' house,
whar he could hole meeting, an' hab funerals; an' you know cullud folks
is mighty great on funerals. Well dat jis' tuck wid de people, an' he
got 'lected to de legislatur. Den he got a fine house, an' his ole wife
warn't good 'nuff for him. Den dere war a young school-teacher, an' he
begun cuttin' his eyes at her. But she war as deep in de mud as he war
in de mire, an' he jis' gib up his ole wife and married her, a fusty
thing. He war a mean ole hypocrit, an' I wouldn't sen' fer him to bury
my cat. Robby, I'se down on dese kine ob preachers like a thousand
"Well, Aunt Linda, all the preachers are not like him."
"No; I knows dat; not by a jug full. We's got some mighty good men down
yere, an' we's glad when dey comes, an' orful sorry when dey goes 'way.
De las preacher we had war a mighty good man. He didn't like too much
"Perhaps," said Robert, "he thought it were best for only one to speak
at a time."
"I specs so. His wife war de nicest and sweetest lady dat eber I did
see. None ob yer airish, stuck up folks, like a tarrapin carryin'
eberything on its back. She used ter hab meetins fer de mudders, an'
larn us how to raise our chillen, an' talk so putty to de chillen. I
sartinly did lub dat woman."
"Where is she now?" asked Robert.
"De Conference moved dem 'bout thirty miles from yere. Deys gwine to hab
a big meetin' ober dere next Sunday. Don't you 'member dem meetins we
used to hab in de woods? We don't hab to hide like we did den. But it
don't seem as ef de people had de same good 'ligion we had den. 'Pears
like folks is took up wid makin' money an' politics."
"Well, Aunt Linda, don't you wish those good old days would come back?"
"No, chile; neber! neber! Wat fer you take me? I'd ruther lib in a
corn-crib. Freedom needn't keep me outer heben; an' ef I'se sich a fool
as ter lose my 'ligion cause I'se free, I oughtn' ter git dere."
"But, Aunt Linda, if old Miss were able to take care of you, wouldn't
you just as leave be back again?"
There was a faint quiver of indignation in Aunt Linda's voice, as she
"Don't yer want yer freedom? Well I wants ter pat my free foot.
Halleluyah! But, Robby, I wants yer ter go ter dat big meetin' de wuss
"How will I get there?" asked Robert.
"Oh, dat's all right. My ole man's got two ob de nicest mules you eber
set yer eyes on. It'll jis' do yer good ter look at dem. I 'spect you'll
see some ob yer ole frens dere. Dere's a nice settlemen' of cullud folks
ober dere, an' I wants yer to come an' bring dat young lady. I wants dem
folks to see wat nice folks I kin bring to de meetin'. I hope's yer
didn't lose all your 'ligion in de army."
"Oh, I hope not," replied Robert.
"Oh, chile, yer mus' be shore 'bout dat. I don't want yer to ride hope's
hoss down to torment. Now be shore an' come to-morrer an' bring dat
young lady, an' take supper wid me. I'se all on nettles to see dat
The next day, Robert, accompanied by Iola, went to the settlement to
take supper with Aunt Linda, and a very luscious affair it was. Her
fingers had not lost their skill since she had tasted the sweets of
freedom. Her biscuits were just as light and flaky as ever. Her jelly
was as bright as amber, and her preserves were perfectly delicious.
After she had set the table she stood looking in silent admiration,
chuckling to herself: "Ole Mistus can't set sich a table as dat. She
ought'er be yere to see it. Specs 'twould make her mouf water. Well, I
mus' let by-gones be by-gones. But dis yere freedom's mighty good."
Aunt Linda had invited Uncle Daniel, and, wishing to give him a pleasant
surprise, she had refrained from telling him that Robert Johnson was the
one she wished him to meet.
"Do you know dis gemmen?" said Aunt Linda to Uncle Daniel, when the
"Well, I can't say's I do. My eyes is gittin dim, an I disremembers
"Now jis' you look right good at him. Don't yer 'member him?"
Uncle Daniel looked puzzled and, slowly scanning Robert's features,
said: "He do look like somebody I used ter know, but I can't make him
out ter save my life. I don't know whar to place him. Who is de gemmen,
"Why, Uncle Dan'el," replied Aunt Linda, "dis is Robby; Miss Nancy's
bad, mischeebous Robby, dat war allers playin' tricks on me."
"Well, shore's I'se born, ef dis ain't our ole Bobby!" exclaimed Uncle
Daniel, delightedly. "Why, chile, whar did yer come from? Thought you
war dead an' buried long 'go."
"Why, Uncle Daniel, did you send anybody to kill me?" asked Robert,
"Oh, no'n 'deed, chile! but I yeard dat you war killed in de battle, an'
I never 'spected ter see you agin."
"Well, here I am," replied Robert, "large as life, and just as natural.
And this young lady, Uncle Daniel, I believe is my niece." As he spoke
he turned to Iola. "Do you remember my mother?"
"Oh, yes," said Uncle Daniel, looking intently at Iola as she stepped
forward and cordially gave him her hand.
"Well, I firmly believe," continued Robert, "that this is the daughter
of the little girl whom Miss Nancy sold away with my mother."
"Well, I'se rale glad ter see her. She puts me mighty much in mine ob
dem days wen we war all young togedder; wen Miss Nancy sed, 'Harriet war
too high fer her.' It jis' seems like yisterday wen I yeard Miss Nancy
say, 'No house could flourish whar dere war two mistresses.' Well, Mr.
"Oh, no, no, Uncle Daniel," interrupted Robert, "don't say that! Call me
Robby or Bob, just as you used to."
"Well, Bobby, I'se glad klar from de bottom of my heart ter see yer."
"Even if you wouldn't go with us when we left?"
"Oh, Bobby, dem war mighty tryin' times. You boys didn't know it, but
Marster Robert hab giben me a bag ob money ter take keer ob, an' I
promised him I'd do it an' I had ter be ez good ez my word."
"Oh, Uncle Daniel, why didn't you tell us boys all about it? We could
have helped you take care of it."
"Now, wouldn't dat hab bin smart ter let on ter you chaps, an' hab you
huntin' fer it from Dan ter Barsheba? I specs some ob you would bin a
rootin' fer it yit!"
"Well, Uncle Daniel, we were young then; I can't tell what we would have
done if we had found it. But we are older now."
"Yes, yer older, but I wouldn't put it pas' yer eben now, ef yer foun'
out whar it war."
