SCENE FROM UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
Scene—Miss Ophelia's bedroom: Door to the left: at the back in centre a bed, or couch arranged as bed, standing out from the wall; to the right side of the bed, a dressing-table: on it, besides the usual looking-glass, &c., a bright red ribbon and a pair of white gloves. Chair to right near front of stage. Book-case, pictures, and other furniture, according to convenience. When the curtain rises, Miss Ophelia is discovered sitting on the chair to right: opposite to her stands Topsy, hands folded, eyes fixed on the ground.
Miss Ophelia—Now Topsy, you are clean and tidy at last, I hope?
Topsy—Laws, yes, Miss Feely! There's not a speck o' dirt left on me.
Miss Ophelia—That is better: I hope you will always keep clean and tidy in the future. There is nothing I dislike so much as dirt.
Topsy (rolling her eyes and making a face)—Yes, missis.
Miss Ophelia—Now I have a few questions
ask you before we set to work. How old are you, Topsy?
Topsy (grinning)—Dunno, missis.
Miss Ophelia—Don't know how old you are! Did nobody ever tell you? Who was your mother then, child?
Topsy (with another grin)—Never had none.
Miss Ophelia—Never had any mother! What do you mean? Where were you born?
Topsy—Never was born.
Miss Ophelia (sternly)—You mustn't answer me like that, child. I am not playing with you. Tell me where you were born and who were your father and mother.
Topsy (emphatically)—Never was born, never had no father, nor mother, nor nothin'!
Miss Ophelia—Topsy, how can you say such things! How long have you lived with your master and mistress?
Miss Ophelia—Is it a year, or more, or less? Try to answer properly, this time.
Miss Ophelia—Worse and worse! Do you know nothing at all, I wonder! Have you ever heard of God, Topsy? (Topsy shakes her head.) Do you know who made you?
Topsy (laughing)—Nobody as I knows on: 'spect I grow'd. Don't think nobody ever made me.
Miss Ophelia (shocked)—Terrible! whatever shall I do with a child like this! Do you know how to sew, Topsy?
Miss Ophelia—What can you do? What did you do for your master and mistress?
Topsy—Fetch water, wash dishes, and clean knives and wait on folks.
Miss Ophelia (going to left side of bed)—Well now, Topsy, I'm going to show you just how my bed is to be made. I am very particular about my bed. You must learn exactly how to do it. Come to the other side and watch me well.
Topsy (going to right side)—Yes, ma'am.
Miss Ophelia—Now, Topsy, look here. This is the hem of the sheet. This is the right side of the sheet. This is the wrong. Will you remember?
Topsy (with a big sigh)—Yes, ma'am.
Miss Ophelia—Well now, the undersheet you must bring over—like this—and tuck it right down under the mattress, nice and smooth—like this. Do you see?
Topsy (with a bigger sigh)—Yes, ma'am.
Miss Ophelia—But the upper sheet must be brought down and tucked under, firm and smooth at the foot—like this—the narrow hem at the foot.
Topsy (snatching the gloves and the ribbon off the dressing-table, as Miss Ophelia bends over the bed)—Yes ma'am. (Slips them into her sleeve.)
Miss Ophelia (pulling off the clothes again)—Now, Topsy, let me see if you can do it. (Topsy quickly and neatly makes the bed again.)
Miss Ophelia (watching her)—Very good . . very good indeed, Topsy! We shall make something of you yet.
Topsy (tucking in the sheet)—Yes, missis. (As she does so the ribbon falls from her sleeve.)
Miss Ophelia (picking it up)—What is this? You naughty wicked child, you have been stealing!
Topsy (very surprised)—Why! That's Miss Feely's ribbon, ain't it? How could it a' got into my sleeve?
Miss Ophelia—Topsy, you naughty girl, don't tell me a lie. You stole that ribbon.
Topsy—Missis, I declare I didn't. Never seed it till dis blessed minute.
Miss Ophelia—Topsy, don't you know it is wicked to tell lies?
Topsy—I never tell no lies, Miss Feely. It's jist the truth I've been tellin' now. It an't nothin' else.
Miss Ophelia—Topsy, I shall have to whip you if you tell lies so.
