MoboReader > Literature > A Romance of the Republic

   Chapter 32 No.32

A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 22493

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The next morning after these conversations, Mrs. Blumenthal, who was as yet unconscious of the secret they had revealed, was singing in the garden, while she gathered some flowers for her vases. Mr. Bright, who was cutting up weeds, stopped and listened, keeping time on the handle of his hoe. When Flora came up to him, she glanced at the motion of his fingers and smiled. "Can't help it, ma'am," said he. "When I hear your voice, it's as much as ever I can do to keep from dancing; but if I should do that, I should shock my neighbor the Deacon. Did you see the stage stop there, last night? They've got visitors from Carolina,-his daughter, and her husband and children. I reckon I stirred him up yesterday. He came to my shop to pay for some shoeing he'd had done. So I invited him to attend our anti-slavery meeting to-morrow evening. He took it as an insult, and said he didn't need to be instructed by such sort of men as spoke at our meetings. 'I know some of us are what they call mudsills down South,' said I; 'but it might do you good to go and hear 'em, Deacon. When a man's lamp's out, it's better to light it by the kitchen fire than to go blundering about in the dark, hitting himself against everything.' He said we should find it very convenient if we had slaves here; for Northern women were mere beasts of burden. I told him that was better than to be beasts of prey. I thought afterward I wasn't very polite. I don't mean to go headlong against other folks' prejudices; but the fact is, a man never knows with what impetus he is going till he comes up against a post. I like to see a man firm as a rock in his opinions. I have a sort of a respect for a rock, even if it is a little mossy. But when I come across a post, I like to give it a shaking, to find out whether it's rotten at the foundation. As to things in general, I calculate to be an obliging neighbor; but I shall keep a lookout on these Carolina folks. If they've brought any blacks with 'em, I shall let 'em know what the laws of Massachusetts are; and then they may take their freedom or not, just as they choose."

"That's right," replied Mrs. Blumenthal; "and when you and the Deacon have another encounter, I hope I shall be near enough to hear it."

As she walked away, tying up her bouquet with a spear of striped grass, she heard him whistling the tune she had been singing. When she returned to the parlor, she seated herself near the open window, with a handkerchief, on which she was embroidering Mrs. Delano's initials. Mr. Bright's remarks had somewhat excited her curiosity, and from time to time she glanced toward Deacon Stillham's grounds. A hawthorn hedge, neatly clipped, separated the two gardens; but here and there the foliage had died away and left small open spaces. All at once, a pretty little curly head appeared at one of these leafy lunettes, and an infantile voice called out, "You're a Bob-o-lith-o-nitht!"

"Do come here, Mamita Lila, and see this little darling," said Flora, laughing.

For a moment she was invisible. Then the cherub face came peeping out again; and this time the little mouth was laughing, when it repeated, "You're a Bob-o-lith-o-nitht."

"Isn't it amusing to hear such an infant trying to abuse us with a big mouthful of a word, to which she attaches no meaning?" said Mrs. Delano.

Flora beckoned with her hand, and called out, "Come in and see the Bobolithonithts, darling." The little creature laughed and ran away. At that moment, a bright turban was seen moving along above the bushes. Then a black face became visible. Flora sprang up with a quick cry, and rushed out of the room, upsetting her basket, and leaving balls and thimble rolling about the floor. Placing her foot on a stump, she leaped over the hedge like an opera-dancer, and the next moment she had the negro woman in her arms, exclaiming: "Bless you, Tulee! You are alive, after all!"

The black woman was startled and bewildered for an instant; then she held her off at arm's length, and looked at her with astonishment, saying: "Bless the Lord! Is it you, Missy Flory? or is it a sperit? Well now, is it you, little one?"

"Yes, Tulee; it is I," she replied. "The same Missy Flory that used to plague your life out with her tricks."

The colored woman hugged and kissed, and hugged and kissed, and laughed and cried; ever and anon exclaiming, "Bless the Lord!"

Meanwhile, the playful cherub was peeping at Joe Bright through another hole in the hedge, all unconscious how pretty her little fair face looked in its frame of green leaves, but delighted with her own sauciness, as she repeated, "You're a Bob-o-lith-o-nitht! you're a Bob-o-lith-o-nitht!" When he tried to kiss her, she scampered away, but soon reappeared again to renew the fun.

While this by-play was going on, a white servant came through the Deacon's grounds, and said to Tulee, "Mrs. Robbem wants you to come to her immediately, and bring Laura."

"I must go now, darling," said Tulee, clasping Flora's hand with a warm pressure.

"Come again quickly," said Flora.

"As soon as I can," she replied, and hurried away with her little charge.

When Mr. Bright offered his hand to help Mrs. Blumenthal over the hedge, he burst into a hearty laugh. "Wasn't it funny," said he, "to hear that baby calling us Bob-o-lith-o-nithts? They begin education early down South. Before the summer is out she'll be talking about the cuth o' Ham, and telling the story of Onethimuth. But they've found a mare's nest now, Mrs. Blumenthal. The Deacon will be writing to his Carolina friends how the Massachusetts ladies hug and kiss niggers."

Flora smiled as she answered: "I suppose it must seem strange to them, Mr. Bright. But the fact is, that black woman tended me when I was a child; and I haven't seen her for twenty years."

As soon as she entered the house, she explained the scene to Mrs. Delano, and then said to her daughter: "Now, Rosen Blumen, you may leave your drawing and go to Aunt Rosa, and tell her I want to see her for something special, and she must come as soon as possible. Don't tell her anything more. You may stay and spend the day with Eulalia, if you like."

"How many mysteries and surprises we have," observed Mrs. Delano. "A dozen novels might be made out of your adventures."

The hasty summons found Mrs. King still melancholy with the thought that her newly found son could be no more to her than a shadow. Glad to have her thoughts turned in another direction, she sent Rosen Blumen to her cousin, and immediately prepared to join her sister. Flora, who was watching for her, ran out to the gate to meet her, and before she entered the house announced that Tulee was alive. The little that was known was soon communicated, and they watched with the greatest anxiety for the reappearance of Tulee. But the bright turban was seen no more during the forenoon; and throughout the afternoon no one but the Deacon and his gardener were visible about the grounds. The hours of waiting were spent by the sisters and Mrs. Delano in a full explanation of the secret history of Gerald Fitzgerald, and Mrs. King's consequent depression of spirits. The evening wore away without any tidings from Tulee. Between nine and ten o'clock they heard the voice of the Deacon loud in prayer. Joe Bright, who was passing the open window, stopped to say: "He means his neighbors shall hear him, anyhow. I reckon he thinks it's a good investment for character. He's a cute manager, the Deacon is; and a quickster, too, according to his own account; for he told me when he made up his mind to have religion, he wasn't half an hour about it. I'd a mind to tell him I should think slave-trading religion was a job done by contract, knocked up in a hurry."

"Mr. Bright," said Flora, in a low voice, "if you see that colored woman, I wish you would speak to her, and show her the way in."

The sisters sat talking over their affairs with their husbands, in low tones, listening anxiously meanwhile to every sound. Mr. and Mrs. King were just saying they thought it was best to return home, when Mr. Bright opened the door and Tulee walked in. Of course, there was a general exclaiming and embracing. There was no need of introducing the husbands, for Tulee remembered them both. As soon as she could take breath, she said: "I've had such a time to get here! I've been trying all day, and I couldn't get a chance, they kept such watch of me. At last, when they was all abed and asleep, I crept down stairs softly, and come out of the back door, and locked it after me."

"Come right up stairs with me," said Rosa. "I want to speak to you."

As soon as they were alone, she said, "Tulee, where is the baby?"

