CHAPTER XIV. EVANGELINE.
AMONG the passengers on the boat that bore Haley and his living property was a young gentleman of fortune and family, resident in New Orleans, who bore the name of St. Clare. He had with him a daughter between five and six years of age. Together with
a lady who seemed to claim relationship to both, and to have the little one especially under her charge.
Tom had often caught glimpses of this little girl; for she was one of those busy creatures, that can be no more contained in one place than a sunbeam or a summer breeze. Her form was the perfection of childish beauty. Her face was remarkable less for its perfect beauty of feature; the deep spiritual gravity of her violet blue eyes, shaded by heavy fringes of golden brown, all marked her out from other children, and made every one turn and look after her, as she glided hither and thither on the boat.
Tom watched the little creature with daily increasing interest. To him she seemed something almost divine; and whenever her golden head and deep blue eyes peered out upon him from behind some dusky cotton-bale, or looked down upon him over some ridge of packages, he half believed that he saw one of the angels stepped out of his New Testament.
At last they got on quite confidential terms.
"What's little missy's name?" said Tom, at last, when he thought matters were ripe to push such an inquiry.
"Evangeline St. Clare," said the little one, "though papa and everybody else call me Eva. Now, what's your name?"
"My name's Tom; the little chil'en used to call me Uncle Tom, way back thar in Kentuck."
"Then I mean to call you Uncle Tom, because, you see, I like you," said Eva. "So, Uncle Tom, where are you going?"
"I don't know, Miss Eva."
"Don't know?" said Eva.
"No. I am going to be sold to somebody. I don't know who."
"My papa can buy you," said Eva, quickly; "and if he buys you, you will have good times. I mean to ask him to, this very day."
"Thank you, my little lady," said Tom.
The boat here stopped at a small landing to take in
wood, and Eva, hearing her father's voice, bounded nimbly away. Tom rose up, and went forward to offer his service in wooding, for by this time Haley allowed him to go about as he pleased on a sort of parole, and soon was busy among the hands.
Eva and her father were standing together by the railing to see the boat start from the landing-place, when, by some sudden movement, the little one suddenly lost her balance, and fell sheer over the side of the boat into the water. Her father, scarce knowing what he did, was plunging in after her, but was held back by some one behind him, who saw that more efficient aid had followed his child.
Tom was standing just under her on the lower deck as she fell. He saw her strike the water, and sink, and was after her in a moment.
A broad-chested, strong-armed fellow, it was nothing for him to keep afloat in the water till, in a moment or two, the child rose to the surface, and he caught her in his arms, and, swimming with her to the boat-side, handed her up, all dripping, to the grasp of hundreds of hands, which, as if they had all belonged to one man, were stretched eagerly out to receive her. A few moments more, and her father bore her, dripping and senseless, to the ladies' cabin.
The next day the steamer drew near to New Orleans, and on the lower deck sat our friend Tom, with his arms folded, and anxiously, from time to time, turning his eyes towards a group on the other side of the boat.
There stood the fair Evangeline, a little paler than the day before, but otherwise exhibiting no traces of the accident which had befallen her. A graceful, elegantly-formed young man stood by her, carelessly leaning one elbow on a bale of cotton, while a large pocketbook lay open before him. It was quite evident, at a glance, that the gentleman was Eva's father. He was listening to Haley, who was very volubly expatiating on the quality of the article for which they were bargaining.
"All the moral and Christian virtues bound in black morocco, complete!" he said, when Haley had finished. "Well, now, my good fellow, what's the damage, as they say in Kentucky ? How much are you going to cheat me, now? Out with it!"
"Wal," said Haley, "if I should say thirteen hundred dollars for that ar fellow, I should n't but just save myself; I should n't, now, really."
"Papa, do buy him! it's no matter what you pay," whispered Eva, softly. "You have money enough, I know. I want him."
"What for, pussy? Are you going to use him for a rattlebox, or a rocking-horse, or what?"
"I want to make him happy."
"An original reason, certainly."
Here the trader handed up a certificate, signed by Mr. Shelby,
which the young man took with the tips of his
fingers, and glanced over carelessly. "There, count your money," said he, as he handed a roll of bills to the trader.
"All right," said Haley, his face beaming with delight: and pulling out an old inkhorn, he proceeded to fill out a bill of sale, which, in a few moments, he handed to the young man.
"Come, Eva," said St. Clare, and taking the hand of his daughter, he stepped across the boat, and carelessly putting the tip of his finger under Tom's chin, said, good-humoredly, "Look up, Tom, and see how you like your new master."
Tom looked up, and the tears started in his eves as he said, heartily, "God bless you. Mas'r!"
"Well, I hope He will. What's your name? Tom? Quite as likely to do it for your asking as mine, from all accounts. Can you drive horses, Tom?"
"I 've been allays used to horses," said Tom. "Mas'r Shelby raised heaps on 'em."
"Well, I think I shall put you in coachy, on condition that you won't be drunk more than once a week, unless in cases of emergency, Tom."
Tom looked surprised, and rather hurt, and said, "I never drink, Mas'r."
"I 've heard that story before, Tom; but then we 'll see. I don't doubt you mean to do well."
"I sartin do, Mas'r," said Tom.
"And you shall have good times," said Eva. "Papa is very good to everybody, only he always will laugh at them."
"Papa is much obliged to you for his recommendation," said St. Clare, laughing, as he turned on his heel and walked away.