September 18, 1851 Transcription

[Scroll down to the BOLD text to pick up where you left off on the main page]

Chapter XV.—Of Tom’s new master, and various other matters.

Since the thread of our humble hero’s life has now become interwoven with that of higher ones, it is necessary to give some brief introduction to them.

Augustine St. Clare was the son of a wealthy planter of Louisiana. The family had its origin in Canada. Of two brothers, very similar in temperament and character, one had settled on a flourishing farm in Vermont, and the other became an opulent planter in Louisiana. The mother of Augustine was a Huguenot French lady, whose family had emigrated to Louisiana during the days of its early settlement. Augustine and another brother were the only children of their parents. Having inherited from his mother an exceeding delicacy of constitution, he was, at the instance of physicians, during many years of his boyhood sent to the care of his uncle in Vermont, in order that his constitution might be strengthened by the cold of a more bracing climate. In childhood, he was remarkable for an extreme and marked sensitiveness of character, more akin to the softness of woman than the ordinary hardness of his own sex. Time, however, overgrew this softness with the rough bark of manhood, and but few knew how living and fresh it still lay at the core. His talents were of the very first order, although his mind showed a preference always for the ideal and the æsthetic, and there was about him that repugnance to the actual business of life which is the common result of this balance of the faculties. Soon after the completion of his college course, his whole nature was kindled into one intense and passionate effervescence of romantic passion. His hour came—the hour that comes only once; his star rose in the horizon—that star that rises so often in vain, to be remembered only as a thing of dreams—and it rose for him in vain. To drop the figure, he saw and won the love of a high-minded and beautiful woman in one of the Northern States; and they were affianced. He returned South to make arrangements for their marriage, when, most unexpectedly, his letters were returned to him by mail, with a short note from her guardian, stating to him that ere this reached him the lady would be the wife of another. Stung to madness, he vainly hoped, as many another has done, to fling the whole thing from his heart by one desperate effort. Too proud to supplicate or seek explanation, he threw himself at once into a whirl of fashionable society, and in a fortnight from the time of the fatal letter was the accepted lover of the reigning belle of the season; and as soon as arrangements could be made, he became the husband of a fine figure, a pair of bright dark eyes, and a hundred thousand dollars—and of course everybody thought him a happy fellow.

The married couple were enjoying their honeymoon, and entertaining a brilliant circle of friends in their splendid villa near Lake Pontchartrain, when one day a letter was brought to him in that well-remembered writing. It was handed to him while he was in full tide of gay and successful conversation in a whole room full of company. He turned deadly pale when he saw the writing, but still preserved his composure, and finished the playful warfare of badinage which he was at the moment carrying on with a lady opposite—and, a short time after, was missed from the circle. In his room alone he opened and read the letter—now worse than idle and useless to be read. It was from her, giving a long account of a persecution to which she had been exposed by her guardian’s family, to lead her to unite herself with their son; and she related how for a long time his letters had ceased to arrive—how she had written time and again, till she became weary and doubtful—how her health had failed under her anxieties—and how, at last, she had discovered the whole fraud which had been practiced on them both. The letter ended with expressions of hope and thankfulness, and professions of undying affection, which were more bitter than death to the unhappy young man. He wrote to her immediately:

“I have received yours—but too late. I believed all I heard. I was desperate. I am married, and all is over. Only forget—it is all that remains for either of us.”

And thus ended the whole romance and ideal of life for Augustine[1] St. Clare. But the real remained—the real, like the flat, bare, oosy tide-mud, when the blue sparkling wave, with all its company of gliding boats and white-winged ships, its music of oars and chiming waters, has gone down, and there it lies, flat, slimy, bare, and exceedingly real.

Of course, in a novel, people’s hearts break and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is exceedingly[2] convenient. But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us. There is a most busy and important round of eating, drinking, dressing, walking, visiting, buying, selling, talking, reading, and all that makes up what is commonly called living, yet to be gone through, and this yet remained to Augustine. Had his wife been a whole woman, she might yet have done something—as woman can—to mend the broken threads of life, and weave again into a tissue of brightness. But Marie St. Clare could not even see that they had been broken. As before stated, she consisted of a fine figure, a pair of splendid eyes, and a hundred thousand dollars; and none of these items were precisely the ones to minister to a mind diseased.

When Augustine, pale as death, was found lying on the sofa, and pleaded sudden sick head-ache as the cause of his distress, she recommended to him to smell of hartshorn; and when the paleness and headache came on week after week, she only said that she never thought Mr. St. Clare was sickly; but it seems he was very liable to sick headaches, and that it was a very unfortunate thing for her, because he didn’t enjoy going into company with her, and it seemed odd to go so much alone, when they were just married. Augustine was glad in his heart that he had married so undiscerning a woman; but as the glosses and civilities of the honeymoon wore away, he discovered that a beautiful young woman, who has lived all her life to be caressed and waited on, might prove quite a hard mistress in domestic life. Marie never had possessed much capability of affection, or much sensibility, and the little that she had been merged into a most intense and unconscious selfishness—a selfishness the more hopeless from its quiet obtuseness, its utter ignorance of any claims but her own. From her infancy she had been surrounded with servants, who lived only to study her caprices; the idea that they had either feelings or rights had never dawned upon her, even in distant perspective. Her father, whose only child she had been, had never denied her anything that lay within the compass of human possibility; and when she entered life, beautiful, accomplished, and an heiress, she had of course all the eligibles and non-eligibles of the other sex sighing at her feet, and she had no doubt that Augustine was a most fortunate man in having obtained her. It is a great mistake to suppose that a woman with no heart will be an easy creditor in the exchange of affection. There is not on earth a more merciless exactor of love from others than a thoroughly selfish woman—and the more unlovely she grows, the more jealously and scrupulously she exacts love, to the uttermost farthing. When, therefore, St. Clare began to drop off those gallantries and small attentions which flowed at first through the habitude of courtship, he found his sultana no way ready to resign her slave; there were abundance of tears, poutings, and small tempests—there were discontents, pinings, upbraidings. St. Clare was good-natured and self-indulgent, and sought to buy off with presents and flatteries; and when Marie became mother to a beautiful daughter, he really felt awakened, for a time, to something like tenderness.