"Yes," said Iola, laughing, "they say 'caution is the parent of
"Money's a mighty tempting thing," said Robert, smiling.
"But, Robby, dere's nothin' like a klar conscience; a klar conscience,
Just then Aunt Linda, who had been completing the preparations for her
supper, entered the room with her husband, and said, "Salters, let me
interdoos you ter my fren', Mr. Robert Johnson, an' his niece, Miss
"Why, is it possible," exclaimed Robert, rising, and shaking hands,
"that you are Aunt Linda's husband?"
"Dat's what de parson sed," replied Salters.
"I thought," pursued Robert, "that your name was John Andrews. It was
such when you were in my company."
"All de use I'se got fer dat name is ter git my money wid it; an' wen
dat's done, all's done. Got 'nuff ob my ole Marster in slave times,
widout wearin' his name in freedom. Wen I got done wid him, I got done
wid his name. Wen I 'listed, I war John Andrews; and wen I gits my
pension, I'se John Andrews; but now Salters is my name, an' I likes it
"But how came you to be Aunt Linda's husband? Did you get married since
"Lindy an' me war married long 'fore de war. But my ole Marster sole me
away from her an' our little gal, an' den sole her chile ter somebody
else. Arter freedom, I hunted up our little gal, an' foun' her. She war
a big woman den. Den I com'd right back ter dis place an' foun' Lindy.
She hedn't married agin, nuther hed I; so we jis' let de parson marry us
out er de book; an' we war mighty glad ter git togedder agin, an' feel
hitched togedder fer life."
"Well, Uncle Daniel," said Robert, turning the conversation toward him,
"you and Uncle Ben wouldn't go with us, but you came out all right at
"Yes, indeed," said Aunt Linda, "Ben got inter a stream of luck. Arter
freedom com'd, de people had a heap of fath in Ben; an' wen dey wanted
some one to go ter Congress dey jist voted for Ben ter go. An' he went,
too. An' wen Salters went to Washin'ton to git his pension, who should
he see dere wid dem big men but our Ben, lookin' jist as big as any ob
"An' it did my ole eyes good jist ter see it," broke in Salters; "if I
couldn't go dere myself, I war mighty glad to see some one ob my people
dat could. I felt like de boy who, wen somebody said he war gwine to
slap off his face, said, 'Yer kin slap off my face, but I'se got a big
brudder, an' you can't slap off his face.' I went to see him 'fore I lef,
and he war jist de same as he war wen we war boys togedder. He hadn't
got de big head a bit."
"I reckon Mirandy war mighty sorry she didn't stay wid him. I know I
should be," said Aunt Linda.
"Uncle Daniel," asked Robert, "are you still preaching?"
"Yes, chile, I'se still firing off de Gospel gun."
"I hear some of the Northern folks are down here teaching theology, that
is, teaching young men how to preach. Why don't you study theology?"
"Look a yere, boy, I'se been a preachin' dese thirty years, an' you come
yere a tellin' me 'bout studying yore ologies. I larn'd my 'ology at de
foot ob de cross. You bin dar?"
"Dear Uncle Daniel," said Iola, "the moral aspect of the nation would be
changed if it would learn at the same cross to subordinate the spirit of
caste to the spirit of Christ."
"Does yer 'member Miss Nancy's Harriet," asked Aunt Linda, "dat she sole
away kase she wouldn't let her whip her? Well, we think dis is Harriet's
gran'chile. She war sole away from her mar, an' now she's a lookin' fer
"Well, I hopes she may fine her," replied Salters. "I war sole 'way from
my mammy wen I war eighteen mont's ole, an' I wouldn't know her now from
a bunch ob turnips."
"I," said Iola, "am on my way South seeking for my mother, and I shall
not give up until I find her."
"Come," said Aunt Linda, "we mustn't stan' yer talkin', or de grub'll
git cole. Come, frens, sit down, an' eat some ob my pore supper."
Aunt Linda sat at the table in such a flutter of excitement that she
could hardly eat, but she gazed with intense satisfaction on her guests.
Robert sat on her right hand, contrasting Aunt Linda's pleasant
situation with the old days in Mrs. Johnson's kitchen, where he had
played his pranks upon her, and told her the news of the war.
Over Iola there stole a spirit of restfulness. There was something so
motherly in Aunt Linda's manner that it seemed to recall the bright,
sunshiny days when she used to nestle in Mam Liza's arms, in her own
happy home. The conversation was full of army reminiscences and
recollections of the days of slavery. Uncle Daniel was much interested,
and, as they rose from the table, exclaimed:--
"Robby, seein' yer an' hearin' yer talk, almos' puts new springs inter
me. I feel 'mos' like I war gittin' younger."
After the supper, Salters and his guests returned to the front room,
which Aunt Linda regarded with so much pride, and on which she bestowed
so much care.
"Well, Captin," said Salters, "I neber 'spected ter see you agin. Do you
know de las' time I seed yer? Well, you war on a stretcher, an' four ob
us war carryin' you ter de hospital. War you much hurt?
"No," replied Robert, "it was only a flesh wound; and this young lady
nursed me so carefully that I soon got over it."
"Is dat de way you foun' her?"
"Salters, ef you please," interrupted Salters. I'se only Andrews wen I
gits my money."
"Well, Salters," continued Robert, "our freedom was a costly thing. Did
you know that Captain Sybil was killed in one of the last battles of the
war? These young chaps, who are taking it so easy, don't know the
hardships through which we older ones passed. But all the battles are
not fought, nor all the victories won. The colored man has escaped from
one slavery, and I don't want him to fall into another. I want the young
folks to keep their brains clear, and their right arms strong, to fight
the battles of life manfully, and take their places alongside of every
other people in this country. And I cannot see what is to hinder them if
they get a chance."
"I don't nuther," said Salters. "I don't see dat dey drinks any more dan
anybody else, nor dat dere is any meanness or debilment dat a black man
kin do dat a white man can't keep step wid him."
"Yes," assented Robert, "but while a white man is stealing a thousand
dollars, a black man is getting into trouble taking a few chickens."
"All that may be true," said Iola, "but there are some things a white
man can do that we cannot afford to do."
"I beliebs eberybody, Norf and Souf, is lookin' at us; an' some ob dem
ain't got no good blood fer us, nohow you fix it," said Salters.
"I specs cullud folks mus' hab done somethin'," interposed Aunt Linda.
"O, nonsense," said Robert. "I don't think they are any worse than the
white people. I don't believe, if we had the power, we would do any
more lynching, burning, and murdering than they do."
