Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Part 2 out of 2
with her, and I said 'Minnie, just wait a minute.'"
"She passed on, and left me talking with Mrs. Jackson. When I joined
her, I found a colored woman talking to her, and she was trembling from
head to foot, and just as pale as a ghost; and I said, 'Why, Minnie,
what is the matter?'"
"She gasped for breath, and I thought she was going to faint, and I got
real scared. And what do you think Minnie said?"
"Why," she said, "Carrie, this woman says she's my mother!"
"Her mother!" cried a half dozen voices. "Why you said she was colored!"
"Well, so she was. She was quite light, but I knew she was colored."
"How did you know? Maybe she was only a very dark-complexioned white
"Oh no, she wasn't, I know white people from colored, I've seen enough
"A colored woman! well that is very strange; but do tell us what Minnie
"She asked her where she came from, and where she lived. She said she
came in yesterday with the Union soldiers, and that she had come from
Louisiana, and then Minnie told her to come with her, and she would find
a place for her to stop."
"And did she leave you in the street to walk with a Nigger?" said a
coarse, rough-looking girl.
"Yes, and so I left her. I wasn't going to walk down the street with
"Well, did I ever?" said a pale and interesting-looking girl.
"That is just as strange as a romance I have been reading!"
"Well, they say truth is stranger than fiction. A deceitful thing to try
to pass for white when she is colored! If she comes back to this school
I shan't stay!" said the coarse rough girl, twirling her gold pencil. "I
ain't a going to sit alongside of niggers."
"How you talk! I don't see that if the woman is Minnie's mother, and
_is_ colored, it makes any difference in her. I am sure it does not to
me," said one of Minnie's friends.
"Well, it does to me," said another; "you may put yourself on an
equality with niggers, but I won't." "And I neither," chimed in another
voice. "There are plenty of colored schools; let her go to them."
"Oh, girls, I think it real cruel the way you talk!"
"How would you like any one to treat you so?" "Can't help it, I ain't a
coming to school with a nigger." "She is just as good as you are, Mary
Patuck, and a great deal smarter." "I don't care, she's a nigger, and
that's enough for me."
And so the sentiment of the school was divided. Some were in favor of
treating her just as well as usual, and others felt like complaining to
their parents that a Negro was in school.
At last the news reached the teacher, and he, poor, weak, and
vacillating man, had not manhood enough to defend her, but acted
according to the prejudices of society, and wrote Thomas a note telling
him that circumstances made it desirable that she should not again come
In the meantime the news had reached their quiet little village, and of
course it offered food for gossip; it was discussed over tea-tables and
in the sewing circle. Some concluded that Thomas should have brought her
up among the colored people, and others that he did perfectly right.
Still there was a change in Minnie's social relations. Some were just
as kind as ever. Others grew distant, and some avoided having anything
to say to her, and stopped visiting the house. Anna and Thomas, although
superior people, were human, and could not help feeling the difference,
but some business of importance connected with the death of a relative
called Thomas abroad, and he made up his mind that he would take Anna
and Minnie with him, hoping that the voyage and change of scene would be
beneficial to his little girl, as he still called Minnie, and so on a
bright and beautiful morning in the spring of '62 he left the country
for a journey to England and the Continent.
Let us now return to Louis Le Croix, whom we left disappointed and
wounded by Minnie's refusal. After he left her he entered his room, and
sat for a long time in silent thought; at last he rose, and walked to
the window and stood with his hands clenched, and his finely chiseled
lips firmly set as if he had bound his whole soul to some great
resolve--a resolve which he would accomplish, let it cost what it might.
And so he had; for he had made up in his mind within the last two hours
that he would join the Confederacy. "That live or die, sink or swim,
survive or perish," he would unite his fortunes to her destiny.
His next step then was to plan how he could reach Louisiana; he felt
confident that if he could get as far as Louisville he could manage to
get into Tennessee, and from thence to Louisiana.
And so nothing daunted by difficulties and dangers, he set out on his
journey, and being aided by rebels on his way in a few weeks he reached
the old plantation on Red River; he found his sister and Miriam there
both glad to see him.
Camilla's husband was in Charleston, some of the slaves had deserted to
the Union ranks, but the greater portion she still retained with her.
Miriam was delighted to see Louis, and seemed never weary of admiring
his handsome face and manly form. And Louis, who had never known any
other mother seemed really gratified by her little kindnesses and
attention; but of course the pleasant and quiet monotony of home did not
suit the restless and disquieted spirit of Louis. All the young men
around here were in the army or deeply interested in its success.
There was a call for more volunteers, and a new company was to be raised
in that locality. Louis immediately joined, and turned his trained
intellect to the study of military tactics; day and night he was
absorbed in this occupation, and soon, although Minnie was not
forgotten, the enthusiasm of his young life gathered around the
He did not give himself much time to reflect. Thought was painful to
him, and he continued to live in a whirl of excitement.
News of battle, tidings of victory and defeats, the situation of the
armies, and the hopes and fears that clustered around those fearful days
of struggle made the staple of conversation.
Louis rapidly rose in favor with the young volunteers, and was chosen
captain of a company who were permitted to drill and stay from the front
as a reserve corps, ready to be summoned at any moment.
Miriam and Camilla watched with anguish Louis' devotion to the
Confederation, and many sorrowful conversations they had about it.
At last one day Miriam said, "Miss Camilla, I can stand it no
longer;--that boy is going to lift his hand agin his own people, and I
can't stand it no longer; I'se got to tell him all about it. I just
think I'd bust in two if I didn't tell him."
"Well, Mammy," said Camilla, "I'd rather he should know it than that he
should go against his country and raise his hand against the dear old
"It's not the flag nor the country I care for," said Miriam, "but it is
that one of my own flesh and blood should jine with these secesh agin
his own people."
"Well, Miriam, if you get a chance you can tell him."
"Get a chance, Miss Camilla, I'se bound to get that."
Louis was somewhat reticent about his plans; for he knew that Camilla
was a strong Union woman; that she not only loved the flag, but she had
taught her two boys to do the same; but he understood from headquarters
that his company was to march in a week, and although on that subject
there was no common sympathy between them, yet he felt that he must
acquaint her with his plans, and bid her and Miriam good-bye.
So one morning he came in looking somewhat flushed and excited, and
said: "Sister, we have got our marching orders; we leave on Thursday,
and I have only three days to be with you. I am sorry that I have seen
so little of you, but my country calls me, and when she is in danger it
is no time for me to seek for either ease or pleasure."
"Your country! Louis," said Miriam, her face paling and flushing by
turns. "Where is your country?"
"Here," said he, somewhat angrily, "in Louisiana."
"My country," said Camilla, "is the whole Union. Yes, Louis," said
she, "your country is in danger, but not from the Abolitionists in the
North, but from the rebels and traitors in the South."
"Rebels and traitors!" said Louis, in a tone like one who felt the harsh
grating of the words.
"Whom do you mean?"
"I mean," said she, "the ambitious, reckless men who have brought about
this state of things. The men who are stabbing their country in their
madness and folly; who are crowding our graves and darkening our homes;
who are dragging our young men, men like you, who should be the pride
and hope of our country, into the jaws of ruin and death."
