(Garden of St. Clair's house. Marie St. Clair sitting on a lounge surrounded by negresses, quadroons, &c., &c., attending to her officiously.)
MARIE. That will do. That will do. Don't come too near. You suffocate me. Where's Mammy?
MAMMY. (Curtseying.) Here I be, Missis.
MARIE. Fan me. Not that way. How awkward you are! Where's Adolph?
MAMMY. Gone down to de levee, Missis, to wait for de boat.
MARIE. Oh, yes. Mr. St. Clair should return to-day.
MAMMY. And Miss Evy too, Missis. My darling Miss Evy's coming home, too.
MARIE. Good heavens, Mammy, you speak of my child as if she were your own!
MAMMY. Yes, Missis. 'Scuse me. But I can't help it. Miss Evy's yours. But I brought her up at my breast when you was too sick to nurse her.
MARIE. Terrible necessity! And now Eva has the most insane preference for all slaves and colored people. If she ever lives to understand your selfish natures, she'll be as disgusted with you all as I am.
MAMMY. Don't say that, Missis; don't. I'd lay down my life for Miss Evy.
MARIE. Oh, of course—and I might expire and you wouldn't stretch out a finger to assist me. You're all alike—selfish and ungrateful.
(A cheer without. Music.)
MARIE. Good heavens! What is that?
(Enter Adolph, a dandy negro.)
ADOLPH. I has de honor to announce to Madame, dat Massa St. Clair is at de do!
MARIE. Good heavens! in pity to my nerves, tell my people to subdue their hilarity.
(Enter St. Clair. He embraces Marie.)
ST. CLAIR. Ma belle chere—and how are you?
MARIE. Suffering as you left me, St. Clair. There is no peace for me on this side the grave.
ST. CLAIR. (Aside.) Nor for me, I think. Come, come Marie, be cheerful for once, to celebrate our return.
MARIE. Where is Eva? Kissing the slaves I suppose before she embraces her mother. But there, I am used to ingratitude.
ST. CLAIR. Hush, Marie, and be thankful to one slave at least, or you might never have seen our darling baby again.
MARIE. (Rising.) Merciful heavens, St Clair! Do you intend to murder me. I am too frail to stand another shock.
ST. CLAIR. I spoke, Marie, of what might have been.
MARIE. Where is my child? My Eva? (Sinks back on the couch, music.)
(Enter Eva, followed by servants.)
EVA. Here, Mamma, here I am! (embracing Marie.)
MARIE. Alive! Thank heaven! But that will do—kiss me again to-morrow—my head aches, and — (Sinks back languidly.)
EVA. Where's Mammy—my Mammy?
MAMMY. Here, Misse Evy, here!
(The old negress embraces, hugs and cries over Eva.)
MARIE. (Weeps.) No one has any sympathy with me. My husband and my child desert me. I am the victim of selfishness.
ST. CLAIR. Yes, Marie (pointedly), you are indeed! But where's Ophelia?
MARIE. Who's Ophelia?
ST. CLAIR. My cousin, Ophelia St. Clair, whom I've brought all the way from Vermont, to take the cares of life off your shoulders.
MARIE. Or to add to them. I have no faith in any one; but I must endure her, I suppose, as she is a relative of yours.
(Enter Ophelia, picking up her skirts.)
OPHE. Mercy on me, St. Clair! You Southern people turn my stomach. Here was Eva kissing these negroes all around, as if they were pleasant; and wherever I walk, I seem to be treading on woolly-headed children. There's no order or regularity anywhere. Nothing but shiftlessness,—shiftlessness. That's the right word.
ST. CLAIR. Well, dear cousin! You shall infuse your New England thrift into our household. Let me present you to my wife. Marie, our cousin, Ophelia St. Clair. (Marie rises partially.)
MARIE. How do you do?
OPHE. Pretty well, I thank you, Ma'am; and how air you? (Very stiffly.)
MARIE. Not more wretched than usual, thank you.
OPHE. A case of nerves, I see. (Folding her arms.)
MARIE. Yes, I'm a martyr to nerves; and ever since your arrival there has been such a tumult.
OPHE. Sick headache, too, no doubt, ma'am; juniper tea is a fine thing for that. At least Deacon Abraham Perry's first wife used to say so, and she was a powerful smart nurse, you may depend.
ST. CLAIR. But golden days are dawning for you, Marie; our practical Vermont cousin here, shall relieve you in future of all your household responsibilities.
