Miss KIMBALL was by no means sorry when the carriage at last came to a standstill in front of a forlorn little cabin, planted, with seeming carelessness, in a hollow near the road. A lean, gaunt hog was rooting in the mud near the rough stone which answered for a doorstep, and the tip end of the tail of a little pig peeped out of the door.
“What rough roads you do have in Washington ! ” she exclaimed.
“ Pardon me, my dear, we quite pride ourselves on our Washington thoroughfares. We are not in the District of Columbia now; we crossed the boundary half an hour ago, and this is Maryland soil,” replied her companion.
As the carriage stopped, two little darkies came out of the cabin. The larger of the two shouted, —
“ Howdy, Miss Kitty, howdy ! ”
And his small brother cried, —
“ Mammy ’Ouisa, yur’s Miss Kitty! ” A yellow cur rushed out of the house, barking loudly; a couple of hens scuttled out behind him, followed by a goose, all uttering squeaks and squawks of fright; the porcine fraternity ambled a few feet away, grunting displeasure. A voice, accompanied by the vigorous flapping of an apron, was heard, saying, —
“ Shoo ! Shoo ! Git outen dis yur house! You Tigah, hesh yo’ yelpin’! ” Following the voice came the projector of it, a stout colored woman, arrayed in a gay purple calico gown and a voluminous blue-and-white-check gingham apron; a bright plaid kerchief was arranged turban-wise on her head; on her feet were a pair of men’s shoes.
“ Howdy, Miss Kitty, howdy! ” cried she, wiping her hands on her apron. “ Light a bit, honey, an’ res’ yo’se’f.”
“ How are you, Louisa ? ” said the older of the two ladies in the carriage, as she jumped to the ground, and then shook hands cordially with the woman.
The smaller of the boys had hastened to open the carriage door for Miss Tolliver, and stood there, grinning expansively, while she and her friend alighted.
“ I’s pooty tollable, Miss Kitty. How’s yo’se’f ? I need n’t ter ax yo’, dough, fur you is sutt’nly lookin’ fine.”
“Thank you, Louisa,” answered Miss Kitty. “ This is my friend, Miss Kimball, Louisa, whom I have brought out to see you.”
Louisa dropped a curtsy. She “ knew her place ” too well to shake hands with a strange lady.
“ Howdy, miss, howdy! Tom,” said she, addressing one of the boys, “ run inter de house an’ fotch out two cheers fur de ladies. I won’t arsk yo’ ter walk in, ladies, ’cause I ben a i’ahnin’, an’ de room sutt’nly is mighty hot. Miss Kitty, honey, how’s yo’ ma ? I ain’t seen her fur de longes’ time. She don’t come ter mawkit no moah.”
“ No, she has n’t been for some time. She has n’t been right well lately, so pa does the marketing.”
“ I tole Tom Jackson — dat’s my cousin Susan Jackson’s biggus boy —tuh be shaw an’ stop by yaw house w’en he went ter Gawgetown, las’ week, but he say he done furgit it ontell he got mos’ home agin.”
“ How is your cousin, Louisa ? Is n’t that the one who broke her arm last spring ? ”
“Yes, Miss Kitty, it am. How yo’ does ’member t’ings ! Oh, Susan, she’s right peart now. I spec — I dunno fuh shaw — dat she ’s gwine git mah’ied ’fore Chrismus,” answered Louisa, with an unctuous laugh.
“ Get married ! ” repeated Miss Tolliver. “ I thought she was married longago.”
“Oh, no,” answered Louisa cheerfully, “ she never got mah’ied yit. She say as how she done bawn an’ brought up ten head o’ chillun, an got ’em all good homes, an’ now she ready ter settle down an’ git mah’ied.”
“ I think it is time,” remarked Miss Kitty dryly. “ Louisa, are there any persimmons ripe out here yet ? ”
“Well, no, honey, dey ain’t none, not to say reel ripe. Yo’ see we ain’t had no fros’ yit, an’ ’simmons is n’t fit tuh eat ontell der fros’ teches ’em.”