St. Clare’s mother had been a woman of uncommon elevation and purity of character, and he gave to this child his mother’s name, fondly fancying that she would prove a reproduction of her image. The thing had been remarked with petulant jealousy by his wife, and she regarded her husband’s absorbing devotion to the child with suspicion and dislike—all that was given to her seemed so much taken from herself. From the time of the birth of this child, her health gradually sunk. A life of constant inaction, bodily and mental—the friction of ceaseless ennui and discontent, united to the ordinary weakness which attended the period of maternity, in course of a few years changed the blooming young belle into a yellow, faded, sickly woman, whose time was divided among a variety of fanciful diseases, and who considered herself, in every sense, the most ill-used and suffering person in existence.

There was no end of her various complaints; but her principal forte appeared to lie in sick headache, which sometimes would confine her to her room three days out of six. As, of course, all family arrangements fell into the hands of servants, St. Clare found his menage anything but comfortable. His only daughter was exceedingly delicate, and he feared that, with no one to look after and attend to her, her health and life might yet fall a sacrifice to her mother’s inefficiency. He had taken her with him on a tour to Vermont, and had persuaded his cousin, Miss Ophelia St. Clare, to return with him to his Southern residence, and they are now returning on this boat, where we have introduced them to our readers.

And now, while the distant domes and spires of New Orleans rise to our view, there is yet time for an introduction to Miss Ophelia.

Whoever has travelled in the New England States will remember, in some cool, grassy[3] village, a large farm-house, with its clean swept grassy yard, shaded by the dense and massive foliage of the sugar maple, and remember the air of order and stillness, of perpetuity and unchanging repose, that seemed to breathe over the whole place. Nothing lost, or out of order, not a picket loose in the fence, not a particle of litter in the turfy yard, with its clumps of lilac bushes growing up under the windows. Within, he will remember wide, clean rooms—where nothing ever seems to be doing or going to be done, where everything is once and forever rigidly in place, and where all household arrangements move with the punctual exactness of the old clock in the corner. In the family “keeping room,” as it is termed, he will remember the staid, respectable old book-case, with its glass doors, where Rollin’s History, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and Scott’s Family Bible, stand side by side in decorous order, with multitudes of other books, equally solemn and respectable. There are no servants in the house, but the lady in the snowy cap, with the spectacles, who sits sewing every afternoon, among her daughters, as if nothing ever had been done, or were to be done—she and her girls in some long-forgotten fore part of the day “did up the work,” and for the rest of the time, probably at all hours when you would see them, it is “done up.” The old kitchen floor never seems stained or spotted—the tables, the chairs, and the various cooking utensils, never seem deranged or disordered, though three and sometimes four meals a day are got there, though the family washing and ironing is there performed, and though pounds of butter and cheese are in some silent and mysterious manner there brought into existence.

On such a farm, in such a house and family, Miss Ophelia had spent a quiet existence of some forty-five years, when her cousin invited her to visit his Southern mansion. The eldest of a large family, she was still considered by her father and mother as one of “the children,” and the proposal that she should go to Orleans
was a most momentous one to the family circle. The old gray-headed father took down Morse’s Atlas out of the book-case, and looked out the exact latitude and longitude, and read Flint’s travels in the South and West, to make up his own mind as to the nature of the country.

The good mother inquired, anxiously, “if Orleans wasn’t an awful wicked place,” saying, “that it seemed to her most equal to going to the Sandwich Islands, or anywhere among the heathen.”

It was known at the minister’s, and at the Doctor’s, and at Miss Peabody’s milliner shop, that Ophelia St. Clare was “talking about” going way down to Orleans with her cousin; and of course the whole village could do no less than help this very important process of talking about the matter. The minister, who inclined strongly to Abolitionist[4] views, was quite doubtful whether such a step might not tend somewhat to encourage the Southerners in holding on to their slaves, while the Doctor, who was a stanch Colonizationist, inclined to the opinion that Miss Ophelia ought to go, to show the Orleans people that we don’t think hardly of them, after all. He was of opinion, in fact, that Southern people needed encouraging. When, however, the fact that she had resolved to go was fully before the public mind, she was solemnly invited out to tea by all her friends and neighbors for the space of a fortnight, and all her prospects and plans duly canvassed and inquired into. Miss Moseley, who came into the house to help to do the dress-making, acquired daily accessions of importance from the developments with regard to Miss Ophelia’s wardrobe, which she had been enabled to make. It was credibly ascertained that Squire Sinclare, as his name was commonly contracted in the neighborhood, had counted out fifty dollars, and given them to Miss Ophelia, and told her to buy any clothes she thought best; and that two new silk dresses, and a bonnet, had been sent for to Boston. As to the propriety of this extraordinary outlay, the public mind was divided—some affirming that it was well enough, all things considered, for once in one’s life, and others stoutly affirming that the money had better have been sent to the missionaries; but all parties agreed that there had been no such parasol seen in those parts as had been sent on from New York, and that she had one silk dress that might fairly be trusted to stand alone, whatever might be said of its mistress. There were credible rumors also of a hemstitched pocket handkerchief—and report even went so far as to state that Miss Ophelia had one pocket handkerchief with lace all around it, and it was even added that it was worked in the corners; but this latter point was never satisfactorily ascertained, and remains in fact unsettled to this day.

