University of Virginia Library




1. I.

“PLEASE, ma'am, I want to come in out of the rain,”
said the dripping figure at the door.

“And who are you, sir?” demanded the lady, astonished;
for the bell had been rung familiarly, and, thinking
her son had come home, she had hastened to let him in,
but had met instead (at the front door of her fine house!)
this wretch.

“I 'm Fessenden's fool, please, ma'am,” replied the son
— not of this happy mother, thank Heaven! not of this
proud, elegant lady, O no! — but of some no less human-hearted
mother, I suppose, who had likewise loved her
boy, perhaps all the more fondly for his infirmity, — who
had hugged him to her bosom so many, many times, with
wild and sorrowful love, — and who, be sure, would not
have kept him standing there, ragged and shivering, in
the rain.

“Fessenden's fool!” cries the lady. “What 's your

“Please, ma'am, that 's my name.” Meekly spoken,
with an earnest, staring face. “Do you want me?”

“No; we don't want a boy with such a name as

And the lady scowls, and shakes her head, and half


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closes the forbidding door, — not thinking of that other
mother's heart, — never dreaming that such a gaunt and
pallid wight ever had a mother at all. For the idea that
those long, lean hands, reaching far out of the short and
split coat-sleeves, had been a baby's pure, soft hands once,
and had pressed the white maternal breasts, and had
played with the kisses of the fond maternal lips, — it was
scarcely conceivable; and a delicate-minded matron, like
Mrs. Gingerford, may well be excused for not entertaining
any such distressing fancy.

“Wal! I 'll go!” And the youth turned away.

She could not shut the door. There was something in
the unresentful, sad face, pale cheeks, and large eyes, that
fascinated her; something about the tattered clothes, thin,
wet locks of flaxen hair, and ravelled straw hat-brim,
fantastic and pitiful. And as he walked wearily away,
and she saw the night closing in bleak and dark, and felt
the cold dash of the rain blown against her own cheek, she
concluded to take pity on him. For she was by no means
a hard-hearted woman; and though her house was altogether
too good for poor folks, and she really did n't know
what she should do with him, it seemed too bad to send
him away shelterless, that stormy November night. Besides,
her husband was a rising politician, — the public-spirited
Judge Gingerford, you know, — the eloquent philanthropist
and reformer; — and to have it said that his
door had been shut against a perishing stranger might
tarnish his reputation. So, as I remarked, she concluded
to have compassion on the boy, and, after duly weighing the
matter, to call him back. And she called, — though, as I
suspect, not very loud. Moreover, the wind was whistling
through the leafless shrubbery, and his rags were fluttering,
and his hat was flapping about his ears, and the rain
was pelting him; and just then the Judge's respectable


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dog put his head out of the warm, dry kennel, and barked;
so that he did not hear, — the lady believed.

He had heard very well, nevertheless. Why did n't he
go back, then? Maybe, because he was a fool. More
likely, because he was, after all, human. Within that
husk of rags, under all that dull incumbrance of imperfect
physical organs that cramped and stifled it, there
dwelt a soul; and the soul of man knows its own worth,
and is proud. The coarsest, most degraded drudge still
harbors in his wretched house of clay a divine guest.
There is that in the convict and slave which stirs yet at
an insult. And even in this lank, half-witted lad, the
despised and outcast of years, there abode a sense of
inalienable dignity, — an immanent instinct that he, too,
was a creature of God, and worthy therefore to be treated
with a certain tenderness and respect, and not to be
roughly repulsed. This was strong in him as in you.
His wisdom was little, but his will was firm. And though
the house was cheerful and large, and had room and comfort
enough and to spare, rather than enter it, after he
had been flatly told he was not wanted, he would lie down
in the cold, wet fields and die.

“Certainly he will find shelter somewhere,” thought the
Judge's lady, discharging her conscience of the responsibility.
“But I am sorry he did n't hear.”

Was she very sorry?

She went back into her cosey, fire-lighted sewing-room,
and thought no more of the beggar-boy. And the watch-dog,
having barked his well-bred, formal bark, without
undue heat, — like a dog that knew the world, and had
acquired the tone of society, — stood a minute, important,
contemplating the drizzle from the door of his kennel, out
of which he had not deigned to step, then stretched himself
once more on his straw, gave a sigh of repose, and


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curled himself up, with his nose to the air, in an attitude
of canine enjoyment, in which it was to be hoped no
inconsiderate vagabond would again disturb him.

As for Fessenden's — How shall we name him? Somehow,
it goes against the grain to call any person a fool.
Though we may forget the Scriptural warning, still charity
remembers that he is our brother. Suppose, therefore, we
stop at the possessive case, and call him simply Fessenden's?

As for Fessenden's, then, he was less fortunate than the
Judge's mastiff. He had no dry straw, not even a kennel
to crouch in. And the fields were uninviting; and to die
was not so pleasant. The veriest wretch alive feels a
yearning for life, and few are so foolish as not to prefer a
dry skin to a wet one. Even Fessenden's knew enough to
go in when it rained, — if he only could. So, with the
dismallest prospect before him, he kept on, in the wind
and rain of that bitter November night.

And now the wind was rising to a tempest; and the rain
was turning to sleet; and November was fast becoming
December. For this was the last day of the month, —
the close of the last day of autumn, as we divide the seasons:
autumn was flying in battle before the fierce onset of
winter. It was the close of the week also, being Saturday.

Saturday night! what a sentiment of thankfulness and
repose is in the word! Comfort is in it; and peace
exhales from it like an aroma. Your work is ended; it is
the hour of rest; the sense of duty done sweetens reflection,
and weariness subsides into soothing content. Once
more the heart grows tenderly appreciative of the commonest
blessings. That you have a roof to shelter you,
and a pillow for your head, and love and light and supper,
and something in store for Sunday, — that the raving
rain is excluded, and the wolfish wind howls in vain, —


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that those dearest to you are gathered about your hearth,
and all is well, — it is enough; the full soul asks no more.

But this particular Saturday evening brought no such
suffusion of bliss to Fessenden's, — if, indeed, any ever
did. He saw, through the streaming, misty air, the happy
homes in the village lighted up one by one as it grew
dark. He had glimpses, through warm windows, of white
supper-tables. The storm made sufficient seclusion; there
was no need to draw the curtains. Servants were bringing
in the tea-things. Children were playing about the
floors, — laughing, beautiful children. Behold them, shivering
beggar-boy! Lean by the iron rail, wait patiently
in the rain, and look in upon them; it is worth your while.
How frolicsome and light-hearted they seem! They are
never cold, and seldom very hungry, and the world is dry
to them, and comfortable. And they all have beds, —
delicious beds. Mothers' hands tuck them in; mothers'
lips teach them to say their little prayers, and kiss them
good night. Foolish fellow! why did n't you be one of
those fortunate children, well fed, rosy, and bright, instead
of a starved and stupid tatterdemalion? A question
which shapes itself vaguely in his dull, aching soul, as he
stands trembling in the sleet, with only a few transparent
squares of glass dividing him and his misery from them
and their joy.

Mighty question! it is vast and dark as the night to
him. He cannot answer it; can you?

Vast and dark and pitiless is the night. But the morning
will surely come; and after all the wrongs and tumults
of life will rise the dawn of the Day of God. And then
every question of fate, though it fill the universe for you
now, shall dissolve in the brightness like a vapor, and
vanish like a little cloud.

Meanwhile a servant comes out and drives Fessenden's


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away from the fence. He recommenced his wanderings,
— up one street and down another, in search of a place to
lay his head. The inferior dwellings he passed by. But
when he arrived at a particularly fine one, there he rang.
Was it not natural for him to infer that the largest houses
had amplest accommodations, and that the rich could best
afford to be bounteous? If in all these spacious mansions
there was no little nook for him, if out of their luxuries
not a blanket or crust could be spared, what could he hope
from the poor? You see, he was not altogether witless, if
he was a — Fessenden's. Another proof: At whatever
house he applied, he never committed the vulgarity of a
détour to the back entrance, but advanced straight, with
bold and confident port, to the front door. The reason of
which was equally simple and clear: front doors were the
most convenient and inviting; and what were they made
for, if not to go in at?

But he grew weary of ringing and of being repulsed. It
was dismal standing still, however, and quite as comfortless
sitting down. He was so cold! So, to keep his blood in
motion, he keeps his limbs in motion, — till, lo! here he
is again at the house where the happy children were!
They have ceased their play. Two young girls are at the
window, gazing out into the darkness, as if expecting
some one. Not you, miserable! You need n't stop and
make signs for them to admit you. There! don't you see
you have frightened them? You are not a fitting spectacle
for such sweet-eyed darlings. They do well to drop
the shade, to shut out the darkness, and the dim, gesticulating
phantom. Flit on! 'T is their father they are
looking for, coming home to them with gifts from the city.

But he does not flit. When, presently, they lift a corner
of the shade and peep out, they see him still standing
there, spectral in the gloom. He is waiting for them to


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open the door! He thinks they have quitted the window
for that purpose! Ah! here comes the father, and they
are glad.

He comes hurrying from the cars under his umbrella,
which is braced against the gale and shuts out from his
eyes the sight of the unsheltered wretch. And he is
hastily entering his door, which is opened to him by the
eager children, when they scream alarm; and looking over
his shoulder, he perceives, following at his heels, the fright.
He is one of your full-blooded, solid men; but he is

“What do you want?” he cries, and lifts the threatening

“I 'm hungry,” says the intruder, with a ghastly glare,
still advancing.

He stands taller in his tattered shoes than the solid
gentleman in his boots; and those long, lean, claw-like
hands act as if anxious to clutch something. Papa thinks
it is his throat.

“By heavens! do you mean to —” And he prepares to
charge umbrella.

“You may!” answers the wretch, with perfect sincerity,
presenting his ragged bosom to the blow.

The lord of the castle lowers his weapon. The children
huddle behind him, hushing their screams.

“Go in, Minnie! In, all of you! Tell Stephen to come
here, — quick!”

The children scamper. And the florid, prosperous
parent and the gaunt and famishing vagrant are alone,
confronting each other by the light of the shining hall-lamp.

“I 'm cold,” says the latter, — “and wet,” with an
aguish shiver.

“I should think so!” cries the gentleman, recovering


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from his alarm, and getting his breath again, as he hears
Stephen's step behind him. “Stand back, can't you?”
(indignantly.) “Don't you see you are dripping on the

“I 'm so tired!”

“Well! you need n't rub yourself against the door, if
you are! Don't you see you are smearing it? What are
you roaming about in this way for, intruding into people's

“Please, sir, I don't know,” is the soft, sad answer; and
Fessenden's is meekly taking himself away.

“It 's too bad, though!” says the man, relenting.
“What can we do with this fellow, Stephen?”

“Send him around to Judge Gingerford's, — I should
say that 's about the best thing to do with him,” says the
witty Stephen.

The man knew well what would please. His master's
face lighted up. He rubbed his hands, and regarded the
vagabond with a humorous twinkle, with malice in it.

“Would you, Stephen? By George, I 've a good notion
to! Take the umbrella, and go and show him the way.”

Stephen did not like that.

“I was only joking, sir,” he said.

“A good joke, too! Here, you fellow! go with my
man. He 'll take you to a house where you 'll find friends.
Excellent folks! damned philanthropical! red-hot abolitionists!
If you only had nigger blood, now, they 'd treat
you like a prince. I don't know but I 'd advise you to
tell 'em you 're about a quarter nigger, — they 'll think
ten times as much of you!”

It was sufficiently evident that the gentleman did not
love his neighbor the Judge. With his own hands he
spread again the soaked umbrella, and, giving it to the
reluctant Stephen, sent him away with the vagabond.


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Then he shut the door, and went in. By the fire he pulled
off his wet boots, and put on the warm slippers, which the
children brought him with innocent strife to see which
should be foremost. And he gave to each kisses and toys;
for he was a kind father. And sitting down to supper,
with their beaming faces around him, he thought of the
beggar-boy only in connection with the jocular spite he
had indulged against his neighbor.

Meanwhile the disgusted Stephen, walking alone under
the umbrella, drove Fessenden's before him through the
storm. They turned a corner. Stephen stopped.

“There, that 's the house, where the lights are. Good
by! Luck to you!” And Stephen and umbrella disappeared
in the darkness.

Fessenden's kept on, wearily, wearily! He reached the
house. And lo! it was the same at the door of which
the lady had told him that he, with his name, was not
wanted. Tiger slept in his kennel, and dreamed of barking
at beggars. The Judge, snugly ensconced in his study,
listened to the report of his speech before the Timberville
Benevolent Association. His son read it aloud, in the
columns of the “Timberville Gazette.” Gingerford smiled
and nodded; for it sounded well. And Mrs. Gingerford
was pleased and proud. And the heart of Gingerford
Junior swelled with the fervor of the eloquence, and with
exultation in his father's talents and distinction, as he
read. The sleet rattled a pleasant accompaniment against
the window-shutters; and the organ-pipes of the wind
sounded a solemn symphony. This last night of November
was genial and bright to these worthy people, in their
little family circle. And the future was full of promise.
And the rhetoric of the orator settled the duty of man to
man so satisfactorily, and painted the pleasures of benevolence
in such colors, that all their bosoms glowed.


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“It is gratifying to think,” said Mrs. Gingerford, wiping
her eyes at the pathetic close, “how much good the printing
of that address in the `Gazette' must accomplish. It
will reach many so, who had n't the good fortune to hear it
at the rooms.”