"Dat's so," said Aunt Linda, "it's ralely orful how our folks hab been
murdered sence de war. But I don't think dese young folks is goin' ter
take things as we's allers done."
"We war cowed down from the beginnin'," said Uncle Daniel, "but dese
young folks ain't comin' up dat way."
"No," said Salters, "fer one night arter some ob our pore people had
been killed, an' some ob our women had run'd away 'bout seventeen miles,
my gran'son, looking me squar in de face, said: 'Ain't you got five
fingers? Can't you pull a trigger as well as a white man?' I tell yer,
Cap, dat jis' got to me, an' I made up my mine dat my boy should neber
call me a coward."
"It is not to be expected," said Robert, "that these young people are
going to put up with things as we did, when we weren't permitted to hold
a meeting by ourselves, or to own a club or learn to read."
"I tried," said Salters, "to git a little out'er de book wen I war in de
army. On Sundays I sometimes takes a book an' tries to make out de
words, but my eyes is gittin' dim an' de letters all run togedder, an' I
gits sleepy, an' ef yer wants to put me to sleep jis' put a book in my
han'. But wen it comes to gittin' out a stan' ob cotton, an' plantin'
corn, I'se dere all de time. But dat gran'son ob mine is smart as a
steel trap. I specs he'll be a preacher."
Salters looked admiringly at his grandson, who sat grinning in the
corner, munching a pear he had brought from the table.
"Yes," said Aunt Linda, "his fadder war killed by the Secesh, one night,
comin' home from a politic meetin', an' his pore mudder died a few
weeks arter, an' we mean to make a man ob him."
"He's got to larn to work fust," said Salters, "an' den ef he's right
smart I'se gwine ter sen' him ter college. An' ef he can't get a libin'
one way, he kin de oder."
"Yes," said Iola, "I hope he will turn out an excellent young man, for
the greatest need of the race is noble, earnest men, and true women."
"Job," said Salters, turning to his grandson, "tell Jake ter hitch up de
mules, an' you stay dere an' help him. We's all gwine ter de big
meetin'. Yore grandma hab set her heart on goin', an' it'll be de same
as a spell ob sickness ef she don't hab a chance to show her bes' bib
an' tucker. That ole gal's as proud as a peacock."
"Now, John Salters," exclaimed Aunt Linda, "ain't you 'shamed ob
yourself? Allers tryin' to poke fun at yer pore wife. Never mine; wait
till I'se gone, an' you'll miss me."
"Ef I war single," said Salters, "I could git a putty young gal, but it
wouldn't be so easy wid you."
"Why not?" said Iola, smiling.
"'Cause young men don't want ole hens, an' ole men want young pullets,"
was Salter's reply.
"Robby, honey," said Aunt Linda, "when you gits a wife, don't treat her
like dat man treats me."
"Oh, his head's level," answered Robert; "at least it was in the army."
"Dat's jis' de way; you see dat, Miss Iola? One man takin' up for de
oder. But I'll be eben wid you bof. I must go now an' git ready."
Iola laughed. The homely enjoyment of that evening was very welcome to
her after the trying scenes through which she had passed. Further
conversation was interrupted by the appearance of the wagon, drawn by
two fine mules. John Salters stopped joking his wife to admire his
"Jis' look at dem," he said. "Ain't dey beauties? I bought 'em out ob my
bounty-money. Arter de war war ober I had a little money, an' I war
gwine ter rent a plantation on sheers an' git out a good stan' ob
cotton. Cotton war bringin' orful high prices den, but Lindy said to me,
'Now, John, you'se got a lot ob money, an' you'd better salt it down.
I'd ruther lib on a little piece ob lan' ob my own dan a big piece ob
somebody else's. Well, I says to Lindy, I dun know nuthin' 'bout buyin'
lan', an' I'se 'fraid arter I'se done buyed it an' put all de marrer ob
dese bones in it, dat somebody's far-off cousin will come an' say de
title ain't good, an' I'll lose it all."
"You're right thar, John," said Uncle Daniel. "White man's so unsartain,
black man's nebber safe."
"But somehow," continued Salters, "Lindy warn't satisfied wid rentin',
so I buyed a piece ob lan', an' I'se glad now I'se got it. Lindy's got a
lot ob gumption; knows most as much as a man. She ain't got dat long
head fer nuffin. She's got lots ob sense, but I don't like to tell her
"Why not?" asked Iola. "Do you think it would make her feel too happy?"
"Well, it don't do ter tell you women how much we thinks ob you. It sets
you up too much. Ole Gundover's overseer war my marster, an' he used ter
lib in dis bery house. I'se fixed it up sence I'se got it. Now I'se
better off dan he is, 'cause he tuck to drink, an' all his frens is
gone, an' he's in de pore-house."
Just then Linda came to the door with her baskets.
"Now, Lindy, ain't you ready yet? Do hurry up."
"Yes, I'se ready, but things wouldn't go right ef you didn't hurry me."
"Well, put your chicken fixins an' cake right in yere. Captin, you'll
ride wid me, an' de young lady an' my ole woman'll take de back seat.
Uncle Dan'el, dere's room for you ef you'll go."
"No, I thank you. It's time fer ole folks to go to bed. Good night! An',
Bobby, I hopes to see you agin'."
It was a lovely evening for the journey. The air was soft and balmy. The
fields and hedges were redolent with flowers. Not a single cloud
obscured the brightness of the moon or the splendor of the stars. The
ancient trees were festooned with moss, which hung like graceful
draperies. Ever and anon a startled hare glided over the path, and
whip-poor-wills and crickets broke the restful silence of the night.
Robert rode quietly along, quaffing the beauty of the scene and thinking
of his boyish days, when he gathered nuts and wild plums in those woods;
he also indulged pleasant reminiscences of later years, when, with Uncle
Daniel and Tom Anderson, he attended the secret prayer-meetings. Iola
rode along, conversing with Aunt Linda, amused and interested at the
quaintness of her speech and the shrewdness of her intellect. To her the
ride was delightful.
"Does yer know dis place, Robby," asked Aunt Linda, as they passed an
"I should think I did," replied Robert. "It is the place where we held
our last prayer-meeting."
"An' dere's dat ole broken pot we used, ter tell 'bout de war. But
warn't ole Miss hoppin' wen she foun' out you war goin' to de war! I
thought she'd go almos' wile. Now, own up, Robby, didn't you feel kine
ob mean to go off widout eben biddin' her good bye? An' I ralely think
ole Miss war fon' ob yer. Now, own up, honey, didn't yer feel a little
down in de mouf wen yer lef' her."