MARIE. I'm sure she's welcome. But she'll soon find out that we mistresses are the slaves down here.
ST. CLAIR. And other wonderful things beside, no doubt.
MARIE. Keeping slaves for our convenience indeed! If we considered that, we had better let them all go.
EVA. (Coming to Marie.) What do you keep them for then, Mamma?
MARIE. I don't know, I'm sure, except for a plague. All my ill health is caused by them. There's Mammy, last night, although she knew how anxious I was about your safety, she slept in my room as sound as a top, and my efforts to wake her every ten minutes have given me this terrible headache.
EVA. Let me sit up and watch by you to-night, Mamma?
MARIE. Nonsense, child, don't be so absurd.
ST. CLAIR. Come, come, Marie, you have the blues to-day. Eva, where is the present we have bought for Mamma?
MARIE. A present! For me? What is it?
ST. CLAIR. A new coachman.
EVA. Yes, Mamma; he's called Uncle Tom; he jumped into the river and saved me when I fell off the boat, and I begged papa to buy him for you. Uncle Tom, come here!
(Music. She drags on Tom from the L.)
EVA. Here he is, Mamma.
MARIE. He'll get drunk, I suppose.
TOM. No, Misses, I never drink.
ST. CLAIR. No, Marie, no. Tom is warranted to be a very hearse for blackness and sobriety, and he'll drive you like a funeral if you prefer it.
MARIE. Oh, yes; the last coachman said he never drank, too.
TOM. Then he did something else beside, Missis. He told a lie, and that I never do.
MARIE. Well, take care I don't find you out in one. We have such a thing here as a whipping-post.
ST. CLAIR. Marie. (Angrily.)
OPHE. Sakes alive! My blood runs cold.
ST. CLAIR. Don't be alarmed, cousin, a blow is forbidden in any house where I am called master.
(Eva goes up with Tom and sits on his knee.)
MARIE. (Rising.) Oh, of course; there are no brutes in the house but myself. But I never complain. Give me my vinaigrette. No one knows what I endure. It's my duty to bear it and be sacrificed to all the black, ungrateful wretches who belong to me. Oh, St. Clair, I hope the day may never come when you'll have cause to remember your brutality. Oh! oh! oh!
(She is borne off by the colored people.)
ST. CLAIR. The devil! I'm afraid, cousin, the prospect before you is not very inspiring.
OPHE. Well, I must say you air the most shiftless lot I ever set my two eyes on. Sakes alive! Look at that blessed child sitting on that black man's knee, and pulling his whiskers!
ST. CLAIR. And why shouldn't she? You'd not complain if she caressed a dog, though his hide were black. I tell you, cousin, your little child is your only democrat; and Tom is a hero in Eva's eyes. As for him ——. Well, what would such as he do without the sympathetic love of childhood to lighten their dull lives!
OPHE. La sakes! You talk like a professor, cousin.
ST. CLAIR. Nothing so easy as talking, cousin.
OPHE. That's true; but doing is my motto, and with such a shiftless set as I see around here; sakes alive! but I shall have a powerful heap o' doing on my hands, mighty quick, I reckon.
(Exit with St. Clair, laughing.)
EVA. And have you any children, Uncle Tom?
TOM. Yes, Misse, up there in Kintuck.
EVA. Little ones, like me?
TOM. Yes, Misse, on'y a different color—still dey was mine.
EVA. We can't help our color, Uncle Tom, that's heaven's will.
TOM. Yes, Misse.
EVA. You shall be happy here, Uncle Tom, and perhaps some day you may go back to your own house and babies again.
TOM. Dat's too bright a hope to nurse, Miss Eva.
EVA. Papa may give you your liberty; he promised that he would free all his slaves some day.
TOM. Did he, Miss Eva? Well, den, I will hope, though it seems kinder ungrateful to get into such a good house and wish to leave it so soon.
EVA. But you must not leave it yet, perhaps I may go first (solemnly).
TOM. Where to, Misse?
EVA. Where do the angels live, Uncle Tom?
TOM. Up dar, Misse, away far off in de blue sky.
EVA. Yes, I'm sure of it—in my dreams, I often see the clouds open and lovely faces smiling on me, and beckoning to me from the other world.
TOM. Don'tee talk dat way, Miss Eva, don'tee, or you'll break dis yar old heart.
EVA. My mother would not care, perhaps, but papa, he would be very sad—but come, Uncle Tom, I must show you all our house, the stables and the garden, and then we'll find some quiet corner, where we can hide away, and you can sing your songs for me, and I will write home to your wife and children for you; and tell them all we say and do.
TOM. Will yar, Misse? Dat's de best news I've heard dis side ob de ole home in Kintuck.
(Music. They exeunt as Topsy enters cautiously and peers round.)
TOPSY. Golly! de Massa and de little Miss is come back. I'se stole out ob de scullery to hab a look at 'em. He! he! If dey ketches dis chile round hyar dey'll pound me into jam. Golly, what flowers! Some ob dem look putty in me hair; I'se jest help meself.
(Enter Ophelia. She stands amazed.)
OPHE. Sakes alive! Where did you spring from?
TOPSY. (Falling on knees, and hiding flowers.) I didn't stole 'em! Cut lumps out o' me, and I'll swar I didn't.
OPHE. Sakes alive! What shiftless critter air you?
TOPSY. Golly! It's a stranger. Aint afeard of her, no how. (Aside.) He, he, he, he! haw! (Laughing at Ophelia.)
OPHE. Powers alive! What a mouth! Is the critter human? Who air you, anyhow?
TOPSY. Dunno, Missis.
OPHE. What's your name?
OPHE. How old air you?
TOPSY. Dunno, Missis.
OPHE. Sakes alive! Is it possible! Who was your mother?
TOPSY. Never had none!
OPHE. Never had any mother! Where were you born?
TOPSY. Never was born. (Grins.)
OPHE. I'm not joking, child. Where were you born?
TOPSY. Never was born. Never had no fader, mudder, no nuthin'. I was raised by a speculator, wid a lot o' others. Old Sue used to take care on us.
OPHE. Don't you know who made you?
TOPSY. What's dat?
OPHE. Don't you know who made you, I say?
TOPSY. Me! He, he, haw! Don't think nobody never did make me. I spect I grow'd.
OPHE. Can there be such benighted critters! What do you do for your Master and Mistress?
TOPSY. Fetch de water, wash de dishes, clean de knives, scrub de floor, kill de rats and dance de grapevine twist.
(She suddenly dances and strikes attitude.)
OPHE. Sakes alive! of all the shiftless things in creation this is the shiftlessest I ever saw.
(St. Clair has re-entered and observes, laughing.)
ST. CLAIR. Ha, ha, ha. How is that for a Southern belle, Cousin Ophelia?
OPHE. St. Clair, I am horrified! You call yourselves Christians, and yet allow such ignorant savages to grow up in your very midst.
ST. CLAIR. We are to blame, I suppose, although I rescued this one from a brutal woman, in a restaurant, bought her and turned her loose into our scullery, where at least she is sure of kind treatment. You people who vaunt your Christianity are extremely fond of despatching missionaries—to convert the heathen—into our lands, but bring the thing home—turn missionary yourself—and there's a ready made savage for you to try your hand on. I make her over to you; she's your pupil, Cousin, ha, ha, ha.
(Exit St. Clair.)
OPHE. (Folding her arms.) Sakes alive! Turn me into a slaveholder! Well, if it must be, I accept the responsibility. I will convert this shiftless critter or perish.
TOPSY. He! he! haw! he! (Roars with laughter.)
OPHE. What air you grinning at? Do you know I'm your new mistress?
TOPSY. Golly, dat's why I'se a larfin! He! he! haw!
OPHE. Follow me, you benighted innocent.
TOPSY. Yes, Missus.
(Ophelia is going. Drops gloves. Topsy picks them up and steals ribbon.)
OPHE. Where's my 'kerchief? Ah ——
(Misses the ribbon and turns to Topsy, who pretends to be innocent. Ophelia, after searching Topsy, finds the articles.)
OPHE. You plaguey young thief, what made you steal these?
TOPSY. Dunno, Missis. Spects it's cos I'se so wicked.
TOPSY. Yes, I'se awful wicked. Guess I'se de wickedest critter as is, anywhars.
OPHE. Then you must be whipped.
TOPSY. Yes, dat's de way; whip me, whip me hard; my old Missus allus whipped me; can't do nuffin if I ain't whipped.
OPHE. If kindness won't cure you, why ——
TOPSY. It's no count; whip me, go in, go in, Missis, I'se ready.
OPHE. You shiftless critter, then I shall.
(Slaps Topsy, who screams and dances with delight.)
TOPSY. Dat's good! Golly, dat's good! Tickles me lovely, Missus! he, he, haw! Dat are wouldn't kill a 'skeeter.
(She runs round stage, screaming with delight, followed by Ophelia.)