Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter XVIII: Miss Ophelia's Experiences and Opinions
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Our friend Tom, in his own simple musings, often compared his
more fortunate lot, in the bondage into which he was cast, with
that of Joseph in Egypt; and, in fact, as time went on, and he
developed more and more under the eye of his master, the strength
of the parallel increased.
St. Clare was indolent and careless of money. Hitherto the
providing and marketing had been principally done by Adolph,
who was, to the full, as careless and extravagant as his master;
and, between them both, they had carried on the dispersing process
with great alacrity. Accustomed, for many years, to regard his
master's property as his own care, Tom saw, with an uneasiness he
could scarcely repress, the wasteful expenditure of the establishment;
and, in the quiet, indirect way which his class often acquire,
would sometimes make his own suggestions.
St. Clare at first employed him occasionally; but, struck with
his soundness of mind and good business capacity, he confided
in him more and more, till gradually all the marketing and providing
for the family were intrusted to him.
"No, no, Adolph," he said, one day, as Adolph was deprecating
the passing of power out of his hands; "let Tom alone. You only
understand what you want; Tom understands cost and come to; and
there may be some end to money, bye and bye if we don't let
somebody do that."
Trusted to an unlimited extent by a careless master, who
handed him a bill without looking at it, and pocketed the change
without counting it, Tom had every facility and temptation to
dishonesty; and nothing but an impregnable simplicity of nature,
strengthened by Christian faith, could have kept him from it.
But, to that nature, the very unbounded trust reposed in him was
bond and seal for the most scrupulous accuracy.
With Adolph the case had been different. Thoughtless and
self-indulgent, and unrestrained by a master who found it easier
to indulge than to regulate, he had fallen into an absolute confusion
as to meum tuum with regard to himself and his master, which
sometimes troubled even St. Clare. His own good sense taught him
that such a training of his servants was unjust and dangerous.
A sort of chronic remorse went with him everywhere, although not
strong enough to make any decided change in his course; and this
very remorse reacted again into indulgence. He passed lightly over
the most serious faults, because he told himself that, if he had
done his part, his dependents had not fallen into them.
Tom regarded his gay, airy, handsome young master with an odd
mixture of fealty, reverence, and fatherly solicitude. That he
never read the Bible; never went to church; that he jested and
made free with any and every thing that came in the way of his wit;
that he spent his Sunday evenings at the opera or theatre; that he
went to wine parties, and clubs, and suppers, oftener than was at
all expedient,--were all things that Tom could see as plainly as
anybody, and on which he based a conviction that "Mas'r wasn't a
Christian;"--a conviction, however, which he would have been very
slow to express to any one else, but on which he founded many
prayers, in his own simple fashion, when he was by himself in his
little dormitory. Not that Tom had not his own way of speaking
his mind occasionally, with something of the tact often observable
in his class; as, for example, the very day after the Sabbath we
have described, St. Clare was invited out to a convivial party
of choice spirits, and was helped home, between one and two o'clock
at night, in a condition when the physical had decidedly attained
the upper hand of the intellectual. Tom and Adolph assisted to
get him composed for the night, the latter in high spirits,
evidently regarding the matter as a good joke, and laughing heartily
at the rusticity of Tom's horror, who really was simple enough to
lie awake most of the rest of the night, praying for his young master.
"Well, Tom, what are you waiting for?" said St. Clare, the next
day, as he sat in his library, in dressing-gown and slippers.
St. Clare had just been entrusting Tom with some money, and
various commissions. "Isn't all right there, Tom?" he added,
as Tom still stood waiting.
"I'm 'fraid not, Mas'r," said Tom, with a grave face.
St. Clare laid down his paper, and set down his coffee-cup,
and looked at Tom.
"Why Tom, what's the case? You look as solemn as a coffin."
"I feel very bad, Mas'r. I allays have thought that Mas'r
would be good to everybody."
"Well, Tom, haven't I been? Come, now, what do you want?
There's something you haven't got, I suppose, and this is
"Mas'r allays been good to me. I haven't nothing to complain
of on that head. But there is one that Mas'r isn't good to."