Miss Ophelia, as you now behold her, stands before you, in a very shining brown linen travelling-dress, tall, square-formed, and angular. Her face was thin, and rather sharp in its outlines. The lips compressed, like those of a person who is in the habit of making up her mind definitely on all subjects, while the keen, dark eyes had a peculiarly searching, advised movement, and travelled over everything, as if they were looking for something to take care of.

All her movements were sharp, decided, and energetic; and, though she was never much of a talker, her words were remarkably direct, and to the purpose, when she did speak.

In her habits, she was a living impersonation of order, method, and exactness. In punctuality, she was as inevitable as a clock, and as inexorable as a railroad engine; and she held in most decided contempt and abomination anything of a contrary character.

The great sin of sins, in her eyes—the sum of all evils—was expressed by one very common and important word in her vocabulary, “shiftlessness;” her finale and ultimatum of contempt consisted in a very emphatic pronunciation of the word “shiftless;” and by this she characterized all modes of procedure which had not a direct and inevitable relation to accomplishment of some purpose, then definitely had in mind; people who did nothing, or who did not know exactly what they were going to do, or who did not take the most direct way to accom plish what they set their hands to, were objects of her entire contempt—a contempt shown less frequently by anything she said than by a kind of stony grimness, as if she scorned to say anything about the matter.

As to mental cultivation: she had a clear, strong, active mind; was well and thoroughly read in history and the older English classics, and thought with great strength within certain narrow limits. Her theological tenets were all made up, labelled in most positive and distinct forms, and put by, like the bundles in her patch trunk—there were just so many of them, and there were never to be any more. So, also, were her ideas with regard to most matters of practical life—such as housekeeping in all its branches, and the various political relations of her native village. And underlying all, deeper than anything else, higher and broader, lay the strongest principle of her being—conscientiousness. Nowhere is conscience so dominant and all-absorbing as with New England women. It is the granite formation, which lies deepest and rises out, even to the tops of the highest mountains.

Miss Ophelia was the absolute bond slave of the “ought.” Once make her certain that the “path of duty,” as she commonly phrased it, lay in any given direction, and fire and water could not keep her from it. She would walk straight down into a well, or up to a loaded cannon’s mouth, if she were only quite sure that there the path lay. Her standard of right was so high, so all-embracing, so minute, and making so few concessions to human frailty, that though she strove with heroic ardor to reach it, she never actually did so, and of course was burdened with a constant and often harassing sense of deficiency; this gave a severe and somewhat gloomy cast to her religious character.

But, how in the world can Miss Ophelia get along with Augustine St. Clare, gay, easy, unpunctual, unpractical, skeptical—in short, walking with impudent and nonchalant freedom over every one of her most cherished habits and opinions?

To tell the truth, then, Miss Ophelia loved him. When a boy, it had been hers to teach him his catechism, mend his clothes, comb his hair, and bring him up generally in the way he should go; and her heart having a warm side to it, Augustine had, as he usually did with most people, monopolized a large share of it for himself, and therefore it was that he succeeded very easily in persuading her that the “path of duty” lay in the direction of New Orleans, and that she must go with him to take care of Eva, and keep everything from going to wreck and ruin during the frequent illnesses of his wife. The idea of a house without anybody to take care of it went to her heart; then she loved the lovely little girl as few could help doing; and though she regarded Augustine as very much of a heathen, yet she loved him, laughed at his jokes, and forbore with his failings, to an extent which those who knew him thought perfectly incredible. But what more or other is to be known of Miss Ophelia, our reader must discover by a personal acquaintance.

There she is, sitting now in her state-room, surrounded by a mixed multitude of little and big carpet-bags, boxes, baskets, each containing some separate responsibility which she is tying, binding up, packing, or fastening, with a face of great earnestness.

“Now, Eva, have you kept count of your things? Of course you have not, children never do; there’s the spotted carpet-bag and the little blue band-box with your best bonnet, that’s two; then the India rubber satchel, is three; and my tape and needle box, is four; and my band-box, five; and my collar box, six; and that little hair trunk, seven. What have you done with your sunshade? Give it to me, and let me put a paper round it, and tie it to my umbrella with my shade; there now.”

“Why, aunty, we are only going up home; what’s the use?”

“To keep it nice, child; people must take care of their things if they ever mean to have anything; and now, Eva, is your thimble put up?”

“Really, aunty, I don’t know.”

“Well, never mind, I ’ll look your box over—thimble, wax, two spools, scissors, knife, tape, needle; all right; put it in here. What did you ever do child, when you were coming on with only your papa. I should have thought you’d a lost everything you had.”

“Well, aunty, I did lose a great many; and then, when we stopped anywhere, papa would buy some more of whatever it was.”