"Not much," responded Robert. "I only thought she was getting paid back
for selling my mother."
"Dat's so, Robby! yore mudder war a likely gal, wid long black hair, an'
kine ob ginger-bread color. An' you neber hearn tell ob her sence dey
sole her to Georgia?"
"Never," replied Robert, "but I would give everything I have on earth to
see her once more. I _do_ hope, if she is living, that I may meet her
before I die."
"You's right, boy, cause she lub'd you as she lub'd her own life. Many a
time hes she set in my ole cabin an' cried 'bout yer wen you war fas'
asleep. It's all ober now, but I'se gwine to hole up fer dem Yankees dat
gib me my freedom, an' sent dem nice ladies from de Norf to gib us some
sense. Some ob dese folks calls em nigger teachers, an' won't hab nuffin
to do wid 'em, but I jis' thinks dey's splendid. But dere's some
triflin' niggers down yere who'll sell der votes for almost nuffin. Does
you 'member Jake Williams an' Gundover's Tom? Well dem two niggers is de
las' ob pea-time. Dey's mighty small pertaters an' few in a hill."
"Oh, Aunt Linda," said Robert, "don't call them niggers. They are our
"Dey ain't my kine ob people. I jis' calls em niggers, an' niggers I
means; an' de bigges' kine ob niggers. An' if my John war sich a nigger
I'd whip him an' leave him."
"An' what would I be a doin'," queried John, suddenly rousing up at the
mention of his name.
"Standing still and taking it, I suppose," said Iola, who had been
quietly listening to and enjoying the conversation.
"Yes, an' I'd ketch myself stan'in' still an' takin' it," was John's
"Well, you oughter, ef you's mean enough to wote dat ticket ter put me
back inter slavery," was Aunt Linda's parting shot. "Robby," she
continued, "you 'member Miss Nancy's Jinnie?"
"Of course I do," said Robert.
"She married Mr. Gundover's Dick. Well, dere warn't much git up an' go
'bout him. So, wen 'lection time com'd, de man he war workin' fer tole
him ef he woted de radical ticket he'd turn him off. Well, Jinnie war so
'fraid he'd do it, dat she jis' follered him fer days."
"Poor fellow!" exclaimed Robert. "How did he come out?"
"He certainly was between two fires," interposed Iola.
"Oh, Jinnie gained de day. She jis' got her back up, and said, 'Now ef
yer wote dat ticket ter put me back inter slavery, you take yore rags
an' go.' An' Dick jis' woted de radical ticket. Jake Williams went on de
Secesh side, woted whar he thought he'd git his taters, but he got
fooled es slick es greese."
"How was that?" asked Robert.
"Some ob dem folks, dat I 'spects buyed his wote, sent him some flour
an' sugar. So one night his wife hab company ter tea. Dey made a big
spread, an' put a lot ob sugar on de table fer supper, an' Tom jis' went
fer dat sugar. He put a lot in his tea. But somehow it didn't tase
right, an' wen dey come ter fine out what war de matter, dey hab sent
him a barrel ob san' wid some sugar on top, an' wen de sugar war all
gone de san' war dare. Wen I yeard it, I jis' split my sides a larfin.
It war too good to keep; an' wen it got roun', Jake war as mad as a
March hare. But it sarved him right."
"Well, Aunt Linda, you musn't be too hard on Uncle Jake; you know he's
"Well he ain't too ole ter do right. He ain't no older dan Uncle Dan'el.
An' I yered dey offered him $500 ef he'd go on dere side. An' Uncle
Dan'el wouldn't tech it. An' dere's Uncle Job's wife; why didn't she go
dat way? She war down on Job's meanness."
"What did she do?"
"Wen 'lection time 'rived, he com'd home bringing some flour an' meat;
an' he says ter Aunt Polly, 'Ole woman, I got dis fer de wote.' She jis'
picked up dat meat an' flour an' sent it sailin' outer doors, an' den
com'd back an' gib him a good tongue-lashin'. 'Oder people,' she said,
'a wotin' ter lib good, an' you a sellin' yore wote! Ain't you got 'nuff
ob ole Marster, an' ole Marster bin cuttin' you up? It shan't stay
yere.' An' so she wouldn't let de things stay in de house."
"What did Uncle Job do?"
"He jis' stood dere an' cried."
"And didn't you feel sorry for him?" asked Iola.
"Not a bit! he hedn't no business ter be so shabby."
"But, Aunt Linda," pursued Iola, "if it were shabby for an ignorant
colored man to sell his vote, wasn't it shabbier for an intelligent
white man to buy it?"
"You see," added Robert, "all the shabbiness is not on our side."
"I knows dat," said Aunt Linda, "but I can't help it. I wants my people
to wote right, an' to think somethin' ob demselves."
"Well, Aunt Linda, they say in every flock of sheep there will be one
that's scabby," observed Iola.
"Dat's so! But I ain't got no use fer scabby sheep."
"Lindy," cried John, "we's most dar! Don't you yere dat singin'? Dey's
"Neber mine," said Aunt Linda, "sometimes de las' ob de wine is de
Thus discoursing they had beguiled the long hours of the night and made
their long journey appear short.
Very soon they reached the church, a neat, commodious, frame building,
with a blue ceiling, white walls within and without, and large windows
with mahogany-colored facings. It was a sight full of pathetic interest
to see that group which gathered from miles around. They had come to
break bread with each other, relate their experiences, and tell of their
hopes of heaven. In that meeting were remnants of broken
families--mothers who had been separated from their children before the
war, husbands who had not met their wives for years. After the bread had
been distributed and the handshaking was nearly over, Robert raised the
hymn which Iola had sung for him when he was recovering from his wounds,
and Iola, with her clear, sweet tones, caught up the words and joined
him in the strain. When the hymn was finished a dear old mother rose
from her seat. Her voice was quite strong. With still a lingering light
and fire in her eye, she said:--
"I rise, bredren an' sisters, to say I'm on my solemn march to glory."
"Amen!" "Glory!" came from a number of voices.
"I'se had my trials an' temptations, my ups an' downs; but I feels I'll
soon be in one ob de many mansions. If it hadn't been for dat hope I
'spects I would have broken down long ago. I'se bin through de deep
waters, but dey didn't overflow me; I'se bin in de fire, but de smell ob
it isn't on my garments. Bredren an' sisters, it war a drefful time when
I war tored away from my pore little chillen."
