|NOV. 20, 1851
About this time, St. Clare's brother Alfred, with his eldest son, a boy of twelve, spent a day or two with the family at the lake.
No sight could be more singular and beautiful than that of these twin brothers. Nature, instead of instituting resemblances between them, had made them opposites on every point; yet a mysterious tie seemed to unite them in a closer friendship than ordinary.
They used to saunter, arm in arm, up and down the allies and walks of the garden. Augustine, with his blue eyes and golden hair, his ethereally flexible form and vivacious features; and Alfred, dark-eyed, with haughty Roman profile, firmly-knit limbs, and decided bearing. They were always abusing each other's opinions and practices, and yet never a whit the less absorbed in each other's society; in fact, the very contrariety seemed to unite them, like the attraction between opposite poles of the magnet.
Henrique, the eldest son of Alfred, was a noble, dark-eyed, princely boy, full of vivacity and spirit; and, from the first moment of introduction, seemed to be perfectly fascinated by the spirituelle graces of his cousin Evangeline.
Eva had a little pet pony of a snowy whiteness. It was easy as a cradle, and as gentle as its little mistress; and this pony was now brought up to the back verandah by Tom, while a little mulatto boy of about thirteen led along a small black Arabian, which had just been imported, at a great expense, for Henrique.
Henrique had a boy's pride in his new possession, and as he advanced and took the reins out of the hands of his little groom, he looked carefully over him, and his brow darkened.
"What's this, Dodo, you little lazy dog; you haven't rubbed my horse down this morning."
"Yes, mass'r," said Dodo, submissively; "he got that dust on his own self."
"You rascal, shut your mouth!" said Henrique, violently raising his riding whip. "How dare you speak?"
The boy was a handsome, bright-eyed mulatto, of just Henrique's size, and his curling hair hung round a high, bold forehead. He had white blood in his veins, as could be seen by the quick flush in his cheek and the sparkle of his eye as he eagerly tried to speak.
"Mass'r Henrique!" he began.
Henrique struck him across the face with his riding whip, and, seizing one of his arms, forced him on to his knees, and beat him till he was out of breath.
"There, you impudent dog! Now will you learn not to answer back when I speak to you? Take the horse back and clean him properly. I'll teach you your place."
"Young mass'r," said Tom, "I specs what he was gwine to say was, that the horse would roll when he was bringing him up from the stable; he's so full of spirits, you know—that's the way he got that dirt on him; I looked to his cleaning."
"You hold your tongue till you're asked to speak," said Henrique, turning on his heel, and walking up the steps to speak to Eva, who stood in her riding dress.
"Dear cousin, I'm sorry this stupid fellow has kept you waiting," he said. "Let's sit down here on this seat till they come. What's the matter, cousin—you look sober?"
"How could you be so cruel and wicked to poor Dodo?" said Eva.
"Cruel! wicked!" said the boy, with unaffected surprise. "What do you mean, dear Eva?"
"I don't want you to call me dear Eva when you do so," said Eva.
"Dear cousin, you don't know Dodo; it's the only way to manage him, he's so full of lies and excuses. The only way is to put him down at once—not let him open his mouth—that's the way papa manages."
"But Uncle Tom said it was an accident, and he never tells what isn't true."
"He's an uncommon old nigger, then," said Henrique. "Dodo will lie as fast as he can speak."
"You frighten him into deceiving if you treat him so."
"Why, Eva, you've really taken such a fancy to Dodo that I shall be jealous."
"But you beat him, and he didn't deserve it."
"Oh, well, it may go for some time when he does, and don't get it. A few cuts never come amiss with Dodo—he's a regular spirit, I can tell you; but I won't beat him again before you if it troubles you."
Eva was not satisfied, but found it in vain to try to make her handsome cousin understand her feelings.
Dodo soon appeared with the horses.
"Well, Dodo, you've done pretty well this time," said his young master, with a more gracious air. "Come, now, and hold Miss Eva's horse while I put her on to the saddle."
Dodo came and stood by Eva's pony; his face was troubled; his eyes looked as if he had been crying.
Henrique, who valued himself on his gentlemanly adroitness in all matters of gallantry, soon had his fair cousin in the saddle, and, gathering the reins, placed them in her hands.
