CHAPTER XXV. THE LITTLE EVANGELIST.
IT was Sunday afternoon. St. Clare was stretched on a bamboo lounge in the verandah, solacing himself with a cigar. Marie lay reclined on a sofa, opposite the window opening on the verandah, closely secluded, under an awning of transparent gauze, from the outrages of the mosquitos, and languidly holding in her hand an elegantly-bound prayer-book. She was holding it because it was Sunday, and she imagined she had been reading it,—though, in fact, she had been only taking a succession of short naps, with it open in her hand.
Miss Ophelia, who, after some rummaging, had hunted up a small Methodist meeting within riding distance, had gone out, with Tom as driver, to attend it; and Eva had accompanied them. Soon after their return Miss Ophelia appeared, dragging Topsy after her.
"Come out here, now!" she said. "I will tell your master!"
"What 's the case now?" asked Augustine.
"The case is, that I cannot be plagued with this child any longer!
It 's past all bearing; flesh and blood cannot endure it! Here. I
locked her up, and gave her a hymn to study; and what does she do, but
spy out where I put my
key, and has gone to my bureau, and got a bonnet trimming and cut it all to pieces, to make dolls' jackets! I never saw anything like it, in my life!"
"Come here, Tops, you monkey!" said St. Clare, calling the child up to him.
Topsy came up; her round, hard eyes glittering and blinking with a mixture of apprehensiveness and their usual odd drollery.
"What makes you behave so?" said St. Clare, who could not help being amused with the child's expression.
"Spects it 's my wicked heart," said Topsy, demurely; "Miss Feely says so."
"Don't you see bow much Miss Ophelia has done for you? She says she has done everything she can think of."
"Lor, yes, Mas'r! old Missis used to say so, too. She whipped me a heap harder, and used to pull my har, and knock my head agin the dor; but it did n't do me no good! I spects, if they 's to pull every spear o' har out o' my head, it would n't do no good, neither,—I 's so wicked! Laws! I 's nothin' but a nigger, no ways!"
Eva, who had stood a silent spectator of the scene thus far, made a silent sign to Topsy to follow her. There was a little glass room at the corner of the verandah, which St. Clare used as a sort of reading-room; and Eva and Topsy disappeared into this place.
St. Clare lifted up a curtain that covered the glass door, and
looked in. In a moment, laying his finger on his lips, he made a
silent gesture to Miss Ophelia to come and look. There sat the two
children on the floor, Topsy, with her usual air of careless drollery
and unconcern; Eva, with
her whole face fervent with feeling, and tears in her large eyes.
"What does make you so bad, Topsy? Why won't you try and be good? Don't you love anybody, Topsy?"
"Dunno nothing 'bout love; I loves candy and sich, that 's all," said Topsy.
"But you love your father and mother?"
"Never had none, ye know. I telled ye that, Miss Eva."
"O, I know," said Eva, sadly; "but had n't you any brother, or sister, or aunt, or—"
"No, none on 'em,—never had nothing nor nobody."
"But, Topsy, if you 'd only try to be good, you might—"
"Could n't never be nothin' but a nigger, if I was ever so good," said Topsy. "If I could be skinned, and come white, I 'd try then."
"But people can love you, if you are black, Topsy. Miss Ophelia would love you, if you were good."
Topsy gave the short, blunt laugh that was her common mode of expressing incredulity.
"Don't you think so?" said Eva.
"No; she can't bar me, 'cause I 'm a nigger!—she 'd 's soon have a toad touch her! There can't nobody—love niggers, and niggers can't do nothin'! I don't care," said Topsy, beginning to whistle.
"O, Topsy, poor child, I love you!" said Eva, with a sudden burst of feeling, and laying her little thin, white hand on Topsy's shoulder; "I love you, because you haven't had any father, or mother, or friends; because you've been a poor, abused child! I love you, and I want you to be good. I am very unwell, Topsy, and I think shan't live a great while; and it really grieves me, to have you be so naughty. I wish you would try to be good, for my sake; it's only a little while I shall be with you."
"O, dear Miss Eva, dear Miss Eva!" said the child; "I will try, I will try; I never did care nothin' about it before."
St. Clare dropped the curtain.