NEXT morning with the elastic step of a man hurrying to see a friend who has some good news for you, Mr. Freeman was fortunately in the very nick of time to intercept Dr. Sharpinton going out on urgent business. How very providential! at least so it seemed to one of the parties; and to which, the reader may conjecture, when informed that as soon as Dr. S., from his north-east window, where he had been seated on the look-out for somebody, saw our hero unexpectedly advancing down the street his way, he stepped nimbly into his entry and with hat on head and cane in hand, by the merest good luck, opened the door as Mr. Freeman jerked the bell-handle!
"Can it be possible! my dear Mr. Freeman! And so, at last, you have done me the favor—"
"I fear, Dr. Sharpinton, you are going out," interrupted Frank.
"Oh, no! no! pray do come in, sir."
"Indeed, I cannot, Doctor—I must not prevent your—"
"Not another word, Mr. F. You are my prisoner, sir;" when, in spite of Frank's remonstrances, Dr. S. half forced his friend into the hall, and immediately locked the door, and put the key into his pocket.
Pretty well acted, again! Not a word of committal! The very prince of politicians—and yet he performed a whapper! If this man is not a good emancipator and just fit to run off a negro—then philanthropism is no science. When seated, the Doctor began—
"I was rather surprised (?) at seeing you, last evening, at our lecture, Mr. F. I had thought your southern education, may I say prejudices? would have prevented your mingling with your white friends. I hope nothing may have been said to wound your feelings in your—your unfortunate—your—you understand me, Mr. Freeman?"
"Perfectly, sir. And candor requires me to say I was surprised at my reception—I felt, sir, a little awkward; and yet I found myself among friends. And, sir, I was really much interested, and, I believe, instructed by what I heard."
"Oh, sir, I am truly rejoiced if our extemporane-
ous (?) remarks met your approbation. I know, sir, if I were allowed time, that I could better set forth the argument, but, really, it has always appeared to me so plain a case as to need little elucidation. Do you not think so, Mr. Freeman?"
"Dr. Sharpinton, I saw the truth, however, more plainly last evening, than I ever saw it before—and yet, I feel the need of an adviser, a friend like Mr. Leamington."
"Excellent man! I may safely say I should rejoice to be like him in all respects, except, as the Apostle Paul said, in another sense, 'except these bonds!' " answered the Doctor with a winning smile.
"Ah, sir," said Frank, "you know not all that best of men has done, not for me, only, but for hundreds of black men! Oh! if I could spend all my days with him—if he could remain here!"
The Doctor did not answer. He only turned a little aside; and then was heard the blowing of a nose and a little snivelling sound, as if somebody intended to cry; when Frank, more moved by this semblance of sympathy, went on—
"Oh! dear Doctor—be my friend—advise me."
On this the Doctor faced to the right-about—having, by a hard strain on
the pump, forced a tear into each eye; but spite of the drop in his eye,
a smile lurked on his compressed lips, as he seized
Frank's hand, and squeezing himself into his affection and confidence, became composed enough to exclaim—
"Be your friend! I am your friend! I was your friend when I received Mr. Somer—Mr. Tibbets' letter! But, my friend, what adviser do you need? None. If you need an approver—a helper—nay, if you want many such—we are here! The Lord forbid we should ever be deaf to our brothers in distress!"
"Ought I to remain, then, dear Sir?"
"Ought you, my brother, to return to chains, when you have broken them? to an ignominious bondage, if you have, providentially, an honorable freedom? to the strong possibility of being some day separated from, perhaps, the fond wife of your bosom, and the dear pledges of your love? Will you flee away from a free land, where the marriage tie is sacred, and the love of parents for their children is not made the jeer of a brutal slave-dealer! You need no adviser, Mr. Freeman!"
The tone of the Doctor rose, naturally, to the impassioned, and thrilled in the heart of Frank; and at the sudden apparition of the slave merchant, called before him by the words of the speaker, he thought of his Carrie! he forgot his mother! and squeezing the Doctor's hand with the compression of a vice, he said in a firm and loud voice—
"No, sir, I cannot go back! I will be a slave no more!"
"Amen!" solemnly shouted the Doctor—"The hand of the Lord has been in this! I hail you—I welcome you, as a man, a freeman, a brother! Sir, be bold, and leave all consequences to God!"
Frank had, indeed, in an impassioned moment, spoken himself into freedom; and he felt that he could not and dared not recall his words; yet no sooner had they been thus uttered, with something like the solemnity of a vow, than he felt again—Alone and Desolate! He sat down, covered his face with his bands, and burst into tears!
Will any say, "Weakness"? Such a man has no soul; none but the man with a soul could then have burst into tears. Why, even Sharpinton was awed; he felt he had done a mean act! He slunk back into himself, as falsehood hides and cowers before truth!
"Oh! dear Master Edward!" sobbed the brokenhearted negro—"after all, do I serve thee thus!"
"He owes you the lives of his nearest relatives!" timidly suggested the Doctor.
"I owe him a thousand!" fiercely cried the half-insulted negro, "we deal not as debtor and creditor!"
The Doctor shrunk all the way up! He saw himself a very little man! While the negro in a kind of soliloquy, went on—
"And, poor dear master! your small property, lessened by my redemption, is still less from want of my services—but God is my witness—alas! I vowed before, and I broke my vow—but may He help me, and that shall be paid back, twice over, if I starve till the ransom be thus repaid."
To an ordinary negro, that travels on the mole-railway into Fredonia, or some province of Philanthropia, Sharpinton would have said, Mr. Leamington was paid, in part, at least, by Frank's services thus far; but he had too much cunning to make that scoundrel's remark, now. Indeed, Frank would have almost called him some irreverent name, and gone right back into bondage, to escape from thieves and sharpers; hence, the doctor taking his cue, said, with adroitness—
"Your talents and your services in our cause—for we feel grateful—must soon put you into a condition to repay all your heart desires."
"Thank you, sir," replied Freeman, "thank you, sir; show me where and how I can gain the means for that now sole purpose of my heart, and I ask no more."
"Why, sir, the law, medicine, teaching, divinity, merchandise, the press, all, all are open, and to all and every one here, Mr. Freeman!" (The Doctor might have added, the Presidency, is open.)
"You mock me, sir—"
"God forbid, Sir," interrupted the divine. "This, Sir, is the land of equal rights and privileges—I can show you colored men that are ministers, merchants, and of other trades and professions. Why, Sir, do you think the genteel colored people you saw last night, live by beggary?"
Reader! most of them lived by washing and ironing: by being porters and drivers; by fiddling at balls and parties; by being cooks, scullions and waiters; by shaving beards and cutting hair—and were likely so to live till they died.
"And," continued the divine, finding he was producing a good effect, "do you imagine the white persons there present will not throw employment into your way?"
Plenty of it, reader—such as it is; i.e. all that the Yankee folks scorn to do; for Jonathan, be it known, aims to work by his wits, and to cut out work not only for blacks but for whites. But all the work laid out, shall before long be done by the Irish and the German citizens; and these grubbers and diggers shall, in time, root out Darkee—just as Whitee has done to the Red Folks! The Darkee shall have no work or foothold even in Abolitiondom; or if he will stay, he shall find his doom is to wheel swill to a pig-stye, and become the educator of swine! Shame on you! Shame on you, negro! away to thy own land! Be men! Go—where you can hold up your heads!
"And, remember, Mr. Freeman," still went on the reverend gentleman, "our Philanthropic Society will not soon have done with you; and through their countenance and favor you will be introduced to the philanthropists in England as well as North America!"
Frank, at that last touch, felt the thrill! After all, the fellow loved a little glory; as who does not? We would travel to see the odd fellow without the glory development! Perchance—some suitable and genteel employment would be found!—strange if it could not be found, somewhere, on two continents!—and the great men in Frank's favor, too! And so the old Adam revived, and was too strong for young Melancthon—alias black Frank!
Yes! black Frank, you shall have your day of exhibition. But if not "soon done" with you, the Philanthropic Society will have used you! and then—what? You will find out! Why, at this blessed moment, if you were not a choice specimen, and had not done an extraordinarily noble deed, you are almost too pitchy dark for—Buncum! A yellow black, a white slave, would be better capital!
At last, with a firm voice, Mr. Freeman answered:
"Well, Sir, I have resolved; will you, Sir, advise what is the next best thing to be done?"
"Can you," answered the president, "can you give
me a few hours to consult our committee; you take me a little by surprise; can you meet me this evening at tea, or after?"
"I will come, sir, after tea this evening; at what hour?"
"At eight o'clock," replied the Doctor. "Meanwhile I will lay this whole important matter before them; and we shall devise a plan to meet your approbation. Pray, my dear sir, does Miss Wardloe accompany you?"
"We live or die together!" was the answer.
Frank was becoming dense in answer; he was now in a hurry. Indeed, the Doctor might have saved Mr. Freeman's time by telling him at once, what he chose to defer till eight o'clock that evening; for, in truth, the plan he spoke about had been prospectively laid, only the Doctor, as the reader knows, was taken by surprise; and Frank would have only wondered the more at the very remarkable Providence that had ready a plan for his escape before he had avowed his intention!
* * * * * *
Committee supposed to be in session.
* * * * * * *
Towards the close of the afternoon, some two hours before the evening appointment,
Mr. Freeman took a walk to Bunker Hill. He knew what that hallowed ground
meant; he had read its story in Mr.
Leamington's library; and there, standing on the sacred Soil near the top, with his arms folded on his bosom, his mind wandered to the far South, breaking through the hazy dimness; and up-rose, life-like, the vision of the gallows-field! He shuddered! He said, as if speaking to the invisible ones: "Ah! countrymen! in bondage once—now free! Was your blood not sacred too—though ye died not on the battle-hill! Oh! my countrymen! I could die for you—but I could not for your sakes murder in the sweet confidence of sleep, the good, the innocent, the loving, the merciful! Ye meant well—ye were misled! I will not curse him—perchance his own hour may come—God reigns! But ye, my countrymen! are men—I am a man—if we have no country here, show me how to lead you at least to freedom, and I would go at your head—I would die there.
"May God dispose that land of the South, and show them some way to let you go free!—Oh! land of the South!—land of my birth! Ah! yes! my home!—my pleasant home! Oh! my comrades that love me! I shall see you no more! I hear your merry voices in my soul—and the melody of your boat-song is sounding there, but my ear shall listen for these in vain! And my mother!—oh! my mother! I see you on that beach; and there shall I see you forever! Alas! alas! you will be resting
with Dinah—there upon the little swelling mound near the Pine Swamp!" Here the bosom of the negro heaved with convulsions as of the death-throe! In that hour he tasted the bitterness of his cup! But regaining by degrees composure, he turned his steps towards the city, and soon reached the Boston House.
In Mr. Leamington's parlor he found Carrie, who sprang to meet him; but deeply moved by the inexpressible sadness and tenderness of his look, she threw herself into his arms and was fondly folded to his heart!—she was now his all on earth! And there she sobbed forth these words,—
"Frank! Frank! I same as you! You cry, I cry! You laugh, I laugh!"
"We will, then, Carrie, be—Free!"
"Then I say, Frank!—good bye kind missis; good bye kind master; good bye poor brudder Joe! Good bye—poor—lilly—chil-ler! I no more dress you! I no more hug you! I no more hear you say the prayer,
'Now I lay me down to sleep!'
I be free with you, Frank! I be slave with you—I—I—." Tears forbade more!
The beginnings of freedom, Frank, were sad; sadder than you ever dreamed.
Its endings may,
perhaps, be more pleasant; but you undertook a mighty task when you began to tear away heartcords! "Give me liberty or give me death!" was now your motto; and you must stand to it!
In due time, sad and unhappy, yet resolved, Mr. Freeman was at Dr. Sharpinton's at the time appointed. The Doctor was not sad. The fact is, the president was triumphant, and was swelling out; he felt like playing master director—he was conqueror; and yet, if not awed spite of himself, he had sense enough to be prudent on coming into close contact with the negro. Frank was great, though in a sense—fallen: the other was only an—individual—and he was always little, though he only on occasions felt so.
"Mr. Freeman," commenced the emancipator-general, "I am instructed by the committee to offer you a present employment at a salary of four hundred and twenty-five dollars per annum; and they wish you to set off early tomorrow with a letter to the Rev. Paul Philemon's, in Vermont, where you will be farther instructed as to your duties."
Mr. Freeman bowed. He looked lofty and tried to feel lofty; but he merely said,
"And Miss Wardloe?"
To which the other answered, "She will accompany you; and to relieve your
ments, I am directed to make you an advance of one hundred dollars from your salary."
Frank bowed again. Nor did he look very grateful; indeed, he had the air of a man bestowing a favor, instead of receiving one; although he was secretly rejoiced. The $25.00 left him for personal expenses, by Mr. Leamington, he had not touched; and he had for some time resolved never to touch it; he would now as soon use blood from the parson's veins! Whether the philanthropists of that day would all have approved this sort of scrupulosity, Frank gave them no chance of trying; it was too sacred a matter to share with anybody.
In answer to the bow, (which rather puzzled a north-easter, who knows the value of a dollar, and will at any time thank you for one or two) the Doctor with a little approach to formality, inquired—
"The offer and salary I presume, Mr. Freeman you accept?"
"I do—and we are ready to go, now, or to-morrow morning, sir."
The Emancipator was rather used up; still he pressed Mr. F. to stay, and
he would order some refreshment. But Mr. F. almost coldly refused. Why, how
so; had he repented? He never said so, reader; but, evidently, he was not
happy. Liberty did not instantly heal heart-wounds; but the Doctor was rather
surprised, and felt a little hurt; and as he
bowed Mr. F. out, he said to himself—" Grand negro, that—hope he may never strut less!"
Next morning the Boston House had no door darkened by Frank and Carrie; but the landlord put into his private desk,
A LETTER FOR THE REV. EDWARD LEAMINGTON.