“Mercy on us, child, what a way!”

“It was a very lazy[5] way, aunty,” said Eva.

“It’s a dreadful shiftless one,” said aunty.

“Why, aunty, what’ll you do now?” said Eva; “that trunk is too full to be shut down.”

“It must shut down,” said aunty, with the air of a general, as she squeezed the things in, and sprung upon the lid; still a little gap remained about the mouth of the trunk.

“Get up here, Eva!” said Miss Ophelia, courageously, “what has been done once can be done again. This trunk has got to be shut and locked—there are no two ways about it.”

And the trunk, intimidated doubtless by this resolute statement, gave in. The hasp snapped sharply in its hole, and Miss Ophelia turned the key, and pocketed it in triumph.

“Now we’re ready. Where’s your papa? I think it time this baggage was set out. Do look out, Eva, and see if you see your papa.”

“Oh yes, he’s down the other end of the gentlemen’s cabin, eating an orange.”

“He can’t know how near we are coming,” said aunty; “hadn’t you better run and speak to him?”

“Papa never is in a hurry about anything,” said Eva, “and we haven’t come to the landing. Do step on the guards, aunty. Look! there’s our house, up that street!”

The boat now began, with heavy groans, like some vast, tired monster, to prepare to push up among the multiplied steamers at the levee. Eva joyously pointed out the various spires, domes, and way-marks, by which she recognised her native city.

“Yes, yes, dear; very fine,” said Ophelia. “But mercy on us! the boat has stopped! where is your father?”

And now ensued the usual turmoil of landing—waiters running twenty ways at once—men tugging trunks, carpet-bags, boxes—women anxiously calling to their children, and everybody crowding in a dense mass to the plank towards the landing.

Miss Ophelia seated herself resolutely on the lately vanquished trunk, and marshalling all her goods and chattels in fine military order, seemed resolved to defend them to the last.

“Shall I take your trunk, ma’am?” “Shall I take your baggage?” “Let me ’tend to your baggage, missis?” “Shan’t I carry out these yer, missis?” rained down upon her unheeded. She sat with grim determination, upright as a darning-needle stuck in a board, holding on her bundle of umbrella and parasols, and replying with a determination that was enough to strike dismay even into a hackman, wondering to Eva, in each interval, “what upon earth her papa could be thinking of—he couldn’t have fallen over now—but something must have happened”—and just as she had begun to work herself into a real distress, he came up with his usually careless motion, and giving Eva a quarter of the orange he was eating, said—

“Well, cousin Vermont, I suppose you are all ready.”

“I’ve been ready waiting nearly an hour,” said Miss Ophelia; “I began to be really concerned about you.”

“That’s a clever fellow, now,” said he. “Well, the carriage is waiting, and the crowd are now off, so that one can walk out in a decent and Christian manner, and not be pushed and shoved. Here,” he added to a driver who stood behind him, “take these things.”

“I’ll go and see to his putting them in,” said Miss Ophelia.

“Oh, pshaw, cousin, what’s the use?”[missing dot] said St. Clare.

“Well, at any rate, I’ll carry this, and this, and this,” said Miss Ophelia, singling out three boxes and a small carpet-bag.

“My dear Miss Vermont, positively, you mustn’t come the Green Mountains over us that way—you must adopt at least a piece of a Southern principle, and not walk out under all that load; they’ll take you for a waiting maid; give them to this fellow; he’ll put them down as if they were eggs, now.”

Miss Ophelia looked despairingly, as her nephew[6] took all her treasures from her, and rejoiced to find herself once more in the carriage with them, in a state of preservation.

“Where’s Tom?” said Eva.

“Oh, he’s on the outside, Pussy. I’m going to take Tom up to mother for a peace-offering, to make up for that drunken fellow that upset the carriage.”

“Oh, Tom will make a splendid driver, I know,” said Eva; “he’ll never get drunk.”

The carriage stopped in front of an ancient mansion, built in that odd mixture of Spanish and French style, of which there are yet specimens in some parts of New Orleans. It was built in the Moorish fashion—a square building encircling a court yard, into which the carriage drove through an arched gateway. The court, in the inside, had evidently been arranged to gratify a picturesque and voluptuous ideality. Wide galleries ran all round the four sides, whose moorish arches, slender pillars, and arabesque ornaments, carried the mind back, as in a dream, to the reign of oriental romance in Spain. In the middle of the court a fountain threw high its silvery water, falling in a never-ceasing spray into a marble basin, fringed with a deep border of fragrant violets. The water in the fountain, pellucid as crystal, was alive with myriads of gold and silver fishes, tumbling and darting through it like so many living jewels. Around the fountain ran a walk, paved with a mosaic of pebbles, laid in various fanciful patterns; and this, again, was surrounded by turf, smooth as green velvet, while a carriage-drive surrounded the whole. Two large orange trees, now fragrant with blossoms, threw a delicious shade; and ranged in a circle round upon the turf were marble vases of arabesque sculpture, containing the choicest flowering plants of the tropics. Huge pomegranate trees with their glossy leaves and flame-colored flowers, dark-leaved Arabian jessamines with their silvery stars, geraniums, luxuriant roses bending beneath their heavy abundance of flowers, golden jessamines, the lemon-scented verbenum, and ever and anon a mystic old aloe, with its strange, massive leaves,[7] looking like some hoary old enchanter, sitting in weird grandeur among the more perishable bloom and fragrance around it.

The galleries that surrounded the court were festooned with a curtain of some kind of Moorish stuff, and could be drawn down at pleasure, to exclude the beams of the sun. On the whole, the appearance of the whole place was luxurious and romantic.

As the carriage drove in, Eva seemed like a bird ready to burst from a cage, with the wild eagerness of her delight.

“Oh, isn’t it beautiful, lovely! my own dear, darling home!” she said to Miss Ophelia. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

“’Tis a pretty place,” said Miss Ophelia, as she alighted; “though it looks sort o’ old and heathenish to me.”

Tom got down from the carriage, and looked about with an air of calm, still enjoyment. The negro, it must be remembered, is an exotic of the most gorgeous and superb countries of the world, and he has, deep in his heart, a passion for all that is splendid, rich, and fanciful—a passion which, rudely indulged by an untrained taste, draws on them the ridicule of the colder and more correct white race.

St. Clare, who was in his heart a poetical voluptuary, smiled as Miss Ophelia made her remark on his premises, and, turning to Tom, who was standing looking round, his beaming black face perfectly radiant with admiration, he said:

“Tom, my boy, this seems to suit you.”

“Yes, massa, it looks about the right thing,” said Tom.

All this passed in a moment, while trunks were being hustled off, hackman paid, and while a crowd, of all ages and sizes—men, women, and children—came running through the galleries, both above and below, to see mass’r come in. Foremost among them was a highly-dressed young mulatto man, evidently a very distingue personage, attired in the ultra extreme of the mode, and gracefully waving a scented cambric handkerchief in his hand.

This personage had been exerting himself with great alacrity in driving all the flock of domestics to the other end of the verandah.

“Back! all of you. I am ashamed of you,” he said, in a tone of authority. “Would you intrude on master’s domestic relations in the first hour of his return?”

All looked abashed at this elegant speech, delivered with quite an air, and stood huddled together at a respectful distance, except two stout porters, who came up and began conveying away the baggage.

Owing to Mr. Adolph’s systematic arrangements, when St. Clare turned round from paying the hackman there was nobody in view but Mr. Adolph himself—conspicuous in satin vest, gold guard-chain, and white pants, and bowing with inexpressible grace and suavity.

“Ah, Adolph, is it you?” said his master, of-fering his hand to him; “how are you, boy?” while Adolph poured forth, with great fluency, an extemporary speech, which he had been preparing, with great care, for a fortnight before.

“Well, well,” said St. Clare, passing on with his usual air of negligent drollery, “that’s very well got up, Adolph. See that the baggage is well bestowed. I’ll come to the people in a minute;” and, so saying, he led Miss Ophelia to a large parlor that opened on to the verandah.

While this had been passing, Eva had flown like a bird through the porch and parlor to a little boudoir opening likewise on the verandah.

A tall, dark-eyed, sallow woman half rose from a couch on which she was reclining.

“Mamma!” said Eva, in a sort of a rapture, throwing herself on her neck, and embracing her over and over again.

“That’ll do—take care, child—don’t—you make my head ache,” said the mother, after she had languidly kissed her.

St. Clare came in, embraced his wife in true orthodox husbandly fashion, and then presented to her his couisn. Marie lifted her large eyes on her cousin with an air of some curiosity, and received her with languid politeness. A crowd of servants now pressed to the entry door, and among them a middle-aged mulatto woman, of very respectable appearance, stood foremost in a tremor of expectation and joy at the door.

“Oh, there’s Mammy!” said Eva, as she flew across the room; and throwing herself into her arms, she kissed her repeatedly.

This woman did not tell her that she made her head ache, but, on the contrary, she hugged her and laughed and cried, till her sanity was a thing to be doubted of; and when released from her, Eva flew from one to another, shaking hands and kissing, in a way that Miss Ophelia afterwards declared fairly turned her stomach.

“Well!” said Miss Ophelia, “you Southern children can do something that I couldn’t.”

“What, now, pray?” said St. Clare.

“Well, I want to be kind to everybody, and I wouldn’t have anything hurt; but as to kissing”——

“Niggers,” said St. Clare, “that you’re not up to—hey?”

“Yes, that’s it. How can she?”

St. Clare laughed, as he went into the passage. “Halloa, here, what’s to pay out here? Here, you all—Mammy, Jimmy, Polly, Sukey—glad to see mass’r?” he said, as he went shaking hands from one to another. “Look out for the babies!” he added, as he stumbled over a sooty little urchin, who was crawling upon all fours. “If I step upon anybody, let ’em mention it.”

There was an abundance of laughing and blessing mass’r, as St. Clare distributed small pieces of change among them.

“Come, now, take yourselves off like good boys and girls,” he said, and the whole assemblage, dark and light, disappeared through a door into a large verandah, followed by Eva, who carried a large satchel which she had been filling with apples, nuts, candy, ribbons, laces, and toys of every description, during her whole homeward journey.

As St. Clare turned to go back, his eye fell upon Tom, who was standing uneasily, shifting from one foot to the other, while Adolph stood negligently leaning against the banisters, examining Tom through an opera glass, with an air that would have done credit to any dandy living.

“Puh! you puppy,” said his master, striking down the opera glass; “is that the way you treat your company? Seems to me, ’Dolph,” he added, laying his finger on the elegant figured satin vest that Adolph was sporting, “seems to me that’s my vest.”