"Why, Tom, what's got into you? Speak out; what do you mean?"
"Last night, between one and two, I thought so. I studied
upon the matter then. Mas'r isn't good to himself."
Tom said this with his back to his master, and his hand on the
door-knob. St. Clare felt his face flush crimson, but he laughed.
"O, that's all, is it?" he said, gayly.
"All!" said Tom, turning suddenly round and falling on his knees.
"O, my dear young Mas'r; I'm 'fraid it will be loss of
all--all--body and soul. The good Book says, 'it biteth like a
serpent and stingeth like an adder!' my dear Mas'r!"
Tom's voice choked, and the tears ran down his cheeks.
"You poor, silly fool!" said St. Clare, with tears in his
own eyes. "Get up, Tom. I'm not worth crying over."
But Tom wouldn't rise, and looked imploring.
"Well, I won't go to any more of their cursed nonsense, Tom,"
said St. Clare; "on my honor, I won't. I don't know why I
haven't stopped long ago. I've always despised it, and myself
for it,--so now, Tom, wipe up your eyes, and go about your errands.
Come, come," he added, "no blessings. I'm not so wonderfully good,
now," he said, as he gently pushed Tom to the door. "There, I'll
pledge my honor to you, Tom, you don't see me so again," he said;
and Tom went off, wiping his eyes, with great satisfaction.
"I'll keep my faith with him, too," said St. Clare, as he
closed the door.
And St. Clare did so,--for gross sensualism, in any form,
was not the peculiar temptation of his nature.
But, all this time, who shall detail the tribulations
manifold of our friend Miss Ophelia, who had begun the labors of
a Southern housekeeper?
There is all the difference in the world in the servants of
Southern establishments, according to the character and capacity
of the mistresses who have brought them up.
South as well as north, there are women who have an
extraordinary talent for command, and tact in educating. Such are
enabled, with apparent ease, and without severity, to subject to
their will, and bring into harmonious and systematic order, the
various members of their small estate,--to regulate their peculiarities,
and so balance and compensate the deficiencies of one by the excess
of another, as to produce a harmonious and orderly system.
Such a housekeeper was Mrs. Shelby, whom we have already
described; and such our readers may remember to have met with.
If they are not common at the South, it is because they are not
common in the world. They are to be found there as often as
anywhere; and, when existing, find in that peculiar state of
society a brilliant opportunity to exhibit their domestic talent.
Such a housekeeper Marie St. Clare was not, nor her mother
before her. Indolent and childish, unsystematic and improvident,
it was not to be expected that servants trained under her care
should not be so likewise; and she had very justly described to
Miss Ophelia the state of confusion she would find in the family,
though she had not ascribed it to the proper cause.
The first morning of her regency, Miss Ophelia was up at
four o'clock; and having attended to all the adjustments of her
own chamber, as she had done ever since she came there, to the
great amazement of the chambermaid, she prepared for a vigorous
onslaught on the cupboards and closets of the establishment of
which she had the keys.
The store-room, the linen-presses, the china-closet, the
kitchen and cellar, that day, all went under an awful review.
Hidden things of darkness were brought to light to an extent that
alarmed all the principalities and powers of kitchen and chamber,
and caused many wonderings and murmurings about "dese yer northern
ladies" from the domestic cabinet.
Old Dinah, the head cook, and principal of all rule and
authority in the kitchen department, was filled with wrath at
what she considered an invasion of privilege. No feudal baron in
Magna Charta times could have more thoroughly resented some
incursion of the crown.
Dinah was a character in her own way, and it would be injustice
to her memory not to give the reader a little idea of her.
