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

SCENE V.—The Kitchen.

DINAH (smoking). Negro children playing about.

Dinah.

  'Still there, ye young uns, 'sturbin' me, while I 's takin' my smoke!

Enter JANE and ROSA.

Rosa.

  Well, such a time as there 's been in the house to-day, I never saw! Such a rummagin' and frummagin' in bandboxes and closets!—everything dragged out! Hate these yer northen misses!


Jane.

  Laws! ye orter seen her to the sheet trunk! Wan't it as good as a play to see her turn 'em out!


Bob. [From floor.]

  Tell ye, ef she don't sail round the house, coat-tail standin' out ahind her! Bound if she don't clar every one on us off the verandys minnit we shows our faces!


Dinah.

  An't gwine to have her in my diggin's, sturbin' my idees! Never let Miss Marie interfere, and she sartin shan't, her! Allus telled Miss Marie the kitchen wan't no place for ladies; Miss Marie got sense—she know'd it; but these yer northen misses—Good Lor! who is she, anyhow?


Rosa.

  Why, she 's Mas'r St. Clare's cousin.


Dinah.

  'Lation, is she? Poor, too, an't she?—hearn tell they done their own work up thar. Anything I hate, it 's these yer poor 'lations!


Rosa.

  Hush! here she comes!

Enter MISS OPHELIA.

Oph. [Advances and opens a drawer.]

  What 's this drawer for, Dinah?


Dinah.

  Handy for most anything, missis.


Oph. [Rummaging—draws out a table-cloth.]

  What 's this? A beautiful French damask table-cloth, all stained and bloody! Why, Dinah, you don't wrap up meat in your mistress' best damask table-cloths?


Dinah.

  O Lor, missis, no! the towels was all a missin'—so I jest did it. I laid out to wash that are—that 's why I put it thar.


Oph. [Disgusted—still rummaging.]

  Shiftless! What 's here?—nutmeg-grater—Methodist hymn-book—knitting-work! Faugh!—filthy old pipe! Faugh! what a sight! Where do you keep your nutmegs, Dinah?


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Dinah.

  Most anywhar, missis; there 's some in that cracked tea-cup up there, and there 's some over in that ar cuboard.


Oph.

  Here are some in the grater.


Dinah.

  Laws, yes! I put 'em there this morning. I likes to keep my things handy. You, Bob! what are you stopping for? You 'll cotch it! Be still thar! [Striking at him with a stick.]


Oph.

  What 's this? [Holding up a saucer.]


Dinah.

  Laws, it 's my har grease; I put it thar to have it handy.


Oph.

  Do you use your mistress' best saucers for that?


Dinah.

  Law! it was cause I was driv, and in sich a hurry; I was gwine to change it this very day.


Oph.

  Here are two damask table-napkins.


Dinah.

  Them table-napkins I put thar to get 'em washed out, some day.


Oph.

  Don't you have some place here on purpose for things to be washed?


Dinah.

  Well, Mas'r St. Clare got dat ar chest, he said, for dat; but I likes to mix up biscuit and hev my things on it some days, and then it an't handy a liftin' up the lid.


Oph.

  Why don't you mix your biscuits on the pastry-table, there?


Dinah.

  Law, missis, it get sot so full of dishes, and one thing and another, der an't no room, noways——


Oph.

  But you should wash your dishes, and clear them away.


Dinah. [Enraged.]

  Wash my dishes! What does ladies know 'bout work, I want to know? When 'd mas'r ever get his dinner if I was to spend all my time a washin' and a puttin' up dishes? Miss Marie never telled me so, nohow.


Oph.

  Well, here are these onions.


Dinah.

  Laws, yes! thar is whar I put 'em, now. I could n't 'member. Them 's particular onions I was a savin' for dis yer very stew. I 'd forgot they was in dar ar old flannel. [MISS OPHELIA lifts a paper of herbs.] I wish missis would n't touch dem ar. I likes to keep my things whar I knows what to go to 'em.


Oph.

  But you don't want these holes in the papers.


Dinah.

  Them 's handy for siftin' on't out.


Oph.

  But you see it spills all over the drawer.


Dinah.

  Laws, yes! if missis will go a tumblin' things all up so, it will. Missis has spilt lots dat ar way. If missis only will go up stars till my clarin'-up time comes, I 'll have everything right; but I can't do nothin' when ladies is round, a henderin'. You, Sam, don't you gib the baby dat ar sugar-bowl! I'll crack ye over, if ye don't mind!


Oph.

  I 'm going through the kitchen, and going to put everything in order once, Dinah; and then I 'll expect you to keep it so.


Dinah.

  Lor, now! Miss 'Phelia, dat ar an't no way for ladies to do. I never did see ladies doin' no sich; my old missis nor Miss Marie never did, and I don't see no kinder need on't.


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Enter ST. CLARE.

Oph.

  There is no such thing as getting anything like system in this family!


St. Clare.

  To be sure there is n't.


Oph.

  Such shiftless management, such waste, such confusion, I never saw!


St. C.

  I dare say you did n't.


Oph.

  You would not take it so coolly if you were a housekeeper.


St. C.

  My dear cousin, you may as well understand, once for all, that we masters are divided into two classes, oppressors and oppressed. We who are good-natured and hate severity make up our minds to a good deal of inconvenience. If we will keep a shambling, loose, untaught set in the community, for our convenience, why, we must take the consequence. Some rare cases I have seen, of persons, who, by a peculiar tact, can produce order and system without severity; but I 'm not one of them, and so I made up my mind, long ago, to let things go just as they do. I will not have the poor devils thrashed and cut to pieces, and they know it; and, of course, they know the staff is in their own hands.


Oph.

  But to have no time, no place, no order—all going on in this shiftless way!


St. C.

  My dear Vermont, you natives up by the North Pole set an extravagant value on time! What on earth is the use of time to a fellow who has twice as much of it as he knows what to do with? As to order and system, where there is nothing to be done but to lounge on the sofa and read, an hour sooner or later in breakfast or dinner is n't of much account. Now, there's Dinah gets you a capital dinner—soup, ragout, roast fowl, dessert, ice-creams and all—and she creates it all out of Chaos and old Night out here in this kitchen. I think it really sublime, the way she manages. But, Heaven bless us! if we were to come out here, and view all the smoking and squatting about, and hurryscurryation of the preparatory process, we should never eat more. My good cousin, absolve yourself from that! It 's more than a Catholic penance, and does no more good. You 'll only lose your own temper, and utterly confound Dinah. Let her go her own way.


Oph.

  But, Augustine, you don't know how I found things.


St. C.

  Don't I? Don't I know that the rolling-pin is under her bed, and the nutmeg-grater in her pocket with her tobacco—that there are sixty-five different sugar-bowls, one in every hole in the house—that she wa shes dishes with a dinner-napkin one day, and with the fragment of an old petticoat the next? But the upshot is, she gets up glorious dinners, makes superb coffee; and you must judge her, as warriors and statesmen are judged, by her success.


Oph.

  But the waste—the expense!


St. C.

  O, well! lock everything you can, and keep the key. Give out by driblets, and never inquire for odds and ends—it is n't best.


Oph.

  That troubles me, Augustine. I can't help feeling as if these servants were not strictly honest. Are you sure they can be relied on?


St. C.

   [Laughing.] O, cousin, that 's too good! Honest!— as


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if that 's a thing to be expected! Honest!—why, of course they arn't. Why should they be? What upon earth is to make them so?


Oph.

  Why don't you instruct?


St. C.

  Instruct! O, fiddlestick! What instructing do you think I should do? I look like it! As to Marie, she has spirit enough, to be sure, to kill off a whole plantation, if I'd let her manage; but she would n't get the cheatery out of them.


Oph.

  Are there no honest ones?


St. C.

  Well, now and then one, whom nature makes so impracticably simple, truthful and faithful, that the worst possible influence can't destroy it. But, you see, from the mother's breast the colored child feels and sees that there are none but underhand ways open to it. It can get along no other way with its parents, its mistress, its young master and missie play-fellows. Cunning and deception become necessary, inevitable habits. It is n't fair to expect anything else of him. He ought not to be punished for it. As to honesty, the slave is kept in that dependent, semi-childish state, that there is no making him realize the rights of property, or feel that his master's goods are not his own, if he can get them. For my part, I don't see how they can be honest. Such a fellow as Tom here is, is a moral miracle!


Oph.

  And what becomes of their souls?


St. C.

  That is n't my affair, as I know of. I am only dealing in facts of the present life. The fact is, that the whole race are pretty generally understood to be turned over to the devil, for our benefit, in this world, however it may turn out in another!


Oph.

  This is perfectly horrible! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!


St. C.

  I don't know as I am. We are in pretty good company, for all that, as people in the broad road generally are.