Certainly, madam. The “Gazette” is taken, and perhaps
read this very evening, in every one of the houses at
which the homeless one has applied in vain for shelter,
since you frowned him from your door. Those exalted
sentiments, breathed in musical periods, are no doubt a
rich legacy to the society of Timberville, and to the world.
It was wise to print them; they will “reach many so.”
But will they reach this outcast beggar-boy, and benefit
him? Alas, it is fast growing too late for that!

Utter fatigue and discouragement have overtaken him.
The former notion of dying in the fields recurs to him
now; and wretched indeed must he be, since even that
desperate thought has a sort of comfort in it. But he is
too weary to seek out some suitably retired spot to take
cold leave of life in. On every side is darkness; on every
side, wild storm. Why endeavor to drag farther his benumbed
limbs? As well stretch himself here, upon this
wet wintry sod, as anywhere. He has the presumption to
do it, — never considering how deeply he may injure a fine
gentleman's feelings by dying at his door.

Tiger does not bark him away, but only dreams of barking,
in his cosey kennel. Close by are the windows of the
mansion, glowing with light. There beat the philanthropic
hearts; there smiles the pale, pensive lady; there beams
the aspiring face of her son; and there sits the Judge,
with his feet on the rug, pleasantly contemplating the
good his speech will do, and thinking quite as much,
perhaps, of the fame it will bring him, — happily unconscious
alike of his neighbor's malicious jest, and of the


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real victim of that jest, lying out there in the tempest and
freezing rain.

So November goes out; and winter, boisterous and triumphant,
comes in.

2. II.

Sunday morning: cold and clear. The December sun
shines upon the glassy turf, and upon trees all clad in
armor of glittering ice. And the trees creak and rattle in
the north wind; and the icy splinters fall tinkling to the

The splendor of the morning gilds the Judge's estate.
Everything about the mansion smiles and sparkles. Were
last night's horrors a dream?

There was danger, we remember, that the foolish youth
might do a very inconsiderate and shocking thing, and
perhaps ruin the Judge. What if he had really deposited
his mortal remains at the gate of that worthy man, — to
be found there, ghastly and stiff, a revolting spectacle, this
bright morning? What a commentary on Gingerford philanthropy!
For of course some one would at once have
stepped forward to testify to having seen him driven from
the door, which he came back to lay his bones near. And
Stephen would have been on hand to remember directing
such a person, inquiring his way a second time to the
Judge's house. And here he is dead, — to the secret
delight of the Judge's enemies, and to the indignation of
all Timberville. At anybody else's door it would n't have
seemed so bad. But at Gingerford's! a philanthropist by
profession! author of that beautiful speech you cried over!


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You will never forgive him those tears. The greatest
crime a man can be guilty of in the eyes of his constituents
is to have been over-praised by them. Woe to him, when
they find out their error! and woe now to the Judge!
The fact that a dozen other influential citizens had also
refused shelter to the vagabond will not help the matter.
Those very men will probably be the first to cry, “Hypocrite!
inhuman! a judgment upon him!” — for it is
always the person of doubtful virtue who is most eager to
assume the appearance of severe integrity; and we often
flatter ourselves that our private faults are atoned for,
when we have loudly denounced the same in others.

Fortunately, the flower of the Judge's reputation is
saved from so terrible a blight. There is no corpse at his
gate; and our speculations are idle.

This is what had occurred.

Not long after the lad had lain down, a dream-like spell
came over him. His pain was gone. He forgot that he
was cold. He was not hungry any more. A sweet sense
of rest was diffused through his tired limbs. And smiling
and soothed he lay, while the storm beat upon him. Was
this death? For we know that in this merciful shape
death sometimes comes to the sufferer.

Fessenden's afterwards said that he had “one of his
fits.” He was subject to such. When men reviled and
denied him, then came the angels, — or he imagined they
came. They walked by his side, and talked with him,
and often, all a summer's afternoon, he could be heard
conversing in the fields, as with familiar friends, when
only himself was visible, and his voice alone was heard in
the silence. This was, in fact, one of those idiosyncrasies
which had earned him his shameful name.

In the trance of that night, lying cold upon the ground,
he beheld his ghostly visitors. They came and stood


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around him, a shining company, and looked upon him with
countenances of fair women and good men. Their apparel
was not unlike that of mortals. And he heard them
questioning among themselves how they should help him.
And one of them, as it seemed, brought human assistance;
though the boy, who could see plenty of ghosts, could not,
for some reason, see the only actually visible and substantial
person then on the spot besides himself. He felt,
however, sensibly enough, the concussion of a stout pair
of mortal legs that presently went stumbling over him in
the dark. The shock roused him. The whole shadowy
company vanished; and in their place he saw, by the
glimmer from the Judge's windows, a dark sprawling figure
getting up out of the mud and water.

“Don't be scaret, it 's me,” said Fessenden's; for he
guessed the fellow was frightened.

“Excuse me, sir! I really did n't know it was you,
sir!” said the man, with agitated politeness. “And who
might you be, sir? if I may be so bold as to inquire.”
And regaining his balance, his umbrella, and his self-possession,
he drew near and squatted cautiously before the
prostrate beggar, who, had his eyesight been half as keen
for the living as it was for the dead, would have discovered
that the face bending over him was black.

“Never mind me,” said Fessenden's. “Did it hurt

“Well, sir, — no, sir, — only my knee went pretty seriously
into something wet. And I believe I 've turned my
umbrella wrong side out. I say, sir, what was you doing,
lying here, sir? You don't think of remaining here all
night, I trust, sir?”

“I 've nowhere else to go,” said the boy, trying to rise.

The black man helped him up.

“But this never 'll do, you know! such an inclement


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night as this is! — you 'd die before morning, sure! Just
wait till I can get my umbrella into shape, — my gracious!
how the wind pulls it! Now, then, suppose you
come along with me.”

“Please, sir, I can't walk”; for the lad's limbs had
stiffened, in spite of his angels.

“Is that so, sir? Let me see; about how much do you
weigh, sir? Not much above a hundred, do you? It
is n't impossible but I may take you on my back. Suppose
you try it.”

“O, I can't!” groaned the boy.

“Excuse me for contradicting you, but I think you can,
sir. I should n't like to do it myself, in the daytime; but
in the night so, who cares? Nobody 'll laugh at us, even
if we don't succeed. Really, I wish you was n't quite so
wet, sir; for these here is my Sunday clothes. But
never mind a little water; we 'll find a fire to get dry
again. There you are, my friend! A little higher. Put
your hands over across my breast. Could n't manage to
hold the umbrella over us, could you? So fashion.
Now steady, while I rise with you.”

And the stalwart young negro, hooking his arms well
under the legs of his rider, got up stoopingly, gave a toss
and a jolt to get him into the right position, and walked
off with him. Away they go, tramp, tramp, in the storm
and darkness. Thank Heaven, the Judge's fame is safe!
If the pauper dies, it will not be at his door. Little he
knows, there in his elegant study, what an inestimable
service this black Samaritan is rendering him. And it
was just; for, after all the Judge had done for the negro
(who, I suppose, was equally unconscious of any substantial
benefit received), it was time that the negro should
do something for him in return.

Tramp! tramp! a famous beggar's ride! It was a


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picturesque scene, with food for laughter and tears in it,
had we only been there with a lantern. Fessenden's fantastic
astride of the African, staring forward into the
darkness from under his ragged hat-brim, endeavoring to
hold the wreck of an umbrella over them, — the wind
flapping and whirling it. Tramp! tramp! past all those
noble mansions, to the negro hut beyond the village.
And, O, to think of it! the rich citizens, the enlightened
and white-skinned Levites, having left him out, one of
their own race, to perish in the storm, this despised black
man is found, alone of all the world, to show mercy unto

“How do you get on, sir?” says the stout young
Ethiop. “Would you ride easier, if I should trot? or
would you prefer a canter? Tell 'em to bring on their
two-forty nags now, if they want a race.”

Talking in this strain to keep up his rider's spirits, he
brought him, not without sweat and toil, to the hut. A
kick on the door with the beggar's foot, which he used for
the purpose, caused it to be opened by a woolly-headed
urchin; and in he staggered.

Little woolly-head clapped his hands and screamed.

“O crackie, pappy! here comes Bill with the Devil on
his back!”

Sensation in the hut. There was an old negro woman
in the corner, at one side of the stove, knitting; and a
very old negro man in the opposite corner, napping; and
a middle-aged man with spectacles on his ebony nose,
reading slowly aloud from an ancient greasy-covered book
opened before him on the old pine table; and a middle-aged
woman patching a jacket; and a girl washing dishes
which another girl was wiping; representatives of four
generations: and they all quitted their occupations at
once, to see what sort of a devil Bill had brought home.


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“Why, William! who have you got there, William?”
said he of the spectacles, with mild wonder, removing
those clerkly aids of vision and laying them across the

“A chair!” panted Bill. “Now ease him down, if you
please, — careful, — and I 'll — recite the circumstances,”
— puffing, but polite to the last.

3. III.

Helpless and gasping, Fessenden's was unfastened, and
slipped down the African's back upon a seat placed to
receive him. He still clung to the umbrella, which he
endeavored to keep spread over him, while he stared
around with stupid amazement at the dim room and the
array of black faces.

And now the excited urchin began to caper and sing: —

“`Went down to river, could n't get across;
Jumped upon a nigger's back, thought it was a hoss!'
O, crackie, Bill!”

“Father,” said William, with wounded dignity, — for
he was something of a gentleman in his way, — “I wish
you 'd discipline that child, or else give me permission to
chuck him.”

“Joseph!” said the father, with a stern shake of his
big black head at the boy, “here 's a stranger in the
house! Walk straight, Joseph!”

Which solemn injunction Joseph obeyed in a highly
offensive manner, by strutting off in imitation of William's
dandified air.


Page 113

By this time the aged negro in the corner had become
fully roused to the consciousness of a guest in the house.
He came forward with slow, shuffling step. He was
almost blind. He was exceedingly deaf. He was withered
and wrinkled in the last degree. His countenance
was of the color of rust-eaten bronze. He was more than
a hundred years old, — the father of the old woman, the
grandfather of the middle-aged man, and the great-grandfather
of William, Joseph, and the girls. He was muffled
in rags, and wore a little cap on his head. This he
removed with his left hand, exposing a little battered
tea-kettle of a bald pate, as with smiling politeness he
reached out the other trembling hand to shake that of the

“Welcome, sah! Sarvant, sah!”

He bowed and smiled again, and the hospitable duty
was performed; after which he put on his cap and shuffled
back into his corner, greatly marvelled at by the gazing

The girls and their mother now bestirred themselves to
get their guest something to eat. The tin teapot was
set on the stove, and hash was warmed up in the spider.
In the mean time William somewhat ruefully took off his
wet Sunday coat, and hung it to dry by the stove, interpolating
affectionate regrets for the soiled garment with
the narration of his adventure.

“It was the merest chance my coming that way,” he
explained; “for I had got started up the other street,
when something says to me, `Go by Gingerford's! go by
Judge Gingerford's!' so I altered my course, and the
result was, just as I got against the Judge's gate I was
precipitated over this here person.”

“I know what made ye!” spoke up the boy, with an
earnest stare.


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“What, sir, if you please?”

“The angels!”

“The — the what, sir?”

“The angels! I seen 'em!” says Fessenden's.

This astounding announcement was followed by a
strange hush. Bill forgot to smooth out the creases of
his coat, and looked suspiciously at the youth whom it
had served as a saddle. He wondered if he had really
been ridden by the Devil.

The old woman now interfered. She was at least seventy
years of age. The hair of her head was like mixed
carded wool. Her coarse, cleanly gown was composed of
many-colored, curious patches. The atmosphere of thorough
grandmotherly goodness surrounded her. In the
twilight sky of her dusky face twinkled shrewdness and
good-humor; and her voice was full of authority and

“Stan' back here now, you troubles!” pushing the children
aside. “Did n't none on ye never see nobody afore?
This 'ere child 's got to be took keer on, and that mighty
soon! Gi' me the comf'table off 'm the bed, mammy.”

“Mammy” was the mother of the children. The
“comf'table” was brought, and she and her husband
helped the old negress wrap Fessenden's up in it, from
head to foot, wet clothes and all.

“Now your big warm gret-cut, pappy!”

“Pappy” was her own son; and the “gret-cut” was
his old, gray, patched and double-patched surtout, which
now came down from its peg, and spread its broad flaps,
like brooding wings, over the half - drowned human

“Now put in the wood, boys! Pour some of that 'ere
hot tea down his throat. Bless him, we 'll sweat the cold
out of him! we 'll give him a steaming!”


Page 115

She held with her own hand the cracked teacup to the
lad's lips, and made him drink. Then she pulled up the
comforter about his face, till nothing of him was visible
but his nose and a curl or two of saturated tow. Then she
had him moved up close to the glowing stove, like a huge
chrysalis to be hatched by the heat.

The dozing centenarian now roused himself again, and,
perceiving the little nose in the big bundle on the other
side of the chimney, was once more reminded of the
sacred duties of hospitality. So he got upon his trembling
old legs, pulled off his cap, and bowed and smiled as
before, with exquisite politeness, across the stove. “Sarvant,
sah! Welcome, sah!” And he sat down and dozed

Fessenden's was not in a position to return the courteous
salute. The old woman had by this time got his
feet packed into the stove-oven, and he was beginning to

“O Bill! just look a' Joe!” cried one of the girls.

Bill left smoothing his broadcloth, and, turning up the
whites of his eyes, uttered a despairing groan. “O, that
child! that child! that child!” — his voice running up
into a wild falsetto howl.

The child thus passionately alluded to had possessed
himself of Bill's genteel silk hat, which had been tenderly
put away to dry. It had been sadly soaked by the rain,
and bruised by the flopping umbrella which Fessenden's
had unhappily attempted to hold over it. And now Joe
had knocked in the crown, whilst getting it down from its
peg with the broom. He had thought to improve its
appearance by stroking the nap the wrong way with his
sleeve. Lastly, putting it on his head, he had crushed
the sides together to prevent its coming quite down over
his eyes and ears and resting on his shoulders. And there


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he was, with the broken umbrella spread, hitting the top
of the hat with it at every step, as he strutted around the
room in emulation of his brother's elegant style.

“My name's Mr. Bill Williams, Asquare!” simpered the
little satirist. “Some folks call me Gentleman Bill, 'cause
I 'm so smart and good-looking, sar!”

Gentleman Bill picked up the jack with which he had
pulled off his wet boots, and waited for a good chance to
launch it at Joe's head. But Joe kept behind his grandmother,
and proceeded with his mimicry.

“Nobody knows I 'm smart and good-looking 'cept me,
and that 's why I tell on 't, sar; that 's the reason I
excite the stircumstances, sar!” He remembered Bill's
saying he would “recite the circumstances,” and this was
as near as he could come to the precise words. “I 'm a
gentleman tailor; that 's my perfession, sar. Work over
to the North Village, sar. Come home Sat'day nights to
stop over Sunday with the folks, and show my good
clo'es. How d' 'e do, sar? Perty well, thank ye, sar.”
And Joe, putting down the umbrella, in order to lift the
ingulfing hat from his little round, black, curly head with
both hands, made a most extravagant bow to the chrysalis.

“Old granny!” hoarsely whispered Bill, “you just
stand out of the way once, while I propel this boot-jack!”

“Old granny don't stan' out o' the way oncet, for you
to frow no boot-jack in this house! S'pose I want to see
that child's head stove in? Which is mos' consequence,
I 'd like to know, your hat, or his head? Hats enough in
the world. But that 'ere head is an oncommon head, and
bless the boy, if he should lose that, I do'no' where he 'd
git another like it! Come, no more fuss now! I got to
make some gruel for this 'ere poor, wet, starvin' critter.
That hash a'n't the thing for him, mammy, — you 'd


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ought to know! He wants somefin' light and comfortin',
that 'll warm his in'ards, and make him sweat, bless him!
— Joey! Joey! give up that 'ere hat now!”

“Take it then! Mean old thing, — I don't want it!”

Joe extended it on the point of the umbrella; but just
as Bill was reaching to receive it, he gave it a little toss,
which sent it into the chip-basket.

“Might know I 'd had on your hat!” and the little
rogue scratched his head furiously.

“I shall certainly massacre that child some fine morning!”
muttered Bill, ruefully extricating the insulted article
from the basket. “O my gracious! only look at that,
now, Creshy!” to his sister. “That 's an interesting object,
is n't it? for a gentleman to think of putting on to
his head Sunday morning!”

“O Bill!” cried Creshy, “just look a' Joe ag'in!”

Whilst he was sorrowfully restoring his hat to its pristine
shape, he had been robbed of his coat. The thief had
run with it behind the bed, where he had succeeded in
getting into it. The collar enveloped his ears. The
skirts dragged upon the floor. He had buttoned it, to
make it fit better; but there was still room in it for two
or three boys. He had got on his father's spectacles and
the beggar's straw hat. He looked like a frightful little old
misshapen dwarf. And now rolling up the sleeves to
find his hands, and wrinkling the coat outrageously at
every movement, he advanced from his retreat, and began
to dance a pigeon-wing, amid the convulsive laughter of
the girls.

“O my soul! my soul!” cried Bill, his voice inclining
again to the falsetto. “Was there ever such an imp of
Satin? Was there ever —”

Here he made a lunge at the offender. Joe attempted
to escape, but getting his feet entangled in the superabundant


Page 118
coat-skirts, fell, screaming as if he were about to be

“Good enough for you!” said his mother. “I wish
you would get hurt!”

“What you wish that for?” cried the old grandmother,
rushing to the rescue, brandishing a long iron spoon with
which she had been stirring the gruel. “Can't nobody
never have no fun in this house? Bless us! what 'ud we
do, if 't wa'n't for Joey, to make us laugh and keep our
sperits up? Jest you stan' back now, Bill! — 'd ruther
you 'd strike me 'n see ye hit that 'ere boy oncet!”

“He must let my things be, then,” said Bill, who
could n't see much sport in the disrespectful use made of
his wearing apparel. — “Here, you! surrender my property!”

“Laws! you be quiet! You 'll git yer cut ag'in. Only
jest look at him now, he 's so blessed cunning!”

For Joe, reassured by his grandmother, had stopped
screaming, and gone to tailoring. He sat cross-legged on
one of the unlucky coat-skirts, and pulled the other up on
his lap for his work. Then he got an imaginary thread,
and, putting his fingers together, screwed up his mouth,
and looked over the spectacles, sharpening his sight, —

“Like an old tailor to his needle's eye.”

Then he began to stitch, to the infinite disgust of Bill,
who was sensitive touching his vocation.

“I do declare, father! how you can smile, seeing that
child carrying on in this shape, is beyond my comprehension!”

“Joseph!” said Mr. Williams, good-naturedly, “I
guess that 'll do for to-night. Come, I want my spectacles.”

He had sat down to his book again. He was a slow,
thoughtful, easy, cheerful man, whom suffering and much


Page 119
humiliation had rendered very mild and patient, if not
quite broken-spirited. His voice was indulgent and gentle,
with that mellow richness of tone peculiar to the
negro. After he had spoken, the laughter subsided; and
Joe, impressed by the quiet paternal authority, quickly
devised means to obey without appearing to do so. For
it is not so much obedience, as the manifestation of obedience,
that is repugnant to human nature, — not in children
only, but in grown folks as well.

Joe disguised his compliance in this way. He got up,
took off the beggar's hat, put the spectacles into it, holding
his hand on a rip in the crown to keep them from
falling through, and passed it around, walking solemnly in
his brother's abused coat.

“I 'm Deacon Todd,” said he, “taking up a collection to
buy Gentleman Bill a new cut: gunter make a missionary
of him!”

He passed the hat to the women and the girls, all of
whom pretended to put in something.

“I ha'n't got nothin'!” said Fessenden's when it came
to him; “I 'm real sorry! but I 'll give my hat!” — earnest
as could be.

When the hat came to Mr. Williams, he quietly put in
his hand and took out his glasses.

“Here, I 've got something for you; I desire to contribute,”
said Gentleman Bill.

But Joe was shy of his brother.

“O, we don't let the missionary give anything!” he
said. “Here 's the hat what you 're gunter to wear; —
give it to him, Creesh!”

Bill disdained the beggar's contribution; but, in his
anxiety to seize Joe, he suffered his sister to slip up behind
him and clap the wet, ragged straw wreck on his head.

“O Bill! O Bill!” screamed the girls with merriment,


Page 120
in which mother and grandmother joined, while even their
father indulged in a silent, inward laugh.

“Good!” said Fessenden's; “he may have it!”

Bill, watching his opportunity, made a dash at the pretending
Deacon Todd. That nimble and quick - witted
dwarf escaped as fast as his awkward attire would permit.
The bed seemed to be the only place of refuge, and he
dodged under it.

“Come out!” shouted Bill, furious.

“Come in and git me!” screamed Joe, defiant.

Bill, if not too large, was far too dignified for such an
enterprise. So he got the broom and began to stir Joe
with the handle, not observing, in his wrath, that, the
more he worried Joe, the more he was damaging his own
precious broadcloth.

“I 'm the lion to the show!” cried Joe, rolling and
tumbling under the bed to avoid the broom. “The keeper
's a punchin' on me, to make me roar!”

And the lion roared.

“He 's a gunter come into the cage by-'m-by, and put
his head into my mouth. Then I 'm a gunter swaller
him! Ki! hoo! hoo! oo!”

He roared in earnest this time. Bill, grown desperate,
had knocked his shins. As long as he hit him only on
the head, the king of beasts did n't care; but he could
n't stand an attack on the more sensitive part.

“Jest look here, now!” exclaimed the old negress, with
unusual spirit; “gi' me that broom!”

She wrenched it from Bill's hand.

“Perty notion, you can't come home a minute without
pesterin' that boy's life out of him!”

You see, color makes no difference with grandmothers.
Black or white, they are universally unjust, when they
come to decide the quarrels of their favorites.


Page 121

“Great lubberly fellow like you, 'busin' that poor
babby all the time! Come, Joey! come to granny, poor

It was a sorry-looking lion that issued whimpering from
the cage, limping, and rubbing his eyes. His borrowed
hide — namely, Bill's coat — had been twisted into marvellous
shapes in the scuffle; and, being wet, it was
almost white with the dust and lint that adhered to it.
Bill threw up his arms in despair; while Joe threw his,
great sleeves and all, around granny's neck, and found
comfort on her sympathizing bosom.

4. IV.

Silence, now,” said Mr. Williams, “so 's we can go on
with the reading.”

Order was restored. Bill hung up his coat, and sat
down. Joe nestled in the old woman's lap. And now the
storm was heard beating against the house.

“Say!” spoke up Fessenden's, “can I stop here over

“You don't suppose,” said Mr. Williams, “we 'd turn
you out in such weather as this, do you?”

“Wal!” said Fessenden's, “nobody else would keep

“Don't you be troubled! While we 've a ruf over our
heads, no stranger don't git turned away from it that
wants shelter, and will put up with our 'commodations.
We can keep you to-night, and probably to-morrow night,
if you like to stay; but after that I can't promise. Mebby


Page 122
we sha' n't have a ruf for our own heads then. But we 'll
trust the Lord,” said Mr. Williams, with a deep serious
smile, — while Mrs. Williams sighed.

“How is it about that matter?” Gentleman Bill inquired.

“The house is to be tore down Monday, I suppose,”
replied his father, mildly.

“My gracious!” exclaimed Bill; “Mr. Frisbie a'n't
really going to carry that threat into execution?”

“That 's what he says, William. He has got a prejudice
ag'inst color, you know. Since he lost the election,
through the opposition of the abolitionists, as he thinks,
he 's been very much excited on the subject,” added Mr.
Williams, in his subdued way.

“Excited!” echoed his wife, bitterly.

She was a much-suffering woman, inclined to melancholy;
but there was a latent fire in her when she seemed
most despondent, and she roused up now and spoke with
passionate, flashing eyes: —

“Sence he got beat, town-meetin' day, he don't 'pear to
take no comfort, 'thout 't is hatin' Judge Gingerford and
spitin' niggers, as he calls us. He sent his hired man
over ag'in this mornin', to say, if we wa'n't out of the
house by Monday, 't would be pulled down on to our
heads. Call that Christian, when he knows we can't git
another house, there 's sich a s'picion ag'in people o'

“'T wa'n't alluz so; 't wa'n't so in my day,” said the
old woman, pausing, as she was administering the gruel to
Fessenden's with a spoon. “Here 's gran'pa, he was a
slave, and I was born a slave, in this here very State, as
long ago as when they used to have slaves here, as I 've
told ye time and ag'in; though I don't clearly remember
it, for I scace ever knowed what bondage was, bless the


Page 123
Lord! But we alluz foun' somebody to be kind to us, and
got along, — for it did seem as though God kind o' looked
arter us, and took keer on us, same as he did o' white
folks. We 've been carried through, somehow or 'nother;
and I can't help thinkin' as how we shall be yit, spite
o' Mr. Frisbie. S'pose God 'll forgit us 'cause his grand
church-folks do? S'pose all they can say 'll pedijice

Having advanced this unanswerable question, she turned
once more to her patient, who put up his head, and opened
his mouth wide, to receive the great spoon.

“Lucky for them that can trust the Lord!” said Mrs.
Williams, over her patching. “But if I was a man, I 'm
'fraid I should put my trust in a good knife, and stan' by the
ol' house when they come to pull it down! The fust man
laid hands on 't 'ud git hurt, I 'm dreffle 'fraid! Prayin'
won't save it, you see!”

“Mr. Frisbie owns the house,” observed Gentleman Bill,
“and I would n't resort to violent measures to prevent
him; though 't is n't possible for me to believe he 'll be
so unhuman as to demolish it before you find another.”

“I 'm inclined to think he will,” answered Mr. Williams,
calmly. “He 's a rather determined man, William. But
God won't quite forget us, I 'm sartin sure. And we won't
worry about the house till the time comes, anyhow. Le' 's
see what the Good Book says to comfort us,” he added,
with a hopeful smile.

Unfortunately, the “Timberville Gazette” had not
reached this benighted family; and not having the
Judge's Address to read, Mr. Williams read the Sermon
on the Mount.