“Oh! massa, this vest all stained with wine; of course, a gentleman in massa’s[8] standing never wears a vest like this. I understood I was to take it. It does for a poor nigger fellow like me.”

And Adolph tossed his head, and passed his fingers through his scented hair with a grace.

“So, that’s it, is it?” said St. Clare, carelessly. “Well, here, I’m going to show this Tom to his mistress, and then you take him to the kitchen; and mind you don’t put on any of your airs to him. He’s worth two such puppies as you.”

“Massa always will have his joke,” said Adolph, laughing. “I’m delighted to see massa in such spirits.”

“Here, Tom,” said St. Clare, beckoning.

Tom entered the room. He looked wistfully on the velvet carpets, and the before unimagined splendors of mirrors, pictures, statues, and curtains, and, like the Queen of Sheba before Solomon, there was no more spirit in him. He looked afraid even to set his feet down.

“See here, Marie,” said St. Clare to his wife, “I’ve bought you a coachman at last, to order. I tell you, he’s a regular hearse for blackness and sobriety, and will drive you like a funeral, if you want. Open your eyes now, and look at him. Now, don’t say I never think about you when I’m gone.”

Marie opened her eyes, and fixed them on Tom, without rising.

“I know he’ll get drunk,” she said.

“No, he’s warranted a pious and sober article.”

“Well, I hope he may turn out well,” said the lady; “it’s more than I expect, though.”

“’Dolph,” said St. Clare, “show Tom down stairs; and mind yourself,” he added; “remember what I told you.”

Adolph tripped gracefully forward, and Tom, with lumbering tread, went after.

“He’s a perfect behemoth,” said Marie.

“Come, now, Marie,” said St. Clare, seating himself on a stool beside her sofa, “be gracious, and say something pretty to a fellow.”

“You’ve been gone a fortnight beyond the time,” said the lady, pouting.

“Well, you know I wrote you the reason.”

“Such a short, cold letter,” said the lady.

“Dear me! the mail was just going, and it had to be that or nothing.

“That’s just the way always,” said the lady, “always something to make your journeys long; and letters short.”

“See here, now,” he added, drawing an elegant velvet case out of his pocket and opening it, “here’s a present I got for you in New York.”

It was a Daguerreotype, clear and soft as an engraving, representing Eva and her father sitting hand in hand.

Marie looked at it with a dissatisfied air.

“What made you sit in such an awkward position?” she said.

“Well, what the position may be, is[9] a matter of opinion; but what do you think of the likeness?”

“If you don’t think anything of my opinion in one case, I suppose you wouldn’t in another,” said the lady, shutting the Daguerreotype.

“Hang the woman,” said St. Clare, mentally; but aloud he added: “Come, now, Marie, what do you think of the likeness? Don’t be nonsensical, now.”

“It’s very inconsiderate of you, St. Clare,” said the lady, “to insist on my talking and looking at things. You know I’ve been lying all day with the sick headache, and there’s been such a tumult made ever since you came, I’m half dead.”

“You’re subject to the sick headache, ma’am,” said Miss Ophelia, suddenly rising from the depths of the large arm chair where she had sat quietly, taking an inventory of the furniture, and calculating its expense.

“Yes, I’m a perfect martyr to it,” said the lady.

“Juniper berry tea is good for sick head-ache,” said Miss Ophelia; “at least, Auguste, Deacon Abraham Perry’s wife, used to say so; and she was a great nurse.”

“I’ll have the first Juniper berries that get ripe in our garden by the lake brought in for that especial purpose,” said St. Clare, gravely pulling the bell as he did so; “meanwhile, cousin, you must be wanting to retire to your apartment and refresh yourself a little after your journey. Dolph,” he added, “tell Mammy to come here.” The decent mulatto woman whom Eva had caressed so rapturously soon entered; she was dressed neatly, with a high red and yellow turban on her head, the recent gift of Eva, and which the child had been arranging on her head. “Mammy,” said St. Clare, “I put this lady under your care; she is tired, and wants rest; take her to her chamber; and be sure she is made comfortable;” and Miss Ophelia disappeared in the rear of Mammy.

[to be continued.]

 

Notes

This Stowe Center edition reproduces the National Era serial text of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The wording of the newspaper in many cases differs from publisher John P. Jewett’s first edition. At the conclusion of each installment, notes are provided on a small selection of textual variants, those which have the greatest interpretive significance. The model for these notes is editor John Bryant’s concept of fluid-text editing, which foregrounds the interpretation of textual variants as an act of critical reading. Readers who hold alternate interpretations are encouraged to submit comments to the blog. For general comments on the text and the bibliography, see the Note on the Text.

Note 1

life for Augustiue St. Clare. | Era pg. 149
life for Augustine St. Clare. | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 223

In the Era the “n” in Augustine is a “u,” an obvious mis-spelling “Augustiue” that is caused almost certainly because type was distributed improperly to the type case. Though this error is easily missed by readers who will expect the Jewett spelling “Augustine,” it is the first among a substantial number of errors in this serial installment, all of which are corrected in the Jewett edition. This chapter has a higher rate of errors than previous installments, and the higher rate indicates either that he manuscript was prepared more hastily or that the compositors had less time in to set type.