"Dat's so!" exclaimed a chorus of voices. Some of her hearers moaned,
others rocked to and fro, as thoughts of similar scenes in their own
lives arose before them.
"When my little girl," continued the speaker, "took hole ob my dress an'
begged me ter let her go wid me, an' I couldn't do it, it mos' broke my
heart. I had a little boy, an' wen my mistus sole me she kep' him. She
carried on a boardin' house. Many's the time I hab stole out at night
an' seen dat chile an' sleep'd wid him in my arms tell mos' day. Bimeby
de people I libed wid got hard up fer money, an' dey sole me one way an'
my pore little gal de oder; an' I neber laid my eyes on my pore chillen
sence den. But, honeys, let de wind blow high or low, I 'spects to
outwedder de storm an' anchor by'm bye in bright glory. But I'se bin a
prayin' fer one thing, an' I beliebs I'll git it; an' dat is dat I may
see my chillen 'fore I die. Pray fer me dat I may hole out an' hole on,
an' neber make a shipwrack ob faith, an' at las' fine my way from earth
Having finished her speech, she sat down and wiped away the tears that
flowed all the more copiously as she remembered her lost children. When
she rose to speak her voice and manner instantly arrested Robert's
attention. He found his mind reverting to the scenes of his childhood.
As she proceeded his attention became riveted on her. Unbidden tears
filled his eyes and great sobs shook his frame. He trembled in every
limb. Could it be possible that after years of patient search through
churches, papers, and inquiring friends, he had accidentally stumbled on
his mother--the mother who, long years ago, had pillowed his head upon
her bosom and left her parting kiss upon his lips? How should he reveal
himself to her? Might not sudden joy do what years of sorrow had failed
to accomplish? Controlling his feelings as best he could, he rose to
tell his experience. He referred to the days when they used to hold
their meetings in the lonely woods and gloomy swamps. How they had
prayed for freedom and plotted to desert to the Union army; and
continuing, he said: "Since then, brethren and sisters, I have had my
crosses and trials, but I try to look at the mercies. Just think what it
was then and what it is now! How many of us, since freedom has come,
have been looking up our scattered relatives. I have just been over to
visit my old mistress, Nancy Johnson, and to see if I could get some
clue to my long-lost mother, who was sold from me nearly thirty years
Again there was a chorus of moans.
On resuming, Robert's voice was still fuller of pathos.
"When," he said, "I heard that dear old mother tell her experience it
seemed as if some one had risen from the dead. She made me think of my
own dear mother, who used to steal out at night to see me, fold me in
her arms, and then steal back again to her work. After she was sold
away I never saw her face again by daylight. I have been looking for her
ever since the war, and I think at last I have got on the right track.
If Mrs. Johnson, who kept the boarding-house in C----, is the one who
sold that dear old mother from her son, then she is the one I am looking
for, and I am the son she has been praying for."
The dear old mother raised her eyes. They were clear and tearless. An
expression of wonder, hope, and love flitted over her face. It seemed as
if her youth were suddenly renewed and, bounding from her seat, she
rushed to the speaker in a paroxysm of joy. "Oh, Robby! Robby! is dis
you? Is dat my pore, dear boy I'se been prayin' 'bout all dese years?
Oh, glory! glory!" And overflowing with joyous excitement she threw her
arms around him, looking the very impersonation of rapturous content. It
was a happy time. Mothers whose children had been torn from them in the
days of slavery knew how to rejoice in her joy. The young people caught
the infection of the general happiness and rejoiced with them that
rejoiced. There were songs of rejoicing and shouts of praise. The
undertone of sadness which had so often mingled with their songs gave
place to strains of exultation; and tears of tender sympathy flowed from
eyes which had often been blurred by anguish. The child of many prayers
and tears was restored to his mother.
Iola stood by the mother's side, smiling, and weeping tears of joy. When
Robert's mother observed Iola, she said to Robert, "Is dis yore wife?"
"Oh, no," replied Robert, "but I believe she is your grandchild, the
daughter of the little girl who was sold away from you so long ago. She
is on her way to the farther South in search of her mother."
"Is she? Dear chile! I hope she'll fine her! She puts me in mine ob my
pore little Marie. Well, I'se got one chile, an' I means to keep on
prayin' tell I fine my daughter. I'm _so_ happy! I feel's like a new
"My dear mother," said Robert, "now that I have found you, I mean to
hold you fast just as long as you live. Ever since the war I have been
trying to find out if you were living, but all efforts failed. At last,
I thought I would come and hunt you myself and, now that I have found
you, I am going to take you home to live with me, and to be as happy as
the days are long. I am living in the North, and doing a good business
there. I want you to see joy according to all the days wherein you have
seen sorrow. I do hope this young lady will find _her_ ma and that, when
found, she will prove to be your daughter!"
"Yes, pore, dear chile! I specs her mudder's heart's mighty hungry fer
her. I does hope she's my gran'chile."
Tenderly and caressingly Iola bent over the happy mother, with her heart
filled with mournful memories of her own mother.
Aunt Linda was induced to stay until the next morning, and then gladly
assisted Robert's mother in arranging for her journey northward. The
friends who had given her a shelter in their hospitable home, learned to
value her so much that it was with great reluctance they resigned her to
the care of her son. Aunt Linda was full of bustling activity, and her
spirits overflowed with good humor.
"Now, Harriet," she said, as they rode along on their return journey,
"you mus' jis' thank me fer finin' yore chile, 'cause I got him to come
to dat big meetin' wid me."
"Oh, Lindy," she cried, "I'se glad from de bottom ob my heart ter see
you's all. I com'd out dere ter git a blessin', an' I'se got a double
po'tion. De frens I war libin' wid war mighty good ter me. Dey lib'd wid
me in de lower kentry, an' arter de war war ober I stopped wid 'em and
helped take keer ob de chillen; an' when dey com'd up yere dey brought
me wid 'em. I'se com'd a way I didn't know, but I'se mighty glad I'se
"Does you know dis place?" asked Aunt Linda, as they approached the
"No'n 'deed I don't. It's all new ter me."
"Well, dis is whar I libs. Ain't you mighty tired? I feels a little
stiffish. Dese bones is gittin' ole."
"Dat's so! But I'se mighty glad I'se lib'd to see my boy 'fore I crossed
ober de riber. An' now I feel like ole Simeon."
"But, mother," said Robert, "if you are ready to go, I am not willing to
let you. I want you to stay ever so long where I can see you."
