Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, In A Two-Story White House,
SHOWING THAT SLAVERY'S SHADOWS FALL EVEN THERE.
by Harriet E. Wilson
Dedicated to Pauline Augusta Coleman Gates and Henry Louis Gates, Sr.
In Memory of Marguerite Elizabeth Howard Coleman, and Gertrude Helen
That care has iron crowns for many brows;
That Calvaries are everywhere, whereon
Virtue is crucified, and nails and spears
Draw guiltless blood; that sorrow sits and drinks
At sweetest hearts, till all their life is dry;
That gentle spirits on the rack of pain
Grow faint or fierce, and pray and curse by turns;
That hell's temptations, clad in heavenly guise
And armed with might, lie evermore in wait
Along life's path, giving assault to all."—HOLLAND.
IN offering to the public the following pages, the writer confesses her
inability to minister to the refined and cultivated, the pleasure
supplied by abler pens. It is not for such these crude narrations
appear. Deserted by kindred, disabled by failing health, I am forced to
some experiment which shall aid me in maintaining myself and child
without extinguishing this feeble life. I would not from these motives
even palliate slavery at the South, by disclosures of its appurtenances
North. My mistress was wholly imbued with SOUTHERN principles. I do not
pretend to divulge every transaction in my own life, which the
unprejudiced would declare unfavorable in comparison with treatment of
legal bondmen; I have purposely omitted what would most provoke shame in
our good anti-slavery friends at home.
My humble position and frank confession of errors will, I hope, shield
me from severe criticism. Indeed, defects are so apparent it requires no
skilful hand to expose them.
I sincerely appeal to my colored brethren universally for patronage,
hoping they will not condemn this attempt of their sister to be erudite,
but rally around me a faithful band of supporters and defenders.
H. E. W.
MAG SMITH, MY MOTHER.
Oh, Grief beyond all other griefs, when fate
First leaves the young heart lone and desolate
In the wide world, without that only tie
For which it loved to live or feared to die;
Lorn as the hung-up lute, that ne'er hath spoken
Since the sad day its master-chord was broken!
LONELY MAG SMITH! See her as she walks with downcast eyes and heavy
heart. It was not always thus. She HAD a loving, trusting heart. Early
deprived of parental guardianship, far removed from relatives, she was
left to guide her tiny boat over life's surges alone and inexperienced.
As she merged into womanhood, unprotected, uncherished, uncared for,
there fell on her ear the music of love, awakening an intensity of
emotion long dormant. It whispered of an elevation before unaspired to;
of ease and plenty her simple heart had never dreamed of as hers. She
knew the voice of her charmer, so ravishing, sounded far above her. It
seemed like an angel's, alluring her upward and onward. She thought she
could ascend to him and become an equal. She surrendered to him a
priceless gem, which he proudly garnered as a trophy, with those of
other victims, and left her to her fate. The world seemed full of
hateful deceivers and crushing arrogance. Conscious that the great bond
of union to her former companions was severed, that the disdain of
others would be insupportable, she determined to leave the few friends
she possessed, and seek an asylum among strangers. Her offspring came
unwelcomed, and before its nativity numbered weeks, it passed from
earth, ascending to a purer and better life.
"God be thanked," ejaculated Mag, as she saw its breathing cease; "no
one can taunt HER with my ruin."
Blessed release! may we all respond. How many pure, innocent children
not only inherit a wicked heart of their own, claiming life-long
scrutiny and restraint, but are heirs also of parental disgrace and
calumny, from which only long years of patient endurance in paths of
rectitude can disencumber them.
Mag's new home was soon contaminated by the publicity of her fall; she
had a feeling of degradation oppressing her; but she resolved to be
circumspect, and try to regain in a measure what she had lost. Then some
foul tongue would jest of her shame, and averted looks and cold
greetings disheartened her. She saw she could not bury in forgetfulness
her misdeed, so she resolved to leave her home and seek another in the
place she at first fled from.
Alas, how fearful are we to be first in extending a helping hand to
those who stagger in the mires of infamy; to speak the first words of
hope and warning to those emerging into the sunlight of morality! Who
can tell what numbers, advancing just far enough to hear a cold welcome
and join in the reserved converse of professed reformers, disappointed,
disheartened, have chosen to dwell in unclean places, rather than
encounter these "holier-than-thou" of the great brotherhood of man!
Such was Mag's experience; and disdaining to ask favor or friendship
from a sneering world, she resolved to shut herself up in a hovel she
had often passed in better days, and which she knew to be untenanted.
She vowed to ask no favors of familiar faces; to die neglected and
forgotten before she would be dependent on any. Removed from the
village, she was seldom seen except as upon your introduction, gentle
reader, with downcast visage, returning her work to her employer, and
thus providing herself with the means of subsistence. In two years many
hands craved the same avocation; foreigners who cheapened toil and
clamored for a livelihood, competed with her, and she could not thus
sustain herself. She was now above no drudgery. Occasionally old
acquaintances called to be favored with help of some kind, which she was
glad to bestow for the sake of the money it would bring her; but the
association with them was such a painful reminder of by-gones, she
returned to her hut morose and revengeful, refusing all offers of a
better home than she possessed. Thus she lived for years, hugging her
wrongs, but making no effort to escape. She had never known plenty,
scarcely competency; but the present was beyond comparison with those
innocent years when the coronet of virtue was hers.
Every year her melancholy increased, her means diminished. At last no
one seemed to notice her, save a kind-hearted African, who often called
to inquire after her health and to see if she needed any fuel, he having
the responsibility of furnishing that article, and she in return mending
or making garments.
"How much you earn dis week, Mag?" asked he one Saturday evening.
"Little enough, Jim. Two or three days without any dinner. I washed for
the Reeds, and did a small job for Mrs. Bellmont; that's all. I shall
starve soon, unless I can get more to do. Folks seem as afraid to come
here as if they expected to get some awful disease. I don't believe
there is a person in the world but would be glad to have me dead and out
of the way."
"No, no, Mag! don't talk so. You shan't starve so long as I have barrels
to hoop. Peter Greene boards me cheap. I'll help you, if nobody else
A tear stood in Mag's faded eye. "I'm glad," she said, with a softer
tone than before, "if there is ONE who isn't glad to see me suffer. I
b'lieve all Singleton wants to see me punished, and feel as if they
could tell when I've been punished long enough. It's a long day ahead
they'll set it, I reckon."
After the usual supply of fuel was prepared, Jim returned home. Full of
pity for Mag, he set about devising measures for her relief. "By golly!"
said he to himself one day—for he had become so absorbed in Mag's
interest that he had fallen into a habit of musing aloud—"By golly! I
wish she'd MARRY me."
"Who?" shouted Pete Greene, suddenly starting from an unobserved corner
of the rude shop.
"Where you come from, you sly nigger!" exclaimed Jim.
"Come, tell me, who is't?" said Pete; "Mag Smith, you want to marry?"
"Git out, Pete! and when you come in dis shop again, let a nigger know
it. Don't steal in like a thief."
Pity and love know little severance. One attends the other. Jim
acknowledged the presence of the former, and his efforts in Mag's behalf
told also of a finer principle.
This sudden expedient which he had unintentionally disclosed, roused his
thinking and inventive powers to study upon the best method of
introducing the subject to Mag.
He belted his barrels, with many a scheme revolving in his mind, none of
which quite satisfied him, or seemed, on the whole, expedient. He
thought of the pleasing contrast between her fair face and his own dark
skin; the smooth, straight hair, which he had once, in expression of
pity, kindly stroked on her now wrinkled but once fair brow. There was a
tempest gathering in his heart, and at last, to ease his pent-up
passion, he exclaimed aloud, "By golly!" Recollecting his former
exposure, he glanced around to see if Pete was in hearing again.
Satisfied on this point, he continued: "She'd be as much of a prize to
me as she'd fall short of coming up to the mark with white folks. I
don't care for past things. I've done things 'fore now I's 'shamed of.
She's good enough for me, any how."
One more glance about the premises to be sure Pete was away.
The next Saturday night brought Jim to the hovel again. The cold was
fast coming to tarry its apportioned time. Mag was nearly despairing of
meeting its rigor.
"How's the wood, Mag?" asked Jim.
"All gone; and no more to cut, any how," was the reply.
"Too bad!" Jim said. His truthful reply would have been, I'm glad.
"Anything to eat in the house?" continued he.
"No," replied Mag.
"Too bad!" again, orally, with the same INWARD gratulation as before.
"Well, Mag," said Jim, after a short pause, "you's down low enough. I
don't see but I've got to take care of ye. 'Sposin' we marry!"
Mag raised her eyes, full of amazement, and uttered a sonorous "What?"
Jim felt abashed for a moment. He knew well what were her objections.
"You's had trial of white folks any how. They run off and left ye, and
now none of 'em come near ye to see if you's dead or alive. I's black
outside, I know, but I's got a white heart inside. Which you rather
have, a black heart in a white skin, or a white heart in a black one?"
"Oh, dear!" sighed Mag; "Nobody on earth cares for ME—"
"I do," interrupted Jim.
"I can do but two things," said she, "beg my living, or get it from
"Take me, Mag. I can give you a better home than this, and not let you
He prevailed; they married. You can philosophize, gentle reader, upon
the impropriety of such unions, and preach dozens of sermons on the
evils of amalgamation. Want is a more powerful philosopher and preacher.
Poor Mag. She has sundered another bond which held her to her fellows.
She has descended another step down the ladder of infamy.
MY FATHER'S DEATH.
Misery! we have known each other,
Like a sister and a brother,
Living in the same lone home
Many years—we must live some
Hours or ages yet to come.
JIM, proud of his treasure,—a white wife,—tried hard to fulfil his
promises; and furnished her with a more comfortable dwelling, diet, and
apparel. It was comparatively a comfortable winter she passed after her
marriage. When Jim could work, all went on well. Industrious, and fond
of Mag, he was determined she should not regret her union to him. Time
levied an additional charge upon him, in the form of two pretty
mulattos, whose infantile pranks amply repaid the additional toil. A few
years, and a severe cough and pain in his side compelled him to be an
idler for weeks together, and Mag had thus a reminder of by-gones. She
cared for him only as a means to subserve her own comfort; yet she
nursed him faithfully and true to marriage vows till death released her.
He became the victim of consumption. He loved Mag to the last. So long
as life continued, he stifled his sensibility to pain, and toiled for
her sustenance long after he was able to do so.
A few expressive wishes for her welfare; a hope of better days for her;
an anxiety lest they should not all go to the "good place;" brief advice
about their children; a hope expressed that Mag would not be neglected
as she used to be; the manifestation of Christian patience; these were
ALL the legacy of miserable Mag. A feeling of cold desolation came over
her, as she turned from the grave of one who had been truly faithful to
She was now expelled from companionship with white people; this last
step—her union with a black—was the climax of repulsion.
Seth Shipley, a partner in Jim's business, wished her to remain in her
present home; but she declined, and returned to her hovel again, with
obstacles threefold more insurmountable than before. Seth accompanied
her, giving her a weekly allowance which furnished most of the food
necessary for the four inmates. After a time, work failed; their means
How Mag toiled and suffered, yielding to fits of desperation, bursts of
anger, and uttering curses too fearful to repeat. When both were
supplied with work, they prospered; if idle, they were hungry together.
In this way their interests became united; they planned for the future
together. Mag had lived an outcast for years. She had ceased to feel the
gushings of penitence; she had crushed the sharp agonies of an awakened
conscience. She had no longings for a purer heart, a better life. Far
easier to descend lower. She entered the darkness of perpetual infamy.
She asked not the rite of civilization or Christianity. Her will made
her the wife of Seth. Soon followed scenes familiar and trying.
"It's no use," said Seth one day; "we must give the children away, and
try to get work in some other place."
"Who'll take the black devils?" snarled Mag.
"They're none of mine," said Seth; "what you growling about?"
"Nobody will want any thing of mine, or yours either," she replied.
"We'll make 'em, p'r'aps," he said. "There's Frado's six years old, and
pretty, if she is yours, and white folks'll say so. She'd be a prize
somewhere," he continued, tipping his chair back against the wall, and
placing his feet upon the rounds, as if he had much more to say when in
the right position.
Frado, as they called one of Mag's children, was a beautiful mulatto,
with long, curly black hair, and handsome, roguish eyes, sparkling with
an exuberance of spirit almost beyond restraint.
Hearing her name mentioned, she looked up from her play, to see what
Seth had to say of her.
"Wouldn't the Bellmonts take her?" asked Seth.
"Bellmonts?" shouted Mag. "His wife is a right she-devil! and if—"
"Hadn't they better be all together?" interrupted Seth, reminding her of
a like epithet used in reference to her little ones.
Without seeming to notice him, she continued, "She can't keep a girl in
the house over a week; and Mr. Bellmont wants to hire a boy to work for
him, but he can't find one that will live in the house with her; she's
so ugly, they can't."
"Well, we've got to make a move soon," answered Seth; "if you go with
me, we shall go right off. Had you rather spare the other one?" asked
Seth, after a short pause.
"One's as bad as t'other," replied Mag. "Frado is such a wild, frolicky
thing, and means to do jest as she's a mind to; she won't go if she
don't want to. I don't want to tell her she is to be given away."
"I will," said Seth. "Come here, Frado?"
The child seemed to have some dim foreshadowing of evil, and declined.
"Come here," he continued; "I want to tell you something."
She came reluctantly. He took her hand and said: "We're going to move,
by-'m-bye; will you go?"
"No!" screamed she; and giving a sudden jerk which destroyed Seth's
equilibrium, left him sprawling on the floor, while she escaped through
the open door.
"She's a hard one," said Seth, brushing his patched coat sleeve. "I'd
risk her at Bellmont's."
They discussed the expediency of a speedy departure. Seth would first
seek employment, and then return for Mag. They would take with them what
they could carry, and leave the rest with Pete Greene, and come for them
when they were wanted. They were long in arranging affairs
satisfactorily, and were not a little startled at the close of their
conference to find Frado missing. They thought approaching night would
bring her. Twilight passed into darkness, and she did not come. They
thought she had understood their plans, and had, perhaps, permanently
withdrawn. They could not rest without making some effort to ascertain
her retreat. Seth went in pursuit, and returned without her. They
rallied others when they discovered that another little colored girl was
missing, a favorite playmate of Frado's. All effort proved unavailing.
Mag felt sure her fears were realized, and that she might never see her
again. Before her anxieties became realities, both were safely returned,
and from them and their attendant they learned that they went to walk,
and not minding the direction soon found themselves lost. They had
climbed fences and walls, passed through thickets and marshes, and when
night approached selected a thick cluster of shrubbery as a covert for
the night. They were discovered by the person who now restored them,
chatting of their prospects, Frado attempting to banish the childish
fears of her companion. As they were some miles from home, they were
kindly cared for until morning. Mag was relieved to know her child was
not driven to desperation by their intentions to relieve themselves of
her, and she was inclined to think severe restraint would be healthful.
The removal was all arranged; the few days necessary for such migrations
passed quickly, and one bright summer morning they bade farewell to
their Singleton hovel, and with budgets and bundles commenced their
weary march. As they neared the village, they heard the merry shouts of
children gathered around the school-room, awaiting the coming of their
"Halloo!" screamed one, "Black, white and yeller!" "Black, white and
yeller," echoed a dozen voices.
It did not grate so harshly on poor Mag as once it would. She did not
even turn her head to look at them. She had passed into an insensibility
no childish taunt could penetrate, else she would have reproached
herself as she passed familiar scenes, for extending the separation once
so easily annihilated by steadfast integrity. Two miles beyond lived the
Bellmonts, in a large, old fashioned, two-story white house, environed
by fruitful acres, and embellished by shrubbery and shade trees. Years
ago a youthful couple consecrated it as home; and after many little feet
had worn paths to favorite fruit trees, and over its green hills, and
mingled at last with brother man in the race which belongs neither to
the swift or strong, the sire became grey-haired and decrepit, and went
to his last repose. His aged consort soon followed him. The old
homestead thus passed into the hands of a son, to whose wife Mag had
applied the epithet "she-devil," as may be remembered. John, the son,
had not in his family arrangements departed from the example of the
father. The pastimes of his boyhood were ever freshly revived by
witnessing the games of his own sons as they rallied about the same goal
his youthful feet had often won; as well as by the amusements of his
daughters in their imitations of maternal duties.
At the time we introduce them, however, John is wearing the badge of
age. Most of his children were from home; some seeking employment; some
were already settled in homes of their own. A maiden sister shared with
him the estate on which he resided, and occupied a portion of the house.
Within sight of the house, Seth seated himself with his bundles and the
child he had been leading, while Mag walked onward to the house leading
Frado. A knock at the door brought Mrs. Bellmont, and Mag asked if she
would be willing to let that child stop there while she went to the
Reed's house to wash, and when she came back she would call and get her.
It seemed a novel request, but she consented. Why the impetuous child
entered the house, we cannot tell; the door closed, and Mag hastily
departed. Frado waited for the close of day, which was to bring back her
mother. Alas! it never came. It was the last time she ever saw or heard
of her mother.
A NEW HOME FOR ME.
Oh! did we but know of the shadows so nigh,
The world would indeed be a prison of gloom;
All light would be quenched in youth's eloquent eye,
And the prayer-lisping infant would ask for the tomb.
For if Hope be a star that may lead us astray,
And "deceiveth the heart," as the aged ones preach;
Yet 'twas Mercy that gave it, to beacon our way,
Though its halo illumes where it never can reach.
As the day closed and Mag did not appear, surmises were expressed by the
family that she never intended to return. Mr. Bellmont was a kind,
humane man, who would not grudge hospitality to the poorest wanderer,
nor fail to sympathize with any sufferer, however humble. The child's
desertion by her mother appealed to his sympathy, and he felt inclined
to succor her. To do this in opposition to Mrs. Bellmont's wishes, would
be like encountering a whirlwind charged with fire, daggers and spikes.
She was not as susceptible of fine emotions as her spouse. Mag's opinion
of her was not without foundation. She was self-willed, haughty,
undisciplined, arbitrary and severe. In common parlance, she was a
SCOLD, a thorough one. Mr. B. remained silent during the consultation
which follows, engaged in by mother, Mary and John, or Jack, as he was
"Send her to the County House," said Mary, in reply to the query what
should be done with her, in a tone which indicated self-importance in
the speaker. She was indeed the idol of her mother, and more nearly
resembled her in disposition and manners than the others.
Jane, an invalid daughter, the eldest of those at home, was reclining on
a sofa apparently uninterested.
"Keep her," said Jack. "She's real handsome and bright, and not very
"Yes," rejoined Mary; "that's just like you, Jack. She'll be of no use
at all these three years, right under foot all the time."
"Poh! Miss Mary; if she should stay, it wouldn't be two days before you
would be telling the girls about OUR nig, OUR nig!" retorted Jack.
"I don't want a nigger 'round ME, do you, mother?" asked Mary.
"I don't mind the nigger in the child. I should like a dozen better than
one," replied her mother. "If I could make her do my work in a few
years, I would keep her. I have so much trouble with girls I hire, I am
almost persuaded if I have one to train up in my way from a child, I
shall be able to keep them awhile. I am tired of changing every few
"Where could she sleep?" asked Mary. "I don't want her near me."
"In the L chamber," answered the mother.
"How'll she get there?" asked Jack. "She'll be afraid to go through that
dark passage, and she can't climb the ladder safely."
"She'll have to go there; it's good enough for a nigger," was the reply.
Jack was sent on horseback to ascertain if Mag was at her home. He
returned with the testimony of Pete Greene that they were fairly
departed, and that the child was intentionally thrust upon their family.
The imposition was not at all relished by Mrs. B., or the pert, haughty
Mary, who had just glided into her teens.
"Show the child to bed, Jack," said his mother. "You seem most pleased
with the little nigger, so you may introduce her to her room."
He went to the kitchen, and, taking Frado gently by the hand, told her
he would put her in bed now; perhaps her mother would come the next
night after her.
It was not yet quite dark, so they ascended the stairs without any
light, passing through nicely furnished rooms, which were a source of
great amazement to the child. He opened the door which connected with
her room by a dark, unfinished passage-way. "Don't bump your head," said
Jack, and stepped before to open the door leading into her
apartment,—an unfinished chamber over the kitchen, the roof slanting
nearly to the floor, so that the bed could stand only in the middle of
the room. A small half window furnished light and air. Jack returned to
the sitting room with the remark that the child would soon outgrow those
"When she DOES, she'll outgrow the house," remarked the mother.
"What can she do to help you?" asked Mary. "She came just in the right
time, didn't she? Just the very day after Bridget left," continued she.
"I'll see what she can do in the morning," was the answer.
While this conversation was passing below, Frado lay, revolving in her
little mind whether she would remain or not until her mother's return.
She was of wilful, determined nature, a stranger to fear, and would not
hesitate to wander away should she decide to. She remembered the
conversation of her mother with Seth, the words "given away" which she
heard used in reference to herself; and though she did not know their
full import, she thought she should, by remaining, be in some relation
to white people she was never favored with before. So she resolved to
tarry, with the hope that mother would come and get her some time. The
hot sun had penetrated her room, and it was long before a cooling breeze
reduced the temperature so that she could sleep.
Frado was called early in the morning by her new mistress. Her first
work was to feed the hens. She was shown how it was ALWAYS to be done,
and in no other way; any departure from this rule to be punished by a
whipping. She was then accompanied by Jack to drive the cows to pasture,
so she might learn the way. Upon her return she was allowed to eat her
breakfast, consisting of a bowl of skimmed milk, with brown bread
crusts, which she was told to eat, standing, by the kitchen table, and
must not be over ten minutes about it. Meanwhile the family were taking
their morning meal in the dining-room. This over, she was placed on a
cricket to wash the common dishes; she was to be in waiting always to
bring wood and chips, to run hither and thither from room to room.
A large amount of dish-washing for small hands followed dinner. Then the
same after tea and going after the cows finished her first day's work.
It was a new discipline to the child. She found some attractions about
the place, and she retired to rest at night more willing to remain. The
same routine followed day after day, with slight variation; adding a
little more work, and spicing the toil with "words that burn," and
frequent blows on her head. These were great annoyances to Frado, and
had she known where her mother was, she would have gone at once to her.
She was often greatly wearied, and silently wept over her sad fate. At
first she wept aloud, which Mrs. Bellmont noticed by applying a
raw-hide, always at hand in the kitchen. It was a symptom of discontent
and complaining which must be "nipped in the bud," she said.
Thus passed a year. No intelligence of Mag. It was now certain Frado was
to become a permanent member of the family. Her labors were multiplied;
she was quite indispensable, although but seven years old. She had never
learned to read, never heard of a school until her residence in the
Mrs. Bellmont was in doubt about the utility of attempting to educate
people of color, who were incapable of elevation. This subject
occasioned a lengthy discussion in the family. Mr. Bellmont, Jane and
Jack arguing for Frado's education; Mary and her mother objecting. At
last Mr. Bellmont declared decisively that she SHOULD go to school. He
was a man who seldom decided controversies at home. The word once spoken
admitted of no appeal; so, notwithstanding Mary's objection that she
would have to attend the same school she did, the word became law.
It was to be a new scene to Frado, and Jack had many queries and
conjectures to answer. He was himself too far advanced to attend the
summer school, which Frado regretted, having had too many opportunities
of witnessing Miss Mary's temper to feel safe in her company alone.
The opening day of school came. Frado sauntered on far in the rear of
Mary, who was ashamed to be seen "walking with a nigger." As soon as she
appeared, with scanty clothing and bared feet, the children assembled,
noisily published her approach: "See that nigger," shouted one. "Look!
look!" cried another. "I won't play with her," said one little girl.
"Nor I neither," replied another.
Mary evidently relished these sharp attacks, and saw a fair prospect of
lowering Nig where, according to her views, she belonged. Poor Frado,
chagrined and grieved, felt that her anticipations of pleasure at such a
place were far from being realized. She was just deciding to return
home, and never come there again, when the teacher appeared, and
observing the downcast looks of the child, took her by the hand, and led
her into the school-room. All followed, and, after the bustle of
securing seats was over, Miss Marsh inquired if the children knew "any
cause for the sorrow of that little girl?" pointing to Frado. It was
soon all told. She then reminded them of their duties to the poor and
friendless; their cowardice in attacking a young innocent child;
referred them to one who looks not on outward appearances, but on the
heart. "She looks like a good girl; I think I shall love her, so lay
aside all prejudice, and vie with each other in shewing kindness and
good-will to one who seems different from you," were the closing remarks
of the kind lady. Those kind words! The most agreeable sound which ever
meets the ear of sorrowing, grieving childhood.
Example rendered her words efficacious. Day by day there was a manifest
change of deportment towards "Nig." Her speeches often drew merriment
from the children; no one could do more to enliven their favorite
pastimes than Frado. Mary could not endure to see her thus noticed, yet
knew not how to prevent it. She could not influence her schoolmates as
she wished. She had not gained their affections by winning ways and
yielding points of controversy. On the contrary, she was self-willed,
domineering; every day reported "mad" by some of her companions. She
availed herself of the only alternative, abuse and taunts, as they
returned from school. This was not satisfactory; she wanted to use
physical force "to subdue her," to "keep her down."
There was, on their way home, a field intersected by a stream over which
a single plank was placed for a crossing. It occurred to Mary that it
would be a punishment to Nig to compel her to cross over; so she dragged
her to the edge, and told her authoritatively to go over. Nig hesitated,
resisted. Mary placed herself behind the child, and, in the struggle to
force her over, lost her footing and plunged into the stream. Some of
the larger scholars being in sight, ran, and thus prevented Mary from
drowning and Frado from falling. Nig scampered home fast as possible,
and Mary went to the nearest house, dripping, to procure a change of
garments. She came loitering home, half crying, exclaiming, "Nig pushed
me into the stream!" She then related the particulars. Nig was called
from the kitchen. Mary stood with anger flashing in her eyes. Mr.
Bellmont sat quietly reading his paper. He had witnessed too many of
Miss Mary's outbreaks to be startled. Mrs. Bellmont interrogated Nig.
"I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" answered Nig, passionately, and then
related the occurrence truthfully.
The discrepancy greatly enraged Mrs. Bellmont. With loud accusations and
angry gestures she approached the child. Turning to her husband, she
"Will you sit still, there, and hear that black nigger call Mary a
"How do we know but she has told the truth? I shall not punish her," he
replied, and left the house, as he usually did when a tempest threatened
to envelop him. No sooner was he out of sight than Mrs. B. and Mary
commenced beating her inhumanly; then propping her mouth open with a
piece of wood, shut her up in a dark room, without any supper. For
employment, while the tempest raged within, Mr. Bellmont went for the
cows, a task belonging to Frado, and thus unintentionally prolonged her
pain. At dark Jack came in, and seeing Mary, accosted her with, "So you
thought you'd vent your spite on Nig, did you? Why can't you let her
alone? It was good enough for you to get a ducking, only you did not
stay in half long enough."
"Stop!" said his mother. "You shall never talk so before me. You would
have that little nigger trample on Mary, would you? She came home with a
lie; it made Mary's story false."
"What was Mary's story?" asked Jack.
It was related.
"Now," said Jack, sallying into a chair, "the school-children happened
to see it all, and they tell the same story Nig does. Which is most
likely to be true, what a dozen agree they saw, or the contrary?"
"It is very strange you will believe what others say against your
sister," retorted his mother, with flashing eye. "I think it is time
your father subdued you."
"Father is a sensible man," argued Jack. "He would not wrong a dog.
Where IS Frado?" he continued.
"Mother gave her a good whipping and shut her up," replied Mary.
Just then Mr. Bellmont entered, and asked if Frado was "shut up yet."
The knowledge of her innocence, the perfidy of his sister, worked
fearfully on Jack. He bounded from his chair, searched every room till
he found the child; her mouth wedged apart, her face swollen, and full
How Jack pitied her! He relieved her jaws, brought her some supper, took
her to her room, comforted her as well as he knew how, sat by her till
she fell asleep, and then left for the sitting room. As he passed his
mother, he remarked, "If that was the way Frado was to be treated, he
hoped she would never wake again!" He then imparted her situation to his
father, who seemed untouched, till a glance at Jack exposed a tearful
eye. Jack went early to her next morning. She awoke sad, but refreshed.
After breakfast Jack took her with him to the field, and kept her
through the day. But it could not be so generally. She must return to
school, to her household duties. He resolved to do what he could to
protect her from Mary and his mother. He bought her a dog, which became
a great favorite with both. The invalid, Jane, would gladly befriend
her; but she had not the strength to brave the iron will of her mother.
Kind words and affectionate glances were the only expressions of
sympathy she could safely indulge in. The men employed on the farm were
always glad to hear her prattle; she was a great favorite with them.
Mrs. Bellmont allowed them the privilege of talking with her in the
kitchen. She did not fear but she should have ample opportunity of
subduing her when they were away. Three months of schooling, summer and
winter, she enjoyed for three years. Her winter over-dress was a
cast-off overcoat, once worn by Jack, and a sun-bonnet. It was a source
of great merriment to the scholars, but Nig's retorts were so mirthful,
and their satisfaction so evident in attributing the selection to "Old
Granny Bellmont," that it was not painful to Nig or pleasurable to Mary.
Her jollity was not to be quenched by whipping or scolding. In Mrs.
Bellmont's presence she was under restraint; but in the kitchen, and
among her schoolmates, the pent up fires burst forth. She was ever at
some sly prank when unseen by her teacher, in school hours; not
unfrequently some outburst of merriment, of which she was the original,
was charged upon some innocent mate, and punishment inflicted which she
merited. They enjoyed her antics so fully that any of them would suffer
wrongfully to keep open the avenues of mirth. She would venture far
beyond propriety, thus shielded and countenanced.
The teacher's desk was supplied with drawers, in which were stored his
books and other et ceteras of the profession. The children observed Nig
very busy there one morning before school, as they flitted in
occasionally from their play outside. The master came; called the
children to order; opened a drawer to take the book the occasion
required; when out poured a volume of smoke. "Fire! fire!" screamed he,
at the top of his voice. By this time he had become sufficiently
acquainted with the peculiar odor, to know he was imposed upon. The
scholars shouted with laughter to see the terror of the dupe, who,
feeling abashed at the needless fright, made no very strict
investigation, and Nig once more escaped punishment. She had provided
herself with cigars, and puffing, puffing away at the crack of the
drawer, had filled it with smoke, and then closed it tightly to deceive
the teacher, and amuse the scholars. The interim of terms was filled up
with a variety of duties new and peculiar. At home, no matter how
powerful the heat when sent to rake hay or guard the grazing herd, she
was never permitted to shield her skin from the sun. She was not many
shades darker than Mary now; what a calamity it would be ever to hear
the contrast spoken of. Mrs. Bellmont was determined the sun should have
full power to darken the shade which nature had first bestowed upon her
as best befitting.
A FRIEND FOR NIG.
"Hours of my youth! when nurtured in my breast,
To love a stranger, friendship made me blest:—
Friendship, the dear peculiar bond of youth,
When every artless bosom throbs with truth;
Untaught by worldly wisdom how to feign;
And check each impulse with prudential reign;
When all we feel our honest souls disclose—
In love to friends, in open hate to foes;
No varnished tales the lips of youth repeat,
No dear-bought knowledge purchased by deceit."
WITH what differing emotions have the denizens of earth awaited the
approach of to-day. Some sufferer has counted the vibrations of the
pendulum impatient for its dawn, who, now that it has arrived, is
anxious for its close. The votary of pleasure, conscious of yesterday's
void, wishes for power to arrest time's haste till a few more hours of
mirth shall be enjoyed. The unfortunate are yet gazing in vain for
goldenedged clouds they fancied would appear in their horizon. The good
man feels that he has accomplished too little for the Master, and sighs
that another day must so soon close. Innocent childhood, weary of its
stay, longs for another morrow; busy manhood cries, hold! hold! and
pursues it to another's dawn. All are dissatisfied. All crave some good
not yet possessed, which time is expected to bring with all its morrows.
Was it strange that, to a disconsolate child, three years should seem a
long, long time? During school time she had rest from Mrs. Bellmont's
tyranny. She was now nine years old; time, her mistress said, such
privileges should cease.
She could now read and spell, and knew the elementary steps in grammar,
arithmetic, and writing. Her education completed, as SHE said, Mrs.
Bellmont felt that her time and person belonged solely to her. She was
under her in every sense of the word. What an opportunity to indulge her
vixen nature! No matter what occurred to ruffle her, or from what source
provocation came, real or fancied, a few blows on Nig seemed to relieve
her of a portion of ill-will.
These were days when Fido was the entire confidant of Frado. She told
him her griefs as though he were human; and he sat so still, and
listened so attentively, she really believed he knew her sorrows. All
the leisure moments she could gain were used in teaching him some feat
of dog-agility, so that Jack pronounced him very knowing, and was truly
gratified to know he had furnished her with a gift answering his
Fido was the constant attendant of Frado, when sent from the house on
errands, going and returning with the cows, out in the fields, to the
village. If ever she forgot her hardships it was in his company.
Spring was now retiring. James, one of the absent sons, was expected
home on a visit. He had never seen the last acquisition to the family.
Jack had written faithfully of all the merits of his colored protege,
and hinted plainly that mother did not always treat her just right. Many
were the preparations to make the visit pleasant, and as the day
approached when he was to arrive, great exertions were made to cook the
favorite viands, to prepare the choicest table-fare.
The morning of the arrival day was a busy one. Frado knew not who would
be of so much importance; her feet were speeding hither and thither so
unsparingly. Mrs. Bellmont seemed a trifle fatigued, and her shoes which
had, early in the morning, a methodic squeak, altered to an irregular,
"Get some little wood to make the fire burn," said Mrs. Bellmont, in a
sharp tone. Frado obeyed, bringing the smallest she could find.
Mrs. Bellmont approached her, and, giving her a box on her ear,
reiterated the command.
The first the child brought was the smallest to be found; of course, the
second must be a trifle larger. She well knew it was, as she threw it
into a box on the hearth. To Mrs. Bellmont it was a greater affront, as
well as larger wood, so she "taught her" with the raw-hide, and sent her
the third time for "little wood."
Nig, weeping, knew not what to do. She had carried the smallest; none
left would suit her mistress; of course further punishment awaited her;
so she gathered up whatever came first, and threw it down on the hearth.
As she expected, Mrs. Bellmont, enraged, approached her, and kicked her
so forcibly as to throw her upon the floor. Before she could rise,
another foiled the attempt, and then followed kick after kick in quick
succession and power, till she reached the door. Mr. Bellmont and Aunt
Abby, hearing the noise, rushed in, just in time to see the last of the
performance. Nig jumped up, and rushed from the house, out of sight.
Aunt Abby returned to her apartment, followed by John, who was muttering
"What were you saying?" asked Aunt Abby.
"I said I hoped the child never would come into the house again."
"What would become of her? You cannot mean THAT," continued his sister.
"I do mean it. The child does as much work as a woman ought to; and just
see how she is kicked about!"
"Why do you have it so, John?" asked his sister.
"How am I to help it? Women rule the earth, and all in it."
"I think I should rule my own house, John,"—
"And live in hell meantime," added Mr. Bellmont.
John now sauntered out to the barn to await the quieting of the storm.
Aunt Abby had a glimpse of Nig as she passed out of the yard; but to
arrest her, or shew her that SHE would shelter her, in Mrs. Bellmont's
presence, would only bring reserved wrath on her defenceless head. Her
sister-inlaw had great prejudices against her. One cause of the
alienation was that she did not give her right in the homestead to John,
and leave it forever; another was that she was a professor of religion,
(so was Mrs. Bellmont;) but Nab, as she called her, did not live
according to her profession; another, that she WOULD sometimes give Nig
cake and pie, which she was never allowed to have at home. Mary had
often noticed and spoken of her inconsistencies.
The dinner hour passed. Frado had not appeared. Mrs. B. made no inquiry
or search. Aunt Abby looked long, and found her concealed in an
outbuilding. "Come into the house with me," implored Aunt Abby.
"I ain't going in any more," sobbed the child.
"What will you do?" asked Aunt Abby.
"I've got to stay out here and die. I ha'n't got no mother, no home. I
wish I was dead."
"Poor thing," muttered Aunt Abby; and slyly providing her with some
dinner, left her to her grief.
Jane went to confer with her Aunt about the affair; and learned from her
the retreat. She would gladly have concealed her in her own chamber, and
ministered to her wants; but she was dependent on Mary and her mother
for care, and any displeasure caused by attention to Nig, was seriously
Toward night the coach brought James. A time of general greeting,
inquiries for absent members of the family, a visit to Aunt Abby's room,
undoing a few delicacies for Jane, brought them to the tea hour.
"Where's Frado?" asked Mr. Bellmont, observing she was not in her usual
place, behind her mistress' chair.
"I don't know, and I don't care. If she makes her appearance again, I'll
take the skin from her body," replied his wife.
James, a fine looking young man, with a pleasant countenance, placid,
and yet decidedly serious, yet not stern, looked up confounded. He was
no stranger to his mother's nature; but years of absence had erased the
occurrences once so familiar, and he asked, "Is this that pretty little
Nig, Jack writes to me about, that you are so severe upon, mother?"
"I'll not leave much of her beauty to be seen, if she comes in sight;
and now, John," said Mrs. B., turning to her husband, "you need not
think you are going to learn her to treat me in this way; just see how
saucy she was this morning. She shall learn her place."
Mr. Bellmont raised his calm, determined eye full upon her, and said, in
a decisive manner: "You shall not strike, or scald, or skin her, as you
call it, if she comes back again. Remember!" and he brought his hand
down upon the table. "I have searched an hour for her now, and she is
not to be found on the premises. Do YOU know where she is? Is she YOUR
"No! I have just told you I did not know where she was. Nab has her hid
somewhere, I suppose. Oh, dear! I did not think it would come to this;
that my own husband would treat me so." Then came fast flowing tears,
which no one but Mary seemed to notice. Jane crept into Aunt Abby's
room; Mr. Bellmont and James went out of doors, and Mary remained to
condole with her parent.
"Do you know where Frado is?" asked Jane of her aunt.
"No," she replied. "I have hunted everywhere. She has left her first
hiding-place. I cannot think what has become of her. There comes Jack
and Fido; perhaps he knows;" and she walked to a window near, where
James and his father were conversing together.
The two brothers exchanged a hearty greeting, and then Mr. Bellmont told
Jack to eat his supper; afterward he wished to send him away. He
immediately went in. Accustomed to all the phases of indoor storms, from
a whine to thunder and lightning, he saw at a glance marks of
disturbance. He had been absent through the day, with the hired men.
"What's the fuss?" asked he, rushing into Aunt Abby's.
"Eat your supper," said Jane; "go home, Jack."
Back again through the dining-room, and out to his father.
"What's the fuss?" again inquired he of his father.
"Eat your supper, Jack, and see if you can find Frado. She's not been
seen since morning, and then she was kicked out of the house."
"I shan't eat my supper till I find her," said Jack, indignantly. "Come,
James, and see the little creature mother treats so."
They started, calling, searching, coaxing, all their way along. No
Frado. They returned to the house to consult. James and Jack declared
they would not sleep till she was found.
Mrs. Bellmont attempted to dissuade them from the search. "It was a
shame a little NIGGER should make so much trouble."
Just then Fido came running up, and Jack exclaimed, "Fido knows where
she is, I'll bet."
"So I believe," said his father; "but we shall not be wiser unless we
can outwit him. He will not do what his mistress forbids him."
"I know how to fix him," said Jack. Taking a plate from the table, which
was still waiting, he called, "Fido! Fido! Frado wants some supper.
Come!" Jack started, the dog followed, and soon capered on before, far,
far into the fields, over walls and through fences, into a piece of
swampy land. Jack followed close, and soon appeared to James, who was
quite in the rear, coaxing and forcing Frado along with him.
A frail child, driven from shelter by the cruelty of his mother, was an
object of interest to James. They persuaded her to go home with them,
warmed her by the kitchen fire, gave her a good supper, and took her
with them into the sitting-room.
"Take that nigger out of my sight," was Mrs. Bellmont's command, before
they could be seated.
James led her into Aunt Abby's, where he knew they were welcome. They
chatted awhile until Frado seemed cheerful; then James led her to her
room, and waited until she retired.
"Are you glad I've come home?" asked James.
"Yes; if you won't let me be whipped tomorrow."
"You won't be whipped. You must try to be a good girl," counselled
"If I do, I get whipped," sobbed the child. "They won't believe what I
say. Oh, I wish I had my mother back; then I should not be kicked and
whipped so. Who made me so?"
"God," answered James.
"Did God make you?"
"Who made Aunt Abby?"
"Who made your mother?"
"Did the same God that made her make me?"
"Well, then, I don't like him."
"Because he made her white, and me black. Why didn't he make us BOTH
"I don't know; try to go to sleep, and you will feel better in the
morning," was all the reply he could make to her knotty queries. It was
a long time before she fell asleep; and a number of days before James
felt in a mood to visit and entertain old associates and friends.
CHAPTER V. DEPARTURES.
Life is a strange avenue of various trees and flowers;
Lightsome at commencement, but darkening to its end in a distant,
It beginneth as a little path, edged with the violet and primrose,
A little path of lawny grass and soft to tiny feet.
Soon, spring thistles in the way.
JAMES' visit concluded. Frado had become greatly attached to him, and
with sorrow she listened and joined in the farewells which preceded his
exit. The remembrance of his kindness cheered her through many a weary
month, and an occasional word to her in letters to Jack, were like "cold
waters to a thirsty soul." Intelligence came that James would soon
marry; Frado hoped he would, and remove her from such severe treatment
as she was subject to. There had been additional burdens laid on her
since his return. She must now MILK the cows, she had then only to
drive. Flocks of sheep had been added to the farm, which daily claimed a
portion of her time. In the absence of the men, she must harness the
horse for Mary and her mother to ride, go to mill, in short, do the work
of a boy, could one be procured to endure the tirades of Mrs. Bellmont.
She was first up in the morning, doing what she could towards breakfast.
Occasionally, she would utter some funny thing for Jack's benefit, while
she was waiting on the table, provoking a sharp look from his mother, or
expulsion from the room.
On one such occasion, they found her on the roof of the barn. Some
repairs having been necessary, a staging had been erected, and was not
wholly removed. Availing herself of ladders, she was mounted in high
glee on the topmost board. Mr. Bellmont called sternly for her to come
down; poor Jane nearly fainted from fear. Mrs. B. and Mary did not care
if she "broke her neck," while Jack and the men laughed at her
fearlessness. Strange, one spark of playfulness could remain amid such
constant toil; but her natural temperament was in a high degree
mirthful, and the encouragement she received from Jack and the hired
men, constantly nurtured the inclination. When she had none of the
family around to be merry with, she would amuse herself with the
animals. Among the sheep was a willful leader, who always persisted in
being first served, and many times in his fury he had thrown down Nig,
till, provoked, she resolved to punish him. The pasture in which the
sheep grazed was founded on three sides by a wide stream, which flowed
on one side at the base of precipitous banks. The first spare moments at
her command, she ran to the pasture with a dish in her hand, and
mounting the highest point of land nearest the stream, called the flock
to their mock repast. Mr. Bellmont, with his laborers, were in sight,
though unseen by Frado. They paused to see what she was about to do.
Should she by any mishap lose her footing, she must roll into the
stream, and, without aid, must drown. They thought of shouting; but they
feared an unexpected salute might startle her, and thus ensure what they
were anxious to prevent. They watched in breathless silence. The willful
sheep came furiously leaping and bounding far in advance of the flock.
Just as he leaped for the dish, she suddenly jumped to one side, when
down he rolled into the river, and swimming across, remained alone till
night. The men lay down, convulsed with laughter at the trick, and
guessed at once its object. Mr. Bellmont talked seriously to the child
for exposing herself to such danger; but she hopped about on her toes,
and with laughable grimaces replied, she knew she was quick enough to
"give him a slide."
But to return. James married a Baltimorean lady of wealthy parentage, an
indispensable requisite, his mother had always taught him. He did not
marry her wealth, though; he loved HER, sincerely. She was not unlike
his sister Jane, who had a social, gentle, loving nature, rather TOO
yielding, her brother thought. His Susan had a firmness which Jane
needed to complete her character, but which her ill health may in a
measure have failed to produce. Although an invalid, she was not
excluded from society. Was it strange SHE should seem a desirable
companion, a treasure as a wife?
Two young men seemed desirous of possessing her. One was a neighbor,
Henry Reed, a tall, spare young man, with sandy hair, and blue, sinister
eyes. He seemed to appreciate her wants, and watch with interest her
improvement or decay. His kindness she received, and by it was almost
won. Her mother wished her to encourage his attentions. She had counted
the acres which were to be transmitted to an only son; she knew there
was silver in the purse; she would not have Jane too sentimental.
The eagerness with which he amassed wealth, was repulsive to Jane; he
did not spare his person or beasts in its pursuit. She felt that to such
a man she should be considered an incumbrance; she doubted if he would
desire her, if he did not know she would bring a handsome patrimony. Her
mother, full in favor with the parents of Henry, commanded her to accept
him. She engaged herself, yielding to her mother's wishes, because she
had not strength to oppose them; and sometimes, when witness of her
mother's and Mary's tyranny, she felt any change would be preferable,
even such a one as this. She knew her husband should be the man of her
own selecting, one she was conscious of preferring before all others.
She could not say this of Henry.
In this dilemma, a visitor came to Aunt Abby's; one of her
boy-favorites, George Means, from an adjoining State. Sensible, plain
looking, agreeable, talented, he could not long be a stranger to any one
who wished to know him. Jane was accustomed to sit much with Aunt Abby
always; her presence now seemed necessary to assist in entertaining this
youthful friend. Jane was more pleased with him each day, and silently
wished Henry possessed more refinement, and the polished manners of
George. She felt dissatisfied with her relation to him. His calls while
George was there, brought their opposing qualities vividly before her,
and she found it disagreeable to force herself into those attentions
belonging to him. She received him apparently only as a neighbor.
George returned home, and Jane endeavored to stifle the risings of
dissatisfaction, and had nearly succeeded, when a letter came which
needed but one glance to assure her of its birthplace; and she retired
for its perusal. Well was it for her that her mother's suspicion was not
aroused, or her curiosity startled to inquire who it came from. After
reading it, she glided into Aunt Abby's, and placed it in her hands, who
was no stranger to Jane's trials.
George could not rest after his return, he wrote, until he had
communicated to Jane the emotions her presence awakened, and his desire
to love and possess her as his own. He begged to know if his affections
were reciprocated, or could be; if she would permit him to write to her;
if she was free from all obligation to another.
"What would mother say?" queried Jane, as she received the letter from
"Not much to comfort you."
"Now, aunt, George is just such a man as I could really love, I think,
from all I have seen of him; you know I never could say that of Henry"—
"Then don't marry him," interrupted Aunt Abby.
"Mother will make me."
"Your father won't."
"Well, aunt, what can I do? Would you answer the letter, or not?"
"Yes, answer it. Tell him your situation."
"I shall not tell him all my feelings."
Jane answered that she had enjoyed his company much; she had seen
nothing offensive in his manner or appearance; that she was under no
obligations which forbade her receiving letters from him as a friend and
acquaintance. George was puzzled by the reply. He wrote to Aunt Abby,
and from her learned all. He could not see Jane thus sacrificed, without
making an effort to rescue her. Another visit followed. George heard
Jane say she preferred HIM. He then conferred with Henry at his home. It
was not a pleasant subject to talk upon. To be thus supplanted, was not
to be thought of. He would sacrifice everything but his inheritance to
secure his betrothed.
"And so you are the cause of her late coldness towards me. Leave! I will
talk no more about it; the business is settled between us; there it will
remain," said Henry.
"Have you no wish to know the real state of Jane's affections towards
you?" asked George.
"No! Go, I say! go!" and Henry opened the door for him to pass out.
He retired to Aunt Abby's. Henry soon followed, and presented his cause
to Mrs. Bellmont.
Provoked, surprised, indignant, she summoned Jane to her presence, and
after a lengthy tirade upon Nab, and her satanic influence, told her she
could not break the bonds which held her to Henry; she should not.
George Means was rightly named; he was, truly, mean enough; she knew his
family of old; his father had four wives, and five times as many
"Go to your room, Miss Jane," she continued. "Don't let me know of your
being in Nab's for one while."
The storm was now visible to all beholders. Mr. Bellmont sought Jane.
She told him her objections to Henry; showed him George's letter; told
her answer, the occasion of his visit. He bade her not make herself
sick; he would see that she was not compelled to violate her free choice
in so important a transaction. He then sought the two young men; told
them he could not as a father see his child compelled to an uncongenial
union; a free, voluntary choice was of such importance to one of her
health. She must be left free to her own choice.
Jane sent Henry a letter of dismission; he her one of a legal bearing,
in which he balanced his disappointment by a few hundreds.
To brave her mother's fury, nearly overcame her, but the consolation of
a kind father and aunt cheered her on. After a suitable interval she was
married to George, and removed to his home in Vermont. Thus another
light disappeared from Nig's horizon. Another was soon to follow. Jack
was anxious to try his skill in providing for his own support; so a
situation as clerk in a store was procured in a Western city, and six
months after Jane's departure, was Nig abandoned to the tender mercies
of Mary and her mother. As if to remove the last vestige of earthly joy,
Mrs. Bellmont sold the companion and pet of Frado, the dog Fido.
"Hard are life's early steps; and but that youth is buoyant, confident,
and strong in hope, men would behold its threshold and despair."
THE sorrow of Frado was very great for her pet, and Mr. Bellmont by
great exertion obtained it again, much to the relief of the child. To be
thus deprived of all her sources of pleasure was a sure way to exalt
their worth, and Fido became, in her estimation, a more valuable
presence than the human beings who surrounded her.
James had now been married a number of years, and frequent requests for
a visit from the family were at last accepted, and Mrs. Bellmont made
great preparations for a fall sojourn in Baltimore. Mary was installed
housekeeper—in name merely, for Nig was the only moving power in the
house. Although suffering from their joint severity, she felt safer than
to be thrown wholly upon an ardent, passionate, unrestrained young lady,
whom she always hated and felt it hard to be obliged to obey. The trial
she must meet. Were Jack or Jane at home she would have some refuge; one
only remained; good Aunt Abby was still in the house.
She saw the fast receding coach which conveyed her master and mistress
with regret, and begged for one favor only, that James would send for
her when they returned, a hope she had confidently cherished all these
She was now able to do all the washing, ironing, baking, and the common
et cetera of household duties, though but fourteen. Mary left all for
her to do, though she affected great responsibility. She would show
herself in the kitchen long enough to relieve herself of some command,
better withheld; or insist upon some compliance to her wishes in some
department which she was very imperfectly acquainted with, very much
less than the person she was addressing; and so impetuous till her
orders were obeyed, that to escape the turmoil, Nig would often go
contrary to her own knowledge to gain a respite.
Nig was taken sick! What could be done The WORK, certainly, but not by
Miss Mary. So Nig would work while she could remain erect, then sink
down upon the floor, or a chair, till she could rally for a fresh
effort. Mary would look in upon her, chide her for her laziness,
threaten to tell mother when she came home, and so forth.
"Nig!" screamed Mary, one of her sickest days, "come here, and sweep
these threads from the carpet." She attempted to drag her weary limbs
along, using the broom as support. Impatient of delay, she called again,
but with a different request. "Bring me some wood, you lazy jade,
quick." Nig rested the broom against the wall, and started on the fresh
Too long gone. Flushed with anger, she rose and greeted her with, "What
are you gone so long for? Bring it in quick, I say."
"I am coming as quick as I can," she replied, entering the door.
"Saucy, impudent nigger, you! is this the way you answer me?" and taking
a large carving knife from the table, she hurled it, in her rage, at the
Dodging quickly, it fastened in the ceiling a few inches from where she
stood. There rushed on Mary's mental vision a picture of bloodshed, in
which she was the perpetrator, and the sad consequences of what was so
nearly an actual occurrence.
"Tell anybody of this, if you dare. If you tell Aunt Abby, I'll
certainly kill you," said she, terrified. She returned to her room,
brushed her threads herself; was for a day or two more guarded, and so
escaped deserved and merited penalty.
Oh, how long the weeks seemed which held Nig in subjection to Mary; but
they passed like all earth's sorrows and joys. Mr. and Mrs. B. returned
delighted with their visit, and laden with rich presents for Mary. No
word of hope for Nig. James was quite unwell, and would come home the
next spring for a visit.
This, thought Nig, will be my time of release. I shall go back with him.
From early dawn until after all were retired, was she toiling,
overworked, disheartened, longing for relief.
Exposure from heat to cold, or the reverse, often destroyed her health
for short intervals. She wore no shoes until after frost, and snow even,
appeared; and bared her feet again before the last vestige of winter
disappeared. These sudden changes she was so illy guarded against,
nearly conquered her physical system. Any word of complaint was severely
repulsed or cruelly punished.
She was told she had much more than she deserved. So that manual labor
was not in reality her only burden; but such an incessant torrent of
scolding and boxing and threatening, was enough to deter one of maturer
years from remaining within sound of the strife.
It is impossible to give an impression of the manifest enjoyment of Mrs.
B. in these kitchen scenes. It was her favorite exercise to enter the
apartment noisily, vociferate orders, give a few sudden blows to quicken
Nig's pace, then return to the sitting room with SUCH a satisfied
expression, congratulating herself upon her thorough house-keeping
She usually rose in the morning at the ringing of the bell for
breakfast; if she were heard stirring before that time, Nig knew well
there was an extra amount of scolding to be borne.
No one now stood between herself and Frado, but Aunt Abby. And if SHE
dared to interfere in the least, she was ordered back to her "own
quarters." Nig would creep slyly into her room, learn what she could of
her regarding the absent, and thus gain some light in the thick gloom of
care and toil and sorrow in which she was immersed.
The first of spring a letter came from James, announcing declining
health. He must try northern air as a restorative; so Frado joyfully
prepared for this agreeable increase of the family, this addition to her
He arrived feeble, lame, from his disease, so changed Frado wept at his
appearance, fearing he would be removed from her forever. He kindly
greeted her, took her to the parlor to see his wife and child, and said
many things to kindle smiles on her sad face.
Frado felt so happy in his presence, so safe from maltreatment! He was
to her a shelter. He observed, silently, the ways of the house a few
days; Nig still took her meals in the same manner as formerly, having
the same allowance of food. He, one day, bade her not remove the food,
but sit down to the table and eat.
"She WILL, mother," said he, calmly, but imperatively; I'm determined;
she works hard; I've watched her. Now, while I stay, she is going to sit
down HERE, and eat such food as we eat."
A few sparks from the mother's black eyes were the only reply; she
feared to oppose where she knew she could not prevail. So Nig's standing
attitude, and selected diet vanished.
Her clothing was yet poor and scanty; she was not blessed with a Sunday
attire; for she was never permitted to attend church with her mistress.
"Religion was not meant for niggers," SHE said; when the husband and
brothers were absent, she would drive Mrs. B. and Mary there, then
return, and go for them at the close of the service, but never remain.
Aunt Abby would take her to evening meetings, held in the neighborhood,
which Mrs. B. never attended; and impart to her lessons of truth and
grace as they walked to the place of prayer.
Many of less piety would scorn to present so doleful a figure; Mrs. B.
had shaved her glossy ringlets; and, in her coarse cloth gown and
ancient bonnet, she was anything but an enticing object. But Aunt Abby
looked within. She saw a soul to save, an immortality of happiness to
These evenings were eagerly anticipated by Nig; it was such a pleasant
release from labor.
Such perfect contrast in the melody and prayers of these good people to
the harsh tones which fell on her ears during the day.
Soon she had all their sacred songs at command, and enlivened her toil
by accompanying it with this melody.
James encouraged his aunt in her efforts. He had found the SAVIOUR, he
wished to have Frado's desolate heart gladdened, quieted, sustained, by
HIS presence. He felt sure there were elements in her heart which,
transformed and purified by the gospel, would make her worthy the esteem
and friendship of the world. A kind, affectionate heart, native wit, and
common sense, and the pertness she sometimes exhibited, he felt if
restrained properly, might become useful in originating a self-reliance
which would be of service to her in after years.
Yet it was not possible to compass all this, while she remained where
she was. He wished to be cautious about pressing too closely her claims
on his mother, as it would increase the burdened one he so anxiously
wished to relieve. He cheered her on with the hope of returning with his
family, when he recovered sufficiently.
Nig seemed awakened to new hopes and aspirations, and realized a longing
for the future, hitherto unknown.
To complete Nig's enjoyment, Jack arrived unexpectedly. His greeting was
as hearty to herself as to any of the family.
"Where are your curls, Fra?" asked Jack, after the usual salutation.
"Your mother cut them off."
"Thought you were getting handsome, did she? Same old story, is it;
knocks and bumps? Better times coming; never fear, Nig."
How different this appellative sounded from him; he said it in such a
tone, with such a rogueish look!
She laughed, and replied that he had better take her West for a
Jack was pleased with James's innovations of table discipline, and would
often tarry in the dining-room, to see Nig in her new place at the
family table. As he was thus sitting one day, after the family had
finished dinner, Frado seated herself in her mistress' chair, and was
just reaching for a clean dessert plate which was on the table, when her
"Put that plate down; you shall not have a clean one; eat from mine,"
continued she. Nig hesitated. To eat after James, his wife or Jack,
would have been pleasant; but to be commanded to do what was
disagreeable by her mistress, BECAUSE it was disagreeable, was trying.
Quickly looking about, she took the plate, called Fido to wash it, which
he did to the best of his ability; then, wiping her knife and fork on
the cloth, she proceeded to eat her dinner.
Nig never looked toward her mistress during the process. She had Jack
near; she did not fear her now.
Insulted, full of rage, Mrs. Bellmont rushed to her husband, and
commanded him to notice this insult; to whip that child; if he would not
do it, James ought.
James came to hear the kitchen version of the affair. Jack was boiling
over with laughter. He related all the circumstances to James, and
pulling a bright, silver half-dollar from his pocket, he threw it at
Nig, saying, "There, take that; 'twas worth paying for."
James sought his mother; told her he "would not excuse or palliate Nig's
impudence; but she should not be whipped or be punished at all. You have
not treated her, mother, so as to gain her love; she is only exhibiting
your remissness in this matter."
She only smothered her resentment until a convenient opportunity
offered. The first time she was left alone with Nig, she gave her a
thorough beating, to bring up arrearages; and threatened, if she ever
exposed her to James, she would "cut her tongue out."
James found her, upon his return, sobbing; but fearful of revenge, she
dared not answer his queries. He guessed their cause, and longed for
returning health to take her under his protection.
SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF NIG.
"What are our joys but dreams? and what our hopes
But goodly shadows in the summer cloud?"
H. K. W.
JAMES did not improve as was hoped. Month after month passed away, and
brought no prospect of returning health. He could not walk far from the
house for want of strength; but he loved to sit with Aunt Abby in her
quiet room, talking of unseen glories, and heart-experiences, while
planning for the spiritual benefit of those around them. In these
confidential interviews, Frado was never omitted. They would discuss the
prevalent opinion of the public, that people of color are really
inferior; incapable of cultivation and refinement. They would glance at
the qualities of Nig, which promised so much if rightly directed. "I
wish you would take her, James, when you are well, home with YOU," said
Aunt Abby, in one of these seasons.
"Just what I am longing to do, Aunt Abby. Susan is just of my mind, and
we intend to take her; I have been wishing to do so for years."
"She seems much affected by what she hears at the evening meetings, and
asks me many questions on serious things; seems to love to read the
Bible; I feel hopes of her."
"I hope she IS thoughtful; no one has a kinder heart, one capable of
loving more devotedly. But to think how prejudiced the world are towards
her people; that she must be reared in such ignorance as to drown all
the finer feelings. When I think of what she might be, of what she will
be, I feel like grasping time till opinions change, and thousands like
her rise into a noble freedom. I have seen Frado's grief, because she is
black, amount to agony. It makes me sick to recall these scenes. Mother
pretends to think she don't know enough to sorrow for anything; but if
she could see her as I have, when she supposed herself entirely alone,
except her little dog Fido, lamenting her loneliness and complexion, I
think, if she is not past feeling, she would retract. In the summer I
was walking near the barn, and as I stood I heard sobs. 'Oh! oh!' I
heard, 'why was I made? why can't I die? Oh, what have I to live for? No
one cares for me only to get my work. And I feel sick; who cares for
that? Work as long as I can stand, and then fall down and lay there till
I can get up. No mother, father, brother or sister to care for me, and
then it is, You lazy nigger, lazy nigger—all because I am black! Oh, if
I could die!'
"I stepped into the barn, where I could see her. She was crouched down
by the hay with her faithful friend Fido, and as she ceased speaking,
buried her face in her hands, and cried bitterly; then, patting Fido,
she kissed him, saying, 'You love me, Fido, don't you? but we must go
work in the field.' She started on her mission; I called her to me, and
told her she need not go, the hay was doing well.
"She has such confidence in me that she will do just as I tell her; so
we found a seat under a shady tree, and there I took the opportunity to
combat the notions she seemed to entertain respecting the loneliness of
her condition and want of sympathizing friends. I assured her that
mother's views were by no means general; that in our part of the country
there were thousands upon thousands who favored the elevation of her
race, disapproving of oppression in all its forms; that she was not
unpitied, friendless, and utterly despised; that she might hope for
better things in the future. Having spoken these words of comfort, I
rose with the resolution that if I recovered my health I would take her
home with me, whether mother was willing or not."
"I don't know what your mother would do without her; still, I wish she
Susan now came for her long absent husband, and they returned home to
The month of November was one of great anxiety on James's account. He
was rapidly wasting away.
A celebrated physician was called, and performed a surgical operation,
as a last means. Should this fail, there was no hope. Of course he was
confined wholly to his room, mostly to his bed. With all his bodily
suffering, all his anxiety for his family, whom he might not live to
protect, he did not forget Frado. He shielded her from many beatings,
and every day imparted religious instructions. No one, but his wife,
could move him so easily as Frado; so that in addition to her daily toil
she was often deprived of her rest at night.
Yet she insisted on being called; she wished to show her love for one
who had been such a friend to her. Her anxiety and grief increased as
the probabilities of his recovery became doubtful.
Mrs. Bellmont found her weeping on his account, shut her up, and whipped
her with the raw-hide, adding an injunction never to be seen snivelling
again because she had a little work to do. She was very careful never to
shed tears on his account, in her presence, afterwards.
VISITOR AND DEPARTURE.
—"Other cares engross me, and my tired soul with emulative haste, Looks
to its God."
THE brother associated with James in business, in Baltimore, was sent
for to confer with one who might never be able to see him there.
James began to speak of life as closing; of heaven, as of a place in
immediate prospect; of aspirations, which waited for fruition in glory.
His brother, Lewis by name, was an especial favorite of sister Mary;
more like her, in disposition and preferences than James or Jack.
He arrived as soon as possible after the request, and saw with regret
the sure indications of fatality in his sick brother, and listened to
his admonitions—admonitions to a Christian life—with tears, and
uttered some promises of attention to the subject so dear to the heart
How gladly he would have extended healing aid. But, alas! it was not in
his power; so, after listening to his wishes and arrangements for his
family and business, he decided to return home.
Anxious for company home, he persuaded his father and mother to permit
Mary to attend him. She was not at all needed in the sick room; she did
not choose to be useful in the kitchen, and then she was fully
determined to go.
So all the trunks were assembled and crammed with the best selections
from the wardrobe of herself and mother, where the last-mentioned
articles could be appropriated.
"Nig was never so helpful before," Mary remarked, and wondered what had
induced such a change in place of former sullenness.
Nig was looking further than the present, and congratulating herself
upon some days of peace, for Mary never lost opportunity of informing
her mother of Nig's delinquencies, were she otherwise ignorant.
Was it strange if she were officious, with such relief in prospect?
The parting from the sick brother was tearful and sad. James prayed in
their presence for their renewal in holiness; and urged their immediate
attention to eternal realities, and gained a promise that Susan and
Charlie should share their kindest regards.
No sooner were they on their way, than Nig slyly crept round to Aunt
Abby's room, and tiptoeing and twisting herself into all shapes, she
"She's gone, Aunt Abby, she's gone, fairly gone;" and jumped up and
down, till Aunt Abby feared she would attract the notice of her mistress
by such demonstrations.
"Well, she's gone, gone, Aunt Abby. I hope she'll never come back
"No! no! Frado, that's wrong! you would be wishing her dead; that won't
"Well, I'll bet she'll never come back again; somehow, I feel as though
"She is James's sister," remonstrated Aunt Abby.
"So is our cross sheep just as much, that I ducked in the river; I'd
like to try my hand at curing HER too."
"But you forget what our good minister told us last week, about doing
good to those that hate us."
"Didn't I do good, Aunt Abby, when I washed and ironed and packed her
old duds to get rid of her, and helped her pack her trunks, and run here
and there for her?"
"Well, well, Frado; you must go finish your work, or your mistress will
be after you, and remind you severely of Miss Mary, and some others
Nig went as she was told, and her clear voice was heard as she went,
singing in joyous notes the relief she felt at the removal of one of her
Day by day the quiet of the sick man's room was increased. He was
helpless and nervous; and often wished change of position, thereby
hoping to gain momentary relief. The calls upon Frado were consequently
more frequent, her nights less tranquil. Her health was impaired by
lifting the sick man, and by drudgery in the kitchen. Her ill health she
endeavored to conceal from James, fearing he might have less repose if
there should be a change of attendants; and Mrs. Bellmont, she well
knew, would have no sympathy for her. She was at last so much reduced as
to be unable to stand erect for any great length of time. She would SIT
at the table to wash her dishes; if she heard the well-known step of her
mistress, she would rise till she returned to her room, and then sink
down for further rest. Of course she was longer than usual in completing
the services assigned her. This was a subject of complaint to Mrs.
Bellmont; and Frado endeavored to throw off all appearance of sickness
in her presence.
But it was increasing upon her, and she could no longer hide her
indisposition. Her mistress entered one day, and finding her seated,
commanded her to go to work. "I am sick," replied Frado, rising and
walking slowly to her unfinished task, "and cannot stand long, I feel so
Angry that she should venture a reply to her command, she suddenly
inflicted a blow which lay the tottering girl prostrate on the floor.
Excited by so much indulgence of a dangerous passion, she seemed left to
unrestrained malice; and snatching a towel, stuffed the mouth of the
sufferer, and beat her cruelly.
Frado hoped she would end her misery by whipping her to death. She bore
it with the hope of a martyr, that her misery would soon close. Though
her mouth was muffled, and the sounds much stifled, there was a sensible
commotion, which James' quick ear detected.
"Call Frado to come here," he said faintly, "I have not seen her
Susan retired with the request to the kitchen, where it was evident some
brutal scene had just been enacted.
Mrs. Bellmont replied that she had "some work to do just now; when that
was done, she might come."
Susan's appearance confirmed her husband's fears, and he requested his
father, who sat by the bedside, to go for her. This was a messenger, as
James well knew, who could not be denied; and the girl entered the room,
sobbing and faint with anguish.
James called her to him, and inquired the cause of her sorrow. She was
afraid to expose the cruel author of her misery, lest she should provoke
new attacks. But after much entreaty, she told him all, much which had
escaped his watchful ear. Poor James shut his eyes in silence, as if
pained to forgetfulness by the recital. Then turning to Susan, he asked
her to take Charlie, and walk out; "she needed the fresh air," he said.
"And say to mother I wish Frado to sit by me till you return. I think
you are fading, from staying so long in this sick room." Mr. B. also
left, and Frado was thus left alone with her friend. Aunt Abby came in
to make her daily visit, and seeing the sick countenance of the
attendant, took her home with her to administer some cordial. She soon
returned, however, and James kept her with him the rest of the day; and
a comfortable night's repose following, she was enabled to continue, as
usual, her labors. James insisted on her attending religious meetings in
the vicinity with Aunt Abby.
Frado, under the instructions of Aunt Abby and the minister, became a
believer in a future existence—one of happiness or misery. Her doubt
was, IS there a heaven for the black? She knew there was one for James,
and Aunt Abby, and all good white people; but was there any for blacks?
She had listened attentively to all the minister said, and all Aunt Abby
had told her; but then it was all for white people.
As James approached that blessed world, she felt a strong desire to
follow, and be with one who was such a dear, kind friend to her.
While she was exercised with these desires and aspirations, she attended
an evening meeting with Aunt Abby, and the good man urged all, young or
old, to accept the offers of mercy, to receive a compassionate Jesus as
their Saviour. "Come to Christ," he urged, "all, young or old, white or
black, bond or free, come all to Christ for pardon; repent, believe."
This was the message she longed to hear; it seemed to be spoken for her.
But he had told them to repent; "what was that?" she asked. She knew she
was unfit for any heaven, made for whites or blacks. She would gladly
repent, or do anything which would admit her to share the abode of
Her anxiety increased; her countenance bore marks of solicitude unseen
before; and though she said nothing of her inward contest, they all
observed a change.
James and Aunt Abby hoped it was the springing of good seed sown by the
Spirit of God. Her tearful attention at the last meeting encouraged his
aunt to hope that her mind was awakened, her conscience aroused. Aunt
Abby noticed that she was particularly engaged in reading the Bible; and
this strengthened her conviction that a heavenly Messenger was striving
with her. The neighbors dropped in to inquire after the sick, and also
if Frado was "SERIOUS?" They noticed she seemed very thoughtful and
tearful at the meetings. Mrs. Reed was very inquisitive; but Mrs.
Bellmont saw no appearance of change for the better. She did not feel
responsible for her spiritual culture, and hardly believed she had a
Nig was in truth suffering much; her feelings were very intense on any
subject, when once aroused. She read her Bible carefully, and as often
as an opportunity presented, which was when entirely secluded in her own
apartment, or by Aunt Abby's side, who kindly directed her to Christ,
and instructed her in the way of salvation.
Mrs. Bellmont found her one day quietly reading her Bible. Amazed and
half crediting the reports of officious neighbors, she felt it was time
to interfere. Here she was, reading and shedding tears over the Bible.
She ordered her to put up the book, and go to work, and not be
snivelling about the house, or stop to read again.
But there was one little spot seldom penetrated by her mistress'
watchful eye: this was her room, uninviting and comfortless; but to
herself a safe retreat. Here she would listen to the pleadings of a
Saviour, and try to penetrate the veil of doubt and sin which clouded
her soul, and long to cast off the fetters of sin, and rise to the
communion of saints.
Mrs. Bellmont, as we before said, did not trouble herself about the
future destiny of her servant. If she did what she desired for HER
benefit, it was all the responsibility she acknowledged. But she seemed
to have great aversion to the notice Nig would attract should she become
pious. How could she meet this case? She resolved to make her complaint
to John. Strange, when she was always foiled in this direction, she
should resort to him. It was time something was done; she had begun to
read the Bible openly.
The night of this discovery, as they were retiring, Mrs. Bellmont
introduced the conversation, by saying:
"I want your attention to what I am going to say. I have let Nig go out
to evening meetings a few times, and, if you will believe it, I found
her reading the Bible to-day, just as though she expected to turn pious
nigger, and preach to white folks. So now you see what good comes of
sending her to school. If she should get converted she would have to go
to meeting: at least, as long as James lives. I wish he had not such
queer notions about her. It seems to trouble him to know he must die and
leave her. He says if he should get well he would take her home with
him, or educate her here. Oh, how awful! What can the child mean? So
careful, too, of her! He says we shall ruin her health making her work
so hard, and sleep in such a place. O, John! do you think he is in his
"Yes, yes; she is slender."
"Yes, YES!" she repeated sarcastically, "you know these niggers are just
like black snakes; you CAN'T kill them. If she wasn't tough she would
have been killed long ago. There was never one of my girls could do half
"Did they ever try?" interposed her husband. "I think she can do more
than all of them together."
"What a man!" said she, peevishly. "But I want to know what is going to
be done with her about getting pious?"
"Let her do just as she has a mind to. If it is a comfort to her, let
her enjoy the privilege of being good. I see no objection."
"I should think YOU were crazy, sure. Don't you know that every night
she will want to go toting off to meeting? and Sundays, too? and you
know we have a great deal of company Sundays, and she can't be spared."
"I thought you Christians held to going to church," remarked Mr. B.
"Yes, but who ever thought of having a nigger go, except to drive others
there? Why, according to you and James, we should very soon have her in
the parlor, as smart as our own girls. It's of no use talking to you or
James. If you should go on as you would like, it would not be six months
before she would be leaving me; and that won't do. Just think how much
profit she was to us last summer. We had no work hired out; she did the
work of two girls—"
"And got the whippings for two with it!" remarked Mr. Bellmont.
"I'll beat the money out of her, if I can't get her worth any other
way," retorted Mrs. B. sharply. While this scene was passing, Frado was
trying to utter the prayer of the publican, "God be merciful to me a
We have now
But a small portion of what men call time,
To hold communion.
SPRING opened, and James, instead of rallying, as was hoped, grew worse
daily. Aunt Abby and Frado were the constant allies of Susan. Mrs.
Bellmont dared not lift him. She was not "strong enough," she said.
It was very offensive to Mrs. B. to have Nab about James so much. She
had thrown out many a hint to detain her from so often visiting the
sick-room; but Aunt Abby was too well accustomed to her ways to mind
them. After various unsuccessful efforts, she resorted to the following
expedient. As she heard her cross the entry below, to ascend the stairs,
she slipped out and held the latch of the door which led into the upper
"James does not want to see you, or any one else," she said.
Aunt Abby hesitated, and returned slowly to her own room; wondering if
it were really James' wish not to see her. She did not venture again
that day, but still felt disturbed and anxious about him. She inquired
of Frado, and learned that he was no worse. She asked her if James did
not wish her to come and see him; what could it mean?
Quite late next morning, Susan came to see what had become of her aunt.
"Your mother said James did not wish to see me, and I was afraid I tired
"Why, aunt, that is a mistake, I KNOW. What could mother mean?" asked
The next time she went to the sitting-room she asked her mother,—
"Why does not Aunt Abby visit James as she has done? Where is she?"
"At home. I hope that she will stay there," was the answer.
"I should think she would come in and see James," continued Susan.
"I told her he did not want to see her, and to stay out. You need make
no stir about it; remember:" she added, with one of her fiery glances.
Susan kept silence. It was a day or two before James spoke of her
absence. The family were at dinner, and Frado was watching beside him.
He inquired the cause of her absence, and SHE told him all. After the
family returned he sent his wife for her. When she entered, he took her
hand, and said, "Come to me often, Aunt. Come any time,—I am always
glad to see you. I have but a little longer to be with you,—come often,
Aunt. Now please help lift me up, and see if I can rest a little."
Frado was called in, and Susan and Mrs. B. all attempted; Mrs. B. was
too weak; she did not feel able to lift so much. So the three succeeded
in relieving the sufferer.
Frado returned to her work. Mrs. B. followed. Seizing Frado, she said
she would "cure her of tale-bearing," and, placing the wedge of wood
between her teeth, she beat her cruelly with the raw-hide. Aunt Abby
heard the blows, and came to see if she could hinder them.
Surprised at her sudden appearance, Mrs. B. suddenly stopped, but
forbade her removing the wood till she gave her permission, and
commanded Nab to go home.
She was thus tortured when Mr. Bellmont came in, and, making inquiries
which she did not, because she could not, answer, approached her; and
seeing her situation, quickly removed the instrument of torture, and
sought his wife. Their conversation we will omit; suffice it to say, a
storm raged which required many days to exhaust its strength.
Frado was becoming seriously ill. She had no relish for food, and was
constantly overworked, and then she had such solicitude about the
future. She wished to pray for pardon. She did try to pray. Her mistress
had told her it would "do no good for her to attempt prayer; prayer was
for whites, not for blacks. If she minded her mistress, and did what she
commanded, it was all that was required of her."
This did not satisfy her, or appease her longings. She knew her
instructions did not harmonize with those of the man of God or Aunt
Abby's. She resolved to persevere. She said nothing on the subject,
unless asked. It was evident to all her mind was deeply exercised. James
longed to speak with her alone on the subject. An opportunity presented
soon, while the family were at tea. It was usual to summon Aunt Abby to
keep company with her, as his death was expected hourly.
As she took her accustomed seat, he asked, "Are you afraid to stay with
me alone, Frado?"
"No," she replied, and stepped to the window to conceal her emotion.
"Come here, and sit by me; I wish to talk with you."
She approached him, and, taking her hand, he remarked:
"How poor you are, Frado! I want to tell you that I fear I shall never
be able to talk with you again. It is the last time, perhaps, I shall
EVER talk with you. You are old enough to remember my dying words and
profit by them. I have been sick a long time; I shall die pretty soon.
My Heavenly Father is calling me home. Had it been his will to let me
live I should take you to live with me; but, as it is, I shall go and
leave you. But, Frado, if you will be a good girl, and love and serve
God, it will be but a short time before we are in a HEAVENLY home
together. There will never be any sickness or sorrow there."
Frado, overcome with grief, sobbed, and buried her face in his pillow.
She expected he would die; but to hear him speak of his departure
himself was unexpected.
"Bid me good bye, Frado."
She kissed him, and sank on her knees by his bedside; his hand rested on
her head; his eyes were closed; his lips moved in prayer for this
His wife entered, and interpreting the scene, gave him some
restoratives, and withdrew for a short time.
It was a great effort for Frado to cease sobbing; but she dared not be
seen below in tears; so she choked her grief, and descended to her usual
toil. Susan perceived a change in her husband. She felt that death was
He tenderly looked on her, and said, "Susan, my wife, our farewells are
all spoken. I feel prepared to go. I shall meet you in heaven. Death is
indeed creeping fast upon me. Let me see them all once more. Teach
Charlie the way to heaven; lead him up as you come."
The family all assembled. He could not talk as he wished to them. He
seemed to sink into unconsciousness. They watched him for hours. He had
labored hard for breath some time, when he seemed to awake suddenly, and
exclaimed, "Hark! do you hear it?"
"Hear what, my son?" asked the father.
"Their call. Look, look, at the shining ones! Oh, let me go and be at
As if waiting for this petition, the Angel of Death severed the golden
thread, and he was in heaven. At midnight the messenger came.
They called Frado to see his last struggle. Sinking on her knees at the
foot of his bed, she buried her face in the clothes, and wept like one
inconsolable. They led her from the room. She seemed to be too much
absorbed to know it was necessary for her to leave. Next day she would
steal into the chamber as often as she could, to weep over his remains,
and ponder his last words to her. She moved about the house like an
automaton. Every duty performed—but an abstraction from all, which
shewed her thoughts were busied elsewhere. Susan wished her to attend
his burial as one of the family. Lewis and Mary and Jack it was not
thought best to send for, as the season would not allow them time for
the journey. Susan provided her with a dress for the occasion, which was
her first intimation that she would be allowed to mingle her grief with
The day of the burial she was attired in her mourning dress; but Susan,
in her grief, had forgotten a bonnet.
She hastily ransacked the closets, and found one of Mary's, trimmed with
bright pink ribbon.
It was too late to change the ribbon, and she was unwilling to leave
Frado at home; she knew it would be the wish of James she should go with
her. So tying it on, she said, "Never mind, Frado, you shall see where
our dear James is buried." As she passed out, she heard the whispers of
the by-standers, "Look there! see there! how that looks,—a black dress
and a pink ribbon!"
Another time, such remarks would have wounded Frado. She had now a
sorrow with which such were small in comparison.
As she saw his body lowered in the grave she wished to share it; but she
was not fit to die. She could not go where he was if she did. She did
not love God; she did not serve him or know how to.
She retired at night to mourn over her unfitness for heaven, and gaze
out upon the stars, which, she felt, studded the entrance of heaven,
above which James reposed in the bosom of Jesus, to which her desires
were hastening. She wished she could see God, and ask him for eternal
life. Aunt Abby had taught her that He was ever looking upon her. Oh, if
she could see him, or hear him speak words of forgiveness. Her anxiety
increased; her health seemed impaired, and she felt constrained to go to
Aunt Abby and tell her all about her conflicts.
She received her like a returning wanderer; seriously urged her to
accept of Christ; explained the way; read to her from the Bible, and
remarked upon such passages as applied to her state. She warned her
against stifling that voice which was calling her to heaven; echoed the
farewell words of James, and told her to come to her with her
difficulties, and not to delay a duty so important as attention to the
truths of religion, and her soul's interests.
Mrs. Bellmont would occasionally give instruction, though far different.
She would tell her she could not go where James was; she need not try.
If she should get to heaven at all, she would never be as high up as he.
HE was the attraction. Should she "want to go there if she could not see
Mrs. B. seldom mentioned her bereavement, unless in such allusion to
Frado. She donned her weeds from custom; kept close her crape veil for
so many Sabbaths, and abated nothing of her characteristic harshness.
The clergyman called to minister consolation to the afflicted widow and
mother. Aunt Abby seeing him approach the dwelling, knew at once the
object of his visit, and followed him to the parlor, unasked by Mrs. B!
What a daring affront! The good man dispensed the consolations, of which
he was steward, to the apparently grief-smitten mother, who talked like
one schooled in a heavenly atmosphere. Such resignation expressed, as
might have graced the trial of the holiest. Susan, like a mute sufferer,
bared her soul to his sympathy and godly counsel, but only replied to
his questions in short syllables. When he offered prayer, Frado stole to
the door that she might hear of the heavenly bliss of one who was her
friend on earth. The prayer caused profuse weeping, as any tender
reminder of the heaven-born was sure to. When the good man's voice
ceased, she returned to her toil, carefully removing all trace of
sorrow. Her mistress soon followed, irritated by Nab's impudence in
presenting herself unasked in the parlor, and upbraided her with
indolence, and bade her apply herself more diligently. Stung by
unmerited rebuke, weak from sorrow and anxiety, the tears rolled down
her dark face, soon followed by sobs, and then losing all control of
herself, she wept aloud. This was an act of disobedience. Her mistress
grasping her raw-hide, caused a longer flow of tears, and wounded a
spirit that was craving healing mercies.
Neath the billows of the ocean,
Hidden treasures wait the hand,
That again to light shall raise them
With the diver's magic wand.
G. W. COOK.
THE family, gathered by James' decease, returned to their homes. Susan
and Charles returned to Baltimore. Letters were received from the
absent, expressing their sympathy and grief. The father bowed like a
"bruised reed," under the loss of his beloved son. He felt desirous to
die the death of the righteous; also, conscious that he was unprepared,
he resolved to start on the narrow way, and some time solicit entrance
through the gate which leads to the celestial city. He acknowledged his
too ready acquiescence with Mrs. B., in permitting Frado to be deprived
of her only religious privileges for weeks together. He accordingly
asked his sister to take her to meeting once more, which she was ready
at once to do.
The first opportunity they once more attended meeting together. The
minister conversed faithfully with every person present. He was
surprised to find the little colored girl so solicitous, and kindly
directed her to the flowing fountain where she might wash and be clean.
He inquired of the origin of her anxiety, of her progress up to this
time, and endeavored to make Christ, instead of James, the attraction of
Heaven. He invited her to come to his house, to speak freely her mind to
him, to pray much, to read her Bible often.
The neighbors, who were at meeting,—among them Mrs. Reed,—discussed
the opinions Mrs. Bellmont would express on the subject. Mrs. Reed
called and informed Mrs. B. that her colored girl "related her
experience the other night at the meeting."
"What experience?" asked she, quickly, as if she expected to hear the
number of times she had whipped Frado, and the number of lashes set
forth in plain Arabic numbers.
"Why, you know she is serious, don't you? She told the minister about
Mrs. B. made no reply, but changed the subject adroitly. Next morning
she told Frado she "should not go out of the house for one while, except
on errands; and if she did not stop trying to be religious, she would
whip her to death."
Frado pondered; her mistress was a professor of religion; was SHE going
to heaven? then she did not wish to go. If she should be near James,
even, she could not be happy with those fiery eyes watching her
ascending path. She resolved to give over all thought of the future
world, and strove daily to put her anxiety far from her.
Mr. Bellmont found himself unable to do what James or Jack could
accomplish for her. He talked with her seriously, told her he had seen
her many times punished undeservedly; he did not wish to have her saucy
or disrespectful, but when she was SURE she did not deserve a whipping,
to avoid it if she could. "You are looking sick," he added, "you cannot
endure beating as you once could."
It was not long before an opportunity offered of profiting by his
advice. She was sent for wood, and not returning as soon as Mrs. B.
calculated, she followed her, and, snatching from the pile a stick,
raised it over her.
"Stop!" shouted Frado, "strike me, and I'll never work a mite more for
you;" and throwing down what she had gathered, stood like one who feels
the stirring of free and independent thoughts.
By this unexpected demonstration, her mistress, in amazement, dropped
her weapon, desisting from her purpose of chastisement. Frado walked
towards the house, her mistress following with the wood she herself was
sent after. She did not know, before, that she had a power to ward off
assaults. Her triumph in seeing her enter the door with HER burden,
repaid her for much of her former suffering.
It was characteristic of Mrs. B. never to rise in her majesty, unless
she was sure she should be victorious.
This affair never met with an "after clap," like many others.
Thus passed a year. The usual amount of scolding, but fewer whippings.
Mrs. B. longed once more for Mary's return, who had been absent over a
year; and she wrote imperatively for her to come quickly to her. A
letter came in reply, announcing that she would comply as soon as she
was sufficiently recovered from an illness which detained her.
No serious apprehensions were cherished by either parent, who constantly
looked for notice of her arrival, by mail. Another letter brought
tidings that Mary was seriously ill; her mother's presence was
She started without delay. Before she reached her destination, a letter
came to the parents announcing her death.
No sooner was the astounding news received, than Frado rushed into Aunt
"She's dead, Aunt Abby!"
"Who?" she asked, terrified by the unprefaced announcement.
"Mary; they've just had a letter."
As Mrs. B. was away, the brother and sister could freely sympathize, and
she sought him in this fresh sorrow, to communicate such solace as she
could, and to learn particulars of Mary's untimely death, and assist him
in his journey thither.
It seemed a thanksgiving to Frado. Every hour or two she would pop in
into Aunt Abby's room with some strange query:
"She got into the RIVER again, Aunt Abby, didn't she; the Jordan is a
big one to tumble into, any how. S'posen she goes to hell, she'll be as
black as I am. Wouldn't mistress be mad to see her a nigger!" and others
of a similar stamp, not at all acceptable to the pious, sympathetic
dame; but she could not evade them.
The family returned from their sorrowful journey, leaving the dead
behind. Nig looked for a change in her tyrant; what could subdue her, if
the loss of her idol could not?
Never was Mrs. B. known to shed tears so profusely, as when she
reiterated to one and another the sad particulars of her darling's
sickness and death. There was, indeed, a season of quiet grief; it was
the lull of the fiery elements. A few weeks revived the former tempests,
and so at variance did they seem with chastisement sanctified, that
Frado felt them to be unbearable. She determined to flee. But where? Who
would take her? Mrs. B. had always represented her ugly. Perhaps every
one thought her so. Then no one would take her. She was black, no one
would love her. She might have to return, and then she would be more in
her mistress' power than ever.
She remembered her victory at the wood-pile. She decided to remain to do
as well as she could; to assert her rights when they were trampled on;
to return once more to her meeting in the evening, which had been
prohibited. She had learned how to conquer; she would not abuse the
power while Mr. Bellmont was at home.
But had she not better run away? Where? She had never been from the
place far enough to decide what course to take. She resolved to speak to
Aunt Abby. SHE mapped the dangers of her course, her liability to fail
in finding so good friends as John and herself. Frado's mind was busy
for days and nights. She contemplated administering poison to her
mistress, to rid herself and the house of so detestable a plague.
But she was restrained by an overruling Providence; and finally decided
to stay contentedly through her period of service, which would expire
when she was eighteen years of age.
In a few months Jane returned home with her family, to relieve her
parents, upon whom years and affliction had left the marks of age. The
years intervening since she had left her home, had, in some degree,
softened the opposition to her unsanctioned marriage with George. The
more Mrs. B. had about her, the more energetic seemed her directing
capabilities, and her fault-finding propensities. Her own, she had full
power over; and Jane after vain endeavors, became disgusted, weary, and
perplexed, and decided that, though her mother might suffer, she could
not endure her home. They followed Jack to the West. Thus vanished all
hopes of sympathy or relief from this source to Frado. There seemed no
one capable of enduring the oppressions of the house but her. She turned
to the darkness of the future with the determination previously formed,
to remain until she should be eighteen. Jane begged her to follow her so
soon as she should be released; but so wearied out was she by her
mistress, she felt disposed to flee from any and every one having her
similitude of name or feature.
Crucified the hopes that cheered me,
All that to the earth endeared me;
Love of wealth and fame and power,
Love,—all have been crucified.
DARKNESS before day. Jane left, but Jack was now to come again. After
Mary's death he visited home, leaving a wife behind. An orphan whose
home was with a relative, gentle, loving, the true mate of kind,
generous Jack. His mother was a stranger to her, of course, and had
perfect right to interrogate:
"Is she good looking, Jack?" asked his mother.
"Looks well to me," was the laconic reply.
"Was her FATHER rich?"
"Not worth a copper, as I know of; I never asked him," answered Jack.
"Hadn't she any property? What did you marry her for," asked his mother.
"Oh, she's WORTH A MILLION dollars, mother, though not a cent of it is
"Jack! what do you want to bring such a poor being into the family, for?
You'd better stay here, at home, and let your wife go. Why couldn't you
try to do better, and not disgrace your parents?"
"Don't judge, till you see her," was Jack's reply, and immediately
changed the subject. It was no recommendation to his mother, and she did
not feel prepared to welcome her cordially now he was to come with his
wife. He was indignant at his mother's advice to desert her. It rankled
bitterly in his soul, the bare suggestion. He had more to bring. He now
came with a child also. He decided to leave the West, but not his
Upon their arrival, Mrs. B. extended a cold welcome to her new daughter,
eyeing her dress with closest scrutiny. Poverty was to her a disgrace,
and she could not associate with any thus dishonored. This coldness was
felt by Jack's worthy wife, who only strove the harder to recommend
herself by her obliging, winning ways.
Mrs. B. could never let Jack be with her alone without complaining of
this or that deficiency in his wife.
He cared not so long as the complaints were piercing his own ears. He
would not have Jenny disquieted. He passed his time in seeking
A letter came from his brother Lewis, then at the South, soliciting his
services. Leaving his wife, he repaired thither.
Mrs. B. felt that great restraint was removed, that Jenny was more in
her own power. She wished to make her feel her inferiority; to relieve
Jack of his burden if he would not do it himself. She watched her
incessantly, to catch at some act of Jenny's which might be construed
into conjugal unfaithfulness.
Near by were a family of cousins, one a young man of Jack's age, who,
from love to his cousin, proffered all needful courtesy to his stranger
relative. Soon news reached Jack that Jenny was deserting her covenant
vows, and had formed an illegal intimacy with his cousin. Meantime Jenny
was told by her mother-inlaw that Jack did not marry her untrammelled.
He had another love whom he would be glad, even now, if he could, to
marry. It was very doubtful if he ever came for her.
Jenny would feel pained by her unwelcome gossip, and, glancing at her
child, she decided, however true it might be, she had a pledge which
would enchain him yet. Ere long, the mother's inveterate hate crept out
into some neighbor's enclosure, and, caught up hastily, they passed the
secret round till it became none, and Lewis was sent for, the brother by
whom Jack was employed. The neighbors saw her fade in health and
spirits; they found letters never reached their destination when sent by
either. Lewis arrived with the joyful news that he had come to take
Jenny home with him.
What a relief to her to be freed from the gnawing taunts of her
Jenny retired to prepare for the journey, and Mrs. B. and Henry had a
long interview. Next morning he informed Jenny that new clothes would be
necessary, in order to make her presentable to Baltimore society, and he
should return without her, and she must stay till she was suitably
Disheartened, she rushed to her room, and, after relief from weeping,
wrote to Jack to come; to have pity on her, and take her to him. No
answer came. Mrs. Smith, a neighbor, watchful and friendly, suggested
that she write away from home, and employ some one to carry it to the
office who would elude Mrs. B., who, they very well knew, had
intercepted Jenny's letter, and influenced Lewis to leave her behind.
She accepted the offer, and Frado succeeded in managing the affair so
that Jack soon came to the rescue, angry, wounded, and forever after
alienated from his early home and his mother. Many times would Frado
steal up into Jenny's room, when she knew she was tortured by her
mistress' malignity, and tell some of her own encounters with her, and
tell her she might "be sure it wouldn't kill her, for she should have
died long before at the same treatment."
Susan and her child succeeded Jenny as visitors. Frado had merged into
womanhood, and, retaining what she had learned, in spite of the few
privileges enjoyed formerly, was striving to enrich her mind. Her
school-books were her constant companions, and every leisure moment was
applied to them. Susan was delighted to witness her progress, and some
little book from her was a reward sufficient for any task imposed,
however difficult. She had her book always fastened open near her, where
she could glance from toil to soul refreshment. The approaching spring
would close the term of years which Mrs. B. claimed as the period of her
servitude. Often as she passed the waymarks of former years did she
pause to ponder on her situation, and wonder if she COULD succeed in
providing for her own wants. Her health was delicate, yet she resolved
Soon she counted the time by days which should release her. Mrs. B. felt
that she could not well spare one who could so well adapt herself to all
departments—man, boy, housekeeper, domestic, etc. She begged Mrs. Smith
to talk with her, to show her how ungrateful it would appear to leave a
home of such comfort—how wicked it was to be ungrateful! But Frado
replied that she had had enough of such comforts; she wanted some new
ones; and as it was so wicked to be ungrateful, she would go from
temptation; Aunt Abby said "we mustn't put ourselves in the way of
Poor little Fido! She shed more tears over him than over all beside.
The morning for departure dawned. Frado engaged to work for a family a
mile distant. Mrs. Bellmont dismissed her with the assurance that she
would soon wish herself back again, and a present of a silver
Her wardrobe consisted of one decent dress, without any superfluous
accompaniments. A Bible from Susan she felt was her greatest treasure.
Now was she alone in the world. The past year had been one of suffering
resulting from a fall, which had left her lame.
The first summer passed pleasantly, and the wages earned were expended
in garments necessary for health and cleanliness. Though feeble, she was
well satisfied with her progress. Shut up in her room, after her toil
was finished, she studied what poor samples of apparel she had, and, for
the first time, prepared her own garments.
Mrs. Moore, who employed her, was a kind friend to her, and attempted to
heal her wounded spirit by sympathy and advice, burying the past in the
prospects of the future. But her failing health was a cloud no kindly
human hand could dissipate. A little light work was all she could
accomplish. A clergyman, whose family was small, sought her, and she was
removed there. Her engagement with Mrs. Moore finished in the fall.
Frado was anxious to keep up her reputation for efficiency, and often
pressed far beyond prudence. In the winter she entirely gave up work,
and confessed herself thoroughly sick. Mrs. Hale, soon overcome by
additional cares, was taken sick also, and now it became necessary to
adopt some measures for Frado's comfort, as well as to relieve Mrs.
Hale. Such dark forebodings as visited her as she lay, solitary and sad,
no moans or sighs could relieve.
The family physician pronounced her case one of doubtful issue. Frado
hoped it was final. She could not feel relentings that her former home
was abandoned, and yet, should she be in need of succor could she obtain
it from one who would now so grudgingly bestow it? The family were
applied to, and it was decided to take her there. She was removed to a
room built out from the main building, used formerly as a workshop,
where cold and rain found unobstructed access, and here she fought with
bitter reminiscences and future prospects till she became reckless of
her faith and hopes and person, and half wished to end what nature
seemed so tardily to take.
Aunt Abby made her frequent visits, and at last had her removed to her
own apartment, where she might supply her wants, and minister to her
once more in heavenly things.
Then came the family consultation.
"What is to be done with her," asked Mrs. B., "after she is moved there
"Send for the Dr., your brother," Mr. B. replied.
"To-night! and for her! Wait till morning," she continued.
"She has waited too long now; I think something should be done soon."
"I doubt if she is much sick," sharply interrupted Mrs. B.
"Well, we'll see what our brother thinks."
His coming was longed for by Frado, who had known him well during her
long sojourn in the family; and his praise of her nice butter and
cheese, from which his table was supplied, she knew he felt as well as
"You're sick, very sick," he said, quickly, after a moment's pause.
"Take good care of her, Abby, or she'll never get well. All broken
"Yes, it was at Mrs. Moore's," said Mrs. B., "all this was done. She did
but little the latter part of the time she was here."
"It was commenced longer ago than last summer. Take good care of her;
she may never get well," remarked the Dr.
"We sha'n't pay you for doctoring her; you may look to the town for
that, sir," said Mrs. B., and abruptly left the room.
"Oh dear! oh dear!" exclaimed Frado, and buried her face in the pillow.
A few kind words of consolation, and she was once more alone in the
darkness which enveloped her previous days. Yet she felt sure they owed
her a shelter and attention, when disabled, and she resolved to feel
patient, and remain till she could help herself. Mrs. B. would not
attend her, nor permit her domestic to stay with her at all. Aunt Abby
was her sole comforter. Aunt Abby's nursing had the desired effect, and
she slowly improved. As soon as she was able to be moved, the kind Mrs.
Moore took her to her home again, and completed what Aunt Abby had so
well commenced. Not that she was well, or ever would be; but she had
recovered so far as rendered it hopeful she might provide for her own
wants. The clergyman at whose house she was taken sick, was now seeking
some one to watch his sick children, and as soon as he heard of her
recovery, again asked for her services.
What seemed so light and easy to others, was too much for Frado; and it
became necessary to ask once more where the sick should find an asylum.
All felt that the place where her declining health began, should be the
place of relief; so they applied once more for a shelter.
"No," exclaimed the indignant Mrs. B., "she shall never come under this
roof again; never! never!" she repeated, as if each repetition were a
bolt to prevent admission.
One only resource; the public must pay the expense. So she was removed
to the home of two maidens, (old,) who had principle enough to be
willing to earn the money a charitable public disburses.
Three years of weary sickness wasted her, without extinguishing a life
apparently so feeble. Two years had these maidens watched and cared for
her, and they began to weary, and finally to request the authorities to
Mrs. Hoggs was a lover of gold and silver, and she asked the favor of
filling her coffers by caring for the sick. The removal caused severe
By being bolstered in the bed, after a time she could use her hands, and
often would ask for sewing to beguile the tedium. She had become very
expert with her needle the first year of her release from Mrs. B., and
she had forgotten none of her skill. Mrs. H. praised her, and as she
improved in health, was anxious to employ her. She told her she could in
this way replace her clothes, and as her board would be paid for, she
would thus gain something.
Many times her hands wrought when her body was in pain; but the hope
that she might yet help herself, impelled her on.
Thus she reckoned her store of means by a few dollars, and was hoping
soon to come in possession, when she was startled by the announcement
that Mrs. Hoggs had reported her to the physician and town officers as
an impostor. That she was, in truth, able to get up and go to work.
This brought on a severe sickness of two weeks, when Mrs. Moore again
sought her, and took her to her home. She had formerly had wealth at her
command, but misfortune had deprived her of it, and unlocked her heart
to sympathies and favors she had never known while it lasted. Her
husband, defrauded of his last means by a branch of the Bellmont family,
had supported them by manual labor, gone to the West, and left his wife
and four young children. But she felt humanity required her to give a
shelter to one she knew to be worthy of a hospitable reception. Mrs.
Moore's physician was called, and pronounced her a very sick girl, and
encouraged Mrs. M. to keep her and care for her, and he would see that
the authorities were informed of Frado's helplessness, and pledged
Here she remained till sufficiently restored to sew again. Then came the
old resolution to take care of herself, to cast off the unpleasant
charities of the public.
She learned that in some towns in Massachusetts, girls make straw
bonnets—that it was easy and profitable. But how should SHE, black,
feeble and poor, find any one to teach her. But God prepares the way,
when human agencies see no path. Here was found a plain, poor, simple
woman, who could see merit beneath a dark skin; and when the invalid
mulatto told her sorrows, she opened her door and her heart, and took
the stranger in. Expert with the needle, Frado soon equalled her
instructress; and she sought also to teach her the value of useful
books; and while one read aloud to the other of deeds historic and names
renowned, Frado experienced a new impulse. She felt herself capable of
elevation; she felt that this book information supplied an undefined
dissatisfaction she had long felt, but could not express. Every leisure
moment was carefully applied to self-improvement, and a devout and
Christian exterior invited confidence from the villagers. Thus she
passed months of quiet, growing in the confidence of her neighbors and
new found friends.
THE WINDING UP OF THE MATTER.
Nothing new under the sun.
A FEW years ago, within the compass of my narrative, there appeared
often in some of our New England villages, professed fugitives from
slavery, who recounted their personal experience in homely phrase, and
awakened the indignation of non-slaveholders against brother Pro. Such a
one appeared in the new home of Frado; and as people of color were rare
there, was it strange she should attract her dark brother; that he
should inquire her out; succeed in seeing her; feel a strange sensation
in his heart towards her; that he should toy with her shining curls,
feel proud to provoke her to smile and expose the ivory concealed by
thin, ruby lips; that her sparkling eyes should fascinate; that he
should propose; that they should marry? A short acquaintance was indeed
an objection, but she saw him often, and thought she knew him. He never
spoke of his enslavement to her when alone, but she felt that, like her
own oppression, it was painful to disturb oftener than was needful.
He was a fine, straight negro, whose back showed no marks of the lash,
erect as if it never crouched beneath a burden. There was a silent
sympathy which Frado felt attracted her, and she opened her heart to the
presence of love—that arbitrary and inexorable tyrant.
She removed to Singleton, her former residence, and there was married.
Here were Frado's first feelings of trust and repose on human arm. She
realized, for the first time, the relief of looking to another for
comfortable support. Occasionally he would leave her to "lecture."
Those tours were prolonged often to weeks. Of course he had little spare
money. Frado was again feeling her self-dependence, and was at last
compelled to resort alone to that. Samuel was kind to her when at home,
but made no provision for his absence, which was at last unprecedented.
He left her to her fate—embarked at sea, with the disclosure that he
had never seen the South, and that his illiterate harangues were humbugs
for hungry abolitionists. Once more alone! Yet not alone. A still newer
companionship would soon force itself upon her. No one wanted her with
such prospects. Herself was burden enough; who would have an additional
The horrors of her condition nearly prostrated her, and she was again
thrown upon the public for sustenance. Then followed the birth of her
child. The long absent Samuel unexpectedly returned, and rescued her
from charity. Recovering from her expected illness, she once more
commenced toil for herself and child, in a room obtained of a poor
woman, but with better fortune. One so well known would not be wholly
neglected. Kind friends watched her when Samuel was from home, prevented
her from suffering, and when the cold weather pinched the warmly clad, a
kind friend took them in, and thus preserved them. At last Samuel's
business became very engrossing, and after long desertion, news reached
his family that he had become a victim of yellow fever, in New Orleans.
So much toil as was necessary to sustain Frado, was more than she could
endure. As soon as her babe could be nourished without his mother, she
left him in charge of a Mrs. Capon, and procured an agency, hoping to
recruit her health, and gain an easier livelihood for herself and child.
This afforded her better maintenance than she had yet found. She passed
into the various towns of the State she lived in, then into
Massachusetts. Strange were some of her adventures. Watched by
kidnappers, maltreated by professed abolitionists, who didn't want
slaves at the South, nor niggers in their own houses, North. Faugh! to
lodge one; to eat with one; to admit one through the front door; to sit
next one; awful!
Traps slyly laid by the vicious to ensnare her, she resolutely avoided.
In one of her tours, Providence favored her with a friend who, pitying
her cheerless lot, kindly provided her with a valuable recipe, from
which she might herself manufacture a useful article for her
maintenance. This proved a more agreeable, and an easier way of
And thus, to the present time, may you see her busily employed in
preparing her merchandise; then sallying forth to encounter many frowns,
but some kind friends and purchasers. Nothing turns her from her
steadfast purpose of elevating herself. Reposing on God, she has thus
far journeyed securely. Still an invalid, she asks your sympathy, gentle
reader. Refuse not, because some part of her history is unknown, save by
the Omniscient God. Enough has been unrolled to demand your sympathy and
Do you ask the destiny of those connected with her EARLY history? A few
years only have elapsed since Mr. and Mrs. B. passed into another world.
As age increased, Mrs. B. became more irritable, so that no one, even
her own children, could remain with her; and she was accompanied by her
husband to the home of Lewis, where, after an agony in death
unspeakable, she passed away. Only a few months since, Aunt Abby entered
heaven. Jack and his wife rest in heaven, disturbed by no intruders; and
Susan and her child are yet with the living. Jane has silver locks in
place of auburn tresses, but she has the early love of Henry still, and
has never regretted her exchange of lovers. Frado has passed from their
memories, as Joseph from the butler's, but she will never cease to track
them till beyond mortal vision.
"TRUTH is stranger than fiction;" and whoever reads the narrative of
Alfrado, will find the assertion verified.
About eight years ago I became acquainted with the author of this book,
and I feel it a privilege to speak a few words in her behalf. Through
the instrumentality of an itinerant colored lecturer, she was brought to
W——-, Mass. This is an ancient town, where the mothers and daughters
seek, not "wool and flax," but STRAW,—working willingly with their
hands! Here she was introduced to the family of Mrs. Walker, who kindly
consented to receive her as an inmate of her household, and immediately
succeeded in procuring work for her as a "straw sewer." Being very
ingenious, she soon acquired the art of making hats; but on account of
former hard treatment, her constitution was greatly impaired, and she
was subject to seasons of sickness. On this account Mrs. W. gave her a
room joining her own chamber, where she could hear her faintest call.
Never shall I forget the expression of her "black, but comely" face, as
she came to me one day, exclaiming, "O, aunt J——-, I have at last
found a HOME,—and not only a home, but a MOTHER. My cup runneth over.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?"
Months passed on, and she was HAPPY—truly happy. Her health began to
improve under the genial sunshine in which she lived, and she even
looked forward with HOPE—joyful hope to the future. But, alas, "it is
not in man that walketh to direct his steps." One beautiful morning in
the early spring of 1842, as she was taking her usual walk, she chanced
to meet her old friend, the "lecturer," who brought her to W——-, and
with him was a fugitive slave. Young, well-formed and very handsome, he
said he had been a HOUSE-servant, which seemed to account in some measure
for his gentlemanly manners and pleasing address. The meeting was
entirely accidental; but it was a sad occurrence for poor Alfrado, as
her own sequel tells. Suffice it to say, an acquaintance and attachment
was formed, which, in due time, resulted in marriage. In a few days she
left W——-, and ALL her home comforts, and took up her abode in New
Hampshire. For a while everything went on well, and she dreamed not of
danger; but in an evil hour he left his young and trusting wife, and
embarked for sea. She knew nothing of all this, and waited for his
return. But she waited in vain. Days passed, weeks passed, and he came
not; then her heart failed her. She felt herself deserted at a time,
when, of all others, she most needed the care and soothing attentions of
a devoted husband. For a time she tried to sustain HERSELF, but this was
impossible. She had friends, but they were mostly of that class who are
poor in the things of earth, but "rich in faith." The charity on which
she depended failed at last, and there was nothing to save her from the
"County House;" GO SHE MUST. But her feelings on her way thither, and
after her arrival, can be given better in her own language; and I trust
it will be no breach of confidence if I here insert part of a letter she
wrote her mother Walker, concerning the matter.
* * * "The evening before I left for my dreaded journey to the 'house'
which was to be my abode, I packed my trunk, carefully placing in it
every little memento of affection received from YOU and my friends in
W——-, among which was the portable inkstand, pens and paper. My
beautiful little Bible was laid aside, as a place nearer my heart was
reserved for that. I need not tell you I slept not a moment that night.
My home, my peaceful, quiet home with you, was before me. I could see my
dear little room, with its pleasant eastern window opening to the
morning; but more than all, I beheld YOU, my mother, gliding softly in
and kneeling by my bed to read, as no one but you CAN read, 'The Lord is
my shepherd,—I shall not want.' But I cannot go on, for tears blind me.
For a description of the morning, and of the scant breakfast, I must
wait until another time.
"We started. The man who came for me was kind as he could be,—helped me
carefully into the wagon, (for I had no strength,) and drove on. For
miles I spoke not a word. Then the silence would be broken by the driver
uttering some sort of word the horse seemed to understand; for he
invariably quickened his pace. And so, just before nightfall, we halted
at the institution, prepared for the HOMELESS. With cold civility the
matron received me, and bade one of the inmates shew me my room. She did
so; and I followed up two flights of stairs. I crept as I was able; and
when she said, 'Go in there,' I obeyed, asking for my trunk, which was
soon placed by me. My room was furnished some like the 'prophet's
chamber,' except there was no 'candlestick;' so when I could creep down
I begged for a light, and it was granted. Then I flung myself on the bed
and cried, until I could cry no longer. I rose up and tried to pray; the
Saviour seemed near. I opened my precious little Bible, and the first
verse that caught my eye was—'I am poor and needy, yet the Lord
thinketh upon me.' O, my mother, could I tell you the comfort this was
to me. I sat down, calm, almost happy, took my pen and wrote on the
inspiration of the moment—
"O, holy Father, by thy power,
Thus far in life I'm brought;
And now in this dark, trying hour,
O God, forsake me not.
"Dids't thou not nourish and sustain
My infancy and youth?
Have I not testimonials plain,
Of thy unchanging truth?
"Though I've no home to call my own,
My heart shall not repine;
The saint may live on earth unknown,
And yet in glory shine.
"When my Redeemer dwelt below,
He chose a lowly lot;
He came unto his own, but lo!
His own received him not.
"Oft was the mountain his abode,
The cold, cold earth his bed;
The midnight moon shone softly down
On his unsheltered head.
"But MY head WAS SHELTERED, and I tried to feel thankful."
Two or three letters were received after this by her friends in W——-,
and then all was silent. No one of us knew whether she still lived or
had gone to her home on high. But it seems she remained in this house
until after the birth of her babe; then her faithless husband returned,
and took her to some town in New Hampshire, where, for a time, he
supported her and his little son decently well. But again he left her as
before—suddenly and unexpectedly, and she saw him no more. Her efforts
were again successful in a measure in securing a meagre maintenance for
a time; but her struggles with poverty and sickness were severe. At
length, a door of hope was opened. A kind gentleman and lady took her
little boy into their own family, and provided everything necessary for
his good; and all this without the hope of remuneration. But let them
know, they shall be "recompensed at the resurrection of the just." God
is not unmindful of this work,—this labor of love. As for the afflicted
mother, she too has been remembered. The heart of a stranger was moved
with compassion, and bestowed a recipe upon her for restoring gray hair
to its former color. She availed herself of this great help, and has
been quite successful; but her health is again falling, and she has felt
herself obliged to resort to another method of procuring her bread—that
of writing an Autobiography.
I trust she will find a ready sale for her interesting work; and let all
the friends who purchase a volume, remember they are doing good to one
of the most worthy, and I had almost said most unfortunate, of the human
family. I will only add in conclusion, a few lines, calculated to
comfort and strengthen this sorrowful, homeless one. "I will help thee,
saith the Lord."
"I will help thee," promise kind
Made by our High Priest above;
Soothing to the troubled mind,
Full of tenderness and love.
"I will help thee" when the storm
Gathers dark on every side;
Safely from impending harm,
In my sheltering bosom hide.
"I will help thee," weary saint,
Cast thy burdens ALL ON ME;
Oh, how cans't thou tire or faint,
While my arm encircles thee.
I have pitied every tear,
Heard and COUNTED every sigh;
Ever lend a gracious ear
To thy supplicating cry.
What though thy wounded bosom bleed,
Pierced by affliction's dart;
Do I not all thy sorrows heed,
And bear thee on my heart?
Soon will the lowly grave become
Thy quiet resting place;
Thy spirit find a peaceful home
In mansions NEAR MY FACE.
There are thy robes and glittering crown,
Outshining yonder sun;
Soon shalt thou lay the body down,
And put those glories on.
Long has thy golden lyre been strung,
Which angels cannot move;
No song to this is ever sung,
But bleeding, dying Love.
Having known the writer of this book for a number of years, and knowing
the many privations and mortifications she has had to pass through, I
the more willingly add my testimony to the truth of her assertions. She
is one of that class, who by some are considered not only as little
lower than the angels, but far beneath them; but I have long since
learned that we are not to look at the color of the hair, the eyes, or
the skin, for the man or woman; their life is the criterion we are to
judge by. The writer of this book has seemed to be a child of
Early in life she was deprived of her parents, and all those endearing
associations to which childhood clings. Indeed, she may be said not to
have had that happy period; for, being taken from home so young, and
placed where she had nothing to love or cling to, I often wonder she had
not grown up a MONSTER; and those very people calling themselves
Christians, (the good Lord deliver me from such,) and they likewise
ruined her health by hard work, both in the field and house. She was
indeed a slave, in every sense of the word; and a lonely one, too.
But she has found some friends in this degraded world, that were willing
to do by others as they would have others do by them; that were willing
she should live, and have an existence on the earth with them. She has
never enjoyed any degree of comfortable health since she was eighteen
years of age, and a great deal of the time has been confined to her room
and bed. She is now trying to write a book; and I hope the public will
look favorably on it, and patronize the same, for she is a worthy woman.
Her own health being poor, and having a child to care for, (for, by the
way, she has been married,) and she wishes to educate him; in her
sickness he has been taken from her, and sent to the county farm,
because she could not pay his board every week; but as soon as she was
able, she took him from that PLACE, and now he has a home where he is
contented and happy, and where he is considered as good as those he is
with. He is an intelligent, smart boy, and no doubt will make a smart
man, if he is rightly managed. He is beloved by his playmates, and by
all the friends of the family; for the family do not recognize those as
friends who do not include him in their family, or as one of them, and
his mother as a daughter—for they treat her as such; and she certainly
deserves all the affection and kindness that is bestowed upon her, and
they are always happy to have her visit them whenever she will. They are
not wealthy, but the latch-string is always out when suffering humanity
needs a shelter; the last loaf they are willing to divide with those
more needy than themselves, remembering these words, Do good as we have
opportunity; and we can always find opportunity, if we have the
And now I would say, I hope those who call themselves friends of our
dark-skinned brethren, will lend a helping hand, and assist our sister,
not in giving, but in buying a book; the expense is trifling, and the
reward of doing good is great. Our duty is to our fellow-beings, and
when we let an opportunity pass, we know not what we lose. Therefore we
should do with all our might what our hands find to do; and remember the
words of Him who went about doing good, that inasmuch as ye have done a
good deed to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to
me; and even a cup of water is not forgotten. Therefore, let us work
while the day lasts, and we shall in no wise lose our reward.
MILFORD, JULY 20th, 1859.
Feeling a deep interest in the welfare of the writer of this book, and
hoping that its circulation will be extensive, I wish to say a few words
in her behalf. I have been acquainted with her for several years, and
have always found her worthy the esteem of all friends of humanity; one
whose soul is alive to the work to which she puts her hand.. Although
her complexion is a little darker than my own, I esteem it a privilege
to associate with her, and assist her whenever an opportunity presents
itself. It is with this motive that I write these few lines, knowing
this book must be interesting to all who have any knowledge of the
writer's character, or wish to have. I hope no one will refuse to aid
her in her work, as she is worthy the sympathy of all Christians, and
those who have a spark of humanity in their breasts.
Thinking it unnecessary for me to write a long epistle, I will close by
bidding her God speed.
C. D. S.