She was a native and essential cook, as much as Aunt Chloe,--
cooking being an indigenous talent of the African race; but
Chloe was a trained and methodical one, who moved in an orderly
domestic harness, while Dinah was a self-taught genius, and, like
geniuses in general, was positive, opinionated and erratic, to the
Like a certain class of modern philosophers, Dinah perfectly
scorned logic and reason in every shape, and always took refuge in
intuitive certainty; and here she was perfectly impregnable. No
possible amount of talent, or authority, or explanation, could ever
make her believe that any other way was better than her own, or
that the course she had pursued in the smallest matter could be in
the least modified. This had been a conceded point with her old
mistress, Marie's mother; and "Miss Marie," as Dinah always called
her young mistress, even after her marriage, found it easier to
submit than contend; and so Dinah had ruled supreme. This was the
easier, in that she was perfect mistress of that diplomatic art
which unites the utmost subservience of manner with the utmost
inflexibility as to measure.
Dinah was mistress of the whole art and mystery of excuse-making,
in all its branches. Indeed, it was an axiom with her that the
cook can do no wrong; and a cook in a Southern kitchen finds
abundance of heads and shoulders on which to lay off every sin
and frailty, so as to maintain her own immaculateness entire.
If any part of the dinner was a failure, there were fifty indisputably
good reasons for it; and it was the fault undeniably of fifty other
people, whom Dinah berated with unsparing zeal.
But it was very seldom that there was any failure in Dinah's
last results. Though her mode of doing everything was peculiarly
meandering and circuitous, and without any sort of calculation as
to time and place,--though her kitchen generally looked as if it
had been arranged by a hurricane blowing through it, and she had
about as many places for each cooking utensil as there were days
in the year,--yet, if one would have patience to wait her own good
time, up would come her dinner in perfect order, and in a style of
preparation with which an epicure could find no fault.
It was now the season of incipient preparation for dinner.
Dinah, who required large intervals of reflection and repose, and
was studious of ease in all her arrangements, was seated on the
kitchen floor, smoking a short, stumpy pipe, to which she was much
addicted, and which she always kindled up, as a sort of censer,
whenever she felt the need of an inspiration in her arrangements.
It was Dinah's mode of invoking the domestic Muses.
Seated around her were various members of that rising race
with which a Southern household abounds, engaged in shelling peas,
peeling potatoes, picking pin-feathers out of fowls, and other
preparatory arrangements,--Dinah every once in a while interrupting
her meditations to give a poke, or a rap on the head, to some of
the young operators, with the pudding-stick that lay by her side.
In fact, Dinah ruled over the woolly heads of the younger members
with a rod of iron, and seemed to consider them born for no earthly
purpose but to "save her steps," as she phrased it. It was the
spirit of the system under which she had grown up, and she carried
it out to its full extent.
Miss Ophelia, after passing on her reformatory tour through all
the other parts of the establishment, now entered the kitchen.
Dinah had heard, from various sources, what was going on, and
resolved to stand on defensive and conservative ground,--mentally
determined to oppose and ignore every new measure, without any
actual observable contest.
The kitchen was a large brick-floored apartment, with a great
old-fashioned fireplace stretching along one side of it,--an
arrangement which St. Clare had vainly tried to persuade Dinah to
exchange for the convenience of a modern cook-stove. Not she. No
Puseyite, [Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882), champion of the orthodoxy
of revealed religion, defender of the Oxford movement, and Regius
professor of Hebrew and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford.]
or conservative of any school, was ever more inflexibly
attached to time-honored inconveniences than Dinah.
When St. Clare had first returned from the north, impressed
with the system and order of his uncle's kitchen arrangements, he
had largely provided his own with an array of cupboards, drawers,
and various apparatus, to induce systematic regulation, under the
sanguine illusion that it would be of any possible assistance to
Dinah in her arrangements. He might as well have provided them
for a squirrel or a magpie. The more drawers and closets there
were, the more hiding-holes could Dinah make for the accommodation
of old rags, hair-combs, old shoes, ribbons, cast-off artificial
flowers, and other articles of vertu, wherein her soul delighted.
When Miss Ophelia entered the kitchen Dinah did not rise,
but smoked on in sublime tranquillity, regarding her movements
obliquely out of the corner of her eye, but apparently intent only
on the operations around her.
Miss Ophelia commenced opening a set of drawers.
"What is this drawer for, Dinah?" she said.
