The Marrow of Tradition
Charles W. Chesnutt
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Bill Walker and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE MARROW OF TRADITION
by Charles W. Chestnutt
I. At Break of Day
II. The Christening Party
III. The Editor at Work
IV. Theodore Felix
V. A Journey Southward
VII. The Operation
VIII. The Campaign drags
IX. A White Man's "Nigger"
X. Delamere Plays a Trump
XI. The Baby and the Bird
XII. Another Southern Product
XIII. The Cakewalk
XIV. The Maunderings of Old Mrs. Ochiltree
XV. Mrs. Carteret Seeks an Explanation
XVI. Ellis Takes a Trick
XVII. The Social Aspirations of Captain McBane
XVIII. Sandy Sees His Own Ha'nt
XIX. A Midnight Walk
XX. A Shocking Crime
XXI. The Necessity of an Example
XXII. How Not to Prevent a Lynching
XXIV. Two Southern Gentlemen
XXV. The Honor of a Family
XXVI. The Discomfort of Ellis
XXVII. The Vagaries of the Higher Law
XXVIII. In Season and Out
XXIX. Mutterings of the Storm
XXX. The Missing Papers
XXXI. The Shadow of a Dream
XXXII. The Storm breaks
XXXIII. Into the Lion's Jaws
XXXIV. The Valley of the Shadow
XXXV. "Mine Enemy, O Mine Enemy!"
XXXVI. Fiat Justitia
XXXVII. The Sisters
The Marrow of Tradition
I like you and your book, ingenious Hone!
In whose capacious all-embracing leaves
The very marrow of tradition's shown.
_To the Editor of the Every-Day Book_
AT BREAK OF DAY
"Stay here beside her, major. I shall not he needed for an hour yet.
Meanwhile I'll go downstairs and snatch a bit of sleep, or talk to old
The night was hot and sultry. Though the windows of the chamber were
wide open, and the muslin curtains looped back, not a breath of air was
stirring. Only the shrill chirp of the cicada and the muffled croaking
of the frogs in some distant marsh broke the night silence. The heavy
scent of magnolias, overpowering even the strong smell of drugs in the
sickroom, suggested death and funeral wreaths, sorrow and tears, the
long home, the last sleep. The major shivered with apprehension as the
slender hand which he held in his own contracted nervously and in a
spasm of pain clutched his fingers with a viselike grip.
Major Carteret, though dressed in brown linen, had thrown off his coat
for greater comfort. The stifling heat, in spite of the palm-leaf fan
which he plied mechanically, was scarcely less oppressive than his own
thoughts. Long ago, while yet a mere boy in years, he had come back from
Appomattox to find his family, one of the oldest and proudest in the
state, hopelessly impoverished by the war,--even their ancestral home
swallowed up in the common ruin. His elder brother had sacrificed his
life on the bloody altar of the lost cause, and his father, broken and
chagrined, died not many years later, leaving the major the last of his
line. He had tried in various pursuits to gain a foothold in the new
life, but with indifferent success until he won the hand of Olivia
Merkell, whom he had seen grow from a small girl to glorious womanhood.
With her money he had founded the Morning Chronicle, which he had made
the leading organ of his party and the most influential paper in the
State. The fine old house in which they lived was hers. In this very
room she had first drawn the breath of life; it had been their nuptial
chamber; and here, too, within a few hours, she might die, for it seemed
impossible that one could long endure such frightful agony and live.
One cloud alone had marred the otherwise perfect serenity of their
happiness. Olivia was childless. To have children to perpetuate the name
of which he was so proud, to write it still higher on the roll of
honor, had been his dearest hope. His disappointment had been
proportionately keen. A few months ago this dead hope had revived, and
altered the whole aspect of their lives. But as time went on, his wife's
age had begun to tell upon her, until even Dr. Price, the most cheerful
and optimistic of physicians, had warned him, while hoping for the best,
to be prepared for the worst. To add to the danger, Mrs. Carteret had
only this day suffered from a nervous shock, which, it was feared, had
hastened by several weeks the expected event.
Dr. Price went downstairs to the library, where a dim light was
burning. An old black woman, dressed in a gingham frock, with a red
bandana handkerchief coiled around her head by way of turban, was seated
by an open window. She rose and curtsied as the doctor entered and
dropped into a willow rocking-chair near her own.
"How did this happen, Jane?" he asked in a subdued voice, adding, with
assumed severity, "You ought to have taken better care of your
"Now look a-hyuh, Doctuh Price," returned the old woman in an unctuous
whisper, "you don' wanter come talkin' none er yo' foolishness 'bout my
not takin' keer er Mis' 'Livy. _She_ never would 'a' said sech a thing!
Seven er eight mont's ago, w'en she sent fer me, I says ter her, says
"'Lawd, Lawd, honey! You don' tell me dat after all dese long w'ary
years er waitin' de good Lawd is done heared yo' prayer an' is gwine ter
sen' you de chile you be'n wantin' so long an' so bad? Bless his holy
name! Will I come an' nuss yo' baby? Why, honey, I nussed you, an'
nussed yo' mammy thoo her las' sickness, an' laid her out w'en she died.
I wouldn' _let_ nobody e'se nuss yo' baby; an' mo'over, I'm gwine ter
come an' nuss you too. You're young side er me, Mis' 'Livy, but you're
ove'ly ole ter be havin' yo' fus' baby, an' you'll need somebody roun',
honey, w'at knows all 'bout de fam'ly, an' deir ways an' deir
weaknesses, an' I don' know who dat'd be ef it wa'n't me.'
"''Deed, Mammy Jane,' says she, 'dere ain' nobody e'se I'd have but you.
You kin come ez soon ez you wanter an' stay ez long ez you mineter.'
"An hyuh I is, an' hyuh I'm gwine ter stay. Fer Mis' 'Livy is my ole
mist'ess's daughter, an' my ole mist'ess wuz good ter me, an' dey ain'
none er her folks gwine ter suffer ef ole Jane kin he'p it."
"Your loyalty does you credit, Jane," observed the doctor; "but you
haven't told me yet what happened to Mrs. Carteret to-day. Did the horse
run away, or did she see something that frightened her?"
"No, suh, de hoss didn' git skeered at nothin', but Mis' 'Livy did see
somethin', er somebody; an' it wa'n't no fault er mine ner her'n
neither,--it goes fu'ther back, suh, fu'ther dan dis day er dis year.
Does you 'member de time w'en my ole mist'ess, Mis' 'Livy upstairs's
mammy, died? No? Well, you wuz prob'ly 'way ter school den, studyin' ter
be a doctuh. But I'll tell you all erbout it.
"Wen my ole mist'ess, Mis' 'Liz'beth Merkell,--an' a good mist'ess she
wuz,--tuck sick fer de las' time, her sister Polly--ole Mis' Polly
Ochiltree w'at is now--come ter de house ter he'p nuss her. Mis' 'Livy
upstairs yander wuz erbout six years ole den, de sweetes' little angel
you ever laid eyes on; an' on her dyin' bed Mis' 'Liz'beth ax' Mis'
Polly fer ter stay hyuh an' take keer er her chile, an' Mis' Polly she
promise'. She wuz a widder fer de secon' time, an' didn' have no
child'en, an' could jes' as well come as not.
"But dere wuz trouble after de fune'al, an' it happen' right hyuh in dis
lib'ary. Mars Sam wuz settin' by de table, w'en Mis' Polly come
downstairs, slow an' solemn, an' stood dere in de middle er de flo', all
in black, till Mars Sam sot a cheer fer her.
"'Well, Samuel,' says she, 'now dat we've done all we can fer po'
'Liz'beth, it only 'mains fer us ter consider Olivia's future.'
"Mars Sam nodded his head, but didn' say nothin'.
"'I don' need ter tell you,' says she,' dat I am willin' ter carry out
de wishes er my dead sister, an' sac'ifice my own comfo't, an' make
myse'f yo' housekeeper an' yo' child's nuss, fer my dear sister's sake.
It wuz her dyin' wish, an' on it I will ac', ef it is also yo'n.'
"Mars Sam didn' want Mis' Polly ter come, suh; fur he didn' like Mis'
Polly. He wuz skeered er Miss Polly."
"I don't wonder," yawned the doctor, "if she was anything like she is
"Wuss, suh, fer she wuz younger, an' stronger. She always would have her
say, no matter 'bout what, an' her own way, no matter who 'posed her.
She had already be'n in de house fer a week, an' Mars Sam knowed ef she
once come ter stay, she'd be de mist'ess of eve'ybody in it an' him
too. But w'at could he do but say yas?
"'Den it is unde'stood, is it,' says Mis' Polly, w'en he had spoke, 'dat
I am ter take cha'ge er de house?'
"'All right, Polly,' says Mars Sam, wid a deep sigh.
"Mis' Polly 'lowed he wuz sighin' fer my po' dead mist'ess, fer she didn'
have no idee er his feelin's to'ds her,--she alluz did 'low dat all
de gent'emen wuz in love wid 'er.
"'You won' fin' much ter do,' Mars Sam went on, 'fer Julia is a good
housekeeper, an' kin ten' ter mos' eve'ything, under yo' d'rections.'
"Mis' Polly stiffen' up like a ramrod. 'It mus' be unde'stood, Samuel,'
says she, 'dat w'en I 'sumes cha'ge er yo' house, dere ain' gwine ter be
no 'vided 'sponsibility; an' as fer dis Julia, me an' her couldn' git
'long tergether nohow. Ef I stays, Julia goes.'
"Wen Mars Sam beared dat, he felt better, an' 'mence' ter pick up his
courage. Mis' Polly had showed her ban' too plain. My mist'ess hadn'
got col' yit, an' Mis' Polly, who'd be'n a widder fer two years dis
las' time, wuz already fig'rin' on takin' her place fer good, an' she
did n! want no other woman roun' de house dat Mars Sam might take a'
"'My dear Polly,' says Mars Sam, quite determine', 'I couldn' possibly
sen' Julia 'way. Fac' is, I couldn' git 'long widout Julia. She'd be'n
runnin' dis house like clockwo'k befo' you come, an' I likes her ways.
My dear, dead 'Liz'beth sot a heap er sto' by Julia, an' I'm gwine ter
keep her here fer 'Liz'beth's sake.'
"Mis' Polly's eyes flash' fire.
"'Ah,' says she,' I see--I see! You perfers her housekeepin' ter mine,
indeed! Dat is a fine way ter talk ter a lady! An' a heap er rispec' you
is got fer de mem'ry er my po' dead sister!'
"Mars Sam knowed w'at she 'lowed she seed wa'n't so; but he didn' let
on, fer it only made him de safer. He wuz willin' fer her ter 'magine w'at
she please', jes' so long ez she kep' out er his house an' let him
"'No, Polly,' says he, gittin' bolder ez she got madder, 'dere ain' no
use talkin'. Nothin' in de worl' would make me part wid Julia.'
"Mis' Polly she r'ared an' she pitch', but Mars Sam helt on like grim
death. Mis' Polly wouldn' give in neither, an' so she fin'lly went
away. Dey made some kind er 'rangement afterwa'ds, an' Miss Polly tuck
Mis' 'Livy ter her own house. Mars Sam paid her bo'd an' 'lowed Mis'
Polly somethin' fer takin' keer er her."
"And Julia stayed?"
"Julia stayed, suh, an' a couple er years later her chile wuz bawn,
right here in dis house."
"But you said," observed the doctor, "that Mrs. Ochiltree was in error
"Yas, suh, so she wuz, w'en my ole mist'ess died. But dis wuz two years
after,--an' w'at has ter be has ter be. Julia had a easy time; she had a
black gal ter wait on her, a buggy to ride in, an' eve'ything she
wanted. Eve'ybody s'posed Mars Sam would give her a house an' lot, er
leave her somethin' in his will. But he died suddenly, and didn' leave
no will, an' Mis' Polly got herse'f 'pinted gyardeen ter young Mis'
'Livy, an' driv Julia an' her young un out er de house, an' lived here
in dis house wid Mis' 'Livy till Mis' 'Livy ma'ied Majah Carteret."
"And what became of Julia?" asked Dr. Price.
Such relations, the doctor knew very well, had been all too common in
the old slavery days, and not a few of them had been projected into the
new era. Sins, like snakes, die hard. The habits and customs of a people
were not to be changed in a day, nor by the stroke of a pen. As family
physician, and father confessor by brevet, Dr. Price had looked upon
more than one hidden skeleton; and no one in town had had better
opportunities than old Jane for learning the undercurrents in the lives
of the old families.
"Well," resumed Jane, "eve'ybody s'posed, after w'at had happen', dat
Julia'd keep on livin' easy, fer she wuz young an' good-lookin'. But
she didn'. She tried ter make a livin' sewin', but Mis' Polly wouldn'
let de bes' w'ite folks hire her. Den she tuck up washin', but didn' do
no better at dat; an' bimeby she got so discourage' dat she ma'ied a
shif'less yaller man, an' died er consumption soon after,--an' wuz
'bout ez well off, fer dis man couldn' hardly feed her nohow."
"And the child?"
"One er de No'the'n w'ite lady teachers at de mission school tuck a
likin' ter little Janet, an' put her thoo school, an' den sent her off
ter de No'th fer ter study ter be a school teacher. W'en she come back,
'stead er teachin' she ma'ied ole Adam Miller's son."
"The rich stevedore's son, Dr. Miller?"
"Yas, suh, dat's de man,--you knows 'im. Dis yer boy wuz jes' gwine
'way fer ter study ter be a doctuh, an' he ma'ied dis Janet, an' tuck
her 'way wid 'im. Dey went off ter Europe, er Irope, er Orope, er
somewhere er 'nother, 'way off yander, an' come back here las' year an'
sta'ted dis yer horspital an' school fer ter train de black gals fer
"He's a very good doctor, Jane, and is doing a useful work. Your
chapter of family history is quite interesting,--I knew part of it
before, in a general way; but you haven't yet told me what brought on
Mrs. Carteret's trouble."
"I'm jes' comin' ter dat dis minute, suh,--w'at I be'n tellin' you is
all a part of it. Dis yer Janet, w'at's Mis' 'Livy's half-sister, is ez
much like her ez ef dey wuz twins. Folks sometimes takes 'em fer one
ernudder,--I s'pose it tickles Janet mos' ter death, but it do make Mis'
'Livy rippin'. An' den 'way back yander jes' after de wah, w'en de ole
Carteret mansion had ter be sol', Adam Miller bought it, an' dis yer
Janet an' her husban' is be'n livin' in it ever sence ole Adam died,
'bout a year ago; an' dat makes de majah mad, 'ca'se he don' wanter see
cullud folks livin' in de ole fam'ly mansion w'at he wuz bawn in. An'
mo'over, an' dat's de wust of all, w'iles Mis' 'Livy ain' had no
child'en befo', dis yer sister er her'n is got a fine-lookin' little
yaller boy, w'at favors de fam'ly so dat ef Mis' 'Livy'd see de chile
anywhere, it'd mos' break her heart fer ter think 'bout her not havin'
no child'en herse'f. So ter-day, w'en Mis' 'Livy wuz out ridin' an' met
dis yer Janet wid her boy, an' w'en Mis' 'Livy got ter studyin' 'bout
her own chances, an' how she mought not come thoo safe, she jes' had a
fit er hysterics right dere in de buggy. She wuz mos' home, an' William
got her here, an' you knows de res'."
Major Carteret, from the head of the stairs, called the doctor
"You had better come along up now, Jane," said the doctor.
For two long hours they fought back the grim spectre that stood by the
bedside. The child was born at dawn. Both mother and child, the doctor
said, would live.
"Bless its 'ittle hea't!" exclaimed Mammy Jane, as she held up the tiny
mite, which bore as much resemblance to mature humanity as might be
expected of an infant which had for only a few minutes drawn the breath
of life. "Bless its 'ittle hea't! it's de we'y spit an' image er its
The doctor smiled. The major laughed aloud. Jane's unconscious
witticism, or conscious flattery, whichever it might be, was a welcome
diversion from the tense strain of the last few hours.
"Be that as it may," said Dr. Price cheerfully, "and I'll not dispute
it, the child is a very fine boy,--a very fine boy, indeed! Take care of
it, major," he added with a touch of solemnity, "for your wife can never
With the child's first cry a refreshing breeze from the distant ocean
cooled the hot air of the chamber; the heavy odor of the magnolias, with
its mortuary suggestiveness, gave place to the scent of rose and lilac
and honeysuckle. The birds in the garden were singing lustily.
All these sweet and pleasant things found an echo in the major's heart.
He stood by the window, and looking toward the rising sun, breathed a
silent prayer of thanksgiving. All nature seemed to rejoice in sympathy
with his happiness at the fruition of this long-deferred hope, and to
predict for this wonderful child a bright and glorious future.
Old Mammy Jane, however, was not entirely at ease concerning the child.
She had discovered, under its left ear, a small mole, which led her to
fear that the child was born for bad luck. Had the baby been black, or
yellow, or poor-white, Jane would unhesitatingly have named, as his
ultimate fate, a not uncommon form of taking off, usually resultant upon
the infraction of certain laws, or, in these swift modern days, upon too
violent a departure from established social customs. It was manifestly
impossible that a child of such high quality as the grandson of her old
mistress should die by judicial strangulation; but nevertheless the
warning was a serious thing, and not to be lightly disregarded.
Not wishing to be considered as a prophet of evil omen, Jane kept her
own counsel in regard to this significant discovery. But later, after
the child was several days old, she filled a small vial with water in
which the infant had been washed, and took it to a certain wise old
black woman, who lived on the farther edge of the town and was well
known to be versed in witchcraft and conjuration. The conjure woman
added to the contents of the bottle a bit of calamus root, and one of
the cervical vertebrae from the skeleton of a black cat, with several
other mysterious ingredients, the nature of which she did not disclose.
Following instructions given her, Aunt Jane buried the bottle in
Carteret's back yard, one night during the full moon, as a good-luck
charm to ward off evil from the little grandson of her dear mistress, so
long since dead and gone to heaven.
THE CHRISTENING PARTY
They named the Carteret baby Theodore Felix. Theodore was a family name,
and had been borne by the eldest son for several generations, the major
himself being a second son. Having thus given the child two beautiful
names, replete with religious and sentimental significance, they called
The baby was christened some six weeks after its birth, by which time
Mrs. Carteret was able to be out. Old Mammy Jane, who had been brought
up in the church, but who, like some better informed people in all ages,
found religion not inconsistent with a strong vein of superstition, felt
her fears for the baby's future much relieved when the rector had made
the sign of the cross and sprinkled little Dodie with the water from the
carved marble font, which had come from England in the reign of King
Charles the Martyr, as the ill-fated son of James I. was known to St.
Andrew's. Upon this special occasion Mammy Jane had been provided with a
seat downstairs among the white people, to her own intense satisfaction,
and to the secret envy of a small colored attendance in the gallery, to
whom she was ostentatiously pointed out by her grandson Jerry, porter at
the Morning Chronicle office, who sat among them in the front row.
On the following Monday evening the major gave a christening party in
honor of this important event. Owing to Mrs. Carteret's still delicate
health, only a small number of intimate friends and family connections
were invited to attend. These were the rector of St. Andrew's; old Mrs.
Polly Ochiltree, the godmother; old Mr. Delamere, a distant relative and
also one of the sponsors; and his grandson, Tom Delamere. The major had
also invited Lee Ellis, his young city editor, for whom he had a great
liking apart from his business value, and who was a frequent visitor at
the house. These, with the family itself, which consisted of the major,
his wife, and his half-sister, Clara Pemberton, a young woman of about
eighteen, made up the eight persons for whom covers were laid.
Ellis was the first to arrive, a tall, loose-limbed young man, with a
slightly freckled face, hair verging on auburn, a firm chin, and honest
gray eyes. He had come half an hour early, and was left alone for a few
minutes in the parlor, a spacious, high-ceilinged room, with large
windows, and fitted up in excellent taste, with stately reminiscences of
a past generation. The walls were hung with figured paper. The ceiling
was whitewashed, and decorated in the middle with a plaster
centre-piece, from which hung a massive chandelier sparkling with
prismatic rays from a hundred crystal pendants. There was a handsome
mantel, set with terra-cotta tiles, on which fauns and satyrs, nymphs
and dryads, disported themselves in idyllic abandon. The furniture was
old, and in keeping with the room.
At seven o'clock a carriage drove up, from which alighted an elderly
gentleman, with white hair and mustache, and bowed somewhat with years.
Short of breath and painfully weak in the legs, he was assisted from the
carriage by a colored man, apparently about forty years old, to whom
short side-whiskers and spectacles imparted an air of sobriety. This
attendant gave his arm respectfully to the old gentleman, who leaned
upon it heavily, but with as little appearance of dependence as
possible. The servant, assuming a similar unconsciousness of the weight
resting upon his arm, assisted the old gentleman carefully up the steps.
"I'm all right now, Sandy," whispered the gentleman as soon as his feet
were planted firmly on the piazza. "You may come back for me at nine
Having taken his hand from his servant's arm, he advanced to meet a lady
who stood in the door awaiting him, a tall, elderly woman, gaunt and
angular of frame, with a mottled face, and high cheekbones partially
covered by bands of hair entirely too black and abundant for a person of
her age, if one might judge from the lines of her mouth, which are
rarely deceptive in such matters.
"Perhaps you'd better not send your man away, Mr. Delamere," observed
the lady, in a high shrill voice, which grated upon the old gentleman's
ears. He was slightly hard of hearing, but, like most deaf people,
resented being screamed at. "You might need him before nine o'clock. One
never knows what may happen after one has had the second stroke. And
moreover, our butler has fallen down the back steps--negroes are so
careless!--and sprained his ankle so that he can't stand. I'd like to
have Sandy stay and wait on the table in Peter's place, if you don't
"I thank you, Mrs. Ochiltree, for your solicitude," replied Mr.
Delamere, with a shade of annoyance in his voice, "but my health is very
good just at present, and I do not anticipate any catastrophe which will
require my servant's presence before I am ready to go home. But I have
no doubt, madam," he continued, with a courteous inclination, "that
Sandy will be pleased to serve you, if you desire it, to the best of his
"I shill be honored, ma'am," assented Sandy, with a bow even deeper than
his master's, "only I'm 'feared I ain't rightly dressed fer ter wait on
table. I wuz only goin' ter pra'r-meetin', an' so I didn' put on my
bes' clo's. Ef Mis' Ochiltree ain' gwine ter need me fer de nex' fifteen
minutes, I kin ride back home in de ca'ige an' dress myse'f suitable fer
de occasion, suh."
"If you think you'll wait on the table any better," said Mrs.
Ochiltree, "you may go along and change your clothes; but hurry back,
for it is seven now, and dinner will soon be served."
Sandy retired with a bow. While descending the steps to the carriage,
which had waited for him, he came face to face with a young man just
entering the house.
"Am I in time for dinner, Sandy?" asked the newcomer.
"Yas, Mistuh Tom, you're in plenty er time. Dinner won't be ready till
_I_ git back, which won' be fer fifteen minutes er so yit."
Throwing away the cigarette which he held between his fingers, the young
man crossed the piazza with a light step, and after a preliminary knock,
for an answer to which he did not wait, entered the house with the air
of one thoroughly at home. The lights in the parlor had been lit, and
Ellis, who sat talking to Major Carteret when the newcomer entered,
covered him with a jealous glance.
Slender and of medium height, with a small head of almost perfect
contour, a symmetrical face, dark almost to swarthiness, black eyes,
which moved somewhat restlessly, curly hair of raven tint, a slight
mustache, small hands and feet, and fashionable attire, Tom Delamere,
the grandson of the old gentleman who had already arrived, was easily
the handsomest young man in Wellington. But no discriminating observer
would have characterized his beauty as manly. It conveyed no impression
of strength, but did possess a certain element, feline rather than
feminine, which subtly negatived the idea of manliness.
He gave his hand to the major, nodded curtly to Ellis, saluted his
grandfather respectfully, and inquired for the ladies.
"Olivia is dressing for dinner," replied the major; "Mrs. Ochiltree is
in the kitchen, struggling with the servants. Clara--Ah, here she comes
Ellis, whose senses were preternaturally acute where Clara was
concerned, was already looking toward the hall and was the first to see
her. Clad in an evening gown of simple white, to the close-fitting
corsage of which she had fastened a bunch of pink roses, she was to
Ellis a dazzling apparition. To him her erect and well-moulded form was
the embodiment of symmetry, her voice sweet music, her movements the
perfection of grace; and it scarcely needed a lover's imagination to
read in her fair countenance a pure heart and a high spirit,--the
truthfulness that scorns a lie, the pride which is not haughtiness.
There were suggestive depths of tenderness, too, in the curl of her lip,
the droop of her long lashes, the glance of her blue eyes,--depths that
Ellis had long since divined, though he had never yet explored them. She
gave Ellis a friendly nod as she came in, but for the smile with which
she greeted Delamere, Ellis would have given all that he
possessed,--not a great deal, it is true, but what could a man do more?
"You are the last one, Tom," she said reproachfully. "Mr. Ellis has been
here half an hour."
Delamere threw a glance at Ellis which was not exactly friendly. Why
should this fellow always be on hand to emphasize his own shortcomings?
"The rector is not here," answered Tom triumphantly. "You see I am not
"The rector," replied Clara, "was called out of town at six o'clock this
evening, to visit a dying man, and so cannot be here. You are the last,
Tom, and Mr. Ellis was the first."
Ellis was ruefully aware that this comparison in his favor was the only
visible advantage that he had gained from his early arrival. He had not
seen Miss Pemberton a moment sooner by reason of it. There had been a
certain satisfaction in being in the same house with her, but Delamere
had arrived in time to share or, more correctly, to monopolize, the
sunshine of her presence.
Delamere gave a plausible excuse which won Clara's pardon and another
enchanting smile, which pierced Ellis like a dagger. He knew very well
that Delamere's excuse was a lie. Ellis himself had been ready as early
as six o'clock, but judging this to be too early, had stopped in at the
Clarendon Club for half an hour, to look over the magazines. While
coming out he had glanced into the card-room, where he had seen his
rival deep in a game of cards, from which Delamere had evidently not
been able to tear himself until the last moment. He had accounted for
his lateness by a story quite inconsistent with these facts.
The two young people walked over to a window on the opposite side of
the large room, where they stood talking to one another in low tones.
The major had left the room for a moment. Old Mr. Delamere, who was
watching his grandson and Clara with an indulgent smile, proceeded to
rub salt into Ellis's wounds.
"They make a handsome couple," he observed. "I remember well when her
mother, in her youth an ideally beautiful woman, of an excellent family,
married Daniel Pemberton, who was not of so good a family, but had made
money. The major, who was only a very young man then, disapproved of the
match; he considered that his mother, although a widow and nearly forty,
was marrying beneath her. But he has been a good brother to Clara, and a
careful guardian of her estate. Ah, young gentleman, you cannot
appreciate, except in imagination, what it means, to one standing on the
brink of eternity, to feel sure that he will live on in his children and
his children's children!"
Ellis was appreciating at that moment what it meant, in cold blood, with
no effort of the imagination, to see the girl whom he loved absorbed
completely in another man. She had looked at him only once since Tom
Delamere had entered the room, and then merely to use him as a spur with
which to prick his favored rival.
"Yes, sir," he returned mechanically, "Miss Clara is a beautiful young
"And Tom is a good boy--a fine boy," returned the old gentleman. "I am
very well pleased with Tom, and shall be entirely happy when I see them
Ellis could not echo this sentiment. The very thought of this marriage
made him miserable. He had always understood that the engagement was
merely tentative, a sort of family understanding, subject to
confirmation after Delamere should have attained his majority, which was
still a year off, and when the major should think Clara old enough to
marry. Ellis saw Delamere with the eye of a jealous rival, and judged
him mercilessly,--whether correctly or not the sequel will show. He did
not at all believe that Tom Delamere would make a fit husband for Clara
Pemberton; but his opinion would have had no weight,--he could hardly
have expressed it without showing his own interest. Moreover, there was
no element of the sneak in Lee Ellis's make-up. The very fact that he
might profit by the other's discomfiture left Delamere secure, so far as
he could be affected by anything that Ellis might say. But Ellis did not
shrink from a fair fight, and though in this one the odds were heavily
against him, yet so long as this engagement remained indefinite, so
long, indeed, as the object of his love was still unwed, he would not
cease to hope. Such a sacrifice as this marriage clearly belonged in the
catalogue of impossibilities. Ellis had not lived long enough to learn
that impossibilities are merely things of which we have not learned, or
which we do not wish to happen.
Sandy returned at the end of a quarter of an hour, and dinner was
announced. Mr. Delamere led the way to the dining-room with Mrs.
Ochiltree. Tom followed with Clara. The major went to the head of the
stairs and came down with Mrs. Carteret upon his arm, her beauty
rendered more delicate by the pallor of her countenance and more
complete by the happiness with which it glowed. Ellis went in alone. In
the rector's absence it was practically a family party which sat down,
with the exception of Ellis, who, as we have seen, would willingly have
placed himself in the same category.
The table was tastefully decorated with flowers, which grew about the
house in lavish profusion. In warm climates nature adorns herself with
true feminine vanity.
"What a beautiful table!" exclaimed Tom, before they were seated.
"The decorations are mine," said Clara proudly. "I cut the flowers and
arranged them all myself."
"Which accounts for the admirable effect," rejoined Tom with a bow,
before Ellis, to whom the same thought had occurred, was able to express
himself. He had always counted himself the least envious of men, but for
this occasion he coveted Tom Delamere's readiness.
"The beauty of the flowers," observed old Mr. Delamere, with sententious
gallantry, "is reflected upon all around them. It is a handsome
Mrs. Ochiltree beamed upon the table with a dry smile.
"I don't perceive any effect that it has upon you or me," she said; "And
as for the young people, 'Handsome is as handsome does.' If Tom here,
for instance, were as good as he looks"--
"You flatter me, Aunt Polly," Tom broke in hastily, anticipating the
crack of the whip; he was familiar with his aunt's conversational
"If you are as good as you look," continued the old lady, with a cunning
but indulgent smile, "some one has been slandering you."
"Thanks, Aunt Polly! Now you don't flatter me."
"There is Mr. Ellis," Mrs. Ochiltree went on, "who is not half so
good-looking, but is steady as a clock, I dare say."
"Now, Aunt Polly," interposed Mrs. Carteret, "let the gentlemen alone."
"She doesn't mean half what she says," continued Mrs. Carteret
apologetically, "and only talks that way to people whom she likes."
Tom threw Mrs. Carteret a grateful glance. He had been apprehensive,
with the sensitiveness of youth, lest his old great-aunt should make a
fool of him before Clara's family. Nor had he relished the comparison
with Ellis, who was out of place, anyway, in this family party. He had
never liked the fellow, who was too much of a plodder and a prig to make
a suitable associate for a whole-souled, generous-hearted young
gentleman. He tolerated him as a visitor at Carteret's and as a member
of the Clarendon Club, but that was all.
"Mrs. Ochiltree has a characteristic way of disguising her feelings,"
observed old Mr. Delamere, with a touch of sarcasm.
Ellis had merely flushed and felt uncomfortable at the reference to
himself. The compliment to his character hardly offset the reflection
upon his looks. He knew he was not exactly handsome, but it was not
pleasant to have the fact emphasized in the presence of the girl he
loved; he would like at least fair play, and judgment upon the subject
left to the young lady.
Mrs. Ochiltree was quietly enjoying herself. In early life she had been
accustomed to impale fools on epigrams, like flies on pins, to see them
wriggle. But with advancing years she had lost in some measure the
faculty of nice discrimination,--it was pleasant to see her victims
squirm, whether they were fools or friends. Even one's friends, she
argued, were not always wise, and were sometimes the better for being
told the truth. At her niece's table she felt at liberty to speak her
mind, which she invariably did, with a frankness that sometimes bordered
on brutality. She had long ago outgrown the period where ambition or
passion, or its partners, envy and hatred, were springs of action in her
life, and simply retained a mild enjoyment in the exercise of an old
habit, with no active malice whatever. The ruling passion merely grew
stronger as the restraining faculties decreased in vigor.
A diversion was created at this point by the appearance of old Mammy
Jane, dressed in a calico frock, with clean white neckerchief and apron,
carrying the wonderful baby in honor of whose naming this feast had been
given. Though only six weeks old, the little Theodore had grown rapidly,
and Mammy Jane declared was already quite large for his age, and
displayed signs of an unusually precocious intelligence. He was passed
around the table and duly admired. Clara thought his hair was fine.
Ellis inquired about his teeth. Tom put his finger in the baby's fist to
test his grip. Old Mr. Delamere was unable to decide as yet whether he
favored most his father or his mother. The object of these attentions
endured them patiently for several minutes, and then protested with a
vocal vigor which led to his being taken promptly back upstairs.
Whatever fate might be in store for him, he manifested no sign of weak
"Sandy," said Mrs. Carteret when the baby had retired, "pass that tray
standing upon the side table, so that we may all see the presents."
Mr. Delamere had brought a silver spoon, and Tom a napkin ring. Ellis
had sent a silver watch; it was a little premature, he admitted, but
the boy would grow to it, and could use it to play with in the mean
time. It had a glass back, so that he might see the wheels go round.
Mrs. Ochiltree's present was an old and yellow ivory rattle, with a
handle which the child could bite while teething, and a knob screwed on
at the end to prevent the handle from slipping through the baby's hand.
"I saw that in your cedar chest, Aunt Polly," said Clara, "when I was a
little girl, and you used to pull the chest out from under your bed to
get me a dime."
"You kept the rattle in the right-hand corner of the chest," said Tom,
"in the box with the red silk purse, from which you took the gold piece
you gave me every Christmas."
A smile shone on Mrs. Ochiltree's severe features at this appreciation,
like a ray of sunlight on a snowbank.
"Aunt Polly's chest is like the widow's cruse," said Mrs. Carteret,
"which was never empty."
"Or Fortunatus's purse, which was always full," added old Mr. Delamere,
who read the Latin poets, and whose allusions were apt to be classical
rather than scriptural.
"It will last me while I live," said Mrs. Ochiltree, adding cautiously,
"but there'll not be a great deal left. It won't take much to support
an old woman for twenty years."
Mr. Delamere's man Sandy had been waiting upon the table with the
decorum of a trained butler, and a gravity all his own. He had changed
his suit of plain gray for a long blue coat with brass buttons, which
dated back to the fashion of a former generation, with which he wore a
pair of plaid trousers of strikingly modern cut and pattern. With his
whiskers, his spectacles, and his solemn air of responsibility, he would
have presented, to one unfamiliar with the negro type, an amusingly
impressive appearance. But there was nothing incongruous about Sandy to
this company, except perhaps to Tom Delamere, who possessed a keen eye
for contrasts and always regarded Sandy, in that particular rig, as a
very comical darkey.
"Is it quite prudent, Mrs. Ochiltree," suggested the major at a moment
when Sandy, having set down the tray, had left the room for a little
while, "to mention, in the presence of the servants, that you keep money
in the house?"
"I beg your pardon, major," observed old Mr. Delamere, with a touch of
stiffness. "The only servant in hearing of the conversation has been my
own; and Sandy is as honest as any man in Wellington."
"You mean, sir," replied Carteret, with a smile, "as honest as any negro
"I make no exceptions, major," returned the old gentleman, with
emphasis. "I would trust Sandy with my life,--he saved it once at the
risk of his own."
"No doubt," mused the major, "the negro is capable of a certain doglike
fidelity,--I make the comparison in a kindly sense,--a certain personal
devotion which is admirable in itself, and fits him eminently for a
servile career. I should imagine, however, that one could more safely
trust his life with a negro than his portable property."
"Very clever, major! I read your paper, and know that your feeling is
hostile toward the negro, but"--
The major made a gesture of dissent, but remained courteously silent
until Mr. Delamere had finished.
"For my part," the old gentleman went on, "I think they have done very
well, considering what they started from, and their limited
opportunities. There was Adam Miller, for instance, who left a
comfortable estate. His son George carries on the business, and the
younger boy, William, is a good doctor and stands well with his
profession. His hospital is a good thing, and if my estate were clear, I
should like to do something for it."
"You are mistaken, sir, in imagining me hostile to the negro," explained
Carteret. "On the contrary, I am friendly to his best interests. I give
him employment; I pay taxes for schools to educate him, and for
court-houses and jails to keep him in order. I merely object to being
governed by an inferior and servile race."
Mrs. Carteret's face wore a tired expression. This question was her
husband's hobby, and therefore her own nightmare. Moreover, she had her
personal grievance against the negro race, and the names mentioned by
old Mr. Delamere had brought it vividly before her mind. She had no
desire to mar the harmony of the occasion by the discussion of a
Mr. Delamere, glancing at his hostess, read something of this thought,
and refused the challenge to further argument.
"I do not believe, major," he said, "that Olivia relishes the topic. I
merely wish to say that Sandy is an exception to any rule which you may
formulate in derogation of the negro. Sandy is a gentleman in ebony!"
Tom could scarcely preserve his gravity at this characterization of old
Sandy, with his ridiculous air of importance, his long blue coat, and
his loud plaid trousers. That suit would make a great costume for a
masquerade. He would borrow it some time,--there was nothing in the
world like it.
"Well, Mr. Delamere," returned the major good-humoredly, "no doubt Sandy
is an exceptionally good negro,--he might well be, for he has had the
benefit of your example all his life,--and we know that he is a faithful
servant. But nevertheless, if I were Mrs. Ochiltree, I should put my
money in the bank. Not all negroes are as honest as Sandy, and an
elderly lady might not prove a match for a burly black burglar."
"Thank you, major," retorted Mrs. Ochiltree, with spirit, "I'm not yet
too old to take care of myself. That cedar chest has been my bank for
forty years, and I shall not change my habits at my age."
At this moment Sandy reentered the room. Carteret made a warning
gesture, which Mrs. Ochiltree chose not to notice.
"I've proved a match for two husbands, and am not afraid of any man
that walks the earth, black or white, by day or night. I have a
revolver, and know how to use it. Whoever attempts to rob me will do so
at his peril."
After dinner Clara played the piano and sang duets with Tom Delamere. At
nine o'clock Mr. Delamere's carriage came for him, and he went away
accompanied by Sandy. Under cover of the darkness the old gentleman
leaned on his servant's arm with frank dependence, and Sandy lifted him
into the carriage with every mark of devotion.
Ellis had already excused himself to go to the office and look over the
late proofs for the morning paper. Tom remained a few minutes longer
than his grandfather, and upon taking his leave went round to the
Clarendon Club, where he spent an hour or two in the card-room with a
couple of congenial friends. Luck seemed to favor him, and he went home
at midnight with a comfortable balance of winnings. He was fond of
excitement, and found a great deal of it in cards. To lose was only less
exciting than to win. Of late he had developed into a very successful
player,--so successful, indeed, that several members of the club
generally found excuses to avoid participating in a game where he made
THE EDITOR AT WORK
To go back a little, for several days after his child's birth Major
Carteret's chief interest in life had been confined to the four walls of
the chamber where his pale wife lay upon her bed of pain, and those of
the adjoining room where an old black woman crooned lovingly over a
little white infant. A new element had been added to the major's
consciousness, broadening the scope and deepening the strength of his
affections. He did not love Olivia the less, for maternity had crowned
her wifehood with an added glory; but side by side with this old and
tried attachment was a new passion, stirring up dormant hopes and
kindling new desires. His regret had been more than personal at the
thought that with himself an old name should be lost to the State; and
now all the old pride of race, class, and family welled up anew, and
swelled and quickened the current of his life.
Upon the major's first appearance at the office, which took place the
second day after the child's birth, he opened a box of cigars in honor
of the event. The word had been passed around by Ellis, and the whole
office force, including reporters, compositors, and pressmen, came in to
congratulate the major and smoke at his expense. Even Jerry, the colored
porter,--Mammy Jane's grandson and therefore a protege of the
family,--presented himself among the rest, or rather, after the rest.
The major shook hands with them all except Jerry, though he acknowledged
the porter's congratulations with a kind nod and put a good cigar into
his outstretched palm, for which Jerry thanked him without manifesting
any consciousness of the omission. He was quite aware that under
ordinary circumstances the major would not have shaken hands with white
workingmen, to say nothing of negroes; and he had merely hoped that in
the pleasurable distraction of the moment the major might also overlook
the distinction of color. Jerry's hope had been shattered, though not
rudely; for the major had spoken pleasantly and the cigar was a good
one. Mr. Ellis had once shaken hands with Jerry,--but Mr. Ellis was a
young man, whose Quaker father had never owned any slaves, and he could
not be expected to have as much pride as one of the best "quality,"
whose families had possessed land and negroes for time out of mind. On
the whole, Jerry preferred the careless nod of the editor-in-chief to
the more familiar greeting of the subaltern.
Having finished this pleasant ceremony, which left him with a
comfortable sense of his new dignity, the major turned to his desk. It
had been much neglected during the week, and more than one matter
claimed his attention; but as typical of the new trend of his thoughts,
the first subject he took up was one bearing upon the future of his son.
Quite obviously the career of a Carteret must not be left to chance,--it
must be planned and worked out with a due sense of the value of good
There lay upon his desk a letter from a well-known promoter, offering
the major an investment which promised large returns, though several
years must elapse before the enterprise could be put upon a paying
basis. The element of time, however, was not immediately important. The
Morning Chronicle provided him an ample income. The money available for
this investment was part of his wife's patrimony. It was invested in a
local cotton mill, which was paying ten per cent., but this was a
beggarly return compared with the immense profits promised by the
offered investment,--profits which would enable his son, upon reaching
manhood, to take a place in the world commensurate with the dignity of
his ancestors, one of whom, only a few generations removed, had owned an
estate of ninety thousand acres of land and six thousand slaves.
This letter having been disposed of by an answer accepting the offer,
the major took up his pen to write an editorial. Public affairs in the
state were not going to his satisfaction. At the last state election his
own party, after an almost unbroken rule of twenty years, had been
defeated by the so-called "Fusion" ticket, a combination of Republicans
and Populists. A clean sweep had been made of the offices in the state,
which were now filled by new men. Many of the smaller places had gone to
colored men, their people having voted almost solidly for the Fusion
ticket. In spite of the fact that the population of Wellington was two
thirds colored, this state of things was gall and wormwood to the
defeated party, of which the Morning Chronicle was the acknowledged
organ. Major Carteret shared this feeling. Only this very morning, while
passing the city hall, on his way to the office, he had seen the steps
of that noble building disfigured by a fringe of job-hunting negroes,
for all the world--to use a local simile--like a string of buzzards
sitting on a rail, awaiting their opportunity to batten upon the
helpless corpse of a moribund city.
Taking for his theme the unfitness of the negro to participate in
government,--an unfitness due to his limited education, his lack of
experience, his criminal tendencies, and more especially to his hopeless
mental and physical inferiority to the white race,--the major had
demonstrated, it seemed to him clearly enough, that the ballot in the
hands of the negro was a menace to the commonwealth. He had argued, with
entire conviction, that the white and black races could never attain
social and political harmony by commingling their blood; he had proved
by several historical parallels that no two unassimilable races could
ever live together except in the relation of superior and inferior; and
he was just dipping his gold pen into the ink to indite his conclusions
from the premises thus established, when Jerry, the porter, announced
"Gin'l Belmont an' Cap'n McBane would like ter see you, suh."
"Show them in, Jerry."
The man who entered first upon this invitation was a dapper little
gentleman with light-blue eyes and a Vandyke beard. He wore a frock
coat, patent leather shoes, and a Panama hat. There were crow's-feet
about his eyes, which twinkled with a hard and, at times, humorous
shrewdness. He had sloping shoulders, small hands and feet, and walked
with the leisurely step characteristic of those who have been reared
under hot suns.
Carteret gave his hand cordially to the gentleman thus described.
"How do you do, Captain McBane," he said, turning to the second visitor.
The individual thus addressed was strikingly different in appearance
from his companion. His broad shoulders, burly form, square jaw, and
heavy chin betokened strength, energy, and unscrupulousness. With the
exception of a small, bristling mustache, his face was clean shaven,
with here and there a speck of dried blood due to a carelessly or
unskillfully handled razor. A single deep-set gray eye was shadowed by a
beetling brow, over which a crop of coarse black hair, slightly streaked
with gray, fell almost low enough to mingle with his black, bushy
eyebrows. His coat had not been brushed for several days, if one might
judge from the accumulation of dandruff upon the collar, and his
shirt-front, in the middle of which blazed a showy diamond, was
plentifully stained with tobacco juice. He wore a large slouch hat,
which, upon entering the office, he removed and held in his hand.
Having greeted this person with an unconscious but quite perceptible
diminution of the warmth with which he had welcomed the other, the major
looked around the room for seats for his visitors, and perceiving only
one chair, piled with exchanges, and a broken stool propped against the
wall, pushed a button, which rang a bell in the hall, summoning the
colored porter to his presence.
"Jerry," said the editor when his servant appeared, "bring a couple of
chairs for these gentlemen."
While they stood waiting, the visitors congratulated the major on the
birth of his child, which had been announced in the Morning Chronicle,
and which the prominence of the family made in some degree a matter of
"And now that you have a son, major," remarked the gentleman first
described, as he lit one of the major's cigars, "you'll be all the more
interested in doing something to make this town fit to live in, which is
what we came up to talk about. Things are in an awful condition! A negro
justice of the peace has opened an office on Market Street, and only
yesterday summoned a white man to appear before him. Negro lawyers get
most of the business in the criminal court. Last evening a group of
young white ladies, going quietly along the street arm-in-arm, were
forced off the sidewalk by a crowd of negro girls. Coming down the
street just now, I saw a spectacle of social equality and negro
domination that made my blood boil with indignation,--a white and a
black convict, chained together, crossing the city in charge of a negro
officer! We cannot stand that sort of thing, Carteret,--it is the last
straw! Something must be done, and that quickly!"
The major thrilled with responsive emotion. There was something
prophetic in this opportune visit. The matter was not only in his own
thoughts, but in the air; it was the spontaneous revulsion of white men
against the rule of an inferior race. These were the very men, above all
others in the town, to join him in a movement to change these degrading
General Belmont, the smaller of the two, was a man of good family, a
lawyer by profession, and took an active part in state and local
politics. Aristocratic by birth and instinct, and a former owner of
slaves, his conception of the obligations and rights of his caste was
nevertheless somewhat lower than that of the narrower but more sincere
Carteret. In serious affairs Carteret desired the approval of his
conscience, even if he had to trick that docile organ into
acquiescence. This was not difficult to do in politics, for he believed
in the divine right of white men and gentlemen, as his ancestors had
believed in and died for the divine right of kings. General Belmont was
not without a gentleman's distaste for meanness, but he permitted no
fine scruples to stand in the way of success. He had once been minister,
under a Democratic administration, to a small Central American state.
Political rivals had characterized him as a tricky demagogue, which may
of course have been a libel. He had an amiable disposition, possessed
the gift of eloquence, and was a prime social favorite.
Captain George McBane had sprung from the poor-white class, to which,
even more than to the slaves, the abolition of slavery had opened the
door of opportunity. No longer overshadowed by a slaveholding caste,
some of this class had rapidly pushed themselves forward. Some had made
honorable records. Others, foremost in negro-baiting and election
frauds, had done the dirty work of politics, as their fathers had done
that of slavery, seeking their reward at first in minor offices,--for
which men of gentler breeding did not care,--until their ambition began
to reach out for higher honors.
Of this class McBane--whose captaincy, by the way, was merely a polite
fiction--had been one of the most successful. He had held, until
recently, as the reward of questionable political services, a contract
with the State for its convict labor, from which in a few years he had
realized a fortune. But the methods which made his contract profitable
had not commended themselves to humane people, and charges of cruelty
and worse had been preferred against him. He was rich enough to escape
serious consequences from the investigation which followed, but when the
Fusion ticket carried the state he lost his contract, and the system of
convict labor was abolished. Since then McBane had devoted himself to
politics: he was ambitious for greater wealth, for office, and for
social recognition. A man of few words and self-engrossed, he seldom
spoke of his aspirations except where speech might favor them,
preferring to seek his ends by secret "deals" and combinations rather
than to challenge criticism and provoke rivalry by more open methods.
At sight, therefore, of these two men, with whose careers and characters
he was entirely familiar, Carteret felt sweep over his mind the
conviction that now was the time and these the instruments with which to
undertake the redemption of the state from the evil fate which had
Jerry, the porter, who had gone downstairs to the counting-room to find
two whole chairs, now entered with one in each hand. He set a chair for
the general, who gave him an amiable nod, to which Jerry responded with
a bow and a scrape. Captain McBane made no acknowledgment, but fixed
Jerry so fiercely with his single eye that upon placing the chair Jerry
made his escape from the room as rapidly as possible.
"I don' like dat Cap'n McBane," he muttered, upon reaching the hall.
"Dey says he got dat eye knock' out tryin' ter whip a cullud 'oman, when
he wuz a boy, an' dat he ain' never had no use fer niggers
sence,--'cep'n' fer what he could make outen 'em wid his convic' labor
contrac's. His daddy wuz a' overseer befo' 'im, an' it come nachul fer
him ter be a nigger-driver. I don' want dat one eye er his'n restin' on
me no longer 'n I kin he'p, an' I don' know how I'm gwine ter like dis
job ef he's gwine ter be comin' roun' here. He ain' nothin' but po'
w'ite trash nohow; but Lawd! Lawd! look at de money he's got,--livin'
at de hotel, wearin' di'mon's, an' colloguin' wid de bes' quality er dis
town! 'Pears ter me de bottom rail is gittin' mighty close ter de top.
Well, I s'pose it all comes f'm bein' w'ite. I wush ter Gawd I wuz
After this fervent aspiration, having nothing else to do for the time
being, except to remain within call, and having caught a few words of
the conversation as he went in with the chairs, Jerry, who possessed a
certain amount of curiosity, placed close to the wall the broken stool
upon which he sat while waiting in the hall, and applied his ear to a
hole in the plastering of the hallway. There was a similar defect in the
inner wall, between the same two pieces of studding, and while this
inner opening was not exactly opposite the outer, Jerry was enabled,
through the two, to catch in a more or less fragmentary way what was
going on within.
He could hear the major, now and then, use the word "negro," and
McBane's deep voice was quite audible when he referred, it seemed to
Jerry with alarming frequency, to "the damned niggers," while the
general's suave tones now and then pronounced the word "niggro,"--a sort
of compromise between ethnology and the vernacular. That the gentlemen
were talking politics seemed quite likely, for gentlemen generally
talked politics when they met at the Chronicle office. Jerry could hear
the words "vote," "franchise," "eliminate," "constitution," and other
expressions which marked the general tenor of the talk, though he could
not follow it all,--partly because he could not hear everything
distinctly, and partly because of certain limitations which nature had
placed in the way of Jerry's understanding anything very difficult or
He had gathered enough, however, to realize, in a vague way, that
something serious was on foot, involving his own race, when a bell
sounded over his head, at which he sprang up hastily and entered the
room where the gentlemen were talking.
"Jerry," said the major, "wait on Captain McBane."
"Yas, suh," responded Jerry, turning toward the captain, whose eye he
carefully avoided meeting directly.
"Take that half a dollar, boy," ordered McBane, "an' go 'cross the
street to Mr. Sykes's, and tell him to send me three whiskies. Bring
back the change, and make has'e."
The captain tossed the half dollar at Jerry, who, looking to one side,
of course missed it. He picked the money up, however, and backed out of
the room. Jerry did not like Captain McBane, to begin with, and it was
clear that the captain was no gentleman, or he would not have thrown the
money at him. Considering the source, Jerry might have overlooked this
discourtesy had it not been coupled with the remark about the change,
which seemed to him in very poor taste.
Returning in a few minutes with three glasses on a tray, he passed them
round, handed Captain McBane his change, and retired to the hall.
"Gentlemen," exclaimed the captain, lifting his glass, "I propose a
toast: 'No nigger domination.'"
"Amen!" said the others, and three glasses were solemnly drained.
"Major," observed the general, smacking his lips, "_I_ should like to
use Jerry for a moment, if you will permit me."
Jerry appeared promptly at the sound of the bell. He had remained
conveniently near,--calls of this sort were apt to come in sequence.
"Jerry," said the general, handing Jerry half a dollar, "go over to Mr.
Brown's,--I get my liquor there,--and tell them to send me three glasses
of my special mixture. And, Jerry,--you may keep the change!"
"Thank y', gin'l, thank y', marster," replied Jerry, with unctuous
gratitude, bending almost double as he backed out of the room.
"Dat's a gent'eman, a rale ole-time gent'eman," he said to himself when
he had closed the door. "But dere's somethin' gwine on in dere,--dere
sho' is! 'No nigger damnation!' Dat soun's all right,--I'm sho' dere
ain' no nigger I knows w'at wants damnation, do' dere's lots of 'em w'at
deserves it; but ef dat one-eyed Cap'n McBane got anything ter do wid
it, w'atever it is, it don' mean no good fer de niggers,--damnation'd
be better fer 'em dan dat Cap'n McBane! He looks at a nigger lack he
could jes' eat 'im alive."
"This mixture, gentlemen," observed the general when Jerry had returned
with the glasses, "was originally compounded by no less a person than
the great John C. Calhoun himself, who confided the recipe to my father
over the convivial board. In this nectar of the gods, gentlemen, I drink
with you to 'White Supremacy!'"
"White Supremacy everywhere!" added McBane with fervor.
"Now and forever!" concluded Carteret solemnly.
When the visitors, half an hour later, had taken their departure,
Carteret, inspired by the theme, and in less degree by the famous
mixture of the immortal Calhoun, turned to his desk and finished, at a
white heat, his famous editorial in which he sounded the tocsin of a new
At noon, when the editor, having laid down his pen, was leaving the
office, he passed Jerry in the hall without a word or a nod. The major
wore a rapt look, which Jerry observed with a vague uneasiness.
"He looks jes' lack he wuz walkin' in his sleep," muttered Jerry
uneasily. "Dere's somethin' up, sho 's you bawn! 'No nigger damnation!'
Anybody'd 'low dey wuz all gwine ter heaven; but I knows better! W'en a
passel er w'ite folks gits ter talkin' 'bout de niggers lack dem in
yander, it's mo' lackly dey're gwine ter ketch somethin' e'se dan
heaven! I got ter keep my eyes open an' keep up wid w'at's happenin'. Ef
dere's gwine ter be anudder flood 'roun' here, I wants ter git in de
ark wid de w'ite folks,--I may haf ter be anudder Ham, an' sta't de
cullud race all over ag'in."
The young heir of the Carterets had thriven apace, and at six months old
was, according to Mammy Jane, whose experience qualified her to speak
with authority, the largest, finest, smartest, and altogether most
remarkable baby that had ever lived in Wellington. Mammy Jane had
recently suffered from an attack of inflammatory rheumatism, as the
result of which she had returned to her own home. She nevertheless came
now and then to see Mrs. Carteret. A younger nurse had been procured to
take her place, but it was understood that Jane would come whenever she
might be needed.
"You really mean that about Dodie, do you, Mammy Jane?" asked the
delighted mother, who never tired of hearing her own opinion confirmed
concerning this wonderful child, which had come to her like an angel
"Does I mean it!" exclaimed Mammy Jane, with a tone and an expression
which spoke volumes of reproach. "Now, Mis' 'Livy, what is I ever
uttered er said er spoke er done dat would make you s'pose I could tell
you a lie 'bout yo' own chile?"
"No, Mammy Jane, I'm sure you wouldn't."
"'Deed, ma'am, I'm tellin' you de Lawd's truf. I don' haf ter tell no
lies ner strain no p'ints 'bout my ole mist'ess's gran'chile. Dis yer
boy is de ve'y spit an' image er yo' brother, young Mars Alick, w'at
died w'en he wuz 'bout eight mont's ole, w'iles I wuz laid off havin' a
baby er my own, an' couldn' be roun' ter look after 'im. An' dis chile
is a rale quality chile, he is,--I never seed a baby wid sech fine hair
fer his age, ner sech blue eyes, ner sech a grip, ner sech a heft. W'y,
dat chile mus' weigh 'bout twenty-fo' poun's, an' he not but six mont's
ole. Does dat gal w'at does de nussin' w'iles I'm gone ten' ter dis
chile right, Mis' 'Livy?"
"She does fairly well, Mammy Jane, but I could hardly expect her to love
the baby as you do. There's no one like you, Mammy Jane."
"'Deed dere ain't, honey; you is talkin' de gospel truf now! None er
dese yer young folks ain' got de trainin' my ole mist'ess give me. Dese
yer new-fangle' schools don' l'arn 'em nothin' ter compare wid it. I'm
jes' gwine ter give dat gal a piece er my min', befo' I go, so she'll
ten' ter dis chile right."
The nurse came in shortly afterwards, a neat-looking brown girl, dressed
in a clean calico gown, with a nurse's cap and apron.
"Look a-here, gal," said Mammy Jane sternly, "I wants you ter understan'
dat you got ter take good keer er dis chile; fer I nussed his mammy
dere, an' his gran'mammy befo' 'im, an' you is got a priv'lege dat mos'
lackly you don' 'preciate. I wants you to 'member, in yo' incomin's an'
outgoin's, dat I got my eye on you, an' am gwine ter see dat you does
yo' wo'k right."
"Do you need me for anything, ma'am?" asked the young nurse, who had
stood before Mrs. Carteret, giving Mammy Jane a mere passing glance, and
listening impassively to her harangue. The nurse belonged to the
younger generation of colored people. She had graduated from the mission
school, and had received some instruction in Dr. Miller's class for
nurses. Standing, like most young people of her race, on the border line
between two irreconcilable states of life, she had neither the
picturesqueness of the slave, nor the unconscious dignity of those of
whom freedom has been the immemorial birthright; she was in what might
be called the chip-on-the-shoulder stage, through which races as well as
individuals must pass in climbing the ladder of life,--not an
interesting, at least not an agreeable stage, but an inevitable one, and
for that reason entitled to a paragraph in a story of Southern life,
which, with its as yet imperfect blending of old with new, of race with
race, of slavery with freedom, is like no other life under the sun.
Had this old woman, who had no authority over her, been a little more
polite, or a little less offensive, the nurse might have returned her a
pleasant answer. These old-time negroes, she said to herself, made her
sick with their slavering over the white folks, who, she supposed,
favored them and made much of them because they had once belonged to
them,--much the same reason why they fondled their cats and dogs. For
her own part, they gave her nothing but her wages, and small wages at
that, and she owed them nothing more than equivalent service. It was
purely a matter of business; she sold her time for their money. There
was no question of love between them.
Receiving a negative answer from Mrs. Carteret, she left the room
without a word, ignoring Mammy Jane completely, and leaving that
venerable relic of ante-bellum times gasping in helpless astonishment.
"Well, I nevuh!" she ejaculated, as soon as she could get her breath,
"ef dat ain' de beatinis' pe'fo'mance I ever seed er heared of! Dese yer
young niggers ain' got de manners dey wuz bawned wid! I don' know w'at
dey're comin' to, w'en dey ain' got no mo' rispec' fer ole age--I don'
know--I don' know!"
"Now what are you croaking about, Jane?" asked Major Carteret, who came
into the room and took the child into his arms.
Mammy Jane hobbled to her feet and bobbed a curtsy. She was never
lacking in respect to white people of proper quality; but Major
Carteret, the quintessence of aristocracy, called out all her reserves
of deference. The major was always kind and considerate to these old
family retainers, brought up in the feudal atmosphere now so rapidly
passing away. Mammy Jane loved Mrs. Carteret; toward the major she
entertained a feeling bordering upon awe.
"Well, Jane," returned the major sadly, when the old nurse had related
her grievance, "the old times have vanished, the old ties have been
ruptured. The old relations of dependence and loyal obedience on the
part of the colored people, the responsibility of protection and
kindness upon that of the whites, have passed away forever. The young
negroes are too self-assertive. Education is spoiling them, Jane; they
have been badly taught. They are not content with their station in life.
Some time they will overstep the mark. The white people are patient, but
there is a limit to their endurance."
"Dat's w'at I tells dese young niggers," groaned Mammy Jane, with a
portentous shake of her turbaned head, "w'en I hears 'em gwine on wid
deir foolishniss; but dey don' min' me. Dey 'lows dey knows mo' d'n I
does, 'ca'se dey be'n l'arnt ter look in a book. But, pshuh! my ole
mist'ess showed me mo' d'n dem niggers 'll l'arn in a thousan' years! I
's fetch' my gran'son' Jerry up ter be 'umble, an' keep in 'is place.
An' I tells dese other niggers dat ef dey'd do de same, an' not crowd
de w'ite folks, dey'd git ernuff ter eat, an' live out deir days in
peace an' comfo't. But dey don' min' me--dey don' min' me!"
"If all the colored people were like you and Jerry, Jane," rejoined the
major kindly, "there would never be any trouble. You have friends upon
whom, in time of need, you can rely implicitly for protection and
succor. You served your mistress faithfully before the war; you remained
by her when the other negroes were running hither and thither like sheep
without a shepherd; and you have transferred your allegiance to my wife
and her child. We think a great deal of you, Jane."
"Yes, indeed, Mammy Jane," assented Mrs. Carteret, with sincere
affection, glancing with moist eyes from the child in her husband's arms
to the old nurse, whose dark face was glowing with happiness at these
expressions of appreciation, "you shall never want so long as we have
anything. We would share our last crust with you."
"Thank y', Mis' 'Livy," said Jane with reciprocal emotion, "I knows who
my frien's is, an' I ain' gwine ter let nothin' worry me. But fer de
Lawd's sake, Mars Philip, gimme dat chile, an' lemme pat 'im on de back,
er he'll choke hisse'f ter death!"
The old nurse had been the first to observe that little Dodie, for some
reason, was gasping for breath. Catching the child from the major's
arms, she patted it on the back, and shook it gently. After a moment of
this treatment, the child ceased to gasp, but still breathed heavily,
with a strange, whistling noise.
"Oh, my child!" exclaimed the mother, in great alarm, taking the baby in
her own arms, "what can be the matter with him, Mammy Jane?"
"Fer de Lawd's sake, ma'am, I don' know, 'less he's swallered
somethin'; an' he ain' had nothin' in his han's but de rattle Mis' Polly
Mrs. Carteret caught up the ivory rattle, which hung suspended by a
ribbon from the baby's neck.
"He has swallowed the little piece off the end of the handle," she
cried, turning pale with fear, "and it has lodged in his throat.
Telephone Dr. Price to come immediately, Philip, before my baby chokes
to death! Oh, my baby, my precious baby!"
An anxious half hour passed, during which the child lay quiet, except
for its labored breathing. The suspense was relieved by the arrival of
Dr. Price, who examined the child carefully.
"It's a curious accident," he announced at the close of his inspection.
"So far as I can discover, the piece of ivory has been drawn into the
trachea, or windpipe, and has lodged in the mouth of the right bronchus.
I'll try to get it out without an operation, but I can't guarantee the
At the end of another half hour Dr. Price announced his inability to
remove the obstruction without resorting to more serious measures.
"I do not see," he declared, "how an operation can be avoided."
"Will it be dangerous?" inquired the major anxiously, while Mrs.
Carteret shivered at the thought.
"It will be necessary to cut into his throat from the outside. All such
operations are more or less dangerous, especially on small children. If
this were some other child, I might undertake the operation unassisted;
but I know how you value this one, major, and I should prefer to share
the responsibility with a specialist."
"Is there one in town?" asked the major.
"No, but we can get one from out of town."
"Send for the best one in the country," said the major, "who can be got
here in time. Spare no expense, Dr. Price. We value this child above any
"The best is the safest," replied Dr. Price. "I will send for Dr. Burns,
of Philadelphia, the best surgeon in that line in America. If he can
start at once, he can reach here in sixteen or eighteen hours, and the
case can wait even longer, if inflammation does not set in."
The message was dispatched forthwith. By rare good fortune the eminent
specialist was able to start within an hour or two after the receipt of
Dr. Price's telegram. Meanwhile the baby remained restless and uneasy,
the doctor spending most of his time by its side. Mrs. Carteret, who had
never been quite strong since the child's birth, was a prey to the most
Mammy Jane, while not presuming to question the opinion of Dr. Price,
and not wishing to add to her mistress's distress, was secretly
oppressed by forebodings which she was unable to shake off. The child
was born for bad luck. The mole under its ear, just at the point where
the hangman's knot would strike, had foreshadowed dire misfortune. She
had already observed several little things which had rendered her
For instance, upon one occasion, on entering the room where the baby had
been left alone, asleep in his crib, she had met a strange cat hurrying
from the nursery, and, upon examining closely the pillow upon which the
child lay, had found a depression which had undoubtedly been due to the
weight of the cat's body. The child was restless and uneasy, and Jane
had ever since believed that the cat had been sucking little Dodie's
breath, with what might have been fatal results had she not appeared
just in the nick of time.
This untimely accident of the rattle, a fatality for which no one could
be held responsible, had confirmed the unlucky omen. Jane's duties in
the nursery did not permit her to visit her friend the conjure woman;
but she did find time to go out in the back yard at dusk, and to dig up
the charm which she had planted there. It had protected the child so
far; but perhaps its potency had become exhausted. She picked up the
bottle, shook it vigorously, and then laid it back, with the other side
up. Refilling the hole, she made a cross over the top with the thumb of
her left hand, and walked three times around it.
What this strange symbolism meant, or whence it derived its origin, Aunt
Jane did not know. The cross was there, and the Trinity, though Jane was
scarcely conscious of these, at this moment, as religious emblems. But
she hoped, on general principles, that this performance would strengthen
the charm and restore little Dodie's luck. It certainly had its moral
effect upon Jane's own mind, for she was able to sleep better, and
contrived to impress Mrs. Carteret with her own hopefulness.
A JOURNEY SOUTHWARD
As the south-bound train was leaving the station at Philadelphia, a
gentleman took his seat in the single sleeping-car attached to the
train, and proceeded to make himself comfortable. He hung up his hat and
opened his newspaper, in which he remained absorbed for a quarter of an
hour. When the train had left the city behind, he threw the paper aside,
and looked around at the other occupants of the car. One of these, who
had been on the car since it had left New York, rose from his seat upon
perceiving the other's glance, and came down the aisle.
"How do you do, Dr. Burns?" he said, stopping beside the seat of the
The gentleman looked up at the speaker with an air of surprise, which,
after the first keen, incisive glance, gave place to an expression of
"Why, it's Miller!" he exclaimed, rising and giving the other his hand,
"William Miller--Dr. Miller, of course. Sit down, Miller, and tell me
all about yourself,--what you're doing, where you've been, and where
you're going. I'm delighted to meet you, and to see you looking so
well--and so prosperous."
"I deserve no credit for either, sir," returned the other, as he took
the proffered seat, "for I inherited both health and prosperity. It is a
fortunate chance that permits me to meet you."
The two acquaintances, thus opportunely thrown together so that they
might while away in conversation the tedium of their journey,
represented very different and yet very similar types of manhood. A
celebrated traveler, after many years spent in barbarous or savage
lands, has said that among all varieties of mankind the similarities are
vastly more important and fundamental than the differences. Looking at
these two men with the American eye, the differences would perhaps be
the more striking, or at least the more immediately apparent, for the
first was white and the second black, or, more correctly speaking,
brown; it was even a light brown, but both his swarthy complexion and
his curly hair revealed what has been described in the laws of some of
our states as a "visible admixture" of African blood.
Having disposed of this difference, and having observed that the white
man was perhaps fifty years of age and the other not more than thirty,
it may be said that they were both tall and sturdy, both well dressed,
the white man with perhaps a little more distinction; both seemed from
their faces and their manners to be men of culture and accustomed to the
society of cultivated people. They were both handsome men, the elder
representing a fine type of Anglo-Saxon, as the term is used in speaking
of our composite white population; while the mulatto's erect form, broad
shoulders, clear eyes, fine teeth, and pleasingly moulded features
showed nowhere any sign of that degeneration which the pessimist so
sadly maintains is the inevitable heritage of mixed races.
As to their personal relations, it has already appeared that they were
members of the same profession. In past years they had been teacher and
pupil. Dr. Alvin Burns was professor in the famous medical college
where Miller had attended lectures. The professor had taken an interest
in his only colored pupil, to whom he had been attracted by his
earnestness of purpose, his evident talent, and his excellent manners
and fine physique. It was in part due to Dr. Burns's friendship that
Miller had won a scholarship which had enabled him, without drawing too
heavily upon his father's resources, to spend in Europe, studying in the
hospitals of Paris and Vienna, the two most delightful years of his
life. The same influence had strengthened his natural inclination toward
operative surgery, in which Dr. Burns was a distinguished specialist of
Miller's father, Adam Miller, had been a thrifty colored man, the son of
a slave, who, in the olden time, had bought himself with money which he
had earned and saved, over and above what he had paid his master for his
time. Adam Miller had inherited his father's thrift, as well as his
trade, which was that of a stevedore, or contractor for the loading and
unloading of vessels at the port of Wellington. In the flush turpentine
days following a few years after the civil war, he had made money. His
savings, shrewdly invested, had by constant accessions become a
competence. He had brought up his eldest son to the trade; the other he
had given a professional education, in the proud hope that his children
or his grandchildren might be gentlemen in the town where their
ancestors had once been slaves.
Upon his father's death, shortly after Dr. Miller's return from Europe,
and a year or two before the date at which this story opens, he had
promptly spent part of his inheritance in founding a hospital, to which
was to be added a training school for nurses, and in time perhaps a
medical college and a school of pharmacy. He had been strongly tempted
to leave the South, and seek a home for his family and a career for
himself in the freer North, where race antagonism was less keen, or at
least less oppressive, or in Europe, where he had never found his color
work to his disadvantage. But his people had needed him, and he had
wished to help them, and had sought by means of this institution to
contribute to their uplifting. As he now informed Dr. Burns, he was
returning from New York, where he had been in order to purchase
equipment for his new hospital, which would soon be ready for the
reception of patients.
"How much I can accomplish I do not know," said Miller, "but I'll do
what I can. There are eight or nine million of us, and it will take a
great deal of learning of all kinds to leaven that lump."
"It is a great problem, Miller, the future of your race," returned the
other, "a tremendously interesting problem. It is a serial story which
we are all reading, and which grows in vital interest with each
successive installment. It is not only your problem, but ours. Your race
must come up or drag ours down."
"We shall come up," declared Miller; "slowly and painfully, perhaps, but
we shall win our way. If our race had made as much progress everywhere
as they have made in Wellington, the problem would be well on the way
"Wellington?" exclaimed Dr. Burns. "That's where I'm going. A Dr. Price,
of Wellington, has sent for me to perform an operation on a child's
throat. Do you know Dr. Price?"
"Quite well," replied Miller, "he is a friend of mine."
"So much the better. I shall want you to assist me. I read in the
Medical Gazette, the other day, an account of a very interesting
operation of yours. I felt proud to number you among my pupils. It was a
remarkable case--a rare case. I must certainly have you with me in this
"I shall be delighted, sir," returned Miller, "if it is agreeable to all
Several hours were passed in pleasant conversation while the train sped
rapidly southward. They were already far down in Virginia, and had
stopped at a station beyond Richmond, when the conductor entered the
"All passengers," he announced, "will please transfer to the day coaches
ahead. The sleeper has a hot box, and must be switched off here."
Dr. Burns and Miller obeyed the order, the former leading the way into
the coach immediately in front of the sleeping-car.
"Let's sit here, Miller," he said, having selected a seat near the rear
of the car and deposited his suitcase in a rack. "It's on the shady
Miller stood a moment hesitatingly, but finally took the seat indicated,
and a few minutes later the journey was again resumed.
When the train conductor made his round after leaving the station, he
paused at the seat occupied by the two doctors, glanced interrogatively
at Miller, and then spoke to Dr. Burns, who sat in the end of the seat
nearest the aisle.
"This man is with you?" he asked, indicating Miller with a slight side
movement of his head, and a keen glance in his direction.
"Certainly," replied Dr. Burns curtly, and with some surprise. "Don't
you see that he is?"
The conductor passed on. Miller paid no apparent attention to this
little interlude, though no syllable had escaped him. He resumed the
conversation where it had been broken off, but nevertheless followed
with his eyes the conductor, who stopped at a seat near the forward end
of the car, and engaged in conversation with a man whom Miller had not
As this passenger turned his head and looked back toward Miller, the
latter saw a broad-shouldered, burly white man, and recognized in his
square-cut jaw, his coarse, firm mouth, and the single gray eye with
which he swept Miller for an instant with a scornful glance, a
well-known character of Wellington, with whom the reader has already
made acquaintance in these pages. Captain McBane wore a frock coat and a
slouch hat; several buttons of his vest were unbuttoned, and his
solitaire diamond blazed in his soiled shirt-front like the headlight of
The conductor in his turn looked back at Miller, and retraced his steps.
Miller braced himself for what he feared was coming, though he had
hoped, on account of his friend's presence, that it might be avoided.
"Excuse me, sir," said the conductor, addressing Dr. Burns, "but did I
understand you to say that this man was your servant?"
"No, indeed!" replied Dr. Burns indignantly. "The gentleman is not my
servant, nor anybody's servant, but is my friend. But, by the way, since
we are on the subject, may I ask what affair it is of yours?"
"It's very much my affair," returned the conductor, somewhat nettled at
this questioning of his authority. "I'm sorry to part _friends_, but the
law of Virginia does not permit colored passengers to ride in the white
cars. You'll have to go forward to the next coach," he added, addressing
Miller this time.
"I have paid my fare on the sleeping-car, where the separate-car law
does not apply," remonstrated Miller.
"I can't help that. You can doubtless get your money back from the
sleeping-car company. But this is a day coach, and is distinctly marked
'White,' as you must have seen before you sat down here. The sign is put
there for that purpose."
He indicated a large card neatly framed and hung at the end of the car,
containing the legend, "White," in letters about a foot long, painted in
white upon a dark background, typical, one might suppose, of the
distinction thereby indicated.
"You shall not stir a step, Miller," exclaimed Dr. Burns wrathfully.
"This is an outrage upon a citizen of a free country. You shall stay
"I'm sorry to discommode you," returned the conductor, "but there's no
use kicking. It's the law of Virginia, and I am bound by it as well as
you. I have already come near losing my place because of not enforcing
it, and I can take no more such chances, since I have a family to
"And my friend has his rights to maintain," returned Dr. Burns with
determination. "There is a vital principle at stake in the matter."
"Really, sir," argued the conductor, who was a man of peace and not fond
of controversy, "there's no use talking--he absolutely cannot ride in
"How can you prevent it?" asked Dr. Burns, lapsing into the
"The law gives me the right to remove him by force. I can call on the
train crew to assist me, or on the other passengers. If I should choose
to put him off the train entirely, in the middle of a swamp, he would
have no redress--the law so provides. If I did not wish to use force, I
could simply switch this car off at the next siding, transfer the white
passengers to another, and leave you and your friend in possession until
you were arrested and fined or imprisoned."
"What he says is absolutely true, doctor," interposed Miller at this
point. "It is the law, and we are powerless to resist it. If we made any
trouble, it would merely delay your journey and imperil a life at the
other end. I'll go into the other car."
"You shall not go alone," said Dr. Burns stoutly, rising in his turn. "A
place that is too good for you is not good enough for me. I will sit
wherever you do."
"I'm sorry again," said the conductor, who had quite recovered his
equanimity, and calmly conscious of his power, could scarcely restrain
an amused smile; "I dislike to interfere, but white passengers are not
permitted to ride in the colored car."
"This is an outrage," declared Dr. Burns, "a d----d outrage! You are
curtailing the rights, not only of colored people, but of white men as
well. I shall sit where I please!"
"I warn you, sir," rejoined the conductor, hardening again, "that the
law will be enforced. The beauty of the system lies in its strict
impartiality--it applies to both races alike."
"And is equally infamous in both cases," declared Dr. Burns. "I shall
immediately take steps"--
"Never mind, doctor," interrupted Miller, soothingly, "it's only for a
little while. I'll reach my destination just as surely in the other car,
and we can't help it, anyway. I'll see you again at Wellington."
Dr. Burns, finding resistance futile, at length acquiesced and made way
for Miller to pass him.
The colored doctor took up his valise and crossed the platform to the
car ahead. It was an old car, with faded upholstery, from which the
stuffing projected here and there through torn places. Apparently the
floor had not been swept for several days. The dust lay thick upon the
window sills, and the water-cooler, from which he essayed to get a
drink, was filled with stale water which had made no recent acquaintance
with ice. There was no other passenger in the car, and Miller occupied
himself in making a rough calculation of what it would cost the Southern
railroads to haul a whole car for every colored passenger. It was
expensive, to say the least; it would be cheaper, and quite as
considerate of their feelings, to make the negroes walk.
The car was conspicuously labeled at either end with large cards,
similar to those in the other car, except that they bore the word
"Colored" in black letters upon a white background. The author of this
piece of legislation had contrived, with an ingenuity worthy of a better
cause, that not merely should the passengers be separated by the color
line, but that the reason for this division should be kept constantly in
mind. Lest a white man should forget that he was white,--not a very
likely contingency,--these cards would keep him constantly admonished of
the fact; should a colored person endeavor, for a moment, to lose sight
of his disability, these staring signs would remind him continually that
between him and the rest of mankind not of his own color, there was by
law a great gulf fixed.
Having composed himself, Miller had opened a newspaper, and was deep in
an editorial which set forth in glowing language the inestimable
advantages which would follow to certain recently acquired islands by
the introduction of American liberty, when the rear door of the car
opened to give entrance to Captain George McBane, who took a seat near
the door and lit a cigar. Miller knew him quite well by sight and by
reputation, and detested him as heartily. He represented the aggressive,
offensive element among the white people of the New South, who made it
hard for a negro to maintain his self-respect or to enjoy even the
rights conceded to colored men by Southern laws. McBane had undoubtedly
identified him to the conductor in the other car. Miller had no desire
to thrust himself upon the society of white people, which, indeed, to
one who had traveled so much and so far, was no novelty; but he very
naturally resented being at this late day--the law had been in operation
only a few months--branded and tagged and set apart from the rest of
mankind upon the public highways, like an unclean thing. Nevertheless,
he preferred even this to the exclusive society of Captain George
"Porter," he demanded of the colored train attache who passed through
the car a moment later, "is this a smoking car for white men?"
"No, suh," replied the porter, "but they comes in here sometimes, when
they ain' no cullud ladies on the kyar."
"Well, I have paid first-class fare, and I object to that man's smoking
in here. You tell him to go out."
"I'll tell the conductor, suh," returned the porter in a low tone. "I
'd jus' as soon talk ter the devil as ter that man."
The white man had spread himself over two seats, and was smoking
vigorously, from time to time spitting carelessly in the aisle, when the
conductor entered the compartment.
"Captain," said Miller, "this car is plainly marked 'Colored.' I have
paid first-class fare, and I object to riding in a smoking car."
"All right," returned the conductor, frowning irritably. "I'll speak to
He walked over to the white passenger, with whom he was evidently
acquainted, since he addressed him by name.
"Captain McBane," he said, "it's against the law for you to ride in the
"Who are you talkin' to?" returned the other. "I'll ride where I damn
"Yes, sir, but the colored passenger objects. I'm afraid I'll have to
ask you to go into the smoking-car."
"The hell you say!" rejoined McBane. "I'll leave this car when I get
good and ready, and that won't be till I've finished this cigar. See?"
He was as good as his word. The conductor escaped from the car before
Miller had time for further expostulation. Finally McBane, having thrown
the stump of his cigar into the aisle and added to the floor a finishing
touch in the way of expectoration, rose and went back into the white
Left alone in his questionable glory, Miller buried himself again in his
newspaper, from which he did not look up until the engine stopped at a
tank station to take water.
As the train came to a standstill, a huge negro, covered thickly with
dust, crawled off one of the rear trucks unobserved, and ran round the
rear end of the car to a watering-trough by a neighboring well. Moved
either by extreme thirst or by the fear that his time might be too short
to permit him to draw a bucket of water, he threw himself down by the
trough, drank long and deep, and plunging his head into the water, shook
himself like a wet dog, and crept furtively back to his dangerous perch.
Miller, who had seen this man from the car window, had noticed a very
singular thing. As the dusty tramp passed the rear coach, he cast toward
it a glance of intense ferocity. Up to that moment the man's face, which
Miller had recognized under its grimy coating, had been that of an
ordinarily good-natured, somewhat reckless, pleasure-loving negro, at
present rather the worse for wear. The change that now came over it
suggested a concentrated hatred almost uncanny in its murderousness.
With awakened curiosity Miller followed the direction of the negro's
glance, and saw that it rested upon a window where Captain McBane sat
looking out. When Miller looked back, the negro had disappeared.
At the next station a Chinaman, of the ordinary laundry type, boarded
the train, and took his seat in the white car without objection. At
another point a colored nurse found a place with her mistress.
"White people," said Miller to himself, who had seen these passengers
from the window, "do not object to the negro as a servant. As the
traditional negro,--the servant,--he is welcomed; as an equal, he is
Miller was something of a philosopher. He had long ago had the
conclusion forced upon him that an educated man of his race, in order to
live comfortably in the United States, must be either a philosopher or
a fool; and since he wished to be happy, and was not exactly a fool, he
had cultivated philosophy. By and by he saw a white man, with a dog,
enter the rear coach. Miller wondered whether the dog would be allowed
to ride with his master, and if not, what disposition would be made of
him. He was a handsome dog, and Miller, who was fond of animals, would
not have objected to the company of a dog, as a dog. He was nevertheless
conscious of a queer sensation when he saw the porter take the dog by
the collar and start in his own direction, and felt consciously relieved
when the canine passenger was taken on past him into the baggage-car
ahead. Miller's hand was hanging over the arm of his seat, and the dog,
an intelligent shepherd, licked it as he passed. Miller was not entirely
sure that he would not have liked the porter to leave the dog there; he
was a friendly dog, and seemed inclined to be sociable.
Toward evening the train drew up at a station where quite a party of
farm laborers, fresh from their daily toil, swarmed out from the
conspicuously labeled colored waiting-room, and into the car with
Miller. They were a jolly, good-natured crowd, and, free from the
embarrassing presence of white people, proceeded to enjoy themselves
after their own fashion. Here an amorous fellow sat with his arm around
a buxom girl's waist. A musically inclined individual--his talents did
not go far beyond inclination--produced a mouth-organ and struck up a
tune, to which a limber-legged boy danced in the aisle. They were noisy,
loquacious, happy, dirty, and malodorous. For a while Miller was amused
and pleased. They were his people, and he felt a certain expansive
warmth toward them in spite of their obvious shortcomings. By and by,
however, the air became too close, and he went out upon the platform.
For the sake of the democratic ideal, which meant so much to his race,
he might have endured the affliction. He could easily imagine that
people of refinement, with the power in their hands, might be tempted to
strain the democratic ideal in order to avoid such contact; but
personally, and apart from the mere matter of racial sympathy, these
people were just as offensive to him as to the whites in the other end
of the train. Surely, if a classification of passengers on trains was at
all desirable, it might be made upon some more logical and considerate
basis than a mere arbitrary, tactless, and, by the very nature of
things, brutal drawing of a color line. It was a veritable bed of
Procrustes, this standard which the whites had set for the negroes.
Those who grew above it must have their heads cut off, figuratively
speaking,--must be forced back to the level assigned to their race;
those who fell beneath the standard set had their necks stretched,
literally enough, as the ghastly record in the daily papers gave
Miller breathed more freely when the lively crowd got off at the next
station, after a short ride. Moreover, he had a light heart, a
conscience void of offense, and was only thirty years old. His
philosophy had become somewhat jaded on this journey, but he pulled it
together for a final effort. Was it not, after all, a wise provision of
nature that had given to a race, destined to a long servitude and a slow
emergence therefrom, a cheerfulness of spirit which enabled them to
catch pleasure on the wing, and endure with equanimity the ills that
seemed inevitable? The ability to live and thrive under adverse
circumstances is the surest guaranty of the future. The race which at
the last shall inherit the earth--the residuary legatee of
civilization--will be the race which remains longest upon it. The negro
was here before the Anglo-Saxon was evolved, and his thick lips and
heavy-lidded eyes looked out from the inscrutable face of the Sphinx
across the sands of Egypt while yet the ancestors of those who now
oppress him were living in caves, practicing human sacrifice, and
painting themselves with woad--and the negro is here yet.
"'Blessed are the meek,'" quoted Miller at the end of these consoling
reflections, "'for they shall inherit the earth.' If this be true, the
negro may yet come into his estate, for meekness seems to be set apart
as his portion."
The journey came to an end just as the sun had sunk into the west.
Simultaneously with Miller's exit from the train, a great black figure
crawled off the trucks of the rear car, on the side opposite the station
platform. Stretching and shaking himself with a free gesture, the black
man, seeing himself unobserved, moved somewhat stiffly round the end of
the car to the station platform.
"'Fo de Lawd!" he muttered, "ef I hadn' had a cha'm' life, I'd 'a'
never got here on dat ticket, an' dat's a fac'--it sho' am! I kind er
'lowed I wuz gone a dozen times, ez it wuz. But I got my job ter do in
dis worl', an' I knows I ain' gwine ter die 'tel I've 'complished it. I
jes' want one mo' look at dat man, an' den I'll haf ter git somethin'
ter eat; fer two raw turnips in twelve hours is slim pickin's fer a man
er my size!"
As the train drew up at the station platform, Dr. Price came forward
from the white waiting-room, and stood expectantly by the door of the
white coach. Miller, having left his car, came down the platform in time
to intercept Burns as he left the train, and to introduce him to Dr.
"My carriage is in waiting," said Dr. Price. "I should have liked to
have you at my own house, but my wife is out of town. We have a good
hotel, however, and you will doubtless find it more convenient."
"You are very kind, Dr. Price. Miller, won't you come up and dine with
"Thank you, no," said Miller, "I am expected at home. My wife and child
are waiting for me in the buggy yonder by the platform."
"Oh, very well; of course you must go; but don't forget our appointment.
Let's see, Dr. Price, I can eat and get ready in half an hour--that will
"I have asked several of the local physicians to be present at eight
o'clock," said Dr. Price. "The case can safely wait until then."
"Very well, Miller, be on hand at eight. I shall expect you without
fail. Where shall he come, Dr. Price?"
"To the residence of Major Philip Carteret, on Vine Street."
"I have invited Dr. Miller to be present and assist in the operation,"
Dr. Burns continued, as they drove toward the hotel. "He was a favorite
pupil of mine, and is a credit to the profession. I presume you saw his
article in the Medical Gazette?"
"Yes, and I assisted him in the case," returned Dr. Price. "It was a
colored lad, one of his patients, and he called me in to help him. He is
a capable man, and very much liked by the white physicians."
Miller's wife and child were waiting for him in fluttering anticipation.
He kissed them both as he climbed into the buggy.
"We came at four o'clock," said Mrs. Miller, a handsome young woman, who
might be anywhere between twenty-five and thirty, and whose complexion,
in the twilight, was not distinguishable from that of a white person,
"but the train was late two hours, they said. We came back at six, and
have been waiting ever since."
"Yes, papa," piped the child, a little boy of six or seven, who sat
between them, "and I am very hungry."
Miller felt very much elated as he drove homeward through the twilight.
By his side sat the two persons whom he loved best in all the world. His
affairs were prosperous. Upon opening his office in the city, he had
been received by the members of his own profession with a cordiality
generally frank, and in no case much reserved. The colored population of
the city was large, but in the main poor, and the white physicians were
not unwilling to share this unprofitable practice with a colored doctor
worthy of confidence. In the intervals of the work upon his hospital, he
had built up a considerable practice among his own people; but except in
the case of some poor unfortunate whose pride had been lost in poverty
or sin, no white patient had ever called upon him for treatment. He knew
very well the measure of his powers,--a liberal education had given him
opportunity to compare himself with other men,--and was secretly
conscious that in point of skill and knowledge he did not suffer by
comparison with any other physician in the town. He liked to believe
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