A bright smile overspread her face. Robert's words reassured and
gladdened her heart. She was well satisfied to have a pleasant aftermath
from life on this side of the river.
After arriving home Linda's first thought was to prepare dinner for her
guests. But, before she began her work of preparation, she went to the
cupboard to get a cup of home-made wine.
"Here," she said, filling three glasses, "is some wine I made myself
from dat grape-vine out dere. Don't it look nice and clar? Jist taste
it. It's fus'rate."
"No, thank you," said Robert. "I'm a temperance man, and never take
anything which has alcohol in it."
"Oh, dis ain't got a bit ob alcohol in it. I made it myself."
"But, Aunt Linda, you didn't make the law which ferments grape-juice and
makes it alcohol."
"But, Robby, ef alcohol's so bad, w'at made de Lord put it here?"
"Aunt Lindy," said Iola, "I heard a lady say that there were two things
the Lord didn't make. One is sin, and the other alcohol."
"Why, Aunt Linda," said Robert, "there are numbers of things the Lord
has made that I wouldn't touch with a pair of tongs."
"What are they?"
"Rattlesnakes, scorpions, and moccasins."
"Aunt Linda," said Iola, "the Bible says that the wine at last will bite
like a serpent and sting like an adder."
"And, Aunt Linda," added Robert, "as I wouldn't wind a serpent around my
throat, I don't want to put something inside of it which will bite like
a serpent and sting as an adder."
"I reckon Robby's right," said his mother, setting down her glass and
leaving the wine unfinished. "You young folks knows a heap more dan we
ole folks." "Well," declared Aunt Linda, "you all is temp'rence to de
backbone. But what could I do wid my wine ef we didn't drink it?"
"Let it turn to vinegar, and sign the temperance pledge," replied
"I don't keer 'bout it myself, but I don't 'spect John would be willin'
ter let it go, 'cause he likes it a heap."
"Then you must give it up for his sake and Job's," said Robert. "They
may learn to like it too well."
"You know, Aunt Linda," said Iola, "people don't get to be drunkards all
at once. And you wouldn't like to feel, if Job should learn to drink,
that you helped form his appetite."
"Dat' so! I beliebs I'll let dis turn to winegar, an' not make any
"That's right, Aunt Linda. I hope you'll hold to it," said Robert,
Very soon Aunt Linda had an excellent dinner prepared. After it was over
Robert went with Iola to C----, where her friend, the bishop, was
awaiting her return. She told him the wonderful story of Robert's
finding his mother, and of her sweet, childlike faith.
The bishop, a kind, fatherly man, said, "Miss Iola, I hope that such
happiness is in store for you. My dear child, still continue to pray and
trust. I am old-fashioned enough to believe in prayer. I knew an old
lady living in Illinois, who was a slave. Her son got a chance to come
North and beg money to buy his mother. The mother was badly treated, and
made up her mind to run away. But before she started she thought she
would kneel down to pray. And something, she said, reasoned within her,
and whispered, 'Stand still and see what I am going to do for you.' So
real was it to her that she unpacked her bundle and desisted from her
flight. Strange as it may appear to you, her son returned, bringing
with him money enough to purchase her freedom, and she was redeemed from
bondage. Had she persisted in running away she might have been lost in
the woods and have died, exhausted by starvation. But she believed, she
trusted, and was delivered. Her son took her North, where she could find
a resting place for the soles of her feet."
That night Iola and the bishop left for the South.
A HOME FOR MOTHER.
After Iola had left the settlement, accompanied by Robert as far as the
town, it was a pleasant satisfaction for the two old friends to settle
themselves down, and talk of times past, departed friends, and
"What," said Mrs. Johnson, as we shall call Robert's mother, "hab become
ob Miss Nancy's husband? Is he still a libin'?"
"Oh, he drunk hisself to death," responded Aunt Linda.
"He used ter be mighty handsome."
"Yes, but drink war his ruination."
"An' how's Miss Nancy?"
"Oh, she's com'd down migh'ly. She's pore as a church mouse. I thought
'twould com'd home ter her wen she sole yer 'way from yore chillen.
Dere's nuffin goes ober de debil's back dat don't come under his belly.
Do yo 'member Miss Nancy's fardder?"
"Ob course I does!"
"Well," said Aunt Linda, "he war a nice ole gemmen. Wen he died, I said
de las' gemmen's dead, an' dere's noboddy ter step in his shoes."
"Pore Miss Nancy!" exclaimed Robert's mother. "I ain't nothin' agin her.
But I wouldn't swap places wid her, 'cause I'se got my son; an' I
beliebs he'll do a good part by me."
"Mother," said Robert, as he entered the room, "I've brought an old
friend to see you. Do you remember Uncle Daniel?"
Uncle Daniel threw back his head, reached out his hand, and manifested
his joy with "Well, Har'yet! is dis you? I neber 'spected to see you in
dese lower grouns! How does yer do? an' whar hab you bin all dis time?"
"O, I'se been tossin' roun' 'bout; but it's all com'd right at las'.
I'se lib'd to see my boy 'fore I died."
"My wife an' boys is in glory," said Uncle Daniel. "But I 'spects to see
'em 'fore long. 'Cause I'se tryin' to dig deep, build sure, an' make my
way from earth ter glory."
"Dat's de right kine ob talk, Dan'el. We ole folks ain't got long ter
They chatted together until Job and Salters came home for supper. After
they had eaten, Uncle Daniel said:--
"We'll hab a word ob prayer."
There, in that peaceful habitation, they knelt down, and mingled their
prayers together, as they had done in by-gone days, when they had met by
stealth in lonely swamps or silent forests.
The next morning Robert and his mother started northward. They were well
supplied with a bountiful luncheon by Aunt Linda, who had so thoroughly
enjoyed their sojourn with her. On the next day he arrived in the city
of P----, and took his mother to his boarding-house, until he could find
a suitable home into which to install her. He soon came across one which
just suited his taste, but when the agent discovered that Robert's
mother was colored, he told him that the house had been previously
engaged. In company with his mother he looked at several other houses in
desirable neighborhoods, but they were constantly met with the answer,
"The house is engaged," or, "We do not rent to colored people."
At length Robert went alone, and, finding a desirable house, engaged it,
and moved into it. In a short time it was discovered that he was
colored, and, at the behest of the local sentiment of the place, the
landlord used his utmost endeavors to oust him, simply because he
belonged to an unfashionable and unpopular race. At last he came across
a landlord who was broad enough to rent him a good house, and he found a
quiet resting place among a set of well-to-do and well-disposed people.