"It's handy for most anything, Missis," said Dinah. So it
appeared to be. From the variety it contained, Miss Ophelia
pulled out first a fine damask table-cloth stained with blood,
having evidently been used to envelop some raw meat.
"What's this, Dinah? You don't wrap up meat in your mistress'
"O Lor, Missis, no; the towels was all a missin'--so I jest
did it. I laid out to wash that a,--that's why I put it thar."
"Shif'less!" said Miss Ophelia to herself, proceeding to
tumble over the drawer, where she found a nutmeg-grater and two or
three nutmegs, a Methodist hymn-book, a couple of soiled Madras
handkerchiefs, some yarn and knitting-work, a paper of tobacco and
a pipe, a few crackers, one or two gilded china-saucers with some
pomade in them, one or two thin old shoes, a piece of flannel
carefully pinned up enclosing some small white onions, several
damask table-napkins, some coarse crash towels, some twine and
darning-needles, and several broken papers, from which sundry sweet
herbs were sifting into the drawer.
"Where do you keep your nutmegs, Dinah?" said Miss Ophelia,
with the air of one who prayed for patience.
"Most anywhar, Missis; there's some in that cracked tea-cup,
up there, and there's some over in that ar cupboard."
"Here are some in the grater," said Miss Ophelia, holding
"Laws, yes, I put 'em there this morning,--I likes to keep my
things handy," said Dinah. "You, Jake! what are you stopping for!
You'll cotch it! Be still, thar!" she added, with a dive of
her stick at the criminal.
"What's this?" said Miss Ophelia, holding up the saucer of pomade.
"Laws, it's my har grease;--I put it thar to have it handy."
"Do you use your mistress' best saucers for that?"
"Law! it was cause I was driv, and in sich a hurry;--I was
gwine to change it this very day."
"Here are two damask table-napkins."
"Them table-napkins I put thar, to get 'em washed out, some day."
"Don't you have some place here on purpose for things to
"Well, Mas'r St. Clare got dat ar chest, he said, for dat;
but I likes to mix up biscuit and hev my things on it some days,
and then it an't handy a liftin' up the lid."
"Why don't you mix your biscuits on the pastry-table, there?"
"Law, Missis, it gets sot so full of dishes, and one thing
and another, der an't no room, noway--"
"But you should wash your dishes, and clear them away."
"Wash my dishes!" said Dinah, in a high key, as her wrath
began to rise over her habitual respect of manner; "what does ladies
know 'bout work, I want to know? When 'd Mas'r ever get his dinner,
if I vas to spend all my time a washin' and a puttin' up dishes?
Miss Marie never telled me so, nohow."
"Well, here are these onions."
"Laws, yes!" said Dinah; "thar is whar I put 'em, now.
I couldn't 'member. Them 's particular onions I was a savin' for
dis yer very stew. I'd forgot they was in dat ar old flannel."
Miss Ophelia lifted out the sifting papers of sweet herbs.
"I wish Missis wouldn't touch dem ar. I likes to keep my things
where I knows whar to go to 'em," said Dinah, rather decidedly.
"But you don't want these holes in the papers."
"Them 's handy for siftin' on 't out," said Dinah.
"But you see it spills all over the drawer."
"Laws, yes! if Missis will go a tumblin' things all up so,
it will. Missis has spilt lots dat ar way," said Dinah, coming
uneasily to the drawers. "If Missis only will go up stars
till my clarin' up time comes, I'll have everything right;
but I can't do nothin' when ladies is round, a henderin'.
You, Sam, don't you gib the baby dat ar sugar-bowl! I'll crack
ye over, if ye don't mind!"
"I'm going through the kitchen, and going to put everything
in order, once, Dinah; and then I'll expect you to keep it so."
"Lor, now! Miss Phelia; dat ar an't no way for ladies to do.
I never did see ladies doin' no sich; my old Missis nor Miss
Marie never did, and I don't see no kinder need on 't;" and Dinah
stalked indignantly about, while Miss Ophelia piled and sorted
dishes, emptied dozens of scattering bowls of sugar into one
receptacle, sorted napkins, table-cloths, and towels, for washing;
washing, wiping, and arranging with her own hands, and with a speed
and alacrity which perfectly amazed Dinah.