But Eva bent to the other side of the horse, where Dodo was standing, and said, as he relinquished the reins—"That's a good boy, Dodo; thank you."
Dodo looked up in amazement into the sweet young face; the blood rushed to his cheeks, and the tears to his eyes.
"Here, Dodo," said his master, imperiously.
Dodo sprang and held the horse, while his master mounted.
"There's a picayune for you to buy candy with, Dodo," said Henrique—go get some."
And Henrique cantered down the walk after Eva. Dodo stood looking after the two children. One had given him money, and one had given him what he wanted far more—a kind word, kindly spoken. Dodo had been only a few months away from his mother. His master had bought him at a slave warehouse, for his handsome face, to be a match to the handsome pony, and he was now getting his breaking in at the hands of his young master.
The scene of the beating had been witnessed by the two brothers St. Clare, from another part of the garden.
Augustine's cheek flushed, but he only observed, with his usual sarcastic carelessness—
"I suppose that's what we may call republican education, Alfred?"
"Henrique is a devil of a fellow when his blood's up," said Alfred, carelessly.
"I suppose you consider this an instructive practice for him," said Augustine, drily.
"I couldn't help it if I didn't. Henrique is a regular little tempest—his mother and I have given him up long ago. But, then, that Dodo is a perfect sprite—no amount of whipping can hurt him."
"And this by way of teaching Henrique the first verse of a republican's catechism, `All men are born free and equal.' "
"Poh," said Alfred, "one of Tom Jefferson's pieces of French sentiment and humbug. It's perfectly ridiculous to have that going the rounds among us to this day."
"I think it is," said St. Clare, significantly.
"Because," said Alfred, "we can see plainly enough that all men are not born free, nor born equal; they are born anything else. For my part, I think half this republican talk sheer humbug; it is the educated, the intelligent, the wealthy, the refined, who ought to have equal rights, and not the canaille."
"If you can keep the canaille of that opinion," said Augustine; "they took their turn once in France."
"Of course they must be kept down—consistently, steadily—as I should," said Alfred, setting his foot hard down, as if he were standing on somebody.
"It makes a terrible slip when they get up," said Augustine, "in St. Domingo, for instance."
"Poh!" said Alfred, "we'll take care of that in this country. We must set our face against all this educating, elevating talk that is getting about now—the lower class must not be educated."
"That is past praying for," said Augustine; "educated they will be, and we have only to say how—our system is educating them in barbarism and brutality. We are breaking all humanizing ties, and making them brute beasts; and if they get the upper hand, such we shall find them."
"They never shall get the upper hand," said Alfred.
"That's right," said St. Clare, "put on the steam, fasten down the escape valve, and sit on it, and see where you'll land."
"Well," said Alfred, "we will see. I'm not afraid to sit on the escape valve, as long as the boilers are strong, and the machinery works well."
"The noblesse in Louis XV's time thought just so; and Austria and Pius IX think so now; and some pleasant morning you may all be caught up to meet each other in the air, when the boilers burst," said Augustine.
"Dies declarabit," said Alfred, laughing.
"I tell you," said Augustine, "if there is anything that is revealed with the strength of a Divine law in our times, it is that the masses are to rise, and the under class become the upper one."
"That's one of your Red Republican humbugs, Augustine. Why didn't you ever take to the stump; you'd make a famous stump orator. Well, I hope I shall be dead before this millennium of your greasy masses comes on."
"Greasy or not greasy, they will govern you when their time comes," said Augustine; "and they will be just such rulers as you make them. The French noblesse chose to have the people `sans culottes,' and they had `sans culotte' governors to their heart's content. The people of Hayti"——
"Oh, come, Augustine; as if we hadn't had enough of that abominable, contemptible Hayti. The Haytiens were not Anglo-Saxons; if they had been, there would have been another story. The Anglo-Saxon is the dominant race of the world, and is to be so."
"Well, there is a pretty fair infusion of Anglo-Saxon blood among our slaves now," said Augustine. "There are plenty among them who have only enough of the African to give a sort of tropical warmth and fervor to our calculating firmness and foresight. If ever the San Domingo hour comes, Anglo-Saxon blood will lead on the day. Sons of white fathers, with all our haughty feelings burning in their veins, will not always be bought and sold and traded. They will rise, and raise with them their mother's race.
