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THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

JONATHAN JEFFERSON WHITLAW

OR SCENES ON THE MISSISSIPPI

BY FRANCES TROLLOPE

LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY, 1836






TO THOSE STATES OF THE AMERICAN UNION
IN WHICH SLAVERY HAS BEEN ABOLISHED
OR NEVER PERMITTED THESE VOLUMES
ARE RESPECTIVELY DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR

LONDON, 27 APRIL, 1836


EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION


First published in 1836 by Richard Bentley in London in three volumes, then again in that same year in Paris by Baudry's European Library, it was next published in 1857, with a title change, Lynch Law: The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw. This novel, in reality, is a documentary. When it was written the camera, whether for still or moving pictures, was not yet in use. Instead, it is illustrated by Auguste Hervieu who accompanied Mrs Trollope and her family to New Orleans, Louisiana, up the Mississippi to Nashoba, Tennessee, and Cincinatti, Ohio. The Englishwoman's novel, published just before the American Richard Hildreth's The White Slave, with that work next were used as models by Harriet Beecher Stowe for her Uncle Tom's Cabin.
As we see in its illustrations by Auguste Hervieu, which costume its participants in Empire and Regency style, it is earlier than Victorian. It is high-waisted Jane Austen but with more vinegar and more compassion. It draws upon the plays, poems and novels of Shakespeare, Milton, Fielding, Sterne, Smollett and Scott. It describes the barbarity of racial lynchings which continue into living memory. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak of it at the University of Arkansas, fifty years after the Little Rock Nine had, with great courage, risked their lives to end segregation in American schools.

We re-publish this novel in honour of Frances Trollope who, with four other members of her household, her daughter-in-law Theodosia, Theodosia's father, Joseph Garrow, and Theodosia's half-sister Harriet Fisher, and their maid, Elizabeth Shinner, are all buried in Florence's 'English' Cemetery. For years these vivid and direct observations of slavery written into the pages of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw have been silenced, the book allowed to go out of print. Nor has the history of the 'English' Cemetery been explored until recently, to find that it is filled with anti-slavery advocates, among them, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Southwood Smith, Theodore Parker, Hiram Powers, Richard Hildreth, and even buried here is the black slave who at fourteen years of age was brought to Florence from Nubia and who was baptized in a Russian Orthodox family with the name of Nadezhda, which means 'Hope'. Frederick Douglass visited this cemetery, in particular the graves of Theodore Parker and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, to honour their eloquence that effected his freedom.

Jeannette Marks published, in the year of my birth, a book on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Jamaican slave-owning background, The Family of the Barrett. For years, this book, like Trollope's, was neglected and ignored.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning, herself of slave-owning stock and indeed of slave stock, over-reacted to Frances Trollope's novel as too close to home. Indeed, the death of one of its heroines was to be like her own, from an overdose of laudanum. The essay EBB submitted on Fanny to Hengist Horne's New Spirit of the Age is an appallingly vicious attack upon her. The two famous women writers were, in time, to come to be in the same city, Florence, to die there, and to be buried together in her 'English' Cemetery outside the medieval walls, along with so many others deeply involved in slavery and its abolition.

A further reason for my desire to republish this novel, along with Elizabeth Barrett Browning's anti-slavery poetry, her sonnet to Hiram Powers' 'Greek Slave', and her 'Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point', is my own marriage to a descendant of Kentucky Quaker slave-owners. His aunt's real name 'Bertha Gertrude' was always instead given as the far more beautiful 'Chloe May', the name of my husband's grandfather's beloved Black 'Mammy'. We see in Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw the wonderful names, 'Clio, Portia, Phoebe, Juno'. In my husband's family there were two histories, that they sold their slaves down river, that they freed them, when they pulled up stakes and went on to Texas to herd cattle, then, further, to California at the Gold Rush. My husband from reading Aristotle on women being less than slaves, scoffingly called me 'Aristotle's creature', and considered me sub-human. Trollope's Juno heals those wounds. Once, at Princeton, the President of their Whig-Clio Club, the oldest debating society in America, founded in the 1760s, came to my office to ask if we might be related. I felt like saying 'We share the same name because of a slave-owner and, yes, we might be related by marriage and less than marriage'. A ninety-year-old Quaker woman doctor came bustling up to me at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to ask 'Is Holloway thy name or thy married name', to which I answered 'It is my married name. My Quaker ancestors were Cashes, Frys, Cadburys and Glorneys from Coventry, Norwich and Dublin, not from Kentucky'.

There is a derogatory word used throughout the novel - but it is only placed in the mouths of the novel's villains. Among the villains, the chief one, in fact, though masquerading as hero, a 'whited sepulcrhe', is Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, whose 'white laws' are those of racial injustice, slavery and lynching. The author and the true heroes and heroines, black and white, speak instead of 'negro' and 'negress' with dignity, respect and love. My son, Richard Holloway, photographed the people of whom Jonathan David wrote in Together Let Us Sweetly Live, where the praying and singing bands of blacks are celebrated and which show the results of such liberating missionary movements from early times amongst the slaves. This is the world of Edward and Lucy Bligh, decades later, almost two centuries later, still celebrating faith in the midst of despair. Indeed there is a continuum between the freeing celebrations of people by Frances Wright, Frances Trollope and Auguste Hervieu, by James Agee and Evan Walker, by Jonathan David and Richard Holloway, and by Karen Graffeo in her photographs of the Roma in Europe, which deserves recognition, not the silencing that has been meted out to this novel for nearly two centuries.

We shall find Auguste Hervieu and Frances Trollope differing on the spelling of Mohanna/Mohana Creek, and of Riechland/Reichland. But they both witness just such a family shivering with ague on the banks of the Mississippi, Hervieu sketching them first for Domestic Manners of the Americans. Indeed that other book by Anthony Trollope's mother serves as the Writer's Diary from which this novel is constructed, just as much as do the Hawthornes' Diaries become Nathaniel Hawthorne's Romances. Principally, Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw is a novel about families, the Whitlaws, the Steinmarks, the Blighs, amongst the whites, and black families fractured by slavery, Phebe's family, and Juno's family. Of these we should read the
Steinmark family as an idealized portrait of Frances Trollope's own household that worked so energetically against slavery.



A Louisiana Love Scene


ILLUSTRATIONS TO JONATHAN JEFFERSON WHITLAW
Click on titles for full size images

VOLUME THE FIRST

A LOUISIANA LOVE SCENE
BIRTH OF JONATHAN JEFFERSON WHITLAW
DEPARTURE FROM MOHANNA CREEK
JONATHAN JEFFERSON'S VISIT TO REICHLAND
A STORE AT NATCHEZ

VOLUME THE SECOND

A PLANTER'S LADY
MRS SHEPHERD'S WORK-ROOM
CLEAR-STARCHING IN LOUISIANNA
A BILLIARD TABLE AT NEW ORLEANS
A LOVER'S VENGEANCE

VOLUME THE THIRD

JUNO'S LAMENT OVER THE LAST OF HER RACE
LUCY BLIGH AND THE CHOCTAWS
EDWARD BLIGH'S FAREWELL TO HIS CONGREGATION
LYNCH LAW
RETRIBUTION

For Harvard University's copy see Google Books:
http://books.google.it/books?id=oTAWAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Frances+Trollope+Jonathan+Jefferson+Whitlaw&source=bl&ots=hiFiQ94CLK&sig=x1yV7jeW-W-uRLGiBJC_ybZZYtw&hl=it&ei=MSJ5TeHqGIbIswauyangBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q&f=false

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF
JONATHAN JEFFERSON WHITLAW


CHAPTER I

t one of those bold sweeps of the Mississippi river which occasionally vary the monotony of its scenery by giving a portion of its dark, deep waters the appearance of a lake, may yet be seen the traces of what was once - some dozen years ago perhaps - a human habitation. The spot is fearfully wild, and possesses no single feature of the sweet heart-cheering beauty which a lover of Nature would select for the embellishment of his familiar home; yet it is not altogether without interest, - that species of interest, at least, which arises from a vague and shadowy outline, and the absence of every object, either of grace or of deformity, which might lower by its insignificance the effect of the moody grandeur that seems to brood over the almost boundless plain through which the father of waters rolls his mighty waves.

There is in truth an unbroken vastness in the scenes displayed at many points of the Mississippi river that seizes very powerfully on the imagination; and though composed for the most part of objects that chill and revolt the mind, the combination of them would, I think, detain the eye for some short space from many a fairer landscape, were it possible that such could rise beside it.

Unwonted to European eyes, and mystically heavy, is the eternal gloom that seems settled upon that region. Whatever wind may blow - however bright and burning that southern sun may blaze in the unclouded sky, the stream is for ever turbid, and for ever dark, turning all that is reflected on its broad breast to its own murky hue, and so blending all things into one sad, sombre tint, till the very air seems tinged with gray, and Nature looks as if she had put on a suit of mourning to do honour to some sad solemnity. Nor can one look long upon the scene without fancying that Nature has indeed some cause to mourn; for at one moment an uprooted forest is seen borne along by the rapid flood, its leafy honours half concealed beneath the untransparent wave, while its faithless roots mock the air by rearing their unsightly branches in their stead. At another, the sullen stillness is
interrupted by a blast that will rend from the earth her verdant mantle - there her only boast, and leave the groaning forest, crushed, prostrate, unbarked and unboughed, the very emblem of ruin, desolation and despair.
 
It is perhaps this very perfection of melancholy dreariness which creates the interest experienced on viewing the singular
scenery of the Mississippi. But though one may feel well disposed to linger for a moment to gaze on its strange and dismal vastness, it offers little to tempt a longer stay. The drowsy alligator, luxuriating on its slimy banks, or the unsocial bear, happy in the undisputed possession of its tangled thickets, alone seem formed to find prolonged enjoyment there.

Yet this was the spot selected and chosen, at no very distant period of the earth's history
, as the abode of a man who nevertheless had all the world before him where to choose; and, what is perhaps more extraordinary still, he never either regretted his choice, or felt the slightest inclination to change his habitation for the space of at least ten years after he made it.

This chosen spot was thenceforward distinguished by the name of Mohana C
reek; an appellation borrowed from a deep ravine not a hundred yards distant from it, which during the winter and spring carried a huge stream of pine-stained water to the river.

It was indeed this valuable creek which attracted the careful and skilful eye of Jonathan
Whitlaw, and finally led him to select its vicinity for the erection of a permanent dwelling for himself and his family.

What the original cause might have been which induced Mr Jonathan Whitlaw to 'squat in the bush' (as the taking possession of any heretofor unappropriated land is called in Transatlantic phrase), was never, I believe, very clearly understood; and as the point is not likely to be one of much interest to the general reader, I will not delay the progress of my narrative by repeating the various conjectures on the subject which have reached me: it is sufficient for my purpose to state, that about three o'clock P.M. on a certain Tuesday in the month of April 18--, a very small boat, formed of unpainted deals, with nothing but a few articles of old household furniture for its cargo, and two women, one man, and a dog for its crew, came down the stream, and by the aid of its paddles was brought within grappling-reach of the bank immediately above Mohana Creek.

Little and light as was her lading, the boat was deep in the water, and the two women had perched themselves with the feet drawn up on an old chest, that formed the most substantial part of the cargo, in order to keep themselves out of the water, which a very considerable leak was permitting to enter in such abundance as to render the frail craft not only very uncomfortable, but very unsafe.

'By the living Jingo', cried the man, springing on shore, 'it is time to be smart, or we shall be going down where nobody ever comes up. Be spry, gals!' he continued, stretching out his hand to assist the disembarkation of the females: 'you hold her fast on with the hook, Portia, till I can grapple her tight to a tree; and you, Clio, look sharp and fix them notions safe and dry on shore as fast as I can pitch them at ye'.

The individual who thus, in the true Columbian style, now planted his foot on the land, and thereby took possession of it, was a powerful muscular man somewhat past thirty. His features were regular, and might have been called handsome, had the expression of his countenance been less unpleasing; but labour and intemperance had each left traces there.

The women who were his companions appeared both of them to be under twenty, and of the very lowest order of society. T
heir garments were scanty and sordid, and they had much the look and air of that poorly-paid class known in every manufacturing town in the United States as 'the gals of the factory'.

Whatever else they might be, however, they seemed to possess one excellent feminine quality to perfection, - they were most 'obedient to command'; and though one of them was very evidently in a state which rendered her little fit for hard work, they both of them readily and actively performed the task allotted to them, till the boat was disembarrassed of all the load she had carried, save the water - and that was visibly increasing upon her rapidly.

'It don't signify thinking of anything else,' observed Mr Jonathan  Whitlaw, 'till I have saved them elegant sawed planks. Wood is plenty enough, and to spare, no doubt; but sawing is sawing all the world over, so you must jest wait a spell, gals, till I'm ready to fix you: and if you will but bide clever a bit, and say not a word till I bid you, why then I'll set to fix you and all your notions about you outright, as slick as may be'.

A goodly axe being part of the treasure landed, it required but a few minutes to demolish the frail vessel, and deposit her timbers on the bank. This done, Jonathan Whitlaw turned to his wife and his sister, nothing dismayed, as it should seem, at the apparent impossibility of leaving the dreary spot on which they stood; and having filled the hollow of his left cheek with tobacco, and settled himself in his ill-fitting attire with sundry of those jerks and tugs incomprehensible to all who have not looked at the natives of the New World face to face, he thus addressed them:

'Well, now, this is what I call a right-down elegant location. D'ye comprehend the privilege of that handsome creek, gals? Maybe you don't, and maybe I do. Mind now what I say: if that creek don't prove as good as a dozen axes, say my name's not Jonathan',

'My!' - exclaimed the matronly Portia, drawing her thin shawl more tightly round her; for the April sun, though it had almost scorched them on the river, could not prevent the deep, dank shade of the spot from sending a cold shiver through her limbs. 'Well, now, Jonathan, but that will be considerable convenient anyhow'.

'I expect so,' replied the man, folding his arms, and turning himself slowly round to every point of the compass to ascertain the capabilities of the spot for the 'improvements' he meditated, 'I expect so', he repeated with an absent air, as if his faculties were wholly absorbed by the examination he was making.

To an unpracticed eye, a single glance might have seemed sufficient to discover everything that the desolate spot had to show. Before them spread the mighty mass of muddy waters, bounded, as it seemed, on all sides by the matted foliage of the level forest, above whose unvaried line sprang the high arch of heaven. Beneath their feet was a boggish, peat-like soil, that looked as if occasionally it might itself become a part of the swollen river's bed. Around them rose innumerable tall, slender trees, between whose stems the eye could not penetrate two hundred yards in any direction, so thickly was the ground covered with an undergrowth of bear-brake and reeds.

To an unpracticed eye, one glance would have been enough, and too much, to show all that could there be seen; unless the next might have discovered a friendly bark upon that muddy stream, which might have borne the gazer from it for ever.

But with Jonathan Whitlaw the case was very different.  Not a stem, not a stick, not a reed, not a hollow half filled withh stagnant water, nor a crevice that might facilitiate its escape, but was examined with as much earnest attention, and reasoned upon with as much provident wisdom as might suffice to decide the locality of a palace.

The women meanwhile again seated themselves on the chest which had done them such good service in the boat, and for a time sat silently watching the master of their destiny as he mediated in the secret council-chamber of his own breast the plans on which it hung. A low whispering then commenced between them, the result of which was a half-timid, half-coaxing attempt on the part of Clio, the bolder spirited of the two, to draw his attention from the future to the present.

'I say, Bub', she began, 'I say, - do you know that Porchy and I are right down dead almost for summet to eat? I can get at the bag with the corn-cakes in no time. Shall I, Jonathan?'

Jonathan turned his quid of tobacco deliberately from one cheek to the other, and then replied,

'I'll tell you what it is, sis, - we are here - no matter why, - Perhaps 'tis because I happen to like this here part of the country best - but at any rate here we be, and I can tell you that here we must bide - but as to spending our days in nothing but eating, it's what I'm not  provided for. Now look you, both of you, and I'll tell you the case at once. The nearest town to this here bit is Natchez, and I calculate that is not over nigh for a walk through the bush, seeing it can't be less than twenty miles right a-head. I won't say that we can't buy a bushel of corn-meal no nigher, but I won't say that we can; but this I will say, that near or far, we shan't never get it at all without having the Spanish wheels ready, I expect; and concerning that commodity I'll tell you no lies, - I have got no more of it than a mouse might carry easy at full trot. But, however, there stands the meal-tub chock full, and dry as a ripe tassel, - I took care of that. And here's five gallons of whiskey, and there's my axe, and here's my arms', baring them as he spoke to the shoulder. 'So be good gals, and I'll fix a palace for you; but don't be for everlasting talking of eating, jest in the beginning, - I shall be wrathy enough if you do, I tell you that: so mind and say no more about it, but each of you take a drop with me, and you'll be after helping me build in no time'.

With a celerity which showed the effect of habit, Jonathan Whitlaw produced a horn from his pocket, and skilfully appying it to the little cask, drew forth what he considered as a fitting portion for each, and presented it in succession to the two females. This generous and gallant office performed, he swallowed a treble dose himself, and instantly set to work.

His prophecy was speedily fulfilled - the poisonous inspiration did its work, and under its feverish influence the young women dragged and pulled, and pushed and carried, according to his orders, with a degree of strength and perseverance greatly beyond what their age and appearance promised.

The increase of vigour which he had himself acquired from the draught showed itself not only in the activity with which he laboured, but by a more than ordinary degree of loquacity - a part of which may serve to explain his future plans.

'This here tree must down smack - and them there three small ones into the bargain; then this one, and that one, and they two t'others, shall have their heads and branches cut off slick; and there's the four corners of the house as clean as a whistle, and we must roll up the logs around them. I say, gals, don't I know the river? I expect this will prove the most profitable privilege of a wooding-station of any 'twixt New Orlines and Cincinnati. What with that there elegant creek, and this here handsome elevation' (the spot selected for his house was at this time at least six or seven inches above the level of the river); 'and what with them there capital hickories, and this dreadful beautiful sweep in of the river, that will bring the steamers up to me whether they will or no; - I say, gals, that if things do but go on at New Orlines as bravely as they do now, I'll make dollars enough, by wooding their boats for 'em, to open a store for all the notions in creation at Natchez, before ten years are out. Why, since we've landed I've see half a dozen first-rate timbers shoot the creek; and I'll soon see if I can't find a way to stop 'em short, as soon as I've got a pair of hands to spare'.

While his tongue was thus active, however, the hands he talked of were by no means idle. The rapidity and apparent ease with which trees were felled, and the allotted space cleared, might have been mistaken for an effort of more than mortal skill by any but a back-woosdman. What was to Jonathan Whitelaw the work of one stroke of the axe, would to any unused to the mystery have required a dozen; and where the unskilled would have raised the instrument on high, and brought its edge and weight to bear with a violent exertion of strength, he achieved the object with an easy dexterity, which seemed not to require one half the power that the brawny arm which wielded the axe could well have bestowed had it been needed.

Notwithstanding all that skill and perseverance could do, however, the sturdy woodsman and his tottering assistants were overtaken by darkness ere they had completed such a shelter as might permit them to sleep securely on the spot they had chosen.

A shed on the banks of the Mississippi, twenty miles above Natchez, may now perhaps be considered as tolerably secure, except from the occasional visits of an exploring bear, or the rambling propensities of an hungry alligator: but in the year 18-- it was much less so; and as the leaden gloom of the short twilight settled upon the woods, the bold squatter was fain to suspend his labour, with no better comfort for his weary companions than a confession that, after all, they should not be able to get a spell of sleep except turn and turn about, because they might be waked by the varment, with half a leg eaten off, before they had done dreaming.

'I expect I must die then, Jonathan', said the poor young wife, in a voice so feeble as somewhat to alarm her companions, - 'I expect I must die before morning'.

'You a back-woodman's lady, Porchy', said her husband, approaching her, 'and talk of dying the first night that you gets to the bush! Come come, gal, no faints, or my dander will be up pretty considerable. Here, Cli, shake down the straw bed upon that there lot of boughs, and give her that sack of notions for her head, and she will be fast and snoring in no time; and then you and I will be after kindling an elegant blaze to scare them devils the varmint - bears, painters, wolves, alligators, and all'.

Poor Clio promptly set about performing this new task, and with much tenderness assisted the over-worn young wife to lay herself as much at her ease as her rude couch might permit: but while thus engaged, another whisper was exchanged between the sisters, which produced exactly the same petition as the former one, some five or six hours before.

'But I say, Bub,- I expect Porchy will never sleep a wink unless you give her a morsel to eat first'.

'One word for Porchy, and two for yourself, eh, Cli?' Howsomever, you have been considerable good gals both of ye; so you shan't ax for nothing, this time'.

If the hungry Clio was alert before, she now became doubly so, as she sought and found the bag containing the treasured corn-cakes.

'Well now! - wouldn't a herring grilled over a handful of stikcs be first-rate?' said the poor girl coaxingly, and holding up the tempting morsel she had found, before the eyes of her brother.

'Why, I can't say but what I expect it would be eatable', replied the autocrat, producing flint and steel; 'so pick up your sticks, Cli, and set about it'.

With zealous activity, the now happy Clio prepared to obey the welcome mandate, and showed almost as much skill and dexterity in selecting and kindling the boughs which lay scattered round her, as her brother had done in strewing them.

In a few minutes a thick column of smoke rose through the still air, the faggots crackled, and the herring, as it hung suspended over the flame from the ingenious machine erected for it, sent forth an odour so powerful and enticing, that when it reached the nostrils of the half-famished Portia, she rose with renovated strength, and approached the manifold comforts of the blazing fire, The three weary and hungry wanderers then sat down around it, and devoured their repast with as great a degree of enjoyment as it is possible for the act of eating to bestow; and even the dog, though in general expected to provide his own meals, was not forgotten. To complete the luxury of the banquet, Jonathan dipped their one precious iron crock into the muddied but sweetest of streams, and having boiled it, permitted the ladies, in compliance with the delicacy of their ordinary habits, to mix it, in the proportion of half and half, with the one and only liquid which he deemed worthy to enter the lips of a free-born man. In his own case, therefore, he suffered not the vital stream from his beloved whisky-keg to be contaminated by the admixture of any alloying Mississippi whatever; and the portion he permitted himself to swallow was, as he said, in just proportion to the work he had done.

The repast ended, the weary Portia once more stretched herself upon her welcome bed of straw; while her companions were employed, first, in removing the thickly-scattered branches from the immediate neighbourhood of the fire, to guard against that most fatal of forest disasters, a conflagration amongst thick underwood, where there is no out
let for escape; and then in collecting together, at safe distance, such a quantity of them as might supply their watch-fire during the night. This done, the residue of the corn-cakes carefully tied up and slung upon a bough, and the invaluable crock as scrupulouslyt attended to as if it had been a silver casserole, the gracious Jonathan told his yawning sister that she too might lay herself down beside his sleeping wife; adding, that when daylight came, he would wake them both, and turn in to take a spell himself.

In less than five minutes Clio was as deeply asleep as her friend Portia; and Jonathan, seated on the hearth with his dog beside him, and supporting his back against a tree, prepared to endure his weary watch, which the low long howl of wolves in the distance already showed to be no unnecessary precaution; and so strong is the instinct of self-preservation, that the united influence of labour and whisky failed to overpower the feeling which kept the aching eyes of the wanderer open through the long hours of that painful night.

However miserable beyond endurance the fatigues and privations above described may appear to the European reader, they form no exaggerated picture of that tremendous enterprise, the first 'settling in the bush' on the Mississippi, at the period at which my tale commences. The undertaking is even now one both of danger and difficulty; though both are now greatly lessened by the comparatively near neighbourhood that the new settler is likely to find, let him place himself at what point of the river he may, below its junction with the Ohio. Whenever a new settler arrives it is now the custom for about a dozen of the nearest residents to assemble at the spot he has chosen, for the purpose of assisting him to rear his log-hut; the only payment expected for this timely service being a 'pretty considerable' allowance of whisky, to be socially swallowed before the party separates: so that it generally happens that the first sleep taken by the stranger in his new abode is long and sound, though perhaps not particularly refreshing.

Such is the custom of the present time; but two or three-and-twenty years ago, the stout-hearted pioneer of population on the distant and unhealthy banks of this singular river must have perished for want of a shelter if incapable of providing one for himself.

The laborious but very profitable employment of supplying the innumerable steamboats with fire-wood, which now bribes so many to brave ague and privation of all kinds, was then in the hands of very few; and none who ventured to embrace it could hope to do so without encountering at least as much of danger and difficulty as Jonathan Whitlaw.



CHAPTER II

t is not my intention to enter upon a lengthened detail of the 'get along' process of Jonathan Whitlaw in his new abode: the events I wish to dwell upon are of more recent date. It will therefore be sufficient for my purpose to state, that a spirit of industry which even intemperance could not conquer, enabled him to raise, unaided by any hands but those of his female companions, such a shelter as appeared completely to satisfy the wishes of those for whose use it was constructed. What praise could the most skilful architect desire more? Nor were their daily necessities less fully answered: Clio had often the supreme enjoyment of banqueting on a grilled herring; Portia had never yet seen the bottom of her meal-tub; and Jonathan's shanty soon came to be so well known to the flat-boat traders going down, and the steam-boat traders going up the river, that there was no need of his taking a journey to Natchez to ensure the replenishing of his whisky-cask.

He had, in truth, chosen his location well. With a species of skill and exertion peculiar to himself and his class, he contrived to abstract from his elegant Mohana Creek so many uprooted trees, that till the dry summer months stopped the supply, he had rarely occasion to fell one for the construction of the well-packed piles of wood, which it was the especial province of the strong-armed Clio  to arrange upon the river's bank. To use his own language, 'Natur was in partnership-like with him,' and being a partner that never slept, he not unfrequently found leisure himself to take a spell in the bush with his rifle, an instrument which he used as skilfully as the axe. The result of this agreeable variety of occupation was, that Clio was almost as often employed to roast a turkey, as to grill a herring; and the table constructed of the timbers of his flat boat not unfrequently smoked with a service of game which an European board might have been proud to boast.

Meanwhile that hour, important alike in the palace or the hut - at least to the individual most concerned in it - overtook poor Portia; and on returning one evening from a 'gunning frolic' in the forest Mr Jonathan Whitlaw was greeted with the intelligence that he was the father of a thriving boy.

Clio, whose genius for usefulness seemed universal, performed the duties of a nurse both to mother and child as successfully as if she had studied the profession at the Hospice de la Maternité at Paris; and when she presented the new-born babe to her brother, she felt as much pride in the office as if conscious that she held in her arms a latent President.



Birth of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw

Jonathan, too, though not particularly susceptible of the tenderer feelings of our nature, looked on the boy with considerable satisfaction.

'That's jam, gal,' said he, addressing his wife. 'Boys be the right sort for the bush, mind that. Not but what Cli is up to a thing or two, too. But boys is most profitable, that's a fact. I calculate now that this younker will be fit to turn a dollar one way or another by the time ten years is gone done; and if we can keep him from starting for five more -'

But here our hero gave so prodigious a squall, that Clio started off with him to his mother, and the remainder of the predicition was left unspoken.

However favourable it might have been, however, the years which followed gave the provident father no cause to think his first impression respecting his heir were in any degree too favourable. Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, for so was the young back-woodsman named, testified innumerable qualities that might have justified the hopes of the most sanguine father in America. Spite of occasional 'shaking' he was stout in limb; and considering the rather restricted nature of his position as compared to society at large, his knowledge and intelligence increased with surprising rapidity.

Never certainly did any child, even among the most precocious wonders of the European world, display a more eager desire of profiting by every opportunity of acquiring information and experience than the young Jonathan Jefferson. No steam-boat ever approached his father's station from the time he completed his third year, without finding him standing at the very extremity of the log platform that projected from the bank for the convenience of the engine-men who took their fuel there, and happy was Jonathan Jefferson when it chanced, which was not unfrequently, that his keen black eyes and curly head tempted some good-humoured idler to give him a hand, that he might spring on board and gaze upon the wonders to be seen within her. These favours were requited by so knowing and fearless a nod on the part of the young explorer, that the first playful act was often followed by very active patronage as long as the operation of 'wooding' lasted; and the bold boy generally returned to his sickly mother, or his much better loved aunt Cli, with nearly all his scanty garments held up in a most firm and careful grasp, lest the biscuits, raisins, apples, and cents bestowed on him by the passengers should escape.

At the age of five, if any old acquaintance held out the accustomed hand to aid his boarding, it was thrust aside by a saucy action of the little sturdy elbow, and Jonathan Jefferson was on the deck, in the cabin, beside the engine, or in the inmost recesses of the steward's pantry, before any one knew where he came from.

It will be readily supposed that a man like Jonathan Whitlaw did not suffer the abilities of such a boy as this to remain idle. He was early given to understand that all he ate, he must earn; and as he soon manifested a family affinity to his good aunt in his love of a savoury morsel, the prudent father failed not to turn this discriminating palate to advantage, selling every shot of his own rifle for a due proportion of labour performed in building up the cords of wood, or in exploring the creek, by his active boy.

Not only one, but many dollars had the child earned or turned in some way or other, before the ten years named in his father's prediction had elapsed. Nor had the the stalwart woodman gone half as far in his daring hopes for the future, formed for himself when first he stood houseless and hungry on the swampy bank which he had selected, as the result justified. No wood was so well cut and so well 'sawed' as Whitlaw's: no woodsman was so ready in counting, so quick in settling, and so every way convenient for men in a hurry to deal with, as this our fortune-favoured squatter. Ague and fever seemed to keep clear of him lest they should be baffled in the strife, and turning from his close-knit iron frame, poured all their vengeance on his poor shrinking wife. But Clio, whose constitution bore a close resemblance to his own, still continued his zealous and most efficient fellow-labourer. After 'shaking a spell' during the autumn of the first year or two, she too defied the foul fiend that haunts the western world in the shape of ague, and thenceforward appeared to suffer no more from the climate than the wolves and the bears, which the busy noises of their active establishment had driven back into the woods.

At the end of the third year, a cow, whose coat seemed to indicate some affinity to her neighbouring bears, was added to the 'plenishing of the lot'; and the omnipotent Clio contrived to sell the best milk on the river to all the yellow-tinted or woolly-headed stewards, whose interest it is to make the breakfasts, dinners and suppers on board the steam-boats atone by their excellence for the tedious hours between. Good store of hogs, which grubbed most delicate fattening in the forest, contributed not a little to the family fund of wealth and good living; and lastly, an additional room was added to the shanty, over the door of which directly fronting the river, was inscribed with red paint in letters of a foot high -

                                                            WHITLAW'S WHISKY STORE.

The cents, fips, picciunes, bits, levys, quarters, halves, and dollars, which in the course of four years' - were left within this shed, very greatly exceeded the most sanguine calculations of Whitlaw; and as 'Prime Bacon' - 'Capital Chewing
Tobacco' - 'First-rate Domestic' and 'Fine Meal', were successively added  to the announcements, the store soon became the resort of every squatter within ten miles, as well as the favourite stopping-place of all the craft on the river.

The son and heir of this prosperous settler had just completed his tenth year, when an accident occurred to him, the consequences of which entirely changed the position and circumstances of his family.

Early in the month of August 18--, one of the noblest and largest steam-boats ever launched on the Mississippi was seen to bend gracefully round the projecting swell of the bank below Mohana Creek, and approach the landing-place in front of the store.

Young Whitlaw was occupied, at the moment she came in sight, in poking a long pole into a hole in the bank, in which he fancied he should find some 'crocodile's eggs'.
Struck by her splendid appearance, he left his employment, and placing himself at his accustomed post on the edge of the platform, impatiently awaited her arrival.

Before the steam had been let off, or the paddles ceased to play, the impatient boy decided to spring on board, and trusting to his pole, which he fixed, as he thought, firmly on the platform, he attempted to swing himself into the vessel - a distance of at least twelve feet. So active and well practised were his young limbs, that it is probable he would have succeeded, had not the slippery log on which he had placed his pole permitted it to give way at the very moment its firmness was most essential to his safety, and the instant it sank from his hand the adventurous child fell headlong into the water.

Above two hundred persons saw the accident; and the boy's greatest danger now arose from the variety and eagerness of the measures put in practice to save him. But it appeared that the little fellow never lost his presence of mind for a moment, for, without paying the slightest attention to the contradictory cries of 'Hold fast to this rope' from one quarter, and 'Catch by this tub' from another, the bold boy, who swam like an otter, deliberately turned from the dangerous projection of the gallery, and marking the moment when the open gangway approached, sprang upwards, seized its railing, and in an instant stood unharmed on board the boat.

That awful peculiarity of the Mississippi river, which causes it to bear away whatever sinks beneath its surface beyond the reach and power of the most skilful search that would recover it, is so well known to every inhabitant of the region, that the sight of a human being falling into its fatal wave creates a much stronger sensation than any similar accident would do elsewhere. Young Whitlaw, therefore, was instantly surrounded by a crowd of anxious and friendly faces.

'A pretty considerable escape you've had, my boy', exclaimed one.

'Your fate is not drowning, at any rate, you young devil', cried another.

'A famous swimmer you are, and that's a fact, boy,' observed a third.

'And a bold heart as ever I see', observed a fourth.

'Are you not wet to the skin, my poor fellow?' inquired a kind-hearted gentleman, shuddering sympathetically.

'And what does it signify if I be', replied the boy with an accent which implied more scorn than gratitude. 'But I say', he continued, fixing his eyes on a very handsome rifle which the compassionate gentleman held in his hand, 'what will you sell that there rifle for?'

The offended philanthropist turned away, muttering, 'Impudent young varment!' or some such phrase, while a chorus of laughter from those around testified the general feeling of admiration excited by the dauntless spirits of the saucy boy.

There was one spectator, however, who, though by no means less observant than the rest, had hitherto only looked on in silence. He remarked that the boy followed the rifle with his eyes as the indignant bearer of it walked away; and wisely judging that it was Jonathan Jefferson's innate love of barter which had dictated the question, and no idle ebullition of impertiinence, as the mistaken laughers imagined, he determined to find out who it was, who at so early an age evinced such undaunted courage, a wit so ready at command, and a disposition for bargain-making which, even at a moment so agitating, did not forsake him.

The observant and judicious stranger continued to keep his eye fixed on the boy, but did not address him till the crowd which had witnessed his escape was dispersed, and then, laying a hand gently on his shoulder, he said - 'What is your name, my fine fellow?'

'Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw', replied the boy civilly: for he looked up into the inquirer's face as he addressed him, and a something, which, if it be not instinct, it would be difficult to name, whispered to him that he was rich.

'Jonathan Jefferson?' replied the stranger; 'a good name that, boy, - an exceedingly good name: I expect your father's no fool. Who is your father, my good lad? Where do you come from?'

'My father is a first-rate capital back woodsman, and we keep a store; and that's Aunt Cli milking our own cow for the steward, and I sell all the skins I can snare, and I've got an axe of my own'.

'Can you read, my boy?

'No.' responded Jonathan Jefferson in an accent somewhat humbled.

'Will you work for me, and do all that I bid you, if I take you home with me and have you taught to read?'

The cautious child did not immediately reply - and at this moment the bell was rung which gave the signal for departure.

'Off with you, my lad', cried the steward as he stepped on board with his jug of milk, 'or we shall run away with you'.

The boy's eyes were still fixed on the face of the person who had addressed him, as he stepped towards the edge of the boat preparatory to springing on shore, but the important question was still left unanswered.

'I shall stop here again, perhaps, coming down,' said the stranger, nodding to him; 'and I will come on shore and see you again, and then you shall answer me'.

When the labours of that eventful day were ended, and the family were assembled round the evening meal, young Whitlaw, after a silence of several minutes, said abruptly, 'Father! - why can't I read?'

The question seemed a puzzling one; for the person to whom it was addressed repeated the words twice over before he attempted to answer it.

'Why can't you read, boy? - why can't you read? Well, now, if that don't beat all natur! When did ever a body hear such a question from a brat of a chicken, and he but ten years old this very month?'

As this speech seemed to be addressed, like most of Mr Whitlaw's speeches, to his sister Clio, it was his sister Clio who answered it.

'Well now, Bub, I'll tell you a piece of my mind: you'll find no good reason, if you look from Georgia to Maine, why this 'ere smart chap of our's shouldn't be President - and so I say too, why don't the boy be learnt to read?'

'The vixen's mad, as sure as the moon's in heaven!' exclaimed the master of the dwelling with much vehemence; yet something in his eye and his voice taught those whose interest it was to understand his humour, that he was neither displeased nor indifferent.

'What put that into your head, boy', said he, turning short round towards his son, and rousing him from a reverie into which he seemed to have fallen, by raising the toe of his hob-nailed shoe so as gently to touch the boy's chin - 'What put reading into your head?'

'That don''t much matter, I expect', replied the young republican; 'but I've got it into my head somehow, I can tell you that - and I guess that if I can't be learned here, I'll run away to where I can'.

Clio looked at her brother's face with some anxiety, not feeling quite sure whether her darling might not this time get a kick in good earnest; but she saw there was nothing to fear.

'You're a chip of the old block, I calculate, my fine one', said the proud father, eyeing the boy from top to toe; 'but I shall play another sort of game with you, from what my father was often playing with me - I'll make a gentleman off-hand of thee, boy - so no need to run'.

'Father, I must begin reading to-morrow'.

'Well, now, Jonathan', said the father, laughing, 'my notion is that you had best wait a spell for it. Next month I shall go down to Natchez for goods; and if you'll behave yourself, and not badger me about it, I'll take you with me, and maybe leave you at some real right-down college for a few quarters'.

'My --!' exclaimed the neglected Portia, whose opinion was seldom asked on any subject, 'you won't leave him that far away, Jonathan, will you?'

'Your boy'll never be in Congress, Porchy, if he can't read', said Clio kindly: 'so don't you put a spoke in his wheel, anyhow. But, Bub', she continued, 'why for should we all bide here, if he be to take his learning at Natchez? You and I know, don't we, that you may open a store any day in a grander place than this? And I mind, when first we put foot at Mohana Creek, that you said, "That very creek shall make dollars enough in ten years to open store at Natchez:" and isn't it ten years? and arn't the dollars made? and wouldn't it be an elegant sight to see us all set off in a steamer? and couldn't you sell the good-will for silver?'   

These pithy questions followed each other with such rapidity - for the eloquence of Clio seemed to warm as she proceeded - that it was not very surprising that she received no answer to them. It was not, however, a knavish speech that slept in a foolish ear; for it suggested many thoughts which, working with those already awakened by young Jonathan's wilfulness, produced the results that will hereafter be seen.

For the present, however, all further discussion of the subject was suspended; for the voice which had hitherto been absolute beneath that roof pronounced -

'Now let us all go to bed'.

And not another syllable was uttered by any of them that night.



CHAPTER III

oung as Jonathan Jefferson was at this time, he understood his father's ways and humours, and how to manage them too, better than many highly-educated youths of twice his age, who, having passed all their vacations under the paternal roof, have only arrived at the conclusion that their father was - their father, without troubling themselves to attribute to him any other characteristics whatever. Far different was the case with young Whitlaw. If he wanted a few cents with which to chaffer for some coveted article on board the next steam-boat, he watched his moment for asking for them as carefully and as skilfullly as a hawk for the instant of seizing her prey. Jonathan Jefferson already loved a quid, yet he would suffer days and days to elapse without ever asking the paternal hand to share the luxury with him; but Jonathan Jefferson was seldom or never without a store of prime chewing tobacco in the pocket of his jacket, given him cheerfully and willingly by his careful father.

It was this principle of 'watching his time' which sent the ambitious youth so silently and obediently to bed, in the manner recorded in the last chapter. His young mind was, however, stiffly decided upon leaving Mohana Creek one way or another before the winter set in, as Napoleon's was upon marrying an Austrian archduchess. As he laid his head on his bag of Turkey feathers, he determined not to go to sleep till he had thought a great deal about the stranger, and about Natchez, and about being a great man. But here the universal law of nature captured the force of incipient character; and no sooner had he decided what to think of, than Jonathan Jefferson dropped asleep.

With the earliest light, however, he was beyond the reach of any human eye, seated at the foot of a maple-tree, where the prickly pear was not. The spot had no other advantage, except indeed that it was so shut in by brambles, that even Aunt Cli had never discovered the retreat, though it was one to which he constantly resorted when it was his wish and will to be idle and alone. Another boy might have chosen one of the many nooks within his reach which the wild vine embellished with its graceful and fragrant festoons; but little Jonathan Jefferson had 'no such stuff in his thoughts;' he wanted a place where he could sit easy, count his levys and picciunes wiithout being looked at, and be very sure that nobody could find him out till he chose to let them. 

Here then he sat down to meditate on the new hopes that had broken in upon him.

Had not the boy spent so many brilliant half-hours on board the steam-boats, his native shed and the dark world around it would not thus early have appeared so contemptible in his aspiring eyes; but as it was, he never left the silk curtains, gilt mouldings, gay sofas, and handsome mirrors of the cabins behind him, without wishing that he might live among them for ever, and never, never more behold the dirty dismal 'get along' style of living to which he seemed destined.

The words of the well-dressed, rich-looking stranger resounded in his ears --

'Will you work for me, if I take you home with me, and have you taught to read?'

'Work for him?' soliloquised the boy. 'He can't give me harder work than father; and when I'm learning to read, I can't be working, anyhow. - Go home with him? Why, his home must be as fine as a steam
-boat, to look at his beautiful hat and white shirt, and shiny boots. I'd run away and go home with him to-morrow, if it wasn't for leaving Aunt Cli, and having no one, maybe, to give me all the nice bits at a sly time, and to praise me up everlasting for all I do'.

The idea of his aunt led his thoughts to another direction.

'There's no need for me to run away to anybody, if father would give me all his money, as he ought to do. They fancy I know nothing about it; as if, because I was abed, and mother snoring t'other side, I must be asleep too. But I can lie still and peep a spell; and I've seen father and aunt haul out as many dollars upon the table as would buy me a house as fine as a cabin, and leave a lot to count over when I went to bed besides. - If I could but get at them dollars - '

Such, had his thoughts been spoken, would have been the language of the urchin as he sat scarifying the soft moss beside him with a twig that had dropped on it from the maple-tree. And then his mind wandered back again from his father, Aunt Cli, and their hoarded treasure, to the stranger, of whose offers and promises he had spoken to no one.

'And they need know nothing about it', was the well-weighed judgment to which he came at last. 'We'll see what father means about Natchez; but if I tell him about the gentleman first, maybe he'll do nothing at all'.

Once arrived at this conclusion, and steadfastly determined to abide by it, young Jonathan started to his feet, slipped as cautiously as an Indian through the bushes that enclosed his retreat, and walked home to eat his breakfast, and tell his father that he had set a first-rate snare, which he was sure would trap a possum afore night.

'Arn't he a smart boy, Porchy?'  said Clio, who wanted to attack her brother again, without directly addressing him.  'Ten years old last Wednesday was a week, and hunting and snaring, and swimming and fending, as if he was twenty! Now won't it be a burning shame if he bean't taught to read?'

'Wait a spell, gal,' said her brother  somewhat sternly, 'and you shall see what metal I'm made of, if you don't altogether know already. But don't bother me, or my dander will be up, I tell you, and I'll be as wrathy as an affronted alligator; and then you'll wish you'd stayed longer a-draining the drippings from Sue-cherry, maybe.'

Clio did know something of his metal, and secretly determined never to allude again to the literary deficiencies of her nephew till the subject was started by the imperious back-woodsman himself. This truly wise resolution, so well deserving the attention of my female readers, was founded especially upon two points of his character with which she was well acquainted: namely, that Jonathan Whitlaw never abandoned a notion he had once taken into his head, till he had tried, and found it wanting either in feasibility or profit; and that he never promised to be in a passion without keeping his word.

It is probable that Jonathan the younger had come to something like the same conclusions; for that day passed away, and the morrow, and the day after it, without one word being uttered by either of them about Natchez, or the art of reading. The sickly, silly, lazy, languid Portia, never troubled herself to ask for more informatiion on any subject than was proffered to her; and being on the whole pretty effectually guarded from the imperious temper of her republican husband by the ready good-nature and adroitness of his sister, she continued to 'get along' as peaceably as ague, fever, and dyspepsia would let her. Poor Porchy, therefore, was not likely to break through the very diplomatic silence preserved by the other members of the household; and thus the subject which wholly occupied the minds of three out of the four of the party appeared to be utterly forgotten by all.

Meanwhile other boats passed by both up and down the river, and Jonathan Jefferson's visits were continued, though in somewhat a less animated manner; for now his father generally accompanied him, and the boy felt or fancied that he was watched by him as he proceeded in his customary pursuit of forage and adventure. On one occasion, indeed, he was utterly discomfited; for Jonathan senior having entered into conversation with a passenger going down the river, he in his turn fancied he had a domestic spy near him, and, turning sharply round, commanded Jonathan junior to clear off, and assist his aunt in measuring the wood for the engine-men.

To a command uttered in such a tone the boy well knew that prompt obedience must be shown, and accordingly he did obey; but in his secret soul he determined to give up whatever hopes of wealth and dignity the vision of 'a store at Natchez' had generated in his fancy, and watching patiently for the return of the stranger, to elude his father's vigilance, put himself under the rich man's protection, and turn his back upon tyranny and Mohana Creek for ever.

The precocious lad had had quite enough energy of character and decision of purpose to have executed this mental threat; and it was fortunate for the subsequent prosperity of the family that Mr Jonathan Whitlaw had decided upon his plans before his son and heir found the opportunity of carrying into execution his own.

The day following his dismissal from the steam-boat, young Jonathan was startled by the unusual sound of a horse's feet advancing by the narrow path which the reputation of the store had of late years cleared through the forest. Only twice before had such a phenomenon appeared at Mohana Creek, and most eager was the haste and curiosity with which the whole came forth to greet it.

Clio and the boy both instantly perceived that the guest whose approach was made in so unwonted a manner, was expected by Whitlaw; but their curiosity was excited only to be baffled; no sooner had the man alighted, and fastened his beast to a tree, than that voice whose breath was the law of the Creek pronounced its mandates thus: -

'Cli! be smart - hand me the whisky demi-john and two cups - and then clear yourself off to your suds. Porchy! be after looking up the hogs, and drive 'em home. And you, Sir Peeper', he added, turning to the boy, who had ensconced himself very snugly behind the meal-tub, 'you take yourself to the bush, or the devil, or where you will, - only take care I don't find your ears within reach of my fist'.

The next moment saw the back-woodsman and his guest téte-ŕ-téte, and each with a cup of whisky before him. The conference lasted nearly an hour, and appeared to have been amicable and satisfactory; for when they walked forth together from the shanty, the banished family, who were sitting together at very discreet distance upon one of the cords of wood, observed that the aspect and manner of both were cheerful and well satisfied; and as Whitlaw civilly held the stirrup of his guest as he mounted, they heard him say in his gentlest accents.

'Well, Major, next Wednesday then - '

'Next Wednesday then?' what a world of conjecture was created by these three words!

'Come along in', said Whitlaw to his family, as he turned from the farewell nod of his visitor and re-entered  the shanty.

Jonathan junior looked into the face of Clio. She answered the appeal by giving him a wink, and laying her finger on her lips, to enforce his silence; this being, as she well knew, the only chance of their learning what was going forward from the free-born citizen. The boy understood her, and nodded in return.

'Well, now!' said the blue-lipped Porchy, who was trembling in every limb, not from cold indeed, but from the demon ague - 'well, now! I thought he meant to bide for ever. Clio, do give me a drop of something warm'.

They all entered the hut together, and Clio was not sorry to have something with which to make herself busy, that she might not even look as if she were curious; so that it was with even more than her usual alacrity that she prepared hot toddy to comfort her shaking sister-in-law.

But the hour was come, and Whitlaw was now as impatient to be heard as he had previously been at the idea of being questioned.

'What in the devil's name are you niggling about there, Cli?' he exclaimed, as he testily watched her operations near the fire. 'I guess I want to be listened to a spell, and not have you fiddling up the chimney in that fashion'.

'I'll only give this hot drop to poor Porchy, Bub. who's shaking like a rag in a hurricane; and then I'll sit down and listen to you, jam'.

'What the devil do you cook water to give her for? If she shakes give her a real drop at once, and that will give her a chance if anything will'.

'I take it neat!' exclaimed the poor woman with unaffected distaste. 'Oh, Jonathan! what would become of my poor head if I took it neat every time I began shaking?'

'I don't think your head would be a bit the worser, woman. Howsomever, you have got it now after your own fancy; so be still. And you, Cli, sit down for a minute, without jumping up again, if you can, and I'll give you a notion of me. You need not be after hiding yourself, J.J.; for I'm minded that you shall hear me too this time, and no sly work either'.

Had not the boy known that this epiteth of J.J. was a signal of especial good-humour, he might have felt somewhat uneasy at this palpable allusion to one of his peculiarities, of which he was himself thoroughly aware; but he saw that at present at least he had nothing to fear, and accordingly sat down as near to his aunt as might be, with the very agreeable expectation of having a curiosity gratified which really for the last hour had almost kept him on the rack.

Well, now,  I expect you have all of you forgot every word I said about college, and Natchez, and learning and all that?' began the consequential orator. 'It is really surprising what shortsighted creatures Godamighty has seen fit to make women! As for this young chap, I'd bet a keg to a quid, that he's been thinking of nothing else, from that day to this, if he'd dared; but I calculate he knows pretty considerable well that 'tis safest not to let his notions progress, when I bids 'em to stand still. So I find no fault on that score. But now, listen to me a spell, as I bid you, and you'll be able to comprehend a little what sort of man you have got for your head.'

Ha paused for a moment, and looked in the anxious faces before him; and a smile of indescribable self-admiration wrinkled his tough skin.

'I expect you don't any of ye exactly guess what for that chap was here but now? - I calculate that there is not one of the whole kit that comprehends that I have sold my improvements, store, pig-sty, and all, for - no matter how much, Jonathan junior, I shan't name that,  or all you look so sharp. It is enough for you to know, one and all, that the dollars is to be told out next Wednesday, and that the day after I shall take a spell aboard the first steamer as passes down, to look at an elegant store that I knows of seven miles this side Natchez, not on the river neither, but on a pretty lot, well improved, without a tree to be seen on it, and no more in the bush than New Orlines: and then this smart youngster here may take his schooling at Natchez, and keep a spell at home every Sunday into the bargain. Now, then, what d'ye say to me? - am I the man to manage the world, or am I not?'

'Then I'll not run away after nobody!' exclaimed the boy, too much delighted with the news to be perfectly discreet; 'only tell me, father, the name of the new place?'

'The lot's called Mount Etna but it isn't much of a mount either, seeing that it's jest on the water level, or near it. Howsomever, it's dreadful fine land. What shall you say, Cli, to have a nigger of our own to slave it for us?'

'My - !' exclaimed both the women at once; for the glory off possessing a negro inspired even the languid Portia. 'Well, now, Jonathan, that will be jam!' added Clio, rubbing her hands with delight. 'Will it be a he or a she, Jonathan?'

'A he, Cli, - a he, to begin with. Who knows what we may come to? If things goes well, I may buy a gal or two; and in time, if we progress, we may breed some young ones. Nothing pays better - 'specially so near upon the canes'.

'Well, now, but that beats all natur, for we to have a gang of niggers of our own! Oh, Jonathan, Jonathan! how I wish that Washington  Buckskin could see us then!'

'Ay, may be he'd sing to another tune, Cli. Howsomever, you're an old maid, now, sis, and 'tis all the better for both of us'.

There was no tendency to repining in the temper of Clio, so that she did not give above half a sigh to the memory of the too prudent lover of her youth, and the next moment was looking forward as cheerfully as if she had never known disappointment. She listened to her brother's detail of cows, and hogs, and poultry innumerable, all to be under her especial care, without thinking it possible that she could ever work too hard, and abandoned her imagination wholly to the delightful occupation of painting the joy of her eyes and the darling of her heart, her own beautiful Jonathan Jefferson, progressing with rapid strides towards the exalted rank she had ever predicted he would hold.



CHAPTER IV

t three o'clock in the afternoon on the following Wednesday, the sound of an approaching gentle trot was again heard among the bushes behind the shaanty; and immediately afterwards, the same horseman appeared in sight, and the same ceremony of evacuating the premises was performed by the three inferior members of the family, its chief receiving his guest, as before, to a private audience; the only difference being, that in addition to the demi-john and drinking cups, a stout canvass bag was laid on the table between them.

The period of the interview, however, was now passed in a manner infinitely less tedious by those who were banished from it than the last. The spirits of all were elevated by the belief that in that very hour, while they stood and sat idly looking at each other, a goodly store of dollars were passing into the possession of their race.

'Well, now, Porchy,' said the happy and triumphant Clio, 'isn't our Jonathan first-rate? To think of our living so elegant and bellyfull for ten years, and then, 'stead of finding that we had come to the end of everything, as so many do, to see him haul in - it don't matter how much, but such a capital lot of hard money, and not copper neither!

'And how much is it, Aunt Cli?' asked the boy, throwing his arm coaxingly round the neck of his aunt. 'I know you can tell if you'd speak. Come, now, aunty, I won't be after no mischief for a week if you''ll just tell me how many dollars father's having gived to him this minute?'

But Clio, if she knew the secret, proved herself a trustworthy confidant, for not even the cajoleries of young Jonathan could induce her to betray it.

'I wonder if I shall shake as much in the new lot?, said poor Portia, looking almost hopefully as she added. 'Do you know, Cli, I do believe it be this unaccountable big river, and the bushes and the bogs, that make me so sick everlasting, 'cause I never was so afore I comed here'.

The kind-hearted Clio encouraged her hopes, and recounted sundry histories which she had heard from their forest customers, of the betterfying effects of the handsome locations round Natchez.

'Tis the most splendid bluff on the river', she continued, 'that's a fact; and though our lot bean't on the very tip-top of it, maybe, yet we'll have the benefit of it, sis, that's past doubting'.

'And do the folks live fine there, Aunt Cli?' inquired the boy eagerly: 'have they got cabins to sit in?'

'To be sure they have, my darling, as fine as New Orlines; and thee shall be the finest of 'em all, my glory, - mark my words if thee shan't'.

So numerous were the questions and so agreeable the answers which arose during this conversation on the wood-stacks, that when the door of the shanty opened and the two men appeared at it, Portia's observations was.

'My -- ! if they haven't done finished already!'

Short as the time appeared, however, the business of the meeting had been fully competed to the entire satisfaction of both parties; a fact of which Whitlaw's famly had not the slightest doubt, though on this occasion, as on many others, his greatness showed itself by not uttering a single word, after the departure of his guest, on the subject on which he knew that his humble dependents were longing to hear him speak. But these dignified fits of silence never occurred, excepting when the Western potentate (of whom there are nearly as many as there are families in the New World) felt himself particularly well pleased with the facts he could, but would not, communicate. When it was otherwise - when some bargain had gone against him, or some enterprise had proved more difficult or less profitable than he expected, then each and every one belonging to him was sure to hear of it. Yet Whitlaw was by no means a particularly ill-tempered man: he was only a free-born tyrant.

This negative assurance, therefore, that all was right, perfectly satisfied the reasonable Clio; sent the acute heir to his maple-tree to enjoy a delightful half-hour in counting over his own hoard, and guessing that somehow or other he would soon find a way to double it; and cheered the languid heart of Portia, as she sought a log wherewith to boil her coffee, by suggesting that her own nigger should do that job for her before long.

At an early hour on the following morning, the gallant 'Lady Washington' steamer appeared in sight, coming down the river 'like a queen' (a simile, by the way, much oftener made use of in the republic of America than in all the kingdons and queendoms of Europe); and Jonathan Whitlaw, with the alacrity of a man intent on a scheme at once ambitious and prudent, sprang on board as soon as he had pocketed the price of the wood which Clio and the boy had measured out for her.

In less than three hours after, another steam-boat stopped at Whitlaw's station; and just as young Jonathan was preparing to enjoy once  more an unchecked visit on board, the stranger who had distinguished him on the day he fell into the river made him a sign to return, and immediately after joined him on the bank.

The boy knew there was no time to lose, as the boat was not of large dimension, and the quantity of wood she would  require must be proportionably small; yet he would not take his visitor into the shanty, lest such allusion might be made to their former interview as would lead to inquiries and chidings, which it would be better to avoid. His mother was, as usual, hovering over the fire; and his aunt too busily engaged in measuring the wood, to do more than give him a wondering glance in passing, as he led the well-dressed stranger beyond the little clearing, and up the narrow path which traversed the forest.

'Where are you taking me, boy?' said the gentleman stopping short, after he had taken two steps into the bush: 'I don't want to explore the forest, my lad, and the boat will be off in no time. Have you asked your father about going with me? I am ready to take you, if you're ready to come, and promise to be steady and faithful, and learn smart, and do all I bid you'.

'I would do all that, and more,' answered the boy, 'if father was going to bide here; for I don't choose to live like a bear and an alligator any longer, -- and that's what they say I do, aboard the boats. But father is going to take us to a right-down elegant store above Natchez; and I'm to be larnt to read, and we're to have a black nigger of our own; and so I don't want to run away now'.
 
'Run away! - I never asked you to run away, child. What put that frolic into your head? However, if you are going to school, that is all right: and if you are the fine boy I take you for, we may be better acquainted yet.
What's the name of your father's lot, boy? - d'y know?'

'Mount Etna', answered young Jonathan.

'Mount Etna, is it? I know that bit well; 'tis a thriving job, - your father's up to a thing or two, I take it. There's the bell: - remember, boy, my name's Colonel Dart; and if you take your learning well, I'll make a gentleman of you.'
 
'Father will make a gentleman of me,' said the young republican, stoutly; 'and Aunt Cli will send me up to Congress'.

'Will she?' said the stranger, laughing: 'that's well; but I may be a useful friend, nevertheless. If you are at school at Natchez, I shall see you. Do not forget Colonel Dart'.

So saying, the stranger walked off, and immediately re-embarked, leaving our hero rather puzzled as to why he 'seemed so dreadful fond of him'.
 
Of Colonel Dart we shall hear more hereafter; but for the present the reader must share the young Whitlaw's doubts concerning him. Before the circumstances of his visiting Mohana be dismissed, however, a trait of Jonathan Jefferson's ingenuity must be recorded, as it may assist in the development of his interesting character.

To any other boy of his age, the close inquiries of Clio would probably have proved exceedingly embarrassing; but he baffled them completely, and that almost by a single word.

'That's altogether new, Jonathan', said his puzzled aunt, 'for you to go and take the fine folks out of the boats, and bring 'em to walk about in the bush, just to keep you company. W
hat for did that man come to you; tell me, Jonathan, will you?'

'He came on shore, aunt, to look for some dreadful fine moss that he says grows hereabouts, to give to his mocking-bird that was sick'.

'And did he find it, Jonathan?'

'No, Aunt Cli, 'cause the bell rung, and he was obliged to run back before he had done looked for it.'

What the secret motive might be which led this very intelligent young citizen to conceal the visit of Colonel Dart from his indulgent aunt, who, as he very well knew, unfailingly approved of everything he did, I have never been able to ascertain. Perhaps it was the result of having watched those dignified concealments of his father, one instance of which has been recently mentioned; or it might originate solely in that instinctive fear of 'getting into trouble', with which the inhabitants of the United States so often appear to be haunted. If this be so, it may unquestionably be classed as one of the kind provisions of nature, which is often found to furnish those creatures with the power of defence who are peculiarly exposed to danger: and in a country where one half of the intercourse between man and man consists in asking questions, the faculty which teaches to evade them may well be classed as a blessing.

On this occasion young Jonathan's little invention was perfectly successful; Aunt Cli asked no more questions, and the visit of Colonel Dart was entirely forgotten, except by the object of it.

Meanwhile the labours of the indefatigable Clio seemed involuntarily and almost unconsciously to relax. She felt that she was no longer at home - 'It arn't our own now,' was a frequent phrase, and a more frequent thought; and excepting that she continued to tend the store and milk the cow, and cook a spell, and wash a little, Clio would have been positively idle. All the leisure, however, which this change in her habits left her, was fully occupied by listening to and answering all the questions of Portia and the boy respecting what they should find at Mount Etna. Tough Clio, in truth, knew no more about the place than themselves, the habit of resorting to her at all times and seasons, whether for aid, advice, or instruction, was so strong, that had a person born and bred on the spot they were to inhabit been present with them it is probable that every inquiry concerning it would still have been addressed to Clio.

For some days after the departure of Whitlaw the time passed pleasantly enough. They had plenty to eat, and to talk about, and not too much to do. But by degrees they began to find themselves embarrassed. Some of their articles of sale in the store were exhausted, and the steamboats passed on without stopping, for the last cord of wood was sold. Just at this critical juncture, when they began to feel themselves almost desolate with their liberty and their idleness, the great man returned, and in a moment everything was again in a state of activity.

Two men landed with him. One of these, a young fellow under twenty, the future proprietor of Mahana Creek and all Mr Whitlaw's improvements, was the son of the 'Major' who had made the bargain; and who thought he had nobly provided for him, and a penniless girl of sixteen whom he had just married, by placing them, as he observed, 'at a capital station and store, where they would be sure to take dollars, if the fever did not chance to take them': but at any rate, 'sons what married that fashion must be provided for one way or another'.

The other companion of Whitlaw appeared to wait his orders, which were promptly given; and while the young bridegroom, with an air melancholy enough, stood gazing around upon the improved, but still most wretched-looking abode, they went together into the store, to which Clio was summoned to follow them, and began the business without delay.

'Hand us down all them notions on that side, Cli - and I'll set to work upon this quarter. Take care of the dry goods - don't let them domestics get rumpled up that fashion, and mind the baccy and the candles and the whisky. Lay every notion together with its like, and mix nothing. And now, Squire Higgins, get your writing-tackle ready and begin.

Jonathan Whitlaw then began calling over all the remaining stock of his store; a complete inventory and valuation of which was made out, and signed by Squire Higgins. This operation, together with copying the whole, took about four hours; after which the three men each swallowed about half a pint of whisky, and then the two strangers departed together by the forest path.

Whitlaw's first words, after they were gone, were - 'Now give ma a lot of supper, Cli - and then I'll tell you what to do next'.

Curiosity as well as good-will brought a plentiful meal upon the original deal-table without delay. Portia, however, sat as still and as silent as if made of wax, to which material, allowing for a slight tinge of blue, instead of red, in her complexion, she bore a strong resemblance; while Jonathan junior stood eyeing his father from as great a distance as the room permitted - for he had not yet been addressed as J.J., and thought it safest not to approach. But Clio, bold in usefulness and good-humour, after spreading forth the substantial meal in her very best manner, sat smilingly down opposite her imperious brother, and said cheerfully, 'Well, Bub, and what am I to do next?'

'Drink this,' answered the master of the shanty, pushing his own whisky-cup towards her,  - 'drink now, Cli, if you never drink again, to the good luck and prosperity of Mount Etna!'

Clio obeyed, and having swallowed about a spoonful of the noxious decoction, which unadulterated is as strange to the lips of the women as familiar to those of the men of America, she looked at her brother as if for permission, and then passed the cup to the pale Portia, and with a good-humoured nod repeated the words she was to say.

'And the boy?' said Whitlaw, looking round for him. 'Where's the great scholar that is to be? -- Come along, J.J., and drink the toast.'

Thus encouraged, Jonathan Jefferson stood forth, and accepting the pledge, did such zealous honour to it, that even his father was fain to cry out, 'Hold! enough!'

No sooner had this ceremony been duly performed, than the abdicating lord of the Creek again addressed his prime minister Clio.

'Ten years ago and a bit, Cli, and we stood first upon this 'ere very spot of ground; only there was no rafters above our heds. D'ye mind that first night, sis? - how I told you both we could only get a spell of sleep turn and turn about? That was the first night, and this will be the last we shall ever sleep or wake at Mohana Creek. And this last will be like that first; but except poor Porchy there, who can'd do much more waking than sleeping, and the boy, who has got the whisky in his head already, we must go to bed no more than if we expected the bears and the wolves as we did then. For 'tis by the first steamer that will pass to-morrow that I calculate upon shipping you off to Natchez. There you must bide a spell at the Eagle, till I give the word to start for Mount Etna. But as I've sold all here, I expect we must buy all there; and if the new things pay me as well as the old, it will do. The Major was in a bit of a bustle, I guess, to locate the young ones off at once; but that's no business of mine. Howsumever, we couldn't bargain it for the hogs, - I arn't going to make bacon out of other folks' fat, when I can have my own for the driving. So, ladies, you'll start without me and the boy. J.J. and I will drive Suc-cherry and the hogs overland to Mount Etna, as soon as we've see'd you two off; and all the notions that you don't mean to leave behind must be done packed before sunrise - mind that.'

Clio was too much accustomed to labour early and late, and to forget herself and her own comfort on all occasions, to express or to feel the least discomposure at this sudden warning.

Having first seen Portia and young Jonathan in bed, she set to work heartily, and all the notions of all the Whitlaws were done packed by sunrise; - all the notions, at least, save one; and the history of that one I must recount, as it demonstrates rather a sentimental trait in Clio's character.

That article of the family possessions not included in the night's packing was the original suit in which the destitute squatter had arrived at the Creek, and in which he had performed the first hard and persevering labour which had laid the foundation of the present rising state of the Whitlaw race. This suit, having been at length condemned by the wearer as incapable of further service, was by him thrwn into an obscure corner of the hovel, and it was only with the morning light that Clio discovered the well-known relics.

'These shan't be left behind, nohow', she exclaimed, catching them up from the dark corner in which they reposed; and hastening to the platform of logs on which the whole family were assembled, she seized upon a sack not fully crammed, and deposited them within it, just as the expected steamer came in isght.


Departure from Mohanna Creek

Whitlaw stood beside her as she did so; and as soon as she had completed the operation, he placed his axe, still good and true, in her hands, saying in an accent which spoke some sympathy with her feelings.

'Don't mislay nor overlood this, neither, Cli. This is the true friend that has made my fortune; and though neither he nor I shall have need to work so hard again maybe, yet we don't choose to be parted'.

The next moment the steam was idly hissing to the air, and in another the two passengers and their uncouth baggage were on board.

The sigh with which young Jonathan witnessed the departure of his aunt without him almost amounted to a sob. It was a fine thing, certainly, to know that he was going to leave the Creek behind him for ever; but to have left it in a steam-boat would have been so much finer still! One circumstrance, however, almost reconciled him to the privation: this was the seeing his mother and aunt take their places among the passengers on the deck. 'Then after all they won't see the cabin!' he exclaimed, 'and maybe they might have expected me to bide by 'em up there'.

Greatly lightened in spirit by this reflection, he turned to follow his father, and in half an hour afterward his native hut was left in the hands of its new proprietor, and my hero, following by his father, and preceded by Suc-cherry and a score of fat hogs, leashed together like hounds, and kept in tolerably good marching order by Watch, the old partner of their emigration, took for the last time that forest path which it was the glory of his father to have made.

* * * * *

Some apology may be due to the reader for having so long detained him in a scene which has so little to excite either interest or sympathy; but the character as well as the history of my hero would have been incomplete without it. We have now to transport his family to their new dwelling; and having established them there, we shall pass more rapidly over the next few years, that we may at once bring him to a period when the business of life begins.



CHAPTER V

he new habitation purchased by Jonathan Whitlaw at the distance of seven miles from Natchez, though it was, as he very accurately described it, well cleared of everything resembling a tree, was nevertheless, whatever he might think of it, considerably more 'in the bush' than New Orleans. To speak correctly, Mount Etna was itself not 'bush' which, in the language of the country, means uncleared ground; though it was surrounded in every direction, but one, with forest as primeval as that he had left behind him at Mohana Creek.

But the clearing in that one direction did in truth make all the difference imaginable. For, in the first place, it opened upon various paths, leading to a variety of not very distant dwellings; and the principal of these paths was a good sound corduroy road all the way to Natchez. In the next place, this near clearing was in part occupied by a settlement of some years' standing, separated from that of Whitlaw only by a few acres of forest, through which ran the boundary line of the two properties, and which contained within itself so many essential elements of good neighbourhood, that it was able more effectually to neutralize the evils usually consequent upon living in the bush than all the mere clearing in the world.

This settlement, already well known for many miles round, have been named Reichland by the German proprietor, who, about five years before, had taken possession of it as a poor man, but who was now in a very fair way of becoming a rich one.

Frederick Steinmark was the youngest of a large family of the secondary class of nobility in Bavaria. His father, himself a colonel of dragoons, had successively placed five hopeful sons to cut their way to doubtful fortune in his own profession; but Frederick, having very early charged himself with a wife, accepted the offer of his eldest brother, who had married an heiress of large landed property in Westphalia, to settle himself as the cultivator of one of the large farms acquired by his marriage, and sufficiently near the lady's baronial mansion to nsure to the strongly-attached brothers easy and constant intercourse. Frederick Steinmark was of a character so essentially exalted in itself, that whatever station he had filled must have received rather than conferred dignity by his belonging to it. As a cultivator of the ground, he was at once the most active, persevering, patient, and enterprising. His clear and commanding intellect showed itself inevitably in all he did; but its application was always regulated by a species of practical good sense, which those who did not fully comprehend his character were often surprised to find in a man whose speculations were of so lofty a nature.

For several years after the marriage of the two brothers, which took place within the same year, their vicinity was a source of the truest happiness to both; but a circumstance then occurred which, though it rather increased than lessened the mutual esteem and affection which existed between them, completely poisoned the pleasure of their daily intercourse. The baroness and her humbler sister, both presented a son to their husbands within the first year of their mariage. This formed at first a sort of tie between them, so numberless were the little circumstances interesting to the one which were infallibly interesting to the other also - but it was in fact the only one; for nature never formed two beings less calculated to assimilate than the haughty, artifical, cold-hearted baroness, Karoline von Uberkümpfer, and the gentle, simple, good and kind Mary Smith, whose unaffected natural graces had captivated the heart of the young Frederick Steinmark in one of those rambles in England, which neither a slender purse, nor the necessity of devoting himself to some profession, had prevented the ardent-minded young man from making to most of the countries of Europe.

The Baron Steinmark loved and valued his charming sister-in-law as she deserved; but not all his influence could prevent his lady from treating her as almost a servile dependent; and nothing but the devoted love which Mary bore her husband could have enabled her to endure year after year the series of petty impertinences which the weak, but wilful-minded, baroness delighted to inflict.

Unfortunately for Mary, the high respect, perfect love, and entire esteem felt for her by her husband produced an effect respecting the intercourse between the sisters exactly the reverse of what they ought to have done. For his noble sister he had so utter and profound contempt, that for years it never entered into his imagination that his intelligent, right-thinking wife could be other than an object of respect and deference to her.

Frederick Steinmark was absent-minded to excess; innumerable circumstances daily passed before his eyes without his being in the least degree conscious of them; and from the hour they married, Mary had never in any single instance called his attention - which, absent as he was, could ever be roused by her - to what was likely to give him pain.

When at length, therefore, accident chanced to open his eyes at once and for ever to the fact, that the woman he reverenced and loved was the object of the most insolent contempt to his brother's rich and noble but most silly wife, his resolution was at once taken; he decided irrevocably upon leaving his farm and the neighbourhood. The baron knew his brother too well to believe for a moment that it would be possible to shake his resolution: there had long been a sort of tacit understanding between him and Mary on the subject of the baroness; upon every occasion on which her insolence broke out in his presence, his respect and affection appeared to be redoubled; and though not a word was said on the subject, the keeping the unsuspicious Frederick from perceiving it became a mutual object.

It would but delay the narrative unnecessarily were I to recount the particulars of the scene which at length opened Frederick's eyes to the position which his wife held in the estimation of the haughty baroness. Her son and heir - who was moreover her only child - was an agent in it; and had Mary wanted any reason beyond her husband's will to reconcile her to leaving her comfortable home, it would have been furnished by the fear that the baron's anger towards the boy, if often called forth in the same way, might generate a feeling between the father and son deeply injurious to the happiness of both.

One long evening's confidential conversation with his brother sufficed to decide whither Frederick and his family should betake themselves in search of a new home. The years of union which had given one son to the baron, had brought four boys and a girl to Frederick; and the future destination of these precious boys had already become a theme of anxious speculation to him. No sooner had he decided upon leaving the protection and immediate neighbourhood of his brother, than the idea of the new world suggested itself, as offering the best hope, not only for the immediate support, but for the ultimate provision of his family. When he first named it, however, the baron vehemently opposed the project, which he declared had less of kindness and of wisdom in it than he had looked for. But the scheme had taken strong possession of Frederick's mind, and never through their lives had the elder ever found it possible to resist the forcible eloquence of the younger brother on any point upon which it had been fervently employed. So, ere they parted, the German noble, though sorely against his inclination, felt himself obliged to avow, that if he were able to persuade this enterprising brother to abandon his American project, he had no power to propose a better.

The financial arrangements were soon settled between them, for no difficulties arose but such as were generated by a struggle of liberality. It was settled that the baron should himself become the purchaser of all his brother's large stock, as well as of the furniture, and improvements of the house and premises. Beyond this, nothing could persuade Frederick to go, in accepting the urgent offers of his wealthy brother: who, either as a gift or a loan, was most anxious to press upon him such a sum as he thought might secure him from every ill convenience in the prosecution of his enterprise. But strong as were the feelings which led to this expedition, they had not driven Frederick Steinmark to undertake a mode of life of which he was ignorant: at least all the information that books could give on the subject was familiar to him, and he well knew that the sum he could command was fully sufficient to afford every facility to a settler whose intention it was to bring up his family in habits of active industry.

In the month of March, 18--, Frederick Steinmark, his wife and five children, arrived at New Orleans; and in less than a month afterwards they were inhabiting a large and partically cleared estate which they had purchased near Natchez. From that period, to the month of August, eight years afterwards, at which time my hero and his family became their neighbours, not a year, not a month - perhaps not a day had passed which had not tended to improve the house and estate of Reichland; and though no slave had ever worked for a single hour upon it, the land was held to be the best cultivated and most productive in the neighbourhood.

But nothwithstanding this success, the task of settling a European family in a forest in Louisiana had not been performed without privations and annoyances of many kinds; but these chiefly fell upon Mary, and were met and conquered with a degree of quiet resolution which robbed them of half their evil power.

The situation of the Steinmark family was in truth exactly that best calculated to encounter the hazards of emigration with advantage. In addition to health of mind and body, they brought to the task, zeal, courage, industry, patience, and perseverance, together with both knowledge and money enough to spare them the necessity of enduring the first dreadful destitution of all things, which those who enter the forest with the axe alone must abide; or the mortification, almost greater still, of bestowing labour and care in vain, because ignorantly.

When it was known at Reichland that a family of new-comers had arrived at Mount Etna, the first thought which took possession of the whole Steinmark household was - 'what can we do to help them?'

'They cannot have any milk yet, mother - or, at any rate, any butter', observed Lotte Steinmark, who, at the age of eleven, was dairy woman-in-chief of Reichland: 'may I send over two of my pretty pats that I churned last night? Fritz will take them for me.'

'And a loaf, Lottchen, may be welcome too, I think,' replied her mother: 'nobody can bake in a moment. Go, Fritz - and you, Karl, go too,' she continued, addressing her two eldest sons; 'take the loaf, and some of Lotte's butter, and ask if there is anything we can do to assist them'.



CHAPTER VI

he friendly embassy from Reichland found the Whitlaw family in a state of great confusion; but this was occasioned quite as much by their amazement at finding themselves the inhabitants of a house with four rooms besides the store, and three of them with real glass windows, as from any embarrassment caused by the absence or disorder of the ordinary comforts of existence. Those who have been well broken in to the system expressively designated 'getting along', have at least this advantage over the rest of the huamn race: namely, that nothing which can befall them can ever put them much out of their way. In addition to this, Portia and Clio were, at the very instant the young Steinmarks entered, labouring to stretch their minds to the comprehension, that the seven chairs, four tables, three crocks, two spiders, six plates, four cups, etc., etc., etc., which Jonathan senior and Jonathan junior were unloading from a cart at the door, were really and truly all for their own use and benefit. So that, instead of a moment of distress, it was a moment of triumph; and when Fritz, in an accent of kindness, and almost of compassion, said, addressing Whitlaw, 'Can we help you, sir?', Clio burst into an irresistible chuckle of delight at this first opprortunity of display, and exclaimed with one of her happiest and broadest grins, 'Look here, boys!''

The two lads, however, altogether mistook her meaning; but looking in the direction she pointed, at the comfortless confusion which surrounded her, and believing that they were called upon to pity it, replied at the same moment, 'It must be very bad for you, indeed, but if you will tell us what to do, we can soon help to make it better'.

'Bad!' exclaimed Cli; 'now that beats the union! But you look dreadful good-natured, and will give me a hand with the mealtub anyhow, for I must be after baking a morsel to eat, I expect; and t'other, maybe, will be looking up a few sticks for me, while my man Jonathan here seasons one of them fine new spiders with a little fresh water and a good rubbing'.

At this mention of bread-making, the young Karl displayed the treasures of his basket, saying, 'My mother thought you would be too busy to bake directly, and so she sent me over with this'.

'Does you mother keep store, my lad?' said Whitlaw, coming forward. 'I was told there was no store within five miles of Mount Etna'.

'I do not believe there is, sir', returned Fritz, who, suddenly recollecting that the person he was speaking to was himself about to commence storekeeper for the whole region, comprehended in an instant the sort of alarm which his voice indicated; and the laughing blue eyes of the young German exchanged a furtive glance with his brother as he added, 'But though we do not keep a store, sir, we make bread; and we shall be very happy if you will accept a loaf of it to save you the trouble of baking till you are a little settled'.

'Accept the loaf', said Whitlaw, taking it in his hands and examining its texture. 'Why, it's wheat, and weighs a matter of ten pounds. We shan't have no such bread for a while, maybe, to pay it back, my lad'.

'Oh! we shall not want it', said the young Karl gaily; 'for we are not going into a new house, you know'.

'Well, that's considerable civil of them that sent you, my lads, anyhow - and we must do a turn for it, I expect, when it's wanted'.

While this conversation was going on, the young Jonathan had been occupied by diving into the basket, and at length produced two half-pounds of Lotte's dainty butter, one in each hand, held with a tight grasp by his not very delicate fingers. The German boys again looked at each other and prepared to depart.

'And is that there elegant butter a free gift, too?' exclaimed the delighted Clio, receiving it on a wooden platter from her nephew's hands.

'Yes, surely,' replied Friz courteously, 'if you will do my little sister the favour to accept it'.

'If that don't beat all natur!' exclaimed Clio again. 'Well now, I do expect that we be come among lovely clever people. What do you say to this, Porchy? - isn't it one thing to come to Mohana Creek, and another to come to Mount Etna? If we don't have an elegant coffering tonight, I expect it will be our own fault'.

The good-humoured boys had at least the pleasure of perceiving that their embassy was productive of great satisfaction to the party for whose benefit it was intended; and with this report they returned home, though in the delvery of it a little propensity to smile at the oddities of the new-comers displayed itself and produced a reproof from their mother.

'I will be revenged of you for suspecting me of being inclined to laugh at "poor hardworking country folks", mother mine', said the saucy Fritz, 'for I will be present when you first see them yourself, and I know how you will try to look grave and kind - and yet be ready to laugh too.'

Fritz, however, was quite wrong. His mother felt not the least disposition to laugh when introduced to her new neighbours. It took her but a short time to understand them all thoroughly, except the boy - and she confessed that the little Jonathan produced a unpleasant effect upon her, because his young head ever seemed to have within it more than he appeared willing to display; a peculiarity at his age which gave her, as she avowed, a sort of instinctive fear of the boy, though she knew not exactly why.

Of the other members of the family her judgment was quickly and correctly formed. She considered Whitlaw as respectable for his active and persevering industry; Portia as pitiable for the hopeless languor of ill health which constantly oppressed her; and Clio as estimable and even admirable in no common degree, from the devotion of her attachment to her family, and the rare and complete absence of every species of selfishness. The coarse breeding of the whole party was no annoynance to her whatever. The refinement of Mary Steinmark lay not on the surface; and in this, as well as in a multitude of other instances which had occurred since her residence in Louisiana, she fell without distate into frequent and familiar intercourse with neighbours whose minds she knew could not comprehend the language of hers, and to whom therefore her mind never spoke, except in those few sentences of universal dialect which relate to domestic usefulness and household cares. The rest was for her husband and her children: nor did she ever lament that the circle in which she was known, and valued at her worth, was not a larger one.

It was some days before Frederick Steinmark chanced to see either of his new neighbours, and it was longer still before he perceived anything about them sufficiently interesting to greatly awaken his attention. When Whitlaw first took possession of the place, his whole attention was directed to the arrangement and management of his large store; and perhaps the only affair of great and important interest to man on which Frederick Steinmark found it impossible to fix his attention was the business of a retail store. He had therefore in fact almost forgotten his new neighbour, when Whitlaw himself made a visit to Reichland, and desired to speak to 'the master'.

He was immediately ushered into a room exceedingly unlike any he had ever before entered; so much so, indeed, that, contrary to his usual habits, his business was for a moment forgotten as he looked around him.

The room was large and lofty; the walls were neither papered nor plastered, but arranged neatly enough, with smooth deal boards, laid one over the other in the manner that shipwrights call clinker-built. The floor was covered with peculiarly fine Indian matting; and the four large windows, which opened upon a long glade of the forest, well cleared, but still retaining a few scattered groups of fine trees, were furnished with blinds of the same beautiful manufacture, but of a still finer fabric. One side of the room was covered from the floor nearly to the ceiling with books; on another hung an admirable portrait of the Baron Steinmark; and on a table beneath it lay sundry unintelligible objects - mathematical instruments, models of agricultural implements, and several articles belonging to a chemical apparatus which Steinmark had been using. On one side stood an electrical machine, on the other a pair of large globes; while a variety of tables of all sorts and sizes in different parts of the room, some covered with needlework, others with implements for drawing, some prepared for writing and some for reading, would have told a stranger more initiated into such mysteries than Whitlaw, that the room was the usual habitation of a large family accustomed to occupation.

The whole aspect of the apartment was, however, such as might very naturally surprise a back-woodsman, who fancied he was come to visit a man of his own class. Had the intruder been less intelligent, he would have been less puzzled; but Whitlaw plainly perceived that there was present before his eyes much more than had ever been dreamed of in his philosophy; and, as before stated, a short space was occupied ere he entered upon the business which brought him there, in looking round upon these objects, which were alike new and incomprehensible.

At length, however, he recovered the bold and pithy abruptness of his usual manner.

'I expect maybe that you arn't much of a cultivator after all; but what I comed for, neighbour, was to ask which side of the hollow that lies in the bush between your lands and mine I should run my zig-zag? But maybe you arn't competent to tell?'

'Mr Whitlaw, I presume', said Frederick Steinmark, rising to meet him.

'The same, sir', was the reply.

'I believe, sir, I shall be able to show you where your fence should be placed', resuemed the German - whose uion with an Englishwoman had made the language of America as familiar to him as his own; and going to one of the numerous tables, he took thence a small roll, which being opened, displayed a map of the estate of Reichland; the hollow, which was in fact an important water-course, being very distinctly marked as within its boundary.

'Where my property ends, Mr Whitlaw, I imagine that yours must begin; and therefore, as you perceive, your fence must run at a distance of one hundred yards on the western side of the "watercourse"'.

Jonathan Whitlaw knew this perfectly well before he made the present inquiry; but having, with his usual sagacity, perceived that this 'hollow' as he chose to term it, might by a little ingenuity be converted in a very valuable water 'privilege', he thought it was at least worth while to try if he could not persuade his neighbour either that it belonged to him, or at any rate that, being a matter of no consequence, it could make no difference whether he included it within his fence or not. He now saw that upon the question of boundary his neighbour was a match for him; but it did not follow that he must know the value of the 'bit' upon which he had set his heart, and accordingly he proceeded to state his wishes, but with an air of the most perfect indifference.

'Ah, well, that rough bit doesn't matter much, I expect, nor a yard or two of bush neither, to such a large tract as yours - or mine either, for that matter; so if it don't make no difference to you, neighbour, I calculate that I'll run the zig-zag on this side the gap, just for the sake of two or three sugar maples that are scanty with me - but you've got bushels of 'em'.

'It is plain, Mr Whitlaw', replied the German with a good-humoured smile, 'that you are a stranger here as yet, or you would not consider my water-course so trifling a concern. In cultivating so large an estate as this with a small capital, it is necessary to do things by degrees: but I fully intend in about two years, when my boy will be old enough to undertake the business of a mill, to turn the drains of my plantations into that water-course, and erect a mill over it, which, if I am not deceived in the quantity of water I expect to obtain, will be able to work nine months out of twelve'.

This unreserved exposure of plans and projects, in which it was by no means the custom of the country to indulge even to familiar friends, struck Whitlaw as a proof, that however ably his neighbour might have conceived the scheme (which was, in truth, exactly the same as he had himself imagined), he was nevertheless but a soft man, who could not be very difficult to manage.

When Steinmark ceased speaking, his visitor shook his head, and smiled with a look of much intelligence. 'You're counting a little too fast there, master, I expect,' he said, 'No man as knows the country well would ever think of laying out good dollars in such a wild scheme as building a mill over that bit of a dry hollow. Howsomever, that's no business of mine, and I hope the ground will change its natur in time to accomodate your son; but if so be as this scheme isn't to be tried for two years to come, I calculate that you won't have no objection to my having the sugar maples till such time as you sets about your mill?'

'The sugar maples are certainly not of much consequence, being in great abundance all round us,' replied Steinmark; 'but do you propose to enclose those you mention within your zig-zag?'

'Well, then, I think I may as well - and at any rate a zig-zag is easy moved at any time,' returned Jonathan Whitlaw.

There was such a fund of deep-seated genuine frankness and honour in the character of Frederick Steinmark, that it was not very easy to awaken suspicion within him; but Whitlaw's cool assumption of his consent to enclose a valuable part of his property within his own fence was too plain an indication of his spirit to be mistaken, and it was therefore with equal promptness and decision that the master of the house replied: 'No, Mr Whitlaw, your fence must not enclose my property, but only your own, sir'.

Whitlaw, as we have seen, was a shrewd, and in most things which regarded his interest, a right-judging man; but on this occasion he had found himself at fault, and then blundered most egregiously. Accustomed, as all men must be, whose lives are spent in turning everything to profit, to judge quickly and act promptly, the wits of the proprietor of Mount Etna had not been idle during the interval in which he was occupied in taking note of the singular phenomena which surrounded him on entering Frederick Steinmark's apartment. He knew little, it is true, of the use and destination of most of the objects he saw there; but he immediately concluded that the man whose hours were spent in occupations, of which he himself knew nothing, was likely enough to be ignorant, in his turn, of those points of human vision of which he knew a great deal.

'What should he know of a water privilege?' was the reflection that occurred to him, as he contemplated the various gimcracks, which to him had greatly the appearance of playthings, with which the room was filled; - 'no more than a piccaninny nigger, I be bound for it:' and thereupon followed the short conversation that has been related.

Frederick Steinmark rose as he spoke the concluding words; and there was that in his aspect which showed Whitlaw, however little he had been accustomed to study such a one, that the conference was ended, and nothing to be hoped from the ignorance or folly of the owner of Reichland.

The feeling of vexation and resentment with which this conviction was accompanied might appear greater than the occasion could account for, were the state of Whitlaw's mind as he left the house to be fully described. That a man should inwardly swear to take vengeance against a neighbour solely because he chose to retain possession of what was his own, might be deemed unnatural - yet so it was; and neither time nor reflection ever removed from Whitlaw's mind the conviction that he was an oppressed and injured man, that Frederick Steinmark had used him ill, and that he had the right, as well as the will, to revenge himself for it at every convenient opportunity.

This schism between the heads of the two families did not, however, in any degree destroy the friendly feeling which the constant performance of kind offices on one side, and the easy acceptance of them on the other occasioned. After a passing smile at the foolish fellow's saucy attempt to invade his property, Steinmark remembered it no more; and the only effect which the circumstance left on his feelings was, that he scarcely ever spoke of his new neighbour again.

Clio was indeed the principal link between the two houses. Her excellent qualities were fully appreciated by every individual of the Steinmark family, and in return she would at any time have walked through scorching fire or freezing water to do them service.

During the first few days of their intercourse, the four Steinmark boys made various good-natured advances to propitiate the friendship of Jonathan Jefferson; but the principle of repulsion was too strongly, though unconsciously, at work within the parties to permit anything like friendship to exist between them, The Steinmarks were all of them clever intelligent lads - so, most certainly, was Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw; but it would be more possible for a Newton to feel and to find sympathy with a being of a mind positively imbecile, than for honour, honesty, and sincerity to bind itself to wily cunning and to craft meanness.

The dislike of the Steinmarks for young Whitlaw only demonstrated itself, however, by a cessation of those little sociabilities with which at his first arrival he was always greeted by them whenever accident brought them together. Neighbourly civility, and ever-ready cheerful good-will, whenever it was in their power to be useful, were still at the service of the whole Whitlaw family; but unless something of this sort was called for, the intercourse between them was not frequent.

On the part of young Jonathan, the feeling of dislike was both stronger and more definite: he at once feared, envied, and despised the whole family; and he could, had it been necessary or profitable, have given excellent good reasons for each and all of these feelings. As it was, however, he deemed it 'wisest, discreetest, best', to say nothing about it, but to receive in peace and quietness the many little advantages which the good-nature and liberality of their neighbours afforded him.

There was nevertheless one point on which no calculations of interest appeared to interfere with the open and sincere avowal of his sentiments respecting Fritz, Karl, Hermann, and Henrich Steinmark; and this was as to the mode of their education. Jonathan Jefferson had ascertained in his first conversation with Henrich, who was nearly his own age, that neither he nor any of his brothers had ever been at school; and the profound contempt this avowal generated must have had something agreeable and soothing in its nature, for never did young Jonathan sit down after he heard it, with the intention of being particularly comfortable, without alluding to it.

Nor was the pleasant emotion produced by the mere mention of this parental neglect on the part of Frederick Steinmark the only advantage of which it was productive at Mount Etna. No sooner was the fact made known to Whitlaw, than he determined at once upon sending young Jonathan to school, though the doing so would rob him of services which the active business of the store rendered daily more important.

Neither was this the only measure which the spirit of rivalship accelerated in the Whitlaw family. Frederick Steinmark's large estate had not a single negro upon it; the labour it required was performed by himself and his boys, assisted by two German servants who had accompanied them from the Father-land. This again was a subject of unmitigated contempt and ridicule. In Louisiana, as Whitlaw remarked, nobody that was any body would ever think of getting along without a slave. It was plain that, with all their big clearings and grand house, the Steinmarks were nothing but a set of beggarly hard-working foreigners, that did not know what it was to live like gentlemen and Americans. So Jonathan Whitlaw sent his son to a school at Natchez, where he was to be taught reading, writing, ciphering 'and the sciences', for fifteen dolars a quarter; and moreover, he purchased two stout negroes at the first market held for the sale of such commodities in his nieghbourhood.

The materials for happiness must vary according to the nature of those for whose use they are intended. There are some men to whom the acquistion of a slave would cause a feeling of shame: and there are some boys whose hearts would swell with sorrow at leaving for the first time a gentle mother's side, to become one of the jarring elements which constitute a school. But in the case of the Whitlaws, both father and son experienced feelings of the most unequivocal delight from these circumstances. Instead of feeling shame, Jonathan senior swelled with pride each time his bold triumphant eye met the fearful glance of the poor wretches he had purchased; and Jonathan junior had need of all his discretion to conceal the outward expression of the joy he felt at being within reach of daily watching the knaveries, cruelties, debaucheries, and drunkenness never absent where a slave population disgraces the soil, and which, if report say true, may be found in as great fulness of abomination at Natchez as at any point of earth afflicted with this curse.



CHAPTER VII

he following eight years of the life of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw must be passed over very rapidly by his historian. Sometimes during this interval he was at school, but oftener constrained by his still prosperous father to take a spell of labour with him at Mount Etna.

The youth, however, learned to read, to write, and to cast up an account; and moreover, he had been discovered at the seminary by his old steam-boat acquaintance, Colonel Dart, who proved to be, as he had himself stated, a personage every way able to assist the youth in his meritorious wish of advancing his fortune.

Colonel Dart possessed the largest estate and was much the largest slave-holder in the neighbourhood of Natchez. As he was accounted a man of vast wealth, it must be presumed that his affairs were well managed, his overseers faithful and careful of his interest, and the numerous gangs of negroes who worked his plantations as well-ordered as they were profitable. But though all this might be, and perhaps was the case, it is nevertheless a certain fact, that Colonel Dart, though a bachelor and member of Congress to boot, did not always repose upon roses. Either from natural disposition, or from having some secret cause of doubt and dread upon his mind, this gentleman passed his life in a state of gnawing anxiety which the worst flogged negro on his estate would have had no cause to envy.

Many were the schemes he had imagined by which he might obtain private and accurate knowledge of all that was going on among the negroes themselves, and also among the white overseers appointed to superintend them; and the first idea suggested to him by the display of character he had witnessed in young Whitlaw was, that if he could get him sufficiently educated, and attach him closely to his service by gratifying his avarice and ambition, the total dependence on his favour in which it would be easy to keep the son of a squatter might prove a better guarantee for his fidelity, than any he had yet been able to put in action with the confidential clerks he had hitherto employed.

This scheme was in some degree defeated by the improved condition of the Whitlaw family; but the idea of one day being able to convert to his own especial use and benefit the courage, activity, and spirit he had remarked in the boy, was never lost sight of by the judicious planter; and he took care, during the time that young Jonathan passed at Natchez, to impress his observing mind with such a conviction of his wealth and generosity as to generate a most ardent desire on the part of the youth to live within the sunshine of his favour.

But for several years Jonathan senior saw more certain profit in himself in keeping his son at home than in parting with him; and it was not till he was obliged to confess that the stripling was grown into a man, that the desired arrangement took place.

At the age of eighteen and a half, Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw was a tall handsome youth, with a quick restless eye which rarely met that of the person he conversed with - thin lips, but a set of very fine teeth within them - a slow and deliberate manner of speaking - and an air of so much self-possession and confidence, that he was supposed by all who saw him to be at least two years older than he really was.

Great as was the desire of the youth himself to become one of Colonel Dart's family, it is probable that even then his father might have made some difficulty in parting with so useful and efficient a personage, had not such an alteration taken place in his own family as rendered the absence of his son rather convenient than otherwise. Poor Portia, instead of finding her health improve by her change of residence, fell into a dropsy within a few years after their arrival at Mount Etna, which in three months put an end to her languishing existence.

Her death was certainly no great loss to any one, and Mr Jonathan Whitlaw soon conceived hopes that it would prove to him a source of gain. One of the most constant customers at his store was a Miss Belinda Tomkins, a young lady of about thirty-five years of age, who had recently by the death of an uncle become the owner of three stout male and two female negroes. This noble inheritance immediately attracted the attention of the neighbourhood, and more than one owner of a settlement who lacked sufficient hands to work it were meditating an attack upon the heiress's heart; but the prompt measures of the widower baffled them all, and Miss Belinda avowed her readiness to become Mrs Whitlaw the second, on condition that 'the big son that the por woman what was gone had left behind her should not be kept at home everlasting to trouble her'.

Poor Clio heard not of this condition, or it might have broken her heart; but it was complied with on the part of the father, and thus was Jonathan Jefferson left at liberty to accept the noble offers made him by his patron, and to become the inmate of a mansion infinitely finer than the finest steam-boat on the river.

Colonel Dart had hitherto spoken but vaguely to his young friend of the duties which it would be his special task to fulfil; and it was not till they met at breakfast on the day following young Whitlaw's admission as in inmate at Paradise Plantation, that he began to enter upon the explanation of his wishes in a manner sufficiently clear and precise to give the confidential clerk a definite idea of what they would be.

The time was well chosen for insuring the willing obedience of the happy youth to any commands that could be laid on him. The display of Colonel Dart's breakfast-table might have bribed a spirit less pliant to follow wherever interest led than that of Jonathan Jefferson. The early and delicious spring of that southern climate had already brought a world of bright and beautiful flowers into blossom in the spacious garden upon which the breakfast-room opened. A group of luxuriant orange-trees sent their fragrance through the large windows; and the flocks of green birds that ventured to hang upon the branches of the locust-trees, while they pecked the insects from their bark, looked like the brightest emeralds in Aladdin's enchanted garden. The whole scene indeed was one of luxury and wealth: the breakfast-table was spread with dainties, of which the most 'elegant drams' made a part; and the great man who was the envied lord of all sat opposite young Jonathan, courteously presenting hm to partake the good cheer, and treating him so completely as his equal and friend, that is is not surprising if the happy youth received every word which fell from his lips as if he had been listening to the law and the prophets. It was thus the dialogue ran: -

'You find yourself more pleasant here, Jonathan, than at the wooding station, or at the store either, I guess? I expect you would not over-well approve to go back again?'

'No, colonel - I calculate that would not suit me in no way. I always prefer to progress - the turning back would make me giddy, I guess'.

'Then progress you shall, my fine fellow, or the fault will be your own, and none other. I think I must begin to let you a little into my confidence, Jonathan, and then we shall understand one another - ' A glass of fine rum was here proferred and accepted. 'How many niggers, Jonathan, do you calculate I may own on this plantation - taking in the sugar, rice, cotton grounds, household gang, breeders, and all?'

This question piqued the sagacity and judgment of the confidential clerk, and he pondered upon it so long that his hot-blooded patron waxed impatient. 'How the devil should you know, boy? You may say that straight off, and no shame neither. I'll tell you, Jonathan; I own five hundred - sound in wind and limb, and some of them the most splendid patterns that your sharp eyes ever spied. What d'ye say to that, my lad?'

''Tis grand, colonel. I'd rather own five hundred negurs than be President. Why, they must sweat into dollars unaccountable'.

'Pretty well for that - and my dollars may roll which way I like. But for all that, Jonathan, 'tis no joke now-a-days to own five hundred blacks, I can tell you, boy. While these infernal verment, the missionary hell-hounds, that the devil has taken it into his head to send on earth for the alone purpose of plaguing honest men - while they are creeping about like so many cursed copper-heads among the canes, 'tis no holiday to have five hundred slaves, and know that the best among  'em would eat your heart if they could catch it, and a missionary saying grace the while'.

'But we've got no missionaries in Natchez, I expect?' replied the young man, looking rather anxiously for the colonel's reply.

'And who's to know that, Jonathan? You're a smart lad, Whitlaw, and that's the reason I've got you here - but you've a thing or two to learn yet, my fine fellow, before you'll be able to tell me where there are missionaries, and where there are not. Maybe you calculate upon their walking about with a cassock and bands? - I wish they did; I wish to God they did, boy, and I'd have my heel upon their throats slick enough. But that's not the way in these dreadful times, Jonathan. These viperous varmint that steal out of Liberia to pick a living out of the nigger beasts, always take a spell of canting among the plantations before they set off; and sometimes they come in one shape, and sometimes in another: there's no knowing when you're free from 'em. What d'ye think of catching a horse-doctor that pretended he was going to open a store for drugs - what d'ye think, now, of catching him in the fact of praying with one of my black devils that was dying of the small-pox? True, upon my soul; I was in such an unknown rage that I had the nigger flogged before my eyes as long as there was life in him; but as to the white villain, I was obliged to let him go, because at that time nobody had begun to think of taking their own vengeance upon whites; but now, my boy, if we catch 'em, the business lies in our own hand, as right it should. For where will you find any one to do justice upon the sneaking, canting, rebellious rascals with such hearty good-will as we that suffers by 'em? And there's no danger at all, - at least there won't be in a very little time; for it's as clear as the sun in heaven, that we shall be supported and approved in State, Senate, and Congress, let us do what we will in self-defence'.

This doctrine of 'self-defence' was already in some degree familiar to the young man; and in common with the great majority of slave-holders, Master Jonathan deemed it a most righteous and Christian-like doctrine. Accordingly he answered with all the zeal and spirit his patron wished, and with eloquence warmed by a second bumper of rum.

'I'll tell you what it is, Colonel; the man what has not courage to do vengeance for himself don't deserve the protection of the law in a free country. It's all very well for the pitiful slaves of the Old World to sit still when they're injured, twirling their thumbs maybe, till some feller in a big wig takes their part, and pretends to set all right again. That may do, colonel, in the Old World, but it won't serve for us. What's freedom for, if we can't do what we like with our own born slaves? There's nothing so despisable in my mind as a man what's afraid to kick the life out of his own nigger if he sees good. It 'twasn't for this, I don't see where our great superiosity over the queer English folks lies, that every man in Congress tells us of as soon as he gets on his legs. Isn't it that each one man of us here is free to do just what he likes and nothing else? 'Tis that given us the right to call ourselves free, and without it I don't see but we're just as bad off as the fools t'other side the water'.

Though this was a much longer harangue than Colonel Dart was ever in the habit of listening to, except from himself, the sentiments were in such perfect accordance with his own, that he not only permitted his confidential clerk to come to the conclusion of it without interruption, but very nearly embraced him when he had done.

'You are a glorious fellow, Jonathan,' he exclaimed; 'upon my soul, you are! Young as you are, you know how to utter the sentiments of a free people. I shall ever consider you in the light of a friend, and not of a dependent: and if you will only - ' continued the planter, lowering his voice, - 'if you will only look out for the enemies of the good cause, and prove your noble free-born principles in practice, you shall find than an American citizen knows how to be grateful. And after all, Jonathan, what can I do with my money, unless it is to reward a true friend? What family have I got, Jonathan, to trouble myself about? Half-a-dozen yellow girls and their brats. They may be mine, or they may be another man's; and I'm sure I don't care a cent whether they're mine or not, provided I've the privilege of owning them; therefore you may see, my dear boy, that there's a fine opening at Paradise Plantation for a bold yong fellow that would prove himself my friend'.

Young Whitlaw sucked in the honied sweetness of these vague but glorious words; and raising his eyes to those of the colonel, with a more fixed and steady glance than was usual with him, he replied:

'Try me, colonel, and maybe you'll find me worth something'.



CHAPTER VIII

he eight years which had produced such important changes in the Whitlaw family, had not passed without leaving their marks behind them over the inhabitants of Reichland.

Fritz, the eldest son, had persuaded his father, though not without difficulty, to permit his trying his fortune with a merchant in Phladephia, in whose counting-house he had been placed with a considerable premium by his uncle. For neither time, nor the reitereated assurances of Frederick Steinmark, that money was in no way required for the prosperity of himself and his family, could prevent the baron's affection and liberality from showing themselves whenever he could find or invent an excuse for making a remittance. Karl, for the last five years, have been in possession of a well-constructed and most profitable mill, situated exactly at that point of the hollow way where the maple trees grew which Jonathan Whitlaw had so greatly wished to enclose. Hermann was his father's right-hand, and his right-arm, too, in the management of the farm; but Henrich, the pale and meditative Henrich, though only five years old when transplanted to the soil on which he grew, had still the air of an exotic. It was not that the climate disagreed with him; for though he looked delicate, and was too tall for his age, having had the full stature of a man, when he had the muscle of only seventeen years to spport it, he was not in bad health, but, as his mother used to say, Henrich's imagination had never got acclimated. The history, the music, the literature of his own country, were the funds from which he drew all the ideas which constituted his happiness. Henrich was the only one of the family who, in reply to the constant inquiries of the Baron Steinmark, whether he could send nothing from the Old World which might assist in making their retired abode more agreeable, had boldly answered 'Yes - books, dearest uncle, German books, and engravings of the hills and valleys of our father-land, and songs such as our peasants sing when they are dressing their vines, send me these, dear uncle, and I will pray for you, - I will pray that not even in your dreams you may change the dearly loved landscapes of your own storied land for such dark and dreary forests as those amidst which we live.'

It was thus Henrich had more than once written to the Westphalian barons; and, in return, he not only received the gifts he asked, but with them an earnest invitation to recross the ocean, and return to his protection and the land of his birth. The thought of this return caused a joy so vehement in the breast of the enthusiastic boy, that he dared not trust himself to express it; but, placing the letter in his father's hand, he hastened to hide himself in the woods, and only reappeared when he thought he could listen to the paternal decision on the answer to be given to it, with a proper degree of external composure.

That answer very nearly killed him, for it was a negative. Frederick Steinmark could not endure to think that a child of Mary's should be exposed to the possible insolence of the baroness; and, totaly unconscious of the blow he was giving, he returned the letter into the hands of Henrich as soon as he saw him, quietly saying,

'No, Henrich, Europe is no longer the home of my family, nor can I permit that one should be severed from the rest. You would find no second mother, my boy, in the Baroness Steinmark'.

The subject was alluded to no more, excepting in those occasional moments of unreserved intercourse with his sister, which formed the only charm of his present existence. Lotte synpathised with him, and this sympathy probably prevented the blow from being mortal.

And what had the eight last years done for Lotte? They had turned a fair-haired bright-eyed little girl, into one of the loveliest nymphs that poetry ever fabled, or that nature ever formed. Her features had all the beautiful regularity of her mother's; but her loveliness was more derived from a look that recalled the sweet and meditative countenance of her father, than from all the brightness with which youth and beauty had adorned her. There was fascination in her eyes, enchantment in her smile, and, when that look of gentle thoughtfulness stole upon her face which nature made so remakable in that of Steinmark, there was a charm, a holiness, an intellect in her beauty, that made her, even to the accustomed eyes of her family, appear almost too fair for earth.

This being, so beyond measure lovely, so pure, so innocent, so good, so guileless - this peerless treasure of the noble forester, unknowingly attracted the attention of the young Jonatham, while strolling with her brother Henrich in one of the green glades left by the taste of her father amidst their cotton-grounds.

The intercourse between the houses of Mount Etna and Reichland had nearly ceased since the second marriage of Whitlaw. This bride found nothing to attract her in the manners of her German neighbours, they owned no slaves, and wore no finery: while, on the other hand, every member of the Steinmark family thought the time better employed in attending to the various duties allotted to each, than in listening to Mrs Whitlaw's expressions of pity at the sufferings they must endure in consequence of not 'owning any niggers'.

The good Clio, however, still continued to walk over to the farm, whenever she could be spared from the store, just to see how they all went on; and the kindly welcome she received from Mary and her beautiful daughter whenever she appeared, made these stolen visits become one of her best consolations in the absence of her still idolized nephew, and the presence of her indolent and very insolent sister-in-law.

If Jonathan Jefferson felt contempt for the Steinmark family before he became an inmate of Paradise Plantation, it will be readily believed that this contempt was multiplied a thousand-fold afterwards. He was in truth become a very great man, not only in his own estimation, but in that of all the slaves, and a great many of the young ladies of Natchez, and whenever it happened that he encountered either of the young Germans during his occasional visits to Mount Etna, he invariably looked at them and their rustic dresses with the most minute attention, but without betraying the least consciousness that he had ever seen them before.

It was about six months after his promotion to the honourable situation of Colonel Dart's confidential clerk, that he obtained, without being seen himself, an undisturbed stare at Lotte Steinmark. Young Jonathan was far from insensible to the influence of female beauty; and though not particularly well qualified to appreciate what was most lovely even in the personal attractions of this charming girl, he nevertheless speedily came to the conclusion that she was by far the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. He suffered the brother and sister to pass on, however, without emerging from his hiding-place and then turned and walked slowly towards Mount Etna, pondering upon the possibility of presenting himself on the footing of a friendly visitor at a house which he had not entered for the last seven years, and before people to whom he had at every possible opportunity shown all the impertinence in his power.

It is no trifling proof of the boldness and hardihood of the youth's character, that he decided, while these disqualifying recollections crowded upon him, not to return to Paradise Plantation till he had renewed his acquaintance with the Steinmark lads, and opened the way to an intercourse with their beautiful sister. He was willing, however, to remove some of the difficulties of the enterprise if possible; and accordingly, on entering the enlarged and beautiful mansion of his father, which was now never without the dignity of sundry half-naked negro children round the door, he dispatched a sable messanger into the house to bring Aunt Cli to him.

Joyfully as ever, she came at his bidding.

'You wants me, my darling?' said she, wiping the hands that had been cutting cheese and bacon, 'You wants me, Jonathan dear? What can I do for thee?

'Why, that's more than I can say, Aunt Cli,' returned the enamoured youth; 'but something must be done, or I shall go crazy. Do you know Lotte Steinmark since she's been grown a woman?'

'Do I know her, Jonathan? Why isn't she the dearest little soul to me, next yourself, in the whole Union?'

'Indeed! - that's jam, then. Aunt Cli, I'm in love with her; what d'ye say to that? I'm mad for love of her, and you must bring us together, if you die the minute after.'

'My -!' exclaimed Clio, with a grin of the greatest delight. 'If that bean't the best bit of news I've heard this many a day. Well, now, Jonathan darling, I'd rather go to your wedding with Lotte Steinmark for your bride, than see you married to the heiress of fifty niggers'.

The young love whistled Yankee Doodle.

'I had indeed, Jonathan; I'm right down sure she'd be clever to me'.

'Make yourself decent, Aunt Cli,' said the young man, without answering her remark, 'and walk over with me to the house; move quick, d'ye hear! and say nothing to nobody.'

Though a multitude of affairs must be given up the while, Clio could not refuse to comply with a request so every way agreeable, and in a few minutes she was trotting at a brisk pace after Jonathan as he strode away towards Reichland.

Ere they had gone many steps, however, the youth turned suddenly round to her, saying, 'Where do the old folks keep? I've no call to see them, you know. If I bide in the orchard a spell, can't you go in, and bring the girl out to me, to take a walk for a bit, or something of that sort?

Clio looked up wistfully in his face, and seemed loath to utter a word that should check him; but yet, somehow, she did not in her heart think she could bring out Lotte to walk with Jonathan in the orchard.

'Well, now, Jonathan dear, I expect they might think that funny-like; mightn't they? She's a shy young thing, that pretty Lotte; and maybe now you're growed such a unaccountable noble-looking man of a boy, she mightn't think it first rate decent to run after you into the orchard, Jonathan'.

'That's all flum, Aunt Cli. People like them, that can't even keep a nigger to help 'em, had better not be after giving themselves airs, I can tell 'em. However, I expect you know the whole kit of them best, Which way had we better get at her?'

'Well now, darling, I don't think we can do anything more likely than jest to walk in like, as I do by myself; and say "How d'ye get along?" or summet of that sort, or else jest be after asking them to give or loan you a thing or two, and then they'll be sure to be joyous to see us'.

I ask them to give or to loan ME anything! Now do jest look at them and me, Aunt Cli, and then say what they've got to loan me. That's all fudge, and jest shows their poverty-pride: I should like to let them see my home at Paradise Plantation, with five hundred niggers that all look fit to drop if I do but turn my eyes upon 'em. They loan me!'

'Well, now, Jonathan, say no more about the loaning: but jest walk straight in, and see how it will be'.

They had by this time nearly reached the richly-scented portico that ran round the house, and into which the general sitting room opened. All farther discussion concerning the manner of their entrance was rendcred unnecessary, for Lotte herself was standing before the open window, assisting Henrich to fasten the branches of a clematis, heavy with blossoms, upon the rustic trellis-work that surrounded the portico.

The impudence of Jonathan very nearly failed him, and he felt a pretty considerable strong inclination to run awy; but the honest confidence of the simple-minded Clio came to his aid, and he manfully stood his ground beside her, as she walked up to the beautiful Lotte, who welcomed her most kindly.




Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw's Visit to Reichland


Neither the brother or sister, however, had the slightest idea who the tall stripling might be, who, dressed in the height of New Orleans elegance, stood bowing with a strange mixture of bashfulness and audacity beside her.

It was some minutes before it entered Clio's head that it was possible Lotte and Henrich should not know her nephew Jonathan; but as soon as the fact became manifest to her capacity, she performed the ceremony of introduction by saying,

'Well, now, I do believe you have downright forgotten Jonathan, both of you - and no wonder, seeing he's grow'd so dreadful handsome, and so tall and grandlike; but 'tis Jonathan, Lotte. Won't you shake hands with him?'

'Father and mother will be glad to see you, Clio', replied Lotte, colouring slightly, and making a movement towards the open window, 'I think they are both here'.

This palpable evasion of the offered courtesy of hand-shaking, seconded as it was by a brisk action of the youth's right hand the instant his aunt's agreeable proposal reached his ears, produced an effect both on his nerves and temper by no means favourable to the grace of his entry by the open window. He 'had to do it' however; and following his aunt, and the beautiful object of his admiration and anger, he suddenly found himself in the presence also of Frederick Steinmark, Mary, Karl and Hermann.

The day was Sunday, and the whole family had the air of enjoying the pleasant idleness, and unbroken intercourse with each other, which it permitted. Frederick indeed was reading; but the two sons were seated on each side of the mother, and both seemed enjoying the pleasure of a very lively conversation, in which she was taking part with as much animation as either of them.

'Here is Clio, mother, come to see us,' said Lotte as she entered.

'And here is our Jonathan', said Clio, stopping short in her advance towards Mary, till the young man had reached her side. 'Arn't he growed, mistress?'

'Very much grown, Clio', answered May kindly, and turning to Jonathan she asked him to sit down with a civility which quite surprised him. He gave her credit, however, for conquering feelings and resentments respecting him, which in truth it had never entered into her heart to conceive. She had heard there was a young Whitlaw, and that young Whitlaw was gone to school, but, further than this, her memory retained no single idea concerning him.

And even this was, probably, more than Frederick Steinmark knew, or remembered about him. He raised his eyes from his book, however, and with his own sweet smile nodded a welcome to the worthy Clio.

'My nephew, Master Steinmark, sir!' said Clio, pushing Jonathan a little towards him. Frederick again raised his eyes, but it was evident that he was puzzled concerning the identity of the smart youth who stood before him, and with that guilty consciousness of inattention which absent people often betray, he looked towards his wife and sons to assist him out of his embarrassment, or, if that were impossible, at least to relieve him from doing the honours of his house to a guest of whose existence he could not recall the slightest recollection. Confident, however, from old experience, of receiving the aid of his expressive look demanded, he resumed his occupation, and, impossible as the thing appeared to Jonathan Jefferson, totally forgot that he was in the room.

Not so Karl, Hermann, or Henrich. The occasional impertinences of their visitor to themselves were certainly not wholly forgotten; but his presence recalled idead infinitelydisagreeable, and more disadvantageous to him, than any remembrances connected merely with themselves.

Though the young Steinmarks associated as little as was well possible with the inhabitants of Natchez, the necessary sale of their produce, and the purchase of articles required in return, made it impossible that they should be altogether strangers there. Karl, too, in his vocation of miller, often found himself under the necessity of hearing more plantation gossip than was either interesting or agreeable; and both from his customers, and from the general report of Natchez, such a series of anecdotes had reached the brothers as proved that either justly or unjustly, the young hero of my tale had already acquired as general a character for dissolute libertinism as it would have required at least twice his age to collect round any one name amidst the more slowly developed vices of Europe.

Nor was this all. The charge of cruelty to the unhappy negroes into whose secret thoughts he was commissioned to penetrate, and whose slightest feelings it was his hired service to betray, was spoken of with loathing and abhorrence even at Natchez. The hearts of the young Germans seemed to burn within them as Jonathan prepared to seat himself in the circle that pressed round their mother; and when, drawing his chair near to that of Lotte, he began smilingly and familiarly to address her, no consideration of civility, nor even the accustomed deference to the presence of his parents, could control the feelings of the impetuous Karl, who, approaching his sister abruptly, said in a half-whisper, 'Leave the room, Lottchen!' and then, having stood between her and the object of his indignation till the door closed behind her, he replaced himself close to his mother, turning his clear and almost fierce blue eyes upon the guest, with a look from which even the accomplished effrontery of Jonathan Jefferson turned abashed.

This scene, which was becomingly extremely unpleasant to every person present, excepting the absorbed Frederick Steinmark and the unsuspicious Clio, could not last long. The object which had induced young Whitlaw to such an act of condescension as paying a voluntary visit to the 'German boors', as he not very aptly termed the family of Steinmark, having so strangely withdrawn herself, all which on his part to prolong the visit vanished; and rising from his chair with his hat still on his head, and his arms folded on his breast, he stood waiting with no very amiable feelings, till his aunt should give some indication that if he bolted through the window, she would follow him.

Clio, however, who perceived not that any thing was amiss, save indeed the absence of Lotte, whom she every moment expected to see re-enter, was in no hurry to depart. She hailed the opportunity of exhibiting the beauty and splendour of her nephew to her friendly neighbours; and it was not till the swelling and mortified Jonathan had given her sundry admonitory pokes on the elbow, and finally uttered very audibly, 'You are going to hide all day, I expect' that the kind-hearted aunt conceived the possibility that it would be best to depart, even before one bit of courting had taken place with Lotte.

This visit appeared over-long to more than one of the persons it brought together; but it would have been well for all, had the effects of it lasted no longer.



CHAPTER IX

t was not the habit of the Steinmark family to canvass the failings of any guests whom chance might bring to visit them in their remote retirement. The rareness of the ocurrence made the face of the stranger welcome, and the genuine kindness of the family temper would generally have prevented any very severe animadversions even in cases where it was not so. But on the present occasion the extraordinary conduct of Karl demanded explanation, and it could only be given by imparting a portion at least of the information he had received respecting Whitlaw.

Had Lotte been present, this must have been necessarily abridged; but as it was, Karl felt it a duty sufficiently to enlighten his father and mother on the subject, to ensure their aid in preventing the repetition of a visit which for many reasons the young man felt convinced was especially intended for his sister.

Frederick Steinmark's attention being awakened by the earnest manner of his son, he listened without any symptoms of absence to all he had to say, and then replied.

'As far as our Lottchen is concerned, my dear Karl, I hold your precaution to be needless. Our young neighbour Jonathan would have no more power to sully the purity that you cherish so fondly, than a cloud passing before the sun can tarnish in brightness. You were wrong, dear son, to send her out of the room abruptly. Lotte need not run to be safe from neighbour Jonathan. In short, Karl, in his capacity of beau and libertine, I fear him not. But looking at him in his capacity of slave-driver, I would not much have blamed your warmth, if you had fled yourself, and dragged us all in a string after you. Human nature can show nothing so abhorrent in my eyes and my heart as then men who traffic in the muscles and sinews of the poor negroes; and this fellow, this young demon, by your account, does worse - he sells himself as a spy upon their untaught ignorance, that he may betray their idle words and make them bleed for each each of them! If fiends can take a human shape, it must be this. Let's talk no more of it; it makes me loathe my home, and almost curse the land in which I have pitched my tent; let us talk of it no more'.

This command was literally obeyed. They did talk no more of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, his occupation, or his character.

Nor did Jonathan Jefferson, on his side, talk much of them. It was not in words that the feelings produced by Karl's treatment of him evaporated; but deep, deep within his heart of hearts did he lay up the insult he had received. He knew, he saw, he heard, he felt, - ay and he understood it all. Neither his egregious vanity, his prosperous ambition, the luxury in which he already lived, and his towering hopes for the future, could so far blind, as to make him doubt for an instant that Karl, the German boor, scorned and reviled him, - that he had snatched his sister from his sight as too pure and holy for his eyes, and then had dared to look upon him as he would look upon a negro.

There had been mutual scorn, dislike, and avoidance between them before, but now there was something approaching to hatred in the breast of both; and in that of Whitlaw, a deeply-sworn promise of revenge that he was not very likely to forget.

But to no human being did he breathe a word of the offence he had received, or of the rich atonement which it was his purpose to require when the fitting hour should come. He answered with apparent indifference to his aunt's observations on Lotte's running away; but either to avoid the repetition of them, or from some other reason, it was many months before he again found leisure to leave his duties at Paradise Plantation in order to visit Mount Etna.

With Colonel Dart his importance appeared to increase daily. No person, indeed, could be better fitted for an employment than was Jonathan Jefferson for that which the planter had entrusted to him. He had nothing to do with superintending the fulfilment of the negroes' talks; that was the duty of the different overseers, one of whom was attached to every separate gang. The large estate of Colonel Dart grew sugar, cotton, and rice; and, as the cultivation of each of these articles required a different kind of labour, and even a different species of physical power in those employed upon it, the slaves were as distincly divided as if they had belonged to different proprietors; even the huts in which they dwell were grouped in widely-distant parts of the property, in that Paradise Plantation could boast of three distinct negro villages. There were but two things which belonged to them all in common; these were, Colonel Dart, who was their general master, and Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, who was their general spy.

The manner in which the business belonging to the latter office was performed might well propitiate the favour of Colonel Dart. The employment was was congenial to the spirit of the employed, and was executed with intelligence, real, and unwearying perseverance. The task was moreover by no means an easy one. To watch the execution of a given portion of labour in a given time, and to spur the languid spirit or the failing strength of a suffering wretch to its performance, may require an active and unshrinking agent; but his occupation is at least easily comprehended, and requires no faculties and no qualities which may not readily be found amongst the white population of a slave-holding country. Not so the employment entrusted to Jonathan Jefferson: to execute it with success, demanded great readiness, tact, presence of mind, and, above all things, most consummate cunning. It was his custom, from the hour the nature of his employment was first explained to him, to assume the appearance of being occupied by a variety of duties, all very naturally belonging to the situation of a confidential clerk. Thus, he would sometimes be seen riding through the grounds with an apparatus for measuring trees: then it would be evident that it was making a map of the estate upon which he was intent. At one time the construction of every separate hut occupied so minute an attention, that each village took several weeks to be examined and set to rights; at another, the mode of cooking the negro food demanded his peculiar care, - and this also kept him long employed upon the interior of the huts.Then again his duty took him into the fields, and the drains and ditches became the objects of his most persevering examination.  On all these occasions he had from time to time need of the assistance of such negroes, whether men, women, or children, as were within his reach; and in this manner he became personally acquainted with every slave on the estate before he had been employed upon it a year. For a long time these various pretences answered perfectly, - as far, at least, as leading the negroes to believe that his ostensible was his real business among them. But though for a while he succeeded in this, he failed totally and altogether in obtaining in any single quarter the slightest approach to confidence from the wary slaves; nor could he by any means contrive to learn aught respecting them beyond what his eyes enabled him to perceive. His reports therefore were for a long time confined to the statement of a greater or less degree of cleanliness, industry, and the like; but as to how much or how little each sable victim knew of what was passing beyong the limits of Paradise Plantation - whether the attempts making in various quarters to ameliorate their condition have been in any degree made known to them, was what he found it utterly beyond the reach of all the arts he could make use of to discover.

It was quite impossible to doubt either the intelligence or zeal of his confidential agent, and therefore Colonel Dart neither expressed nor indeed felt anything approaching to dissatisfaction at the abortive result of his endeavours to obtain information on these very important points; he only wished him to go on as he had begun, kindly encouraging the young man to persevere notwithstanding his want of success, by observing that if so much cleverness and ingenuity failed of discovering the mischief he feared, he should soon have the comfort of believing that it did not exist at all.

Jonathan himself, however, was not quite of this opinion. He had more than once fancied that he had heard a voice reading or praying in his stealthy approaches to some of the more distant huts; but not sooner had the murmur reach him than it ceased, - clearly proving that, if indeed the sound itself were not imaginary, some person was on the watch to guard against surprise. On every occasion where this had occurred, he uniformly found, on entering the premises, that the persons occupying them were sedulously employed in their laboruous household duties, and that not the slightest trace could be discovered of their having been engaged in any other.

Young Whitlaw knew his patron too well to venture upon rousing his terrors by what might be so purely imaginary; he knew that he should probably be himself the greatest sufferer were he to make a statement which he could in no way substantiate, and he therefore continued to report the total absence of every appearance of religious mutiny (as the breaking in of a ray of light upon these unhappy beings is designated), determined at the same time to mark well the spots whence he had fancied the forbidden sounds to have proceeded, and to omit no possible means of ascertaining whether they were real or not.

Shortly after he had made up his mind not to mention his suspicions to Colonel Dart till he had more assured grounds for them, it chanced that on two following evenings the same species of measured murmur struck his ear as he approached the remotest hut on a cotton plantation which was skirted on two sides by forest. As before, the sound ceased as he made another step in advance after hearing it; but in both cases he found on entering the hut a young negress, who, though in the act of very busily washing linen, had, as he conceived, an air of hurry and confusion.

She was a singularly handsome girl, who had more than once attracted his attention in the fields; and he now attempted to make a sort of toying acquaintance with her, by remarking the roundness of her arms, displayed as they were, nearly to the shoulder, for the convenience of her occupation.

It is singular that the only evidence his ready wit could discern to confirm his suspicions that this young negress had been guilty of pronouncing, or at least of listening to a prayer, was found in the peculiarly sweet and innocent expression of her countenance. Had an individual who felt and acknowledged the effect of religion come to exactly the same conclusion, there would certainly have been nothing extraordinary in it; but that Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, who till eleven years of age had never entered a church or chapel of any kind, and who, excepting from occasional phrases from poor Clio, doubtful and mystical from inevitable ignorance, had scarcely heard the name of God till he was taught by his patron to watch for its being pronounced by a slave as an overt act of mutiny - that he should, in a countenance expressive of the purest candour and most ingenuous modesty, see something which forcibly suggested the idea that she had been taught the worship of a Christian, is remarkable and shows pretty plainly, despite the severity used towards them what the general effect left on the minds of slave-holders must have been by those who had been found guilty of listening to religious instruction.

Young Whitlaw looked in that innocent young face, and instantly decided upon the means he would take to learn what was passing in her heart.

The fearfully demoralizing effects produced among the female slaves by the unlimited power of those placed in authority over them, together with the dreadful penalties attached to every species of disobedience, is well known to all who are in any degree acquainted with the fearful statistics of a large negro population. So deep and so general is the degradation of character consequent upon vices committed, not from weakness, but from the most inevitable and hateful necessity, that the miserable victims cease at last to be conscious of shame, though awake to suffering; and it is only where the undaunted courage of some wandering preacher of the Gospel has taught them to believe that they are accountable to a Being superior to their owner, and that, beyond the wretched world that holds them now, there is a happier region for all who deserve to enter it - except where doctrines such as these have been taught and learned, the grossest sensuality is deemed no sin.

Not such, however, was the condition of Phebe, the innocent being who now stood within the grasp of young Whitlaw. Her mother, herself, and two young sisters, had been purchased by Colonel Dart, about twelve months before, from a dealer who got them at the auction of a bankrupt's effects in a State which bordered on Ohio. There is much difficulty in guarding slaves effectually from the approach of instruction when they are situated near a free State. The free negroes themselves are often the means of enlightening to a certain degree their less happy brethren; and there are few free States in which some individuals may not be found who will gladly seize every opportunity within their reach from the spiritual benefit of the miserable race whose condition they feel to be their greatest misfortune, as it is the greatest disgrace, of their country.

Phebe and her family had been as fortunate in their former situation in Kentucky as they were now in every way the reverse; and a heavy addition in the case of the poor girl to the misery produced by this change of masters, was an attachment to one of her own race as sincere and devoted as ever glowed in the heart of a woman. This lover, who was to have become her husband in the course of a few months, was bought by another.

Till Phebe was carried away from Kentucky, she had no more idea of what the real evils of her condition were than those have who reason upon the institution of slavery from the bosom of freedom, and judging by some (perhaps) well-authenticated history of the happiness of a virtuous negro under the protection of a virtuous master, conceive that though, like all other human institutions, it may be liable to abuse, yet still that it is upon the whole an arrangment which admits of much mutual benefit to the parties.

There are, I believe, many who honestly and conscientiously conceive this to be the case; and that it MAY have been so in individual instances cannot be doubted: but this ought not in the slightest degree to influence the general question. The principle - the fearful, terrible, unholy principle is still the same; and wherever it is admitted and acted upon, there the social system is poisoned, and vice and misery are the inevitable results.

But not only had Phebe and her family enjoyed the blessing of belonging to a kind and considerate master - they had enjoyed also the still higher advantage of being instructed, and well isntructed, as responsible beings and as immortal Christians.

A story is but ill constructed when the relator is obliged to retrograde, yet it is sometimes very difficult to avoid it; and I believe it will be impossible to give the reader a necessary insight into the character of some of the personages the most important in my story, without referring to events which had passed before the time it comprises had begun.

In order, however, to keep the two periods as may be, my retrospect shall have a chapter to itself.



CHAPTER X

t the distance of about ten miles from Lexington in the State of Kentucky, is, or rather was, a fine arable and pasture farm, the neat and careful cultivation of which might have reminded a European of the fertile fields of England.

Henry Bligh, the proprietor, though he employed slaves both as indoor and outdoor servants, detested the system, and scrupled not, though at the risk of bringing upon himself the ill-will of many, to declare both publicly and privately, that the union of the States would never be securely cemented till they were all governed by equal laws, and till every human being who drew breath upon their soil might lift his voice to heaven and say, 'I am an American, and therefore I am free'.

But the beautiful spot Henry Bligh inhabited was his own, - it had, too, been his father's; it was his own birth-place, and that of his children; and therefore, instead of seeking an abode where slavery was not, he contented himself with remaining and doing all the good in his power where it was.

A motherless son and daughter constituted his whole family, and for many years they and their negroes continued to inhabit 'Beechtree Farm' without the relative situation of either party being a source of discomfort to the other.

Among several particularities in the character of Henry Bligh, was an aversness to letting his children quit his own house and his own care. He was himself a man of literary habits and extensive reading; and under his eye, and aided solely by his instructions, Edward and Lucy Bligh acquired more general information and more studious habits than are often found even in the more polished parts of the Union.

It was a consciousness of this, and of the utter unfitness of both son and daughter either to increase the property he should leave them, or to enjoy life with less of easy indifference to daily expense than he had accustomed them to, which made him listen to the proposals of an acquaintance at Lexington for rapidly increasing his fortune by placing a small sum of ready money which he possessed in a newly-established banking concern.

The bank failed, and Henry Bligh was completely ruined. His ignorance of business had led him to conceive that the six thousand dollars he had placed in the bank was all he risked; but his name was in the firm, and house, lands, stock, and furniture, were all seized and sold by auction, towards clearing the large demands of the creditors.

A misfortune such as this might weigh down the spirits of any man; but poor Bligh was singularly ill calculated to support it. He, and his two pure-minded, intellectual, but very helpless children, were left utterly and literally destitute; and it was only by the sale of some articles of wearing apparel which they were permitted to retain, that their existence was for some time supported.

The only expedient which suggested itself to Edward by which he might hope to maintain his father and sister, was the opening a day-school in the populous village near which they had lived. By the aid of a neighbour who lent him a ruinous barn for the purpose, he so far succeeded as to be spared the agony of seeing his broken-hearted father and delicate sister actually want bread. But the exertion and fatigue which achieved this were overwhelming, and the objects of his care saw the young cheek fade and the bright eye grow dim under the irksome and unwonted toil. Poor Lucy saw it, and determined to divide the labour. Without consulting either father or brother, whose principal occupation and delight had been to guard her from every care and every sorrow, she stole from the corner of their shed in which her father and herself sat apart during the hours of Edward's labour, and passing, for the first time since she left her home, though the long village street, she called at every house, begging permission to instruct the girls at a price so low that avarice was tempted, - and in a voice so sweet, and yet so sad, that few ears could listen to it unmoved.

The consequence was, that on the following Monday, Lucy's side of the barn held nearly as many pupils as Edward's.

There was much to rejoice at in this, - and perhaps they did rejoice. But the arragnement necessarily left the unhappy father more alone; and whether it were that his spirits failed the more completely from this circumstance, or that his cup was full and he could bear nor more, certain it is that he declined daily and hourly from that time, and in less than in three months was attended to the grave by his unhappy orphans.

It had long been Edward's intention to enter the church; but, though his father never opposed it, the putting his wish in execution had been delayed from the reluctance which Mr Bligh felt to part with him for the period necessary for the probationary studies which must precede the taking orders.

This most unfortunate delay left him totally without profession or resource of any kind; and with a sister who was dearer to him than his own life, and whose habits were those rather of refinement than of usefulness, he had now to seek bread and shelter for both, with an aching heart and weakened health.

It is difficult to imagine consultations for the future between two young people, in which there was less of hope and more of despondency than those of Edward and Lucy Bligh. The world was before them, but it was a blank. They each felt conscious of superior powers, but more deeply conscious still of their utter incapacity to turn them to account. Lucy, though thoroughly well-read, and with information equally professed and extensive, had nevertheless no accomplishments by the teaching which she might hope to gain the means of existence. Who would pay her for her love of Pascal, her familiarity with Dante, or her enthusiasm for Shakespeare?

'Would I could work at any useful trade, dear Edward!? she said, after they had canvassed the improbability that any one should think her qualified for the situation of Governess. 'I am still young enough to turn my thoughts away from all that has hitherto engrossed them, and to take interest in a new manner of existence; but the difficulty is to find out some handcraft of which I am capable'.

'Yes, Lucy, you have proved that you can submit to toil', replied her brother. 'There are few occupations I should conceive so wearing to the heart and soul as teaching children whse intellects have never been awakened beyond the yearning to have their animal wants supplied; - Lucy, it is dreadful!'

'Let us not think of it; it is over for a week or two,' replied his sister. 'To-morrow is Sunday, Edward, and we will try to fancy that we are not - as we are. But why is it, Edward, that the task of instruction is now so terrible, when I used to take such extreme pleasure in teaching poor black Phebe? Is it possible that I am so wicked as to find delight in what was merely a matter of will or whim, and that the same thing shall become hateful to me as soon as it is my duty to do it?'

'Do not treat yourself with so great injustice, my poor girl. The teaching Phebe was a task that might have given pleasure to the most refined and intellectual person living. Her docility, her gentleness, her intelligence, her piety, and her warm gratitude, made the office of her instructor perfectly delightful. You surely cannot compare that to the unspeakable fatigue of the occupation in which we are now engaged?'

'No, certainly, Edward, it resembles it in no way, and I am glad that you deem it is no wickedness of mine which leads me to think so. Poor Phebe! - I wish I knew where and how she was. The seeing the poor, faithful creatures we had endeavoured to make so happy round us scattered about over the Union just as chance might decide, was not one of the least painful circumstances attending our sad downfall - And Caesar, too, - the gay, kind-hearted, generous Caesar! - I would do much to know their destiny. Should they have been parted, their misery must be great indeed, for never did two young creatures love more tenderly.'

She ceased; but it was some minutes before Edward answered her. At length he said, 'Lucy, the utter destitution of my position has sometimes suggested thoughts that, wild as I know they must appear to you, would yet have in them a world of consolation, were it not - But I will not leave you, Lucy - '

'Leave me!' exclaimed the poor girl, turning first pale, and then red, - 'leave me, brother! -  Oh! no, you will not do that - it is impossible!'

'It is impossible, dearest, - I do not think of it; but were you placed where I could believe that you were safe and happy, I have quite decided what my destiny should be'.

'Will you not tell me, Edward?'

'Yes, my love, I will, for the subject is much in my thoughts, and it will be a pleasure to me to talk to you of it. But fancy not that I think of putting it in execution: it is but one of those dreams with which the unhappy, I believe, often solace existence.'

'Let me then dream with you,' said his sister. 'If it be a solace, let me share it'.

'You shall; but take care that you do not laugh at me. You know, Lucy, what were my father's opnions respecting slavery. You know, I think, that he had amongst his books nearly every publication of every land which treated of the subject; but perhaps you do not know the deep, the engrossing interest which this subject excited in me?'

'Your reading was so general', replied his sister, 'that I certainly did not remark that these publications occupied you particularly'.

'They occupied me too intensely to permit my talking of them. I feared to be deemed an enthusiast on a subject to which I would willingly have brought profitable and efficient wisdom at the cost of half my life. The point on which my meditations turned by day and by night, was less the personal bondage of the negro race, than the brute ignorance in which their masters permit them to remain; an ignorance which in a thousand - ay, in a hundred thousand instances - prevents the wretched victims of our fRightful laws from knowing good from evil. Had our condition remained for a few weeks longer unchanged, Lucy, I was determined to have petitioned my father for immediate leave to obtain ordination, and then to have passed my life in journeying through the regions where this plague-spot of our country is the darkest, in the hope that under the sanction of my sacred calling I might awaken some of these unfortunates to a consciousness of their immortality. This hope is passed away, like every other that embellished that period of our existence; yet still my spirit seems to bear me perpetually to those scenes of misery with the description of which I have become familiar, and hopeless and helpless as I am myself, I still cannot help believing that, were I at liberty to wander forth among them, I might lead many an ignorant but innocent spirit to hold commune with HIM who is not less the God of the black man than of the white. This, Lucy, is what I would attempt, were not not my first and dearest duty to watch over you'.

'And were it not that you lack all means for such an enterprise, Edward, and would do so no less if I lay in the grave-yard beside our father, - were it not for this, I might be still more wretched than I am, from knowing that I am a restraint upon you. Had we wherewithal to sustain life as we journeyed, I would not be your hindrance, brother, but your aid. Could I but meet such pupils as my poor Phebe, I should never be weary of teaching'.

All this seemed at the time but idle talk; but accident ripened the thoughts that were then dropped, and much that deeply affected the destinies of the brother and sister resulted from it.

They both pursued their labours in the village school they had instituted, successfully, though wearily, and even found that they were enabled to gain more than they required from their daily support. Their uncomplaining industry, and the conscientious manner in which they performed the duties they had undertaken, brought them all the patronage and all the assistance which the poor neighbourhood could give; and it is probable that they might long have continued in the same occupation, had not the arrival of the following letter awakened feelings which led tem to a different and much less tranquil mode of ife.

The letter was from black Phebe, the affectionately remembered slave and pupil of Lucy Bligh.

HONOURED LADY AND MISTRESS,

Grief and sorrow are at my heart. I wish our God had not made it his command that we must not die and go to him, when sufferings come too much to bear. I do not think that, or our kind master, or our Master Edward, know anything at all about what being a slave means in this fearful country near Natchez. It means labour till strength fails - stripes till the blood runs down - wickedness till God must turn away his face - and shame, and suffering, and more, till life seems worse, much worse than death.

Dear and honoured mistress, I write to ask if you can tell me where my promised husband is. O, my poor Caesar! - if he could see me, and all that is about me! Perhaps Caesar is dead. I sometimes think he must be; but if I knew it, I think dear honoured mistress, I should die, too, without offending God,

The letter then proceeded at greater length than it is necessary for the reader to follow, to describe the state of Colonel Dart's slaves - their ignorance, their vice, and their sufferings - and concluded by saying, that if the unhappy writer heard nothing as to the fate of her lover, or concerning the protestors, the friends, and instructors of her youth, she thought these would prove to be her dying words, for that she felt her heart sinking within her, and trusted that God would take her to his mercy before she had suffered much more.

How poor Phebe had contrived to convey her melancholy letter to the post remained a mystery; but its effect upon her former msitress proved that she had not overrated the interest felt for her by those from whom she had been so cruelly torn. Lucy wept over it bitterly, and when she put it into her brother's hand, she said with a feeling of enthusiasm almost equal to his own, 'Edward! if we had one hundred dollars in the world, I should say that, useless and unconnected with the world as we are, we should do well to set forth together on a pilgrimage to the wretched land where our poor Phebe and her fellow-suffereers languish. We should have no power to redeem them from their worse than Egyptian bondage; but might we not be enabled to throw such a light upon the everlasting future as might teach them to feel with less bitterness the miseries of the dreadful but passing hours of the present?'

Lucy's soft eyes were lighted up with an energy and earnestness that her brother had never seen in them before. He took Phebe's letter, and having perused it attentively, returned it in silence, and left the little room, which by degrees he had converted into a decent shelter. In a few minutes he returned, bearing in his hand a small box, which he opened, and poured the contents into his sister's lap.

'Here are forty dollars, Lucy', he said, 'obtained partly by the sale of linen which was no longer fit for my use, and partly by the little weekly savings we have made since my poor father's death. This sum is already sufficient to convey us to Natchez, and to support us in the manner in which we now live for several months. I do believe, my sister, that  we are called to this work. The singular education we have received, and the still more singular isolation of our condition, seems to point us out as belonging to those, who having no worldly ties to withold them should go forth amongst the wretched and the ignorant to pour the balm of God's word into their hearts. While I thought you, Lucy, unequal to the task, I put the hope of performing it far from me, for I deemed that my first duty was to cherish and protect my orphan sister; but now - now that I read in your eyes the same devotion to this cause which I feel at my own heart, shall I from any cowardly misgivings of your strength or my own, attempt to check your holy zeal? Forbid it, Heaven! - I am ready, Lucy. Let us finish the labours of the week, dispose of the trifles we have collected round us and armed with the courage which such a cause should give, let us set forth for the plantations of Louisiana. Perhaps we may again find bread, by collecting a school among the white settlers in the forest behind Natchez. But this is a secondary consideration - Lucy, have you courage to do this?'

It would be difficult to analyze the feelings of Lucy Bligh as she listened to this proposal. What she had uttered iin the first warmth of her feelings on reading the melancholy statement of the poor slave, though as perfect in truth as her own spotless heart, was nevertheless spoken with such a conviction that the scheme she mentioned was impracticable, that her mind had in fact never contemplated the dangers and difficulties it must involve. But now that it was at once brought before her as a thing to be done, according to her judgment and her will, she trembled.

'If indeed, my brother, you deem this great enterprise possible, and our duty, I will follow you in it, body and soul, as long as nature shall give me strength to do so'.

It was thus that, after a few moments' delay, Lucy replied to the unexpected proposal; and if the fervour of her consent was tempered by a shade of timidity, her brother saw it not. The most earnest wish of his heart was about to be fulfilled; enthusiasm had taken the place of all ordinary considerations of prudence, and even the dangers and difficulties which his sister must inevitably encounter appeared to his exalted feelings only a ray the more in the crown of glory they were about to win.

* * * * *

Their walk to the banks of the Ohio, their embarkation on board a steam-boat, the various sufferings of the delicate Lucy during her deck-passage of many days, and the changeful feelings of her brother, wavering between the tenderness of a man and the sternness of a martyr, must be passed by without any detailed description; and the reader must rest contented with knowing that at the distance of one month from the period of the conversation I have last recorded, the brother and sister had established themselves in a small room, with a loft over it, at an obscure clearing in the forest to the north-east of Natchez, which made part of the premises of a poor back-woodsman, who thankfully restricted his family to the use of half their dwelling, for the consideration of twenty-five cents per week, as the rent of the remainder.

The curiosity of their host and his wife was satisfied or baffled by being informed that they were an orphan brother and sister desirous of gaining a living by instructing the children of the neighbouring settlers. As this statement was strictly true, it was threatened with no danger from any discovery; and as their scholars were not at first very numerous, the long rambles which Edward took in the forest and neighbourhood attracted neither attention nor inquiry.

In a country so thickly peopled with slaves as Natchez and its vicinity, it was but too easy for the enthusiastic and persevering Edward Bligh to discover a multitude of human beings totally deficient in that knowledge which it was the sole passion of his young heart to spread abroad. And never did a hope more holy, an ambition more sublime, engross the soul of man. Remote as is good from evil, was the principle which sent him forth, thus self-elected and self-devoted, to raise the poor crushed victims of an infernal tyranny from the state of groveling ignorance to which they were chained by the well-calculating masters, from that which swells with most unrighteous vanity the hearts of many among ourselves, inclined to separate from the established faith in which they were educated, and to hold themselves apart, as chosen saints and apostles of another.

As well might a philanthropist labouring in a desert where no abler hand could be found to minister relief to te sick and suffering - as well might such a man be compared to the audacious quack who, thrusting instructed science aside, claims reverence for his own daring ignorance, as Edward Bligh to the self-seeking fanatics who canker our establishment.

It is true, indeed, that the praise justly due to his excellent intentions cannot be as fully accorded to his prudence. His judgment was unquestionable shaken by the fervour of his zeal, or he would not have urged his young sister to an enterpise so pregnant with difficulty and danger. But this chapter is a retrospect, and therefore need not forestall the future.

About two months before the domiciliary visit of young Whitlaw to the hut of Phebe's mother, Lucy and Edward Bligh had found means to see and converse with their former dependants. But terror at the idea of being discovered to hold intercourse with strangers almost conquered the delight with which the affectionate Phebe greeted her beloved mistress, and nearly all their subsequent meetings had been held at dead of night in the depth of the forest which divided the boundary of Colonel Dart's plantation from the dwelling which sheltered the Blighs.

Phebe's hut was very favourably situated for her stealing to these midnight meetings. A clear spring which rose near the verge of the woods had led to the erection a washing-house beside it: in this house Phebe and her mother had been recently placed as laundresses to a part of the establishment, and as no other dwelling was within sight, the grateful and affectionate girl ran little risk of discovery when creeping from her pallet into the forest, and returning to it again before sun-rise.

Before leaving Kentucky, Edward Bligh ascertained from the autioneer who sold his father's slaves, that Caesar had become the property of a manufacturer of New Orleans; intelligence which caused as great joy to Phebe, as the knowledge that the loved one was living next door might have done to a less despairing mistress. Having satisfied the poor girl on this point, Edward proceeded to explain to her the hopes which had brought him to the scene her letter described as so full of misery and sin. The dialogue which followed this communication may throw some light on the circumstances which took place afterwards.

' - I hope, Phebe,' said Edward, 'that you will be able to put me in the way of awakening your miserable fellow-labourers to a sense of their own importance in the sight of Heaven, and to the blessed hopes of happiness in a life to come'.

'Ah! dear master Edward!' replied Phebe, 'the poor black souls think only but of their bodies in this world, and their stripes and their labour and their bad food when the overseer is angry. They will not believe that there is a good God in heaven watching to make it all up to them by-and-by.'

'Have you never told them this, Phebe?'

'When I first came, Master Edward, and heard them speak, and saw them do, like being having no souls for the life that is to be after this is over, and when I thought of Caesar, I prayed on my knees every night, when all the world was sleeping, except Phebe - I prayed to God to let me die -'

'Phebe!' interrupted Edward somewhat sternly.

'Master Edward! - don't think me grown bad! - I know it was a sin, I found it out myself that I had no church to go to, no good master to tell me what was right, no Bible to read - I found it out in my own heart, and then I prayed to God to forgive me, and then I strove to do good to those lower, and more wretched than myself, but they could not understand one word I said'.

'Then it is more necessary, Phebe, that we should endeavour to instruct them. Did they receive kindly what you said to them?'

'Alas! no, Master Edward, I would not have your ears hears, and still less my dear Miss Lucy's, the terrible words and deeds spoken and done here. The negroes of this country are very miserable - but they are very wicked, too.'

' - Perhaps it is not their fault, Phebe,' said Lucy, 'perhaps they might be easily reclaimed, if one could be found, who, without being a slave himself, could feel for slaves. Do you not think they would listen to Edward?'

'And where could they listen to him, Miss Lucy? - In the grounds? - Why, if they did not but stop to raise their eyes to him, the lash would be on their backs. And think you Master Edward himself would be safe? No! no! you must not peril your precious life, Master Edward, for such as we are. Do you not know that the planters have sworn together to take vengeance on any one who should only be caught teaching a negro to read? And how much more dreadful vengeance would they take on any who should dare to say that the soul of a black man is like the soul of a white one! - You must not think of it, Master Edward, - your life would pay for it.'

'And my life shall pay for it, Phebe, if such be the will of Heaven' replied the enthusiast. 'Do not throw difficulties in my way, my good girl, by endeavouring to terrify my sister. I am here to preach the doctrine of hope and salvation to the despairing slaves, and neither hardships, nor sufferings, nor danger, nor threatenings - no, nor death itself, shall appal me. So help me Heaven as I keep my word!'

The solemn silence of the night as Edward Bligh offered these words in the deep still voice of profound emotion added to their effect, The mood shed, through the light boughs of the locust trees under which they walked, a soft pale light on the uplifted face of the young man, which seemed to give an unearthoy expression to his countenance. He raised his hat reverently from his brow as he spoke, the cool night-breeze blew the dark curls from his forehead, and as he raised his eyes to heaven, he might have furnished the finest model for a representation of youthful piety that ever blessed a painter.

Phebe gazed at him with reverence, and suddenly dropping on her knees, excalimed, 'Then may Heaven help your work, Master Edward! And Phebe would die, too, rather than hinder it; but do not let them see you, Master Edward - the master is -'

'It matters not, Phebe, what he is', returned Edward. 'But kneel not to me, poor child; kneel before the throne of God, and pray for power to help me to perform the task he sets me. You may do it, Phebe, - You may do much to help me.'

'Tell me what it is, and I will do it', replied the girl, 'though they should lash me into rags for it. What is it I can do, Master Edward?'

Edward Bligh did not reply immediately. Perhaps some feeling of doubt and dread as to the peril to which the poor slave would be exposed if discovered to be his agent kept him awhile in suspense; but the impulse that urged him onward in defiance of every danger which might befall himself and his still dearer sister, soon drove before it whatever reluctance this thought might have created; he paused in his walk, and the two young girls who were on each side of him pausing likewise, looked up into his young and beautiful countenance as if they were to read their destiny there.

'It is no light and easy task, Phebe, to which Heaven has called us. The circumstances of our lives, though we are still very young, have been so strangely ordered that we cannot but see the hand of God in it. An immediate Providence is surely visible in the arrangment of that series of events which, contrary to all human calculations, has brought us thus together on the spot where, operhaps, beyond all others on earth, we may hope to serve the cause for which the Son of the Most High gave his own sacred blood. In this belief we shall find hope, strength, long-suffering, and courage, unto the end. Have you this belief, Phebe?'

'I do believe that you, Master Edward, may have been chosen by the wise God to teach and to save poor negroes. But I! - Oh, no! that would be to think myself equal to you and to Miss Lucy. But I do not want such a thought as that to make me faithful. Tell me what to do; and if I do it not, then scorn the poor black girl, even as she is scorned by all other white men. What shall I do, Master Edward?'

'First, Phebe', replied Edward, 'endeavour to ascertain with certainty who among the numerous slaves who are your fellow-labourers on the estate to which you belong, are the most likely to listen to the word of God. Let me and my sister know their names, and in what quarter they are employed. It will then be necessary, before we begin our work, to arrange the time and place where, with the least danger to themselves, they may be able to meet and listen to us. When this is done, we must take measures to receive them. You thus perceive, my good Phebe, that your services will be most essential to us'.

Phebe's only reply was again dropping on her knees, and kissing the ground that his advancing step would press - but she spoke not a single word. Then, rising to her feet, she resumed her place beside him; but as she did so, a deep sigh smote on the ear of Lucy.

'You sigh, Phebe!' said her former mistress kindly. 'Be candid with us - conceal nothing! - Tell me why is it that you sigh thus heavily? - Something is on your mind, Phebe. You fear to do what Edward asks of you'.

'Miss Lucy!' said the girl, sublimely standing still, 'thanks to your blessed teaching, I know much - for a poor black girl, I know very much, and the God of all knowledge reward you for it. But still my mind is dark compared to yours; and if I sigh, it is because I cannot see - not so clearly as I ought to see - beyond the stripes and chains, and tortures that must come upon me. Tell me, dear mistress, dear master - tell me, when we are dead, when we have died for this business we have got to do, will not both of you be great and powerful and high and happy - very happy in heaven?'

'Die for it, Phebe!' exclaimed Lucy trembling, - 'Die for it? - Surely the reading of the Bible to such of the poor slaves as wish to hear it can endanger the life of no one'.

'You are terrified, my poor girl,' said Edward, gently; 'do not be afraid to tell me so. You fear the overseer's lash - is it not so? I will not involve you in the business, Phebe; I will myself make acquaintance from time to time among the slaves when they are least watched - and I will only seek the aid of Heaven'.

The black girl burst into tears.

'Oh! could I speak as you speak, Master Edward,' she said, - 'could I know how to show what is in my heart, - you would not think that it was the overseer's lash, nor any other thing that could harm me, that made me fear to help you in this. But I know one thing, one dreadful thing better than you do - I know that to teach a slave will bring down vengeance on Miss Lucy and on you; I know it, and my blood runs cold as I look at you both, with the soft, quiet moonlight that seems full of God's own goodness shining on you - when, perhaps, the next time it comes round again it may light the wicked ones to look for you - and to find you.'

Phebe ceased to speak, for tears choked her utterance, and neither of her companions answered her. Edward was weighing solemnly and, as he hoped, wisely, the purport of her words; and Lucy remained in anxious expectation that he would answer them. But it was Phebe who again spoke. She dashed the tears from her eyes, and said with firmness,

'Now, dear master - now, dear mistress, I have told you all, and never more will Phebe speak a backward word concerning the good work. If you die for it, happy and glorified will I be to die with you. I know two slaves, Master Edward, that I think will listen to me at once; shall I bring them just to these dark trees to-morrow night?' she said, pointing to a group of ilex.

The young slave now spoke without faltering; she knew the danger they were about to incur infinitely better than her hearers did. Of this she was well aware, and the idea that it was her duty to tell them so, and perhaps thereby to check their hopes, had made this conversation terrible to her. But never did martyr give himself body and soul to the work which he knew must bring him to the stake, more devotedly than did black Phebe henceforward bind herself to this. Her last word of warning was uttered.

If Edward Bligh had listened with doubt and dread to her predictions for one short moment, it was infinitely more for the sake of his beloved sister, and also of the poor slave herself, than from any consideration touching his personal safety. When, therefore, Phebe's last words seemed to urge him on, he caught them as if they were a fresh awakening sent from heaven, and at once, and, as he hoped, forever, shaking off the creeping sense of danger which had unnerved him for an instant, he eagerly accepted the appointment, and then dismissed her to her mother's hut with an ardent and affectionate blessing; after which he carefully led back his trembling sister through a narrow forest-path to her humble and anxious pillow. Their walk was wholly silent, and being absorbed by thoughts which worked too strongly within them to permit of conversation.

Edward's soul was wrapt into the highest state of enthusiasm. He now felt himself launched on the career which he had so long and ardently desired to pursue; while Lucy pondered heavily the words of fearful foreboding to which the too well-instructed slave had given utterance.

After this statement, the reader will be at no loss to divine whose voice it was which had from time to time reached the ear of young Whitlaw in sounds which seemed to indicate reading and prayer; nor will it be difficult for him to conceive with what feelings the wretched Phebe listened to the licentious proposals of the man whose eye she knew was open and watchful to discover what she would willingly have given her life to hide.

With ingenuity inspired by affection, she had hitherto contrived effectually to conceal the visits of Edward at two or three of the remotest huts. His converts already amounted to fifty; and the more numerous they became, the more difficult was it to guard against surprise. But so ably had this young girl arranged the manner of their meetings, which were never general except at dead of night and in the thickest covert of the forest, that not all the watchfulness of Whitlaw had hitherto enabled him to make any discovery. The voice he had heard was indeed that of Edward Bligh; but his auditors at those times never exceeded three or four, whom he deemed to be in want of especial instruction; and on such occasions Phebe not only kept guard, but had previously taken measures so effectually to ensure the timely retreat of those assembled, as to have rendered the repeated interruptions of Whitlaw perfectly harmless.

Her courage had therefore gradually increased; and the triumph of her success, made up as it was of various feelings, amounted to a glowing sense of happiness which lent lustre to her eyes and elasticity to every movement.

The unhappy girl probably owed the first notice and admiration of the young libertine to this; and when persuaded that if instruction of any kind were going on, Phebe must be engaged in it, he conceived the idea of gaining her affections, and thus discovering her secret, a most hateful union of passion and treachery took possession of his soul.

Fierce and frightful were the disappointment and the rage produced by the wretched girl's silent but most eloquent abhorrence as she shrunk from his hateful caresses; and horrible were the blasphemies which burst from his young lips as he marked the appeal of her raised eyes to heaven. Scorn and revilings succeeded to this words of blandishment, and he at length left the hut, pronouncing in a tone that made her heart sink within her - 'Slave and rebel! - Beware! - You shall be taught to know your duty!'



CHAPTER XI

n all former occasions, when Whitlaw had entered a cabin whence Phebe's timely caution had previously dismissed either Edward or Lucy Bligh and those met to listen to them, his departure from it had been a signal for thanksgiving and joy; but now the poor girl sank on the floor of her dwelling in an agony of terror and despair.

'Poor wench!' said her mother, turning her head from the tub at which she was washing, Two large tears fell over her dark cheeks, but she spoke not another word, or gave further token of sympathy or sorrow. A slave may feel her heart swell with tenderness or with grief; but beyond the more animal functions of giving life and nourishment, she cannot show that she is a mother.

It had been arranged, and always carried into effect, that the time occupied by the intruder in looking round the hut and questioning the inhabitants should be employed by those who retreated from it in making their escape into the woods, which were close upon every habitation used for the prayer-meetings; and the consciousness that it would be no easy task to find them, was a never-failing source of triumph and delight to the negroes who remained to meet the puzzled eye of the inquisitor. But now Phebe would have suffered the lash patiently, could she by doing so have ensured a few minutes conversation with Lucy Bligh. From her she was sure of a species of sympathy which it was impossible that she should find from any one else, and she might give her counsel - most important counsel.

Black Phebe, from the first instant that Whitlaw gave her to understand his licentious purpose, was as steadfastly and desperately determined to resist it, as Rebecca to save herself from the Templar. There appeared but two ways to effect this - death and flight. The former, her simple but most devoted piety forbad; and for the second, the difficulties which must accompany it made her brain feel dizzy as she thought upon them. Her dear mistress and her master, as she ever called Edward and Lucy Bligh, might suggest something to help her in this her utmost need. But where were they? - Buried in thickets whose impervious shelter had hitherto been her best consolation. She rose from her abject posiiton, and leaving the cabin by the door which opened upon the forest, she walked mournfully onward, with a sort of vague hope that she might chance to fall upon the retreat of her friends; but ere she had proceeded a hundred yards, her eye was caught by the moment of several of the large and heavy leaves of a tuft of palmetoes which grew beside the path. No breeze was stirring, and from the situation of the plant, no very light breeze could have produced such movement as she had seen. Her first idea was that a large snake might be concealed beneath it; but a second glance showed a portion of the white dress in which the Louisianian gentlemen indulge during the summer months.

Whitlaw was so dressed, and Phebe instantly divined that it was he who lay couching there, probably in the hope of seeing her take the way by which those whose voices he insisted upon it he had heard, had made their escape.

This thought at once restored her presence of mind, for it recalled to her recollection the danger of her friends. Without changing her manner or her pace, she proceeded a little farther in the same direction, and then stopping at the foot of a locust-tree fully exposed to the view of whatever eyes might look forth from the shelter of the palmetto, she sat down, as if, naturally enough, she wished to mediate in solitude on the scene which had just occurred.

For many minutes she sat thus, without venturing again to look towards the spot where, as she believed, her enemy lay in abmush; and it was at length her ear, and not her eye, which again gave notice that some living thing was indeed concealed behind the rich foliage. The sound, however, was produced by a movement that no longer sought concealment; an active jump and a few bounding steps brought the object of her terror and her hatred to her side.

'Well, now, I expect you'll be more clever, my fine girl', he began, 'now that we've got neither mother nor brats to watch us. I guess it's a first chop bit of good luck for you having jest hit my fancy'.

This speech was accmpanied by a repetition of the caresses he had proffered in the hut.

Phebe slipped from his embrace, and standing at some distance from him, said -

'When the white commands the black to labour, the black must obey; - but when the white commands the black to love, it is only the wicked who make believe to do his bidding'.

'That's the slickest speech, Phebe, that ever I heard a nigger speak since first I carried a white for 'em. Why, there isn't a copper to choose between you and the play-actors at New Orlines. - But now, hear me a spell. If you won't behave yourself as I would have you, and let me see you jump for joy into the bargain, there shall no more skin be left on your back than might serve the tailor for a pattern. - D'ye hear that, you black she-nigger?'

The poor girl clasped her hands together, fixed her eyes upon the ground, and replied not a word.

'You will run rusty, then, you darnation idiot?'

Phebe neither spoke nor moved.

'And how long, now, d'ye think I shall keep courting, you smut you? Till everlasting, maybe: - but I expect somehow that our courting will come to an end before either of us is much older - and I'll tell you how it shall be, blackamoor miss. You'll come to-night as the clock strikes nine to Paradise Plantation, and ask for Mr Jonathan Whitlaw, the confidential clerk. I'll take care you shall find him, and I'll take care, too, that you shan't get the lash for being about. - Come to be me d'ye see, at nine o'clock, and I'll give you a pair of ear-rings. Stay away - that's all - jest stay away, and you shall have Bill Johnson at your bed-side to-morrow morning with a new cat of first-rate elegant cow-hide, and we'll see how soon your dainty niggership will be fit to be about and praying again'.

Saying these words, Whitlaw raised himself from the ground, on which he had stretched himself, and walked off, leaving Phebe rather in a state of meditation than of despair.

'If that be all', thought she, - 'if the lash be all I have to fear for disobedience, let it come - I can bear it. But how shall I tell Miss Lucy to keep away? - It must be done to-night.'

In pursuance of this resolution, Phebe left her mother's side at midnight, and found her way through thickets of briars, with no better light than the stars could give by darting a ray here and there through the trees. But she knew her way well to Fox's clearing, and reached it, a distance of nearly four miles, within an hour. The loft in which Lucy Bligh lodged was also well known to her humble friend, and she succeeded in waking both her and her brother with disturbing any other inmate of the shanty.

It may be recorded as a proof of delicate and almost sublime affection on the part of the poor slave, that she was almost as anxious to conceal from her friends the knowledge of the corporeal suffering she was to endure on the following morning, as to prevent her connexion with them from being betrayed by their making a visit to her hut when she could no longer be on the alert to guard against discovery. But to achieve this, some skill and a little most innocent artifice were necessary.

In truth, Phebe's spirits had been raised rather than depressed by the farewell words of Whitlaw; for it appeared to her that she was now in some sort the arbitrator of her own destiny, having the choice left her of obeying his commands by attending the rendezvous he had given, or of submitting to receive the lash on the morrow.

The hour of appointment having been long passed before she left her mother's side, and no measures of coercion used to enforce her keeping it, her heart felt lightened of an intolerable load: she believed the caprice which noticed her to be as short-lived as it appeared to her sudden, and shaking off, with a degree of firmness that might have benefitted a heroine, the sick shudder which came over her as she remembered the torture she was to endure in the morning, she opened her communication to her wondering friends with composure, and almost with cheerfulness.

'You are frightened to see me here, Miss Lucy? - and Master Edward, too, almost? - But all is safe, and all is well; only Master Edward must not come to-morrow, nor dear Miss Lucy either - nor next day, nor the day after - and perhaps - Oh, yes! - it will be best and safest not to come at all till you see me here again some night to tell you.'

'How is this, Phebe?' said Edward gravely. 'You tell us that all is safe and that all is well, and yet, that at this time, when our work is prospering more than ever it did before, you tell us that our labour must cease for many days - nay, longer, perhaps, longer than you can say. How is this, Phebe? What does it mean?'

'Master Edward', answered Phebe with the deepest earnestness, 'trust to your faithful slave. I would not ask you to remain away, but for the safety of the good and holy cause you love so well. If you come before, I tell you - I shall not be able to watch for you as I have done'.

'And why not, Phebe?' said Lucy, who with a woman's tact perceived in a moment that there was something on the poor girl's mind which she did not mean to reveal -  'Why not, Phebe? - Remember you are bound to tell us everything, whether good or bad, that concerns the object for which we are here: you must hide nothing from us, or how can we believe you true?'

'Oh! Miss Lucy - But I do not think you should believe me false, let me speak or not; so do not say so - dear, dear mistress, do not say that!'

'We do not, we cannot think you false,' said Edward; 'but perhaps you take upon you to judge what is best, when, if you would conceal nothing, I might form my own opinion in a manner more conformable to the interest of the cause I serve, than you can do. - Why do you wish us to cease our visits, Phebe?'

'No, no! - not cease! Only wait, Master Edward, and I will tell you why. The master's confidential clerk - '

Poor Phebe's breath seemed to fail her as she named him.

'What the man called Whitlaw? The same whose approach has so frequently interrupted us? Does it appear that he knows of our visits?' inquired Edward.

'That same man - it is of him, Master Edward, that we must beware. I saw him hiding behind the palmetoes after you went tonight, and - and he entered mother's house, and threatened to come again, and again: - but if he finds nobody, nor nothing that he expects, why then he will give over coming, and I will tell you, and all will be safe again.'

Edward mediated upon her words for some minutes before he answered her. At length he said,

'Perhaps, Phebe, this caution may be altogether unnecessary; and, at any rate, I cannot think it needful that I should abstain from visiting any part of Colonel Dart's plantation because his clerk has entered your mother's house. However, as you have hitherto shown no want either of zeal or courage in this matter, I will comply with your wishes to a certain extent: we will not approach the slave villages for two days. This is Wednesday morning; to-day and to-morrow we will not come: but if before Friday evening, after the working-hours are over and the people have gone to bed, I do not see you here, Phebe, you must expect that I shall venture to visit you'.

With this promise, as it was all she could obtain, the poor girl retreated, and almost exhausted by agitation and fatigue, returned so slowly through the forest that the first gleam of morning lighted her steps as she approached her mother's hut. Nevertheless she stretched herself on her pallet as she entered it, rather to prepare herself for the torture she anticipated, than with any hope of refreshing her exhausted strength by sleep.

Ere Edward and Lucy Bligh again separated after Phebe left them to finish their night's repose, some few words were exchanged between them indicative of the different feelings to which her visit had given birth.

'I fear, Lucy,' said the young apostle, 'that this poor girl wearies of the task assigned her. It is much more evident to me that she earnestly wishes to prevent our visits to the plantation, than that she has any good reason for doing so'.

'You judge her wrongly, brother!' replied Lucy, with some warmth: 'I feel so sure that she has cause, and good cause, too, for giving us this caution, that I rather suspect her of diffidence in not making her remonstrance more authoritative, than of a falling off in zeal for having made it at all'.

'Well, Lucy, we shall see. But at least remember that it is our bounden duty to take nothing upon trust that can check our progress. I must inquire, and judge for myself.'

'But at least promise that in doing so you will keep in mind the many proofs our poor Phebe has given of devoted and faithful attachment - remember this, Edward, and for my sake do nothing rashly. - Good night!'

'Good night, dear sister! I must not shrink from my duty - but whatever caution is consistent with that, shall be used. - Good night, dear Lucy.'



CHAPTER XII

espite the terrible forebodings which harassed her spirits, itrresistible fatigue closed the eyes of poor Phebe before she had stretched her limbs upon her bed for five minutes; and though her last waking thought was that in a short hour perhaps the lash of the overseer would be suspended over her, she slept soundly.

She slept soundly, but not long. Hardly was the broad sun fairly visible over the horizon, when her mother, who was already risen to pursue her labour, was startled by the sound of approaching footsteps, and stepped out into the drying-ground before the hut to discover who it was that thus early could have business with her. The sight she beheld caused her to turn back shuddering, and the exact truth immediately flashed upon her mind. Two men were striding rapidly towards her dwelling. The one in advance was Whitlaw; but though he was not walking exactly side by side with his companion, he nevertheless was conversing with him, and a loud ribald laugh showed them to be on terms of easy freedom. The man who hung a step behind, was a fellow named Johnson, perhaps the most detested overseer on the estate; and to render his apearance there more unequivocally terrible, he bore aloft in his hand, flourishing it with all the gaiety of a spruce postboy, the dreadful emblem of shame and anguish called a cow-hide cat.

The helpless mother could not for a moment doubt who was to be the victim, or what the act of disobedience to be punished. Hastily going to the straw bed on which her two younger children lay sleeping, she dragged them away, one in each hand, and retreating by the backdoor into the forest, hurried onward among the bushes in the hope of placing herself and the little ones beyond reach of hearing the groans which she knew would soon be wrung from the innocent being she left.

Let not the tender European mother turn with disgust from the apparent selfishness of this retreat. Those only who have seen with their own eyes how slavery acts upon the heart, can fairly judge the conduct of slaves. They are, in truth, where the yoke is laid on heavily, hardly to be considered as responsible for any act, or for any feeling. The dogged quiescence of silent endurance which often gives to the negro as aspect of brutal insensibility, may originate from a temper whose firmness might have made a hero had the will been free; and poor Peggy, when she hurried from the scene of her child's suffering, might have carried with her an anguish the bitterness of which no mother blessed with the power of protecting her offspring can conceive.

When Whitlaw and his official enter, Phebe was still asleep; the fatigue and exhaustion of the preceding day pressed heavily upon her senses, and it was not till the hand of the brutal young man had rudely dragged away the rug which covered the bed, that she opened her eyes and beheld the hateful countenance that hung over her.

Heavy as her sleep had been, this sight chased it in an instant. She attempted to spring from the bed, but Whitlaw's arm seized and threw her back upon it.

'Soh! you are ready for us, my dainty one, are you? All your clothes on because you expected company - hey?'

And again the fiendish pair laughed loud.

'But that's no go, Johnson,' continued the ferocious Whitlaw. 'We shall be stumped outright it we attempt to lash her while she's wrapped up in this fashion - she won't mind your cat a copper if we let her keep her clothes one'.

'Then I expect, my young squire, that we must be after jest giving the nigger the trouble to take 'em off. Be brisk, my beauty,' continued the fellow, hitting her ams and legs with the handle of the instrument he held: 'I'll smash you outright if you keep me waiting; I tell you that to begin, for I've a deal of business to get through before sun-down'.

Phebe by a sudden movement sprang from the bed and stood on her foot before them.

'Do not strip me!' she said, clasping her hands together with trembling eagerness, - 'Do not strip me! Let me go to the rice-grounds instead!'

'Maybe we may pay you that compliment into the bargain, my lily; - you have only got to be uproarious and obstinate enough, and I'll do you all the favours in that line that your fancy can hit upon,' said Whitlaw. 'But, jest to begin, you'll be so genteel as to oblige us by stripping your top skin, that we may deal as well like with the milk-white that we shall find under it'.

Even on Colonel Dart's plantation, Phebe had not yet been accustomed to the lash; her quick intelligence and patient industry together had enabled her so to fulfil her allotted tasks as almost entirely to escape it; and never before had she been exposed to the degrading ceremony to which she was so peremptorily commanded to submit. She trembled violently, and felt so sick and giddy that she tottered towards the door in the hope of saving herself from fainting.

'Do you mean to try a run for it?' cried Johnson, looking at her without moving, as a dog may be seen to watch a wounded hare, certain, let it struggle as it may, that escape is impossible.

'I should like to see her at it', said Whitlaw. 'She's a neat little craft for a nigger; and she'd skip handsome over them stumps yonder, I'll engage for her. Go it, my beauty!' he continued, clapping his hands: 'off with ye! You shall have three minutes' law - upon my soul you shall'.

Phebe did not run - she had no power to do so; but she hastened with what speed she could to the spring, and from the hollow of her hands drank enough of its cold stream to chase the coming faintness: she then sprinkled her head and face copiously; and thus refreshed and strenghtened, she turned back towards the hut, at the door of which Whitlaw and Johnson stood lounging, and each with a cigar in his mouth.

'You are coming back, are you?' cried the former, stepping forward to meet her. 'Then I'll be d--d if she hasn't been thinking better of it. So away with you, friend Johnson, and I'll settle this matter myself. However, you may as well leave me the cat in case she should turn about again'.

Johnson threw down the instrument without speaking, and prepared to depart.

'Please, master, let me be flogged', siad the poor girl beseechingly, - 'please let me be flogged, and sent to the rice-gounds afterwards'.

'Stay where you are, Johnson!' roarded the brutal Whitlaw; 'she shall have it now if I never flog nigger more. Strip, black toad - strip, or you shall be soaked in oil and then singed. Strip her, Johnson, d'ye hear? - and if you can't, by the living Jingo I'll help you'.

The struggling but helpless victim was seized by the two men at the same moment, and the abhorrent threat would have been quickly executed, had not a discordant laugh from the outside of the hut startled and caused them to desist from their occupation while they turned to ascertain whence the strange interruption proceeded.

The figure which now presented itself at the door might have appalled any one who beheld it for the first time. A negress, seeming to have been originally of almost dwarfish stuture, and now bent nearly double with age, whose head was covered with wool as white as snow, and whose eyes rolled about with a restless movement that appeared to indicate insanity, stood on the threshold of the door, one hand resting on a stout bamboo, and the other raised with its finger pointed as if in mockery of the group within; and again a croaking laugh burst from her.

The person of the intruder was known to them all, and moreover she was but a time-worn paralytic slave; yet there was that about her which neither the callous indifference of the driver, nor the bold audacity of the confidential clerk, could look upon unmoved.

This wretched relic of a life of labour and woe had been on the plantation longer than its owner or any of his numerous dependants could remember - her age was indeed asserted by many among them to exceed greatly the length of days usually allotted to even the happiest and idlest of the human race, and yet it was recorded of her that she had borne more children and performed more extraordinary tasks than any other slave was ever before believed to have done. Either in consequence of this species of renown, or for some other reasons connected with her former history, she was considered by her master and all his myrmidons as a sort of privileged personage, neither expected to perform any sort of labour - of which indeed she appeared perfectly incapable, - nor to answer at any of the musters, nor to be challenged for any of her wanderings or wild freaks whatever.

The feeling concerning her wavered, according to the character and temperament of different individuals, between reverence for a being in some sort supernatural, and the mixed pity and fear inspired by the presence of a maniac.

The slaves, with the sole exception perhaps of poor Phebe, firmly believed her to be immortal, and in close communion with some spirit of the air, who at her bidding would bring weal or woe upon the white man or the negro according as they pleased or offended her; and she was accordingly treated with invariable kindness and respect by them all. How much of this superstition was shared by the whites, it might be difficult to say; but the unwonted licence and indulgence accorded her seemed to indicate, considering at whose hands she received it, some sentiment by no means commonly shown by the white race to the black.

Rose, Rose, coal-black Rose!
I wish I may be scotched if I don't love Rose!

were the first words the beldam articulated after she had ceased her shout of unnatural laughter. 'O, massa clerk!' she added, 'dat be your way making lub!' and again the cabin seemed to ring with her discordant laughter.

Whitlaw had quitted his grasp of Phebe the instant she appeared, and now stood pale with rage, or fear, or both, and apparently undecided as to what he should do or say next.

In order fully to comprehend the conduct of my hero on this and some future occasions, it will be necessary to remember that his education for the first eleven years of his life was of the very lowest kind, and precisely such as to substitute superstition for religion in his mind: nor were the subsequent years, during which he acquired the knowledge of reading and writing at Natchez, at all less likely to inculcate error, instead of truth, respecting the immaterial world, than were those which preceded them.

Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw is no solitary instance of a sharp, active, bold sort of intellect, which at the very moment that it boasts its scepticism in religion, secretly owns and trembles before the influence of superstition.

The moment previous to that at which the palsied and decrepit hag entered, Whitlaw stood fearless and undaunted before Heaven, ready to commit the most hideous crimes in defiance of its laws; but now he stood doubting and unnerved before her, as if awaiting her fiat either to prosecute or abandon his purpose.

'I say, massa clerk', said the old negress, again suspending her mirth, - 'I say, massa, you come wid under dem black trees, and I teach you summat; - but step softly, massa - don't scare de green birds - they are Juno's spirits'.

As she spoke, she walked across the hut to the back door, which opened upon the forest. Her pace was a singular mixture of activity and decreptitude, every step being something between a jump and a hobble. When she reached the door, she turned to see if he whom she had summoned were following her; and on perceiving that he still stood beside the girl as if undecided, she twisted her uncouth features into a most portentous frown, and raising her bamboo, seemed to drawing figures with it in the air.

The young man hestitated no longer, but, as if under the influence of her wand, stepped hastily after her. She laid the bamboo lightly on his shoulder as he approached, and peering up into his face, fixed for a moment her restless eyes upon his; then removing her staff, and pointing it towards Johnson, she uttered in a sort of chant, but totally free from all negro peculiarity of pronunciation,

Solemn words must secret be!
No ear must hear, nor eye must see,
What shall pass 'twixt thee and me.

Whitlaw immediately made his attendant a sign to depart, which was promptly and silently obeyed. The old woman then proceeded towards the trees; and Whitlaw followed her, leaving Phebe standing in the middle of the floor trembling between hope and fear, but thanking Heaven with tearful gratitude for this most unexpected reprieve.



CHAPTER XIII

alf-an-hour before midnight on the following Friday, Edward and Lucy Bligh, who had passed the interval in anxious but vain expectation of seeing Phebe, set out together to reconnoitre her dwelling, and to discover, with as much caution as possible, the cause of her delay. The crescent moon, which on the night of Phebe's visit to them had set at too early an hour to befriend her, now made the first part of their expedition delightful; and as they walked hand-in-hand through the primeval forest, any who had listened to their conversation, and marked their young faces in the fine clear obscure of that faint light, might have fancied that they were the spirits of some purer and holier race, permitted to revisit the land their kindred had lost.

Lucy was a good walker, but the distance which Phebe had traversed in fifty minutes took her an hour and a quarter, and the moon had set and heavy darkness hung upon the landscape when at last they reached the solitary hut of Peggy. So cloudy and dark indeed was the night become, that it was more by the rippling sound of the little stream that trickled from the spring behind the washerwoman's dwelling, than from any object their eyes could distinguish, that they perceived at length that they were at the termination of their walk.

They now approached the door of the hut, and cautiously listened for a sound either within or near it; but all was profoundly still. Lucy, who fancied she should be exposed to less danger if discovered than her brother, prevailed on him to remain at some short distance from the door while she attempted to open it. The latch yielded to her touch, and she entered; but the darkness was such that she could discern nothing.

'Phebe!' she said in a low soft voice hardly above a whisper.

'Phebe! - who is it calls on Phebe?' exclaimed the voice of Peggy; 'who is it calls for my poor, poor lost child?'

'It is I - it is Lucy Bligh', was the reply. 'Why do you call her lost? - Tell me, Peggy, where she is gone, and who you have with in the hut?'

'Oh, mistress! mistress!' sobbed out the wretched mother, 'then she is not run away to you? - Oh me! Oh me! - that was my only hope!'

'She was with me late on Tuesday night, Peggy', replied Lucy, gently approaching the bed; 'but I have never seen her since. When did she quit the hut?'

'Let me get up - let me come out with you into the air! - I feel choking, mistress!' replied the poor negress, who was in truth at that moment totally unfit for any exclamation.

'Do so, my poor Peggy', replied her former mistress kindly. 'My brother is near at hand - I will go and bring him into the porch while you get your clothes on; and I trust that we may be able amongst us to find out where my poor Phebe is gone'.

Lucy then groped her way out of the hut, and in a few minutes returned with her brother to the open porch which connected the two chambers of the hut, and having cautiously advanced through buckets and rinsing tubs, at last discovered a bench, on which they seated themselves in total darkness to await the coming of Peggy.

'Are you here, mistress?' was pronounced almost close to the ear of Lucy before the sound of any foot-fall had given notice that the negress approached them.

'We are both here, Peggy,' replied Edward; 'can you not strike a light, that we may see each other while we converse? We have never had a night so dark as this'.

'A light, Master Edward! - you were raised on the old master's grounds, and you don't know yet what slavery means. If I was to kindle a light, we would have a dozen cow-hides hanging over us - at least over me, Master Edward - in less than ten minutes'.

'Well, then', said Lucy, 'we will do without a light. But tell us about Phebe - when did she leave you?'

'Oh me! it was I left her!' replied the poor slave, weeping bitterly, - 'it was I left her, Miss Lucy! - Had I stopped by her, I must haved knowed something; but now I know nothing - nothing!'

The inquiries of Edward elicited an account of the scene which took place between Whitlaw and Phebe on the evening he had last quitted the hut; and when Peggy repeated the cruel threats with which it had concluded, Lucy exclaimed with a burst of uncontrollable emotion - 'Did I not tell you, Edward, that she was true to us? - Oh, my poor Phebe! it was this that she would not tell! - She knew how much we would have done to save her, and she feared the danger it might cost us - dear, generous Phebe! - But I will find her if she be above ground; - what have I to fear? - I am not a slave. - Edward! shall we not seek for Phebe, in spite of master, overseers, and all! We are not black blood; - what is the worst we can fear!'

'Murder!' in a deep distinct whisper, was the answer to this question; and as peculiar was the tone in which it was pronounced, that the brother and sister started, for neither of them recognized in it the voice of their old servant. Nevertheless it was Peggy who uttered it; and in the next moment she added, but still in so low a tone as to show that even in that hour of universal rest she feared a listener, 'Nothing less is now punishment enough for any white who dares openly to befriend a slave'.

Bligh well knew that this doctrine was daily becoming more general among the planters. The principles of the 'LYNCH LAW' which have since been openly recognised, acknowledged, and acted upon with impunity in the face of day, and before the eyes of thousands of American citizens, were indeed at that time only beginning to show themselves in occasional acts of desperate ferocity, which though from the first they were permitted to pass unpunished by the legislatures of the States in which they were committed, had not then fully reached the sort of tacit legality at which they soon afterwards arrived; but Edward, when from time to time he heard of the outrages perpetrated at New Orleans, had felt, while he shuddered at their atrocity, a something at his heart which seemed like a foretaste of martyrdom.

If there were any mixture therefore of human terror in this sensation, the young enthusiast was himself unconscious of it; and if his pulse had fluttered and his cheek grown paler than ordinary while listening to the frightful tales which reached him in his forest dwelling, it was only when some idea of Lucy's being exposed to danger suggested itself.

Thus was it with him now, as he heard the prophetic enunciation of Peggy upon all who should seek to befriend her race. He trembled - and stretching out a cold damp hand to seek that of his sister, who sat beside him, he said sternly,

'It is your first duty, Lucy, to obey implicitly the brother to whose care it has pleased the Almighty to consign you: - speak not then so presumptuously of what it is your purpose to do. I have made you, Lucy, my companion in a perilous enterpise: but I did so in the belief that no rash or self-willed measures on your part would ever thwart or trouble me'.

'Edward,' exclaimed the startled girl, eagerly grasping his extended hand, 'what reason can you have to doubt my willing obedience to everything you wish? - What have I said, to make you speak thus?'

'Forgive me, love!' replied Edward, recovering himself: 'I was very wrong to doubt you; - but in truth you terrifed me when I heard you talk of seeking Phebe. That would not be the way to assist her, Lucy; whatever is done in this must be done most cautiously, for her sake as well as your own. - But we have not yet heard all. What happened, Peggy, after your daughter returned from Fox's clearing? You have seen her since, have you not?'

The bereaved mother then related the having perceived the approach of Whitlaw and Johnson on the following morning, and confessed, with the bitterest expressions of self-reproach, that rather than witness the outrage and cruelty which threatened her child, she had escaped with her two little ones into the forest, where she remained in a state of unspeakable misery for about an hour, and then returned sick and trembling to her hut, which she found totally deserted, and with no trace of the scene that had probably been acted there, but the cow-hide that Johnson had thrown on the floor when Whitlaw had first commanded him to retire.

For several minutes after Peggy had concluded her narrative, no sound was heard in the still darkness which surrounded them but the stifled sobs of the poor negress. Lucy was silent, lest the expression of her strong feelings might renew the displeasure of her brother: and Edward himself was too deeply occupied in pondering upon the mysterious disappearance of the girl, to speak hastily on the subject. At length he said,

'Your grief is so violent, Peggy, that it is plain you fear something very terrible. Let us know all. What is the worst you fear? Do you think that wretch Whitlaw will kill her?'

Edward might have been puzzled how to interpret without the commentary of words the bitter smile which this question brought to the lips of the poor slave; but he saw it not, - and in a moment she answered,

'Kill her, master! - No, they will not kill her, no more than they would the finest horse in the colonel's stable. My Phebe is the flower of all his gang - there is none other like her!' And again tears choked her utterance.

'Then you can fear nothing for her', resumed Edward, 'worse than what you fled to the forest to avoid seeing. Think not, poor soul! that I speak lightly of this', he continued, in a voice of the tenderest compassion; 'God knows it cannot be more horrible in your eyes than in mine; but if you think her life is safe - '

'But where, Master Edward', exclaimed the mother in agony of grief, - 'where is she to live? - That will be the punishment. My Phebe loved her mother! - there's not an overseer on the estate but knows that: for it my limbs ached, it was she was up in the morning to lighten my work; and when I was sick and afraid to say it, it was she was away to the overseer to tell it, and frighten them into thinking they might lose my labour, and then making all straight by offering to be double tasked. The devil clerk, Master Edward, knows all this, and he has taken her from me on purpose to torture her'.

'Likely enough, my poor Peggy', replied Edward, 'but, as you are aware that the profit of your owner is the first object, do you not see that it is probable they will not separate you long? They must know that you work better together than you could asunder'.

'But that's not all - that's not all!' cried Peggy bitterly; ''tis the price they'll get by her! - Oh, Master Edward, I have always trembled for that! Black Phebe is counted such a handsome girl, that at New Orlines, they say, she'd fetch double what her value would be if she was only kept for her work'.

The miserable truth these words contained admitted of no conslation; and the faintly-expressed hope that this most cruel measure might not be resorted to, was all her pitying friends could give.

Lucy started as sge perceived that the objects around them were becoming faintly visible.

'We must go, Edward,' said she with nervous agitation. 'It was our being here on Tuesday evening that brought on all this misery. Let us not be found here again, or poor Peggy may be made more wretched still'.

A few minutes longer were occupied in listening to Peggy's earnest prayers that they would use the privilege 'their blessed white skin' gave them - such was her phrase - to inquire at Natchez, and in all directions round about, whether 'Black Phebe' had been sld.

Edward very solemnly gave his promise that he would fearlessly use every means in his power to obtain intelligence respecting her; and then, leaving some pastoral instructions to be cautiously delivered to his flock during the time he might be employed in this perilous quest, he again led forth his sister into the forest, through which they now found their way without difficulty, by help of the faint light which gradually increased upon them as they advanced. - But the spirits of both were heavily oppressed. Lucy trembled with the most affectionate anxiety for the safety of her humble friend: and Edward felt more keenly than he had ever before done, how terrible was the responsibility he had taken upon himself in leading his young sister into dangers from which he might find he had no power to shield her. If the peril had threatened himself alone, he would have hailed it as a summons to glory; but when the frightful idea crossed him that Lucy might share it, his courage failed entirely, his heart sunk within him, and tears trembled in his eyes, while he pressed the pale girl to his bosom as he reached the threshold of their own rude home.

'Lie down, my poor Lucy, for an hour or two', he said, tenderly kissing her: 'my head is working strangely upon what we have heard this night, - I want to be alone, and will wander about for another hour or so, and then return to fix the corn-cakes for our breakfast. When they are ready, I will call you, and you shall see if I am not almost as skilful as yourself. - Go to rest, dear love! Sleep, dear Lucy, - sleep!'



CHAPTER XIV

dward Bligh had indeed need to be alone. Never till now had his poor spirit been harassed by that worst of human anxieties, - a conscientious doubt as to what it was his duty to do.

Not only had he pledged himself secretly and solemnly before Heaven to devote himself body and soul to alleviate the miseries of American slaves, but he had this night given a promise to one amongst them who, from her well-known worth and faithful services, deserved his warmest zeal; - to her he had promised to be an active agent in discovering her daughter, though he knew that daughter to be in the hands of one who had power and will to punish any interference with the most terrible severity. Could he perform this promise without involving his sister in the danger? - could he break it without violating the vow he had voluntarily pronounced before God?

The agony of his mind was terrible. Could he have seen Lucy placed in safety, his own path would have been plain before him: - nay, it woud have appeared to his exalted contemplation both easy and delightful. He firmly believed that it might, and probably would, lead him to death; but it would be the blessed death of a martyr, and he hugged the idea of it with a sort of rapture. But even at the moment that he seemed to see a crown of glory waiting for him, the image of Lucy came before his eyes, and his hope and his strength failed at once. At one moment he had convinced himself that it was his duty to leave Louisiana immediately, and pursue the business of teaching with his orphan sister either in the State of Ohio, or any other not infected with the mildew of slavery which they might be able to reach. But scarcely had he permitted himself to breathe freely as one whose doubts were over, when, not only Peggy and Phebe, but all his woodland congregation resumed their place in his memory, and he held himself in abhorrence as a renegade and a coward.

This mental strife lasted much beyond the hour he had allotted for his walk; but the corn-cakes were forgotten, and the weary Edward trhew himself at length upon the ground utterly exhausted both in mind and body.

In this situation, 'Natur's kind restorer' settled on his eyelids, and he slept long and soundly. When he awoke, all things appeared to wear a different aspect. Multitudes of birds were joyously singing around him; the bright sun shone furtively through the trees, chequering the ground with golden trellis-work; and the sweet morning air seemed to bring new life and vigour to his spirit.

Earnest and ardent was the prayer which followed his waking, and he rose from his knees cheered, strengthened, and full of hope.

There is an ever alertness in the spirit at such an hour as this, which enables us both readily to suggest and promptly to decided on what we have to do. Before his homeward path was fully trod, Edward had completely settled in his own mind what his future line of conduct should be; and the cheerful air with which he apologised to Lucy, whom he found engaged in performing the task he had himself undertaken, for having lingered so long, made her bless the effect of the lengthened walk which she had wept to think of.

Their breakfast of milk and corn-bread was eaten hastily, for the children who attended their school were already seen approaching by more than one forest-path. Edward started up, saying,

'Lucy! will you undertake once more to-day to perform the work which rightfully belongs to me? - Will you keep school without me?'

'Most certainly I will, dearest Edward', she replied; 'and if, as I guess, you have hit upon some promising expedient for the discovery of my poor Phebe, the double duty will seem very light'.

Though these words implied no direct question, Edward felt that his sister expected to learn from him why he was about to absent himself; and his projects were as yet too vague to justify his stating them. After a moment's pause, however, he answered cheerfully, -

'I am going to Natchez, Lucy. There are, you know, four dollars destined to be expended in the purchase of some needful comforts for our establishment here. Now, I flatter myself that by means of a little store-gossip where I shall buy one thing, and a little more where I shall buy another, I may pick up all the news stirring about the sale of negroes, which is as interesting a theme there as the barter of horses among jockeys. If Phebe has been sold since Wednesday, I think I shall find it out. Should this be the case, notwithstanding poor Peggy's grief, I shall be thankful, as your unfortunate favourite cannot be in worse hands than those of Colonel Dart and his detestable parasite Whitlaw. If, on the contrary, she has not been sold - ' Here Edward paused, for he knew there was no comfort to be found in the alternative; but, after a moment's silence, he added, 'If she has not been sold, I must endeavour to discover among our poor scattered flock, what has been her fate'.

The importance of the errand as thus state appeared to Lucy amply sufficient for her brother's walk to Natchez; so, begging God's blessing upon him, she waved him off, and immediately sat down surrounded by a dozen boys and girls, and for six long hours devoted herself to the drudgery of teaching.

Edward had very faithfully explained a part of his business, but not the whole of it. It was indeed his purpose to discover, if possible, whether Phebe had been sold; and he felt pretty certain that if this had happened he should hear of it. But there was another and a dearer object which took him from his daily task, the hope of success in which gave elasticity to his step and a cheering warmth to his heart. He hoped at Natchez to hear of some occupation for Lucy which might shelter her from the danger he was deeply persuaded must soon fall upon himself. Could he succeed in this, all the painful vacillation he had recently suffered from, would, he well knew, leave him for ever; and unchecked by fear or doubt of any kind, he should move steadily onward in the path he had traced for himself, and which, it was his earnest hope, would lead him at not very distant period to the point where he might pass from earth to heaven.

The distance to Natchez was about five miles; and his sound nap in the forest, together with the hope that cheered him, caused him totally to forget his night of anxious watchfulness, and he found himself already looking down from the bright green slope on which stands this singular little town, equally blessed by nature and accursed by man, before he thought that he could have traversed half the distance.

Edward Bligh was not perhaps likely to be particularly successful in any business in which that style of colloquy usually denominated gossip was of necessity to make a part. But on this particular occasion he seemed inspired; and in justice to the versatility of his powers, we must follow him in his talk as he rambled from store to store.

He first entered the wide, multifarious magazine of Mr Monroe Vandumper. Though it was still early in the forenoon, there were no less than seven gentlemn of first-rate standing at Natchez indulging in the luxury of a cigar in and about the store. Three of these were perched in attitudes of undoubted ease, but rather questionable elegance, on bales or boxes placed outside the door; and the other four were accommodated within it, in a manner evidently very satisfactory to themselves, but which would probably have been the last chosen by the inhabitants of any other country when engaged in a search after comfort.

One sat astride the counter; a second had climbed to a third tier of woollen cloths set edgeways, apparently with no other object than to place his heels upon a shelf immediately above the door of entrance, so that by a judicious position of his head he was enabled to peep between his knees at every person who entered; the third sat deep sunk in an empty cask; while the fourth balanced himself on one leg out of four of a stool so placed as to permit his hitching his heels on the bar from which the shop-scales for coffee, sugar, and the like, were suspended over the counter.

Edward Bligh entered the store, intending that the purchase of a pound of coffee should lead the way to conversation either with the master of it, or his customers; and to facilitate this, he began by examining some 'negro shoes', as they are called, which lay piled up half-way to the ceiling on one side of the magazine.

'Famous good shoes these, sir', said he to the only man who had not a cigar in his mouth, and whom he rightly judged to be the master, though he was earnestly occupied in reading a newspaper; 'capital make - what may be the damage, sir, of half-a-dozen of them?'

'That's according, I expect', replied Mr Monroe Vandumper, without raising his eyes from his paper.

'Any particular news, sir, to-day?' resumed Edward, still continuing his examination of the negro-shoes.

'Umph!' responded Mr Vandumper; 'what part of the country may you be from? - Back-woods away, I guess?'

'Just so, sir,' replied Edward good-humouredly; 'and it's quite a treat to come to Natchez and hear a little how the world goes. They're beginning to get feverish at New Orleans, I hear; but I hope you've nothing of the sort here as yet?'

'Do you want them shoes?' was the only answer vouchsafed to this inquiry by Mr Monroe Vandumper; but Edward was too deeply intrested in his object to be easily discouraged, and practising a little artifice which upon any less occasion he would have scorned, he took a handful of silver and copper money from his pocket, saying,

'We back-woodsmen, you know, sir, sometimes want more than we have dollars to pay for; and so I must see all I can, and choose for the best at last. 'Tis not exactly for myself I was inquiring about the shoes; but a neighbour of mine owns slaves, and it is about them that I was asking. And, now I think of it, he told me to inquire in the town here, if there has been any sale lately of young plantation blacks. He wants a girl that can wash and iron, and he would not stand for price. You have not seen any advertisment that you think might suit, - have you, sir?'

'That's considerable more than I can pretend to say. I see over many to remember any of 'em. but if you're looking after that commodity, you'd best step over the way by the market younder, and you'll see advertisements stuck up everlasting there'.

'Then that's jest what I'll do, sir; but first, I'll trouble you to sell me a pound of coffee'.

There was something in the sweet voice and gentle bearings of Edward that might have disarmed the churlishness of Cerberus; and its influence was felt not only by Mr Mpnroe Vandumper himself, who actually laid aside his newspaper and set about weighing the coffee, but also by the elegant youth who was swinging his legs, one on each side the counter, and who having just finished his cigar, thus bespoke him:

'So you're after finding a smart smut - are, my lad? Confound them all, say I! A fine rumpus they've been making at Oglevie's down at the factory by the river, near Orlines. Why, if they haven't had the unbelievable impudence to be found with three tracts and a newspaper hid under one of the presses, may I never taste another cigar! - and two of the black devils absconded'.

'Is that lately, sir?' said Edward.

'Five days ago, by G-d!' replied the young man, bringing his off-leg over the counter, and letting both hang down close to Edward's arm, - 'only Monday last: and when the tracts were found, and stuck up burning upon the end of a cane, the whole gang set up such a howl that the foreman was right-down scared. The head clerk is a brother of my own, and he come up in a steamer yesterday to look at a lot of infernal trash of the same sort that was picked up in some cotton-grounds hereabouts. They hope to trace the white rascals they come from; and it's determined on all sides that they shall be tarred and burnt to death in the nearest market-place, let them be found where they may'.

'That will be sport, at any rate|' observed the gentleman who was ensconced in the tub. 'I would not mind having to flog a nigger or two out of their work for a week, to have the glory of seeing a saint burnt for it'.

'I expect not, squire,' said the balancing occupant of the stool: 'it would pay any of us well for the loss of a dozen lazy black devils for a week, such a sight as that; and what's more, we must contrive to have it soon, or I calculate worse will follow. I'm positive certain that some of my black varment are being learned to read; and if that spreads, we'll have an insurrection and be murdered in our beds before we're a year older, as sure as the sun's in heaven'.

'Massa want tree pound of baccy', said a fine-looking negro lad, approaching the receipt of custom with money for the purchase on his extended palm.

'You be d--d!' cried the young man on the counter, raising one of his feet as he spoke, and giving a sharp kick to the boy's hand, the money, which consisted of some copper and one or two small silver coins, was scattered far and wide on the floor.

Every white man in the store, save Edward, burst into a shout of laughter.


A Store at Natchez

The young negro was in an agony of terror, and threw himself on the ground to recover the money; but his persecutor sprang from the counter, and assiduously collecting with his feet all the dust and rubbish on the floor to cover the coins, and occasionally kicking aside the hands of the boy as he sought to recover them, produced such a continuation of noisy merriment from the lookers-on that the loungers outside the store were induced to enter, in order to inquire its cause.

No sooner was the jest made known, than the clamour, kickings, and buffetings became general; while the poor victim, suffering alike from present pain and the dread of future punishment, groaned aloud as his tormentors rolled him from one to the other beneath their feet. Drops of agony stood on Edward's brow. Could he for one moment have possessed a giant's strength, he would willingly have consented to die the next, might he but have used it to crush the wretches whose wanton, cowardly barbarity he was thus forced to witness. He turned to the door for air, and a moment's reflection closed his idle rage, while it strengthened a thousand-fold the steadfast purpose of his heart.

'You've got fine fun there, I expect - there's no denying that,' said Mr Vandumper, recovering at length from his fit of immoderate laughter; 'but I'll be burnt if I don't make you pay for the baccy yourselves; so quit, and let the varment get up and do his errand'.

The weather was warm, and the exercise they were engaged in violent, so that Mr Vandumper's remonstrances was seconded by fatigue, and after one final kick from each, the sport ended, and the negro-boy was suffered to search among the dust for the money he had lost. He recovered it all except one small silver coin of the value of six cents. Having sought for this in vain for several minutes, he rose to his feet as if inspired by a sudden ray of hope, and with a look of innocent entreaty that might have moved a savage, said,

'You give me the baccy, massa, for this?' holding out the recovered money as he spoke.

Mr Monroe Vandumper received the money and counted it.

'Now, isn't he an impudent varment?' he exclaimed, turning to the weary jesters, who were wiping their brows after the sport. 'Isn't he a proper nigger? - You black dirt, you! d'ye think I'll trust such a one as you a picciune?'

Exhausted as they were, this sally produced another hearty laugh from the bystanders; while Edward, whose eyes were fixed upon the boy, saw him visibly tremble, and such an expression of terror took possession of his young features, that, thoughtless of the observations it might provoke, he supplied the piece of money that was wanting, saying,

'Off with you, boy, with your baccy; and then I shall get my coffee, you see'.

A glance of mingled surprise and rapture shot from the large eyes of the boy as he fixed them for a moment on the face of his benefactor; but Edward had the prudence to take no farther notice of him.

Mr Vandumper whistled a bar or two of Yankee Doodle without speaking, weighed the three pounds of tobacco, tied it up, again counted the money that had been laid upon the counter, and then pushing the parcel to the young slave, dismissed him with saying, 'Go and be flogged for wasting your master's time, you black imp'.

The boy gave one more speaking glance at Edward and departed, As he reached the door, the gentleman who was perched aloft close to it, and who had taken no farther part in the scene that had just passed than cheering the actors in it by shouts of laughter, stooping forward his head as the boy passed under him, contrived accurately to spit upon him as he went out. Once more the chamber rang with laughter; and then Edward received his pound of coffee and left the shop.



GO TO VOLUME II


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