This obvious error is corrected in the Stowe Center text, and the others recorded here are corrected silently: “thing for her ber, because” becomes “thing for her, because”; “that she had had been” becomes “that she had, had been”; “massive folioge” becomes “massive foliage”; “shoved. “Here,” he added” becomes “shoved. Here,” he added” (St. Clare continues speaking); “know,” said Eva;” “he’ll never” becomes “know,” said Eva; “he’ll never” (unnecessary closing quote removed); and “feet down” ¶ “See” becomes “feet down. ¶ “See” (unnecessary closing quote removed). [Back]

Note 2

this is exceedingly convenient. But | Era pg. 149
this is very convenient. But | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 223

In both serial and book before this instance of “exceedingly,” Stowe has used both “exceeding delicacy” to refer to St. Clare’s constitution and “exceedingly real” to refer to the reality to which St. Clare returns after his romance ends, in the latter instance to close the previous paragraph. The most likely reason that Stowe replaced “exceedingly” with “very” in the Jewett edition is to avoid repetition with the use of “exceedingly” in the previous sentence. Stowe in her revision often seeks to avoid the close repetition of identical word forms.

But if the revision is authorial, and it almost certainly is, Stowe may also wish to insist on the seriousness with which she uses “exceedingly” in the case of St. Clare. When she uses the “exceedingly” to mock conventions of romantic fictions, her attitude of disdain could reflect on her usage of “exceedingly” to mark the exquisite tensions in St. Clare’s character. Eva also will be described as “exceedingly delicate” later in this installment. Stowe’s authorial voice in the serial is near the point of mocking her two most sympathetic characters, but by this revision for the Jewett edition Stowe restrains slightly the serial text’s tone of disdain. [Back]

Note 3

in some cool, grassy village, a large farm-house, | Era pg. 149
in some cool village, the large farm-house, | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 226

As in the case of the repetition of “exceedingly” in note 2 above, Stowe in this instance avoids the repetition of “grassy.” In the serial, both the village in general and the farm-house’s yard are “grassy.” In the Jewett edition, the village is no longer described as “grassy.” This is one of a number of wording alterations that are not corrections of error but rather fine-tuning. Whether the Jewett revisions are careful and likely represent the masterful control of the author’s hand, as I contend in this case, or instead represent a proofreader or compositor’s deft or fastidious work is a matter for debate in individual instances.

I record here, but do not mark in the Stowe Center text, other revisions of this type. In general for the following, the serial is less formal, because informed by manuscript practices, whereas the whereas the book is more formal or corrected, because smoothed by editorial attention: “bare, oosy tide-mud” (Era) becomes “bare, oozy tide-mud” (Jewett); “that she had had been” becomes “that she had, had been”; “look after [omit] and attend” becomes “look after her and attend”; “and all her prospects” becomes “and [omit] her prospects”; “sent for to Boston” becomes “sent for from Boston,” (serial emphasis is on destination to which request sent; Jewett emphasis is on location from which bonnet and dress arrive); and “there are yet specimens” becomes “there are [omit] specimens.” [Back]

Note 4

strongly to Abolitionist views, was | Era pg. 149
strongly to abolitionist views, was | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 228

In the serial, the word “Abolitionist” is capitalized, but it is set with a lower-case first letter in the Jewett edition when used, as it is here, as a generic descriptor. Similarly, above, the serial has “Northern States” while the Jewett edition has “Northern States” and, below, the serial has “Colonizationist” while the Jewett edition has “colonizationist.” In the matter of sectional identity, the serial and book differ consistently on capitalization. The lower-case serial forms, which are capitalized consistently in the Jewett edition, soften the serial version’s stronger assertions of sectional identity somewhat and echo Stowe’s rhetorical efforts at sectional conciliation.

If these two instances are considered as a parallel to regional distinctions, the letter case distinction in terms colonizationist and Colonizationist is applied consistently on the north/North and south/South pattern (Era/Jewett). However, upper case Abolitionist and lower-case abolitionist are not consistent as the application of case distinction may depend on the speaker and context. The southerner Mr. Shelby in both serial and Jewett edition calls his wife a lower-case abolitionist. Senator Burr in serial (Bird in Jewett edition) refers to “reckless Abolitionists” with the upper-case form. St. Clare, both times in a mocking tone, refers to a northern “Abolition society” and to “Abolition Society” with capitalization for “Abolition” consistent. Stowe in George Harris’s voice refers to the “struggle between abolitionist and colonizationist” in a closing chapter. In this final instance the textual relationship is reversed from earlier: the Jewett edition form (which was printed before serial issued) probably informs the Era use of lower-case form.

In the serial, then, the capitalization of these forms “Abolitionist” and “Colonizationist” is generally consistent with sectional identity that recalls the then moribund Free Soil Party (which Era editor Gamaliel Bailey had championed) and that looks forward to antislavery sentiment from which the Republican Party would rise in the ensuing decade. The Jewett edition’s lower-case forms, by contrast, echo Stowe’s rhetorical efforts at sectional conciliation. Because of altered publication contexts, serial or book form, shifting rhetorical contexts, a character’s relative degree of seriousness or mockery, and textual contexts, the matter of whether book descends from serial or newspaper installment descends from the Jewett edition, editorial emendation would incur a greater loss of subtlety than the application of consistency could achieve for the benefit of readers. The Stowe Center text is not altered in any of these instances. [Back]

Note 5

a very lazy way, aunty,” | Era pg. 149
a very easy way, aunty,” | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 232

The Era form “lazy” should probably be construed as an error. The Jewett edition form “easy” is more appropriate as Eva’s characterization of St. Augustine’s manner of replacing lost things. The form “lazy” as a characterization would better fit Miss Ophelia, whom Eva addresses. The height of Stowe’s cursive “l” in the manuscript may have contributed to this error, for example, if it was not sufficiently distinct from a lower-case “e.” Therefore, the Jewett edition is almost certainly a corrected form.

The Jewett edition also includes three other forms that appear to be authorial emendations that either restore manuscript readings or represent revisions that either improve the exactness of wording or raise its formality in this installment. When closing the suitcase, Ophelia’s claim that what has “been done once can be” (Era} becomes “been done [omit] can be” (Jewett); the fishes that are “tumbling and darting” (Era) are “twinkling and darting” (Jewett), and Ophelia’s “sort o’ old and heathenish” becomes “rather old and heathenish.” This Stowe Center text reproduces the serial text forms. [Back]

Note 6

as her nephew took all | Era pg. 149
as her cousin took all | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 234

Before this reference to St. Clare as Ophelia’s “nephew,” five times in this installment the narrator or St. Clare has referred to Miss Ophelia as his “cousin.” The term “nephew” in the Era serial is an obvious error. But the error probably originates in Stowe’s manuscript. Above, during the discussion between Eva and Miss Ophelia, Eva refers to Ophelia as “aunty” six times. The narrator adopts Eva’s term “aunty” and uses it three times to label Miss Ophelia. Therefore, the serial term “nephew” is probably an unconscious authorial slip, in which Miss Ophelia as Eva’s “aunty” in Stowe’s narrator’s frame of reference has insinuated itself unconsciously into the author’s mind. Ophelia is older than St. Clare, which may also have contributed to this authorial slip in manuscript. [Back]

Note 7

lemon-scented verbenum, and ever and anon a mystic old aloe, with its strange, massive leaves, [omit] looking like | Era pg. 149
lemon-scented verbenum, all united their bloom and fragrance, while here and there a mystic old aloe, with its strange, massive leaves, sat looking like | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 235

In the Era serial, Stowe’s description of the contents of the St. Clare court yard tends toward an emphasis on vague impressions. In the Jewett edition, the quality of sense impressions is more focused. For example, the serial describes numerous flowers and plants, each of which has a fragrance. In the Jewett edition, a single impression is created: “all united their bloom and fragrance.” Likewise, in the serial, the location of the “old aloe” is a nonspecific “ever and anon.” By contrast in the Jewett edition, the aloes though placed with only a more vaguely specific “here and there” are more emphatically placed in their location: they “sat.” This revision of the Jewett edition may be connected also to a previous alteration, wherein the square building rather than “ encircling a court yard” is said to be “enclosing a court-yard.” In the serial, Stowe emphasizes the “dream” quality of the household, its association with “oriental romance.” The St. Clare household appears to blend into a nonspecific landscape. When revised for the Jewett edition, though that dream quality remains, place and boundary have greater solidity. The St. Clare household in the Jewett edition offers a retreat from the most horrid of slavery’s abuses just beyond its walls.

But if the emphasis is temporal rather than spatial, Nancy Strow Sheley’s study of flowers in Stowe’s work provides another perspective. The aloe, she explains, is symbolic for Tom and slavery. The aloe, which originated in the deserts of Africa, has “shallow roots” and a “bitter taste” and in the 19th-century symbolic language of flowers “stands also for grief” (88). By the aloe’s contrast to the “perishable” plants, Stowe in the revision for the Jewett edition (the aloe “sat”) may be hinting at the character Tom’s permanent future in slavery rather than the serial’s emphasis on his race’s long history in the condition (“ever and anon”). [Back]

Note 8

gentleman in massa’s standing never | Era pg. 149
gentleman in Master’s standing never | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 239

In the Era Adolph’s obsequiousness toward St. Clare includes addressing him by the dialect term “massa.” In the Jewett edition, Adolph uses the formally correct word “Master.” The serial form “massa” emphasizes Adolph’s self-abasement before St. Clare despite his self-assurance and disdain toward his fellow slaves (designated “servants” in Stowe’s work). The serial form indiciates the corruption that slavery has wrought into the mind of Adolph despite his efforts to impersonate a respectable gentleman. In the Jewett edition Adolph always uses formal language, even when addressing St. Clare. The revision of “Massa” to “Master” occurs again below. The serial has “Massa always will,…” but the Jewett edition has “ Master always will.…” Both of these revisions are presumably authorial. [Back]

Note 9

said. ¶ “Well, what the position may be, is a matter | Era pg. 149
said. ¶ “Well, the position may be a matter | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 241

In both serial and Jewett edition, Augustine St. Clare addresses his wife with barely concealed disdain. In the serial version, his disdain is apparent in this somewhat awkward phrase, which is punctuated to emphasize oral cadence. Syntactically, however, the subject is separated from the verb by a comma. In the Jewett edition, the phrase is repaired to a syntactically proper form that retains essentially the same meaning. The oral cadence of the serial version puts greater emphasis on St. Clare’s derision toward his wife than the repaired Jewett edition, regardless of whether Stowe herself revised of her own volition or was prompted by someone else to reconsider. [Back]

Copyright 2011. For introduction and annotation, all rights reserved. The text is distributed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License Uncle Tom’s Cabin: National Era by Harriet Beecher Stowe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Copyright Commons License.

Chapter and Commentary Table of Contents


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: