Uncle Tom's Cabin
About this time, St. Clare's brother Alfred, with his eldest son, a boy of twelve, spent a day or two with the family at the lake.
No sight could be more singular and beautiful than that of these twin brothers. Nature, instead of instituting resemblances between them, had made them opposites on every point; yet a mysterious tie seemed to unite them in a closer friendship than ordinary.
They used to saunter, arm in arm, up and down the alleys and walks of the garden. Augustine, with his blue eyes and golden hair, his ethereally flexible form and vivacious features; and Alfred, dark-eyed, with haughty Roman profile, firmly-knit limbs, and decided bearing. They were always abusing each other's opinions and practices, and yet never a whit the less absorbed in each other's society; in fact, the very contrariety seemed to unite them, like the attraction between opposite poles of the magnet.
Henrique, the eldest son of Alfred, was a noble, dark-eyed, princely boy, full of vivacity and spirit; and, from the first moment of introduction, seemed to be perfectly fascinated by the spirituelle graces of his cousin Evangeline.
Eva had a little pet pony, of a snowy whiteness. It was easy as a cradle, and as gentle as its little mistress; and this pony was now brought up to the back verandah by Tom, while a little mulatto boy of about thirteen led along a small black Arabian, which had just been imported, at a great expense, for Henrique.
Henrique had a boy's pride in his new possession; and, as he advanced and took the reins out of the hands of his little groom, he looked carefully over him, and his brow darkened.
"What's this, Dodo, you little lazy dog! you haven't rubbed my horse down, this morning."
"Yes, Mas'r," said Dodo, submissively; "he got that dust on his own self."
"You rascal, shut your mouth!" said Henrique, violently raising his riding-whip. "How dare you speak?"
The boy was a handsome, bright-eyed mulatto, of just Henrique's size, and his curling hair hung round a high, bold forehead. He had white blood in his veins, as could be seen by the quick flush in his cheek, and the sparkle of his eye, as he eagerly tried to speak.
"Mas'r Henrique!—" he began.
Henrique struck him across the face with his riding-whip, and, seizing one of his arms, forced him on to his knees, and beat him till he was out of breath.
"There, you impudent dog! Now will you learn not to answer back when I speak to you? Take the horse back, and clean him properly. I'll teach you your place!"
"Young Mas'r," said Tom, "I specs what he was gwine to say was, that the horse would roll when he was bringing him up from the stable; he's so full of spirits,—that's the way he got that dirt on him; I looked to his cleaning."
"You hold your tongue till you're asked to speak!" said Henrique, turning on his heel, and walking up the steps to speak to Eva, who stood in her riding-dress.
"Dear Cousin, I'm sorry this stupid fellow has kept you waiting," he said. "Let's sit down here, on this seat till they come. What's the matter, Cousin?—you look sober."
"How could you be so cruel and wicked to poor Dodo?" asked Eva.
"Cruel,—wicked!" said the boy, with unaffected surprise. "What do you mean, dear Eva?"
"I don't want you to call me dear Eva, when you do so," said Eva.
"Dear Cousin, you don't know Dodo; it's the only way to manage him, he's so full of lies and excuses. The only way is to put him down at once,—not let him open his mouth; that's the way papa manages."
"But Uncle Tom said it was an accident, and he never tells what isn't true."
"He's an uncommon old nigger, then!" said Henrique. "Dodo will lie as fast as he can speak."
"You frighten him into deceiving, if you treat him so."
"Why, Eva, you've really taken such a fancy to Dodo, that I shall be jealous."
"But you beat him,—and he didn't deserve it."
"O, well, it may go for some time when he does, and don't get it. A few cuts never come amiss with Dodo,—he's a regular spirit, I can tell you; but I won't beat him again before you, if it troubles you."
Eva was not satisfied, but found it in vain to try to make her handsome cousin understand her feelings.
Dodo soon appeared, with the horses.
"Well, Dodo, you've done pretty well, this time," said his young master, with a more gracious air. "Come, now, and hold Miss Eva's horse while I put her on to the saddle."
Dodo came and stood by Eva's pony. His face was troubled; his eyes looked as if he had been crying.
Henrique, who valued himself on his gentlemanly adroitness in all matters of gallantry, soon had his fair cousin in the saddle, and, gathering the reins, placed them in her hands.
But Eva bent to the other side of the horse, where Dodo was standing, and said, as he relinquished the reins,—"That's a good boy, Dodo;—thank you!"
Dodo looked up in amazement into the sweet young face; the blood rushed to his cheeks, and the tears to his eyes.
"Here, Dodo," said his master, imperiously.
Dodo sprang and held the horse, while his master mounted.
"There's a picayune for you to buy candy with, Dodo," said Henrique; "go get some."
And Henrique cantered down the walk after Eva. Dodo stood looking after the two children. One had given him money; and one had given him what he wanted far more,—a kind word, kindly spoken. Dodo had been only a few months away from his mother. His master had bought him at a slave warehouse, for his handsome face, to be a match to the handsome pony; and he was now getting his breaking in, at the hands of his young master.
The scene of the beating had been witnessed by the two brothers St. Clare, from another part of the garden.
Augustine's cheek flushed; but he only observed, with his usual sarcastic carelessness.
"I suppose that's what we may call republican education, Alfred?"
"Henrique is a devil of a fellow, when his blood's up," said Alfred, carelessly.
"I suppose you consider this an instructive practice for him," said Augustine, drily.
"I couldn't help it, if I didn't. Henrique is a regular little tempest;—his mother and I have given him up, long ago. But, then, that Dodo is a perfect sprite,—no amount of whipping can hurt him."
"And this by way of teaching Henrique the first verse of a republican's catechism, 'All men are born free and equal!'"
"Poh!" said Alfred; "one of Tom Jefferson's pieces of French sentiment and humbug. It's perfectly ridiculous to have that going the rounds among us, to this day."
"I think it is," said St. Clare, significantly.
"Because," said Alfred, "we can see plainly enough that all men are not born free, nor born equal; they are born anything else. For my part, I think half this republican talk sheer humbug. It is the educated, the intelligent, the wealthy, the refined, who ought to have equal rights and not the canaille."
"If you can keep the canaille of that opinion," said Augustine. "They took their turn once, in France."
"Of course, they must be kept down, consistently, steadily, as I should," said Alfred, setting his foot hard down as if he were standing on somebody.
"It makes a terrible slip when they get up," said Augustine,—"in St. Domingo, for instance."
"Poh!" said Alfred, "we'll take care of that, in this country. We must set our face against all this educating, elevating talk, that is getting about now; the lower class must not be educated."
"That is past praying for," said Augustine; "educated they will be, and we have only to say how. Our system is educating them in barbarism and brutality. We are breaking all humanizing ties, and making them brute beasts; and, if they get the upper hand, such we shall find them."
"They shall never get the upper hand!" said Alfred.
"That's right," said St. Clare; "put on the steam, fasten down the escape-valve, and sit on it, and see where you'll land."
"Well," said Alfred, "we will see. I'm not afraid to sit on the escape-valve, as long as the boilers are strong, and the machinery works well."
"The nobles in Louis XVI.'s time thought just so; and Austria and Pius IX. think so now; and, some pleasant morning, you may all be caught up to meet each other in the air, when the boilers burst."
"Dies declarabit," said Alfred, laughing.
"I tell you," said Augustine, "if there is anything that is revealed with the strength of a divine law in our times, it is that the masses are to rise, and the under class become the upper one."
"That's one of your red republican humbugs, Augustine! Why didn't you ever take to the stump;—you'd make a famous stump orator! Well, I hope I shall be dead before this millennium of your greasy masses comes on."
"Greasy or not greasy, they will govern you, when their time comes," said Augustine; "and they will be just such rulers as you make them. The French noblesse chose to have the people 'sans culottes,' and they had 'sans culotte' governors to their hearts' content. The people of Hayti—"
"O, come, Augustine! as if we hadn't had enough of that abominable, contemptible Hayti!* The Haytiens were not Anglo Saxons; if they had been there would have been another story. The Anglo Saxon is the dominant race of the world, and is to be so."
* In August 1791, as a consequence of the French Revolution, the black slaves and mulattoes on Haiti rose in revolt against the whites, and in the period of turmoil that followed enormous cruelties were practised by both sides. The "Emperor" Dessalines, come to power in 1804, massacred all the whites on the island. Haitian bloodshed became an argument to show the barbarous nature of the Negro, a doctrine Wendell Phillips sought to combat in his celebrated lecture on Toussaint L'Ouverture.
"Well, there is a pretty fair infusion of Anglo Saxon blood among our slaves, now," said Augustine. "There are plenty among them who have only enough of the African to give a sort of tropical warmth and fervor to our calculating firmness and foresight. If ever the San Domingo hour comes, Anglo Saxon blood will lead on the day. Sons of white fathers, with all our haughty feelings burning in their veins, will not always be bought and sold and traded. They will rise, and raise with them their mother's race."
"Well," said Augustine, "there goes an old saying to this effect, 'As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be;—they ate, they drank, they planted, they builded, and knew not till the flood came and took them.'"
"On the whole, Augustine, I think your talents might do for a circuit rider," said Alfred, laughing. "Never you fear for us; possession is our nine points. We've got the power. This subject race," said he, stamping firmly, "is down and shall stay down! We have energy enough to manage our own powder."
"Sons trained like your Henrique will be grand guardians of your powder-magazines," said Augustine,—"so cool and self-possessed! The proverb says, 'They that cannot govern themselves cannot govern others.'"
"There is a trouble there" said Alfred, thoughtfully; "there's no doubt that our system is a difficult one to train children under. It gives too free scope to the passions, altogether, which, in our climate, are hot enough. I find trouble with Henrique. The boy is generous and warm-hearted, but a perfect fire-cracker when excited. I believe I shall send him North for his education, where obedience is more fashionable, and where he will associate more with equals, and less with dependents."
"Since training children is the staple work of the human race," said Augustine, "I should think it something of a consideration that our system does not work well there."
"It does not for some things," said Alfred; "for others, again, it does. It makes boys manly and courageous; and the very vices of an abject race tend to strengthen in them the opposite virtues. I think Henrique, now, has a keener sense of the beauty of truth, from seeing lying and deception the universal badge of slavery."
"A Christian-like view of the subject, certainly!" said Augustine.
"It's true, Christian-like or not; and is about as Christian-like as most other things in the world," said Alfred.
"That may be," said St. Clare.
"Well, there's no use in talking, Augustine. I believe we've been round and round this old track five hundred times, more or less. What do you say to a game of backgammon?"
The two brothers ran up the verandah steps, and were soon seated at a light bamboo stand, with the backgammon-board between them. As they were setting their men, Alfred said,
"I tell you, Augustine, if I thought as you do, I should do something."
"I dare say you would,—you are one of the doing sort,—but what?"
"Why, elevate your own servants, for a specimen," said Alfred, with a half-scornful smile.
"You might as well set Mount AEtna on them flat, and tell them to stand up under it, as tell me to elevate my servants under all the superincumbent mass of society upon them. One man can do nothing, against the whole action of a community. Education, to do anything, must be a state education; or there must be enough agreed in it to make a current."
"You take the first throw," said Alfred; and the brothers were soon lost in the game, and heard no more till the scraping of horses' feet was heard under the verandah.
"There come the children," said Augustine, rising. "Look here, Alf! Did you ever see anything so beautiful?" And, in truth, it was a beautiful sight. Henrique, with his bold brow, and dark, glossy curls, and glowing cheek, was laughing gayly as he bent towards his fair cousin, as they came on. She was dressed in a blue riding dress, with a cap of the same color. Exercise had given a brilliant hue to her cheeks, and heightened the effect of her singularly transparent skin, and golden hair.
"Good heavens! what perfectly dazzling beauty!" said Alfred. "I tell you, Auguste, won't she make some hearts ache, one of these days?"
"She will, too truly,—God knows I'm afraid so!" said St. Clare, in a tone of sudden bitterness, as he hurried down to take her off her horse.
"Eva darling! you're not much tired?" he said, as he clasped her in his arms.
"No, papa," said the child; but her short, hard breathing alarmed her father.
"How could you ride so fast, dear?—you know it's bad for you."
"I felt so well, papa, and liked it so much, I forgot."
St. Clare carried her in his arms into the parlor, and laid her on the sofa.
"Henrique, you must be careful of Eva," said he; "you mustn't ride fast with her."
"I'll take her under my care," said Henrique, seating himself by the sofa, and taking Eva's hand.
Eva soon found herself much better. Her father and uncle resumed their game, and the children were left together.
"Do you know, Eva, I'm sorry papa is only going to stay two days here, and then I shan't see you again for ever so long! If I stay with you, I'd try to be good, and not be cross to Dodo, and so on. I don't mean to treat Dodo ill; but, you know, I've got such a quick temper. I'm not really bad to him, though. I give him a picayune, now and then; and you see he dresses well. I think, on the whole, Dodo 's pretty well off."
"Would you think you were well off, if there were not one creature in the world near you to love you?"
"I?—Well, of course not."
"And you have taken Dodo away from all the friends he ever had, and now he has not a creature to love him;—nobody can be good that way."
"Well, I can't help it, as I know of. I can't get his mother and I can't love him myself, nor anybody else, as I know of."
"Why can't you?" said Eva.
"Love Dodo! Why, Eva, you wouldn't have me! I may like him well enough; but you don't love your servants."
"I do, indeed."
"Don't the Bible say we must love everybody?"
"O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many such things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them,—you know, Eva, nobody does."
Eva did not speak; her eyes were fixed and thoughtful for a few moments.
"At any rate," she said, "dear Cousin, do love poor Dodo, and be kind to him, for my sake!"
"I could love anything, for your sake, dear Cousin; for I really think you are the loveliest creature that I ever saw!" And Henrique spoke with an earnestness that flushed his handsome face. Eva received it with perfect simplicity, without even a change of feature; merely saying, "I'm glad you feel so, dear Henrique! I hope you will remember."
The dinner-bell put an end to the interview.