"Lor now! if dat ar de way dem northern ladies do, dey an't
ladies, nohow," she said to some of her satellites, when at a safe
hearing distance. "I has things as straight as anybody, when my
clarin' up times comes; but I don't want ladies round, a henderin',
and getting my things all where I can't find 'em."
To do Dinah justice, she had, at irregular periods, paroxyms
of reformation and arrangement, which she called "clarin' up times,"
when she would begin with great zeal, and turn every drawer and
closet wrong side outward, on to the floor or tables, and make the
ordinary confusion seven-fold more confounded. Then she would
light her pipe, and leisurely go over her arrangements, looking
things over, and discoursing upon them; making all the young fry
scour most vigorously on the tin things, and keeping up for several
hours a most energetic state of confusion, which she would explain
to the satisfaction of all inquirers, by the remark that she was
a "clarin' up." "She couldn't hev things a gwine on so as they had
been, and she was gwine to make these yer young ones keep better
order;" for Dinah herself, somehow, indulged the illusion that she,
herself, was the soul of order, and it was only the young uns,
and the everybody else in the house, that were the cause of anything
that fell short of perfection in this respect. When all the tins
were scoured, and the tables scrubbed snowy white, and everything
that could offend tucked out of sight in holes and corners, Dinah
would dress herself up in a smart dress, clean apron, and high,
brilliant Madras turban, and tell all marauding "young uns" to keep
out of the kitchen, for she was gwine to have things kept nice.
Indeed, these periodic seasons were often an inconvenience to the
whole household; for Dinah would contract such an immoderate
attachment to her scoured tin, as to insist upon it that it shouldn't
be used again for any possible purpose,--at least, till the ardor
of the "clarin' up" period abated.
Miss Ophelia, in a few days, thoroughly reformed every
department of the house to a systematic pattern; but her labors in
all departments that depended on the cooperation of servants were
like those of Sisyphus or the Danaides. In despair, she one day
appealed to St. Clare.
"There is no such thing as getting anything like a system
in this family!"
"To be sure, there isn't," said St. Clare.
"Such shiftless management, such waste, such confusion, I
"I dare say you didn't."
"You would not take it so coolly, if you were housekeeper."
"My dear cousin, you may as well understand, once for all,
that we masters are divided into two classes, oppressors and
oppressed. We who are good-natured and hate severity make up our
minds to a good deal of inconvenience. If we will keep a shambling,
loose, untaught set in the community, for our convenience, why, we
must take the consequence. Some rare cases I have seen, of persons,
who, by a peculiar tact, can produce order and system without
severity; but I'm not one of them,--and so I made up my mind, long
ago, to let things go just as they do. I will not have the poor
devils thrashed and cut to pieces, and they know it,--and, of
course, they know the staff is in their own hands."
"But to have no time, no place, no order,--all going on in
this shiftless way!"
"My dear Vermont, you natives up by the North Pole set an
extravagant value on time! What on earth is the use of time to a
fellow who has twice as much of it as he knows what to do with?
As to order and system, where there is nothing to be done but to lounge
on the sofa and read, an hour sooner or later in breakfast or dinner
isn't of much account. Now, there's Dinah gets you a capital
dinner,--soup, ragout, roast fowl, dessert, ice-creams and all,--and
she creates it all out of chaos and old night down there, in that
kitchen. I think it really sublime, the way she manages. But,
Heaven bless us! if we are to go down there, and view all the
smoking and squatting about, and hurryscurryation of the preparatory
process, we should never eat more! My good cousin, absolve yourself
from that! It's more than a Catholic penance, and does no more good.
You'll only lose your own temper, and utterly confound Dinah.
Let her go her own way."
But, Augustine, you don't know how I found things."
"Don't I? Don't I know that the rolling-pin is under her bed,
and the nutmeg-grater in her pocket with her tobacco,--that
there are sixty-five different sugar-bowls, one in every hole in
the house,--that she washes dishes with a dinner-napkin one day,
and with a fragment of an old petticoat the next? But the upshot
is, she gets up glorious dinners, makes superb coffee; and you must
judge her as warriors and statesmen are judged, by her success."
"But the waste,--the expense!"
"O, well! Lock everything you can, and keep the key. Give out
by driblets, and never inquire for odds and ends,--it isn't best."
"That troubles me, Augustine. I can't help feeling as if
these servants were not strictly honest. Are you sure they can
be relied on?"
Augustine laughed immoderately at the grave and anxious
face with which Miss Ophelia propounded the question.
"O, cousin, that's too good,--honest!--as if that's a
thing to be expected! Honest!--why, of course, they arn't.
Why should they be? What upon earth is to make them so?"
"Why don't you instruct?"
"Instruct! O, fiddlestick! What instructing do you think
I should do? I look like it! As to Marie, she has spirit
enough, to be sure, to kill off a whole plantation, if I'd let her
manage; but she wouldn't get the cheatery out of them."
"Are there no honest ones?"
"Well, now and then one, whom Nature makes so impracticably
simple, truthful and faithful, that the worst possible influence
can't destroy it. But, you see, from the mother's breast the
colored child feels and sees that there are none but underhand ways
open to it. It can get along no other way with its parents, its
mistress, its young master and missie play-fellows. Cunning and
deception become necessary, inevitable habits. It isn't fair to
expect anything else of him. He ought not to be punished for it.
As to honesty, the slave is kept in that dependent, semi-childish
state, that there is no making him realize the rights of property,
or feel that his master's goods are not his own, if he can get them.
For my part, I don't see how they can be honest. Such a fellow
as Tom, here, is,--is a moral miracle!"
"And what becomes of their souls?" said Miss Ophelia.
"That isn't my affair, as I know of," said St. Clare; "I am
only dealing in facts of the present life. The fact is, that
the whole race are pretty generally understood to be turned over
to the devil, for our benefit, in this world, however it may turn
out in another!"
"This is perfectly horrible!" said Miss Ophelia; you ought
to be ashamed of yourselves!"
"I don't know as I am. We are in pretty good company, for all
that," said St. Clare, "as people in the broad road generally are.
Look at the high and the low, all the world over, and it's
the same story,--the lower class used up, body, soul and spirit,
for the good of the upper. It is so in England; it is so everywhere;
and yet all Christendom stands aghast, with virtuous indignation,
because we do the thing in a little different shape from what they
"It isn't so in Vermont."
"Ah, well, in New England, and in the free States, you have
the better of us, I grant. But there's the bell; so, Cousin, let
us for a while lay aside our sectional prejudices, and come out to
As Miss Ophelia was in the kitchen in the latter part of
the afternoon, some of the sable children called out, "La, sakes!
thar's Prue a coming, grunting along like she allers does."
A tall, bony colored woman now entered the kitchen, bearing
on her head a basket of rusks and hot rolls.
"Ho, Prue! you've come," said Dinah.
Prue had a peculiar scowling expression of countenance,
and a sullen, grumbling voice. She set down her basket, squatted
herself down, and resting her elbows on her knees said,
"O Lord! I wish't I 's dead!"
"Why do you wish you were dead?" said Miss Ophelia.
"I'd be out o' my misery," said the woman, gruffly, without
taking her eyes from the floor.
"What need you getting drunk, then, and cutting up, Prue?"
said a spruce quadroon chambermaid, dangling, as she spoke, a pair
of coral ear-drops.
The woman looked at her with a sour surly glance.
"Maybe you'll come to it, one of these yer days. I'd be
glad to see you, I would; then you'll be glad of a drop, like me,
to forget your misery."
"Come, Prue," said Dinah, "let's look at your rusks. Here's
Missis will pay for them."
Miss Ophelia took out a couple of dozen.
"Thar's some tickets in that ar old cracked jug on the top
shelf," said Dinah. "You, Jake, climb up and get it down."
"Tickets,--what are they for?" said Miss Ophelia.
"We buy tickets of her Mas'r, and she gives us bread for 'em."
"And they counts my money and tickets, when I gets home, to see
if I 's got the change; and if I han't, they half kills me."
"And serves you right," said Jane, the pert chambermaid,
"if you will take their money to get drunk on. That's what she
"And that's what I will do,--I can't live no other
ways,--drink and forget my misery."
"You are very wicked and very foolish," said Miss Ophelia,
"to steal your master's money to make yourself a brute with."
"It's mighty likely, Missis; but I will do it,--yes, I will.
O Lord! I wish I 's dead, I do,--I wish I 's dead, and out
of my misery!" and slowly and stiffly the old creature rose, and
got her basket on her head again; but before she went out, she
looked at the quadroon girt, who still stood playing with her
"Ye think ye're mighty fine with them ar, a frolickin' and
a tossin' your head, and a lookin' down on everybody. Well, never
mind,--you may live to be a poor, old, cut-up crittur, like me.
Hope to the Lord ye will, I do; then see if ye won't
drink,--drink,--drink,--yerself into torment; and sarve ye right,
too--ugh!" and, with a malignant howl, the woman left the room.
"Disgusting old beast!" said Adolph, who was getting his
master's shaving-water. "If I was her master, I'd cut her up worse
than she is."
"Ye couldn't do that ar, no ways," said Dinah. "Her back's
a far sight now,--she can't never get a dress together over it."
"I think such low creatures ought not to be allowed to go
round to genteel families," said Miss Jane. "What do you think,
Mr. St. Clare?" she said, coquettishly tossing her head at Adolph.
It must be observed that, among other appropriations from
his master's stock, Adolph was in the habit of adopting his name
and address; and that the style under which he moved, among the
colored circles of New Orleans, was that of Mr. St. Clare.
"I'm certainly of your opinion, Miss Benoir," said Adolph.
Benoir was the name of Marie St. Clare's family, and Jane
was one of her servants.
"Pray, Miss Benoir, may I be allowed to ask if those drops
are for the ball, tomorrow night? They are certainly bewitching!"
"I wonder, now, Mr. St. Clare, what the impudence of you
men will come to!" said Jane, tossing her pretty head til the
ear-drops twinkled again. "I shan't dance with you for a whole
evening, if you go to asking me any more questions."
"O, you couldn't be so cruel, now! I was just dying to know
whether you would appear in your pink tarletane," said Adolph.
"What is it?" said Rosa, a bright, piquant little quadroon
who came skipping down stairs at this moment.
"Why, Mr. St. Clare's so impudent!"
"On my honor," said Adolph, "I'll leave it to Miss Rosa now."
"I know he's always a saucy creature," said Rosa, poising
herself on one of her little feet, and looking maliciously at
Adolph. "He's always getting me so angry with him."
"O! ladies, ladies, you will certainly break my heart,
between you," said Adolph. "I shall be found dead in my bed, some
morning, and you'll have it to answer for."
"Do hear the horrid creature talk!" said both ladies,
"Come,--clar out, you! I can't have you cluttering up the
kitchen," said Dinah; "in my way, foolin' round here."
"Aunt Dinah's glum, because she can't go to the ball," said Rosa.
"Don't want none o' your light-colored balls," said Dinah;
"cuttin' round, makin' b'lieve you's white folks. Arter all, you's
niggers, much as I am."
"Aunt Dinah greases her wool stiff, every day, to make it
lie straight," said Jane.
"And it will be wool, after all," said Rosa, maliciously
shaking down her long, silky curls.
"Well, in the Lord's sight, an't wool as good as bar, any
time?" said Dinah. "I'd like to have Missis say which is worth
the most,--a couple such as you, or one like me. Get out wid ye,
ye trumpery,--I won't have ye round!"
Here the conversation was interrupted in a two-fold manner.
St. Clare's voice was heard at the head of the stairs, asking Adolph
if he meant to stay all night with his shaving-water; and Miss
Ophelia, coming out of the dining-room, said,
"Jane and Rosa, what are you wasting your time for, here?
Go in and attend to your muslins."
Our friend Tom, who had been in the kitchen during the
conversation with the old rusk-woman, had followed her out into
the street. He saw her go on, giving every once in a while a
suppressed groan. At last she set her basket down on a doorstep,
and began arranging the old, faded shawl which covered her shoulders.
"I'll carry your basket a piece," said Tom, compassionately.
"Why should ye?" said the woman. "I don't want no help."
"You seem to be sick, or in trouble, or somethin'," said Tom.
"I an't sick," said the woman, shortly.
"I wish," said Tom, looking at her earnestly,--"I wish I
could persuade you to leave off drinking. Don't you know it will
be the ruin of ye, body and soul?"
"I knows I'm gwine to torment," said the woman, sullenly.
"Ye don't need to tell me that ar. I 's ugly, I 's wicked,--
I 's gwine straight to torment. O, Lord! I wish I 's thar!"
Tom shuddered at these frightful words, spoken with a
sullen, impassioned earnestness.
"O, Lord have mercy on ye! poor crittur. Han't ye never
heard of Jesus Christ?"
"Jesus Christ,--who's he?"
"Why, he's the Lord," said Tom.
"I think I've hearn tell o' the Lord, and the judgment and torment.
I've heard o' that."
"But didn't anybody ever tell you of the Lord Jesus, that
loved us poor sinners, and died for us?"
"Don't know nothin' 'bout that," said the woman; "nobody
han't never loved me, since my old man died."
"Where was you raised?" said Tom.
"Up in Kentuck. A man kept me to breed chil'en for market,
and sold 'em as fast as they got big enough; last of all, he sold
me to a speculator, and my Mas'r got me o' him."
"What set you into this bad way of drinkin'?"
"To get shet o' my misery. I had one child after I come here;
and I thought then I'd have one to raise, cause Mas'r wasn't
a speculator. It was de peartest little thing! and Missis she
seemed to think a heap on 't, at first; it never cried,--it was
likely and fat. But Missis tuck sick, and I tended her; and I tuck
the fever, and my milk all left me, and the child it pined to skin
and bone, and Missis wouldn't buy milk for it. She wouldn't hear
to me, when I telled her I hadn't milk. She said she knowed I
could feed it on what other folks eat; and the child kinder pined,
and cried, and cried, and cried, day and night, and got all gone
to skin and bones, and Missis got sot agin it and she said 't wan't
nothin' but crossness. She wished it was dead, she said; and she
wouldn't let me have it o' nights, cause, she said, it kept me
awake, and made me good for nothing. She made me sleep in her
room; and I had to put it away off in a little kind o' garret, and
thar it cried itself to death, one night. It did; and I tuck to
drinkin', to keep its crying out of my ears! I did,--and I will
drink! I will, if I do go to torment for it! Mas'r says I shall go
to torment, and I tell him I've got thar now!"
"O, ye poor crittur!" said Tom, "han't nobody never telled ye how
the Lord Jesus loved ye, and died for ye? Han't they telled ye
that he'll help ye, and ye can go to heaven, and have rest, at last?"
"I looks like gwine to heaven," said the woman; "an't thar
where white folks is gwine? S'pose they'd have me thar? I'd rather
go to torment, and get away from Mas'r and Missis. I had so,"
she said, as with her usual groan, she got her basket on her head,
and walked sullenly away.
Tom turned, and walked sorrowfully back to the house. In the
court he met little Eva,--a crown of tuberoses on her head,
and her eyes radiant with delight.
"O, Tom! here you are. I'm glad I've found you. Papa says
you may get out the ponies, and take me in my little new
carriage," she said, catching his hand. "But what's
the matter Tom?--you look sober."
"I feel bad, Miss Eva," said Tom, sorrowfully. "But I'll
get the horses for you."
"But do tell me, Tom, what is the matter. I saw you
talking to cross old Prue."
Tom, in simple, earnest phrase, told Eva the woman's history.
She did not exclaim or wonder, or weep, as other children do.
Her cheeks grew pale, and a deep, earnest shadow passed over
her eyes. She laid both hands on her bosom, and sighed heavily.