"Don't know no more than the dead what's become of the poor little picaninny," she replied. "After ye went away, Missy Duroy's cousin, who was a sea-captain, brought his baby with a black nurse to board there, because his wife had died. I remember how ye looked at me when ye said, 'Take good care of the poor little baby.' And I did try to take good care of him. I toted him about a bit out doors whenever I could get a chance. One day, just as I was going back into the house, a gentleman o'horseback turned and looked at me. I didn't think anything about it then; but the next day, he come to the house, and he said I was Mr. Royal's slave, and that Mr. Fitzgerald bought me. He wanted to know where ye was; and when I told him ye'd gone over the sea with Madame and the Signor, he cursed and swore, and said he'd been cheated. When he went away, Missis Duroy said it was Mr. Bruteman. I didn't think there was much to be 'fraid of, 'cause ye'd got away safe, and I had free papers, and the picaninny was too small to be sold. But I remembered ye was always anxious about his being a slave, and I was a little uneasy. One day when the sea-captain came to see his baby, he was marking an anchor on his own arm with a needle and some sort of black stuff; and he said 't would never come out. I thought if they should carry off yer picaninny, it would be more easy to find him again if he was marked. I told the captain I had heard ye call him Gerald; and he said he would mark G.F. on his arm. The poor little thing worried in his sleep while he was doing it, and Missis Duroy scolded at me for hurting him. The next week Massa Duroy was taken with yellow-fever; and then Missis Duroy was taken, and then the captain's baby and the black nurse. I was frighted, and tried to keep the picaninny out doors all I could. One day, when I'd gone a bit from the house, two men grabbed us and put us in a cart. When I screamed, they beat me, and swore at me for a runaway nigger. When I said I was free, they beat me more, and told me to shut up. They put us in the calaboose; and when I told 'em the picaninny belonged to a white lady, they laughed and said there was a great many white niggers. Mr. Bruteman come to see us, and he said we was his niggers. When I showed him my free paper, he said 't want good for anything, and tore it to pieces. O Missy Rosy, that was a dreadful dark time. The jailer's wife didn't seem so hard-hearted as the rest. I showed her the mark on the picaninny's arm, and gave her one of the little

shirts ye embroidered; and I told her if they sold me away from him, a white lady would send for him. They did sell me, Missy Rosy. Mr. Robbem, a Caroliny slave-trader bought me, and he's my massa now. I don't know what they did with the picaninny. I didn't know how to write, and I didn't know where ye was. I was always hoping ye would come for me some time; and at last I thought ye must be dead."

"Poor Tulee," said Rosa. "They wrote that Mr. and Mrs. Duroy and the black woman and the white baby all died of yellow-fever; and we didn't know there was any other black woman there. I've sent to New Orleans, and I've been there; and many a cry I've had, because we couldn't find you. But your troubles are all over now. You shall come and live with us."

"But I'm Mr. Robbem's slave," replied Tulee.

"No, you are not," answered Rosa. "You became free the moment they brought you to Massachusetts."

"Is it really so?" said Tulee, brightening up in look and tone.

Then, with a sudden sadness, she added: "I've got three chil'ren in

Carolina. They've sold two on 'em; but they've left me my little

Benny, eight years old. They wouldn't have brought me here, if they

hadn't known Benny would pull me back."

"We'll buy your children," said Rosa.

"Bless ye, Missy Rosy!" she exclaimed. "Ye's got the same kind heart ye always had. How glad I am to see ye all so happy!"

"O Tulee!" groaned Rosa, "I can never be happy till that poor little baby is found. I've no doubt that wicked Bruteman sold him." She covered her face with her hands, and the tears trickled through her fingers.

"The Lord comfort ye!" said Tulee, "I did all I could for yer poor little picaninny."

"I know you did, Tulee," she replied. "But I am so sorry Madame didn't take you with us! When she told me she had left you, I was afraid something bad would happen; and I would have gone back for you if I could. But it is too late to talk any more now. Mr. King is waiting for me to go home. Why can't you go with us to-night?"

"I must go back," rejoined Tulee. "I've got the key with me, and I left the picaninny asleep in my bed. I'll come again to-morrow night, if I can."

"Don't say if you can, Tulee," replied Mrs. King. "Remember you are not a slave here. You can walk away at mid-day, and tell them you are going to live with us."

"They'd lock me up and send me back to Caroliny, if I told 'em so," said Tulee. "But I'll come, Missy Rosy."

Rosa kissed the dark cheek she had so often kissed when they were children together, and they parted for the night.

The next day and the next night passed without a visit from Tulee. Mr. and Mrs. Bright, who entered into the affair with the liveliest interest, expressed the opinion that she had been spirited away and sent South. The sisters began to entertain a similar fear; and it was decided that their husbands should call with them the following morning, to have a talk with Mr. and Mrs. Robbem. But not long after breakfast, Tulee stole into the back door with the cherub in her arms.

"O Missy Flory," said she, "I tried to get here last night. But Missis Robbem takes a heap o' care o' me." She said this with a mischievous smile. "When we was at the Astor House, she locked up my clothes in her room, 'cause New York was such a dreadful wicked place, she was 'fraid they'd be stole; and she never let me out o' her sight, for fear the colored waiters in the hotel would be impudent to me. Last night she sent me away up into the cupola to sleep, 'cause she said I could have more room there. And when I'd got the picaninny asleep, and was watching for a chance to steal away, she come all the way up there very softly, and said she'd brought me some hot drink, 'cause I didn't seem to be well. Then she begun to advise me not to go near the next house. She told me Abolitionists was very bad people; that they pretended to be great friends to colored folks, but all they wanted was to steal 'em and sell 'em to the West Indies. I told her I didn't know nothing 'bout Abolitionists; that the lady I was hugging and kissing was a New Orleans lady that I used to wait upon when we was picaninnies. She said if you had the feelings Southern ladies ought to have, you wouldn't be boarding with Abolitionists. When she went down stairs I didn't dare to come here, for fear she'd come up again with some more hot drink. This morning she told me to walk up street with the picaninny; and she watched me till I was out o' sight. But I went round and round and got over a fence, and come through Massa Bright's barn."

Mr. and Mrs. King came in as she was speaking; and she turned to them, saying anxiously, "Do you think, Massa, if I don't go back with 'em, they'll let me have my chil'ren?"

"Don't call me Massa," replied Mr. King, "I dislike the sound of it.

Speak to me as other people do. I have no doubt we shall manage it so

that you will have your children. I will lead home this pretty little

Tot, and tell them you are going to stay with us."

With bonbons and funny talk he gained the favor of Tot, so that she consented to walk with him. Tulee often applied her apron to her eyes, as she watched the little creature holding by his finger, and stepping along in childish fashion, turning her toes inward. When she disappeared through the Deacon's front door, she sat down and cried outright. "I love that little picaninny," sobbed she. "I've tended her ever since she was born; and I love her. She'll cry for Tulee. But I does want to be free, and I does want to live with ye, Missy Rosy and Missy Flory."

Mrs. Robbem met Mr. King as soon as he entered her father's door, and said in a tone of stern surprise, "Where is my servant, sir?"

He bowed and answered, "If you will allow me to walk in for a few moments, I will explain my errand." As soon as they were seated he said: "I came to inform you that Tulee does not wish to go back to Carolina; and that by the laws of Massachusetts she has a perfect right to remain here."

"She's an ungrateful wench!" exclaimed Mrs. Robbem. "She's always been treated kindly, and she wouldn't have thought of taking such a step, if she hadn't been put up to it by meddlesome Abolitionists, who are always interfering with gentlemen's servants."

"The simple fact is," rejoined Mr. King, "Tulee used to be the playmate and attendant of my wife when both of them were children. They lived together many years, and are strongly attached to each other."

"If your wife is a Southern lady," replied Mrs. Robbem, "she ought to be above such a mean Yankee trick as stealing my servant from me."

Her husband entered at that moment, and the visitor rose and bowed as he said, "Mr. Robbem, I presume."

He lowered his head somewhat stiffly in reply; and his wife hastened to say, "The Abolitionists have been decoying Tulee away from us."

Mr. King repeated the explanation he had already made.

"I thought the wench had more feeling," replied Mr. Robbem. "She left children in Carolina. But the fact is, niggers have no more feeling for their young than so many pigs."

"I judge differently," rejoined Mr. King; "and my principal motive for calling was to speak to you about those children. I wish to purchase them for Tulee."

"She shall never have them, sir!" exclaimed the slave-trader, fiercely. "And as for you Abolitionists, all I wish is that we had you down South."

"Differences of opinion must be allowed in a free country," replied Mr. King. "I consider slavery a bad institution, injurious to the South, and to the whole country. But I did not come here to discuss that subject. I simply wish to make a plain business statement to you. Tulee chooses to take her freedom, and any court in Massachusetts will decide that she has a right to take it. But, out of gratitude for services she has rendered my wife, I am willing to make you gratuitous compensation, provided you will enable me to buy all her children. Will you name your terms now, or shall I call again?".

"She shall never have her children," repeated Mr. Robbem; "she has nobody but herself and the Abolitionists to blame for it."

"I will, however, call again, after you have thought of it more calmly," said Mr. King. "Good morning, sir; good morning, madam."

His salutations were silently returned with cold, stiff bows.

A second and third attempt was made with no better success. Tulee grew very uneasy. "They'll sell my Benny," said she. "Ye see they ain't got any heart, 'cause they's used to selling picaninnies."

"What, does this Mr. Robbem carry on the Deacon's old business?" inquired Mr. Bright.

"Yes, Massa," replied Tulee. "Two years ago, Massa Stillham come down to Caroliny to spend the winter, and he was round in the slave-pen as brisk as Massa Robbem, counting the niggers, and telling how many dollars they ought to sell for. He had a dreadful bad fever while he was down there, and I nursed him. He was out of his head half the time, and he was calling out: 'Going! going! How much for this likely nigger? Stop that wench's squalling for her brat! Carry the brat off!' It was dreadful to hear him."

"I suppose he calculated upon going to heaven if he died," rejoined Mr. Bright; "and if he'd gone into the kingdom with such words in his mouth, it would have been a heavenly song for the four-and-twenty elders to accompany with their golden harps."

"They'll sell my Benny," groaned Tulee; "and then I shall never see him again."

"I have no doubt Mr. King will obtain your children," replied Mr. Bright; "and you should remember that, if you go back South, just as likely as not they will sell him where you will never see him or hear from him."

"I know it, Massa, I know it," answered she.

"I am not your master," rejoined he. "I allow no man to call me master, and certainly not any woman; though I don't belong to the chivalry."

His prediction proved true. The Deacon and his son-in-law held frequent consultations. "This Mr. King is rich as Croesus," said the Deacon; "and if he thinks his wife owes a debt to Tulee, he'll be willing to give a round sum for her children. I reckon you can make a better bargain with him than you could in the New Orleans market."

"Do you suppose he'd give five thousand dollars for the young niggers?" inquired the trader.

"Try him," said the Deacon.

The final result was that the sum was deposited by Mr. King, to be paid over whenever Tulee's children made their appearance; and in due time they all arrived. Tulee was full of joy and gratitude; but Mr. Bright always maintained it was a sin and a shame to pay slave-traders so much for what never belonged to them.

Of course there were endless questions to be asked and answered between the sisters and their faithful servant; but all she could tell threw no further light on the destiny of the little changeling whom she supposed to be Rosa's own child. In the course of these private conversations, it came out that she herself had suffered, as all women must suffer, who have the feelings of human beings, and the treatment of animals. But her own humble little episode of love and separation, of sorrow and shame, was whispered only to Missy Rosy and Missy Flory.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares