« AnteriorContinuar »
Now a traitor is one who betrays a trust. What trust has your father betrayed ?”
“ He does not stand by his native State in her secession from the old Union,” answered Onslow.
“But what if he holds that his duty to the central government is paramount to his duty to his State?” asked Kenrick.
“ That I regard as an error,” replied Onslow.
you can fairly say is, that your father has erred in judgment, — not that he has been guilty of a base act of treason.”
“No, I did n't mean that, Charles, - your pardon,” said Onslow, holding out his hand.
Kenrick cordially accepted the proffered apology, and then asked: “May I speak frankly to you, Robert, --speak as I used to in the old times at William and Mary's ?”
“ Certainly. Proceed.”
“ Your father literally obeyed the Saviour's injunction. He gave up all he had, to follow where truth led. Convinced that slavery was a wrong, he ruined his fortunes in the attempt to substitute free labor for that of slaves. Through the hostility of the slave interest the experiment failed.”
“I think,” said Onslow, “my father acted unwisely in sacrificing his fortunes to an abstraction.”
“ An abstraction! The man who tries to undo a wrong is an abstractionist, is he? What a world this would be if all men would be guilty of similar abstractions. To such a one I would say, “Master, lead on, and I will follow thee, to the last gasp, with truth and loyalty !' Strange! unaccountably strange, that his own son should have deserted him for the filthy flesh-pots of slavery!”
“May not good men differ as to slavery?” asked Onslow.
“Put that question,” replied Kenrick, “ to nine tenths of the slaveholders, - men in favor of lynching, torturing, murdering, those opposed to the institution. Put it to Mr. Carson, who, the other day, in his own house, shot down an unarmed and unsuspecting visitor, because he had freely expressed views opposed to slavery. Abolitionists don't hang men for not believing with them, - do they? But the whole code and temper of the South reply to you, that men may not differ, and shall not differ, on the subject of slavery. Onslow, give me but one thing, and that a thing guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, though never tolerated in the Slave States, — give me liberty of the press in those States, and I, as a friend of the Union, would say to the government at Washington, “ Put by the sword. Wait! I will put down this rebellion. I have the pen and the press! Therefore is slavery doomed, and its days are numbered.'”
“ Why is it," asked Onslow, “ if slavery is wrong, that you find all the intelligence, all the culture, at the South, and even in the Border States, on its side ?”
“Ah! there,” replied Kenrick, “ there's the sunken rock on which you
and many other young men have made wreck of your very souls. Your æsthetic has superseded your moral natures. To work is in such shocking bad taste, when one can make others work for one!”
“ Ninė tenths of the men at the South of any social position,” said Onslow, “ are in favor of secession.”
“I know it,” returned Kenrick, “ and the sadder for human nature that it should be so! In Missouri, in Kentucky, in Virginia, in Baltimore, all the young men who would be considered fashionable, all who thoughtlessly for heartlessly prize more their social status than they do justice and right, follow the lead of the pro-slavery aristocracy. I know from experience how hard it is to break loose from those social and family ties. But I thank God I've succeeded. 'T was like emerging from mephitic vapors into the sweet oxygen of a clear, sun-bright atmosphere, that hour I resolved to take my lot with freedom and the right against slavery and the wrong!”
“ How was your conversion effected ? ” asked Onslow. “ Did you fall in love with some Yankee schoolmistress? I was n't aware you'd been living at the North.”
“ I've never set foot in a Free State,” replied Kenrick. “My life has been passed here in Louisiana on my father's plantation. I was bred a slaveholder, and lived one after the most straitest sect of our religion until about six months ago. See at the trunkmaker's my learned papers in De Bow's Review. They're entitled . Slave Labor versus Free. Unfortunately for my admirers and disciples, there was in my father's library a little stray volume of Channing's writings on slavery. I read it at first contemptuously, then attentively, then respectfully, and at last lovingly and prayerfully. The truth, almost insufferably radiant, poured in upon me. Convictions were heaved up in my mind like volcanic islands out of the sea. I was spiritually magnetized and possessed.”
“What said your father?”
“My father and I had always lived more as companions than as sire and son. There is only a difference of twenty-two years in our ages. My own mother, a very beautiful woman who died when I was five years old, was six years older than my father. From her I derived my intellectual peculiarities. Of course my father has cast me off, — disowned, disinherited me. He is sincere in his pro-slavery fanaticism. I wish I could say as much of all who fall in with the popular current.”
“ But what do you mean to do, Charles ? 'Tis unsafe for you to stay here in New Orleans, holding such sentiments.”
“My plans are not yet matured,” replied Kenrick. “I shall stand by the old flag, you may be sure of that. And I shall liberate all the slaves I can, beginning with my father's.”
“You would not fight against your own State?”
“ Incontinently I would if my own State should persist in rebellion against the Union ; and so I would fight against my own county should that rebel against the State.”
“Well, schoolfellow,” said Onslow, with a fascinating frankness,“ let us reserve our quarrels for the time when we shall cross swords in earnest. That time may come sooner than we dream of. The less can we afford to say bitter things to each other now. Come, and let me introduce you to a charming young lady. How long do you stay here?”
“Perhaps a week; perhaps a month.”
“I shall watch over you while you remain, for I do not fancy seeing my old crony hung.”
“ Better so than be false to the light within me. Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
Onslow made no reply, but affectionately, almost compassionately, took Kenrick by the arm and led him away.
Vance put down his newspaper, and then, immersed in meditation, slowly passed out of the dining-hall and up-stairs into his own room.
A MONSTER OF INGRATITUDE.
“Faint hearts are usually false hearts, choosing sin rather than suffering." - Argyle, before his execution.
RS. GENTRY had attired herself in her new spring
costume, a feuillemorte silk, with a bonnet trimmed to match, of the frightful coal-hod shape, with sable roses and a bristling ruche. It was just such a bonnet as Proserpine, Queen of the Shades, might have chosen for a stroll with Pluto along the shore of Lake Avernus.
After many satisfactory glances in the mirror, Mrs. Gentry sat down and trotted her right foot impatiently. Tarquin, entering, announced the carriage.
“Well, go to Miss Ellen, and ask when she 'll be ready."
Five minutes Mrs. Gentry waited, while the horses, pestered by stinging insects, dashed their hoofs against the pavements. At last Tarquin returned with the report that Miss Ellen's room was empty. “ Has Pauline looked for her ?"
Yes, missis.” 66 Ask Esha if she has seen her.”
Pauline, standing at the head of the stairs, put the question, and Esha replied testily from the kitchen : “ Don't know nuffin 'bout her. Hab suffin better ter do dan look af'r all de school-gals in dis house."
Pauline turned from the old heathen in despair, and suggested that perhaps Miss Ellen had stepped out to buy a ribbon or some hair-pins.
Mrs. Gentry waxed angry. “O, but she'll be come up with!” This was the teacher's favorite form of consolation. The Abolitionists would be come up with. Abe Lincoln would be come up with. General Scott would be come up with. Everybody who offended Mrs. Gentry would be come up with, --- if not in this world, why then in some other.
An hour passed. She began to get seriously alarmed. She sent away the carriage. Hardly had it gone, when a second vehicle drew up before the door, and out of it stepped Mr. Ratcliff. She met him in the parlor, and, fearing to tell the truth, merely remarked, that Ellen was out making a few purchases.
“ When will she be back ?”
Mrs. Gentry passed the day in a state of wretched anxiety. She sent out messengers. She interested a policeman in the search. But no trace of the fugitive! Mrs. Gentry was in despair. If Ellen had not been a slave, her disappearance would have been comparatively a small matter. If it had been somebody's free-born daughter who had absconded, it would n't have been half so bad. But here was a slave! One whose flight would lay open to suspicion the teacher's allegiance to the institution! Intolerable ! Of course it was no concern of hers to what fate that slave was about to be consigned.
Ah! sister of the South, (and I have known many, the charms of whose persons and manners I thought incomparable,)
a woman whose own virtue is not rooted in sand, cannot, if she thinks and reasons, fail to shudder at a system which sends other women, perhaps as innocent and pure as she herself, to be sold to brutal men at auctions. And yet, if any one had told Mrs. Gentry she was no better than a procuress, both she and the Rev. Dr. Palmer would have thought it an impious aspersion.
At the appointed hour Ratcliff appeared. Mrs. Gentry's toilet that day was appropriate to the calamitous occasion. She was dressed in a black silk robe intensely flounced, and deco rated around the bust with a profluvium of black lace that might have melted the heart of a Border-ruffian. She entered the parlor, tragically shaking out a pocket handkerchief with an edging of black.
“O Mr. Ratcliff! Mr. Ratcliff !” she exclaimed, rushing forward, then checking herself melodramatically, and seizing the back of a chair, as if for support.
“ Well, madam, what's the matter ? ”