“ Just as soon as there are any nice ones, I want you to be sure and send me some; for my friend Miss Kimball has never eaten any, and I want her to taste some nice ones.”
“Nevvah ett no ’simmons!” cried Louisa in surprise. “ Whar wuz yo’ raised, miss ? ”
“ In Boston,” answered Miss Kimball, smiling, “ and persimmons do not grow there.”
“ O—h ! So yo’s way frum Baws’n ! Dat’s whar Mass’ Linkum wuz bawn. ’Spec’ yo’ folks mus’ ’a knowed him.”
“ I don’t believe they did,” Miss Tolliver said quickly, fearing that her friend, unused to colored people’s ways, might feel called upon to enlighten Louisa’s ignorance.
“Well, honey, I’ll make dat ah’ wufless boy o’ mine tote yuh a heap o’ reel nice ’simmons jes’ ez soon ez dey’s ripe.”
“ How is Dan now ? ”
“ He’s tollable, t’anky. But Sophy, — she’s his wife, yuh know, — she’s mighty pawly; she hez de misery in her haid mos’ uv de time.”
“ And Rosa; do you hear from her ? ”
“Yes, Miss Kitty, I does yur frum her,” replied Louisa, with an ominous sigh.
“ What is the matter ? Is she sick again ? ”
“ No, Miss Kitty, she ain’t, not to say sick, " and Louisa sighed yet deeper.
“ What is the matter with her ? ”
Now Miss Kimball, the very pink of propriety herself, was surprised and much mortified at the persistent questions of Kitty Tolliver, who prided herself on belonging to one of the first families of Virginia. But Kitty knew Louisa and her notions ; the Boston girl did not. Had Miss Kitty not been inquisitive about Rosa, the woman would have been much hurt at her want of interest.
“ I jes’ hed a lettah frum her,” was Louisa’s cautious answer.
“ Have you ? Will you let me read it ? And may I read it aloud ? ”
Broad smiles took the place of sighs. Louisa fumbled in her pocket, and then, handing the letter to Miss Kitty, said, —
“ In co’se yo’ may, honey. I never hev no seecruts frum yo’ folks.”
“ Rosa,” said Miss Kitty to her friend, “is Louisa’s youngest daughter. Mamma and I think a great deal of her, for she lived with us while she was going to school in Washington. She has been North for about three years, in Worcester most of the time.”
The letter 1 ran : —
Monday morning 5th A. M.
MY BELOVED MAMA,舒 Your animating epistle was received with much love and I were exceeding glade to hear from you but sincery sorry to hear of your not feeling well but with Gods care I am in hopes you will soon be better Dear Ma I was taken suden last night at quarter of nine and were for two hours very ill I am feelig quite differn now but not by no means well Hear it is almost another year gone and we are as yet spairied on praying ground to see it Oh how Mercerful and great God is I am thankful to say I am no ways tired or weary on my journey trust my Great redeemer shell never be Mama pray for me pray I may be stronger and more humbel in thy works my regards to all inquiring friends My best respects to Miss Kitty also to Mrs Tolliver I shell inclose the small sum of five dollars now and as soon as I can will send you alittle by degrees Ada sends her love to you she is in Boston Ada will be married the first Thursdy night of nex month myself was to be married the 20 of nex month but Oh. Mama how I do hold on to my single life I do hate to give it up I shell not say fer sure that I will just yet for there are more fellows than one wants me fer a whife but there is only one I love and he is single agin so if I want him thare is a chance for me Yes Dear Mar I heard Jeff wliife were dead his mother wrote to me and told me is Jeff in Washington Tell Miss Kitty I am coming home soon to work in your place and give you a rest I must close and say good by write soon and let me know if you got this letter no more.
From your loving Daughter ROSA.
“ Aha, I see why Rosa wants to come home and give you a rest! ” laughed Miss Kitty. “ Is Jeff’s wife really dead?”
“Yes, honey, she daid, she sutt’nly is, fur I seen her arftuh she wuz laid out; but I wuz n’t at her reeques’. I did n’t know nuffin’ ’t all about it ontell ’t wuz all ovah,” answered Louisa regretfully.
