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climb to the height the Abolitionist would stimulate him to attain.

        So well was it understood that a mother ran dangerous risks if she put her child into the care of the colored woman who complained that she "was tired of that sort of work," that neglect of such dislike of a nurse's duties was considered foolhardy. I heard a good old lady, who owned so many servants that she hired a dozen or so to her neighbors, lament that Mrs. Blank "did not mind what I told her about Frances' determination not to take care of children. I hired the girl to her as a chambermaid, and gave her fair warning that she just would not be a nurse. A baby was born when Frances had been there four months, and she was set to nurse it. You must have heard the dreadful story? Perhaps you saw it in the papers. When the child was six months old the wretched creature pounded glass and put it in the baby's milk. The child died, and the girl was hanged."

        Ugly stories, these, but so true in every particular that I cannot leave them out of my chronicle of real life and the workings of what we never thought, then, of calling "the peculiar institution."

        One of my most distinct recollections of the discussions of Slavery held in my hearing is that my saintly Aunt Betsy said, sadly and thoughtfully:

        "One thing is certain - we will have to pay for the great sin of having them here. How, or when, God alone knows."

        "We did not bring them to Virginia!" was my mother's answer. "And I, for one, wish they were all back in Africa. But what can we do, now that they are on our hands?"

        Before turning to other and pleasanter themes, let me say that my father, after consultation with the wife who had brought to him eight or ten "family servants" as part of her father's estate, resolved to free them and send them


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to Liberia at his own expense. This was in my early childhood, yet I recollect how the scheme failed through the obstinate refusal of the slaves to leave master, home, and country for freedom in a strange land. They clung to my mother's knees, and prayed her, with wild weeping, not to let them go. They had blood relatives and dear friends here; their children had intermarried with men and women in different parts of the county; their grandfathers and great- grandfathers had left them no legacy of memories that would draw them toward the far-off country which was but the echo of an empty name to their descendants. They were comfortable and happy here. Why send them, for no fault of theirs, into exile?

        "There is something in what they say!" my father had said to my mother, in reviewing the scene. "I cannot see that anything is left for us to do except to keep on as we are, and wait for further indications of the Divine will."

        This was in the thirties, not many years after an act of gradual emancipation was lost in the Legislature by the pitiful majority I named in an earlier paragraph. A score of years had passed since that momentous debate in our capitol, and our Urim and Thummin had not signified that we could do anything better than to "keep on as we were."

        It would be idle to say that we were not, from time to time, aware that a volcano slumbered fitfully beneath us. There were dark sides to the Slavery Question, for master, as for slave.


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XIX

WEDDING AND BRIDESMAID - THE ROUTINE OF A LARGE
FAMILY - MY FIRST BEREAVEMENT

        IN the summer of 1851, my grandmother had bought and given to her only child the house which was to be our home as long as we remained a resident family in Richmond. Of this house I shall have a story to tell in the next chapter. It stands upon Leigh Street (named for the distinguished lawyer of whom we have heard in these pages as taking a part in the Clay campaign), and the locality was then quietly, but eminently, aristocratic. There were few new houses, and the old had a rural, rather than an urban, air. Each had its garden, stocked with shrubbery and flowers. Some had encompassing lawns and outlying copses of virgin native growth.

        The new home held a large family. The stately old dame who had settled us for life, occupied a sunny front chamber, and in addition to our household proper, we had had with us, for two years, my mother's widowed brother-in-law, "Uncle" Carus, and the stepdaughter for whose sake we had consented to receive him. My aunt had died soon after her youngest child (Anne) was taken to a Better Country; Cousin Paulina went a year later, and as the mother's parting request to the eldest of her flock was that she would "take care of her father," separation was not to be thought of. None of us loved the lonely old man. One and all, we loved her who was a younger sister to our mother, and a second mother to her children.

        So we sat down to our meals every day, a full dozen, all


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told, and as we were seldom without a visitor, we must have been "thirteen at table", times without number. If we had ever heard the absurd superstition that would have forbidden it, we never gave it a thought. I should not have liked to meet my father's frown and hear his comment, had the matter been broached in his hearing.

        The modern (nominal) mistress would be horrified at the thought of twelve eaters, drinkers, and sleepers under the roof of a private house. We descried nothing out of the way in it, and fared exceeding comfortably from year's end to year's end. Large families were still respectable in the public eye, and an increase in the number of domestics kept the addition to the white family from bearing hard upon the housemother.

        How gayly and smoothly the little craft of my life moved on up to the middle of '53, let a few passages from a letter dated July 23d of that year, testify:

        "I came back from the mountains on the 2d of this month. I had a charming visit at Piedmont. I believe I left warm friends behind me when I reluctantly said 'Goodbye' to the hospitable abode. I was the only young lady on the plantation, and there were four grown brothers and a cousin or two. Each had his pet riding-horse, which he 'must have me try.' I had rides, morning and evening, and once at high noon. In June! Think of it! I won't tell you which Rosinante I preferred. You might have a notion that his master shared his honors, and these shrewd guesses are inconvenient sometimes. The very considerate gallants found out, 'by the merest chance,' that it made me sick to ride in a closed carriage, and, of course, as there were two buggies on the place, there was 'tall' bidding as to which I should distinguish by accepting a seat in it. Sarah C., her mother, and sister were kindness itself to me. I was quite ashamed of my unworthiness of such petting. . . .

        "I got home just in time to help Mea with the preparations for her Northern trip, and to get ready for Sarah Ragland's


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wedding - an event that had its influence in shaping my summer plans.

        "We enjoyed the 'occasion' heartily. How could I do otherwise when my attendant groomsman was ordered for the affair from Charlottesville? - the very youth who smote my already beriddled heart when I was up in that region. He is a cousin of the Raglands - Charley Massie by name - and the arrangement was Mary's (bless her heart!) Mr. Budwell, the bridegroom, was indisputably the handsomest man in the room. This was as it should be; but I never attended another wedding where this could be said with truth. My knight was the next best-looking, and for once I was content with a second-best article."