FURTHER LIFTING OF THE VEIL.
In one of those fearful conflicts by which the Mississippi was freed
from Rebel intrusion and opened to commerce Harry was severely wounded,
and forced to leave his place in the ranks for a bed in the hospital.
One day, as he lay in his bed, thinking of his former home in
Mississippi and wondering if the chances of war would ever restore him
to his loved ones, he fell into a quiet slumber. When he awoke he found
a lady bending over him, holding in her hands some fruit and flowers. As
she tenderly bent over Harry's bed their eyes met, and with a thrill of
gladness they recognized each other.
"Oh, my son, my son!" cried Marie, trying to repress her emotion, as she
took his wasted hand in hers, and kissed the pale cheeks that sickness
and suffering had blanched. Harry was very weak, but her presence was a
call to life. He returned the pressure of her hand, kissed it, and his
eyes grew full of sudden light, as he murmured faintly, but joyfully:--
"Mamma; oh, mamma! have I found you at last?"
The effort was too much, and he immediately became unconscious.
Anxious, yet hopeful, Marie sat by the bedside of her son till
consciousness was restored. Caressingly she bent over his couch,
murmuring in her happiness the tenderest, sweetest words of motherly
love. In Harry's veins flowed new life and vigor, calming the
restlessness of his nerves.
As soon as possible Harry was carried to his mother's home; a home
brought into the light of freedom by the victories of General Grant.
Nursed by his mother's tender, loving care, he rapidly recovered, but,
being too disabled to re-enter the army, he was honorably discharged.
Lorraine had taken Marie to Vicksburg, and there allowed her to engage
in confectionery and preserving for the wealthy ladies of the city. He
had at first attempted to refugee with her in Texas, but, being foiled
in the attempt, he was compelled to enlist in the Confederate Army, and
met his fate by being killed just before the surrender of Vicksburg.
"My dear son," Marie would say, as she bent fondly over him, "I am
deeply sorry that you are wounded, but I am glad that the fortunes of
war have brought us together. Poor Iola! I _do_ wonder what has become
of her? Just as soon as this war is over I want you to search the
country all over. Poor child! How my heart has ached for her!"
Time passed on. Harry and his mother searched and inquired for Iola, but
no tidings of her reached them.
Having fully recovered his health, and seeing the great need of
education for the colored people, Harry turned his attention toward
them, and joined the new army of Northern teachers.
He still continued his inquiries for his sister, not knowing whether or
not she had succumbed to the cruel change in her life. He thought she
might have passed into the white basis for the sake of bettering her
fortunes. Hope deferred, which had sickened his mother's heart, had
only roused him to renewed diligence.
A school was offered him in Georgia, and thither he repaired, taking his
mother with him. They were soon established in the city of A----. In
hope of finding Iola he visited all the conferences of the Methodist
Church, but for a long time his search was in vain.
"Mamma," said Harry, one day during his vacation, "there is to be a
Methodist Conference in this State in the city of S----, about one
hundred and fifty miles from here. I intend to go and renew my search
"Poor child!" burst out Marie, as the tears gathered in her eyes, "I
wonder if she is living."
"I think so," said Harry, kissing the pale cheek of his mother; "I don't
feel that Iola is dead. I believe we will find her before long."
"It seems to me my heart would burst with joy to see my dear child just
once more. I am glad that you are going. When will you leave?"
"Well, my son, go, and my prayers will go with you," was Marie's tender
Early next morning Harry started for the conference, and reached the
church before the morning session was over. Near him sat two ladies, one
fair, the other considerably darker. There was something in the fairer
one that reminded him forcibly of his sister, but she was much older and
graver than he imagined his sister to be. Instantly he dismissed the
thought that had forced itself into his mind, and began to listen
attentively to the proceedings of the conference.
When the regular business of the morning session was over the bishop
arose and said:--
"I have an interesting duty to perform. I wish to introduce a young lady
to the conference, who was the daughter of a Mississippi planter. She is
now in search of her mother and brother, from whom she was sold a few
months before the war. Her father married her mother in Ohio, where he
had taken her to be educated. After his death they were robbed of their
inheritance and enslaved by a distant relative named Lorraine. Miss Iola
Leroy is the young lady's name. If any one can give the least
information respecting the objects of her search it will be thankfully
"I can," exclaimed a young man, rising in the midst of the audience, and
pressing eagerly, almost impetuously, forward. "I am her brother, and I
came here to look for her."
Iola raised her eyes to his face, so flushed and bright with the glow of
recognition, rushed to him, threw her arms around his neck, kissed him
again and again, crying: "O, Harry!" Then she fainted from excitement.
The women gathered around her with expressions of tender sympathy, and
gave her all the care she needed. They called her the "dear child," for
without any effort on her part she had slidden into their hearts and
found a ready welcome in each sympathizing bosom.
Harry at once telegraphed the glad tidings to his mother, who waited
their coming with joyful anticipation. Long before the cars reached the
city, Mrs. Leroy was at the depot, restlessly walking the platform or
eagerly peering into the darkness to catch the first glimpse of the
train which was bearing her treasures.
At length the cars arrived, and, as Harry and Iola alighted, Marie
rushed forward, clasped Iola in her arms and sobbed out her joy in
Very happy was the little family that sat together around the
supper-table for the first time for years. They partook of that supper
with thankful hearts and with eyes overflowing with tears of joy. Very
touching were the prayers the mother uttered, when she knelt with her
children that night to return thanks for their happy reunion, and to
seek protection through the slumbers of the night.
The next morning, as they sat at the breakfast-table, Marie said:
"My dear child, you are so changed I do not think I would have known you
if I had met you in the street!"
"And I," said Harry, "can hardly realize that you are our own Iola, whom
I recognized as sister a half dozen years ago."
"Am I so changed?" asked Iola, as a faint sigh escaped her lips.
"Why, Iola," said Harry, "you used to be the most harum-scarum girl I
ever knew, laughing, dancing, and singing from morning until night."
"Yes, I remember," said Iola. "It all comes back to me like a dream. Oh,
mamma! I have passed through a fiery ordeal of suffering since then. But
it is useless," and as she continued her face assumed a brighter look,
"to brood over the past. Let us be happy in the present. Let me tell you
something which will please you. Do you remember telling me about your
mother and brother?"
"Yes," said Marie, in a questioning tone."
"Well," continued Iola, with eyes full of gladness, "I think I have
"Can it be possible!" exclaimed Marie, in astonishment. "It is more than
thirty years since we parted. I fear you are mistaken."