Fessenden's listened with the rest. And a light, not of
the understanding, but of the spirit, shone upon him.
His intellect was too feeble, I think, to draw any very


Page 124
keen comparison between those houses where the “Timberville
Gazette” was taken and read that evening and
this lowly abode, — between the rich there, who had shut
their proud, prosperous doors against him, and these poor
servants of the Lord, who had taken him in and comforted
him, though the hour was nigh, when they, too, were to be
driven forth shelterless in the wintry storms. The deep
and affecting suggestiveness of that wide contrast his mind
was, no doubt, too weak thoroughly to appreciate. Yet
something his heart felt, and something his soul perceived;
his pale and vacant face was illumined; and at the close
of the reading he rose up. The coarse wrappings of his
body fell away; and the muffling ignorance, the swaddling
dulness, wherein that divine infant, the bright immortal
spirit, was confined, seemed also to fall off. He lifted up
his hands, spreading them as if dispensing blessings; and
his countenance had a vague, smiling wonder in it, almost
beautiful, and his voice, when he spoke, thrilled the ear.

“Praise the Lord! praise the Lord! for he will provide!

“Be comforted! for ye are the children of the Lord!

“Be glad! be glad! for the Angel of the Lord is here!

“Don't you see him? don't you see him? There!
there!” he cried, pointing, with an earnestness and radiance
of look which filled all who saw him with astonishment.
They turned to gaze, as if really expecting to
behold the vision; then fixed their eyes again on the

“You 'll be taken care of, the Angel says. Even they
that hate you shall do you good. The mercy you have
shown, Christ will show to you.”

Having uttered these sentences at intervals, in a loud
voice, the speaker gave a start, turned as if bewildered,
and sat down again.

Not a word was spoken. A hush of awe suspended the


Page 125
breath of the listeners. Then a smile of fervent emotion
lighted up like daybreak the negro's dark visage, and his
joy broke forth in song. The others joined him, filling the
house with the jubilee of their wild and mellow voices.

“A poor wayfaring man of grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
And sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer nay.”

And so the fair fame of Gingerford, as we said before,
was saved from blight. The beggar-boy awakes this Sunday
morning, not in the blaze of Eternity, but in that
dim nook of the domain of Time, Nigger Williams's hut.
He made his couch, not on the freezing ground, but in a
bunk of the low-roofed garret. His steaming clothes had
been taken off, a dry shirt had been given him, and he had
Joe for a bedfellow.

“Hug him tight, Joey dear!” said the old woman, as
she carried away the candle. “Snug up close, and keep
him warm!”

“I will!” cried Joe, as affectionate as he was roguish;
and Fessenden's never slept better than he did that night,
with the tempest singing his lullaby, and the arms of the
loving negro boy about him.

In the morning he found his clothes ready to put on.
They had been carefully dried; and the old woman had
got up early and taken a few needful stitches in them.

“It 's Sunday, granny,” Creshy reminded her, to see
what she would say.

“A'n't no use lett'n' sich holes as these 'ere go, if 't is
Sunday!” replied the old woman. “Hope I never sh'll
ketch you a doin' nuffin' wus! A'n't we told to help our
neighbor's sheep out o' the ditch on the Lord's day? An'
which is mos' consequence, I 'd like to know, the neighbor's
sheep, or the neighbor hisself?”


Page 126

“But his clothes a'n't him,” said Creshy.

“S'pose I do'no' that? But what 's a sheep for, if 't
a'n't for its wool to make the clo'es? Then, to look arter
the sheep that makes the clo'es, and not look arter the
clo'es arter they 're made, that 's a mis'ble notion!”

“But you can mend the clothes any day.”

“Could I mend 'em yis'day, when I did n't have 'em to
mend? or las' night, when they was wringin' wet? Le' me
alone, now, with your nonsense!”

“But you can mend them to-morrow,” said the mischievous
girl, delighted to puzzle her grandmother.

“And let that poor lorn chile go in rags over Sunday,
freezin' cold weather like this? Guess I a'n't so onfeelin',
— an' you a'n't nuther, for all you like to tease your ole
granny so! Bless the boy, seems to me he 's jest go'n' to
bring us good luck. I feel as though the Angel of the
Lord did r'a'ly come into the house with him las' night!
Wish I had somefin' r'al good for him for his breakfas'
now! He 'll be dreffle hungry, that 's sartin. Make a
rousin' good big Johnnycake, mammy; and, Creshy, you
stop botherin', and slice up them 'ere taters for fryin'.”

Soon the odor of the cooking stole up into the garret.
Fessenden's snuffed it with delighted senses. The feeling
of his garments dry and whole pleased him mightily. He
heard the call to breakfast; and laughing and rubbing his
eyes he followed Joe down the dark, uncertain footing of
the stairs.

The family was already huddled about the table. But
room was reserved for their guest, and at his appearance
the old patriarch rose smilingly from his seat, pulled off
his cap, which it seemed he always wore, and shook hands
with him, with the usual hospitable greeting.

“Sarvant, sah! Welcome, sah!”

Fessenden's was given a seat by his side. And the old


Page 127
woman piled his plate with good things. And he ate, and
was filled. For he was by no means dainty, and had not,
simple soul! the least prejudice against color.

And he was happy. The friendly black faces around
him, — the cheerful, sympathetic, rich-toned voices, — the
motherly kindness of the old woman, — the exquisite
smiling politeness of the old man, who got up and shook
hands with him, on an average, every half-hour, — the
Bible-reading, — the singing, — the praying, — the elegance
and condescension of Gentleman Bill, — the pleasant
looks and words of the laughing-eyed girls, — and the
irrepressible merriment of Joe, made that a golden Sabbath
in the lad's life.

Alas that it should come to this! Associate with black
folks! how shocking! What if he was a — Fessenden's?
was n't he white? Where were those finer tastes and
instincts which make you and me shrink from persons of
color? He rolls and tumbles in mad frolic with Joe on
the garret floor, and plays horse with him. He suffers his
hair to be combed by the girls, and actually experiences
pleasure at the touch of their gentle hands, and feels a
vague wondering joy when they praise his smooth flaxen
locks. In a word, he is so weak as to wish that good Mr.
Williams was his father, and this delightful hut his home!

And so he spends his Sunday. The family does not
attend public worship. They used to, when the old meeting-house
was standing, and the old minister was alive.
But they do not feel at ease in the new edifice, and the
smart young preacher is too smart for them. His rhetoric
is like the cold carving and frescos, — very fine, very
admirable, no doubt; but it has no warmth in it for
them; it is foreign to their common daily lives; it comes
not near the hopes and fears and sufferings of their humble
hearts. Here religion, which too long suffered abasement,


Page 128
is exalted. It is highly respectable. It shows culture; it
has the tone of society. It is worth while coming hither
of a Sunday morning, if only to hear the organ and see the
fashions. Yet it can hardly be expected that such creatures
as the Williamses should appreciate the privilege of
hearing and beholding from the enclosure which has been
properly set off for their class, — the colored people's pew.

But Fessenden's might have done better, one would say,
than to stay at home with them. Why did n't he go to
church, and be somebody? He would not have been put
into the niggers' pew. As for his clothes, which might
have been objected to by worldly people, who would have
thought of them, or of anything else but his immortal soul,
in the house of God? Of course, there were no respecters
of persons there, — none to say to a rich Frisbie, or an
eloquent Gingerford, “Sit thou, here, in a good place,”
and to a ragged Fessenden's, “Stand thou there.”

But perhaps the less said on the subject the better.
Pass over that golden Sunday in the lad's life. Alas, when
will he ever have such another? For here it is Monday
morning, and the house is to be torn down.

5. V.

There seems to be no mistake about it. Mr. Frisbie
has come over early, driven in his light open carriage by
his man Stephen, to see that the niggers are out. And
yonder come the workmen, to begin the work of demolition.

But the niggers are not out; not an article of furniture
has been removed.


Page 129

“You see, sir,” — Mr. Williams calmly represents the
case to his landlord, as he sits in his carriage, — “it has
been impossible. We shall certainly go, just as soon as
we can get another house anywhere in town — ”

“I don't want you to get another house in town,” interrupts
the full-blooded, red-faced Frisbie. “We have had
enough of you. You have had fair warning. Now out
with your traps, and off with you!”

“I trust, at least, sir, you will give us another
week —”

“Not an hour!”

“One day,” remonstrates the mild negro; “I don't
think you will refuse us that.”

“Not a minute!” exclaims the firm Frisbie. “I 've
borne with you long enough. Fact is, we have got tired
of niggers in this town. I bought the house with you in
it, or you never would have got in. Now it is coming
down. Call out your folks, and save your stuff, if you 're
going to. — Good morning, Adsly,” to the master carpenter.
“Go to work with your fellows. Guess they 'll be
glad to get out by the time you 've ripped the roof off.”

Mr. Williams retires, disheartened, his visage surcharged
with trouble. For this wretched dwelling was his home,
and dear to him. It was the centre of his world. Around
it all the humble hopes and pleasures of the man had clustered
for years. When weary with the long day's heavy
toil, here he had found rest. To this spot his spirit, sorrow-laden,
had ever turned with gratitude and yearning.
And here he had found shelter, here he had found love and
comfort, the lonely, despised man. Even care and grief
had contributed to strengthen the hold of his heart upon
this soil. Here had died the only child he had ever lost;
and in the old burying-ground, over the hill yonder, it was
buried. Under this mean roof he had laid his sorrows


Page 130
before the Lord, he had wrestled with the Lord in prayer,
and his burdens had been taken from him, and light and
gladness had been poured upon his soul. O ye proud!
do you think that happiness dwells only in high places, or
that these lowly homes are not dear to the poor?

But now this sole haven of the negro and his family was
to be destroyed. Cruel cold blew the December wind, that
wintry morning. And the gusts of the landlord's temper
were equally pitiless.

Gentleman Bill, full of confidence in his powers of persuasion,
advances, to add the weight of his respectability
to his parents' remonstrance.

“Good morning, Mr. Frisbie,” — politely lifting his hat.

“Hey?” says Frisbie, sarcastic. — “Look at his insolence,

“I sincerely trust, sir,” begins Bill, “that you will
reconsider your determination, sir —”

“Shall I fetch him a cut with the hosswhip?” whispers
Stephen, loud enough for the stalwart young black to

“You can fetch him a cut with the hosswhip, if you
like,” Bill answers for Mr. Frisbie, with fire blazing up in
his polite face. “But, sir, in case you do, sir, I shall take
it upon myself to teach you better manners than to insult
a gentleman conferring with your master, sir!”

“Ha, ha, ha!” roared Mr. Frisbie. “You 've got it,

The whip trembled in Stephen's angry hand, but the
strapping young negro looked so cool and wicked, standing
there, that he wisely forbore to strike.

“I am sure, sir,” Bill addresses the landlord, “you are
too humane a person —”

“No, I a'n't,” says the florid Frisbie. “I know what
you 're going to say; but it 's no use. You can't work


Page 131
upon my feelings; I a'n't one of your soft kind. Drive
up to the door, Stephen.”

Stephen is very glad to start the horse suddenly and
graze Gentleman Bill's knee with the wheel-hub. Bill
steps back a pace, and follows him with the smiting look
of one who treasures up wrath. You had better be careful,
Stephen, let me tell you!

Joe stands holding the door open, and Mr. Frisbie looks
in. There, to his astonishment, he sees the women washing
clothes as unconcernedly as if nothing unusual was about
to occur. He jumps to the ground, heated with passion.

“Ho, here!” he shouts in at the door; “don't you see
the house is coming down?”

Upon which the deaf old grandfather rises in his corner,
and pulls off his cap, with the usual salutation, “Sarvant,
sah,” etc., and, sitting down again, relapses into a doze

Frisbie is furious. “What you 'bout here?” he cries,
in an alarming voice.

“Bless you, sir,” answers the old woman over a tub,
“don't you see? We 're doon' a little washin', sir. Did n't
you never see nobody wash afore?” And she proceeds
with her rubbing.

“The house will be tumbling on you in ten minutes!”

“You think so? Now I don't, Mr. Frisbie! This 'ere
house a'n't go'n' to tumble down this mornin', I know.
The Lord 'll look out for that, I guess. Look o' these 'ere
children! look o' me! look o' my ole father there, more 'n
a hundred year ole! What 's a go'n' to 'come on us all, if
you pull the house down? Can't git another right away;
no team to haul our things off with; an' how 'n the world
we can do 'thout no house this winter, I can't see. So I 've
jes' concluded to trust the Lord, an' git out my washin'.”
Rub, rub, rub!


Page 132

Frisbie grows purple. “Are you fools?” he inquires.

“Yes, I am! I 'm Fessenden's.” And the honest staring
youth comes forward to see what is wanted.

This unexpected response rather pricks the wind-bag of
the man's zeal. He looks curiously at the boy, who follows
him out of the house.

“Stephen, did you ever see that fellow before?”

“Yes, sir; he 's the one come to our house Saturday
night, and I showed round to the Judge's.”

“Are you the fellow?”

“Yes,” says Fessenden's. “There would n't any of you
let me into your houses, neither!”

“Would n't the people I sent you to let you in?”


“Hear that, Stephen! your philanthropical Gingerford!
And what did you do?”

“I did n't do nothin', — only laid down to die, I did.”

“But you did n't die, did you?”

“No! This man he come along, and brought me here.”

“Here? to the niggers?”

“Yes! You would n't have me, so they took me, and
dried me, and fed me, — good folks, niggers!” Fessenden's
bore this simple testimony.

What is it makes the Frisbie color heighten so? Is it
Gentleman Bill's quiet smile, as he stands by and hears
this conversation?

“And you have been here ever since?” says the man,
in a humbler key, and with a milder look, than before.

“Yes! It 's a re'l good place!” says the youth.

“But a'n't you ashamed to live with niggers?”

“Ashamed? What for? Nobody else was good to me.
But they was good to me. I a'n't ashamed.”

The Frisbie color heightens more and more. He looks
at that wretched dwelling, — he glances aside at Mr.


Page 133
Williams, that coal-black Christian, of sad and resigned
demeanor, waiting ruefully to see the roof torn off, — the
only roof that had afforded shelter to the perishing outcast.
Mr. Frisbie is not one of the “soft kind,” but
he feels the prick of conscience in his heart.

“Why did n't you go to the poorhouse? Did n't anybody
tell you to?”

“Yes, that 's what they said. But nobody showed me
the way, and I could n't find it.”

“Where did you come from? Who are you?”


“Who is Fessenden?”

“The man that owns me. But he whipped me and shet
me up, and I would n't stay.”

“Where does he live?”

“Don't know. Away off.”

“You 'd better go back to him, had n't you?”

“No! I like these folks. Best folks I ever seen!”
avers the earnest youth.

Flush and confusion are in the rich man's face. He
turns up an uneasy glance at Adsly's men, already on the
roof; then coughs, and says to Stephen, —

“This is interesting!”

“Very,” says Stephen.

“Don't you remember, I was going to make some provision
for this fellow, — I 'd have seen him safe in the almshouse,
if nothing more, — but you suggested Gingerford's.”

“I supposed Gingerford would be delighted to take him
in,” grins Stephen.

“Instead of that, he turns him out in the storm! Did
you ever hear of such sham philanthropy? By George!”
cries Frisbie, in his indignation against the Judge, “there 's
more real philanthropy in these niggers” — checking himself,
and glancing again at the workmen on the roof.


Page 134

“What 's philanthropy?” asked Fessenden's. “Is that
what you 're tearin' their house down for? I 'm sorry!”

Frisbie is flustered. He is ashamed of appearing “soft.”
He wishes heartily to be well rid of the niggers. But something
in his own heart rebels against the course he has
taken to eject them.

“Just hold on there a minute, Adsly!”

“Ay, ay!” says Adsly. And the work stops.

“Now what do I do this for?” exclaims Frisbie, vexed
at himself the instant he has spoken. And he frowns, and
blows his nose furiously. “It 's because I am too good-natured

“No, no, sir, — I beg your pardon!” says Mr. Williams,
his heart all aglow with gratitude. “To be kind
and merciful to the poor, that is n't to be too good-natured,

“Well, well! I a'n't one of your milk-and-water sort.
Look at such a man as Gingerford, for example! But I
guess, come case in hand, you 'll find as much genuine humanity
in me, Adsly, as in them that profess so much.
Wait till to-morrow before you knock the old shell to
pieces. I 'll give 'em another day. And in the mean
time, boy,” turning to Fessenden's, “you must find you
another home. Either go back to your guardian, or I 'll
send you over to the almshouse. These people can't keep
you, for they 'll have no house in these parts to keep themselves

“So?” says Fessenden's. “They kep' me when they
had a house, and I 'll stay with them when they have n't
got any.”

Something in the case of this unfortunate stripling
interests Frisbie. His devotion to his new friends is so
sincere, and so simply expressed, that the robust, well-fed
man is almost touched by it.


Page 135

“I vow, it 's a queer case, Stephen! What do you
think of it?”

“I think —” says the joker.

“What do you think? Out with it!”

“You own that vacant lot opposite Gingerford's?”

“Yes; what of that?”

“I think, then, instead of pulling the house down, I 'd
just move it over there, niggers and all —”

“And set it opposite the Judge's!” exclaims Frisbie,
catching gleefully at the idea.

“Exactly,” says Stephen; “and give him enough of
niggers for one while.”

“I 'll do it! — Adsly! Adsly! See here, Adsly! Do
you suppose this old box can be moved?”

“I guess so. 'T a'n't very large. Ruther think the
frame 'll hold together.”

“Will you undertake the job?”

“Wal, I never moved a house. There 's Cap'en Slade,
he moves houses. He 's got all the tackle for it, and I
ha'n't. I suppose I can git him, if you want me to see to
the job.”

Agreed! It did not take Frisbie long to decide. It
was such a tremendous joke! A nest of niggers under the
dainty Gingerford nose! ho, ho! Whip up, Stephen!
And the red and puffy face, redder and puffier still with
immense fun, rode off.

6. VI.

Adsly and his men disappeared also, to return with
Cap'en Slade and his tackle on the morrow. Then Joe
began to dance and scream like a little devil.


Page 136

“Have a ride! have a ride! O mammy! they 're
gunter snake th' ole house through the village to-morrer,
an' we 're all gunter have a ride! free gratis for nothin'!
'thout payin' for 't neither! A'n't we, Bill?”

Mrs. Williams sits right down, overcome by the surprise.

“Now I want to know if that 'ere 's so?”

“That 's what 't looks like now,” says Mr. Williams.
“We 're goin' to be sot opposite Mr. Gingerford's.”

“'Ristocratic!” cries Joe, putting on airs. “That 's
what 'll tickle Bill!”

“O, laws!” exclaims Mrs. Williams, with humorous
sadness, — “what a show th' ole cabin 'll make, stuck
down there 'mongst all them fine housen!”

“I don't know 's I quite like the notion,” says her husband,
with a good-natured expansion of his serious features.
“I 'm 'fraid we sha' n't be welcome neighbors down there.
'T a'n't so much out o' kindness to us as it is out o' spite
to the Gingerfords, that the house is to be moved instid o'
tore down.”

“That 's the glory of the Lord! Even the wrath of
man shall praise him!” utters the old grandmother, devoutly.

“Won't it be jimmy?” crows Joe. “He 's a jolly ole
brick, that Frisbie! I 'm a-gunter set straddle on the
ridge-pole an' carry a flag. Hooray!”

“I consider that the situation will be very much preferable
to this,” observes Gentleman Bill, polishing his hat
with his coat-sleeve. “Better quarter of the town; more
central; eligible locality for establishing a tailor-shop.”

“Legible comicality for stablin' a shailor-top!” stammers
Joe, mimicking his brother.

Upon which Bill — as he sometimes did, when excited —
relapsed into the vulgar but expressive idiom of the family.


Page 137
“Shet yer head, can't ye?” And he lifted a hand
with intent to clap it smartly upon the part the occlusion
of which was desirable.

Joe shrieked and fled.

“No quarrellin' on a 'casion like this!” interposes the
old woman, covering the boy's retreat. “This 'ere 's a
time for joy and thanks, an' nuffin' else. Bless the Lord,
I knowed he 'd keep an eye on to th' ole house. Did n't
I tell ye that boy 'd bring us good luck? It 's all on his
account the house a'n't tore down, an' I consider it a
mighty Providence from fust to last. Was n't I right,
when I said I guessed I 'd have faith, an' git the washin'
out? Bless the Lord, I could cry!”

And cry she did, with a fulness of heart which, I think,
might possibly have convinced even the jocund Frisbie
that there was something better than an old, worn-out,
spiteful jest in the resolution he had taken to have the
house moved, instead of razed.

And now the deaf old patriarch in the corner became
suddenly aware that something exciting was going forward;
but being unable clearly to comprehend what, and
chancing to see Fessenden's coming in, he gave expression
to his exuberant emotions by rising, and shaking the lad's
passive hand, with the usual highly polite salutation.

“Tell him we 're all a-gunter have a ride,” said Joe.

But as Fessenden's could n't tell him loud enough, Joe
screamed the news.

“Say?” asked the old man, raising a feeble hand to his
ear, and stooping and smiling.

“Put th' ole house on wheels, an' dror it!” shrieked

“Yes, yes!” chuckled the old man. “I remember!
Six hills in a row. Busters!” — looking wonderfully
knowing, and with feeble forefinger raised, nodding and


Page 138
winking at his great-grandchild, — as it were across the
dim gulf of a hundred years which divided the gleeful boyhood
of Joe from the second childhood of the ancient

The next day came Adsly and his men again, with
Cap'en Slade and his tackle, and several yokes of oxen
with drivers. Levers and screws moved the house from
its foundations, and it was launched upon rollers. Then,
progress! Then, sensation in Timberville! Some said it
was Noah's ark sailing down the street. The household
furniture of the patriarch was mostly left on board the
antique craft, but Noah and his family followed on foot.
They took their live stock with them, — cow and calf, and
poultry and pig. Joe and his great-grandfather carried
each a pair of pullets in their hands. Gentleman Bill
drove the pig, with a rope tied to his (piggy's) leg. Mr.
Williams transported more poultry, — turkeys and hens,
in two great flopping clusters, slung over his shoulder,
with their heads down. The women bore crockery and
other frangible articles, and helped Fessenden's drive the
cow. A picturesque procession, not noiseless! The bosses
shouted to the men, the drivers shouted to the oxen, loud
groaned the beams of the ark, the cow lowed, the calf
bawled, great was the squawking and squealing!

Gentleman Bill was sick of the business before they had
gone half-way. He wished he had stayed in the shop, instead
of coming over to help the family, and make himself
ridiculous. There was not much pleasure in driving that
stout young porker. Many a sharp jerk lamed the hand
that held the rope that restrained the leg that piggy
wanted to run with. Besides (as I believe swine and
some other folks invariably do under the like circumstances),
piggy always tried to run in the wrong direction.
To add to Gentleman's Bill's annoyance, spectators soon


Page 139
became numerous, and witty suggestions were not wanting.

“Take him up in your arms,” said somebody.

“Take advantage of his contrariness, and drive him
t' other way,” said somebody else.

“Ride him,” proposed a third.

“Make a whistle of his tail, an' blow it, an' he 'll foller
ye!” screamed a bright school-boy.

“Stick some of yer tailor's needles into him!” “Sew
him up in a sack, and shoulder him!” “Take up his
hind-legs, and push him like a wheelbarrer!” And so
forth, and so forth, till Bill was in a fearful sweat and
rage, partly with the pig, but chiefly with the uncivil

“Ruther carry me on your back, some rainy night, had
n't ye?” said Fessenden's, in all simplicity, perceiving his

“You did n't excruciate my wrist so like time!”
groaned Bill. And what was more, darkness covered that
other memorable journey.

As for Joe, he liked it. Though he was not allowed to
ride the ridge-pole and wave a flag through the village, as
he proposed, he had plenty of fun on foot. He went
swinging his chickens, and frequently pinching them to
make them musical. The laughter of the lookers-on did n't
trouble him in the least; for he could laugh louder than
any. But his sisters were ashamed, and Mr. Williams
looked grave; for they were, actually, human! and I suppose
they did not like to be jeered at, and called a swarm
of niggers, any more than you or I would.

So the journey was accomplished; and the stupendous
joke of Frisbie's was achieved. Conceive Mrs. Gingerford's
wonder, when she beheld the ark approaching! Fancy
her feelings, when she saw it towed up and moored in


Page 140
front of her own door, — the whole tribe of Noah, lowing
cow, bawling calf, squawking poultry, and squealing pig,
and so forth, and so forth, accompanying! This, then,
was the meaning of the masons at work over there since
yesterday. They had been preparing the new foundations
on which the old house was to rest. So the stunning truth
broke upon her: niggers for neighbors! What had she
done to merit such a dispensation?

What done, unhappy lady? Your own act has drawn
down upon you this retribution. You yourself have done
quite as much towards bringing that queer craft alongside
as yonder panting and lolling oxen. They are but the
brute instruments, while you have been a moral agent in
the matter. One word, uttered by you three nights ago,
has had the terrible magic in it to summon forth from the
mysterious womb of events this extraordinary procession.
Had but a different word been spoken, it would have
proved equally magical, though we might never have
known it; that breath by your delicate lips would have
blown back these horrible shadows, and instead of all this
din and confusion of house-hauling, we should have had
silence this day in the streets of Timberville. You don't
see it? In plain phrase, then, understand: you took not
in the stranger at your gate; but he found refuge with
these blacks, and because they showed mercy unto him
the sword of Frisbie's wrath was turned aside from them,
and, edged by Stephen's witty jest, directed against you
and yours. Hence this interesting scene which you look
down upon from your windows, at the beautiful hour of
sunset, which you love. And, O, to think of it! between
your chamber and those golden sunsets that negro-hut
and those negroes will always be henceforth!

But we will not mock at your calamity. You did precisely
what any of us would have been only too apt to do


Page 141
in your place. You told the simple truth, when you said
you did n't want the ragged wretch in your house. And
what person of refinement, I should like to know, would
have wanted him? For, say what you will, it is a most
disagreeable thing to admit downright dirty vagabonds into
our elegant dwellings. And dangerous, besides; for they
might murder us in the night, or steal something! O,
we fastidious and fearful! where is our charity? where is
the heart of trust? There was of old a Divine Man, who
had not where to lay his head, — whom the wise of those
days scoffed at as a crazy fellow, — whom respectable people
shunned, — who made himself the companion of the
poor, the comforter of the distressed, the helper of those in
trouble, and the healer of diseases, — who shrank neither
from the man or woman of sin, nor from the loathsome
leper, nor from sorrow and death for our sakes, — whose
gospel we now profess to live by, and —

But let us not be “soft.” We are reasonably Christian,
we hope; and it shows low breeding to be ultra. (Was the
Carpenter's Son low-bred?)

7. VII.

And now the Judge rides home in the dusk of the
December day. It is still light enough, however, for him
to see that Frisbie's vacant lot has been made an Ararat
of; and he could hear the Noachian noises, were it never
so dark. The awful jest bursts upon him; he hears the
screaming of the bomb-shell, then the explosion. But the
mind of this man is (so to speak) casemated. It is a
shock, — but he never once loses his self-possession. His


Page 142
quick perception detects Friend Frisbie behind the gun;
and he smiles with his intelligent, fine-cut face. Shall
malice have the pleasure of knowing that the shot has told?
Our orator is too sagacious for that. There is never any
use in being angry; that is one of his maxims. Therefore,
if he feels any chagrin, he will smother it. If there is a
storm within, the world shall see only the rainbow, that
radiant smile of his. Cool is Gingerford! He has seized
the subject instantly, and calculated all its bearings. He
is a man to make the best of it; and even the bitterness
which is in it shall, if possible, brew him some wholesome
drink. To school his mind to patience, to practise daily
the philanthropy he teaches, — this will be much; and
already his heart is humbled and warmed. And who
knows, — for with all his sincerity and aspiration he has
an eye to temporal uses, — who knows but this stumbling-block
an enemy has placed in his way may prove the stepping-stone
of his ambition?

“What is all this, James?” he inquires of his son, who
comes out to the gate to meet him.

“Frisbie's meanness!” says the young man, almost
choking. “And the whole town is laughing at us!”

“Laughing at us? What have we done?” mildly answers
the parent. “I tell you what, James, they sha' n't
laugh at us long. We can live so as to compel them to
reverence us; and if there is any ridicule attached to the
affair, it will soon rest where it belongs.”

“Such a sty stuck right down under our noses!” mutters
the mortified James.

“We will make of it an ornament,” retorts the Judge,
with mounting spirits. “Come with me,” — taking the
youth's arm. “My son, call no human habitation a sty.
These people are our brothers, and we will show them the
kindness of brethren.”


Page 143

A servant receives the horse, and Gingerford and his
son cross the street.

“Good evening, Friend Williams! So you have concluded
to come and live neighbor to us, have you?”

Friend Williams was at the end of the house, occupied
in improvising a cow-shed under an old apple-tree. Piggy
was already tied to the trunk of the tree, and the hens
and turkeys were noisily selecting their roosts in the
boughs. At sight of the Judge, whose displeasure he
feared, the negro was embarrassed, and hardly knew what
to say. But the pleasant greeting of the silver-toned voice
reassured him, and he stopped his work to frame his candid,
respectful answer.

“It was Mr. Frisbie that concluded. All I had to do
was to go with the house wherever he chose to move it.”

“Well, he might have done much worse by you. You
have a nice landlord, a nice landlord, Mr. Williams. Mr.
Frisbie is a very fine man.”

It was Gingerford's practice to speak well of everybody
with whom he had any personal relations, and especially
well of his enemies; because, as he used to say to his son,
evil words commonly do more harm to him who utters
them than to those they are designed to injure, while fair
and good words are easily spoken, and are the praise of
their author, if of nobody else; for, if the subject of them
is a bad man, they will not be accepted as literally true
by any one that knows him, but, on the contrary, they
will be set down to the credit of your good-nature, — or
who knows but they may become coals of fire upon the
head of your enemy, and convert him into a friend?

James had now an opportunity to test the truth of these
observations. Was Mr. Williams convinced that Frisbie
was a nice landlord and a fine man? By no means. But
that Judge Gingerford was a fine man, and a charitable,


Page 144
he believed more firmly than ever. Then there was Stephen
standing by, — having, no doubt, been sent by his
master to observe the chagrin of the Gingerfords, and to
bring back the report thereof; who, when he heard the
Judge's words, looked surprised and abashed, and presently
stole away, himself discomfited.

“I pray the Lord,” said Mr. Williams, humbly and
heartily, “you won't consider us troublesome neighbors.”

“I hope not,” replied the Judge; “and why should I?
You have a good, honest reputation, Friend Williams;
and I hear that you are a peaceable and industrious family.
We ought to be able to serve each other in many ways.
What can I do for you, to begin with? Would n't you
like to turn your cow and calf into my yard?”

“Thank you a thousand times, if I can just as well as
not,” said the grateful negro. “We had to tear down the
shed and pig-pen when we moved the house, and I ha'n't
had time to set 'em up again.”

“And I imagine you have had enough to do, for one
day. Let your children drive the creatures through the
gate yonder; my man will show them the shed. Are you
a good gardener, Mr. Williams?”

“I 've done consid'able at that sort of work, sir.”

“I 'm glad of that. I have to hire a good deal of gardening
done. I see we are going to be very much
obliged to your landlord for bringing us so near together.
And this is your father?”

“My grandfather, sir,” said Mr. Williams.

“Your grandfather? I must shake hands with him.”

“Sarvant, sah,” said the old man, cap off, bowing and
smiling there in the December twilight.

“He 's deaf as can be,” said Mr. Williams; “you 'll
have to talk loud, to make him hear. He 's more 'n a
hundred years old.”


Page 145

“You astonish me!” exclaimed the Judge. “A very
remarkable old person! I should delight to converse with
him, — to know what his thoughts are in these new times,
and what his memories are of the past, which, I suppose,
is even now more familiar to his mind than the objects of
to-day. God bless you, my venerable friend!” shaking
hands a second time with the ancient black, and speaking
in a loud voice.

“Tankee, sah, — very kind!” smiled the flattered old
man. “Sarvant, sah.”

“'T is you who are kind, to take notice of young fellows
like me,” pleasantly replied the Judge. “Well, good
evening, friends. I shall always be glad to know if there
is anything I can do for you. Ha! what is this?”

It was the cow and calf coming back again, followed by
Joe and Fessenden's.

“Gorry!” cried Joe, “wa'n't that man mad? Thought
he 'd bite th' ole cow's tail off!”

“What man? My man? Dorson?”

“Yes,” said honest Fessenden's; “he said he 'd be
damned if he 'd have a nigger's critters along with

“Then we 'll afford him an early opportunity to be
damned,” observed the Judge. “Drive them back again.
I 'll go with you. By the way, Mr. Williams,” — Gingerford
saw Dorson approaching, and spoke loud enough for
him to hear and understand, — “are you accustomed to
taking care of horses? I may find it necessary to employ
some one before long.”

“Wal, yes, sir; I 'm tol'able handy about a stable,”
replied the negro.

“Hollo, there!” called the man, somewhat sullenly,
“drive that cow back here! Why did n't you tell me
't was the boss's orders?”


Page 146

“Did tell him so; and he said as how I lied,” said Joe,
— driving the animals back triumphantly.

The Judge departed with his son, — a thoughtful and
aspiring youth, who pondered deeply what he had seen
and heard, as he walked by his father's side. And Mr.
Williams, greatly relieved and gratified by the interview,
hastened to relate to his family the good news. And the
praises of Gingerford were on all their tongues, and in
their prayers that night he was not forgotten.

Three days after, the Judge's man was dismissed from
his place, in consequence of difficulties originating in the
affair of the cow. The Judge had sought an early opportunity
to converse with him on the subject.

“A negro's cow, Mr. Dorson,” said he, “is as good as
anybody's cow; and I consider Mr. Williams as good a
man as you are.”

The white coachman could not stand that; and the
result was that Gingerford had a black coachman in a
few days. The situation was offered to Mr. Williams, and
very glad he was to accept it.

8. VIII.

Thus the wrath of man continued to work the welfare
of these humble Christians. It is reasonable to doubt
whether the Judge was at heart delighted with his new
neighbors; and jolly Mr. Frisbie enjoyed the joke somewhat
less, I suspect, than he anticipated. One party enjoyed
it nevertheless. It was a serious and solid satisfaction
to the Williams family. No member of which, with
the exception, perhaps, of Joe, exhibited greater pleasure


Page 147
at the change in their situation than the old patriarch. It
rejuvenated him. His hearing was almost restored. “One
move more,” he said, “and I shall be young and spry ag'in
as the day I got my freedom,” — that day, so many, many
years ago, which he so well remembered! Well, the “one
move more” was near; and the morning of a new freedom,
the morning of a more perfect youth and gladness,
was not distant.

It was the old man's delight to go out and sit in the
sun before the door in the clear December weather, and
pull off his cap to the Judge as he passed. To get a
bow, and perhaps a kind word, from the illustrious Gingerford,
was glory enough for one day, and the old man
invariably hurried into the house to tell of it.

But one morning a singular thing occurred. To all
appearances — to the eyes of all except one — he remained
sitting out there in the sun after the Judge had gone.
But Fessenden's looking up suddenly, and, staring at
vacancy, cried, —


“What, child?” asked Mrs. Williams.

“The old man!” said Fessenden's. “Comin' into the
door! Don't ye see him?”

Nobody saw him but the lad; and of course all were
astonished by his earnest announcement of the apparition.
The old grandmother hastened to look out. There sat her
father still, on the bench by the apple-tree, leaning against
the trunk. But the sight did not satisfy her. She ran
out to him. The smile of salutation was still on his lips,
which seemed just saying, “Sarvant, sah,” to the Judge.
But those lips would never move again. They were the
lips of death.

“What is the matter, Williams?” asked the Judge, on
his return home that afternoon.


Page 148

“My gran'ther is dead, sir; and I don't know where to
bury him.” This was the negro's quiet and serious answer.

“Dead?” ejaculates the Judge. “Why, I saw him
only this morning, and had a smile from him!”

“That was his last smile, sir. You can see it on his
face yet. He went to heaven with that smile, we trust.”

The Judge leaves everything and goes home with his
coachman. Sure enough! there is the same smile he saw
in the morning, frozen on the face of the corpse.

“Gently and late death came to him!” says Gingerford.
“Would we could all die as happy! There is no
occasion to mourn, my good woman.”

“Bless the Lord, I don't mourn!” replied the old negress.
“But I 'm so brimful of thanks, I must cry for 't!
He died a blessed ole Christian; an' he 's gone straight to
glory, if there 's anything in the promises. He is free
now, if he never was afore; — for, though they pretend
there a'n't no slaves in this 'ere State, an' the law freed us
years ago, seems to me there a'n't no re'l liberty for us,
'cept this!” She pointed at the corpse, then threw up
her eyes and hands with an expression of devout and joyful
gratitude. “He 's gone where there a'n't no predijice
agin color, bless the Lord! He 's gone where all them
that 's been washed with the blood of Christ is all of one
color in his sight!” Then turning to the Judge, — “And
you 'll git your reward, sir, be sure o' that!”

“My reward?” And Gingerford, touched with genuine
emotion, shook his head sadly.

“Yes, sir, your reward,” repeated the old woman, tenderly
arranging the sheet over the still breast and folded
hands of the corpse. “For makin' his last days happy, —
for makin' his last minutes happy, I may say. That 'ere
smile was for you, sir. You was kinder to him 'n folks in
gin'ral. He wa'n't used to 't. An' he felt it. An' he 's


Page 149
gone to glory with the news on 't. An' it 'll be sot down
to your credit there, in the Big Book.”

Where was the Judge's eloquence? He could not find
words to frame a fitting reply to this ignorant black woman,
whose emotion was so much deeper than any fine
phrases of his could reach, and whose simple faith and
gratitude overwhelmed him with the sudden conviction that
he had never yet said anything to the purpose, in all his
rhetorical defences of the down-trodden race. From that
conviction came humility. Out of humility rose inspiration.
Two days later his eloquence found tongue; and
this was the occasion of it.

The body of the old negro was to be buried. That he
should be simply put into the ground, and nothing said,
any more than if he were a brute, did not seem befitting
the obsequies of so old a man and so faithful a Christian.
The family had natural feelings on that subject. They
wanted to have a funeral sermon.

Now it so happened that there was to be another funeral
in the village about that time. The old minister, had he
been living, might have managed to attend both. But the
young minister could not think of such a thing. The
loveliest flower of maidenhood in his parish had been cut
down. One of the first families had been bereaved. Day
and night he must ponder and scribble to prepare a suitable
discourse. And then, having exhausted spiritual grace
in bedecking the tomb of the lovely, should he — good
heavens! could he descend from those heights of beauty
and purity to the grave of a superannuated negro? Could
divine oratory so descend?

“On that fair mountain leave to feed,
And batten on this moor?
Ought the cup of consolation, which he extended to his
best, his worthiest friends and parishioners, to be passed
in the same hour to thick African lips?


Page 150

Which questions were, of course, decided in the negative.
There was another minister in the village, but he was sick.
What should be done? To go wandering about the world
in search of somebody to preach the funeral sermon seemed
a hard case, — as Mr. Williams remarked to the Judge.

“Tell you what, Williams,” said the Judge, — “don't
give yourself any more trouble on that account. I 'm not
a minister, nor half good enough for one,” — he could afford
to speak disparagingly of himself, the beautiful, gracious
gentleman! — “but if you can't do any better, I 'll
be present and say a few words at the funeral.”

“Thank you a thousand times!” said the grateful negro.
“Could n't be nothin' better 'n that! We never expected
no such honor; an' if my ole gran'ther could have
knowed you would speak to his funeral, he 'd have been
proud, sir!”

“He was a simple-minded old soul!” replied the Judge,
pleasantly. “And you 're another, Williams! However,
I 'm glad you are satisfied. So this difficulty is settled,
too.” For already one very serious difficulty had been
arranged through this man's kindness.

Did I neglect to mention it, — Low, when the old negro
died, his family had no place to bury him? The rest of
his race, dying before him, had been gathered to the
mother's bosom in distant places: long lines of dusky ancestors
in Africa; a few descendants in America, — here
and there a grave among New England hills. Only one, a
child of Mr. Williams's, had died in Timberville, and been
placed in the old burying-ground over yonder. But that
was now closed against interments. And as for purchasing
a lot in the new cemetery, — how could poor Mr.
Williams ever hope to raise money to pay for it?

“Williams,” said the Judge, “I own several lots there,
and if you 'll be a good boy, I 'll make you a present of


Page 151

Ah, Gingerford! Gingerford! was it pure benevolence
that prompted the gift? Was the smile with which you
afterwards related the circumstance to dear Mrs. Gingerford
a smile of sincere satisfaction at having done a good
action and witnessed the surprise and gratitude of your
black coachman? Tell us, was it altogether an accident,
with no tincture whatever of pleasant malice in it, that the
lot you selected, out of several, to be the burial-place of
negroes, lay side by side with the proud family-vault of
your neighbor Frisbie?

The Judge was one of those cool heads, who, when they
have received an injury, do not go raving of it up and
down, but put it quietly aside, and keep their temper, and
rest content to wait patiently, perhaps years, perhaps a
lifetime, for the opportunity of a sudden and pat revenge.
Indeed, I suppose he would have been well satisfied to answer
Frisbie's spite with the nobler revenge of magnanimity
and smiling forbearance, had not the said opportunity presented
itself. It was a temptation not to be resisted.
And he, the most philanthropical of men, proved himself
capable of being also the most cruel.

There, in the choicest quarter of the cemetery, shone the
white ancestral monuments of the Frisbies. Death, the
leveller, had not, somehow, levelled them, — proud and
pretentious even in their tombs. You felt, as you read
the sculptured record of their names and virtues, that
even their ashes were better than the ashes of common
mortals. They rendered sacred not only the still enclosure
where they lay, but all that beautiful sunny bank; so that
nobody else had presumed to be buried near them, but a
space of many square rods on either side was left still unappropriated,
— until now, when, lo! here comes a black
funeral, and the corpse of one who had been a slave in his
day, to profane the soil!


Page 152

9. IX.

Nor is this all, alas! There comes not one funeral procession
only. The first has scarcely entered the cemetery
when a second arrives. Side by side the dead of this day
are to be laid: our old friend the negro, and the lovely
young lady we have mentioned, — even the fairest of Mr.
Frisbie's own children.

For it is she. The sweetest of the faces Fessenden's
saw that stormy night at the window, and yearned to be
with in the bright room where the fire was, — that dear
warm face is cold in yonder coffin which the afflicted family
are attending to the tomb.

And Frisbie, as we have somewhere said, loved his children.
And in the anguish of his bereavement he had not
heeded the singular and somewhat humiliating fact that
his daughter had issued from the portal of Time in company
with one of his most despised tenants, — that, in the
same hour, almost at the same moment, Death had summoned
them, leading them together, as it were, one with
his right hand and one with his left, the way of all the
world. So that here was a surprise for the proud and
grief-smitten parent.

“What is all that, Stephen?” he demands, with sudden

“It seems to be another funeral, sir. They 're buryin'
somebody next lot to yours.”

“Who, who, Stephen?”

“I — I ruther guess it 's the old nigger, sir,” says

The mighty man is shaken. Wrath and sorrow and


Page 153
insulted affection convulse him for a moment. His face
grows purple, then pale, and he struggles with his neckcloth,
which is choking him. He sees the tall form of Gingerford
at the grave, and knows what it is to wish to
murder a man. Were those two Christian neighbors quite
alone, in this solitude of the dead, I fear one of them
would soon be a fit subject for a coroner's inquest and an
epitaph. O pride and hatred! with what madness can
you inspire a mortal man! O Fessenden's! bless thy
stars that thou art not the only fool alive this day, nor
the greatest!

Fessenden's walked alone to the funeral, talking by himself,
and now and then laughing. Gentleman Bill thought
his conduct indecorous, and reproved him for it.

“Gracious!” said the lad, “don't you see who I 'm talkin'

“No, sir, — I can't say I see anybody, sir.”

“No?” exclaimed the astonished youth. “Why, it 's
the old man, goin' to his own funeral!”

This, you may say, was foolishness; but, O, it was innocent
and beautiful foolishness, compared with that of Frisbie
and his sympathizers, when they discovered the negro
burial, and felt that their mourning was too respectable to
be the near companion of the mourning of those poor
blacks, and that their beautiful dead was too precious to
be laid in the earth beside their dead.

What could be done? Indignation and sorrow availed
nothing. The tomb of the lovely was prepared, and it only
remained to pity the affront to her ashes, as she was committed
to the chill depths amid silence and choking tears.
It is done; and the burial of the old negro is deferentially
delayed until the more aristocratic rites are ended.

Gingerford set the example of standing with his hat off
in the yellow sunshine and wintry air, with his noble head


Page 154
bowed low, while the last prayer was said at the maiden's
sepulture. Then he lifted up his face, radiant; and the
flashing and rainbow - spanned torrent of his eloquence
broke forth. He had reserved his forces for this hour.
He had not the Williams family and their friends alone
for an audience, but many who had come to attend the
young lady's funeral remained to hear the Judge. It was
worth their while. Finely as he had discoursed at the hut
of the negroes, before the corpse was brought out, that
was scarcely the time, that was certainly not the place, for
a crowning effort of his genius. But here his larger audience,
the open air, the blue heavens, the graves around,
the burial of the young girl side by side with the old
slave, all contributed to inspire him. Human brotherhood,
universal love, the stern democracy of death, immortality,
— these were his theme. Life, incrusted with conventionalities;
Death, that strips them all away. This is the
portal (pointing to the grave) at which the soul drops all
its false encumbrances, — rank, riches, sorrow, shame. It
enters naked into eternity. There worldly pride and arrogance
have no place. There false judgment goes out
like a sick man's night-lamp, in the morning light of truth.
In the courts of God only spiritual distinctions prevail.
That you were a lord in this life will be of no account
there, where the humblest Christian love is preferred before
the most brilliant selfishness, — where the master is degraded,
and the servant is exalted. And so forth, and so
forth; a brief but eloquent address, of which it is to be
regretted that no report exists.

Then came the prayer, — for the Judge had a gift that
way too; and the tenderness and true feeling with which
he spoke of the old negro and the wrongs of his race drew
tears from many eyes. Then a hymn was sung, — those
who had stayed to sneer joining their voices seriously with
those of the lowly mourners.


Page 155

10. X.

What did I tell you?” says Gingerford, walking
familiarly arm in arm with his son James, not long after,
— a beautiful sight, to friendly village eyes, as perhaps he
is aware. (Does he not hear in fancy the whispers of
admiring elderly ladies? — “What a charming picture of
father and son! How fond and proud they are of each
other!” for the Judge, as we know, is human.) “Who
ridicules us now? Our good friend Frisbie could not do
us a real injury; we have transmuted his base coin into
gold. Look at these people”; and the elegant Gingerford
touches his hat, smilingly, to one and another. “They
are all on our side, James.”

But the sagacious man is for once mistaken. The
Frisbie faction is still strong in town; and, while many
have been won over from it by the Judge's admirable
behavior towards his colored neighbors, others of its adherents,
more violent than ever in their animosity towards
him and them since his neat retort upon Frisbie, are even
now meditating mischief.

Not directly against Gingerford, — they know too well
how the blows of malice recoil from that polished shield
of his. Their aim is lower; it is levelled at his black
friends over the way. Frisbie himself, sick enough of his
own sorry jest, and tired of his tenants, was still too
proud to molest them further, — and, let us believe, too
humane. The poor, stricken, humbled parent kept his
own counsel, and certainly gave no encouragement to the
leaders of the plot; perhaps he was not even aware of it.
But did not Stephen know his master's secret mind?


Page 156
“Of course he won't do anything to get the niggers out
of his house, since he has moved them in it; but do you
think he 's such a fool that he won't be glad to have us do
the job, while he knows nothing about it?”

Stephen is animated particularly by his hatred of
Gentleman Bill; and he has for a confederate one who is
moved by a still stronger personal resentment, — the man
Dorson, Gingerford's late coachman, whose wrongs are
burning to be revenged on his successor; while pure and
unadulterated prejudice against color inspires the rest of
the whispering, skulking crew that surround the negro's
house this wild March night.

It is Saturday evening again, and late. The village
lights are out, or going out, all save one, — this which
shines through the dingy curtains of the negro's hut; for
these dark-skinned children of the Night are sadly inclined
to keep late hours. Within you see, seated, in his shirt-sleeves,
with his legs crossed and his foot resting upon the
wood-box, Gentleman Bill, taking his ease after his week's
work in the shop, and occasionally making a quiet observation.
At the other side of the stove is Joe, playing at
checkers with Fessenden's, who, feeble-minded in many
things, showed an aptitude for that game. Again the two
girls are putting away the supper dishes, their mother is
mending a garment, the old grandmother is nodding over
her knitting, and Mr. Williams, with spectacles on nose, is
turning the leaves of the old Bible.

“Seems to me the winders in this house rattle more 'n
they used to be accustomed to,” remarks the gentleman
of the family as the gusts of wind smite the sashes. “Antiquated
old shell, rather.”

“What 's ant-acquainted?” grins woolly-headed Joe,
looking up from his game of checkers. “Any relation to


Page 157

“O father!” says Bill, despairingly, “a'n't that child
ever going to have a suitable bringing up?”

“What about that child?” says the grandmother,
jealously, suddenly waking and plying her knitting-needles.

“I was speaking of the old house,” replies Bill. “Loose
in the jints, since it was moved; hardly a fit residence for
a respectable, growing family.”

“Now don't you say a word ag'inst the old house!”
retorts the grandmother. “I 'd as soon you 'd go to
'busin' me. It 's been a home to us ever sence afore you
was born, and it 's a good home yit. The Lord has presarved
it to us, and I trust he 'll presarve it still, —
anyways till I 'm ready to move to my long home. Then,
if you want a better house, I hope you 'll find it.”

“I did n't mean no disrespect to the venerable tenement,
granny. But you see it 's really gitting too small;
very much deficient in room, 'specially since I brought
home a permanent boarder on my back,” — with a glance
at Fessenden's.

“That 's a mos' ongrateful remark, William! We
should n't have the ole house at all, if 't wa'n't for him.
Ye brought good luck into it, when ye brought him
in, an' it 's stayed with us ever sence, bless the boy!
Don't ye go to pickin' no flaws in the Lord's blessin's; if
ye do they 'll be took away from us, sure!”

“You quite misapprehend the drift of my observation,”
says Bill, and gives a sudden start. “By George! that
wa'n't no winder rattling!”

“Sounded to me like a stone throwed agin the clab-boards,”
remarks Mr. Williams, mildly anxious, looking
up from his book.

The stalwart young black steps quietly to a window, on
the side of the house struck by the missile, and lifts a
corner of the curtain. “Jes' le' me ketch any feller up to


Page 158
that sort o' thing, that 's all!” quoth he, with a menacing

He sees darkness without, and nothing more. But unfortunately
his head, defined upon the background of the
lamp-lighted room, presents a tempting mark to his enemy,
Stephen, at that moment lurking behind a pile of the family
stove-wood, a stick of which is in his hand.

The two checker-players give little heed to the disturbance;
and now suddenly Joe springs from his chair,
overturning it, and shrieking triumphantly, “King-row!
king-row! crown him!” performs a sort of wild war-dance
about the room, and sits down again, under his brother's
severe reproof.

“Keep quiet, can't ye? you young barbarian! Don't
you see I 'm reconnoitrin'? Hush!”

An instant of deep silence followed, then came a crash
at the window. At the same time fragments of glass
struck Gentleman Bill's face and shirt-bosom, and a club,
— a stick of green stove-wood, in short, — its force broken
by the sash, fell into the room at his feet.

Alarm and consternation entered with it: the checker-board
was overturned; the girls dropped a dish or two;
Bill, brandishing the club, rushed to the door, his father
calling to him and trying to hold him back.

“No, sir!” cries the athletic young fellow. “A head
gits cracked for this!”

He flings the door open, and leaps out, to be met by a
shower of small stove-wood, hurled by assailants shielded
from sight by the outer darkness, while the light streaming
from within exposes him to view. Perceiving the
odds against him, the young man hurls his club and
retreats into the room with blood trickling from a gash
in his cheek. One stick enters with him, whizzes past
the elder Williams's grizzled locks, and strikes the stove-pipe


Page 159
with no small clatter, before the door is closed and

“Guess they thought I did n't bring in wood enough!”
says Fessenden's, laying the stick in the box. “But they
better take care!”

Mrs. Williams and the girls begin to sob and cry. The
old grandmother hastens to stanch Bill's wound, saying
to Joe by the way, “Under the bed, deary! You 'll git
hurted!” Bill pushes her off: “Never mind a little blood!
More 'll flow 'fore this little business is finished!” And
he snatches an axe from the corner.

“Be quiet! they 're knocking!” says mild Mr. Williams,
laying his hand on his son's arm.

“Let Bill fire the old axe at 'em!” gibbers Joe, peeping
affrighted from beneath the bed.

“Just open the door sudden for answer!” says Bill,
holding the weapon ready, his eyes gleaming wickedly.

“That won't do, William. — What do you want out

The knocking ceases, and a voice replies: “We 've come
to clean you out. Agree to quit this house and this town
within a week, and it 's all right; we give you that time.”

“I pay Mr. Frisbie rent for this house,” humbly suggests
Mr. Williams.

“Can't help that. We 've got tired of niggers in this
town, and we 're going to be rid of you.”

“But if we agree to stay?” Bill shouts back.

“You 'll have to go. If you stick, some of ye 'll get
hurt, and your house 'll come down,” roars the voice

“I know that man!” says Fessenden's, recognizing the
voice. “He would n't let your cows in Judge's yard.”

“Dorson!” remarks Bill. “Jest open, father, and he 'll
be a head shorter in no time!”


Page 160

“Do it, pappy!” cries Mrs. Williams, with sudden fire
blazing through her tears.

“It is written, `Thou shalt not kill,'” replies the pious

“Do you promise?” demands Dorson.

“No, I can't promise that,” says the negro. “We have
no other house to go to, and we shall try to stay here as
long as Mr. Frisbie allows us. We mean to be peaceable,
law-abiding people, and to merit no good man's ill-will;
and why should you persecute us in this way?”

“We have trusted the Lord so fur, and mean to trust
him still,” adds the quavering treble of the old woman's
earnest voice.

“See, then, if the Lord will keep your door from tumbling
in!” And there is a sound of retreating footsteps.

“Why did n't ye fire the axe, Bill? why did n't ye fire
the axe?” squeaks Joe, showing the whites of his eyes
under a corner of the bed-quilt.

“Trust the Lord! trust the Lord!” the old woman
kept saying, with exalted energy.

“Trust the Lord!” echoed Fessenden's, in a loud voice,
seized by one of his strange fits of inspiration. “You
won't lose your house; they say so!”

“Who says so?” demanded Bill.

“The angels!”

“Go to thunder with your angels!” exclaimed the
impatient young black, irreverently. “They 're coming
again! Now, father!”

As he spoke the door burst in with a great crash, followed
by the but-end of a stick of timber which had been
used as a battering-ram. As that was precipitately retiring,
axe-wielding Gentleman Bill rushed out after it, but
came to grief before he could strike a blow; the muffled
villains who carried it flung it down at sight of him, and


Page 161
the heavy end, striking his shin, fell thence upon his foot.
The axe dropped from his hand, and he lay howling, when
Mr. Williams ran to his rescue.

“They 'll kill you, pappy!” shrieked Mrs. Williams,
trying to support the broken door.

“I won't let 'em; but they may kill me!” cried that
simple fellow, Fessenden's; and, running out, he placed
himself, resolute and erect, between the negroes and their
assailants. “Don't hit them, hit me!” he called out, in
perfect sincerity and earnest self-devotion.

I do not suppose that even the most depraved of the
rioters was bad enough to intend the poor innocent lad a
serious harm. But he was in their way; and in the
excitement of the moment a billet of hard wood was flung
at the negroes. Its pointed end struck his temple, and he
staggered back towards the house, following Mr. Williams,
who was helping Gentleman Bill across the threshold.

11. XI.

The rioters seemed aware that a grave accident had
occurred, and to be frightened at their own work. The
shattered door was closed, and in an instant all was silent
about the hut, except the wind. And when, a minute
later, the door was boldly opened again, and Mr. Williams
appeared, fearless of missiles, calling loudly, “Help!
will somebody bring help, for mercy's sake!” the dispersing
mob, in still greater alarm, skulked off, and made no
sign. As if they, who had committed a deed of darkness,
could be expected now to come forward and expose themselves
by answering that appeal!


Page 162

Mr. Williams goes back into the hut, but reappears
presently, and is hurrying into the street, when he sees a
lantern coming over towards him from the Judge's gate.

“That you, Williams?” cries Gingerford, meeting him.
“What 's the matter? Where are you going?”

“I was going for you first, then for the doctor.” And
Williams relates in a few words what has chanced.

“I heard the villains!” says the Judge, striding towards
the hut. “They shall rue this night, if there is
law in the land!”

He has regained his self-control when he enters and
looks upon the pallid face and lifeless form of the simple
boy lying upon the bed, with the women bending over
him, trying to bring back to that shattered clay sense and

Williams returns with the doctor, and now excited
neighbors — for the noise of the riot has got abroad —
begin to come in; among them, our friend Frisbie, accompanied
by Stephen, looking pale. They find Gingerford,
with his coat off, chafing one of the hands of the murdered

“Gentlemen,” says the Judge, stepping back to make
room for the doctor, “you see what has been done!”

“How did it happen?” falters poor Frisbie, very much

“Yes!” exclaims Stephen, with conspicuous innocence,
“how did it happen?”

“It was a perfectly murderous attack!” cries Gentleman
Bill, nursing his broken shin in the corner. “They
had smashed that winder, and the door, — the fiends
incarnate, — and disfigured my features with a club; and
when I rushed out to defend the domicile, they flung a
big beam at my legs, — crippled me, as you see; then as
my father went to pick me up, and the clubs kept coming,


Page 163
that boy sacrificed himself; he rushed between us and
the cowardly attackers, and got a stick side the head.
That 's the history, gentlemen.”

“Who were they?” demands the flushed Frisbie.

“Ay, ay! who were they?” echoes the virtuous Stephen.

“I a'n't prepared to give evidence on that p'int,
though one or two of 'em is known,” says Gentleman Bill,

Frisbie makes a choking effort to speak, and finally
addresses his much-hated neighbor: “Judge Gingerford,
you and I have had some political differences, and perhaps
personal misunderstandings, but about this thing we feel
alike. No man can abominate such proceedings more
than I do.”

“I am relieved to hear you say it,” replies the Judge;
“and, believing that you speak sincerely, I offer you my

Frisbie, flustered, could not well refuse this magnanimously
proffered token of reconciliation; and the Judge's
shining behavior shed something of its lustre even upon
him. The spectators were so much affected by this scene,
that Stephen immediately turned and offered his hand to
Gentleman Bill, who wrung it with a sardonic grin.

“Excuse me, my friends,” said Frisbie, looking very
apoplectic in the face, “but I left a sick child at home;
I was watching with her when Stephen came to tell me
there was a disturbance in the village.”

“I had heard a noise and gone out to the stable,
thinking it was the horses,” Stephen makes haste to

“Now, if I can do nothing, I will go back to my
sick child,” adds Frisbie. “What do you think, doctor?”


Page 164

“The boy is dead,” replies the doctor, quietly, having
completed his examination.

“He died for us!” exclaimed the old negress, bending
with devoutly clasped hands over the foot of the bed.
“He gave up his life for us poor colored folks, when the
children of the Evil One surrounded us. He was simple
in his mind; but he done all a Christian could do. I
bless the Lord for him, for he was a child of God, and he
has gone to be an angel with the rest.”

Then Mrs. Williams and the girls came and wept over
the pale corpse, and Joe, moved by the contagion of grief,
sent up a wild wail of woe that filled the hut.

12. XII.

Of course there was an inquest, and of course the whole
thing was duly reported in the newspapers; in consequence
of which a stranger from a neighboring county
drove into the village one afternoon, and, after making
some inquiries of persons he met, reined up at the negro's
hut. As he declined to alight (for good reasons, apparently,
being a man of such marvellous ponderosity that,
once out of the buggy, which his breadth of beam completely
filled, it were a wonder how he could ever get back
into it again), Mr. Williams, who had just finished his
dinner, went out to speak with him.

He had come to get some particulars concerning the
inquest and the subject of it.

“About the boy,” said Mr. Williams; “I suppose I can
tell you as much as anybody; but about the inquest
you 'd better see the coroner or Judge Gingerford.”


Page 165

“The inquest did n't seem to be very satisfactory,” remarked
the stranger, with slow, measured words from
broad, unctuous lips.

“They brought in that he come to his death at the
hands of some person or persons unknown. Some have
been suspected, but the only one we felt pretty sure of
has run off, — that was the man Dorson. 'T was better
so, I suppose.”

“I think justice on the offenders would have been more
in the interest of religion and good morals,” said the
stranger, with grave emphasis. “And have you no personal

“What would be the good of that?” replied Williams.
“The feeling in town is so strong ag'inst 'em, I don't believe
they 'll molest us in futur'. And for what they 've
done, I believe they 'll find punishment enough in their
own consciences. So we all feel except my son that had
his leg hurt; he is pretty hot ag'inst 'em yet, but he 'll
feel better as his leg gits well.”

“Did the boy have suitable burial?”

“Yes, sir, I should say so; I 'll go and show you where,
if you like.”

“It might be a satisfaction to see his grave,” remarked
the stranger; and, with the negro walking beside the
buggy, he drove over to the new cemetery.

“This is my lot, sir,” said Williams. “It was given
me by the Judge when my old gran'ther died. This
new grave is the one, — next to Mr. Frisbie's lot. We
had a regular sermon by a minister, and a fine one it was,
though he did n't say no such beautiful words as the
Judge said over my old gran'ther. But that could n't
have been expected; there a'n't another such a man in
the world as Judge Gingerford! He has had his enemies,
but I believe they 're turning about to be his friends.


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Mr. Frisbie was very much displeased because he gave
us this lot, but he is getting over it. He has had another
child very sick, — he buried one here the very day my
old gran'ther was laid in the ground; and the Judge has
been to speak friendly words to him; and my old mother
is over there now, nussing the girl, — they found it hard
to git a good nuss; and, sir, even Mr. Frisbie appears
very much different towards us now.”

“I learn that you behaved in a very Christian manner
towards this boy. As I have some interest in him, I shall
wish to reward you for your trouble.” And the fat man
took out a fat pocket-book.

“Excuse me, sir,” said Williams, “but I could n't tech
no pay for what we done for him, no way in the world.
He was a blessing to us from the time he come into our
house, and he has left a blessing with us. The angels
sent him to us, — he always said they did, and I believe

“He had curious notions about the angels,” said the
stranger, with a peculiar smile. “His friends tried to
teach him differently, but he was singularly obstinate
about certain things; I even — perhaps they were too
harsh with him, in the way of their duty. Justice is justice,
and I must insist upon your taking some compensation;
this is very slight.”

He held two or three bills in his hand, and Williams
could see that one of them bore the figures “100,” — more
money than he had ever possessed. Still it would have
seemed to him like the price of blood, had he taken it;
and reluctantly at last the man put the notes back into
his pocket.

“May I ask, are you a relative of his?” said Williams,
as they parted at the cemetery gate.

“O no; he has wealthy relatives, though they do not


Page 167
care to be publicly known as such; his mental infirmity
— you understand.”

“Then may I ask if you —”

“I was only employed to take care of him. My name,”
said the stranger, touching up his horse, “is — Fessenden.”

Not long after, Mr. Williams had the remains of his
child taken from the old burying-ground, and laid beside
the patriarch. Simple tombstones marked the spot, and
commemorated the old man's extreme age and early bondage.

Another tablet, of pure white marble, was erected over
the grave of the simple boy, bearing the device of a dove,
and this inscription, — chosen from the old grandmother's
words, —

“A Child of God.”

Need we say that the hand of Judge Gingerford was in
all these things?

After the outrage upon the Williams family, in the full
flush of public indignation and sympathy, the sagacious
man had caused a subscription paper to circulate for their
benefit. That he should lead off the list with a liberal
figure was natural, it was characteristic of the superb
Gingerford; but that the very next name on the paper,
pledging an equal sum, should have been Frisbie's, was
astonishing to Timberville, — to everybody, in point of
fact, except the Judge, who had warily chosen his moment,
and who knew his man.

Such a beginning insured the success of the paper. And
yet that success did not account for the fact, that, after
funereal and lapidary expenses had been paid, Gingerford,
treasurer of the fund, had still five hundred dollars of it


Page 168
left in his hands! As poor Mr. Williams declared with
tearful eyes that his folks had no use for so much money,
what did the Judge do with it but build them a new
house, — “really a residence, a mansion,” as Gentleman
Bill termed it, — upon a lot purchased for the purpose,
situated not quite in front of the Judge's, not exactly
under the Gingerford windows, as fastidious readers will
be pleased to know. How large a part of all that money
had passed through the portly pocket-book of the portly
stranger, and was in fact the origin of the fund which
had been devised to cover it, Williams, fortunately for his
peace of mind, never surmised.

Early in the spring — But no more! Have n't we
already prolonged our sketch to an intolerable length,
considering the subject of it? Not a lover in it! and,
of course, it is preposterous to think of making a readable
story without one. Why did n't we make young Gingerford
in love with — let 's see — Miss Frisbie? and Miss
Frisbie's brother (it would have required but a stroke of
the pen to give her one) in love with — Creshy Williams?
What melodramatic difficulties might have been built upon
this foundation! And as for Fessenden's, he should have
turned out to be the son of either Gingerford or Frisbie!
But it is too late now. We acknowledge our fatal mistake.
Who cares for the fortunes of a miserable negro family?
Who cares for a — Fessenden's?