        I allude in this letter to "Cousin Mollie's" illness, but with no expression of anxiety as to the result. She had been delicate ever since I could recollect anything. She went to Saratoga every summer, and now and then to Florida in the winter. The only intimation I ever had from her as to the cause of her continued singlehood was in answer to the girlish outburst: "Cousin Mary, you must have been beautiful when you were young! You will always be charming. I can't comprehend why you have never married!"

        Her speech was ever even and sweet. I detected a ring of impatience or of pain in it, as she said: "Why should I marry, Namesake? To get a nurse for life?"

        I had suspected all along that she had a history known to none of us. After that I knew it, and asked no more questions.

        Patient, brave, unselfishly heroic -

                        "The sweetest soul
                        That ever looked with human eyes,"

- she lingered day after day, now weaker, now rallying, until she spoke her own conviction to me one day in late


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July, as I sat by, fanning her, and no one else was present.

        I smiled as she opened her large dark eyes, the only beauty left in the wasted face, and saw me.

        "You are better, dear! We shall have you up and out driving before long."

        "No, dear child!" - infinite weariness in tone and look. "The old clock has run clean down!"

        I did not believe it, and I said it stoutly aloud, and to myself.

        She seemed no more languid - only drowsy - the next afternoon, as I fluttered into the room and leaned over her in a glow of excitement:

        "Cousin Mollie, darling! I have come in to say that Junius Fishburn is down-stairs. He is in town for a day on his way to Newport."

        The great eyes opened wide, a smile lighted them into liveliness.

        "Oh, I am so glad!" she gasped.

        She was "glad" of everything that gave me pleasure. I had never doubted that. I had never gone to her with a pain or a pleasure without getting my greedy fill of sympathy.

        When I had said a hearty "bon voyage!" to my caller, I went back to tell her of the interview. She was dying. We watched by her from evening to morning twilight.

        Ned Rhodes, who was in Boston when he got my letter, telling briefly what had come to us, sent me lines I read then for the first time. Had the writer shared that vigil with us, he could not have described it more vividly:

                        "We watched her breathing thro' the night,
                        Her breathing soft and low,
                        As in her breast the wave of life
                        Kept heaving to and fro.


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                        Our very hopes belied our fears,
                        Our fears our hopes belied:
                        We thought her dying while she slept,
                        And sleeping when she died."

        At midnight there was a rally for a few minutes. I was wetting the dry lips, leaning over the pillow, so that she looked into my eyes in unclosing hers. A smile of heavenly sweetness played over her face - a ray that irradiated, without moving a feature or line. The poor mouth stirred ever so slightly. I bent closer to it to hear the whisper:

        "I'm almost there!"

        Two months later I wrote to my old friend:

        "Our great sorrow in July was my first affliction. Yet I was wonderfully supported under it, and the terrible desolation that has grown upon us, instead of lessening. I say 'supported,' for not once have I wished her back; but I miss her - oh, so sadly!

                        " 'I cannot make her dead!'

        "Then mother went to the country for a month, and I was left as housekeeper, with the whole care of the family on my hands. Rising betimes to preside at father's early breakfast, pickling, preserving, sewing, overseeing the servants, etcetera.

        "Enough of this! Although the little girls' lessons begin again to-day, and I have my sister's domestic and social duties to perform in addition to my own, I have more leisure than you might think, and you shall have the benefit of a spare half-hour on this bright Monday morning. (Alice practicing, meanwhile, in the same room!)

        "Mea is still in Boston and the vicinity, and will not return for a month or more. Lizzie M. is to be married late in October or early in November, and wishes to have Mea with her. Another of the three Lizzies, and the prettiest - Lizzie N. - married last week a Mr. L. - a nice young man, Mea says. I have never seen him, although they have been engaged for


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some time. He has taken up his abode in Boston, to keep his lovely wife with her invalid mother.

        "And while upon marriage - E. G. is to wed on October 11th, Mr. R. H., one of ten brothers. She is 'doing very well,' say the gossips.

        "Sarah and Mr. Budwell are at home again, he handsomer than ever, while she looks prettier and happier than she ever was before.

        "While retailing news, let me chronicle the arrival of Master Robert Wallace Courtney, an interesting youth, who - as father dryly remarked, when I said that he 'came from a foreign shore' - 'speaks the language of the Cry-mea.'

        "Heigho! so goes this mad world of ours: death; marriage; birth. Ranks are mowed down, and filled up as soon. Few of us appreciate what a fearful thing it is to die, and fewer yet how awful it is to live - writing our histories by our actions in the Book of God's Remembrance, a stroke for every word, movement, and thought! Again I say, if Death be fearful, Life is awful!

        "We are prone to forget, as one and another fall, and the chasm is closed up and Life seems the same - except within the bleeding hearts of mourners - that our day is coming as surely as those others have gone. In effect, we arrogate immortality for ourselves.

        "The longer I live, and the more I see of the things that perish with the using, the more firmly persuaded am I that there is but one reality in life, and that is Religion. Why not make it an every- day business? Since the loving care of the Father is the only thing that may not be taken from us, why do we not look to it for every joy, and cling to it for every comfort? . . .

        "Write soon. Will you not come to me? I am very lonely at times. One sister gone! Another absent!

        "I am wondering if you have changed as much as I feel that I have? It is not natural to suppose that you have. You have not the same impression of added responsibility, the emulation to throw yourself into the breach made by the removal of one so beloved, and, in her quiet way, exercising


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so much influence. If I could but hope that patience and prayerful watchfulness would ever make me 'altogether such an one' as she was!

        "How many and how happy have been the meetings in heaven since I last saw you! Dear little Sallie B! How often in fancy do I see her walk away in the moonlight night of our parting! I never look from the front window in the evening without recalling that hour."


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XX

OUR TRUE FAMILY GHOST-STORY

        ONE evening of the winter following the events recorded in the last chapter, "Ned" Rhodes and I had spent a cosey two hours together. My parents never did chaperon duty, in the modern acceptation of the word. They made a habit, without hinting at it as a duty, of knowing personally every man who called upon us. When, as in the present case, and it was a common one, the visitor was well known to them, and they liked him, both of them came into the drawing-room, sat for a half-hour or longer, as the spirit moved them, then slipped out, separately, to their own sitting-room and books.

        I have drawn Ned Rhodes's picture at length as "Charley" in Alone. I will only say here that he was my firm and leal friend from the time I was twelve years old to the time of his death, in the early eighties.

        He had a piece of new music for me to-night, and we fell to work with piano and flute soon after my father's exit. It was not difficult. The songs and duets that followed were familiar to us both. We chatted by the glowing grate when we left the piano - gayly and lightly, of nothing in particular - the inconsequent gossip of two old and intimate acquaintances that called for no effort from either.

        I mention this to show that I carried a careless spirit and a light heart with me, as I went off in the direction of my bedroom, having extinguished the hanging lamp in the hall, and taking one of the lamps from the parlor to light myself bedward.


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        It was a big, square Colonial house, with much waste of space in the matter of halls and passages. The entrance hall on the first floor was virtually a reception-room, and nearly as large as any apartment on that level. It was cut across the left side by an archway, filled with Venetian blinds and door. Beyond these was a broad, easy stairway, dropping, by a succession of landings, to the lower from the upper story. Directly opposite the front door was a second and narrower arch, the door in which was likewise, of Venetian slats. This led to the rooms at the back of the house. The plan of the second floor was the same. On this eventful night I passed through the smaller archway, closing the door behind me. It had a spring latch that clicked into place as I swung it to. The bed room I shared with my sister, who was not at home that night, was directly across the passage from that occupied by our parents. A line of light under their door proved that they were still up, and I knocked.

        "Come in!" called both, in unison.

        My mother, wrapped in her dressing-gown, lay back in her rocking-chair, her book closed upon her finger. My father had laid aside his coat, and stood on the rug, winding his watch.

        "I was hoping that you would look in," he said. "I wanted to ask what that new piano-and-flute piece is. I like it!"

        We exchanged a few sentences on the subject; I kissed both good-night, and went out into the hall, humming, as I went, the air that had caught his fancy.

        The lamp in my hand had two strong burners. Gas had not then been introduced into private dwellings in Richmond. We used what was sold as "burning fluid," in illuminating our houses - something less gross than camphene or oil, and giving more light than either. I carried the lamp in front of me, so that it threw a bright light upon


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the door across the passage, here a little over six feet wide. As I shut the door of my mother's room, I saw, as distinctly as if by daylight, a small woman in gray start out of the opposite door, glide noiselessly along the wall, and disappear at the Venetian blinds giving upon the big front hall.

        I have reviewed that moment and its incident a thousand times, in the effort to persuade myself that the apparition was an optical illusion or a trick of fancy.

        The thousandth-and-first attempt results as did the first. I shut my eyes to see - always the one figure, the same motion, the same disappearance.

        She was dressed in gray; she was small and lithe; her head was bowed upon her hands, and she slipped away, hugging the wall, as in flight, vanishing at the closed door. The door I had heard latch itself five minutes ago! Which did not open to let her through! ! I recall, as clearly as I see the apparition, what I thought in the few seconds that flew by as I stood to watch her. I was not in the least frightened at first. My young maid, Paulina, a bright mulatto of fifteen, had more than once that winter fallen asleep upon the rug before my fire, when she went into the room to see that all was in readiness for my retiring. The servants slept in buildings detached from the main residence, a custom to which I have referred before.

        "The house" was locked up by my father's own hands at ten o'clock, unless there were some function to keep one or more of the servants up and on duty. Therefore, when I had twice awakened Paulina from her unlawful slumber, I had sent her off to the "offices" - in English parlance - with a sharp reproof and warning against a repetition of the offence. My instant thought now was:

        "The little minx has been at it again!" The next, "She went like a cat!" The third, in a lightning flash, "She did not open the door to go through!" Finally - "Nor did she open the door when she came out of my room!"


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        I had never, up to that instant, known one thrill of supernatural dread since I was old enough to give full credence to my father's assurances that there were no such things as ghosts, and to laugh at the tales told by ignorant negroes to frighten one another, and to awe white children. I had never been afraid of the darkness or of solitude. I would take my doll and book to the graveyard and spend whole happy afternoons there, because it was quiet and shady, and nobody would interrupt study or dream.

        It was, then, the stress of extraordinary emotion which swept me back into the room I had just quitted, and bore me up to the table by which my mother sat, there to set down the lamp I could scarcely hold, enunciating hoarsely.

        "I have seen a ghost!"

        My father wheeled sharply about.

        "What!"

        At that supreme moment, the influence of his scornful dislike to every species of superstition made me "hedge," and falter, in articulating, "If there is such a thing as a ghost, I have seen one!"

        Before I could utter another sound he had caught up the lamp and was gone. Excited, and almost blind and dumb as I was, I experienced a new sinking of heart as I heard him draw back the bolt of the door through which the Thing had passed, without unclosing it. He explored the whole house, my mother and I sitting, silent, and listening to his swift tramp upon floor and stairs. In a few minutes the search was over.

        He was perfectly calm in returning to us.

        "There is nobody in the house who has not a right to be here. And nobody awake except ourselves."

        Setting down the lamp, he put his hand on my head - his own, and almost only, form of caress.

        "Now, daughter, try and tell us what you think you saw?"


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        Grateful for the unlooked-for gentleness, I rallied to tell the story simply and without excitement. When I had finished, he made no immediate reply, and I looked up timidly.

        "I really saw it, father, just as I have said! At least, I believe I did!"

        "I know it, my child. But we will talk no more of it to-night. I will go to your room with you."

        He preceded me with the lamp. When we were in my chamber, he looked under the bed (how did he guess that I should do it as soon as his back was turned, if he had not?). Then he carried the light into the small dressing-room behind the chamber. I heard him open the doors of a wardrobe that stood there, and try the fastenings of a window.

        "There is nothing to harm you here," he said, coming back, and speaking as gently as before. "Now, try not to think of what you believe you saw. Say your prayers and go to bed, like a good, brave girl!"

        He kissed me again, putting his arm around me and, holding me to him tenderly, said "Good-night," and went out.