"No, mamma; I have drawn my conclusions from good circumstantial
evidence. After I was taken from you, I passed through a fearful siege
of suffering, which would only harrow up your soul to hear. I often
shudder at the remembrance. The last man in whose clutches I found
myself was mean, brutal, and cruel. I was in his power when the Union
army came into C----, where I was living. A number of colored men
stampeded to the Union ranks, with a gentleman as a leader, whom I think
is your brother. A friend of his reported my case to the commander of
the post, who instantly gave orders for my release. A place was given me
as nurse in the hospital. I attended that friend in his last illness.
Poor fellow! he was the best friend I had in all the time I have been
tossing about. The gentleman whom I think is your brother appeared to be
very anxious about his friend's recovery, and was deeply affected by his
death. In one of the last terrible battles of the war, that of Five
Forks, he was wounded and put into the hospital ward where I was an
attendant. For awhile he was delirious, and in his delirium he would
sometimes think that I was his mother and at other times his sister. I
humored his fancies, would often sing to him when he was restless, and
my voice almost invariably soothed him to sleep. One day I sang to him
that old hymn we used to sing on the plantation:--
"Drooping souls no longer grieve,
Heaven is propitious;
If on Christ you do believe,
You will find Him precious."
"I remember," said Marie, with a sigh, as memories of the past swept
"After I had finished the hymn," continued Iola, "he looked earnestly
and inquiringly into my face, and asked, 'Where did you learn that hymn?
I have heard my mother sing it when I was a boy, but I have never heard
it since.' I think, mamma, the words, 'I was lost but now I'm found;
glory! glory! glory!' had imprinted themselves on his memory, and that
his mind was assuming a higher state of intellectuality. He asked me to
sing it again, which I did, until he fell asleep. Then I noticed a
marked resemblance between him and Harry, and I thought, 'Suppose he
should prove to be your long-lost brother?' During his convalescence we
found that we had a common ground of sympathy. We were anxious to be
reunited to our severed relations. We had both been separated from our
mothers. He told me of his little sister, with whom he used to play. She
had a mole on her cheek which he called her beauty spot. He had the red
spot on his forehead which you told me of."
Very bright and happy was the home where Marie and her children were
gathered under one roof. Mrs. Leroy's neighbors said she looked ten
years younger. Into that peaceful home came no fearful forebodings of
cruel separations. Harry and Iola were passionately devoted to their
mother, and did all they could to flood her life with sunshine.
"Iola, dear," said Harry, one morning at the breakfast-table, "I have a
new pleasure in store for you."
"What is it, brother mine?" asked Iola, assuming an air of interest.
"There is a young lady living in this city to whom I wish to introduce
you. She is one of the most remarkable women I have ever met."
"Do tell me all about her," said Iola. "Is she young and handsome,
brilliant and witty?
"She," replied Harry, "is more than handsome, she is lovely; more than
witty, she is wise; more than brilliant, she is excellent."
"Well, Harry," said Mrs. Leroy, smiling, "if you keep on that way I
shall begin to fear that I shall soon be supplanted by a new daughter."
"Oh, no, mamma," replied Harry, looking slightly confused, "I did not
"Well, Harry," said Iola, amused, "go on with your description; I am
becoming interested. Tax your powers of description to give me her
"Well, in the first place," continued Harry, "I suppose she is about
twenty-five years old."
"Oh, the idea," interrupted Iola, "of a gentleman talking of a lady's
age. That is a tabooed subject."
"Why, Iola, that adds to the interest of my picture. It is her
combination of earnestness and youthfulness which enhances her in my
"Pardon the interruption," said Iola; "I am anxious to hear more about
"Well, she is of medium height, somewhat slender, and well formed, with
dark, expressive eyes, full of thought and feeling. Neither hair nor
complexion show the least hint of blood admixture."
"I am glad of it," said Iola. "Every person of unmixed blood who
succeeds in any department of literature, art, or science is a living
argument for the capability which is in the race."
"Yes," responded Harry, "for it is not the white blood which is on trial
before the world. Well, I will bring her around this evening."
In the evening Harry brought Miss Delany to call on his sister and
mother. They were much pleased with their visitor. Her manner was a
combination of suavity and dignity. During the course of the evening
they learned that she was a graduate of the University of A----. One day
she saw in the newspapers that colored women were becoming unfit to be
servants for white people. She then thought that if they are not fit to
be servants for white people, they are unfit to be mothers to their own
children, and she conceived the idea of opening a school to train future
wives and mothers. She began on a small scale, in a humble building,
and her work was soon crowned with gratifying success. She had enlarged
her quarters, increased her teaching force, and had erected a large and
commodious school-house through her own exertions and the help of
Marie cordially invited her to call again, saying, as she rose to go: "I
am very glad to have met you. Young women like you always fill my heart
with hope for the future of our race. In you I see reflected some of the
blessed possibilities which lie within us."
"Thank you," said Miss Delany, "I want to be classed among those of whom
it is said, 'She has done what she could.'"
Very pleasant was the acquaintance which sprang up between Miss Delany
and Iola. Although she was older than Iola, their tastes were so
congenial, their views of life and duty in such unison, that their
acquaintance soon ripened into strong and lasting friendship. There were
no foolish rivalries and jealousies between them. Their lives were too
full of zeal and earnestness for them to waste in selfishness their
power to be moral and spiritual forces among a people who so much needed
their helping hands. Miss Delany gave Iola a situation in her school;
but before the term was quite over she was force to resign, her health
having been so undermined by the fearful strain through which she had
passed, that she was quite unequal to the task. She remained at home,
and did what her strength would allow in assisting her mother in the
work of canning and preserving fruits.
In the meantime, Iola had been corresponding with Robert. She had told
him of her success in finding her mother and brother, and had received
an answer congratulating her on the glad fruition of her hopes. He also
said that his business was flourishing, that his mother was keeping
house for him, and, to use her own expression, was as happy as the days
are long. She was firmly persuaded that Marie was her daughter, and she
wanted to see her before she died.
"There is one thing," continued the letter, "that your mother may
remember her by. It was a little handkerchief on which were a number of
cats' heads. She gave one to each of us."
"I remember it well," said Marie, "she must, indeed, be my mother. Now,
all that is needed to complete my happiness is her presence, and my
brother's. And I intend, if I live long enough, to see them both."
Iola wrote Robert that her mother remembered the incident of the
handkerchief, and was anxious to see them.
In the early fall Robert started for the South in order to clear up all
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