Louis looked surprised and angry; he had never seen Camilla under such
deep excitement. Her words had touched his pride and roused his anger;
but suppressing his feelings he answered her coolly, "Camilla, I am old
enough to do my own thinking. We had better drop this subject; it is not
pleasant to either of us."
"Louis," said she, her whole manner changing from deep excitement to
profound grief, "Oh, Louis, it will never do for you to go! Oh, no, you
"And why not?"
"Because,"--and she hesitated. Just then Miriam took up the unfinished
sentence,"--because to join the secesh is to raise your hands agin your
"My own race?" and Louis laughed scornfully. "I think you are talking
more wildly than Camilla. What do you mean, Miriam?"
"I mean," said she, stung by his scornful words, "I mean that you, Louis
Le Croix, white as you look, are colored, and that you are my own
daughter's child, and if it had not been for Miss Camilla, who's been
such an angel to you, that you would have been a slave to-day, and then
you wouldn't have been a Confederate."
At these words a look of horror and anguish passed over the face of Le
Croix, and he turned to Camilla, but she was deadly pale, and trembling
like an aspen leaf; but her eyes were dry and tearless.
"Camilla," said he, turning fiercely to his adopted sister, "Tell me, is
there any truth in these words? You are as pale as death, and trembling
like a leaf,--tell me if there is any truth in these words," turning and
fixing his eyes on Miriam, who stood like some ancient prophetess, her
lips pronouncing some fearful doom, while she watched in breathless
anguish the effect upon the fated victim.
"Yes, Louis," said Camilla, in a voice almost choked by emotion. "Yes,
Louis, it is all true."
"But how is this that I never heard it before? Before I believe this
tale I must have some proof, clear as daylight. Bring me proofs."
"Here they are," said Miriam, drawing from her pocket the free papers
she had been carrying about her person for several days.
Louis grasped them nervously, hastily read them, and then more slowly,
like one who might read a sentence of death to see if there was one word
or sentence on which he might hang a hope of reprieve.
Camilla watched him anxiously, but silently, and when he had finished,
he covered his bowed face with his hands as he said with a deep groan,
"It is true, too true. I see it all. I can never raise my hand against
my mother's race."
He arose like one in a dream, walked slowly to the door and left the
"It was a painful task," said Camilla, with a sigh of relief, as if a
burden had fallen from her soul.
"Yes," said Miriam, "but not so bad as to see him fighting agin his own
color. I'd rather follow him to his grave than see him join that
miserable secesh crew."
"Yes," said Camilla, "It was better than letting him go."
When Louis left the room a thousand conflicting thoughts passed through
his mind. He felt as a mariner at midnight on a moonless sea, who
suddenly, when the storm is brewing, finds that he has lost his compass
and his chart.
Where was he steering; and now, the course of his life was changed, what
kind of future must he make for himself?
Had it been in time of peace, he could have easily decided, as he had a
large amount of money in the North, which his father left him when he
came of age.
He would have no difficulty as to choosing the means of living; for he
was well supplied, as far as that was concerned; but here was a most
unpleasant dilemma in which he had placed himself.
Convinced that he was allied to the Negro race, his whole soul rose up
against the idea of laying one straw in its way; if he belonged to the
race he would not join its oppressors. And yet his whole sympathy had
been so completely with them, that he felt that he had no feeling in
common with the North.
And as to the colored people, of course it never entered his mind to
join their ranks, and ally himself to them; he had always regarded them
as inferior; and this sudden and unwelcome revelation had not changed
the whole tenor of his thoughts and opinions.
But what he had to do must be done quickly; for in less than three days
his company would start for the front. To desert was to face death; to
remain was to wed dishonor. He surveyed the situation calmly and
bravely, and then resolved that he would face the perils of re-capture
rather than the contempt of his own soul.
While he was deciding, he heard Camilla's step in the passage; he opened
the door, and beckoned her to a seat, and said, very calmly, "I have
been weighing the whole matter in my mind, and I have concluded to leave
"How can you do it?" said Camilla. "I tremble lest you should be
discovered. Oh slavery! what a curse. Our fathers sowed the wind, and we
are reaping the whirlwind! What," continued she, as if speaking to
herself, "What are your plans? Have you any?"
"None, except to disguise myself and escape."
"As soon as possible."
"Suppose I call Miriam. She can help you. Shall I?"
Camilla called Miriam, and after a few moments consultation it was
decided that Louis should escape that night, and that Miriam should
prepare whatever was needed for his hasty flight.
"Don't trust your secret to any white person," said Miriam, "but if you
meet any of the colored people, just tell them that you is for the
Linkum soldiers, and it will be all right; we don't know all about this
war, but we feels somehow we's all mixed up in it."
And so with many prayers and blessings from Miriam, and sad farewells
from Camilla, he left his home to enter upon that perilous flight, the
whole current of his life changed.
It was in the early part of Winter; but the air was just as pleasant as
early Spring in that climate. Louis walked all that night, guiding
himself northward at night by the light of the stars and a little pocket
compass, Camilla had just given him before starting, and avoiding the
public roads during the day.
And thus he travelled for two days, when his lunch was exhausted, his
lips parched with thirst, and his strength began to fail.
Just in this hour of extremity he saw seated by the corner of a fence a
very black and homely-looking woman; there was something so gloomy and
sullen in her countenance that he felt repelled by its morose
expression. Still he needed food, and was very weary, and drawing near
he asked her if she would give him anything to eat.
"Ain't got nothing. De sojers done been here, and eat all up."
Louis drew near and whispered a few words in her ear, and immediately a
change passed over her whole countenance. The sullen expression turned
to a look of tenderness and concern. The harsh tones of her voice
actually grew mellow, and rising up in haste she almost sprang over the
fence, and said, "I'se been looking for you, if you's Northman you's
mighty welcome," and she set before him her humble store of provisions.
"Do you know," said Louis, "where I will find the Lincoln soldiers, or
where the secesh are encamped?"
"No," said she "but my old man's mighty smart, and he'll find out; you
come wid me."
Nothing doubting he went, and found the husband ready to do anything in
his power to help him.
"You's better not go any furder to-day. I'll get you a place to hide
where nobody can't find you, and then I'll pump Massa 'bout the sojers."
True to his word, he contrived to find out whether the soldiers were
"Massa," said he, scratching his head, and looking quite sober, "Massa,
hadn't I better hide the mules? Oh I's 'fraid the Linkum sojers will
come take 'em, cause dey gobbles up ebery ting dey lays dere hans on,
jis like geese. I yerd dey was coming; mus' I hide de mules?"
"No, Sam, the scalawags are more than a hundred miles away; they are
"Well, maybe, t'was our own Fedrate soldiers."
"No, Sam, our nearest soldiers are at Baton Rouge."
"All right Massa. I don't want to lose all dem fine mules."
As soon as it was convenient Sam gave Louis the desired information.
"Here," said Sam, when Louis was ready to start again, "is something to
break your fast, and if you goes dis way you musn't let de white folks
know what you's up to, but you trust dis," said he, laying his hand on
his own dark skin.
His new friend went with him several miles, and pointing him out the way
left him to pursue his journey onward. The next person he met with was a
colored man, who bowed and smiled, and took off his hat.
Louis returned the bow, and was passing on when he said, "Massa, 'scuse
me for speakin' to you, but dem secesh been hunting all day for a
'serter, him captin dey say."
Louis turned pale, but bracing his nerves he said, "Where are they?"
"Dey's in the house; is you he?"
"I am a Union man," Louis said, "and am trying to reach the Lincoln
"Den," said the man, "if dat am de fac I's got a place for you; come
with me," and Louis having learned to trust the colored people followed
him to a place of safety.
Soon it was noised abroad that another deserter had been seen in that
neighborhood, but the colored man would not reveal the whereabouts of
Louis. His master beat him severely, but he would let neither threats
nor torture wring the secret from his lips.
Louis saw the faithfulness of that man, and he thought with shame of his
former position to the race from whom such unswerving devotion could
spring. The hunt proving ineffectual, Louis after the search and
excitement had subsided resumed his journey Northward, meeting with
first one act of kindness and then another.
One day he had a narrow escape from the bloodhounds. He had trusted his
secret to a colored man who, faithful like the rest, was directing him
on his way when deep ominous sounds fell on their ears. The colored man
knew that sound too well; he knew something of the nature of
bloodhounds, and how to throw them off the track.
So hastily opening his pen-knife he cut his own feet so that the blood
from them might deepen the scent on one track, and throw them off from
It was a brave deed, and nobly done, and Louis began to feel that he had
never known them, and then how vividly came into his mind the words of
Dr. Charming: "After all we may be trampling on one of the best branches
of the human race." Here were men and women too who had been trampled on
for ages ready to break to him their bread, aye share with him their
One had taken the shoes from his feet and almost forced him to take
them. What was it impelled these people? What was the Union to them,
and who were Lincoln's soldiers that they should be so ready to
gravitate to the Union army and bring the most reliable information to
the American General?
Was it not the hope of freedom which they were binding as amulets around
their hearts? They as a race had lived in a measure upon an idea; it was
the hope of a deliverance yet to come. Faith in God had underlain the
life of the race, and was it strange if when even some of our
politicians did not or could not read the signs of the times aright
these people with deeper intuitions understood the war better than they
But at last Louis got beyond the borders of the confederacy, and stood
once more on free soil, appreciating that section as he had never done
"And I," said Minnie, "will help you pay it."
And so their young hearts had met at last, and with the approval and
hearty consent of Anna, Minnie and Louis were married.
It was decided that Minnie should spend the winter in Southern France,
and then in the spring they returned to America. On their arrival they
found the war still raging, and Louis was ready and anxious to benefit
that race to whom he felt he owed his life, and with whom he was
connected by lineage.
He had plenty of money, a liberal education, and could have chosen a
life of ease, but he was too ardent in his temperament, too decided in
his character, not to feel an interest in the great events which were
then transpiring in the country.
He made the acquaintance of some Anti-Slavery friends, and listened with
avidity to their doctrines; he attended a number of war meetings, and
caught the enthusiasm which inspired the young men who were coming from
valley, hill, and plain to fill up the broken ranks of the Union army.
Minnie, educated in peace principles, could not conscientiously
encourage him, and yet when she saw how the liberty of a whole race was
trembling in the balance she could not help wishing [success?] to the
army, nor find it in her heart to dissuade him from going.
Others had given their loved and cherished ones to camp and field. The
son of a dear friend had said to his mother, "I know I shall be killed,
but I go to free the slave." His presentiment had been met, for he had
been brought home in his shroud.
Another dear friend had said, "I have drawn my sword, and it shall never
sleep in its scabbard till the nation is free!" And she had heard that
summer of '64 how bravely the colored soldiers had stood at Fort Wagner,
when the storms of death were sweeping through the darkened sky. How
they summoned the world to see the grandeur of their courage and the
daring of their prowess.
How Corny had held with unyielding hand the nation's flag, and even when
he was wounded still held it in his grasp, and crawling from the scene
of action exclaimed, "I only did my duty, the old flag, I didn't let it
trail on the ground."
And she felt on reading it with tearful eyes, that if she belonged to
that race they had not shamed her by their want of courage; and so when
Louis came to her and told her his intention, she would not attempt to
oppose him, and when he was ready to depart, with many prayers, and sad
farewells, she gave him up to fight the battles of freedom, for such it
was to him, who went with every nerve in his right arm tingling to
strike a blow for liberty.
Hitherto Louis had known the race by their tenderness and compassion,
but the war gave him an opportunity to become acquainted with men brave
to do, brave to dare, and brave to die.
A colored man was the hero of one of the most tender, touching, and
tragic incidents of the war. A number of soldiers were in a boat exposed
to the fire of the rebels; on board was a colored man who had not
enrolled as a soldier, though his soul was full of sublime valor. The
bullets hissed and split the water, and the rowers tried to get out of
their reach, but all their efforts were in vain; the treacherous mud had
caught the boat, and some one must peril life and limb to shove that
boat into the water. And this man, the member of a doomed, a fated race,
who had been trodden down for ages, comprehending the danger, said,
"Some one must die to get us out of this, and it mout's well be me as
anybody; you are soldiers, and you can fight. If they kill me it is
And with these words he arose, gave the boat a push, received a number
of bullets, and died within two days after.
Louis acquitted himself bravely, and rapidly rose in favor with his
superior officers. To him the place of danger was the post of duty. He
often received letters from Minnie, but they were always hopeful; for
she had learned to look on the bright side of everything.
She tried to beguile him with the news of the neighborhood, and to
inspire him with bright hopes for the future; that future in which they
should clasp hands again and find their duty and their pleasure in
living for the welfare and happiness of _our_ race, as Minnie would
A race upon whose brows God had poured the chrism of a new era--a race
newly anointed with freedom.
Oh, how the enthusiasm of her young soul gathered around that work! She
felt it was no mean nor common privilege to be the pioneer of a new
civilization. If he who makes two blades of grass grow where only one
flourished before is a benefactor of the human race, how much higher
and holier must his or her work be who dispenses light, instead of
darkness, knowledge, instead of ignorance, and over the ruins of the
slave-pen and auction-block erects institutions of learning.
She would say in her letters to Louis that the South will never be
rightly conquered until another army should take the field, and that
must be an army of civilizers; the army of the pen, and not the sword.
Not the destroyers of towns and cities, but the builders of machines and
factories; the organizers of peaceful industry and honorable labor; and
as soon as she possibly could she intended to join that great army.
Sometimes Louis would shake his head doubtfully, and tell her that the
South was a very sad place to live in, and would be for years, and,
while he was willing to bear toil and privation in the cause he had
learned to love, yet he shrank from exposing her to the social ostracism
which she must bear whether she identified herself with the colored race
However, her brave young heart never failed her, but kept true to its
purpose to join that noble band who left the sunshine of their homes to
help build up a new South on the basis of a higher and better
Louis remained with the army till Lee had surrendered. The storm-cloud
of battle had passed away, and the thunders of contending batteries no
longer crashed and vibrated on the air.
And then he returned to Minnie, who still lived with Thomas Carpenter.
Very tender and joyous was their greeting. Louis thought he would rest
awhile and then arrange his affairs to return to the South. In this plan
he was heartily seconded by Minnie.
Thomas and Anna were sorry to part with her, but they knew that life was
not made for a holiday of ease and luxury, and so they had no words of
discouragement for them. If duty called them to the South it was right
that they should go; and so they would not throw themselves across the
purpose of their souls.
Before he located, Louis concluded to visit the old homestead, and to
present his beautiful young bride to his grandmother and Camilla.
He knew his adopted sister too well to fear that Minnie would fail to
receive from her the warmest welcome, and so with eager heart he took
passage on one of the Mississippi boats to New Orleans, intending to
stop in the city a few days, and send word to Camilla; but just as he
was passing from the levee to the hotel, he caught a glimpse of Camilla
walking down the street, and stopping the carriage, he alighted, and
spoke to her. She immediately recognized him, although his handsome face
had become somewhat bronzed by exposure in camp and field.
"Do not go to the hotel," she said, "you are heartily welcome, come home
"But my wife is along."
"Never mind, she's just as welcome as you are."
"But, like myself, she is colored."
"It does not matter. I should not think of your going to a hotel, while
I have a home in the city."
Camilla following, wondering how she would like the young wife. She had
great kindness and compassion for the race, but as far as social
equality was concerned, though she had her strong personal likings, yet,
except with Louis, neither custom nor education had reconciled her to
the maintenance of any equal, social relations with them.
"My wife," said Louis, introducing Camilla to Minnie. Camilla
immediately reached out her hand to the young wife, and gave her a
cordial greeting, and they soon fell into a pleasant and animated
conversation. Mutually they were attracted to each other, and when they
reached their destination, Minnie had begun to feel quite at home with
"How is Aunt Miriam, or rather, my grandmother?" said Louis.
"She is well, and often wonders what has become of her poor boy; but she
always has persisted in believing that she would see you again, and I
know her dear old eyes will run over with gladness. But things have
changed very much since we parted. We have passed through the fire since
I saw you, and our troubles are not over yet; but we are hoping for
better days. But we are at home. Let us alight."
And Louis and Minnie were ushered into a home whose quiet and refined
beauty were very pleasant to the eye, for Camilla had inherited from her
father his aesthetic tastes; had made her home and its surroundings
models of loveliness. Half a dozen varieties of the sweetest and
brightest roses clambered up the walls and arrayed them with a garb of
rare beauty. Jessamines breathed their fragrance on the air; magnolias
reared their stately heads and gladdened the eye with the exquisite
beauty of their flowers.
"This is an unexpected pleasure," said Camilla, removing Minnie's
bonnet, and gazing with unfeigned admiration upon her girlish face, "but
really some one must enjoy this pleasure besides myself."
Camilla rang the bell; a bright, smiling girl of about ten years
appeared. "Tell Miriam," she said, "to come; that her boy Louis is
Miriam appeared immediately, and throwing her arms around his neck, gave
vent to her feelings in a burst of joy. "I always said you'd come back.
I's prayed for you night and day, and I always believed I'd see you
afore I died, and now my word's come true. There's nothing like having
"Here's my wife," said Louis, turning to Minnie.
"Your wife; is you married, honey? Well I hopes you'll have a good
Minnie came forward and gave her hand to Miriam, as Louis said, "This is
A look of proud satisfaction passed over the old woman's face, and a
sudden joy lit up her eyes at these words of pleasant recognition.
"Ah, my child," said Miriam, "We's had a mighty heap of trouble since
you left. Them miserable secesh searched the house all over for you,
when you was gone, and they was mighty sassy; but we didn't mind that,
so they didn't ketch you. How did you get along? We was dreadfully
uneasy about you?"
Louis then told them of the kindness of the colored people, his
thrilling adventures, and hair-breadth escapes, and unfolded to them his
plans for the future.
Camilla listened with deep interest, and turning to Minnie, who had left
the peaceful sunshine of her mother's home to dwell in the midst of that
rough and rude state of society, she said, "I cannot help feeling sad to
see you exposing yourself to the dangers that lay around your path. The
few Southern women who have been faithful to the flag have had a sad
experience since the war. We have been ostracized and abused, and often
our husbands have been brutally murdered, in a number of instances when
they were faithful to the dear old flag. A friend of mine, who was an
angel of mercy to the Union prisoners, dressing their wounds and
carrying them relief, had a dear son, who always kept a Union flag at
home, which he regarded with almost religious devotion. This made him a
marked boy in the community, and during the war he was so cruelly
beaten, by some young rebels, that he never recovered, and colored women
who would wend their way under the darkness and cover of night to aid
our suffering soldiers, were in danger of being flogged, if detected,
and I understand that one did receive 75 lashes for such an offence, and
I heard of another who was shot down like a dog, for giving bread to a
prisoner, who said, 'Mammy, I am starving.' I think, (but I have no
right to dictate to you) had I been you, and my home in the North, that
I would have preferred staying there, where, to say the least, you could
have had pleasanter social relations. You and Louis are nearer the
white race than the colored. Why should you prefer the one to the
"Because," said Minnie, "the prejudices of society are so strong against
the people with whom I am connected on my mother's side, that I could
not associate with white people on equal terms, without concealing my
origin, and that I scorned to do. The first years of my life passed
without my knowing that I was connected with the colored race; but when
it was revealed to me by mother, who suddenly claimed me, at first I
shrank from the social ostracism to which that knowledge doomed me, and
it was some time before I was reconciled to the change. Oh, there are
lessons of life that we never learn in the bowers of ease. They must be
learned in the fire. For months life seemed to me a dull, sad thing, and
for a while I did not care whether I lived or died, the sunshine had
suddenly faded from my path, and the future looked so dark and
cheerless. But now, when I look back upon those days of gloom and
suffering, I think they were among the most fruitful of my life, for in
those days of pain and sorrow my resolution was formed to join the
fortunes of my mother's race, and I resolved to brighten her old age
with a joy, with a gladness she had never known in her youth. And how
could I have done that had I left her unrecognized and palmed myself
upon society as a white woman? And to tell you the truth, having passed
most of my life in white society, I did not feel that the advantages of
that society would have ever paid me for the loss of my self-respect, by
passing as white, when I knew that I was colored; when I knew that any
society, however cultivated, wealthy or refined, would not be a social
gain to me, if my color and not my character must be my passport of
admission. So, when I found out that I was colored, I made up my mind
that I would neither be pitied nor patronized by my former friends; but
that I would live out my own individuality and do for my race, as a
colored woman, what I never could accomplish as a white woman."
"I think I understand you," said Camilla; "and although I tremble for
you in the present state, yet you cannot do better than live out the
earnest purpose of your life. I feel that we owe a great debt to the
colored race, and I would aid and not hinder any hand that is ready to
help do the needed work. I have felt for many years that slavery was
wrong, and I am glad, from the bottom of my heart, that it has at last
been destroyed. And what are your plans, Louis?"
"We are going to open a school, and devote our lives to the upbuilding
of the future race. I intend entering into some plan to facilitate the
freedmen in obtaining homes of their own. I want to see this newly
enfranchised race adding its quota to the civilization of the land. I
believe there is power and capacity, only let it have room for exercise
and development. We demand no social equality, no supremacy of power.
All we ask is that the American people will take their Christless,
Godless prejudices out of the way, and give us a chance to grow, an
opportunity to accept life, not merely as a matter of ease and
indulgence, but of struggle, conquest, and achievement."
"Yes," said Camilla, "what you want and what the nation should be just
enough to grant you is fair play."
"Yes, that is what we want; to be known by our character, and not by our
color; to be permitted to take whatever position in society we are
fitted to fill. We do not want to be bolstered and propped up on the one
hand, nor to be crushed and trampled down on the other."
"Well, Louis, I think that we are coming to that. No, I cannot feel that
all this baptism of fire and blood through which we have passed has been
in vain. Slavery, as an institution, has been destroyed. Slavery, as an
idea, still lives, but I believe that we shall outgrow this spirit of
caste and proscription which still tarnishes our civilization, both
North and South."
After spending a few weeks with Camilla, Louis resolved to settle in the
town of L----n, and as soon as he had chosen his home and made
arrangements for the future, he sent for Ellen, and in a few days she
joined her dear children, as she called Louis and Minnie. Very pleasant
were the relations between Minnie and the newly freed people.
She had found her work, and they had found their friend. She did not
content herself with teaching them mere knowledge of books. She felt
that if the race would grow in the right direction, it must plant the
roots of progress under the hearthstone. She had learned from Anna those
womanly arts that give beauty, strength and grace to the fireside, and
it was her earnest desire to teach them how to make their homes bright
Louis, too, with his practical turn of mind, used his influence in
teaching them to be saving and industrious, and to turn their attention
towards becoming land owners. He attended their political meetings, not
to array class against class, nor to inflame the passions of either
side. He wanted the vote of the colored people not to express the old
hates and animosities of the plantation, but the new community of
interests arising from freedom.
For awhile the aspect of things looked hopeful. The Reconstruction Act,
by placing the vote in the hands of the colored man, had given him a new
position. There was a lull in Southern violence. It was a great change
from the fetters on his wrist to the ballot in his right hand, and the
uniform testimony of the colored people was, "We are treated better than
we were before."
Some of the rebels indulged in the hope that their former slaves would
vote for them, but they were learning the power of combination, and
having no political past, they were radical by position, and when
Southern State after State rolled up its majorities on the radical side,
then the vials of wrath were poured upon the heads of the colored
people, and the courage and heroism which might have gained them
recognition, perhaps, among heathens, made them more obnoxious here.
Still Louis and Minnie kept on their labors of love; their inner lives
daily growing stronger and broader, for they learned to lean upon a
strength greater than their own; and some of the most beautiful lessons
of faith and trust they had ever learned, they were taught in the lowly
cabins of these newly freed people.
Often would Minnie enter these humble homes and listen patiently to the
old story of wrong and suffering. Sympathizing with their lot, she would
give them counsel and help when needed. When she was leaving they would
look after her wistfully, and say,
"She mighty good; we's low down, but she feels for we."
And thus day after day of that earnest life was spent in deeds and words
of love and kindness.
But let us enter their pleasant home. Louis has just returned from a
journey to the city, and has brought with him the latest Northern
papers. He is looking rather sober, and Minnie, ready to detect the
least change of his countenance, is at his side.
"What is the matter?" Minnie asked, in a tone of deep concern.
"I am really discouraged."
"Look here," said he, handing her the _New York Tribune_. "State after
State has rolled up a majority against negro suffrage. I have been
trying to persuade our people to vote the Republican ticket, but to-day,
I feel like blushing for the party. They are weakening our hands and
strengthening those of the rebels."
"But, Louis, they were not Republicans who gave these majorities against
"But, darling, if large numbers of these Republicans stayed at home, and
let the election go by default, the result was just the same. Now every
rebel can throw it in our teeth and say, 'See your great Republican
party; they refuse to let the negro vote with them, but they force him
upon us. They don't do it out of regard to the negro, but only to spite
us.' I don't think, Minnie, that I am much given to gloomy forebodings,
but I see from the temper and actions of these rebels, that they are
encouraged and emboldened by these tidings from the North, and to-day
they are turning people out of work for voting the radical ticket. A
while ago they tried flattery and cajolery. You could hear it on almost
every side--'We are the best friends of the colored people.' Appeals
were made to the memories of the past; how they hunted and played
together, and searched for birds' nests in the rotten peach trees, and
when the colored people were not to be caught by such chaff, some were
trying to force them into submission by intimidation and starvation."
Just then a knock was heard at the door, and a dark man entered. There
was nothing in his appearance that showed any connection with the white
race. There was a tone of hopefulness in his speech, though his face
wore a somewhat anxious expression.
"Good morning, Mr. Jackson," said Louis, for, in deference to their
feelings he had dropped the "aunt" and "uncle" of bygone days.
"Good morning," replied the man, while a pleasant smile flitted over his
"How does the world use you?" said Louis.
"Well, times are rather bilious with me, but I am beginning to pick up a
little. I get a few boots and shoes to mend. I always used to go to the
mountains, and get plenty of work to do; but this year they wouldn't
give me the situation because I had joined the radicals."
"What a shame," said Louis; "these men who have always had their rights
of citizenship, seem to know so little of the claims of justice and
humanity, that they are ready to brow-beat and intimidate these people
for voting according to their best interests. And what saddens me most
is to see so many people of the North clasping hands with these rebels
and traitors, and to hear it repeated that these people are too ignorant
"Ignorant as they are," said Minnie, "during the war they knew more than
their masters; for they knew how to be true to their country, when their
masters were false to it, and rallied around the flag, when they were
trampling it under foot, and riddling it with bullets."
"Ah!" said uncle Richard, "I knows them of old. Last week some of them
offered me $500 if I would desert my party; but I wasn't going to
forsake my people. I have been in purty tight places this year. One
night when I come home my little girl said to me, 'Daddy, dere ain't no
bread in de house.' Now, that jist got me, but I begun to pray, and the
next day I found a quarter of a dollar, and then some of my colored
friends said it wouldn't do to let uncle Jack starve, and they made me
up seventy-five cents. My wife sometimes gets out of heart, but she
don't see very far off."
"I wish," said Louis, after Mr. Jackson had left, "that some of our
Northern men would only see the heroism of that simple-minded man. Here
he stands facing an uncertain future, no longer young in years, stripped
by slavery, his wife not in full sympathy with him, and yet with what
courage he refused the bribe."
"Yes," said Minnie, "$500 means a great deal for a man landless and
poor, with no assured support for the future. It means a comfortable
fire when the blasts of winter are roving around your home; it means
bread for the little ones, and medicine for the sick child, and little
start in life."
"But on the other hand," said Louis, "it meant betrayal of the interests
of his race, and I honor the faithfulness which shook his hands from
receiving the bribe and clasping hands politically with his life-long
oppressors. And I asked myself the question while he was telling his
story, which hand was the better custodian of the ballot, the white
hand that offered the bribe or the black one that refused it. I think
the time will come when some of the Anglo Saxon race will blush to
remember that when they were trailing the banner of freedom in the dust
black men were grasping it with earnest hands, bearing it aloft amid
persecution, pain, and death."
"Louis" said Minnie very seriously, "I think the nation makes one great
mistake in settling this question of suffrage. It seems to me that
everything gets settled on a partial basis. When they are reconstructing
the government why not lay the whole foundation anew, and base the right
of suffrage not on the claims of service or sex, but on the broader
basis of our common humanity."
"Because, Minnie, we are not prepared for it. This hour belongs to the
"But, Louis, is it not the negro woman's hour also? Has she not as many
rights and claims as the negro man?"
"Well, perhaps she has, but, darling, you cannot better the condition of
the colored men without helping the colored women. What elevates him
"All that may be true, but I cannot recognize that the negro man is the
only one who has pressing claims at this hour. To-day our government
needs woman's conscience as well as man's judgment. And while I would
not throw a straw in the way of the colored man, even though I know that
he would vote against me as soon as he gets his vote, yet I do think
that woman should have some power to defend herself from oppression, and
equal laws as if she were a man."
"But, really, I should not like to see you wending your way through
rough and brawling mobs to the polls."
"Because these mobs are rough and coarse I would have women vote. I
would soften the asperity of the mobs, and bring into our politics a
deeper and broader humanity. When I see intemperance send its floods of
ruin and shame to the homes of men, and pass by the grog-shops that are
constantly grinding out their fearful grist of poverty, ruin and death,
I long for the hour when woman's vote will be levelled against these
charnel houses; and have, I hope, the power to close them throughout the
length and breadth of the land."
"Why darling," said Louis, gazing admiringly upon the earnest enthusiasm
lighting up her face, "I shall begin to believe that you are a
"Surely, you would not have me a weak-minded woman in these hours of
"But, darling, I did not think that you were such an advocate for
"I think, Louis, that basing our rights on the ground of our common
humanity is the only true foundation for national peace and durability.
If you would have the government strong and enduring you should entrench
it in the hearts of both the men and women of the land."
"I think you are right in that remark," said Louis. And thus their
evenings were enlivened by pleasant and interesting conversations upon
the topics of the day.
Once when a union friend was spending an evening at their home Louis
entered, looking somewhat animated, and Minnie ever ready to detect his
moods and feelings, wanted to know what had happened.
"Oh, I have been to a wedding since I left home."
"And pray who was married?"
"I don't know whom to guess. One of our friends?"
"Was it Mr. Welland?"
"And who did he marry? Is she a Northern woman, and a staunch unionist?"
"Well, I can't imagine who she can be."
"Why he married Miss Henson, who sent you those beautiful flowers."
"Why, Louis, is it possible? Why she is a colored woman."
"But how came he to marry her?"
"For the same reason I married you, because he loved her?"
"Well," said the union man, who sat quietly listening, "I am willing to
give to the colored people every right that I possess myself, but as to
intermarrying with them, I am not prepared for that."
"I think," said Louis, "that marrying and social equality among the
races will simply regulate itself. I do not think under the present
condition of things that there will be any general intermarrying of the
races, but this idea of rooted antagonism of races to me is all
moonshine. I believe that what you call the instincts of race are only
the prejudices which are the result of custom and education, and if
there is any instinct in the matter it is rather the instinct of nature
to make a Semi-tropical race in a Semi-tropical climate. Welland told me
that he had met his wife when she was a slave, that he loved her then,
and would have bought her had it been in his power, but now that freedom
had come to her he was glad to have the privilege of making her his
wife. He is an Englishman by birth and he intends taking her home with
him to England when a favorable opportunity presents itself. And that is
far more honorable and manly than living together after the old order of
things. I think," said Louis facing the floor "that a cruel wrong was
done to Minnie and myself when life was given to us under conditions
that doomed us to hopeless slavery, and from which we were rescued only
by good fortune. I have heard some colored persons boasting of the white
blood, but I always feel like blushing for mine. Much as my father did
for me he could never atone for giving me life under the conditions he
"Never mind," said Minnie, "it all turned out for the best."
"Yes, Darling," said Louis, growing calmer, "for it gave me you. And
that was life's compensation. But the question of the intermingling of
the races in marriage is one that scarcely interests this question. The
question that presses upon us with the most fearful distinctness is how
can we make life secure in the South. I sometimes feel as if the very
air was busting with bayonets. There is no law here but the revolver.
There must be a screw loose somewhere, and this government that taxes
its men in peace and drafts them in war, ought to be wise enough to know
its citizens and strong enough to protect them."
But the pleasant home-life of Louis and Minnie was destined to be rudely
broken up. He began to receive threats and anonymous letters, such as
these: "Louis Lecroix, you are a doomed man. We are determined to
tolerate no scalawags, nor carpetbaggers among us. Beware, the sacred
serpent has hissed."
But Louis, brave and resolute, kept on the even tenor of his way,
although he never left his home without some forebodings that he tried
in vain to cast off. But his young wife being less in contact with the
brutal elements of society in that sin-cursed region, did not comprehend
the danger as Louis did, and yet she could not help feeling anxious for
her husband's safety.
They never parted without her looking after him with a sigh, and then
turning to her school, or whatever work or reading she had on her hand,
she would strive to suppress her heart's forebodings. But the storm
about to burst and to darken forever the sunshine of that home was
destined to fall on that fair young head.
Imperative business called Louis from home for one night. Minnie stood
at the door and said, "Louis, I hate to have you go. I have been feeling
so badly here lately, as if something was going to happen. Come home as
soon as you can."
"I will, darling," he said, kissing her tenderly again and again. "I do
feel rather loath to leave you, but death is every where, always lurking
in ambush. A man may escape from an earthquake to be strangled by a
hair. So, darling, keep in good spirits till I come."
Minnie stood at the door watching him till he was out of sight, and then
turning to her mother with a sigh, she said, "What a wretched state of
society. When he goes I never feel easy till he returns. I do wish we
had a government under which our lives would be just as safe as they
were in Pennsylvania."
Ellen felt very anxious, but she tried to hide her disquietude and keep
Minnie's spirits from sinking, and so she said, "This is a hard country.
We colored people have seen our hard times here."
"But, mother, don't you sometimes feel bitter towards these people, who
have treated you so unkindly?"
"No, Minnie; I used to, but I don't now. God says we must forgive, and
if we don't forgive, He won't forgive."
"But, mother, how did you get to feeling so?"
"Why, honey, I used to suffer until my heart was almost ready to burst,
but I learned to cast my burden on the Lord, and then my misery all
passed away. My burden fell off at the foot of the cross, and I felt
that my feet were planted on a rock."
"How wonderful," said Minnie, "is this faith! How real it is to them!
How near some of these suffering people have drawn to God!"
"Yes," said Ellen, "Mrs. Sumpter had a colored woman, to whom they were
real mean and cruel, and one day they whipped her and beat her on her
feet to keep her from running away; but she made up her mind to leave,
and so she packed up her clothes to run away. But before she started, I
believe she kneeled down and prayed, and asked what she should do, and
something reasoned with her and said, 'Stand still and see what I am
going to do for you,' and so she unpacked her clothes and stayed, and
now the best part of it was this, Milly's son had been away, and he
came back and brought with him money enough to buy his mother; for he
had been out begging money to buy her, and so Milly got free, and she
was mighty glad that she had stayed, because when he'd come back, if she
had been gone, he would not have known where to find her."
"Well, it is wonderful. Somehow these people have passed through the
darkness and laid their hands on God's robe of love and light, and have
been sustained. It seems to me that some things they see clearer through
"Mother," said Minnie, "As it is Saturday I will visit some of my
"Well, Minnie, I would; you look troubled, and may be you'll feel
"Yes, Mother, I often feel strengthened after visiting some of these
good old souls, and getting glimpses into their inner life. I sometimes
ask them, after listening to the story of their past wrongs, what has
sustained you? What has kept you up? And the almost invariable answer
has been the power of God. Some of these poor old souls, who have been
turned adrift to shift for themselves, don't live by bread alone; they
live by bread and faith in God. I asked one of them a few days since,
Are you not afraid of starving? and the answer was, Not while God
After Minnie left, she visited a number of lowly cabins. The first one
she entered was the home of an industrious couple who were just making a
start in life. The room in which Minnie was, had no window-lights, only
an aperture that supplied them with light, but also admitted the cold.
"Why don't you have window-lights?" said Minnie.
"Oh we must crawl before we walk;" and yet even in this humble home they
had taken two orphan children of their race, and were giving them food
and shelter. And this kindness to the orphans of their race Minnie
found to be a very praiseworthy practice among some of those people who
were not poorer than themselves.
The next cabin she entered was very neat, though it bore evidences of
poverty. The woman, in referring to the past, told her how her child had
been taken away when it was about two years old, and how she had lost
all trace of him, and would not know him if he stood in her presence.
"How did you feel?" said Minnie.
"I felt as I was going to my grave, but I thought if I wouldn't get
justice here, I would get it in another world."
"My husband," said another, "asked if God is a just God, how would sich
as slavery be, and something answered and said, 'sich shan't always be,'
and you couldn't beat it out of my husband's head that the Spirit didn't
speak to him."
And thus the morning waned away, and Minnie returned calmer than when
she had left. A holy peace stole over her mind. She felt that for high
and low, rich and poor, there was a common refuge. That there was no
corner so dark that the light of heaven could not shine through, and
that these people in their ignorance and simplicity had learned to look
upon God as a friend coming near to them in their sorrows, and taking
cognizance of their wants and woes.
Minnie loved to listen to these beautiful stories of faith and trust. To
her they were grand inspirations to faith and duty. Sometimes Minnie
would think, when listening to some dear aged saint, I can't teach these
people religion, I must learn from them.
Refreshed and strengthened she returned home and began to work upon a
dress for a destitute and orphaned child, and when night came she
retired quite early, being somewhat wearied with her day's work.
During his absence Louis had been among the freedmen in a new
settlement where he had lately established a school, where,
notwithstanding all their disadvantages, he was pleased to see evidences
of growth and progress.
There was an earnestness and growing manliness that commanded his
respect. They were beginning to learn the power of combination, and gave
but little heed to the cajoling words, "We are your best friends."
"Don't you think," Louis said to an intelligent freedman, "that the
rebels are your best friends?"
"I'll think so when I lose my senses."
"But you are ignorant," Louis said to another one. "How will you know
whom to vote for?"
"Well if I don't, I know how not to vote for a rebel."
"How do you know you didn't vote for a rebel?" said Louis to another one
who came from one of the most benighted districts.
"I voted for one of my own color," as if treason and a black skin were
In the evening Louis called the people together, and talked with them,
trying to keep them from being discouraged, for the times were evil, and
the days were very gloomy. The impeachment had failed. State after State
in the North had voted against enfranchising the colored man in their
midst. The spirit of the lost cause revived, murders multiplied. The Ku
Klux spread terror and death around. Every item of Northern meanness to
the colored people in their midst was a message of hope to the rebel
element of the South, which had only changed. Ballot and bullet had
failed, but another resort was found in secret assassination. Men
advocating equal rights did so at the peril of their lives, for violence
and murder were rampant in the land. Oh those dark and weary days when
politicians were flattering for place and murdered Union men were
sleeping in their bloody shrouds. Louis' courage did not desert him, and
he tried to nerve the hearts of those that were sinking with fear in
those days of gloom and terror. His advice to the people was, "Defend
your firesides if they are invaded, live as peaceably as you can, spare
no pains to educate your children, be saving and industrious, try to get
land under your feet and homes over your heads. My faith is very strong
in political parties, but, as the world has outgrown other forms of
wrong, I believe that it will outgrow this also. We must trust and hope
for better things." What else could he say? And yet there were times when
his words seemed to him almost like bitter mockery. Here was outrage
upon outrage committed upon these people, and to tell them to hope and
wait for better times, but seemed like speaking hollow words. Oh he
longed for a central administration strong enough to put down violence
and misrule in the South. If Johnson was clasping hands with rebels and
traitors was there no power in Congress to give, at least, security to
life? Must they wait till murder was organized into an institution, and
life and property were at the mercy of the mob? And, if so, would not
such a government be a farce, and such a civilization a failure?
With these reflections passing through his mind he fell asleep, but his
slumber was restless and disturbed. He dreamed (but it seemed so plain
to him, that he thought it was hardly a dream,) that Minnie came to his
side and pressed her lips to his, but they were very pale and very cold.
He reached out his hand to clasp her, but she was gone, but as she
vanished he heard her say, "My husband."
Restless and uneasy he arose; there was a strange feeling around his
soul, a great sinking and depression of his spirits. He could not
account for his feelings. He arose and walked the floor and looked up at
the heavens, but the night was very bright and beautiful, still he could
not shake off his strange and sad forebodings, and as soon as it was
light he started for home.
* * * * *
In the afternoon when the body had been prepared for the grave, the
sorrowing friends gathered around, tearfully noting the look of peace
and rest which had stolen over the pale, dead face, when all traces of
the death agony had passed away by the contraction of the muscles.
"That is just the way she looked yesterday," said a sad-eyed woman,
whose face showed traces of a deep "and fearful sorrow."
Louis drew near, for he was eager to hear any word that told him of
Minnie before death had robbed her of life, and him of peace. He came
near enough to hear, but not to interrupt the conversation.
"She was at my house yesterday, trying to comfort me, when I was telling
her how these Secesh used to _cruelize_ us."
"I was telling her about my poor daughter Amy, and what a sprightly,
pert piece she was, and how dem awful Secesh took my poor chile and
"Hung'd? Aunt Susan, Oh how was dat?" said half a dozen voices.
"Well, you see it was jist dis way. My darter Amy was a mighty nice
chile, and Massa could truss her wid any ting. So when de Linkum Sogers
had gone through dis place, Massa got her to move some of his tings over
to another place. Now when Amy seed de sojers had cum'd through she was
mighty glad, and she said in a kine of childish way, 'I'se so glad, I'm
gwine to marry a Linkum soger, and set up house-keeping for myself.' I
don't spect she wer in arnest 'bout marrying de sojer, but she did want
her freedom. Well, no body couldn't blame her for dat, for freedom's a
mighty good thing."
"I don't like it, I jist loves it," said one of Aunt Sue's auditors.
"And I does too, 'cause I'd rather live on bread and water than be back
again in de old place, but go on, Aunt Susan."
"Well, when she said dat, dat miserable old Heston----"
"Heston, I know dat wretch, I bound de debil's waiting for him now, got
his pitch fork all ready."
"Well, he had my poor girl tookened up, and poor chile, she was beat
shameful, and den dey had her up before der sogers and had her tried for
saying 'cendiary words, and den dey had my poor girl hung'd." And the
poor old woman bowed her head and rocked her body to and fro.
"Well," she continued after a moment's pause, "I was telling dat sweet
angel dere my trouble, and she was mighty sorry, and sat dere and cried,
and den she said, 'Mrs. Thomas, I hope in a better world dat you'll see
a joy according to all the days wherein you have seen sorrow!' Bless her
sweet heart, she's got in de shining gate afore me, but I bound to meet
her on de sunny banks of deliberance.
"And she was at my house yesterday," said another. "She cum'd to see if
I wanted any ting, and I tell'd her I would like to hab a little
flannel, 'cause I had the rheumatiz so bad, and she said I should hab
it. Den she asked me if I didn't like freedom best. I told her I would
rather live in a corn crib, and so I would. It is hard getting along,
but I hopes for better times. And den she took down de Bible, and read
wid dat sweet voice of hers, about de eagle stirring up her nest, and
den she said when de old eagle wanted her young to fly she broked up de
nest, and de little eagles didn't known what was de matter, but some how
dey didn't feel so cumfertable, 'cause de little twigs and sticks stuck
in 'em, and den dey would work dere wings, and dat was de way she said
we must do; de ole nest of slavery was broke up, but she said we mus'n't
get discouraged, but we must plume our wings for higher flying. Oh she
did tell it so purty. I wish I could say it like she did, it did my
heart so much good. Poor thing, she done gone and folded her wing in de
hebenly mansion. I wish I was 'long side of her, but I'se bound to meet
her, 'cause I'm gwine to set out afresh for heben and 'ternal glory."
And thus did these stricken children of sorrow unconsciously comfort the
desolate and almost breaking heart of Louis Lacroix. And their words of
love and hope were like rays of light shimmering amid the gloomy shadows
that overhung his suddenly darkened life.
Surely, thought Louis, if the blessings and tears of the poor and needy
and the prayers of him who was ready to perish would crystalize a path
to the glory-land, then Minnie's exit from earth must have been over a
bridge of light, above whose radiant arches hovering angels would
delight to bend.
While these thoughts were passing through his mind, a knock was heard at
the door, and Louis rose to open it, and then he saw a sight which shook
all his gathered firmness to tears. Headed by the eldest of Minnie's
scholars came a procession of children, each one bearing a bunch of
fairest and brightest flowers to spread around the couch of their
beloved teacher. Some kissed her, and others threw themselves beside the
corpse and wept bitter, burning tears. All shared in Louis' grief, for
all had lost a dear, good friend and loving instructor.
Louis summoned all the energies of his soul to bear his mournful loss.
It was his task to bow to the Chastener, and let his loved one go,
feeling that when he had laid her in the earth that he left her there in
the hope of a better resurrection.
Life with its solemn responsibilities still met him; its earnest duties
still confronted him, and, though he sometimes felt like a weary watcher
at the gates of death, longing to catch a glimpse of her shining robes
and the radiant light of her glorified face, yet her knew it was his
work to labor and to wait.
Sorrow and danger still surrounded his way, and he felt his soul more
strongly drawn out than ever to share the fortunes of the colored race.
He felt there were grand possibilities stored up in their future. The
name of the negro had been associated with slavery, ignorance and
poverty, and he determined as far as his influence could be exerted to
lift that name from the dust of the centuries and place it among the
most honored names in the history of the human race.
He still remained in the South, for Minnie's grave had made the South to
him a sacred place, a place in which to labor and to wait until peace
like bright dew should descend where carnage had spread ruin around, and
freedom and justice, like glorified angels, should reign triumphant
where violence and slavery had held their fearful carnival of shame and
crime for ages. Earnestly he set himself to bring around the hour when
Peace, white-robed and pure, should move
O'er rifts of ruin deep and wide,
When her hands should span with lasting love
The chasms rent by hate and pride.
And he was blessed in his labors of love and faith.
And now, in conclusion, may I not ask the indulgence of my readers for a
few moments, simply to say that Louis and Minnie are only ideal beings,
touched here and there with a coloring from real life?
But while I confess (not wishing to mis-represent the most lawless of
the Ku-Klux) that Minnie has only lived and died in my imagination, may
I not modestly ask that the lesson of Minnie shall have its place among
the educational ideas for the advancement of our race?
The greatest want of our people, if I understand our wants aright, is
not simply wealth, nor genius, nor mere intelligence, but live men, and
earnest, lovely women, whose lives shall represent not a "stagnant mass,
but a living force."
We have wealth among us, but how much of it is ever spent in building up
the future of the race? in encouraging talent, and developing genius? We
have intelligence, but how much do we add to the reservoir of the
world's thought? We have genius among us, but how much can it rely upon
the colored race for support?
Take even the _Christian Recorder_; where are the graduates from
colleges and high school whose pens and brains lend beauty, strength,
grace and culture to its pages?
If, when their school days are over, the last composition shall have
been given at the examination, will not the disused faculties revenge
themselves by rusting? If I could say it without being officious and
intrusive, I would say to some who are about to graduate this year, do
not feel that your education is finished, when the diploma of your
institution is in your hands. Look upon the knowledge you have gained
only as a stepping stone to a future, which you are determined shall
grandly contrast with the past.
While some of the authors of the present day have been weaving their
stories about white men marrying beautiful quadroon girls, who, in so
doing were lost to us socially, I conceived of one of that same class to
whom I gave a higher, holier destiny; a life of lofty self-sacrifice and
beautiful self-consecration, finished at the post of duty, and rounded
off with the fiery crown of martyrdom, a circlet which ever changes into
a diadem of glory.
The lesson of Minnie's sacrifice is this, that it is braver to suffer
with one's own branch of the human race,--to feel, that the weaker and
the more despised they are, the closer we will cling to them, for the
sake of helping them, than to attempt to creep out of all identity with
them in their feebleness, for the sake of mere personal advantages, and
to do this at the expense of self-respect, and a true manhood, and a
truly dignified womanhood, that with whatever gifts we possess, whether
they be genius, culture, wealth or social position, we can best serve
the interests of our race by a generous and loving diffusion, than by a
narrow and selfish isolation which, after all, is only one type of the
barbarous and anti-social state.
1. The following two paragraphs are for the most part illegible. I have
reproduced below as much of the text as can be deciphered.
The whole South is in a state of excitement [ ... ]
[ ] nurture
[ ] and re-
[ ] high
[ ] be for
[ ] they are [ ] and only remember they are rebels[? ].
They [urge the agenda?] and their brothers in their
[mistaken?] folly. Like the women of Carthage [ ] ancient
and magnificent city was [ ]
they were ready to sacrifice their [ ] and if
need be would have cut [ but it have been] so
dear to their hearts [ ]
2. The original reads "Josiah."
3. The original reads "Joseph."
4. The original reads "Josiah."
5. The original reads "Josiah."
6. The original reads "Anna."
7. The original reads "Minnie."
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