“ Her what ? ‘ Reequest ’ ? ”
“ Yes, chile, doan’ yo’ know ? She died sudd’nt, drapt righ’ down whar she were a standin’ iahnin’; an’ Jeff, he hed ter call a curr’nuh ter hev a reeques’ ter tell ef he might bu’y her.”
“ Oh, yes, an inquest.”
“ Yes, honey. An’ dat same puffawmunce were all uv a piece wid de res’ uv dat Sally Gardiner’s foolish doin’s ; she could n’ even die respeckuble in her baid, like decen’ folks. Dat Sally sutt’nly were de awnries’ coon anywhar ’bout yur ; shif’lis’, an’ lazy, an’ imperent,
I never seen airy yuther gal like her! Ef Jeff Leonard had n’t a ben cunjured, he never’d a tuk up wid her.”
“ Do you really believe that he was conjured ? ”
“ I knows it, Miss Kitty, I knows it.
I doan’ b’lieve nuff’n ’bout it; I seen it wid my own eyes. It was summer time den, an’ it wuz light w’en we went in ter mawkit, an’ ez we turned into Fif’ Street, whar Jeff’s folks wuz a livin’, I seen dat mizzable Sally a sprinklin’ white stuff on de do’steps, ’cause she knowed ’at Jeff wuz tub wu’k in de mawkit den, an’ he ’d be de fus’ pussun ter step inter it. An’ he wuz. An’ in less ’n a monf he wuz mah’ied ter dat mizzable trash.”
“ Was he waiting on Rosa then ? ”
“Well, he were, an’ he weren’t. Yuh see ’t were dis a way. Jeff were de onlies’ boy ’at he fahdur hed, and Sam, he fahdur, wanted him ter take up wid Sally, fur he know’d she hed money in de bank. Lawd knows whar she got it, — I don’t! I s’picion she did n’t come by it hones’, but dat wuz no ’count tuh ole Sam; he did n’t keer how she got it. An’ uv co’se Rosy an’ me hed n’t no money banked; nobody could’n’ say airy word agin’ her cha’acter, nur mine nuther. So w’en Rosy ’ud go ter de house ter see Lucy (Sam’s sistah, ’et wuz mah’ied ter my sistah’s boy ’at wuz killed on de rai’road), Sam, he’d be reel owdacious an’ imperen’, an’ keep a tellin’ her lies ’bout Jeff, — dat he ’d got run in one night fur bein’ drunk an’ makin’ a ’sturbance in de city, an’ how he’d ben a takin’ Sally tuh a cake walk, ur a ball, ur sumfin’. An’ den de ole debbel, he’d tell Jeff ez how Rosy had come ter see Lucy a bringin’ a spruce young yeller boy along wid her. Jeff, he were n’t yeller ! He’s black ez dey make ’um ; he sutt’nly is dat same. Now de mawnin’ ’at I seen Sally a cunjurin’ Jeff, I wuz so plegg’d in my min’ ’at I come mighty neah gittin’ outen de waggin. I wuz a ridin’ in along uv a man ’at lives below yur, ’cross de Branch, an’ cab’ies cabbidges an’ taters ter de huckstahs. I felt ez ef I ’d oughter go home an’ warn Rosy ’at Sally wuz makin’ trubble, but I hed a heap o’ t’ings to sell dat day, so I kep’ on. W’en I got back home agin de house were all empty. ' Rosy ! O—h, Rosy ! ’ I calls.
' Where you at ? Come yur, an’ come a runnin’ ; I got sumfin’ ter tell yer.’ She was ovah ter my sistah’s, an’ she yur’d me, an’ she come a runnin’.
' W’at yer want wid me, mammy ? ’ she arsked; an’ den I up an’ tole her w’at I seen Sally a doin’. But she jes’ laff an’ toss her haid, an’ say she doan’ keer, she did n’t fear her cunjurin’, kuz she done sont word to Jeff dat very mawnin’ ’at she was ready ter mah’y him any time he ready fur go wid her ter de minister. But Jeff, he never sont her no word back, an’ bimeby she seemed ter git oneasy, an’ at las’ she went over ter see how Lucy wuz a gittin’ on. ' Yuh, yuh, yuh ! ’ ole Sam hollered, makin’ like he wuz laffin’.
' Yuh, yuh, yuh! So black niggah like Jeff ain’t good nuff fur fine lady Rosy. Yuh, yuh, yuh! ’ Rosy, she wuz powerful mad, an’ she sez, ' Quit dat noise, yo’ ole fool, an’ tell me w’at yo’ mean. Who ’s ben a lyin’ ’bout me ? I never said no sech word. Whar’s Jeff ? ’ Lucy wuz all’ys peaceful like, so she sez, reel soft, ' Jeff wuz orful mad w’en you sont him dat letter ! ’ ' W’at letter ? ’ asked Rosy. ‘ Dat letter he got yistiddy mawnin’, sayin’ you gwine mah’y Cyrus Johnsing.’ Now Rosy had n’t sont no letter ter Jeff, but she wuz ez ’cute ez a ’possum, so she kep’ a arskin’ dis an’ dat ontell she yur’d all ’bout it. Sally seen de boy Rosy hed sont ter Jeff, an’ she know’d him, cause she’d seen him in dis yur house ; an’ ’spicionin’ w’at he were after, she got de ve’y words outen his mizzable mouf, an’ den she giv’ him fi’ cents an’ tole him she were Jeff’s sista, an’ he need n’t er wait, — she’d tell Jeff. Co’se she wuz lyin’. Den she made up a letter an’ wrote Rosy’s name tuh it, an’ sont it tuh him fru’ de pos offis’. Rosy, she wuz turr’ble mad ter think Jeff ’ud b’lieve sech a pack o’ lies, an’ w’ile she wuz a tryin’ ter termin’ how to git even wid him she yur’d he were mah’ied ter dat lowlived Sally. Fust time she seen him after he were mah’ied, I tell you she giv’ him a tongue-lashin’! ”
“ So now that Jeff is a widower Rosy thinks there is a chance for her. But who is the other man, the one she intended to marry on the 20th of next month ? ” asked Miss Kitty. “ Somebody in Boston ? ”
“ Yes, honey, a Mistah Fahmah, a ve’y nice gemmun ; she say ez how he’s not so black ez Jeff,—not one o’ yur w’ite niggahs, dough. I got no use fur them. An’ he’s powerful good-lookin’. He lives on And’son Street. Reckon mebbe you knows w’ere that is,” said Louisa, appealing to Miss Kimball.
“Yes, it is at the West End. And my washerwoman happens to be a Mrs. Farmer living on Anderson Street. She is an Irish girl, rather a pretty girl, while her husband is a colored man.”
“ Y—ah ! ” was Louisa’s long-drawn expression of contempt. “ Mizzable huzzy, why doan’ sumbuddy hawsw’ip her? What kind uv a w’ite woman is she to mah’y a niggah? Some awn’ry paw w’ite, I reckon.”
“ Is this Mr. Farmer a steady fellow ? Would he make Rosa a good husband ? ” asked Miss Kitty.
Louisa smoothed down her capacious apron, and said in a “ though I say it as should n’t ” tone, “ He’s quite a gemmun, Miss Kitty. He kin write beautiful letters, an’ sech words! I wisht I know’d jes’ whar I put de letter he sont me a arskin’ ef he might pay ’tentions to Rosy. But I wuz jes’ 'bleeged, ter show it ter so many’t I’m feared it’s got los’. Jeff ! Shucks ! ” and Louisa’s tone of contempt spoke volumes. “Jeff ain’t noways fit ter black his boots. An’ dat’s w’at Jeff’s a doin’ now, bootblackin’— boot - blackin’, Miss Kitty! He ain’t even got a bresh ur a box uv he own, but he’s hi’ad ter black boots at the Yebbutt House ; tink o’ dat, now! ” “ It is honest work, at least. You know, Louisa, I always liked Jeff.”
“ Yes, honey, I ’members you did. Oh, Jeff, he’s well ’nuff, well ’nuff in he place, well ’nuff ter be Sally Gardiner’s husban’ ; but he ain’t like Mistah Fahmah. W’y, ’t wuz on’y a week ur so ago ’at he giv Rosy a reel gold bracelet ; he’s bought her a silk dress, an’ a fan wid pink fedders onto it, an’ lots o’ presents. He do say. too, ’at he gwine give her a watch w’en she’s mah’ied to him.”
“ Where does he get the money ? ”
“ He lives wid a ole gemmun ’at t’inks heaps uv him ; he say ’at Mistah Fahmah d’ onlius’ man he ever had ’at he could trus’ outen his sight. He trabbles a good deal, an’ he keeps his eyes an’ his yurs open, an’ he learns a heap. De gemmun has ter go ter Wor-ces-ter every week on business, an’ dat’s de way Rosy see her beau so frequint. Now, Miss Kitty, you know w’at I gwine do ? I gwine tell Jeff ’at Rosy wuz mah’ied las’ week.”
“Oh. Louisa, don’t do that! Besides, what good would it do ? His mother would write to her to find out if it was true.”
“ Hed n’t tought o’ dat,” said Louisa shamefacedly. “ Well. Miss Kitty, what kin I do ter make Rosy mah’y Mistah Fahmah, an’ not come home yur ter frow herse’f away on Jeff ? I want my Rosy ter have a good home an’ a husban’ she need n’ ter be shamed uv, a man like Isaiah Fahmah, now ” —
“ What! ” said Miss Kimball with sudden animation. “ Isaiah Farmer, who is body servant for Mr. Henry Tucker, a lame man ? ”
“ Yes, miss ; you knows him ? ”
“ Does this Mr. Tucker live on Beacon Street, in Boston ? ”
“ Yes, miss, Beakin Street is de ve’y street; you sutt’nly knows him.”
“ And is your daughter’s name Rosetta Claggett ? ”
“ Sence she went Norf she’s kind o’ ben puttin’ on style, I spec, an’ calls herse’f Rosetta, ’cause it’s more high soundin’; but her name fur troof is jes’ Rosy, — jes’ Rosy Cleggett.”
“ Then I do know that Isaiah Farmer, and it is he who is married to my young Irish washerwoman! ” exclaimed Miss Kimball firmly. “ His wife has heard of this young colored girl in Worcester to whom he is so attentive, and she told me only a few days ago that if that Rosetta Claggett did n’t let her husband alone she’d go and find her, and there would be trouble. Isaiah is very bright, so Mr. Tucker keeps him ; but he never trusts him with a cent of money, for he has twice been arrested for theft. He is a plausible scamp, so I do not wonder your daughter was taken in by him. I think, however, that Jeff’s wife has died just in the nick of time.”
During this revelation Louisa’s countenance had been a study. Pride and delight had at first overspread it; gradually these had faded, and surprise, dismay, disappointment, and then fear had successively dominated.
“ Oh, my hebbenly Fahdur! ” she groaned. “ W’at mizzable scoun’rils dey is in de worl’ ! Oh, Miss Kitty, honey, carn’t you tellygraft ter Rosy ter git right awn de k’yahs an’ come home ? Tell her — oh, tell her any word ’at ’ll fotch her yur quick, ’fore dat low-lived, paw w’ite I’ish wife o’ dat Fahmah man kin git at her. Tell her ’at Jeff wuz yur on’y yistiddy a arskin’ how she muz ; an’ dat’s de troof, Miss Kitty, — ’fore de Lawd it is ! ”
“ I will write to her and ask her to come and live with us this winter. Mamma is right poorly, and she will be glad to have Rosa to wait on her. Then Rosa can make up her mind how much she cares for Jeff.”
“ You’s a angil. Miss Kitty, you sutt’nly is. Reckon Rosy ’ll be yur soon ! ”
“ If there is a wedding, Louisa, Miss Kimball and I will be sure to come to it,” were Miss Kitty’s last words as the carriage drove away.
Frances E. Wadleigh.
- This is a literal copy of a letter written by a colored girl.↩