        I was ashamed of my fright - heartily ashamed! Yet I was afraid to look in the mirror while I undid and combed my hair and put on my night-cap. When, at last, I dared put out the light, I scurried across the floor, plunged into bed, and drew the blankets tightly over my head.

        My father looked sympathizingly at my heavy eyes next morning when I came down to prayers. After breakfast he took me aside and told me to keep what I had seen to myself.

        "Neither your mother nor I will speak of it in the hearing of the children and servants. You may, of course, take your sister into your confidence. She may be trusted. But my opinion is that the fewer who know of a thing that


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seems unaccountable, the better. And your sister is more nervous than you."

        Thus it came about that nothing was said to Mea, and that we three who knew of the visitation did not discuss it and tried honestly not to think of it.

        Until, perhaps a month after my fright, about nine o'clock, one wet night, my mother entered the chamber where my father and I were talking over political news, as we still had a habit of doing, and said, hurriedly, glancing nervously behind her:

        "I have seen Virginia's ghost!"

        She saw it, just as I had described, issuing from the closed door and gliding away close to the wall, then vanishing at the Venetian door.

        "It was all in gray," she reported, "but with something white wrapped about the head. It is very strange!"

        Still we held our peace. My father's will was law, and he counselled discretion.

        "We will await further developments," he said, oracularly.

        Looking back, I think it strange that the example of his cool fearlessness so far wrought upon me that I would not allow the mystery to prey upon my spirits, or to make me afraid to go about the house as I had been wont to do. Once my father broke the reserve we maintained, even to each other, by asking if I would like to exchange my sleeping-room for another.

        "Why should I?" I interrogated, trying to laugh. "We are not sure where she goes after she leaves it. It is something to know that she is no longer there."

        Mea had to be taken into confidence after she burst into the drawing-room at twilight, one evening, and shut the door, setting her back against it and trembling from head to foot. She was as white as a sheet, and when she spoke, it was in a whisper. Something had chased her


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down-stairs, she declared. The hall-lamp was burning, and she could see, by looking over her shoulder, that the halls and stairs were empty but for her terrified self. But Something - Somebody - in high-heeled shoes, that went "Tap! tap! tap!" on the oaken floor and staircase, was behind her from the time she left the upper chamber where she had been dressing, until she reached the parlor door. Her nerves were not as stout as mine, perhaps, but she was no coward, and she was not given to foolish imaginations. When we told her what had been seen, she took a more philosophical view of the situation than I was able to do.

        "Bodiless things can't hurt bodies!" she opined, and readily joined our secret circle.

        Were we, as a family, as I heard a woman say when we were not panic-stricken at the rumored approach of yellow-fever, "a queer lot, taken altogether"? I think so, sometimes.

        The crisis came in February of that same winter.

        My sister Alice and a young cousin who was near her age - fourteen - were sent off to bed a little after nine one evening, that they might get plenty of "beauty sleep." Passing the drawing-room door, which was ajar, they were tempted to enter by the red gleam of the blazing fire of soft coal. Nobody else was there to enjoy it, and they sat them down for a school- girlish talk, prolonged until the far-off cry "All's well!" of the sentinel at the "Barrack" on Capitol Square told the conscience- smitten pair that it was ten o'clock. Going into the hall, they were surprised to find it dark. We found afterward that the servant whose duty it was to fill the lamp had neglected it, and it had burned out. It was a brilliant moonlight night, and the great window on the lower landing of the staircase was unshuttered. The arched door dividing the two halls was open, and from the doorway of the parlor they had a full


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view of the stairs. The moonbeams flooded it half-way up to the upper landing; and from the dark hall they saw a white figure moving slowly down the steps. The mischievous pair instantly jumped to the conclusion that one of "the boys" - my brothers - was on his way, en déshabillé to get a drink of water from the pitcher that always stood on a table in the reception-room, or main hall. To get it he must pass within a few feet of them, and they shrank back into the embrasure of the door behind them, pinching each other in wicked glee to think how they would tease the boy about the prank next morning. Down the stairs it moved, without sound, and slowly, the concealed watchers imagined, listening for any movement that might make retreat expedient. They said, afterward, that his night gown trailed on the stairs, also that he might have had something white cast over his head. These things did not strike them as singular while they watched his progress, so full were they of the fun of the adventure.

        It crossed the moonlit landing - an unbroken sheet of light - and stepped, yet more slowly, from stair to stair of the four that composed the lowermost flight. It was on the floor and almost within the archway when the front door opened suddenly and in walked the boys, who her been out for a stroll.

        In a quarter-second the apparition was gone. As Alice phrased it:

        "It did not go backward or forward. It did not sink into the floor. It just was not!"

        With wild screams the girls threw themselves upon the astonished boys, and sobbed out the story. In the full persuasion that a trick had been played upon the frightened children, the brothers rushed up-stairs and made a search of the premises. The hubbub called every grown member of the household to the spot except our deaf grandmother, who was fast asleep in her bed up-stairs.


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        Assuming the command which was his right, my father ordered all hands to bed so authoritatively that none ventured to gainsay the edict. In the morning he made light to the girls and boys of the whole affair, fairly laughing it out of court, and, breakfast over, sent them off to school and academy. Then he summoned our mother, my sister, and myself to a private conference in "the chamber."

        He began business without preliminaries. Standing on the rug, his back to the fire, his hands behind him, in genuine English-squirely style, he said, as nearly as I can recall his words:

        "It is useless to try to hide from ourselves any longer that there is something wrong with this house. I have known it for a year and more. In fact, we had not lived here three months before I was made aware that some mystery hung about it.

        "One windy November night I had gone to bed as usual, before your mother finished her book."

        He glanced smilingly at her. Her proclivity for reading into the small hours was a family joke.

        "It was a stormy night, as I said, and I lay with closed eyes, listening to the wind and rain, and thinking over next day's business, when somebody touched my feet. Somebody - not something) Hands were laid lightly upon them, were lifted and laid in the same way upon my knees, and so on until they rested more heavily on my chest, and I felt that some one was looking into my face. Up to that moment I had not a doubt that it was your mother. Like the careful wife she is, she was arranging the covers over me to keep out stray draughts. So, when she bent to look into my face, I opened my eyes to thank her.