Topsy (beginning to cry)—Laws, missis, if you whips all day couldn't say no other way. I never seed that ribbon. It must a' caught in my sleeve. Miss Feely must a' left it on the bed, and it got caught in the clothes, and so got in my sleeve.
Miss Ophelia (angrily shaking her)—Topsy, how dare you! Don't you tell me that again. (The gloves fall to the ground.)
Miss Ophelia (holding them up)—There! Will you tell me you didn't steal the ribbon?
Topsy (still crying loudly)—O missis, missis, I'se so sorry! I won't never do it again, I won't.
Miss Ophelia—Stop crying then, and tell me if you have taken anything else since you have been in the house. If you tell me truthfully, I won't whip you.
Topsy—Laws, missis, I took Miss Eva's red thing she wears on her neck.
Miss Ophelia—You did, you naughty child! Go and bring it me this minute.
Topsy—Laws, missis, I can't—they's burnt up.
Miss Ophelia—Burnt up? What a story! Go and get them or I shall whip you.
Topsy (groaning and crying)—I can't, I can't Miss Feely! They's burnt up, they is.
Miss Ophelia—What did you burn them up for?
Topsy (rocking to and fro)—'Cause I'se wicked, I is. I'se mighty wicked. I can't help it. (Enter Eva wearing red necklace.)
Miss Ophelia—Why, Eva, where did you get your red necklace?
Eva—Get it? Why, I have had it on all day, and what is funny, aunty, I had it on all night. I forgot to take it off when I went to bed.
Miss Ophelia (lifting her hands in despair)—What ever shall I do with her! What in the world made you tell me you took the necklace, Topsy?
Topsy (wiping her eyes)—Missis said I must 'fess. I couldn't think of nothin' else to 'fess.
Miss Ophelia—But of course I didn't want you to confess things you didn't do; that is telling a lie just as much as the other.
Topsy (very surprised)—Laws now, is it?
Miss Ophelia—Topsy, what makes you behave so badly?
Topsy (grinning)—Dunno, missis; 'spects it's my wicked heart.
Miss Ophelia—What shall I do with you? I'm sure I don't know; this is terrible.
Topsy—Laws, missis, you must whip me. I an't used to workin' unless I gets whipped, but I dunno that it helps much neither. My old missis, she whipped me hard an' pulled my hair, and knocked my head agin the door, but it didn't do me no good. I 'spect if they was to pull every hair out o' my head it wouldn't do no good neither. I'se so wicked. I'se nothin' but a nigger.
Miss Ophelia (going to door)—I never saw such a child! Topsy, if you do not try to be more honest, and better in every way, I shall have to speak to your master. (exit.)
Eva—What makes you so naughty, Topsy? Why don't you try to be good? (taking her hand.) Don't you love anybody, Topsy?
Topsy (blinking her eyes)—Dunno nothin' 'bout love. I love candy, that's all.
Eva—But you love your father and mother?
Topsy—Never had none: I telled ye that before, Miss Eva.
Eva (sadly)—Oh, I forgot: but hadn't you any brother or sister, or aunt, or . . .
Topsy (interrupting)—No, none on 'em. Never had nothin' nor nobody.
Eva—But, Topsy, if you would only try to be good, you might . . .
Topsy (interrupting)—Couldn't never be nothin' but a nigger, if I was ever so good. If I could come white, I'd try then.
Eva—But people can love you, if you are black, Topsy. Miss Ophelia would love you if you were good.
Topsy (laughing)—Would she though?
Eva—Don't you think so?
Topsy—She can't bear me, 'cause I'm a nigger. She'd as soon have a toad touch her. There can't nobody love niggers, and niggers can't do nothin.' I don't care. (Whistles or hums, and tosses her head.)
Eva (laying her hand on Topsy's
shoulder)—O Topsy, I will love you: I love you now, because you
haven't any mother or father or friends; because you have been beaten
and starved and ill-used. I love you, and I want you to be good. It
makes me sorry to have you so naughty. I wish you would try to be
Topsy. Won't you? (Topsy suddenly sits down on the floor and cries softly, hiding her face in her apron.)
Eva (stroking her head)—Poor Topsy!
Topsy—O Miss Eva, dear Miss Eva. I will try . . . indeed I will. I never did care nothin' about it before.