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The Christian Slave
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, 1855

SCENE II.—A Parlor. A Breakfast Table. -- MARIE, -- ST. CLARE, -- EVA, -- OPHELIA.


St. C.

  And now, Marie, your golden days are dawning. Here is our practical, business-like New England cousin, who will take the whole budget of cares off your shoulders, and give you time to refresh yourself and grow young and handsome. The ceremony of delivering the keys had better come off forthwith.


Marie.

  I'm sure she 's welcome. I think she 'll find one thing, if she does, and that is, that it 's we mistresses that are the slaves, down here.


St. C.

  O, certainly, she will discover that, and a world of wholesome truths beside, no doubt.


Mar.

  Talk about our keeping slaves, as if we did it for our convenience! I 'm sure, if we consulted that, we might let them all go at once.


Eva.

  What do you keep them for, mamma?


Mar.

  I don't know, I 'm sure, except for a plague; they are the plague of my life. I believe that more of my ill-health is caused by them than by any one thing; and ours, I know, are the very worst that ever anybody w as plagued with.


St. C.

  O, come, Marie, you 've got the blues this morning. You know 't is n't so. There 's Mammy, the best creature living—what could you do without her?


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Mar.

  Mammy is the best I ever knew; and yet Mammy, now, is selfish—dreadfully selfish; it 's the fault of the whole race.


St. C.

  Selfishness is a dreadful fault.


Mar.

  Well, now, there 's Mammy; I think it 's selfish of her to sleep so sound at nights; she knows I need little attentions almost every hour, when my worst turns are on, and yet she 's so hard to wake. I absolutely am worse, this very morning, for the efforts I had to make to wake her last night.


Eva.

  Has n't she sat up with you a good many nights lately, mamma?


Mar.

  How should you know that? She 's been complaining, I suppose.


Eva.

  She did n't complain; she only told me what bad night you 'd had—so many in succession!


St. C.

  Why don't you let Jane or Rosa take her place a night or two and let her rest?


Mar.

  How can you propose it? St. Clare, you really are inconsiderate! So nervous as I am, the least breath disturbs me; and a strange hand about me would drive me absolutely frantic. If Mammy felt the interest in me she ought to, she 'd wake easier—of course she would. I 've heard of people who had such devoted servants, but it never was my luck. Now, Mammy has a sort of goodness; she 's smooth and respectful, but she 's selfish at heart. Now, she never will be done fidgeting and worrying about that husband of hers. You see, when I was married and came to live here, of course I had to bring her with me, and her husband my father could n't spare. He was a blacksmith, and, of course, very necessary; and I thought, and said at the time, that Mammy and he had better give each other up, as it was n't likely to be convenient for them ever to live together again. I wish now I 'd insisted on it, and married Mammy to somebody else; but I was foolish and indulgent, and did n't want to insist. I told Mammy at the time that she must n't ever expect to see him more than once or twice in her life again, for the air of father's place does n't agree with my health, and I can't go there; and I advised her to take up with somebody else; but no—she would n't. Mammy has a kind of obstinacy about her, in spots, that everybody don't see as I do.


Oph.

  Has she children?


Mar.

  Yes; she has two.


Oph.

  I suppose she feels the separation from them?


Mar.

  Well, of course, I could n't bring them. They were little, dirty things—I could n't have them about; and, besides, they took up too much of her time; but I believe that Mammy has always kept up a sort of sulkiness about this. She won't marry anybody else; and I do believe now, though she knows how necessary she is to me, and how feeble my health is, she would go back to her husband to-morrow, if she only could. I do, indeed; they are just so selfish, now, the best of them!


St. C. [Dryly.]

  It 's distressing to reflect upon.


Mar.

  Now, Mammy has always been a pet with me. I wish some of your northern servants could look at her closets of dresses—silks and muslins, and one real linen cambric, she has hanging there. I've worked sometimes whole afternoons, trimming her caps, and getting


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her ready to go to a party. As to abuse, she don't know what it is. She never was whipped in her whole life. She has her strong coffee or her tea every day, with white sugar in it. It's abominable, to be sure; but St. Clare will have high life below stairs, and they, every one of them, live just as they please. The fact is, our servants are over-indulged. I suppose it is partly our fault that they are selfish, and act like spoiled children; but I've talked to St. Clare till I am tired.


St. C.

  And I, too.

[EVA goes to her mother, and puts her arms round her neck.]

Mar.

  Well, Marie, what now?


Eva.

  Mamma, could n't I take care of you one night—just one? I know I should n't make you nervous, and I should n't sleep. I often lie awake nights, thinking——


Mar.

  O, nonsense, child—nonsense! You are such a strange child!


Eva.

  But may I, mamma? I think that Mammy is n't well. She told me her head ached all the time, lately.


Mar.

  O, that 's just one of Mammy's fidgets! Mammy is just like all the rest of them—makes such a fuss about every little headache or finger-ache; it 'll never do to encourage it—never! I 'm principled about this matter;— [To MISS OPHELIA] you 'll find the necessity of it. If you encourage servants in giving way to every little disagreeable feeling, and complaining of every little ailment, you 'll have your hands full. I never complain myself; nobody knows what I endure. I feel it a duty to bear it quietly, and I do.

[MISS OPHELIA looks amazed, and ST. CLARE breaks out laughing.]

Mar. [Putting her handkerchief to her eyes.]

  St. Clare always laughs when I make the least allusion to my ill-health. I only hope the day won't come when he 'll remember it.


St. C.

  Come, Eva, I'll take you down street with me.

[Exit ST. CLARE and EVA.]

Mar.

  Now, that's just like St. Clare! He never realizes, never can, and never will, what I suffer, and have, for years. If I was one of the complaining sort, or ever made any fuss about my ailments, there would be some reason for it. Men do get tired, naturally, of a complaining wife. But I've kept things to myself, and borne, and borne, till St. Clare has got in the way of thinking I can bear anything. But it 's no use talking, cousin. Well, here are the keys of the linen closet, and I hope you 'll never let Jane or Rosa get hold of 'em or touch 'em. And I hope you 'll be very particular about the way they fold the pillow-cases; I believe I 'm foolishly particular, but I really have had a nervous headache for a week, from the way those girls fold pillow-cases, if they are not looked to. There 's two or three kinds of sheeting—you 'll observe them; I think it important to keep each kind by itself. And here are the keys of the store-room; you 'll find Dinah always will be running after them—I dare say she has half the things out in the kitchen now. Dinah 's a first-rate cook, and so she rules with a rod of iron—she knows her importance. She will insist on having everything she wants in the kitchen, and calling every five minutes for something; it tires me to death. But, then, what can one do? O!—there are the keys of some trunks of clothing in the blue chamber;


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they 'll have to be hung out and aired, I suppose. Dear knows what a state you 'll find them in; my poor head has n't allowed me to do anything these three months; and Rosa and Jane have always insisted on making one excuse or another to go to them. I should n't wonder if half the things had been worn out. And as to marketing, and all that, you must ask St. Clare; I 'm sure I don't know how that 's to be arranged. And now—O dear me! how my head does ache!—but—well—I believe I 've told you everything; so that, when my next sick turn comes on, you 'll be able to go forward entirely without consulting me; only about Eva—she requires watching.


Oph.

  She seems to be a good child, very; I never saw a better child.


Mar.

  Eva 's peculiar. There are things about her so singular; she is n't like me, now, a particle.


Oph. [Aside.]

  I hope she is n't.


Mar.

  Eva always was disposed to be with servants; and I think that well enough with some children. Now, I always played with father's little negroes—it never did me any harm. But Eva, somehow, always seems to put herself on an equality with every creature that comes near her. It 's a strange thing about the child. I never have been able to break her of it. St. Clare, I believe, encourages her in it. The fact is, St. Clare indulges every creature under this roof but his own wife.


Oph. [Coughs.]

  Hem! ahem!


Mar.

  Now, there's no way with servants, but to put them down, and keep them down. It was always natural to me, from a child. Eva is enough to spoil a whole house-full. What she will do when she comes to keep house herself, I'm sure I don't know. I hold to being kind to servants—I always am; but you must make 'em know their place. Eva never does; there's no getting into the child's head the first beginning of an idea what a servant's place is! You heard her offering to take care of me nights, to let Mammy sleep! That's just a specimen of the way the child would be doing all the time, if she was left to herself.


Oph.

  Well, I suppose you think your servants are human creatures, and ought to have some rest when they are tired?


Mar.

  Certainly, of course I 'm very particular in letting them have everything that comes convenient—anything that does n't put one at all out of the way, you know. Mammy can make up her sleep some time or other; there's no difficulty about that. She 's the sleepiest concern that ever I saw. Sewing, standing, or sitting, that creature will go to sleep, and sleep anywhere and everywhere. No danger but Mammy gets sleep enough. But this treating servants as if they were exotic flowers, or china vases, is really ridiculous.

  You see, Cousin Ophelia, I don't often speak of myself. It isn't my habit; 't is n't agreeable to me. In fact, I have n't strength to do it. But there are points where St. Clare and I differ. St. Clare never understood me—never appreciated me. I think it lies at the root of all my ill health. St. Clare means well, I am bound to believe; but men are constitutionally selfish and inconsiderate to woman. That, at least, is my impression.


Oph.

  Where 's my knitting? O—here 't is. [Knits energetically.]


Mar.

  You see, I brought my own property and servants into the


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connection, when I married St. Clare, and I am legally entitled to manage them my own way. St. Clare had his fortune and his servants, and I 'm well enough content he should manage them his way; but St. Clare will be interfering. He has wild, extravagant notions about things, particularly about the treatment of servants. He really does act as if he set his servants before me, and before himself, too; for he lets them make him all sorts of trouble, and never lifts a finger. Now, about some things, St. Clare is really frightful—he frightens me—good-natured as he looks, in general. Now, he has set down his foot that, come what will, there shall not be a blow struck in this house, except what he or I strike; and he does it in a way that I really dare not cross him. Well, you may see what that leads to; for St. Clare would n't raise his hand, if every one of them walked over him, and I—you see how cruel it would be to require me to make the exertion. Now, you know these servants are nothing but grown-up children.


Oph.

  I don't know anything about it, and I thank the Lord that I don't!


Mar.

  Well, but you will have to know something, and know it to your cost, if you stay here. You don't know what a provoking, stupid, careless, unreasonable, childish, ungrateful set of wretches they are. You don't know, and you can't, the daily, hourly trials that beset a housekeeper from them, everywhere and every way. But it 's no use to talk to St. Clare. He talks the strangest stuff. He says we have made them what they are, and ought to bear with them. He says their faults are all owing to us, and that it would be cruel to make the fault and punish it too. He says we should n't do any better, in their place; just as if one could reason from them to us, you know!


Oph.

  Don't you believe that the Lord made them of one blood with us?


Mar.

  No, indeed, not I! A pretty story, truly! They are a degraded race.


Oph.

  Don't you think they 've got immortal souls?


Mar. [Yawning.]

  O, well, that, of course—nobody doubts that. But as to putting them on any sort of equality with us, you know, as if we could be compared, why, it 's impossible! Now, St. Clare really has talked to me as if keeping Mammy from her husband was like keeping me from mine. There's no comparing in this way. Mammy could n't have the feelings that I should. It 's a different thing altogether— of course, it is; and yet St. Clare pretends not to see it. And just as if Mammy could love her little, dirty babies as I love Eva! Yet St. Clare once really and soberly tried to persuade me that it was my duty, with my weak health, and all I suffer, to let Mammy go back, and take somebody else in her place! That was a little too much even for me to bear. I don't often show my feelings, I make it a principle to endure everything in silence; it 's a wife's hard lot, and I bear it. But I did break out, that time, so that he has never alluded to the subject since. But I know by his looks, and little things that he says, that he thinks so as much as ever; and it 's so trying, so provoking!


Oph. [Rattling her needles.]

  Hem! ahem!


Mar.

  So, you just see what you've got to manage. A household without any rule; where servants have it all their own way, do what


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they please, and have what they please, except so far as I, with my feeble health, have kept up government.


Oph.

  And how 's that?


Mar.

  Why, send them to the calaboose, or some of the other places, to be flogged. That 's the only way. If I was n't such a poor, feeble piece, I believe I should manage with twice the energy that St. Clare does.


Oph.

  And how does St. Clare contrive to manage? You say he never strikes a blow.


Mar.

  Well, men have a more commanding way, you know; it is easier for them. Besides, if you ever looked full in his eye, it 's peculiar—that eye—and if he speaks decidedly, there 's a kind of flash. I 'm afraid of it, myself; and the servants know they must mind. I could n't do as much by a regular storm and scolding as St. Clare can by one turn of his eye, if once he is in earnest. O, there 's no trouble about St. Clare! that 's the reason he's no more feeling for me. But you 'll find, when you come to manage, that there's no getting along without severity—they are so bad, so deceitful, so lazy!

Enter ST. CLARE.

St. Clare.

  The old tune! What an awful account these wicked creatures will have to settle, at last, especially for being lazy! You see, cousin, it 's wholly inexcusable in them, in the light of the example that Marie and I set them, this laziness.


Mar.

  Come, now, St. Clare, you are too bad.


St. C.

  Am I now? Why, I thought I was talking good, quite remarkably for me. I try to enforce your remarks, Marie, always.


Mar.

  You know you mean no such thing, St. Clare.


St. C.

  O, I must have been mistaken, then! Thank you, my dear, for setting me right.


Mar.

  You do really try to be provoking.


St. C.

  O, come, Marie, the day is growing warm, and I have just had a long quarrel with 'Dolph, which has fatigued me excessively; so, pray be agreeable, now, and let a fellow repose in the light of your smile.


Mar.

  What 's the matter about 'Dolph? That fellow's impudence has been growing to a point that is perfectly intolerable to me. I only wish I had the undisputed management of him a while. I 'd bring him down!


St. C.

  What you say, my dear, is marked with your usual acuteness and good sense. As to 'Dolph, the case is this: that he has so long been engaged in imitating my graces and perfections, that he has at last really mistaken himself for his master, and I have been obliged to give him a little insight into his mistake.


Mar.

  How?


St. C.

  Why, I was obliged to let him understand explicitly that I preferred to keep some of my clothes for my own personal wearing; also, I put his magnificence upon an allowance of cologne-water, and actually was so cruel as to restrict him to one dozen of my cambric handkerchiefs. 'Dolph was particularly huffy about it, and I had to talk to him like a father to bring him round.


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Mar.

  O! St. Clare, when will you learn how to treat your servants? It 's abominable, the way you indulge them!


St. C.

  Why, after all, what 's the harm of the poor dog's wanting to be like his master? and if I have n't brought him up any better than to find his chief good in cologne and cambric handkerchiefs, why should n't I give them to him?


Oph.

  And why have n't you brought him up better?


St. C.

  Too much trouble; laziness, cousin, laziness—which ruins more souls than you can shake a stick at. If it were n't for laziness, I should have been a perfect angel, myself. I 'm inclined to think that laziness is what your old Dr. Botherem, up in Vermont, used to call "the essence of moral evil." It 's an awful consideration, certainly.


Oph.

  I think you slaveholders have an awful responsibility upon you. I would n't have it for a thousand worlds. You ought to educate your slaves, and treat them like reasonable creatures, like immortal creatures, that you 've got to stand before the bar of God with. That 's my mind.


St. C.

  O! come, come, what do you know about us?

[Goes to the piano, and plays and sings.]
Well, now, cousin, you 've given us a good talk, and done your duty; on the whole, I think the better of you for it. I make no manner of doubt that you threw a very diamond of truth at me, though you see it hit me so directly in the face, that it was n't exactly appreciated at first.


Mar.

  For my part, I don't see any use in such sort of talk. I 'm sure, if anybody does more for servants than we do, I 'd like to know who; and it don't do 'em a bit good—not a particle; they get worse and worse. As to talking to them, or anything like that, I 'm sure I have talked till I was tired and hoarse, telling them their duty, and all that; and I 'm sure they can go to church when they like, though they don't understand a word of the sermon, more than so many pigs; so it is n't of any great use for them to go, as I see; but they do go, and so they have every chance; but, as I said before, they are a degraded race, and always will be, and there isn't any help for them; you can't make anything of them, if you try. You see, Cousin Ophelia, I 've tried, and you have n't; I was born and bred among them, and I know. [ST. CLARE whistles a tune.] St. Clare, I wish you would n't whistle; it makes my head worse.


St. C.

  I won't. Is there anything else you would n't wish me to do?


Mar.

  I wish you would have some kind of sympathy for my trials; you never have any feeling for me.


St. C.

  My dear accusing angel!


Mar.

  It 's provoking to be talked to in that way.


St. C.

  Then how will you be talked to? I 'll talk to order—any way you 'll mention, only to give satisfaction.

[A laugh heard below in the court.]

Oph.

  What is it? [Rising and coming to the window.] As I live! if there an't Eva, sitting in Uncle Tom's lap! Eugh! there, she 's hanging a wreath of roses round his neck!


Eva. [Below, laughing.]

  O, Tom, you look so funny!


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Oph.

  How can you let her?


St. C.

  Why not?


Oph.

  Why, I don't know, it seems so dreadful!


St. C.

  You would think no harm in a child's caressing a large dog, even if he was black; but a creature that can think, and reason, and feel, and is immortal, you shudder at; confess it, cousin. I know the feeling among some of you northerners well enough. Not that there is a particle of virtue in our not having it; but custom with us does what Christianity ought to do—obliterates the feeling of personal prejudice. I have often noticed, in my travels north, how much stronger this was with you than with us. You loathe them as you would a snake or a toad, yet you are indignant at their wrongs. You would not have them abused; but you don't want to have anything to do with them yourselves. You would send them to Africa, out of your sight and smell, and then send a missionary or two to do up all the self-denial of elevating them compendiously. Is n't that it?


Oph.

  Well, cousin, there may be some truth in this.


St. C.

  What would the poor and lowly do, without children? Your little child is your only true democrat. Tom, now, is a hero to Eva; his stories are wonders in her eyes, his songs and Methodist hymns are better than an opera, and the traps and little bits of trash in his pocket a mine of jewels, and he the most wonderful Tom that ever wore a black skin. This is one of the roses of Eden that the Lord has dropped down expressly for the poor and lowly, who get few enough of any other kind.


Oph.

  It 's strange, cousin; one might almost think you were a professor, to hear you talk.


St. C.

  A professor?


Oph.

  Yes; a professor of religion.


St. C.

  Not at all; not a professor, as your town folks have it; and, what it worse, I 'm afraid, not a practiser either.


Oph.

  What makes you talk so, then?


St. C.

  Nothing is easier than talking. I believe Shakspeare makes somebody say, "I could sooner teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow my own teaching." Nothing like division of labor. My forte lies in talking, and yours, cousin, lies in doing.