"Well," said Augustine, "there goes an old saying to this effect, `As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be—they eat, they drank, they planted, they builded, and knew not till the flood came and took them.' "
"On the whole, Augustine, I think your talents might do for a circuit rider," said Alfred, laughing. "Never you fear for us; possession is our nine points. We've got the power. This subject race," said he, stamping firmly, "is down, and shall stay down. We have energy enough to manage our own powder."
"Sons trained like your Henrique will be grand guardians of your powder magazines," said Augustine; "so cool and self-possessed! The proverb says, `They that cannot govern themselves cannot govern others.' "
"There is a trouble there," said Alfred, thoughtfully; "there's no doubt that our system is a difficult one to train children under. It gives too free scope to the passions altogether, which in our climate are hot enough. I find trouble with Henrique. The boy is generous and warm-hearted, but a perfect fire-cracker when excited. I believe I shall send him North for his education, where obedience is more fashionable, and where he will associate more with equals and less with dependents."
"Since training children is the staple work of the human race," said Augustine, "I should think it something of a consideration that our system does not work well there."
"It does not for some things!" said Alfred, "for others, again, it does. It makes boys manly and courageous; and the very vices of an abject race tend to strengthen in them the opposite virtues. I think Henrique now has a keener sense of the beauty of truth, from seeing lying and deception the universal badge of slavery."
"A Christian-like view of the subject, certainly," said Augustine.
"It's true, Christian-like or not, and is about as Christian-like as most other things in the world," said Alfred.
"That may be," said St. Clare.
"Well, there's no use in talking, Augustine. I believe we've been round and round this old track five hundred times, more or less. What do you say to a game of backgammon?"
The two brothers ran up the verandah steps, and were soon seated at a light bamboo stand, with the backgammon board between them. As they were setting their men, Alfred said—
"I tell you, Augustine, if I thought as you do, I should do something!"
"I dare say you would; you are one of the doing sort; but what?"
"Why, elevate your own servants for a specimen," said Alfred, with a half-scornful smile.
"You might as well set Mount Etna on them flat, and tell them to stand up under it, as tell me to elevate my servants under all the superincumbent mass of society upon them. One man can do nothing against the whole action of a community. Education, to do anything, must be a State education, or there must be enough agreed in it to make a current."
"You take the first throw," said Alfred, and the brothers were soon lost in the game, and heard no more till the scraping of horses' feet was heard under the verandah.
"There come the children," said Augustine, rising. "Look here, Alf! Did you ever see anything so beautiful?" And in truth it was a beautiful sight. Henrique, with his bold brow and dark, glossy curls and glowing cheek, was laughing gaily, as he bent towards his fair cousin as they came on. She was dressed in a blue riding dress, with a cap of the same color. Exercise had given a brilliant hue to her cheeks, and heightened the effect of her singularly transparent skin and golden hair.
"Good heavens, what perfectly dazzling beauty!" said Alfred. "I tell you, Auguste, won't she make some hearts ache one of these days!"
"She will, too truly; God knows I'm afraid so," said St. Clare, in a tone of sudden bitterness, as he hurried down to take her off her horse.
"Eva, darling! you're not much tired?" he said, as he clasped her in his arms.
"No, papa," said the child; but her short, hard breathing alarmed her father.*
"How could you ride so fast, dear—you know it's bad for you."
"I felt so well, papa, and liked it so much, I forgot."
St. Clare carried her in his arms into the parlor, and laid her on the sofa.
"Henrique, you must be careful of Eva," said he; "you mustn't ride fast with her."
"I'll take her under my care," said Henrique, seating himself by the sofa, and taking Eva's hand.
Eva soon found herself much better. Her father and uncle resumed their game, and the children were left together.
"Do you know, Eva, I'm so sorry papa is only going to stay two days here, and then I shan't see you again for ever so long. If I stay with you, I'd try to be good, and not be cross to Dodo, and so on. I don't mean to treat Dodo ill, but you know I've got such a quick temper. I'm not really bad to him, though. I give him a picayune now and then, and you see he dresses well. I think, on the whole, Dodo's pretty well off."
"Would you think you were well off, if there were not one creature in the world near you to love you?"
