Our World, or, The Slaveholders Daughter
F. Colburn Adams
Part 9 out of 12
of old mas'r. Know dat Buckra he sharp feller. Get e' eye on ye, and
make up 'e mind what 'e gwine to give fo'h 'um, quicker!" says the
Graspum has invited his customer, Mr. Grabguy, into his more
comfortable counting-room, where, as Nicholas is led in, they may be
found discussing the rights of the south, as guaranteed by the
federal constitution. The south claim rights independent of the
north; and those rights are to secede from the wrongs of the north
whenever she takes into her head the very simple notion of carrying
them out. Graspum, a man of great experience, whose keen sense of
justice is made keener by his sense of practical injustice,--thinks
the democracy of the south was never fully understood, and that the
most sure way of developing its great principles is by hanging every
northerner, whose abolition mania is fast absorbing the liberties of
the country at large.
"That's the feller!" says Mr. Grabguy, as the negro leads Nicholas
into his presence, and orders him to keep his hands down while the
gentleman looks at him. "Stubborn sticks out some, though, I
reckon," Mr. Grabguy adds, rather enthusiastically. "Absalom! Isaac!
Joe! eh? what's your name?"
"He's a trump!" interposes Graspum, rubbing his hands together, and
giving his head a significant shake.
"Nicholas, they call me, master," answers the boy, pettishly.
Mr. Grabguy takes him by the arms, feels his muscle with great care
and caution, tries the elasticity of his body by lifting him from
the floor by his two ears. This is too much, which the child
announces with loud screams. "Stuff! out and out," says Mr. Grabguy,
patting him on the back, in a kind sort of way. At the same time he
gives a look of satisfaction at Graspum.
"Everything a man wants, in that yaller skin," returns that
methodical tradesman, with a gracious nod.
"Black lightnin' eyes-long wiry black hair, a skin full of Ingin
devil, and a face full of stubborn," Mr. Grabguy discourses, as he
contemplates the article before him.
"Well, now, about the lowest figure for him?" he continues, again
looking at Graspum, and waiting his reply. That gentleman, drawing
his right hand across his mouth, relieves it of the virtueless
deposit, and supplies it with a fresh quid.
"Sit down, neighbour Grabguy," he says, placing a chair beside him.
They both sit down; the negro attendant stands a few feet behind
them: the boy may walk a line backward and forward. "Say the word!
You know I'll have a deal o' trouble afore breaking the feller in,"
Grabguy exclaims, impatiently.
Graspum is invoking his philosophy. He will gauge the point of value
according to the coming prospect and Mr. Grabguy's wants. "Well,
now, seeing it's you, and taking the large amount of negro property
I have sold to your distinguished father into consideration-I hope
to sell forty thousand niggers yet, before I die-he should bring six
hundred." Graspum lays his left hand modestly on Mr. Grabguy's right
arm, as that gentleman rather starts with surprise. "Take the
extraordinary qualities into consideration, my friend; he's got a
head what's worth two hundred dollars more nor a common nigger,--that
is, if you be going to turn it into knowledge profit. But that
wasn't just what I was going to say" (Graspum becomes profound, as
he spreads himself back in his chair). "I was going to say, I'd let
you-you mustn't whisper it, though-have him for five hundred and
twenty; and he's as cheap at that as bull-dogs at five dollars."
Grabguy shakes his head: he thinks the price rather beyond his mark.
He, however, has no objection to chalking on the figure; and as both
are good democrats, they will split the difference.
Graspum, smiling, touches his customer significantly with his elbow.
"I never do business after that model," he says. "Speaking of
bull-dogs, why, Lord bless your soul, Sam Beals and me traded
t'other day: I gin him a young five-year old nigger for his hound,
and two hundred dollars to boot. Can't go five hundred and twenty
for that imp, nohow! Could o' got a prime nigger for that, two years
"Wouldn't lower a fraction! He's extraordinary prime, and'll
increase fifty dollars a year every year for ten years or more."
Mr. Grabguy can't help that: he is merely in search of an article
capable of being turned into a mechanic, or professional
man,--anything to suit the exigencies of a free country, in which
such things are sold. And as it will require much time to get the
article to a point where it'll be sure to turn the pennies back,
perhaps he'd as well let it alone: so he turns the matter over in
his head. And yet, there is a certain something about the "young
imp" that really fascinates him; his keen eye, and deep sense of
nigger natur' value, detect the wonderful promise the article holds
"Not one cent lower would I take for that chap. In fact, I almost
feel like recanting now," says Graspum, by way of breaking the
"Well, I'll bid you good day," says the other, in return, affecting
preparation to leave. He puts out his hand to Graspum, and with a
serious look desires to know if that be the lowest figure.
"Fact! Don't care 'bout selling at that. Couldn't have a better
investment than to keep him!"
Mr. Grabguy considers and reconsiders the matter over in his mind;
paces up and down the floor several times, commences humming a tune,
steps to the door, looks up and down the street, and says, "Well,
I'll be moving homeward, I will."
"Like yer custom, that I do; but then, knowing what I can do with
the fellow, I feels stiff about letting him go," interposes Graspum,
with great indifference, following to the door, with hands extended.
This is rather too insinuating for Mr. Grabguy. Never did piece of
property loom up so brightly, so physically and intellectually
valuable. He will return to the table. Taking his seat again, he
draws forth a piece of paper, and with his pencil commences figuring
upon it. He wants to get at the cost of free and slave labour, and
the relative advantages of the one over the other. After a deal of
multiplying and subtracting, he gives it up in despair. The fine
proportions of the youth before him distract his very brain with
contemplation. He won't bother another minute; figures are only
confusions: so far as using them to compute the relative value of
free and slave labour, they are enough to make one's head ache.
"Would ye like to go with me, boy? Give ye enough to eat, but make
ye toe the mark!" He looks at Nicholas, and waits a reply.
"Don't matter!" is the boy's answer. "Seems as if nobody cared for
me; and so I don't care for nobody."
"That's enough," he interrupts, turning to Graspum: "there's a
showing of grit in that, eh?"
"Soon take it out," rejoins that methodical gentleman. "Anyhow, I've
a mind to try the fellow, Graspum. I feel the risk I run; but I
don't mind-it's neck or nothin here in the south! Ye'll take a long
note, s'pose? Good, ye know!"
Graspum motions his head and works his lips, half affirmatively.
"Good as old gold, ye knows that," insinuates Mr. Grabguy.
"Yes, but notes aint cash; and our banks are shut down as tight as
steel traps. At all events make it bankable, and add the interest
for six months. It's against my rules of business, though," returns
Graspum, with great financial emphasis.
After considerably more very nice exhibitions of business tact, it
is agreed that Mr. Grabguy takes the "imp" at five hundred and
twenty dollars, for which Graspum accepts his note at six months,
with interest. Mr. Grabguy's paper is good, and Graspum considers it
equal to cash, less the interest. The "imp" is now left in charge of
the negro, while the two gentlemen retire to the private
counting-room, where they will settle the preliminaries.
A grave-looking gentleman at a large desk is ordered to make the
entry of sale; as the initiate of which he takes a ponderous ledger
from the case, and, with great coolness, opens its large leaves.
"Nicholas, I think his name is?" he ejaculates, turning to Graspum,
who, unconcernedly, has resumed his seat in the great arm-chair.
"Yes; but I suppose it must be Nicholas Grabguy, now," returns
Graspum, bowing to his book-keeper, and then turning to Mr. Grabguy.
"One minute, if you please!" rejoins that gentlemen, as the sedate
book-keeper turns to his page of N's in the index. Mr. Grabguy will
consider that very important point for a few seconds.
"Better drop the Marston, as things are. A good many high feeling
connections of that family remain; and to continue the name might be
to give pain." This, Graspum says, he only puts out as a suggestion.
"Enter him as you say, gentlemen," interposes the clerk, who will
mend his pen while waiting their pleasure.
Mr. Grabguy runs his right hand several times across his forehead,
and after a breathless pause, thinks it as well not to connect his
distinguished name with that of the nigger,--not just at this moment!
Being his property, and associating with his business and people,
that will naturally follow. "Just enter him, and make out the bill
of sale describing him as the boy Nicholas," he adds.
"Boy Nicholas!" reiterates the book-keeper, and straight-way enters
his name, amount fetched, to whom sold, and general description, on
his files. In a few minutes more-Graspum, in his chair of state, is
regretting having sold so quick,--Mr. Grabguy is handed his bill of
sale, duly made out. At the same time, that sedate official places
the note for the amount into Graspum's hands. Graspum examines it
minutely, while Mr. Grabguy surveys the bill of sale. "Mr. Benson,
my clerk here, does these things up according to legal tenour; he,
let me inform you, was brought up at the law business, and was
rather celebrated once; but the profession won't pay a man of his
ability," remarks Graspum, with an "all right!" as he lays the note
of hand down for Mr. Grabguy's signature.
Mr. Benson smiles in reply, and adjusts the very stiffly starched
corners of his ponderous shirt collar, which he desires to keep well
closed around his chin. "An honourable man, that's true, sir, can't
live honestly by the law, now-a-days," he concludes, with measured
sedateness. He will now get his bill-book, in which to make a record
of the piece of paper taken in exchange for the human 'imp.'
"Clap your name across the face!" demands Graspum; and Grabguy
seizes a pen, and quickly consummates the bargain by inscribing his
name, passing it to Mr. Benson, and, in return, receiving the bill
of sale, which he places in his breast pocket. He will not trouble
Mr. Benson any further; but, if he will supply a small piece of
paper, Mr. Grabguy will very kindly give the imp an order, and send
him to his workshop.
"Will the gentleman be kind enough to help himself," says Mr.
Benson, passing a quire upon the table at which Mr. Grabguy sits.
"I'll trim that chap into a first-rate mechanic," says Mr. Grabguy,
as he writes,--"I have bought the bearer, Nicholas, a promising chap,
as you will see. Take him into the shop and set him at something, if
it is only turning the grindstone; as I hav'nt made up my mind
exactly about what branch to set him at. He's got temper-you'll see
that in a minute, and will want some breakin in, if I don't calklate
'rong." This Mr. Grabguy envelopes, and directs to his master
mechanic. When all things are arranged to his satisfaction, Nicholas
is again brought into his presence, receives an admonition, is told
what he may expect if he displays his bad temper, is presented with
the note, and despatched, with sundry directions, to seek his way
alone, to his late purchaser's workshop.
"Come, boy! ain't you going to say 'good-by' to me 'afore you go? I
hav'nt been a bad master to you," says Graspum, putting out his
"Yes, master," mutters the child, turning about ere he reaches the
door. He advances towards Graspum, puts out his little hand; and in
saying "good by, master," there is so much childish simplicity in
his manner that it touches the tender chord embalmed within that
iron frame. "Be a good little fellow!" he says, his emotions rising.
How strong are the workings of nature when brought in contact with
unnatural laws! The monster who has made the child wretched--who has
for ever blasted its hopes, shakes it by the hand, and says--"good
by, little 'un!" as it leaves the door to seek the home of a new
purchaser. How strange the thoughts invading that child's mind, as,
a slave for life, it plods its way through the busy thoroughfares!
Forcibly the happy incidents of the past are recalled; they are
touching reclections-sweets in the dark void of a slave's life; but
to him no way-marks, to measure the happy home embalmed therein, are
WORKINGS OF THE SLAVE SYSTEM.
DEMOCRACY! thy trumpet voice for liberty is ever ringing in our
ears; but thy strange workings defame thee. Thou art rampant in love
of the "popular cause," crushing of that which secures liberty to
all; and, whilst thou art great at demolishing structures, building
firm foundations seems beyond thee, for thereto thou forgetteth to
lay the cornerstone well on the solid rock of principle. And, too,
we love thee when thou art moved and governed by justice; we hate
thee when thou showest thyself a sycophant to make a mad mob serve a
pestilential ambition. Like a young giant thou graspest power; but,
when in thy hands, it becomes a means of serving the baser ends of
factious demagogues. Hypocrite! With breath of poison thou hast sung
thy songs to liberty while making it a stepping-stone to injustice;
nor hast thou ever ceased to wage a tyrant's war against the rights
of man. Thou wearest false robes; thou blasphemest against heaven,
that thy strength in wrong may be secure-yea, we fear thy end is
fast coming badly, for thou art the bastard offspring of
Republicanism so purely planted in our land. Clamour and the lash
are thy sceptres, and, like a viper seeking its prey, thou charmest
with one and goadeth men's souls with the other. Having worked thy
way through our simple narrative, show us what thou hast done. A
father hast thou driven within the humid wall of a prison, because
he would repent and acknowledge his child. Bolts and bars, in such
cases, are democracy's safeguards; but thou hast bound with heavy
chains the being who would rise in the world, and go forth healing
the sick and preaching God's word. Even hast thou turned the hearts
of men into stone, and made them weep at the wrong thou gavest them
power to inflict. That bond which God gave to man, and charged him
to keep sacred, thou hast sundered for the sake of gold,--thereby
levelling man with the brutes of the field. Thou hast sent two
beautiful children to linger in the wickedness of slavery,--to die
stained with its infamy! Thou hast robbed many a fair one of her
virtue, stolen many a charm; but thy foulest crime is, that thou
drivest mothers and fathers from the land of their birth to seek
shelter on foreign soil. Would to God thou could'st see thyself as
thou art,--make thy teachings known in truth and justice,--cease to
mock thyself in the eyes of foreign tyrants, nor longer serve
despots who would make thee the shield of their ill-gotten power!
Within those malarious prison walls, where fast decays a father who
sought to save from slavery's death the offspring he loved, will be
found a poor, dejected negro, sitting at the bedside of the
oppressed man, administering to his wants. His friendship is true
unto death,--the oppressed man is his angel, he will serve him at
the sacrifice of life and liberty. He is your true republican, the
friend of the oppressed! Your lessons of democracy, so swelling, so
boastfully arrayed for a world's good, have no place in his
soul,--goodness alone directs his examples of republicanism. But we
must not be over venturous in calling democracy to account, lest we
offend the gods of power and progress. We will, to save ourselves,
return to our narrative.
Marston, yet in gaol, stubbornly refuses to take the benefit of the
act,--commonly called the poor debtor's act. He has a faithful friend
in Daddy Bob, who has kept his ownership concealed, and, with the
assistance of Franconia, still relieves his necessities. Rumour,
however, strongly whispers that Colonel M'Carstrow is fast gambling
away his property, keeping the worst of company, and leading the
life of a debauchee,--which sorely grieves his noble-hearted wife. In
fact, Mrs. Templeton, who is chief gossip-monger of the city,
declares that he is more than ruined, and that his once beautiful
wife must seek support at something.
An honest jury of twelve free and enlightened citizens, before the
honourable court of Sessions, have declared Romescos honourably
acquitted of the charge of murder, the fatal blow being given in
The reader will remember that in a former chapter we left the stolen
clergyman (no thanks to his white face and whiter necked brethren of
the profession), on the banks of the Mississippi, where, having
purchased his time of his owner, he is not only a very profitable
investment to that gentleman, but of great service on the
neighbouring plantations. Earnest in doing good for his fellow
bondmen, his efforts have enlisted for him the sympathy of a
generous-hearted young lady, the daughter of a neighbouring planter.
Many times had he recounted Mrs. Rosebrook's friendship for him to
her, and by its influence succeeded in opening the desired
communication. Mrs. Rosebrook had received and promptly answered all
his fair friend's letters: the answers contained good news for
Harry; she knew him well, and would at once set about inducing her
husband to purchase him. But here again his profession interposed a
difficulty, inasmuch as its enhancing the value of the property to
so great an extent would make his master reluctant to part with him.
However, as nothing could be more expressive of domestic attachment
than the manner in which the Rosebrooks studied each other's
feelings for the purpose of giving a more complete happiness, our
good lady had but to make known her wish, and the deacon stood ready
to execute it. In the present case he was but too glad of the
opportunity of gratifying her feelings, having had the purchase of a
clergyman in contemplation for some months back. He sought Harry
out, and, after bartering (the planter setting forth what a deal of
money he had made by his clergyman) succeeded in purchasing him for
fourteen hundred dollars, the gentleman producing legalised papers
of his purchase, and giving the same. As for his running away, there
is no evidence to prove that; nor will Harry's pious word be taken
in law to disclose the kidnapping. M'Fadden is dead,--his estate has
long since been administered upon; Romescos murdered the proof, and
swept away the dangerous contingency.
Here, then, we find Harry-we must pass over the incidents of his
return back in the old district-about to administer the Gospel to
the negroes on the Rosebrook estates. He is the same good,
generous-hearted black man he was years ago. But he has worked hard,
paid his master a deal of money for his time, and laid up but little
for himself. His clothes, too, are somewhat shabby, which, in the
estimation of the Rosebrook negroes-who are notoriously aristocratic
in their notions-is some detriment to his ministerial character. At
the same time, they are not quite sure that Harry Marston, as he
must now be called, will preach to please their peculiar mode of
thinking. Master and missus have given them an interest in their
labour; and, having laid by a little money in missus's savings bank,
they are all looking forward to the time when they will have gained
their freedom, according to the promises held out. With these
incitements of renewed energy they work cheerfully, take a deep
interest in the amount of crop produced, and have a worthy regard
for their own moral condition. And as they will now pay tribute for
the support of a minister of the Gospel, his respectability is a
particular object of their watchfulness. Thus, Harry's first
appearance on the plantation, shabbily dressed, is viewed with
distrust. Uncle Bradshaw, and old Bill, the coachman, and Aunt
Sophy, and Sophy's two gals, and their husbands, are heard in
serious conclave to say that "It won't do!" A clergy gentleman, with
no better clothes than that newcomer wears, can't preach good and
strong, nohow! Dad Daniel is heard to say. Bradshaw shakes his white
head, and says he's goin' to have a short talk with master about it.
Something must be done to reconcile the matter.
Franconia and good Mrs. Rosebrook are not so exacting: the latter
has received him with a warm welcome, while the former, her heart
bounding with joy on hearing of his return, hastened into his
presence, and with the affection of a child shook, and shook, and
shook his hand, as he fell on his knees and kissed hers. "Poor
Harry!" she says, "how I have longed to see you, and your poor wife
"Ah, Franconia, my young missus, it is for them my soul fears."
"But we have found out where they are," she interrupts.
"Where they are!" he reiterates.
"Indeed we have!" Franconia makes a significant motion with her
"It's true, Harry; and we'll see what can be done to get them back,
one of these days," adds Mrs. Rosebrook, her soul-glowing eyes
affirming the truth of her assertion. They have come out to spend
the day at the plantation, and a happy day it is for those whose
hearts they gladden with their kind words. How happy would be our
south-how desolate the mania for abolition--if such a comity of good
feeling between master and slaves existed on every plantation! And
there is nothing to hinder such happy results of kindness.
"When that day comes, missus,--that day my good old woman and me will
be together again,--how happy I shall be! Seems as if the regaining
that one object would complete my earthly desires. And my
children,--how much I have felt for them, and how little I have
said!" returns Harry, as, seated in the veranda of the plantation
mansion, the two ladies near him are watching his rising emotions.
"Never mind, Harry," rejoins Franconia; "it will all be well, one of
these days. You, as well as uncle, must bear with trouble. It is a
world of trouble and trial." She draws her chair nearer him, and
listens to his narrative of being carried off,--his endeavours to
please his strange master down in Mississippi,--the curious manner in
which his name was changed,--the sum he was compelled to pay for his
time, and the good he effected while pursuing the object of his
mission on the neighbouring plantations. Hope carried him through
every trial,--hope prepared his heart for the time of his
delivery,--hope filled his soul with gratitude to his Maker, and
hope, which ever held its light of freedom before him, inspired him
with that prayer he so thankfully bestowed on the head of his
benefactor, whose presence was as the light of love borne to him on
Moved to tears by his recital of past struggles, and the expression
of natural goodness exhibited in the resignation with which he bore
them, ever praying and trusting to Him who guides our course in
life, Franconia in turn commenced relating the misfortunes that had
befallen her uncle. She tells him how her uncle has been reduced to
poverty through Lorenzo's folly, and Graspum, the negro dealer's
undiscoverable mode of ensnaring the unwary. He has been importuned,
harassed, subjected to every degradation and shame, scouted by
society for attempting to save those beautiful children, Annette and
Nicholas, from the snares of slavery. And he now welters in a
debtor's prison, with few save his old faithful Daddy Bob for
"Master, and my old companion, Daddy Bob!" exclaims Harry,
interrupting her at the moment.
"Yes: Daddy takes care of him in his prison cell."
"How often old Bob's expressive face has looked upon me in my
dreams! how often he has occupied my thoughts by day!"
"Goodness belongs to him by nature."
"And master is in prison; but Daddy is still his friend and
faithful! Well, my heart sorrows for master: I know his proud heart
bleeds under the burden," he says, shaking his head sorrowfully.
There is more sympathy concealed beneath that black exterior than
words can express. He will go and see master; he will comfort him
within his prison walls; he will rejoin Daddy Bob, and be master's
friend once more. Mrs. Rosebrook, he is sure, will grant him any
privilege in her power. That good lady is forthwith solicited, and
grants Harry permission to go into the city any day it suits his
convenience-except Sunday, when his services are required for the
good of the people on the plantation. Harry is delighted with this
token of her goodness, and appoints a day when he will meet Miss
Franconia,--as he yet calls her,--and go see old master and Daddy. How
glowing is that honest heart, as it warms with ecstasy at the
thought of seeing "old master," even though he be degraded within
While this conversation is going on in the veranda, sundry aged
members of negro families--aunties and mammies--are passing backwards
and forwards in front of the house, casting curious glances at the
affection exhibited for the new preacher by "Miss Franconia." The
effect is a sort of reconciliation of the highly aristocratic
objections they at first interposed against his reception. "Mus' be
somebody bigger dan common nigger preacher; wudn't cotch Miss
Frankone spoken wid 'um if 'um warn't," says Dad Timothy's Jane, who
is Uncle Absalom's wife, and, in addition to having six coal-black
children, as fat and sleek as beavers, is the wise woman of the
cabins, around whom all the old veteran mammies gather for
explanations upon most important subjects. In this instance she is
surrounded by six or seven grave worthies, whose comical faces add
great piquancy to the conclave. Grandmumma Dorothy, who declares
that she is grandmother to she don't know how much little growing-up
property, will venture every grey hair in her head-which is as white
as the snows of Nova Scotia-that he knows a deal o' things about the
gospel, or he wouldn't have missus for such a close acquaintance.
"But his shirt ain't just da'h fashon fo'h a 'spectable minister ob
de gospel," she concludes, with profound wisdom evinced in her
Aunt Betsy, than whose face none is blacker, or more comically
moulded, will say her word; but she is very profound withal. "Reckon
how tain't de clo' what make e' de preacher tink good" (Aunty's lip
hangs seriously low the while). "Lef missus send some calico fum
town, and dis old woman son fix 'um into shirt fo'h him," she says,
with great assurance of her sincerity.
Harry-Mister Harry, as he is to be called by the people-finds
himself comfortably at home; the only drawback, if such it may be
called, existing in the unwillingness exhibited on the part of one
of the overseers to his being provided with apartments in the
basement of the house instead of one of the cabins. This, however,
is, by a few conciliatory words from Mrs. Rosebrook, settled to the
satisfaction of all. Harry has supper provided for him in one of the
little rooms downstairs, which he is to make his Study, and into
which he retires for the night.
When daylight has departed, and the very air seems hanging in
stillness over the plantation, a great whispering is heard in Dad
Daniel's cabin-the head quarters, where grave matters of state, or
questions affecting the moral or physical interests of the
plantation, are discussed, and Dad Daniel's opinion held as most
learned-the importance of which over the other cabins is denoted by
three windows, one just above the door being usually filled with
moss or an old black hat. Singular enough, on approaching the cabin
it is discovered that Daniel has convoked a senate of his sable
brethren, to whom he is proposing a measure of great importance.
"Da'h new precher, gemen! is one ob yer own colur-no more Buckra
what on'e gib dat one sarmon,--tank God fo'h dat!-and dat colour
geman, my children, ye must look up to fo'h de word from de good
book. Now, my bredren, 'tis posin' on ye dat ye make dat geman
'spectable. I poses den, dat we, bredren, puts in a mite apiece, and
gib dat ar' geman new suit ob fus' bes'clof', so 'e preach fresh and
clean," Dad Daniel is heard to say. And this proposition is carried
out on the following morning, when Daddy Daniel-his white wool so
cleanly washed, and his face glowing with great
good-nature-accompanied by a conclave of his sable companions,
presents himself in the front veranda, and demands to see "missus."
That all-conciliating personage is ever ready to receive
deputations, and on making her appearance, and receiving the usual
salutations from her people, receives from the hand of that
venerable prime minister, Daddy Daniel, a purse containing twelve
dollars and fifty cents. It is the amount of a voluntary
contribution-a gift for the new preacher. "Missus" is requested,
after adding her portion, to expend it in a suit of best black for
the newcomer, whom they would like to see, and say "how de, to."
Missus receives this noble expression of their gratitude with thanks
and kind words. Harry is summoned to the veranda, where, on making
his appearance, he is introduced to Dad Daniel, who, in return,
escorts him down on the plazza where numbers of the people have
assembled to receive him. Here, with wondrous ceremony, Dad Daniel
doing the polite rather strong, he is introduced to all the
important people of the plantation. And such a shaking of hands,
earnest congratulations, happy "how des," bows, and joyous laughs,
as follow, place the scene so expressive of happiness beyond the
power of pen to describe. Then he is led away, followed by a train
of curious faces, to see Dad Daniel's neatly-arranged cabin; after
which he will see plantation church, and successively the people's
cabins. To-morrow evening, at early dusk, it is said, according to
invitation and arrangement, he will sup on the green with his sable
brethren, old and young, and spice up the evening's entertainment
with an exhortation; Dad Daniel, as is his custom, performing the
duties of deacon.
Let us pass over this scene, and-Harry having ingratiated himself
with the plantation people, who are ready to give him their
distinguished consideration-ask the reader to follow us through the
description of another, which took place a few days after.
Our clergyman has delivered to his sable flock his first sermon,
which Dad Daniel and his compatriots pronounce great and good,--just
what a sermon should be. Such pathos they never heard before; the
enthusiasm and fervency with which it was delivered inspires
delight; they want no more earnestness of soul than the fervency
with which his gesticulations accompanied the words; and now he has
obtained a furlough that he may go into the city and console his old
master. A thrill of commiseration seizes him as he contemplates his
once joyous master now in prison; but, misgivings being useless,
onward he goes. And he will see old Bob, recall the happy incidents
of the past, when time went smoothly on.
He reaches the city, having tarried a while at missus's villa, and
seeks M'Carstrow's residence, at the door of which he is met by
Franconia, who receives him gratefully, and orders a servant to show
him into the recess of the hall, where he will wait until such time
as she is ready to accompany him to the county prison. M'Carstrow
has recently removed into plainer tenements: some whisper that
necessity compelled it, and that the "large shot" gamblers have
shorn him down to the lowest imaginable scale of living. Be this as
it may, certain it is that he has not looked within the doors of his
own house for more than a week: report says he is enjoying himself
in a fashionable house, to the inmates of which he is familiarly
known. He certainly leads his beautiful wife anything but a pleasant
or happy life. Soon Franconia is ready, and onward wending her way
for the gaol, closely followed by Harry. She would have no objection
to his walking by her side, but custom (intolerant interposer) will
not permit it. They pass through busy thoroughfares and narrow
streets into the suburbs, and have reached the prison outer gate, on
the right hand of which, and just above a brass knob, are the
significant words, "Ring the bell."
"What a place to put master in!" says Harry, in a half whisper,
turning to Franconia, as he pulls the brass handle and listens for
the dull tinkling of the bell within. He starts at the muffled
summons, and sighs as he hears the heavy tread of the officer,
advancing through the corridor to challenge his presence. The man
advances, and has reached the inner iron gate, situated in a narrow,
vaulted arch in the main building. A clanking and clicking sound is
heard, and the iron door swings back: a thick-set man, with features
of iron, advances to the stoop, down the steps, and to the gate.
"What's here now?" he growls, rather than speaks, looking sternly at
the coloured man, as he thrusts his left hand deep into his side
pocket, while holding the key of the inner door in his right.
"Visitor," returns Franconia, modestly.
"Who does the nigger want to see?" he enquires, with pertinacity in
keeping with his profession.
"His old master!" is the quick reply.
"You both? I guess I know what it is,--you want to see Marston: he
used to be a rice-planter, but's now in the debtor's ward for a
swimming lot of debts. Well, s'pose I must let you in: got a lot o'
things, I s'pose?" he says, looking wickedly through the bars as he
springs the bolts, and swings back the gate. "I beg yer pardon a
dozen times! but I didn't recognise ye on the outer side," continues
the official, becoming suddenly servile. He makes a low bow as he
recognises Franconia-motions his hand for them to walk ahead. They
reach the steps leading to the inner gate, and ascending, soon are
in the vaulted passage.
If they will allow him, the polite official will unlock the grated
door. Stepping before Franconia, who, as the clanking of the locks
grate on her ear, is seized with sensations she cannot describe, he
inserts the heavy key. She turns to Harry, her face pallid as
marble, and lays her tremulous hand on his arm, as if to relieve the
nervousness with which she is seized. Click! click! sounds forth:
again the door creaks on its hinges, and they are in the confines of
the prison. A narrow vaulted arch, its stone walls moistened with
pestilential malaria, leads into a small vestibule, on the right
hand of which stretched a narrow aisle lined on both sides with
cells. Damp and pestiferous, a hollow gloominess seems to pervade
the place, as if it were a pest-house for torturing the living.
Even the air breathes of disease,--a stench, as of dead men buried in
its vaults, darts its poison deep into the system. It is this,
coupled with the mind's discontent, that commits its ravages upon
the poor prisoner,--that sends him pale and haggard to a soon-
"Last door on the right,--you know, mum," says the official: "boy
will follow, lightly: whist! whist!"
"I know, to my sorrow," is her reply, delivered in a whisper. Ah!
her emotions are too tender for prison walls; they are yielding
tears from the fountain of her very soul.
"He's sick: walk softly, and don't think of the prisoners. Knock at
the door afore enterin'," says a staid-looking warden, emerging
from a small door on the left hand of the vestibule.
"Zist! zist!" returns the other, pointing with the forefinger of his
right hand down the aisle, and, placing his left, gently, on
Franconia's shoulder, motioning her to move on.
Slowly, her handkerchief to her face, she obeys the sign, and is
moving down the corridor, now encountering anxious eyes peering
through the narrow grating of huge black doors. And then a faint,
dolorous sound strikes on their listening ears. They pause for a
moment,--listen again! It becomes clearer and clearer; and they
advance with anxious curiosity. "It's Daddy Bob's voice," whispers
Harry; "but how distant it sounds!
"Even that murmurs in his confinement," returns Franconia.
"How, like a thing of life, it recalls the past-the past of
happiness!" says Harry, as they reach the cell door, and,
tremulously, hesitate for a few moments.
"Listen again!" continues Harry. The sound having ceased a moment or
two, again commences, and the word "There's a place for old mas'r
yet, And de Lord will see him dar," are distinctly audible. "How the
old man battles for his good master!" returns Harry, as Franconia
taps gently on the door. The wooden trap over the grating is closed;
bolts hang carelessly from their staples; and yet, though the door
is secured with a hook on the inside, disease and death breathe
their morbid fumes through the scarce perceptible crevices. A
whispering-"Come in!" is heard in reply to the tap upon the door,
which slowly opens, and the face of old Bob, bathed in grief,
protrudes round the frame. "Oh, missus-missus-missus-God give good
missus spirit!" he exclaims, seizing Franconia fervently by the
hand, and looking in her face imploringly. A fotid stench pervaded
the atmosphere of the gloomy cell; it is death spreading its humid
malaria. "Good old master is g-g-g-gone!" mutters the negro, in
With a wild shriek, the noble woman rushes to the side of his prison
cot, seizes his blanched hand that hangs carelessly over the iron
frame, grasps his head frantically, and draws it to her bosom, as
the last gurgle of life bids adieu to the prostrate body. He is
The old slave has watched over him, shared his sorrows and his
crust, has sung a last song to his departing spirit. How truthful
was that picture of the dying master and his slave! The old man,
struggling against the infirmities of age, had escaped the hands of
the man-seller, served his master with but one object-his soul's
love-and relieved his necessities, until death, ending his troubles,
left no more to relieve. Now, distracted between joy at meeting
Harry, and sorrow for the death of master, the poor old man is lost
in the confusion of his feelings. After saluting Franconia, he
turned to Harry, threw his arms around his neck, buried his head in
his bosom, and wept like a child. "Home-home again,--my Harry! but
too late to see mas'r," he says, as the fountains of his soul give
out their streams.
"We must all go where master has gone," returns Harry, as he, more
calm, fondles the old man, and endeavours to reconcile his feelings.
"Sit there, my old friend-sit there; and remember that God called
master away. I must go to his bed-side," whispers Harry, seating the
old man on a block of wood near the foot of the cot, where he pours
forth the earnest of his grief.
AN ITEM IN THE COMMON CALENDAR.
THUS painfully has Marston paid his debtors. Around his lifeless
body may spring to life those sympathies which were dead while he
lived; but deplorings fall useless on dead men. There is one
consideration, however, which must always be taken into account; it
is, that while sympathy for the living may cost something, sympathy
for the dead is cheap indeed, and always to be had. How simply plain
is the dead man's cell! In this humid space, ten by sixteen feet,
and arched over-head, is a bucket of water, with a tin cup at the
side, a prison tub in one corner, two wooden chairs, a little deal
stand, (off which the prisoner ate his meals), and his trunk of
clothing. The sheriff, insisting that it was his rule to make no
distinction of persons, allowed prison cot and prison matress to
which, by the kind permission of the warden, Franconia added sheets
and a coverlit. Upon this, in a corner at the right, and opposite a
spacious fire-place, in which are two bricks supporting a small iron
kettle, lies the once opulent planter,--now with eyes glassy and
discoloured, a ghastly corpse. His house once was famous for its
princely hospitality,--the prison cot is not now his bequest: but it
is all the world has left him on which to yield up his life. "Oh,
uncle! uncle! uncle!" exclaims Franconia, who has been bathing his
contorted face with her tears, "would that God had taken me
too-buried our troubles in one grave! There is no trouble in that
world to which he has gone: joy, virtue, and peace, reign triumphant
there," she speaks, sighing, as she raises her bosom from off the
dead man. Harry has touched her on the shoulder with his left hand,
and is holding the dead man's with his right: he seems in deep
contemplation. His mind is absorbed in the melancholy scene; but,
though his affection is deep, he has no tears to shed at this
moment. No; he will draw a chair for Franconia, and seat her near
the head of the cot, for the fountains of her grief have overflown.
Discoloured and contorted, what a ghastly picture the dead man's
face presents! Glassy, and with vacant glare, those eyes, strange in
death, seem wildly staring upward from earth. How unnatural those
sunken cheeks--those lips wet with the excrement of black vomit--that
throat reddened with the pestilential poison! "Call a warden,
Daddy!" says Harry; "he has died of black vomit, I think." And he
lays the dead body square upon the cot, turns the sheets from off
the shoulders, unbuttons the collar of its shirt. "How changed! I
never would have known master; but I can see something of him left
yet." Harry remains some minutes looking upon the face of the
departed, as if tracing some long lost feature. And then he takes
his hands-it's master's hand, he says-and places them gently to his
sides, closes his glassy eyes, wipes his mouth and nostrils, puts
his ear to the dead man's mouth, as if doubting the all-slayer's
possession of the body, and with his right hand parts the matted
hair from off the cold brow. What a step between the cares of the
world and the peace of death! Harry smooths, and smooths, and
smooths his forehead with his hand; until at length his feelings get
the better of his resolution; he will wipe the dewy tears from his
eyes. "Don't weep, Miss Franconia,--don't weep! master is happy with
Jesus,--happier than all the plantations and slaves of the world
could make him" he says, turning to her as she sits weeping, her
elbow resting on the cot, and her face buried in her handkerchief.
"Bad job this here!" exclaims the warden, as he comes lumbering into
the cell, his face flushed with anxiety. "This yaller-fever beats
everything: but he hasn't been well for some time," he continues,
advancing to the bed-side, looking on the deceased for a few
minutes, and then, as if it were a part of his profession to look on
dead men, says: "How strange to die out so soon!"
"He was a good master," rejoins Harry.
"He wasn't your master-Was he?" enquires the gaoler, in gruff
"Once he was."
"But, did you see him die, boy?"
"Thank God, I did not."
"And this stupid old nigger hadn't sense to call me!" (he turns
threateningly to Bob): "Well,--must 'a drop'd off like the snuff of
a tallow candle!"
Daddy knew master was a poor man now;--calling would have availed
nothing; gaolers are bad friends of poverty.
"Could you not have sent for me, good man?" enquires Franconia, her
weeping eyes turning upon the warden, who says, by way of answering
her question, "We must have him out o' here."
"I said mas'r was sicker den ye s'posed, yesterday; nor ye didn't
notice 'um!" interposes Bob, giving a significant look at the
warden, and again at Franconia.
"What a shame, in this our land of boasted hospitality! He died
neglected in a prison cell!"
"Truth is, ma'am," interrupts the warden, who, suddenly becoming
conscious that it is polite to be courteous to ladies wherever they
may be met, uncovers, and holds his hat in his hand,--"we are sorely
tried with black-vomit cases; no provision is made for them, and
they die on our hands afore we know it, just like sheep with the
rot. It gives us a great deal of trouble;--you may depend it does,
ma'am; and not a cent extra pay do we get for it. For my own part,
I've become quite at home to dead men and prisoners. My name is-you
have no doubt heard of me before-John Lafayette Flewellen: my
situation was once, madam, that of a distinguished road contractor;
and then they run me for the democratic senator from our district,
and I lost all my money without getting the office-and here I am
now, pestered with sick men and dead prisoners. And the very worst
is that ye can't please nobody; but if anything is wanted, ma'am,
just call for me: John Lafayette Flewellen's my name, ma'am." The
man of nerve, with curious indifference, is about to turn away,--to
leave the mourning party to themselves, merely remarking, as he
takes his hand from that of the corpse, that his limbs are becoming
"Stay-a-moment,--warden," says Franconia, sobbing: "When was he
seized with the fever?"
"Day afore yesterday, ma'am; but he didn't complain until yesterday.
That he was in a dangerous way I'm sure I'd no idea." The warden
shrugs his shoulders, and spreads his hands. "My eyes, ma'am, but he
drank strongly of late! Perhaps that, combined with the fever,
helped slide him off?"
"Ah! yes,--it was something else-it was grief! His troubles were his
destroyer." She wipes her eyes, and, with a look of commiseration,
turns from the man whose business it is to look coldly upon
unfortunate dead men.
"There was the things you sent him, ma'am; and he got his gaol
allowance, and some gruel. The law wouldn't allow us to do more for
him,--no, it wouldn't!" He shakes his head in confirmation.
"I wanted old mas'r to let 'um bring doctor; but he said no! he
would meet de doctor what cured all diseases in another world,"
interrupts old Bob, as he draws his seat close to the foot of the
cot, and, with his shining face of grief, gazes on the pale features
of his beloved master.
"Let him lie as he is, till the coroner comes," says the warden,
retiring slowly, and drawing the heavy door after him.
The humble picture was no less an expression of goodness, than proof
of the cruel severity of the law. The news of death soon brought
curious debtors into the long aisle, while sorrow and sympathy might
be read on every face. But he was gone, and with him his wants and
grievances. A physician was called in, but he could not recall life,
and, after making a few very learned and unintelligible remarks on
the appearance of the body, took his departure, saying that they
must not grieve-that it was the way all flesh would go. "He, no
doubt, died of the black vomit, hastened by the want of care," he
concluded, as he left the cell.
"Want of care!" rejoins Franconia, again giving vent to her
feelings. How deeply did the arrow dart into the recesses of her
already wounded heart!
Mr. Moon, the methodical coroner, was not long repairing to the
spot. He felt, and felt, and felt the dead man's limbs, asked a few
questions, bared the cold breast, ordered the body to be
straightened a little, viewed it from several angles, and said an
inquest was unnecessary. It would reveal no new facts, and, as so
many were dying of the same disease, could give no more relief to
his friends. Concerning his death, no one could doubt the cause
being black vomit. With a frigid attempt at consolation for
Franconia, he will withdraw. He has not been long gone, when the
warden, a sheet over his left arm, again makes his appearance; he
passes the sheet to Harry, with a request that he will wind the dead
debtor up in it.
Franconia, sobbing, rises from her seat, opens a window at the head
of the cot (the dead will not escape through the iron grating), and
paces the floor, while Harry and Daddy sponge the body, lay it
carefully down, and fold it in the winding-sheet. "Poor master,--God
has taken him; but how I shall miss him! I've spent happy days wid
'im in dis place, I have!" says Bob, as they lay his head on the
hard pillow. He gazes upon him with affection,--and says "Mas'r 'll
want no more clothes."
And now night is fast drawing its dark mantle over the scene,--the
refulgent shadows of the setting sun play through the grated window
into the gloomy cell: how like a spirit of goodness sent from on
high to lighten the sorrows of the downcast, seems the light. A
faint ray plays its soft tints on that face now pallid in death; how
it inspires our thoughts of heaven! Franconia watches, and watches,
as fainter and fainter it fades away, like an angel sent for the
spirit taking its departure. "Farewell!" she whispers, as darkness
shuts out the last mellow glimmer: "Come sombre night, and spread
The warden, moved by the spark of generosity his soul possesses, has
brought some cologne, and silently places it in Franconia's hands.
She advances to the cot, seats herself near the head of her dear
departed, encircles his head with her left arm, and with her white
'kerchief bathes his face with the liquid, Harry holding the vessel
in his hand, at her request. A candle sheds its sickly light upon
the humid walls; faintly it discloses the face of Daddy Bob,
immersed in tears, watching intently over the foot of the cot.
"Missus Frankone is alw's kind to mas'r!"
"I loved uncle because his heart was good," returns Franconia.
"'Tis dat, missus. How kindly old mas'r, long time ago, used to say,
'Good mornin', Bob! Daddy, mas'r lubs you!"
How firmly the happy recollection of these kind words is sealed in
the old man's memory.
IN WHICH REGRETS ARE SHOWN OF LITTLE WORTH.
THE reader may remember, that we, in the early part of our
narrative, made some slight mention of the Rovero family, of which
Franconia and Lorenzo were the only surviving children. They, too,
had been distinguished as belonging to a class of opulent planters;
but, having been reduced to poverty by the same nefarious process
through which we have traced Marston's decline, and which we shall
more fully disclose in the sequel, had gathered together the
remnants of a once extensive property, and with the proceeds
migrated to a western province of Mexico, where, for many years,
though not with much success, Rovero pursued a mining speculation.
They lived in a humble manner; Mrs. Rovero, Marston's sister-and of
whom we have a type in the character of her daughter,
Franconia-discarded all unnecessary appurtenances of living, and
looked forward to the time when they would be enabled to retrieve
their fortunes and return to their native district to spend the
future of their days on the old homestead. More than four years,
however, had passed since any tidings had been received of them by
Franconia; and it was strongly surmised that they had fallen victims
to the savage incursions of marauding parties, who were at that time
devastating the country, and scattering its defenceless inhabitants
homeless over the western shores of central America. So strong had
this impression found place in Franconia's mind that she had given
up all hopes of again meeting them. As for M'Carstrow's friends,
they had never taken any interest in her welfare, viewing her
marriage with the distinguished colonel as a mere catch on the part
of her parents, whose only motive was to secure themselves the
protection of a name, and, perhaps, the means of sustaining
themselves above the rank disclosure of their real poverty. To keep
"above board" is everything in the south; and the family not
distinguished soon finds itself well nigh extinguished. Hence that
ever tenacious clinging to pretensions, sounding of important names,
and maintenance of absurd fallacies,--all having for their end the
drawing a curtain over that real state of poverty there existing.
Indeed, it was no secret that even the M'Carstrow family (counting
itself among the very few really distinguished families of the
state, and notorious for the contempt in which they affected to hold
all common people), had mortgaged their plantation and all its
negroes for much more than their worth in ordinary times. As for
tradesmen's bills, there were any quantity outstanding, without the
shadow of a prospect of their being paid, notwithstanding
importuners had frequently intimated that a place called the gaol
was not far distant, and that the squire's office was within a
stone's throw of "the corner." Colonel M'Carstrow, reports say, had
some years ago got a deal of money by an unexplainable hocus pocus,
but it was well nigh gone in gambling, and now he was keeping
brothel society and rioting away his life faster than the
race-horses he had formerly kept on the course could run.
Hospitality hides itself when friends are needy; and it will be seen
here that Franconia had few friends-we mean friends in need. The
Rosebrook family formed an exception. The good deacon, and his ever
generous lady, had remained Franconia's firmest friends; but so
large and complicated were the demands against Marston, and so gross
the charges of dishonour--suspicion said he fraudulently made over
his property to Graspum-that they dared not interpose for his
relief; nor would Marston himself have permitted it. The question
now was, what was to be done with the dead body?
We left Franconia bathing its face, and smoothing the hair across
its temples with her hand. She cannot bury the body from her own
home:--no! M'Carstow will not permit that. She cannot consign it to
the commissioners for the better regulation of the "poor house,"-her
feelings repulse the thought. One thought lightens her cares; she
will straightway proceed to Mrs. Rosebrook's villa,--she will herself
be the bearer of the mournful intelligence; while Harry will watch
over the remains of the departed, until Daddy, who must be her guide
through the city, shall return. "I will go to prepare the next
resting-place for uncle," says Franconia, as if nerving herself to
carry out the resolution.
"With your permission, missus," returns Harry, touching her on the
arm, and pointing through the grated window into the gloomy yard.
"Years since-before I passed through a tribulation worse than
death-when we were going to be sold in the market, I called my
brothers and sisters of the plantation together, and in that yard
invoked heaven to be merciful to its fallen. I was sold on that day;
but heaven has been merciful to me; heaven has guided me through
many weary pilgrimages, and brought me here to-night; and its
protecting hand will yet restore me my wife and little ones. Let us
pray to-night; let us be grateful to Him who seeth the fallen in his
tribulation, but prepareth a place for him in a better world. Let us
pray and hope," he continued: and they knelt at the side of the
humble cot on which lay the departed, while he devoutly and
fervently invoked the Giver of all Good to forgive the oppressor, to
guide the oppressed, to make man feel there is a world beyond this,
to strengthen the resolution of that fair one who is thus sorely
afflicted, to give the old man who weeps at the feet of the departed
new hope for the world to come,--and to receive that warm spirit
which has just left the cold body into his realms of bliss.
What of roughness there was in his manner is softened by simplicity
and truthfulness. The roughest lips may breathe the purest prayer.
At the conclusion, Franconia and Daddy leave for Mrs. Rosebrook's
villa, while Harry, remaining to watch over the remains, draws his
chair to the stand, and reads by the murky light.
"I won't be long; take care of old mas'r," says Daddy, as he leaves
the cell, solicitously looking back into the cavern-like place.
It is past ten when they reach the house of Mrs. Rosebrook, the
inmates of which have retired, and are sleeping. Everything is quiet
in and about the enclosure; the luxuriant foliage bespreading a lawn
extending far away to the westward, seems refreshing itself with dew
that sparkles beneath the starlight heavens, now arched like a
crystal mist hung with diamond lights. The distant watchdog's bark
re-echoes faintly over the broad lagoon, to the east; a cricket's
chirrup sounds beneath the woodbine arbour; a moody guardsman,
mounted on his lean steed, and armed for danger, paces his slow way
along: he it is that breaks the stillness while guarding the fears
of a watchful community, who know liberty, but crush with steel the
A rap soon brings to the door the trim figure of a mulatto servant.
He conveys the name of the visitor to his "missus," who, surprised
at the untimely hour Franconia seeks her, loses no time in reaching
the ante-room, into which she has been conducted.
Daddy has taken his seat in the hall, and recognises "missus" as she
approaches; but as she puts out her hand to salute him, she
recognises trouble seated on his countenance. "Young missus in
da'h," he says, pointing to the ante-room while rubbing his eyes.
"But you must tell me what trouble has befallen you," she returns,
as quickly, in her dishabille, she drops his hand and starts back.
"Missus know 'um all,--missus da'h." Again he points, and she hastens
into the ante-room, when, grasping Franconia by the hand, she stares
at her with breathless anxiety expressed in her face. A pause ensues
in which both seem bewildered. At length Franconia breaks the
silence. "Uncle is gone!" she exclaims, following the words with a
flow of tears.
"Gone!" reiterates the generous-hearted woman, encircling
Franconia's neck with her left arm, and drawing her fondly to her
"Yes,--dead!" she continues, sobbing audibly. There is something
touching in the words,--something which recalls the dearest
associations of the past, and touches the fountains of the heart. It
is the soft tone in which they are uttered,--it gives new life to old
images. So forcibly are they called up, that the good woman has no
power to resist her violent emotions: gently she guides Franconia to
the sofa, seats her upon its soft cushion, and attempts to console
her wrecked spirit.
The men-servants are called up,--told to be prepared for orders. One
of them recognises Daddy, and, inviting him into the pantry, would
give him food, Trouble has wasted the old man's appetite; he thinks
of master, but has no will to eat. No; he will see missus, and
proceed back to the prison, there join Harry, and watch over all
that is mortal of master. He thanks Abraham for what he gave him,
declines the coat he would kindly lend him to keep out the chill,
seeks the presence of his mistress (she has become more reconciled),
says, "God bless 'um!" bids her good night, and sallies forth.
Mrs. Rosebrook listens to the recital of the melancholy scene with
astonishment and awe. "How death grapples for us!" she exclaims, her
soft, soul-beaming eyes glaring with surprise. "How it cuts its way
with edge unseen. Be calm, be calm, Franconia; you have nobly done
your part,--nobly! Whatever the pecuniary misfortunes,--whatever the
secret cause of his downfall, you have played the woman to the very
end. You have illustrated the purest of true affection; would it had
repaid you better. Before daylight-negroes are, in consequence of
their superstition, unwilling to remove the dead at midnight-I will
have the body removed here,--buried from my house." The good woman
did not disclose to Franconia that her husband was from home, making
an effort to purchase Harry's wife and children from their present
owner. But she will do all she can,--the best can do no more.
At the gaol a different scene is presented. Harry, alone with the
dead man, waits Daddy's return. Each tap of the bell awakes a new
hope, soon to be disappointed. The clock strikes eleven: no Daddy
returns. The gates are shut: Harry must wile away the night, in this
tomb-like abode, with the dead. What stillness pervades the cell;
how mournfully calm in death sleeps the departed! The watcher has
read himself to sleep; his taper, like life on its way, has nearly
shed out its pale light; the hot breath of summer breathes balmy
through the lattice bars; mosquitoes sing their torturous tunes
while seeking for the dead man's blood; lizards, with diamond eyes,
crawl upon the wall, waiting their ration: but death, less
inexorable than creditors, sits pale king over all. The palace and
the cell are alike to him; the sharp edge of his unseen sword spares
neither the king in his purple robe, nor the starving beggar who
seeks a crust at his palace gate,--of all places the worst.
As morning dawns, and soft fleeting clouds tinge the heavens with
light, four negroes may be seen sitting at the prison gate, a litter
by their side, now and then casting silent glances upward, as if
contemplating the sombre wall that frowns above their heads,
enclosing the prison. The guard, armed to the teeth, have passed and
repassed them, challenged and received their answer, and as often
examined their passes. They-the negroes-have come for a dead man.
Guardmen get no fees of dead men,--the law has no more demands to
serve: they wish the boys much joy with their booty, and pass on.
Six o'clock arrives; the first bell rings; locks, bolts, and bars
clank in ungrateful medley; rumbling voices are heard within the
hollow-sounding aisles; whispers from above chime ominously with the
dull shuffle rumbling from below. "Seven more cases,--how it rages!"
grumbles a monotonous voice, and the gate opens at the warden's
touch. "Who's here?" he demands, with stern countenance unchanged,
as he shrugs his formidable shoulders. "I see, (he continues,
quickly), you have come for the dead debtor. Glad of it, my good
fellow; this is the place to make dead men of debtors. Brought an
order, I s'pose?" Saying "follow me," he turns about, hastens to the
vestibule, receives the order from the hand of Duncan, the chief
negro, reads it with grave attention, supposes it is all straight,
and is about to show him the cell where the body lays, and which he
is only too glad to release. "Hold a moment!" Mr. Winterflint--such
is his name--says. Heaven knows he wants to get rid of the dead
debtor; but the laws are so curious, creditors are so obdurate, and
sheriffs have such a crooked way of doing straight things, that he
is in the very bad position of not knowing what to do. Some document
from the sheriff may be necessary; perhaps the creditors must agree
to the compromise. He forgets that inexorable Death, as he is
vulgarly styled, has forced a compromise: creditors must now credit
"by decease." Upon this point, however, he must be satisfied by his
superior. He now wishes Mr. Brien Moon would evince more exactness
in holding inquests, and less anxiety for the fees. Mr. Winterflint
depends not on his own decisions, where the laws relating to debtors
are so absurdly mystical. "Rest here, boy," he says; "I won't be a
minute or two,--must do the thing straight." He seeks the presence of
that extremely high functionary, the gaoler (high indeed wherever
slavery rules), who, having weighed the points with great legal
impartiality, gives it as his most distinguished opinion that no
order of release from the high sheriff is requisite to satisfy the
creditors of his death: take care of the order sent, and make a note
of the niggers who take him away, concludes that highly important
gentleman, as comfortably his head reclines on soft pillow. To this
end was Mr. Moon's certificate essential.
Mr. Winterflint returns; enquires who owns the boys.
"Mas'r Rosebrook's niggers," Duncan replies, firmly; "but Missus
send da order."
"Sure of that, now? Good niggers them of Rosebrook's: wouldn't a'
gin it to nobody else's niggers. Follow me-zist, zist!" he says,
crooking his finger at the other three, and scowling, as Duncan
relieves their timidity by advancing. They move slowly and
noiselessly up the aisle, the humid atmosphere of which, pregnant
with death, sickens as it steals into the very blood. "In
there-zist! make no noise; the dead debtor lies there," whispers the
warden, laying his left hand upon Duncan's shoulder, and, the
forefinger of his right extended, pointing toward the last cell on
the left. "Door's open; not locked, I meant. Left it unsecured last
night. Rap afore ye go in, though." At the methodical warden's
bidding Duncan proceeds, his foot falling lightly on the floor.
Reaching the door, he places his right hand on the swinging bolt,
and for a few seconds seems listening. He hears the muffled sound of
a footfall pacing the floor, and then a muttering as of voices in
secret communion, or dying echoes from the tomb. He has not mistaken
the cell; its crevices give forth odours pergnant of proof. Two
successive raps bring Harry to the door: they are admitted to the
presence of the dead. One by one Harry receives them by the hand,
but he must needs be told why Daddy is not with them. They know not.
He ate a morsel, and left late last night, says one of the negroes.
Harry is astonished at this singular intelligence: Daddy Bob never
before was known to commit an act of unfaithfulness; he was true to
Marston in life,--strange that he should desert him in death.
"Mas'r's death-bed wasn't much at last," says Duncan, as they gather
round the cot, and, with curious faces, mingle their more curious
remarks. Harry draws back the white handkerchief which Franconia had
spread over the face of the corpse, as the negroes start back
affrighted. As of nervous contortion, the ghastly face presents an
awful picture. Swollen, discoloured, and contracted, no one outline
of that once cheerful countenance can be traced. "Don't look much
like Mas'r Marston used to look; times must a' changed mightily
since he used to look so happy at home," mutters Duncan, shaking his
head, and telling the others not to be "fear'd; dead men can't hurt
"Died penniless;--but e' war good on e' own plantation," rejoins
another. "One ting be sartin 'bout nigger-he know how he die wen 'e
time cum; Mas'r don know how 'e gwine to die!"
Having seen enough of the melancholy finale, they spread the litter
in the aisle, as the warden enters the cell to facilitate the dead
debtor's exit. Harry again covers the face, and prepares to roll the
body in a coverlit brought by Duncan. "I kind of liked him-he was so
gentlemanly-has been with us so long, and did'nt seem like a
prisoner. He was very quiet, and always civil when spoken to,"
interposes the warden, as, assisting the second shrouding, he
presses the hand of the corpse in his own.
Now he is ready; they place his cold body on the litter; a few
listless prisoners stand their sickly figures along the passage,
watch him slowly borne to the iron gate in the arched vault.
Death-less inexorable than creditors-has signed his release, thrown
back prison bolts and bars, wrested him from the grasp of human
laws, and now mocks at creditors, annuls fi fas, bids the dead
debtor make his exit. Death pays no gaol fees; it makes that bequest
to creditors; but it reserves the keys of heaven for another
purpose. "One ration less," says the warden, who, closing the grated
door, casts a lingering look after the humble procession, bearing
away the remains of our departed.
With Harry as the only follower, they proceed along, through
suburban streets, and soon reach the house of that generous woman. A
minister of the gospel awaits his coming; the good man's words are
consoling, but he cannot remodel the past for the advantage of the
dead. Soon the body is placed in a "ready-made coffin," and the good
man offers up the last funeral rites; he can do no more than invoke
the great protector to receive the departed into his bosom.
"How the troubles of this world rise up before me! Oh! uncle! uncle!
how I could part with the world and bury my troubles in the same
grave!" exclaims Franconia, as, the ceremony having ended, they bear
the body away to its last resting-place; and, in a paroxysm of
grief, she shrieks and falls swooning to the floor.
In a neatly inclosed plat, a short distance from the Rosebrook
Villa, and near the bank of a meandering rivulet, overhung with
mourning willows and clustering vines, they lay him to rest. The
world gave the fallen man nothing but a prison-cell wherein to
stretch his dying body; a woman gives him a sequestered grave, and
nature spreads it with her loveliest offering. It is the last
resting-place of the Rosebrook family, which their negroes,
partaking of that contentment so characteristic of the family, have
planted with flowers they nurture with tenderest care. There is
something touching in the calm beauty of the spot; something
breathing of rural contentment. It is something to be buried in a
pretty grave-to be mourned by a slave-to be loved by the untutored.
How abject the slave, and yet how true his affection! how dear his
requiem over a departed friend! "God bless master-receive his
spirit!" is heard mingling with the music of the gentle breeze, as
Harry, sitting at the head of the grave, looks upward to heaven,
while earth covers from sight the mortal relics of a once kind
It has been a day of sadness at the villa-a day of mourning and
tribulation. How different the scene in the city! There, men whisper
strange regrets. Sympathy is let loose, and is expanding itself to
an unusual degree. Who was there that did not know Marston's
generous, gushing soul! Who was there that would not have stretched
forth the helping hand, had they known his truly abject condition!
Who that was not, and had not been twenty times, on the very brink
of wresting him from the useless tyranny of his obdurate creditors!
Who that had not waited from day to day, with purse-strings open,
ready to pour forth the unmistakeable tokens of friendship! How many
were only restrained from doing good-from giving vent to the
fountains of their hospitality-through fear of being contaminated
with that scandal rumour had thrown around his decline! Over his
death hath sprung to life that curious fabric of living generosity,
so ready to bespread a grave with unneeded bounties,--so emblematic
of how many false mourners hath the dead. But Graspum would have all
such expressions shrink beneath his glowing goodness. With honied
words he tells the tale of his own honesty: his business intercourse
with the deceased was in character most generous. Many a good turn
did Marston receive at his hands; long had he been his faithful and
unwearied friend. Fierce are the words with which he would execrate
the tyrant creditors; yea, he would heap condign punishment on their
obdurate heads. Time after time did he tell them the fallen man was
penniless; how strange, then, that they tortured him to death within
prison walls. He would sweep away such vengeance, bury it with his
curses, and make obsolete such laws as give one man power to gratify
his passion on another. His burning, surging anger can find no
relief; nor can he tolerate such antiquated debtor laws: to him they
are the very essence of barbarism, tainting that enlightened
civilisation so long implanted by the State, so well maintained by
the people. It is on those ennobling virtues of state, he says, the
cherished doctrines of our democracy are founded. Graspum is,
indeed, a well-developed type of our modern democracy, the flimsy
fabric of which is well represented in the gasconade of the above
And now, as again the crimson clouds of evening soften into golden
hues-as the sun, like a fiery chariot, sinks beneath the western
landscape, and still night spreads her shadowy mantle down the
distant hills, and over the broad lagoon to the north-two sable
figures may be seen patting, sodding, and bespreading with
fresh-plucked flowers the new grave. As the rippling brook gives out
its silvery music, and earth seems drinking of the misty dew, that,
like a bridal veil, spreads over its verdant hillocks, they whisper
their requiem of regret, and mould the grave so carefully. "It's
mas'r's last," says one, smoothing the cone with his hands.
"We will plant the tree now," returns the other, bringing forward a
young clustering pine, which he places at the head of the grave, and
on which he cuts the significant epitaph-"Good master lies here!"
Duncan and Harry have paid their last tribute. "He is at peace with
this world," says the latter, as, at the gate, he turns to take a
last look over the paling.
HOW WE SHOULD ALL BE FORGIVING.
LET us forget the scenes of the foregoing chapters, and turn to
something of pleasanter hue. In the meantime, let us freely
acknowledge that we live in a land-our democratic south, we
mean-where sumptuous living and abject misery present their boldest
outlines,--where the ignorance of the many is excused by the polished
education of a very few,--where autocracy sways its lash with
bitterest absolutism,--where menial life lies prostrate at the feet
of injustice, and despairingly appeals to heaven for succour,--where
feasts and funerals rival each other,--and when pestilence, like a
glutton, sends its victims to the graveyard most, the ball-room
glitters brightest with its galaxy. Even here, where clamour cries
aloud for popular government, men's souls are most crushed-not with
legal right, but by popular will! And yet, from out all this
incongruous substance, there seems a genial spirit working itself
upon the surface, and making good its influence; and it is to that
influence we should award the credit due. That genial spirit is the
good master's protection; we would it were wider exercised for the
good of all. But we must return to our narrative.
The Rosebrook Villa has assumed its usual cheerfulness; but while
pestilence makes sad havoc among the inhabitants of the city, gaiety
is equally rampant. In a word, even the many funeral trains which
pass along every day begin to wear a sort of cheerfulness, in
consequence of which, it is rumoured, the aristocracy-we mean those
who have money to spend-have made up their minds not to depart for
the springs yet awhile. As for Franconia, finding she could no
longer endure M'Carstrow's dissolute habits, and having been told by
that very distinguished gentleman, but unamiable husband, that he
despised the whole tribe of her poor relations, she has retired to
private boarding, where, with the five dollars a week, he, in the
outpouring of his southern generosity, allows her, she subsists
plainly but comfortably. It is, indeed, a paltry pittance, which the
M'Carstrow family will excuse to the public with the greatness of
Harry has returned to the plantation, where the people have
smothered him in a new suit of black. Already has he preached three
sermons in it, which said sermons are declared wonderful proofs of
his biblical knowledge. Even Daddy Daniel, who expended fourteen
picayunes in a new pair of spectacles, with which to hear the new
parson more distinctly, pronounces the preaching prodigious. He is
vehement in his exultation, lavishes his praise without stint; and
as his black face glows with happiness, thanks missus for her great
goodness in thus providing for their spiritual welfare. The
Rosebrook "niggers" were always extremely respectable and well
ordered in their moral condition; but now they seem invested with a
new impulse for working out their own good; and by the advice of
missus, whom every sable son and daughter loves most dearly, Daddy
Daniel has arranged a system of evening prayer meetings, which will
be held in the little church, twice a week. And, too, there prevails
a strong desire for an evening gathering now and then, at which the
young shiners may be instructed how to grow. A curiously democratic
law, however, offers a fierce impediment to this; and Daddy Daniel
shakes his head, and aunt Peggy makes a belligerent muttering when
told such gatherings cannot take place without endangering the
state's rights. It is, nevertheless, decided that Kate, and Nan, and
Dorothy, and Webster, and Clay, and such like young folks, may go to
"settings up" and funerals, but strictly abstain from all
fandangoes. Dad Daniel and his brother deacons cannot countenance
such fiddling and dancing, such break-downs, and shoutings, and
whirlings, and flouncing and frilling, and gay ribboning, as
generally make up the evening's merriment at these fandangoes, so
prevalent on neighbouring plantations about Christmas time. "Da don'
mount to no good!" Daniel says, with a broad guffaw. "Nigger what
spect t' git hi' way up in da world bes lef dem tings." And so one
or two more screws are to be worked up for the better regulation of
the machinery of the plantation. As for Master Rosebrook-why, he
wouldn't sell a nigger for a world of money; and he doesn't care how
much they learn; the more the better, provided they learn on the
sly. They are all to be freed at a certain time, and although
freedom is sweet, without learning they might make bad use of it.
But master has had a noble object in view for some days past, and
which, after encountering many difficulties, he has succeeded in
carrying out to the great joy of all parties concerned.
One day, as the people were all busily engaged on the plantation,
Bradshaw's familiar figure presents itself at the house, and demands
to see Harry. He has great good news, but don't want to tell him
"nofin" till he arrives at the Villa. "Ah, good man" (Bradshaw's
face beams good tidings, as he approaches Harry, and delivers a
note) "mas'r specs ye down da' wid no time loss." Bradshaw rubs his
hands, and grins, and bows, his face seeming two shades blacker than
ever, but no less cheerful.
"Master wants me to preach somewhere, next Sunday,--I know he does,"
says Harry, reading the note, which requests him to come immediately
into the city. He will prepare to obey the summons, Dan and Sprat
meanwhile taking good care of the horse and carriage, while Bradshaw
makes a friendly visit to a few of the more distinguished cabins,
and says "how de" to venerable aunties, who spread their best fare
before him, and, with grave ceremony, invite him in to refresh
before taking his return journey into the city; and Maum Betsy packs
up six of her real smart made sweet cakes for the parson and
Bradshaw to eat along the road. Betsy is in a strange state of
bewilderment to know why master wants to take the new parson away
just now, when he's so happy, and is only satisfied when assured
that he will be safely returned to-morrow. A signal is made for Dad
Daniel, who hastens to the cabin in time to see everything properly
arranged for the parson's departure, and say: "God bless 'um,--good
"Now, what can master want with me?" enquires Harry, as, on the
road, they roll away towards the city.
Bradshaw cracks his whip, and with a significant smile looks Harry
in the face, and returns: "Don' ax dis child no mo' sich question.
Old mas'r and me neber break secret. Tell ye dis, do'h! Old mas'r do
good ting, sartin."
"You know, but won't tell me, eh?" rejoins Harry, his manly face
wearing a solicitous look. Bradshaw shakes his head, and adds a
cunning wink in reply.
It is three o'clock when they arrive at the Villa, where, without
reserve, missus extends her hand, and gives him a cordial
welcome,--tells him Franconia has been waiting to see him with great
patience, and has got a present for him. Franconia comes rushing
into the hall, and is so glad to see him; but her countenance wears
an air of sadness, which does not escape his notice-she is not the
beautiful creature she was years ago, care has sadly worn upon those
rounded features. But master is there, and he looks happy and
cheerful; and there is something about the house servants, as they
gather round him to have their say, which looks of suspiciously good
omen. He cannot divine what it is; his first suspicions being
aroused by missus saying Franconia had been waiting to see him.
"We must not call him Harry any longer-it doesn't become his
profession: now that he is Elder of my plantation flock, he must,
from this time, be called Elder!" says Rosebrook, touching him on
the arm with the right hand. And the two ladies joined in, that it
must be so. "Go into the parlour, ladies; I must say a word or two
to the Elder," continued Rosebrook, taking Harry by the arm, and
pacing through the hall into the conservatory at the back of the
house. Here, after ordering Harry to be seated, he recounts his plan
of emancipation, which, so far, has worked admirably, and, at the
time proposed, will, without doubt or danger, produce the hoped-for
result. "You, my good man," he says, "can be a useful instrument in
furthering my ends; I want you to be that instrument!" His negroes
have all an interest in their labour, which interest is preserved
for them in missus's savings-bank; and at a given time they are to
have their freedom, but to remain on the plantation if they choose,
at a stipulated rate of wages. Indeed, so strongly impressed with
the good results of his proposed system is Rosebrook, that he long
since scouted that contemptible fallacy, which must have had its
origin in the very dregs of selfishness, that the two races can only
live in proximity by one enslaving the other. Justice to each other,
he holds, will solve the problem of their living together; but,
between the oppressor and the oppressed, a volcano that may at any
day send forth its devouring flame, smoulders. Rosebrook knows
goodness always deserves its reward; and Harry assures him he never
will violate the trust. Having said thus much, he rises from his
chair, takes Harry by the arm, and leading him to the door of the
conservatory, points him to a passage leading to the right, and
says: "In there!-proceed into that passage, enter a door, first door
on the left, and then you will find something you may consider your
Harry hesitated for a moment, watched master's countenance
doubtingly, as if questioning the singular command.
"Fear not! nobody will hurt you," continues Rosebrook.
"Master never had a bad intention," thinks Harry; "I know he would
not harm me; and then missus is so good." Slowly and nervously he
proceeds, and on reaching the door hears a familiar "come in"
answering his nervous rap. The door opened into a neat little room,
with carpet and chairs, a mahogany bureau and prints, all so neatly
arranged, and wearing such an air of cleanliness. No sooner has he
advanced beyond the threshold than the emaciated figure of a black
sister vaults into his arms, crying, "Oh Harry! Harry! Harry!-my
dear husband!" She throws her arms about his neck, and kisses, and
kisses him, and buries her tears of joy in his bosom. How she pours
out her soul's love!-how, in rapturous embraces, her black impulses
give out the purest affection!
"And you!-you!-you!-my own dear Jane! Is it you? Has God commanded
us to meet once more, to be happy once more, to live as heaven hath
ordained us to live?" he returns, as fervently and affectionately he
holds her in his arms, and returns her token of love. "Never! never!
I forget you, never! By night and by day I have prayed the
protecting hand of Providence to guide you through life's trials.
How my heart has yearned to meet you in heaven! happy am I we have
met once more on earth; yea, my soul leaps with joy. Forgive them,
Father, forgive them who separate us on earth, for heaven makes the
anointed!" And while they embrace thus fondly, their tears mingling
with joy, children, recognising a returned father as he entered the
door, are clinging at his feet beseechingly. He is their father;--how
like children they love! "Sam, Sue, and Beckie, too!" he says, as
one by one he takes them in his arms and kisses them. But there are
two more, sombre and strange. He had caught the fourth in his arms,
unconsciously. "Ah, Jane!" he exclaims, turning toward her, his face
filled with grief and chagrin, "they are not of me, Jane!" He still
holds the little innocent by the hand, as nervously he waits her
reply. It is not guilt, but shame, with which she returns an answer.
"It was not my sin, Harry! It was him that forced me to live with
another,--that lashed me when I refused, and, bleeding, made me obey
the will," she returns, looking at him imploringly. Virtue is weaker
than the lash; none feel it more than the slave. She loved Harry,
she followed him with her thoughts; but it was the Christian that
reduced her to the level of the brute. Laying her coloured hand upon
his shoulder, she besought his forgiveness, as God was forgiving.
"Why should I not forgive thee, Jane? I would not chide thee, for no
sin is on thy garments. Injustice gave master the right to sell
thee, to make of thee what he pleased. Heaven made thy soul
purest,--man thy body an outcast for the unrighteous to feast upon.
How could I withhold forgiveness, Jane? I will be a father to them,
a husband to thee; for what thou hast been compelled to do is right,
in the land we live in." So saying, he again embraces her, wipes the
tears from her eyes, and comforts her. How sweet is forgiveness! It
freshens like the dew of morning on the drooping plant; it
strengthens the weary spirit, it steals into the desponding soul,
and wakes to life new hopes of bliss,--to the slave it is sweet
"I will kiss them, too," he ejaculates, taking them in his arms with
the embrace of a fond father,--which simple expression of love they
return with prattling. They know not the trials of their parents;
how blessed to know them not!
And now they gather the children around them, and seat themselves on
a little settee near the window, where Harry, overjoyed at meeting
his dear ones once more, fondles them and listens to Jane, as with
her left arm round his neck she discloses the sad tale of her
tribulation. Let us beg the reader to excuse the recital; there is
nothing fascinating in it, nor would we call forth the modest
blushes of our generous south. A few words of the woman's story,
however, we cannot omit; and we trust the forgiving will pardon
their insertion. She tells Harry she was not separated from her
children; but that Romescos, having well considered her worth, sold
her with her "young uns" to the Rev. Peter--, who had a small
plantation down in Christ's Parish. The reverend gentleman, being
born and educated to the degrading socialities of democratic states,
always says he is not to blame for "using" the rights the law gives
him; nor does he forget to express sundry regrets that he cannot see
as preachers at the north see. As for money, he thinks preachers
have just as good a right to get it as gentlemen of any other
honourable profession. Now and then he preaches to niggers; and for
telling them how they must live in the fear of the Lord, be obedient
to their master, and pay for redemption by the sweat of their brows,
he adds to his pile of coin. But he is strongly of the opinion that
niggers are inferior "brutes" of the human species, and in
furtherance of this opinion (so popular in the whole south) he
expects them to live a week on a peck of corn. As for Jane-we must
excuse the reverend gentleman, because of his faith in southern
principles-he compelled her to live with the man Absalom ere she had
been two days on his plantation, and by the same Absalom she had two
children, which materially increased the cash value of the Reverend
Peter--'s slave property. Indeed, so well is the reverend gentleman
known for his foul play, that it has been thrown up to him in open
court-by wicked planters who never had the fear of God before their
eyes-that he more than half starved his niggers, and charged them
toll for grinding their corn in his mill. Though the Reverend Peter
--never failed to assure his friends and acquaintances of his
generosity (a noble quality which had long been worthily maintained
by the ancient family to which he belonged), the light of one
generous act had never found its way to the public. In truth, so
elastically did his reverend conscientiousness expand when he
learned the strange motive which prompted Rosebrook to purchase Jane
and her little ones, that he sorely regretted he had not put two
hundred dollars more on the price of the lot. Fortunately Jane was
much worn down by grief and toil, and was viewed by the reverend
gentleman as a piece of property he would rather like to dispose of
to the best advantage, lest she should suddenly make a void in his
dollars and cents by sliding into some out of the way grave-yard.
But Rosebrook, duly appreciating the unchristian qualities of our
worthy one's generosity, kept his motive a profound secret until the
negociation was completed. Now that it had become known that the
Reverend Peter--(who dresses in blackest black, most
sanctimoniously cut, whitest neckcloth wedded to his holy neck, and
face so simply serious) assures Rosebrook he has got good
people,--they are valuably promising-he will pray for them, that the
future may prosper their wayfaring. He cannot, however, part with
the good man without admonishing him how dangerous it is to give
unto "niggers" the advantage of a superior position.
Reader, let us hope the clergy of the south will take heed lest by
permitting their brethren to be sold and stolen in this manner they
bring the profession into contempt. Let us hope the southern church
will not much longer continue to bring pure Christianity into
disgrace by serving ends so vile that heaven and earth frowns upon
them; for false is the voice raised in sanctimony to heaven for
power to make a footstool of a fallen race!
CONTAINING VARIOUS MATTERS.
GREAT regularity prevails on the Rosebrook plantation, and cheering
are the prospects held out to those who toil thereon. Mrs. Rosebrook
has dressed Jane (Harry's wife) in a nice new calico, which, with
her feet encased in shining calf-skin shoes, and her head done up in
a bandana, with spots of great brightness, shows her lean figure to
good advantage. Like a good wife, happy with her own dear husband,
she pours forth the emotions of a grateful heart, and feels that the
world-not so bad after all-has something good in store for her. And
then Harry looks even better than he did on Master Marston's
plantation; and, with their little ones-sable types of their
parents-dressed so neatly, they must be happy. And now that they are
duly installed at the plantation, where Harry pursues his duties as
father of the flock, and Jane lends her cheering voice and helping
hand to make comfort in the various cabins complete-and with Dad
Daniel's assurance that the people won't go astray-we must leave
them for a time, and beg the reader's indulgence while following us
through another phase of the children's history.
A slave is but a slave--an article subject to all the fluctuations of
trade--a mere item in the scale of traffic, and reduced to serving
the ends of avarice or licentiousness. This is a consequence
inseparable from his sale. It matters not whether the blood of the
noblest patriot course in his veins, his hair be of flaxen
brightness, his eyes of azure blue, his skin of Norman whiteness,
and his features classic,--he can be no more than a slave, and as
such must yield to the debasing influences of an institution that
crushes and curses wherever it exists. In proof of this, we find the
bright eyes of our little Annette, glowing with kindliest love,
failing to thaw the frozen souls of man-dealers. Nay, bright eyes
only lend their aid to the law that debases her life. She has become
valuable only as a finely and delicately developed woman, whose
appearance in the market will produce sharp bidding, and a deal of
dollars and cents. Graspum never lost an opportunity of trimming up
these nice pieces of female property, making the money invested in
them turn the largest premium, and satisfying his customers that, so
far as dealing in the brightest kind of fancy stock was concerned,
he is not a jot behind the most careful selecter in the Charleston
market. Major John Bowling--who is very distinguished, having
descended from the very ancient family of that name, and is highly
thought of by the aristocracy--has made the selection of such
merchandise his particular branch of study for more than fourteen
years. In consequence of the major's supposed taste, his pen was
hitherto most frequented by gentlemen and connoisseur; but now
Graspum assures all respectable people, gentlemen of acknowledged
taste, and young men who are cultivating their way up in the world,
that his selections are second to none; of this he will produce
sufficient proof, provided customers will make him a call and look
into the area of his fold. The fold itself is most uninviting (it
is, he assures us, owing to his determination to carry out the faith
of his plain democracy); nevertheless, it contains the white,
beautiful, and voluptuous,--all for sale. In fact--the truth must be
told--Mr. Graspum assures the world that he firmly believes there is
a sort of human nature extant--he is troubled sometimes to know just
where the line breaks off--which never by any possibility could have
been intended for any thing but the other to traffic in-to turn into
the most dollars and cents. In proof of this principle he kept
Annette until she had well nigh merged into womanhood, or until such
time as she became a choice marketable article, with eyes worth so
much; nose, mouth, so much; pretty auburn hair, worth so much; and
fine rounded figure--with all its fascinating appurtenances--worth so
much;--the whole amounting to so much; to be sold for so much, the
nice little profit being chalked down on the credit side of his
formidable ledger, in which stands recorded against his little soul
(he knows will get to heaven) the sale of ten thousand black souls,
which will shine in brightness when his is refused admittance to the
Having arrived at the point most marketable, he sells her to Mr.
Gurdoin Choicewest, who pays no less a sum than sixteen hundred
dollars in hard cash for the unyielding beauty-money advanced to him
by his dear papa, who had no objection to his having a pretty
coloured girl, provided Madam Choicewest-most indulgent mother she
was, too-gave her consent; and she said she was willing, provided-;
and now, notwithstanding she was his own, insisted on the
preservation of her virtue, or death. Awful dilemma, this! To lash
her will be useless; and the few kicks she has already received have
not yet begun to thaw her frozen determination. Such an unyielding
thing is quite useless for the purpose for which young Choicewest
purchased her. What must be done with her? The older Choicewest is
consulted, and gives it as his decided opinion that there is one of
two things the younger Choicewest must do with this dear piece of
property he has so unfortunately got on his hands,--he must sell her,
or tie her up every day and pump her with cold water, say fifteen
minutes at a time. Pumping niggers, the elder Mr. Choicewest
remarks, with the coolness of an Austrian diplomatist, has a
wondrous effect upon them; "it makes 'em give in when nothing else
will." He once had four prime fellows, who, in stubbornness, seemed
a match for Mr. Beelzebub himself. He lashed them, and he burned
them, and he clipped their ears; and then he stretched them on
planks, thinking they would cry "give in" afore the sockets of their
joints were drawn out; but it was all to no purpose, they were as
unyielding as granite.
About that time there was a celebrated manager of negroes keeping
the prison. This clever functionary had a peculiar way of bringing
the stubbornness out of them; so he consigned the four unbending
rascals to his skill. And this very valuable and very skilful
gaol-keeper had a large window in his establishment, with iron bars
running perpendicular; to the inside of which he would strap the
four stubborn rascals, with their faces scientifically arranged
between the bars, to prevent the moving of a muscle. Thus caged,
their black heads bound to the grating, the scientific gaoler, who
was something of a humourist withal, would enjoy a nice bit of fun
at seeing the more favoured prisoners (with his kind permission)
exercise their dexterity in throwing peas at the faces of the
bounden. How he would laugh-how the pea-punishing prisoners would
enjoy it-how the fast bound niggers, foaming with rage and maddened
to desperation, would bellow, as their very eyeballs darted fire and
blood! What grand fun it was! bull-baiting sank into a mere shadow
beside it. The former was measuredly passive, because the bull only
roared, and pitched, and tossed; whereas here the sport was made
more exhilarating by expressions of vengeance or implorings. And
then, as a change of pastime, the skilful gaoler would demand a
cessation of the pea hostilities, and enjoin the commencement of the
water war; which said war was carried out by supplying about a dozen
prisoners with as many buckets, which they would fill with great
alacrity, and, in succession, throw the contents with great force
over the unyielding, from the outside. The effect of this on naked
men, bound with chains to iron bars, may be imagined; but the older
Choicewest declares it was a cure. It brought steel out of the
"rascals," and made them as submissive as shoe-strings. Sometimes
the jolly prisoners would make the bath so strong, that the niggers
would seem completely drowned when released; but then they'd soon
come to with a jolly good rolling, a little hartshorn applied to
their nostrils, and the like of that. About a dozen times putting
through the pea and water process cured them.
So says the very respectable Mr. Choicewest, with great dignity of
manners, as he seriously advises the younger Choicewest to try a
little quantity of the same sort on his now useless female purchase.
Lady Choicewest must, however, be consulted on this point, as she is
very particular about the mode in which all females about her
establishment are chastised. Indeed, Lady Choicewest is much
concerned about the only male, heir of the family, to whom she looks
forward for very distinguished results to the family name. The
family (Lady Choicewest always assures those whom she graciously
condescends to admit into the fashionable precincts of her small but
very select circle), descended from the very ancient and chivalric
house of that name, whose celebrated estate was in Warwickshire,
England; and, in proof of this, my Lady Choicewest invariably points
to a sad daub, illustrative of some incomprehensible object,
suspended over the antique mantelpiece. With methodical grace, and
dignity which frowns with superlative contempt upon every thing very
vulgar--for she says "she sublimely detests them very low creatures
what are never brought up to manners at the north, and are worse
than haystacks to larn civility"--my lady solicits a near inspection
of this wonderful hieroglyphic, which she tells us is the family
arms,--an ancient and choice bit of art she would not part with for
the world. If her friends evince any want of perception in tracing
the many deeds of valour it heralds, on behalf of the noble family
of which she is an undisputed descendant, my lady will at once enter
upon the task of instruction; and with the beautiful fore-finger of
her right hand, always jewelled with great brilliancy, will she
satisfactorily enlighten the stupid on the fame of the ancient
Choicewest family, thereon inscribed. With no ordinary design on the
credulity of her friends, Lady Choicewest has several times strongly
intimated that she was not quite sure that one or two of her
ancestors in the male line of the family were not reigning dukes as
far down as the noble reign of the ignoble Oliver Cromwell! The
question, nevertheless, is whether the honour of the ancient
Choicewest family descended from Mr. or Mrs. Choicewest. The vulgar
mass have been known to say (smilingly) that Lady Choicewest's name
was Brown, the father of which very ancient family sold herrings and
small pigs at a little stand in the market: this, however, was a
very long time ago, and, as my lady is known to be troubled with an
exceedingly crooked memory, persons better acquainted with her are
more ready to accept the oblivious excuse.
Taking all these things into consideration, my Lady Choicewest is
exceedingly cautious lest young Gourdoin Choicewest should do aught
to dishonour the family name; and on this strange perplexity in
which her much indulged son is placed being referred to her, she
gives it as her most decided opinion that the wench, if as obstinate
as described, had better be sold to the highest bidder-the sooner
the better. My lady lays great emphasis on "the sooner the better."
That something will be lost she has not the slightest doubt; but
then it were better to lose a little in the price of the stubborn
wretch, than to have her always creating disturbance about the
genteel premises. In furtherance of this-my lady's mandate-Annette
is sold to Mr. Blackmore Blackett for the nice round sum of fifteen
hundred dollars. Gourdoin Choicewest hates to part with the beauty,
grieves and regrets,--she is so charmingly fascinating. "Must let her
slide, though; critter won't do at all as I wants her to," he lisps,
regretting the serious loss of the dollars. His friend Blackmore
Blackett, however, is a gentleman, and therefore he would not
deceive him in the wench: hence he makes the reduction, because he
finds her decidedly faulty. Had Blackmore Blackett been a regular
flesh trader, he would not have scrupled to take him in. As it is,
gentlemen must always be gentlemen among themselves. Blackett, a
gentleman of fortune, who lives at his ease in the city, and has the
very finest taste for female beauty, was left, most unfortunately, a
widower with four lovely daughters, any one of which may be
considered a belle not to be rung by gentlemen of ordinary rank or
vulgar pretension. In fact, the Blackett girls are considered very
fine specimens of beauty, are much admired in society, and expect
ere long, on the clear merit of polish, to rank equal with the first
aristocracy of the place.
Mr. Blackmore Blackett esteems himself an extremely lucky fellow in
having so advantageously procured such a nice piece of property,--so
suited to his taste. Her price, when compared with her singularly
valuable charms, is a mere nothing; and, too, all his fashionable
friends will congratulate him upon his good fortune. But as
disappointments will come, so Mr. Blackmore Blackett finds he has
got something not quite so valuable as anticipated; however, being
something of a philosopher, he will improve upon the course pursued
by the younger Choicewest: he makes his first advances with great
caution; whispers words of tenderness in her ear; tells her his
happy jewel for life she must be. Remembering her mother, she turns
a deaf ear to Mr. Blackett's pleadings. The very cabin which he has
provided for her in the yard reminds her of that familiar domicile
on Marston's plantation. Neither by soft pleadings, nor threatenings
of sale to plantation life, nor terrors of the lash, can he soften
the creature's sympathies, so that the flesh may succumb. When he
whispered soft words and made fascinating promises, she would shake
her head and move from him; when he threatened, she would plead her
abject position; when he resorted to force, she would struggle with
him, making the issue her virtue or death. Once she paid the penalty
of her struggles with a broken wrist, which she shows us more in
sorrow than anger. Annette is beautiful but delicate; has soft eyes
beaming with the fulness of a great soul; but they were sold,
once,--now, sympathy for her is dead. The law gives her no protection
for her virtue; the ruffian may violate it, and Heaven only can
shelter it with forgiveness. As for Blackett, he has no forgiveness
in his temperament,--passion soars highest with him; he would slay
with violent hands the minion who dared oppose its triumph.
About this time, Mr. Blackett, much to his surprise, finds a storm
of mischief brewing about his domestic domain. The Miss Blacketts,
dashing beauties, have had it come to their ears over and over again
that all the young men about the city say Annette Mazatlin (as she
is now called) is far more beautiful than any one of the Blacketts.
This is quite enough to kindle the elements of a female war. In the
south nothing can spread the war of jealousy and vanity with such
undying rage as comparing slave beauty with that of the more
favoured of the sexes. A firman of the strongest kind is now issued
from the portfolio of the Miss Blacketts, forbidding the wretched
girl entering the house; and storms of abuse are plentifully and
very cheaply lavished on her head, ere she puts it outside the
cabin. She was a nasty, impudent hussy; the very worst of all kind
of creatures to have about a respectable mansion,--enough to shock
respectable people! The worst of it was, that the miserable white
nigger thought she was handsome, and a lot of young, silly-headed
men flattered her vanity by telling the fool she was prettier than
the Blacketts themselves,--so said the very accomplished Miss
Blacketts. And if ever domicile was becoming too warm for man to
live in, in consequence of female indignation, that one was Mr.
Blackmore Blackett's. It was not so much that the father had
purchased this beautiful creature to serve fiendish purposes. Oh
no!-that was a thing of every-day occurrence,--something excusable in
any respectable man's family. It was beauty rivalling, fierce and
jealous of its compliments. Again, the wretch-found incorrigible,
and useless for the purpose purchased-is sold. Poor, luckless
maiden! she might add, as she passed through the hands of so many
purchasers. This time, however, she is less valuable from having
fractured her left wrist, deformity being always taken into account
when such property is up at the flesh shambles. But Mr. Blackmore
Blackett has a delicacy about putting her up under the hammer just
now, inasmuch as he could not say she was sold for no fault; while
the disfigured wrist might lead to suspicious remarks concerning his
treatment of her. Another extremely unfortunate circumstance was its
getting all about the city that she was a cold, soulless thing, who
declared that sooner than yield to be the abject wretch men sought
to make her, she would die that only death. She had but one life,
and it were better to yield that up virtuously than die degraded.
Graspum, then, is the only safe channel in which to dispose of the
like. That functionary assures Mr. Blackmore Blackett that the girl
is beautiful, delicate, and an exceedingly sweet creature yet! but
that during the four months she has depreciated more than fifty per
cent in value. His remarks may be considered out of place, but they
are none the less true, for it is ascertained, on private
examination, that sundry stripes have been laid about her bare
loins. Gurdoin Choicewest declared to his mother that he never for
once had laid violent hands on the obstinate wench; Mr. Blackmore
Blackett stood ready to lay his hand on the Bible, and lift his eyes
to heaven for proof of his innocence; but a record of the
infliction, indelible of blood, remained there to tell its sad
tale,--to shame, if shame had aught in slavery whereon to make itself
known. Notwithstanding this bold denial, it is found that Mr.
Blackmore Blackett did on two occasions strip her and secure her
hands and feet to the bed-post, where he put on "about six at a
time," remarkably "gently." He admired her symmetrical form, her
fine, white, soft, smooth skin-her voluptuous limbs, so beautifully
and delicately developed; and then there was so much gushing
sweetness, mingled with grief, in her face, as she cast her soft
glances upon him, and implored him to end her existence, or save her
such shame! Such, he says, laconically, completely disarmed him, and
he only switched her a few times.
"She's not worth a dot more than a thousand dollars. I couldn't give
it for her, because I couldn't make it out on her. The fact is,
she'll get a bad name by passing through so many hands-a deuced bad
name!" says Graspum, whose commercial language is politically cold.
"And then there's her broken wrist-doubtful! doubtful! doubtful!
what I can do with her. For a plantation she isn't worth seven
coppers, and sempstresses and housemaids of her kind are looked on
suspiciously. It's only with great nicety of skill ye can work such
property to advantage," he continues, viewing her in one of Mr.
Blackmore Blackett's ante-rooms.
The upshot of the matter is, that Mr. Blackmore Blackett accepts the
offer, and Graspum, having again taken the damaged property under
his charge, sends it back to his pen. As an offset for the broken
wrist, she has three new dresses, two of which were presented by the
younger Choicewest, and one by the generous Blackmore Blackett.
Poor Annette! she leaves for her home in the slave-pen, sad at
heart, and in tears. "My mother! Oh, that I had a mother to love me,
to say Annette so kindly,--to share with me my heart's bitter
anguish. How I could love Nicholas, now that there is no mother to
love me!" she mutters as she sobs, wending her way to that place of
earthly torment. How different are the feelings of the oppressor. He
drinks a social glass of wine with his friend Blackett, lights his
cigar most fashionably, bids him a polite good morning, and
intimates that a cheque for the amount of the purchase will be ready
any time he may be pleased to call. And now he wends his way
homeward, little imagining what good fortune awaits him at the pen
to which he has despatched his purchase.
Annette has reached the pen, in which she sits, pensively, holding
her bonnet by the strings, the heavy folds of her light auburn hair
hanging dishevelled over her shoulders. Melancholy indeed she is,
for she has passed an ordeal of unholy brutality. Near her sits one
Pringle Blowers, a man of coarse habits, who resides on his
rice-plantation, a few miles from the city, into which he frequently
comes, much to the annoyance of quietly disposed citizens and
guardsmen, who are not unfrequently called upon to preserve the
peace he threatens to disturb. Dearly does he love his legitimate
brandy, and dearly does it make him pay for the insane frolics it
incites him to perpetrate, to the profit of certain saloons, and
danger of persons. Madman under the influence of his favourite
drink, a strange pride besets his faculties, which is only appeased
with the demolition of glass and men's faces. For this strange
amusement he has become famous and feared; and as the light of his
own besotted countenance makes its appearance, citizens generally
are not inclined to interpose any obstacle to the exercise of his
Here he sits, viewing Annette with excited scrutiny. Never before
has he seen anything so pretty, so bright, so fascinating-all
clothed with a halo of modesty-for sale in the market. The nigger is
completely absorbed in the beauty, he mutters to himself: and yet
she must be a nigger or she would not be here. That she is an
article of sale, then, there can be no doubt. "Van, yer the nicest
gal I've seen! Reckon how Grasp. paid a tall shot for ye, eh?" he
says, in the exuberance of his fascinated soul. He will draw nearer
to her, toss her undulating hair, playfully, and with seeming
unconsciousness draw his brawny hand across her bosom. "Didn't mean
it!" he exclaims, contorting his broad red face, as she puts out her
hand, presses him from her, and disdains his second attempt. "Pluck,
I reckon! needn't put on mouths, though, when a feller's only
quizzin." He shrugs his great round shoulders, and rolls his wicked
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