"I? Well, of course not."
"And you have taken Dodo away from all the friends he ever had; and now he has not a creature to love him—nobody can be good that way."
"Well, I can't help it, as I know of. I can't get his mother, and I can't love him myself, nor anybody else, as I know of."
"Why can't you?" said Eva.
"Love Dodo! Why, Eva, you wouldn't have me! I may like him well enough; but you don't love your servants."
"I do indeed."
"Don't the Bible say we must love everybody?"
"Oh, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many such things; but then nobody ever thinks of doing them—you know, Eva, nobody does."
Eva did not speak; her eyes were fixed and thoughtful for a few moments.
"At any rate," she said, "dear cousin, do love poor Dodo, and be kind to him for my sake."
"I could love anything for your sake, dear cousin; for I really think you are the loveliest creature that I ever saw." And Henrique spoke with an earnestness that flushed his handsome face. Eva received it with perfect simplicity, without even a change of feature; merely saying, "I'm glad you feel so, dear Henrique. I hope you will remember."
The dinner-bell put an end to the interview.
Two days after this, Alfred St. Clare and Augustine parted; and Eva, who had been stimulated, by the society of her young cousin, to exertions beyond her strength, began to fail rapidly. St. Clare was at last willing to call in medical advice—a thing from which he had always shrunk, because it was the admission of an unwelcome truth.
But for a day or two Eva was so unwell as to be confined to the house, and the doctor was called.
Marie St. Clare had taken no notice of the child's gradually decaying health and strength, because she was completely absorbed in studying out two or three new forms of disease to which she believed she herself was a victim. It was the first principle of Marie's belief that nobody ever was or could be so great a sufferer as herself—and therefore she always repelled quite indignantly any suggestion that any one around her could be sick. She was always sure, in such a case, that it was nothing but laziness, or want of energy; and that if they had had the suffering she had, they would soon know the difference.
Miss Ophelia had several times tried to awaken her maternal fears about Eva, but to no avail.
"I don't see as anything ails the child," she would say; "she runs about, and plays."
"But she has a cough."
"Cough! you don't need to tell me about a cough. I've always been subject to a cough all my days. When I was of Eva's age, they thought I was in a consumption. Night after night, Mammy used to sit up with me. Oh! Eva's cough is not anything."
"But she gets weak, and is short-breathed."
"La! I've had that years and years; it's only a nervous affection."
"But she sweats so, nights."
"Well, I have, these ten years. Very often, night after night, my clothes will be wringing wet. There won't be a dry thread in my night-clothes, and the sheets will be so that Mammy has to hang them up to dry! Eva doesn't sweat anything like that!"
Miss Ophelia shut her mouth for a season. But now that Eva was fairly and visibly prostrated, and a doctor called, Marie all on a sudden took a new turn.
"She knew it," she said; "she always felt it, that she was destined to be the most miserable of mothers. Here she was, with her wretched health, and her only darling child going down to the grave before her eyes"—and Marie routed up Mammy, nights, and rumpussed and scolded with more energy than ever all day, on the strength of this new misery.
"My dear Marie, don't talk so," said St. Clare. "You ought not to give up the case so at once."
"You have not a mother's feelings, St. Clare! You never could understand me! you don't now."
"But don't talk so, as if it were a gone case."
"I can't take it as indifferently as you can, St. Clare. If you don't feel when your only child is in this alarming state, I do. It's a blow too much for me, with all I was bearing before."
"It's true," said St. Clare, "that Eva is very delicate, that I always knew; and that she has grown so rapidly as to exhaust her strength; and that her situation is critical. But just now she is only prostrated by the heat of the weather, and by the excitement of her cousin's visit, and the exertions she made. The physician says there is room for hope."
"Well, of course, if you can look on the bright side, pray do—its a mercy if people haven't sensitive feelings in this world. I am sure I wish I didn't feel as I do—it only makes me completely wretched! I wish I could be as easy as the rest of you!"
And the "rest of them" had good reason to breathe the same prayer, for Marie paraded her new misery as the reason and apology for all sorts of inflictions on every one about her. Every word that was spoken by anybody, everything that was done or was not done everywhere, was only a new proof that she was surrounded by hard-hearted, insensible beings, who were unmindful of her peculiar sorrows. Poor Eva heard some of these speeches, and nearly cried her little eyes out in pity for her mamma, and in sorrow that she should make her so much distress.
In a week or two, there was a great improvement of symptoms—one of those deceitful lulls, by which her inexorable disease so often beguiles the anxious heart, even on the verge of the grave. Eva's step was again in the garden—in the balconies—she played and laughed again—and her father, in a transport, declared that they should soon have her as hearty as anybody. Miss Ophelia and the physician alone felt no encouragement from this illusive truce. There was one other heart, too, that felt the same certainty, and that was the little heart of Eva. What is it that sometimes speaks in the soul so calmly, so clearly, that its earthly time is short? Is it the secret instinct of decaying nature, or the soul's impulsive throb, as immortality draws on? Be it what it may, it rested in the heart of Eva, a calm, sweet prophetic certainty that Heaven was near—calm as the light of sunset, sweet as the bright stillness of autumn, there her little heart reposed, only troubled by sorrow for those who loved her so dearly.
For the child, though nursed so tenderly, and though life was unfolding before her with every brightness that love and wealth could give, had no regret for herself in dying.
In that book which she and her simple old friend had read so much together, she had seen and taken to her young heart the image of one who loved the little child; and as she gazed and mused, He had ceased to be an image and a picture of the distant past, and come to be a living, all-surrounding reality. His love enfolded her childish heart with more than mortal tenderness, and it was to Him, she said, she was going, and to His home.
But her heart yearned with sad tenderness for all that she was to leave behind. Her father most—for Eva, though she never distinctly thought so, had an instinctive perception that she was more in his heart than any other. She loved her mother because she was so loving a creature, and all the selfishness that she had seen in her only saddened and perplexed her; for she had a child's implicit trust that her mother could not do wrong. There was something about her that Eva never could make out; and she always smoothed it over with thinking that, after all, it was mamma, and she loved her very dearly indeed.
She felt, too, for those fond, faithful servants to whom she was as daylight and sunshine. Children do not usually generalize, but Eva was an uncommonly mature child, and the things that she had witnessed of the evils of the system under which they were living had fallen one by one into the depths of her thoughtful, pondering heart. She had vague longings to do something for them—to bless and save not only them, but all in their condition—longings that contrasted sadly with the feebleness of the little frame.
"Uncle Tom," she said one day, when she was reading to her friend, "I can understand why Jesus wanted to die for us."
"Why, Miss Eva?"
"Because I've felt so, too."
"What is it, Miss Eva—I don't understand?"
"I can't tell you; but when I saw those poor creatures on the boat, you know, when you came up and I—some had lost their mothers, and some their husbands, and some mothers cried for their little children—and when I heard about Poor Prue—oh, wasn't that dreadful!—and a great many other times, I've felt that I would be glad to die, if my dying could stop all this misery. I would die for them, Tom, if I could," said the child, earnestly, laying her little thin hand on his.
Tom looked at the child with awe; and when she, hearing her father's voice, glided away, he wiped his eyes many times, as he looked after her.
"It's jest no use tryin to keep Miss Eva here," he said to Mammy, whom he met a moment after. "She's got the Lord's mark in her forehead."
"Ah, yes, yes," said Mammy, raising her hands; "I've allers said so. She wasn't never like a child that's to live—there was allers something deep in her eyes. I've told missis so many the time; it's a comin true—we all sees it—dear, little, blessed lamb!"
Eva came tripping up the verandah steps to her father. It was late in the afternoon, and the rays of the sun formed a kind of glory behind her, as she came forward in her white dress, with her golden hair and glowing cheeks, her eyes unnaturally bright with the slow fever that burned in her veins.
St. Clare had called her to show a statuette that he had been buying for her, but her appearance as she came on impressed him suddenly and painfully. There is a kind of beauty so intense, yet so fragile, that we cannot bear to look at it. Her father folded her suddenly in his arms, and almost forgot what he was going to tell her.
"Eva, dear, you are better now-a-days, are you not?"
"Papa," said Eva, with sudden firmness, "I've had things I wanted to say to you a great while. I want to say them now, before I get weaker."
St. Clare trembled as Eva seated herself in his lap; she laid her head on his bosom, and said—
"It's all no use, papa, to keep it to myself any longer. The time is coming that I am going to leave you. I am going, and never to come back;" and Eva sobbed.
"Oh, now, my dear little Eva," said St. Clare, trembling as he spoke, but speaking cheerfully, "you've got nervous and low-spirited; you mustn't indulge such gloomy thoughts. See here, I've bought a statuette for you."
"No, papa," said Eva, putting it gently away, "don't deceive yourself—I am not any better, I know it perfectly well, and I am going before long. I am not nervous—I am not low-spirited. If it were not for you, papa, and my friends, I should be perfectly happy. I want to go—I long to go."
"Why, dear child, what has made your poor little heart so sad? You have had everything to make you happy that could be given you."
"I had rather be in heaven; though, only for my friends' sake, I would be willing to live. There are a great many things here that make me sad, that seem dreadful to me; I had rather be there; but I don't want to leave you—it almost breaks my heart."
"What makes you sad and seems dreadful, Eva?"
"Oh, things that are done, and done all the time. I feel sad for our poor people—they love me dearly, and they are all good and kind to me. I wish, papa, they were all free."
"Why, Eva, child, don't you think they are well enough off now?"
"Oh, but papa, if anything should happen to you, what would become of them! There are very few men like you, papa. Uncle Alfred isn't like you, and mamma isn't; and then think of poor old Prue's owners. What horrid things people do, and can do!" and Eva shuddered.
"My dear child, you are too sensitive. I'm sorry I ever let you hear such stories."
"Oh, that's what troubles me, papa. You want me to live so happy, and never to have any pain—never suffer anything, not even hear a sad story, when other poor creatures have nothing but pain and sorrow all their lives; it seems selfish. I ought to know such things, I ought to feel about them! Such things always sunk into my heart; they went down deep; I've thought and thought about them. Papa, isn't there any way to have all slaves made free?"
"That's a difficult question, dearest. There's no doubt that this way is a very bad one; a great many people think so; I do myself. I heartily wish that there were not a slave in the land; but then I don't know what is to be done about it!"
"Papa, you are such a good man, and so noble, and kind, and you always have a way of saying things that is so pleasant, couldn't you go all round and try to persuade people to do right about this? When I am dead, papa, then you will think of me, and do it for my sake. I would do it if I could."
"When you are dead, Eva," said St. Clare, passionately. "Oh, child, don't talk to me so! You are all I have on earth."
"Poor old Prue's child was all she had—and yet she had to hear it crying, and she couldn't help it. Papa, these poor creatures love their children as much as you do me. Oh! do something for them—there's poor Mammy loves her children; I've seen her cry when she talked about them. And Tom loves his children; and it's dreadful, papa, that such things are happening all the time."
"There, there, darling," said St. Clare, soothingly; "only don't distress yourself, and don't talk of dying, and I will do anything you wish."
"And promise me, dear father, that Tom shall have his freedom as soon as"—she stopped, and said, in a hesitating tone—"as I am gone."
"Yes, dear, I will do anything in the world—anything you could ask me to."
"Dear papa," said the child, laying her burning cheek against his, "how I wish we could go together!"
"Where, dearest?" said St. Clare.
"To our Saviour's home; it's so sweet and peaceful there—it is all so loving there!" The child spoke unconsciously, as of a place where she had often been. "Don't you want to go, papa?" she said.
St. Clare drew her closer to him, but was silent.
"You will come to me," said the child, speaking in a voice of calm certainty which she often used unconsciously.
"I shall come after you. I shall not forget you."
The shadows of the solemn evening closed round them deeper and deeper, as St. Clare sat silently holding the little frail form to his bosom. He saw no more the deep eyes, but the voice came over him as a spirit voice, and, as in a sort of judgment vision, his whole past life rose in a moment before his eyes—his mother's prayers and hymns—his own early yearnings and aspirings for good—and between them and this hour years of worldliness and skepticism, and what man calls respectable living. We can think much, very much, in a moment. St. Clare saw and felt many things, but spoke nothing; and as it grew darker, he took his child to her bed-room, and, when she was prepared for rest, he sent away the attendants, and rocked her in his arms, and sung to her till she was asleep.[TO BE CONTINUED.]