        "She was not there! I was gazing into the empty air. The pressure was removed as soon as I lifted my eyelids. I raised myself on my elbow and looked toward the fireplace. Your mother was deep in her book, her back toward


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me. I turned over without sound, and looked under the bed from the side next the wall. The firelight and lamplight shone through, unobstructed.

        "I speak of this now for the first time. I have never opened my lips about it, even to your mother, until this moment. But it has happened to me, not once, nor twice, nor twenty - but fifty times - maybe more. It is always the same thing. The hands - I have settled in my mind that they are those of a small woman or of a child, they are so little and light - are laid on my feet, then on my knees, and travel upward to my chest. There they rest for a few seconds, sometimes for a whole minute - I have timed them - and something looks into my face and is gone!

        "How do I account for it? I don't account for it at all! I know that it is! That is all. Shakespeare said, long before I was born, that 'there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.' This is one of them. You can see, now, daughter" - turning to me - "why I was not incredulous when you brought your ghost upon the scene. I have been on the lookout for what our spiritualistic friends call 'further manifestations.' "

        "You believe, then," Mea broke in, "that the girls really saw something supernatural on the stairs last night? That it was not a trick of moonlight and imagination?"

        "If we can make them think so, it will be better for them than to fill their little brains with ghastly fears. That was the reason I took a jesting tone at breakfast-time. I charged them, on the penalty of being the laughing-stock of all of us, not to speak of it to any one except ourselves. I wish you all to take the cue. Moreover, and above everything else, don't let the servants get hold of it. There would be no living in the house with them, if they were to catch the idea that it is 'haunted.' "

        He drew his brows into the horseshoe frown that meant


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annoyance and perplexity. "How I hate the word! You girls are old enough to understand that the value of this property would be destroyed were this story to creep abroad. I would better burn the house down at once than to attempt to sell it at any time within the next fifty years with a ghost-tale tagged to it.

        "Now, here lies the case! We can talk to outsiders of what we have seen and felt and heard in this, our home, where your grandmother, your mother and father have hoped to live comfortably and to die in peace, or we can keep our own counsel like sensible, brave Christians. 'Bodiless spirits cannot hurt bodies,' and" - the frown passing before a humorous gleam - "the little gray lady seems to be amiable enough. I can testify that her hands are light, and that they pet, not strike. She is timid, too. What do you say - all of you? Can we hold our tongues?"

        We promised in one voice. We kept the pledge so well that both the girls and the boys were convinced of our incredulity. Our father forbade them positively to drop a hint of their foolish fancies in the hearing of the servants. Young as they were, they knew what stigma would attach to a haunted house in the community. As time passed, the incident faded from their minds. It was never mentioned in their hearing.

        A year went by without further demonstration on the part of the little gray lady, except for two nocturnal visitations of the small, caressing hands. My father admitted this when we questioned him on the subject; but he would not talk of it.

        The one comic element connected with the bodiless visitant was introduced, oddly enough, by our sanctimonious clerical uncle-in-law, who now and then paid us visits of varying lengths. As he came unannounced, it was not invariably convenient to receive him. On one occasion his appearance caused dismay akin to consternation. We


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were expecting a houseful of younger friends within two days, and needed the guest-room he must occupy. He was good for a week at the shortest.

        True to the Arab-like traditions of hospitality that pervaded all ranks of Old Dominion society, we suffered nothing of this to appear in our behavior. Nor could he have heard the anguished discussion of ways and means that went on between Mea and myself late that night. It was, therefore, a delightful surprise when he announced, next morning, his intention of going out to Olney that day, and to remain there for - perhaps a week. He "had let too long a time elapse since he had paid the good people there a visit. He didn't want them to think he had forgotten them."

        One of the "good people," the wife of my mother's brother, drove into town to spend the day with us, a week after the close of his stay at Olney. "Aunt Sue" was a prime favorite with us all, and she was in fine feather to-day, full of fun and anecdote. She interrupted a spicy bit of family news to say, by-and-by:

        "Did any of you ever suspect that your house is haunted?"

        "How ridiculous!" laughed my mother. "Why do you ask?"

        The narrator laughed yet more merrily.

        "The funniest thing you ever heard! The old gentleman had an awful scare the last night he was here. I asked him what he had eaten - and drunk - for supper that evening. But he stuck to it that he was standing at his window, looking out into the moonlight in the garden, when somebody came up behind him, and took him by the elbows and turned him clear around! He felt the two hands that grabbed hold of him so plainly that he made sure Horace had hidden under the bed and jumped out to scare him. So he looked under the bed and in the


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wardrobe and the closet, and, for all I know, in the bureau drawers and under the washstand, for the boy. There was nobody in the room but himself, and the door was locked. He says he wouldn't sleep in that room another night for a thousand dollars."

        "Nobody is likely to offer it!" retorted Mea, dryly. "I have slept there nearly a thousand nights, and nothing ever caught hold of me."

        Passing over what might or might not have been a link in the true, weird history of our bodiless tenant, I leap a chasm of a dozen years to wind up the tale of the "little gray lady," so far as it bears directly upon our family. After the death of her husband and the marriages of sons and daughters left my mother alone in the old colonial homestead, she decided to sell it and to live with my youngest sister.

        The property was bought as a "Church Home" - a sort of orphanage, conducted under the patronage of a prominent Episcopal parish renowned for good works. In altering the premises to adapt buildings to their new uses, the workmen came upon the skeleton of a small woman about four feet below the surface of the front yard. She lay less than six feet away from the wall of the house, and directly under the drawing-room window. There was no sign of coffin or coffin-plate. Under her head was a high, richly carved tortoise-shell comb, mute evidence that she had not been buried in cap and shroud, as was the custom a hundred years agone. The oldest inhabitant of a city that is tenacious of domestic legends, had never heard of an interment in that quarter of a residential and aristocratic district. The street, named for the eminent lawyer, must have been laid out since the house was built, and may have been cut right through grounds, then far more spacious than when we bought the place. Even so, the grave was dug in the front garden, and so close to the house as to


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render untenable the theory that the plot was ever part of a family burying-ground.

        The papers took inquisitive note of all these circumstances, and let the matter drop as an unexplained mystery . Within the present occupancy of the house, I have heard that the gray lady still walks on moonlight nights and, in gusty midnights, visits the bedside of terrified inmates to press small, light hands upon the feet, and so passing upward, to rest upon the chest of the awakened sleeper. I was asked by one who had felt them, if I had "ever heard the legend that a bride, dressed for her wedding, fell dead in that upper chamber ages ago."

        My informant could not tell me from whom she had the grewsome tale, or the date thereof. "Somebody had told her that it happened once upon a time." She knew that the unquiet creature still "walked the halls and stairs."

        She should have been "laid" by the decent ceremony of burial in consecrated ground, awarded to the exhumed bones.

        I have talked with a grandson of our former next-door neighbor, and had from him a circumstantial account of the disinterment of the nameless remains. They must have lain nearer the turf above them, a century back, than when they were found. The young man was a boy when he ran to the hole made by the workmen's spades, and watched the men bring to light the entire skeleton. He verified the story of the high, carved comb. He told me, too, of a midnight alarm of screaming children at the vision of a little gray lady, walking between the double row of beds in the dormitory, adding:

        "I told those who asked if any story was attached to the house, that I had lived next door ever since I was born, and played every day with your sisters and brothers, and never heard a whisper that the house was haunted."

        So said all our neighbors. We kept our own counsel. It was our father's wise decree.


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        I have told my ghost-story with no attempt at explanation of psychical phenomena. After all these years I fall back, when questioned as to hypotheses, upon my father's terse dicta:

        "How do I account for it? I don't account for it at all!"


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XXI

TWO MONUMENTAL FRIENDSHIPS

        EVEN at that period, when I visited my father's Northern kindred, I failed to bring them to a right comprehension of the frank, and oftentimes intimate, relations existing between the young people of both sexes in my Virginia home. I have marvelled within myself since, how these relations came to be established at the first. We brought to the New World, and retained, scores of English customs of domestic management, and traditions of social obligations. It was never the fashion in England, or in her Northern colonies, for boys to begin "visiting the young ladies" before they discarded roundabouts, and to keep up the fascinating habit until they tottered into the grave at four-score. For the same dozen young fellows to call at least once a week upon as many young girls; to read, chat, jest flirt, drive, ride, and walk with them, month after month, and year after year, perhaps choosing one of the dozen as a lifelong partner, and quite as often running off for a season to another county or State, and bringing home a wife, with whom the philosophic coterie speedily got acquainted amiably, widening the circle to take her in, with never a thought of chagrin.

        The thumbnail sketches I have jotted down in my "purposeful" chapter, bring in the same names, again and again. They were, indeed, and in truth, household words. None of the young men and maidens catalogued in the Christmas doggerel I shall speak of, presently, intermarried. Two - perhaps four - had secret intentions that tended toward


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such a result in the fulness of time. Intentions, that interfered in nowise with their participation in the general hilarity. If there were any difference in the demeanor of the engaged, or partially betrothed, pairs from the behavior of the fancy-free, it was in a somewhat too obvious show of impartiality. Engagements were never "announced," and if suspected, were ignored in general society. Thus it often happened that a direct proposal took a girl utterly by surprise.

        I was but sixteen, and on a summer vacation in Albemarle County, when a collegian of nineteen, who was swinging me "under green apple boughs" - lazily, because the rapid rush through the air would interfere with the chat we were carrying on, in full sight of groups scattered on the porch steps and about the lawn - brought down my thoughts - which had strayed far afield under the influence of the languorous motion, the sunset and the soft mingling of young voices - with stunning velocity, by declaring that he adored me, and "couldn't keep it to himself any longer."

        With never the suspicion of a blush, I looked him straight in the eyes and begged him not to make a goose of himself, adding: "I didn't think you mistook me for a girl who enjoys that kind of badinage. It is not a bit to my taste. And we have been such good friends!"

        When he suffocated himself dangerously with protestations that actually brought tears to his eyes, I represented that lookers-on would think we had quarrelled if I left the swing and his society abruptly, as I certainly should do if he did not begin to talk sensibly, out of hand. I set the example by calling to a boy who was passing with a basket of apples, and calmly selecting one, taking my time in doing it.

        Coquetry? Not a bit of it! I liked the lad too well to allow him to make a breach in our friendship by


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love-making. When he came to his senses (four years later!) he thanked me for not taking the matter seriously.

        We gave, and attended, few large parties. But there were no dead calms in our intercourse. Somebody was always getting up a frolic of some sort. Tableaux, musicales, "sociables," where, in Christmas week, and sometimes at other times, we played old-fashioned games, such as "Consequences" upon slips of paper, and "Kings of England" with cards, and "What is my thought like?" viva voce. We had picnics in warm weather. Richmond College boys invited us out to receptions following orations on February 22d, and we had Valentine parties, with original verses, on February 14th.

        Nowhere, and at no time, was there romping. Still less would kissing-games be allowed among really "nice" young people. This was deemed incredible by my Boston cousins, and yet more strange the fact that we kept up among ourselves decorous conventions that appeared stiff and inconsistent to those not to the manor born and bred. For example, while I might, and did, name our most intimate masculine visitors, "Tom," "Dick," or "Harry" in chat with my girl friends, I addressed them as "Mr. Smith," "Jones," or "Robinson," and always spoke of them in the same manner in mentioning them to strangers. For a man to touch a lady's arm or shoulder to attract her attention, was an unpardonable liberty. If a pair were seen to "hold hands," it was taken for granted that they were engaged or - as I heard a matron say, when she had surprised a couple walking in the moonlight, the fair one's hand on the swain's arm, and his laid lightly upon it - "they ought to be."

        The well-bred girl of the fifties might be a rattle; she might enjoy life with guileless abandon that earned her the reputation of "dashing"; she parried shaft of teasing and badinage with weapons of proof; but she was never "fast."


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She kept her self-respect, and challenged the reverent respect of the men who knew her best.

        To this code of social and ceremonial ethics, and to the ban put upon dancing and card-playing by church and parents, is undoubtedly due the fact that Southern women of that generation were almost invariably what we would call, "good talkers." In the remembrance, and in contrasting that all-so-long-ago with the times in which we live, I could write a jeremiade upon "Conversation as a Lost Art."

        From the list of names drawn into line by some Yuletide rhymes of my own, bearing the date of "1852," I single two that must have more than a passing notice if I would write the true story of my threescore-and-ten years.

        Mary Massie Ragland was, at that Christmas-tide, twenty-two years of age. I had liked and admired her from the first. In time she grew into a place in my heart no other friend had ever held, and which, left vacant by her death six years later, has never been taken. I think no man or woman has more than one complete, all-satisfying friendship in a lifetime. Her portrait hangs against the wall in my bedchamber now. I awake each morning to meet her gaze bent, as in life, on mine. In sorrow and in joy, I have gone secretly to my room, as to an oratory, to seek in the depths of the beautiful eyes the sympathy never denied while she was with me, and visible to my dull vision. To a mind stored richly with the best literature, eager to acquire and faithful to retain, she added exquisite fancies, poetic tastes, and love for the beautiful that was a passion. Her heart was warm, deep, tender, and true. It well-nigh breaks mine in remembering how true! In all the ten years in which we lived and loved together in closest intimacy, not a cloud ever crossed the heaven of our friendship.

        One remark, uttered simply and with infinite gentleness


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by her, after a great loss had chastened her buoyant spirits, stands with me as the keynote to action and character.

        I was commenting somewhat sharply upon my disappointment in not meeting, from one whom I loved and trusted, the fulness of sympathy I thought I had a right to expect in what was a genuine trial to myself.

        "She was hard and critical!" I moaned. "You saw it yourself! You cannot deny it! And she was absolutely rude to you!"

        "Dear!" The stroking fingers upon my bowed head were a benediction; the sweet voice was eloquent with compassion. "Don't judge her harshly! She is good, and true to you and to the right. But she has never had sorrow to make her tender."

        How boundless was the tenderness, my mentor, who comforted while she admonished, learned in the school of pain in which she studied until Death dismissed her spirit, was fully known to Him alone whose faithful disciple she was to the end.

        To the world she showed a smiling front; her merry laugh and ready repartee were the life of whatever company she entered, and over and through it all, it might be reverently said of the true, heroic soul, that, to high and humble, "her compassions failed not."

        "Refined by nature and refined by grace!" said one above her coffin.

        I added, inly: "And by sorrow!"

        "The kind of woman to whom a fellow takes off his hat when he thinks of her," a young cousin, who had been as a brother to her, wrote to me after her death. "It took six thousand years to make one such. I shall never know another."

        While on a visit to my old and beloved preceptors, Mrs. Nottingham and her daughters, then resident in Lexington, Virginia, I met Junius Fishburn, lately graduated from


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Washington College - now Washington and Lee. He was an early and intimate friend of the "Ragland girls," and in a way (according to Virginia ways of reckoning kinship) a family connection of theirs, too remote to deserve recognition in any other region or society. But he claimed through this the right to omit the initial steps of acquaintanceship, and I recognized the right. We were quickly friends - so quickly, that it was no surprise to me when he enclosed a note to me in a letter to one of the Ragland sisters, shortly after my return home. I answered it, and thus was established a correspondence continued through a term of years, without serious interruption, up to the day when, in the second year after my marriage, my husband entered my room with a paper in his hand, and a grave look on his face.

        "Here is sad, sad news for you," he said, gently. "Professor Fishburn is dead!"

        The beautiful young wife, to whom he had been married less than two years, was a sister of "Stonewall Jackson's" first wife, a daughter of Dr. George Junkin, then President of Washington College, and sister of the poet, Margaret Junkin Preston. After "June's" death, Mrs. Preston, my dear friend, wrote to me of a desire her widowed sister hesitated to express directly to me. Her husband had told her that more of his early and inner life was told in this series of letters to me than he could ever relate to any one else. Would I be willing to let her read a few selected by myself? I had known him before he met her. If the request were unreasonable, she would withdraw it.

        There could have been no surer proof of the sincerity, the purity, and absolute absence of everything pertaining to love-making and flirtation in our ten-year-long friendship, than was offered in the circumstance that, without a moment's hesitation or the exclusion of a single letter, I


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made up a parcel of the epistles, and sent it, with my fond love, to the widow of my lamented friend.

        His letters were but a degree less charming than his conversation. I considered him, then, and I have not changed my opinion after seeing much more of the world of society men and brilliant women, one of the best talkers I have known.

        "You have hit it off happily there," said Mary, at the jolly reading of the lines on New-Year's Day, to "us girls."

        And she repeated:

                        "Social and witty, kind and clever;
                        His chat an easy, pleasant flow,
                        A thread you'd never wish to sever."

        He was all this, and more. Our correspondence was a stage, and an important, in my education. We discussed books, authors, military and political heroes, psychology, philology, theology, and, as time made us more intimate with the depths underlying the dancing waves of thought and fancy, we talked much of religious faith and tenets.

        On August 26, 1850, I wrote to Effie:

        "My long neglect of correspondents (for you are not the only neglected one) has caused letters in abundance to accumulate. Among others there lies before me one from my friend, Junius F., a full sheet, bearing a date anterior to your last, and requesting an 'immediate reply.' He is a fine fellow - one of my 'literary' friends. Have you chanced to see anything of his published work? His poems, essays, etc., would reflect credit upon any one. I give you the preference to-day because it will not hurt him to wait."

        The same calm confidence in the liking we bore one another prevailed throughout our intercourse. Untimely storms and sudden gusts belong to the tropics of passion not to the temperate zone of Platonic affection.


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        It was about this time that my presumptuous brain conceived the thought that my friend should be in the pulpit, instead of in the professorial chair to which he was appointed after winning his degree from the University of Virginia, whither he had gone from Washington College for a post-graduate course, and a more thorough equipment for his chosen life-work. With the Brahmin traditions strong upon me, and the blue blood of Presbyterianism seething in my veins, I forthwith made out a "call," amplified through six pages of Bath post, and dispatched it to Lexington.

        The nearest approach to tenderness in any of our many letters, came out in his reply:

        "A brother's fondness gushed up in my heart as I read your earnest pleadings," was the opening sentence of a masterly exposition of the reasons that, as he phrased it, "forbid my unhallowed feet to stand within the sacred desk." I was wrong, and he was right. His fearless utterance of the faith which was the mainspring of life and action, carried force a licensed clergyman seldom gains.

        He fought the good fight in the ranks, refusing the commission that had not, as he believed, the King's seal.

        I had no living elder brother. I hardly felt the loss while Junius lived. In 1855 he took a year's leave of absence, and spent it in a German university. My father and myself were just setting out for Boston and the White Mountains, and accompanied him as far as New York. Junius and I were promenading the deck of the Potomac steamer when I showed him an ambrotype given me by "a friend whom I am sorry you have never met."

        He looked at it intently for a moment, and, in closing the case, searched my face with eyes at once smiling and piercing.

        "Are you trying to tell me something?" he asked, in the gentlest of tones.


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        I answered honestly: "No; there is nothing to tell. We are warm friends - no more."

        We were interrupted, and had no more opportunity for confidential chat until that evening, when we strolled from the hotel along the moonlighted streets to the Capitol. He alluded playfully, in a German letter, to the never-to-be- forgotten excursion - our last moonlit ramble, although we did not dream of it then - as "my walk with Corinne to the Capitol."

        (Men took time and pains to say graceful things, then-a days!)

        He told me that night - what he had already written in brief in a late letter - of his betrothal, of his happiness, and his ambition to make the best of himself for the dear sake of the woman who was waiting for him in the college town engirdled by the blue Virginian mountains.

        The next day but one he sailed. My father and myself bade him "God-speed!" I was glad it so happened.

        If I had fewer causes for devout thanksgiving to the Giver of every good and perfect Joy than have crowned my life, I should still account myself rich in the memory of these two perfect friendships. In my ignorance of the world that lay without, and far beyond my small circle of thought, and what I believed were activities, I did not rightly appreciate the rarity of the gifts. I did know that they were passing sweet, and longed to prove myself worthy of holding them.

        This chapter of my humble record is a sprig of rosemary laid upon Friendship's Shrine.


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XXII

THE "OLD AFRICAN CHURCH"

        No description of the Richmond of the forties and fifties would be complete without a sketch of what was, if I mistake not, the first Baptist Church erected in the city. The white congregation that occupied it for some years had built a large, handsome church farther up the hill, and the squat, but spacious, house on the lower slope of Broad Street, was made over to the colored population.

        I say "population" advisedly. For perhaps half a century, the Richmond negroes had no other place of public worship, and the communicants in that denomination were numbered by the thousand. They are an emotionally religious race, and I doubt if there were, all told, one hundred colored members of any other sect in the length and breadth of the county of Henrico.

        The low-browed, dingy, brick edifice surrendered to their use was said to have a seating capacity of two thousand. It was therefore in demand when mass political meetings were convened. When John B. Gough lectured in our city, no other building could accommodate the crowds that flocked to see and hear him.

        Big as it was, the house was filled every Sunday. There was a regular church organization in which deacons and ushers were colored. Of course the Pastor was a white. And oddly enough, or so it seemed to outsiders, the shepherd of the black flock was the President of Richmond College and Divinity School, situated upon the outskirts of the city.


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        His pastoral duties outside of his pulpit ministrations were not onerous. The Daughters of Zion, a flourishing society, looked after the sick and afflicted. There were no colored paupers under the slave system, except, once in a great while, "a no 'count free nigger." This last word was never applied to a fellow-servant, but freely and disdainfully fitted to the unfortunate freedman.

        I was never able to disabuse my mind of appreciation of the comic element in viewing the Rev. Robert Ryland, D.D. (and I am not sure but "LL.D." as well), in his position as Pastor of the First African Church. He was a staid personage of middle age, who may have been learned. If he were, the incongruity was the more absurd. He was never brilliant. Nor had he the power of adapting himself to his audience that might have saved the situation in some measure. I heard him preach once to his dusky cure of souls. He began by saying, apropos to his text from Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians:

        "Shortly after the Apostle's departure from that place there arose dissensions in the church at Co-rinth."

        A preamble that was greeted by appreciative groans from the women in the audience. As was the assertion, later on, in the same discourse, that -

        "Christ may be called the Concrete Idea of our most holy Faith." Still more pronounced was the murmured applause that succeeded the remark - "This may be true in the Abstract. It is not true in the Concrete."

        "Concrete" was a new word in philosophers' mouths just then, and he worked it hard.

        The anecdote of the parishioner who found "that blessed word 'Mesopotamia' " the most comforting part of her minister's sermon, is entirely credible if she were of African descent. Polysyllables were a ceaseless feast to their imaginations. Sesquipedalian periods were spiritual nectar and ambrosia. The barbaric and the florid were bound


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up in their nature, and the rod of an alien civilization could not drive it far from them.

        In church relations, they recognized and revelled rankly in the levelling principle of Christianity which, within the sacred circle of the bonds of a common faith, made no invidious distinctions between bond and free. The staid D.D. was to them "Brer Ryland" on week-days, as on Sundays. I am sure it never occurred to the humblest of them that whatever of dignity pertained to the relation was his, by virtue of his holy calling, and they were honored in that their spiritual guide belonged to a superior race and was at the head of an institution of learning.

        How freely they discussed him and his teachings, will be illustrated by a dialogue overheard by me in my early school-days.

        I was walking behind two colored women one Sunday on my way home from church. They were evidently ladies' maids, from their mincing speech and affected gait, and were invested with what was, as palpably, their mistresses' discarded finery.

        "Brer Rylan' was quite too severe 'pon dancin'," was the first sentence that caught my ear. "He is kinder hard 'pon innercint aversions, oncet in a while. You know we read in the Bible that the angels in heaven dance 'round the throne."

        "Yes," assented the elder of the two, "an' play 'pon jewsharps! But I've been heard that they don' cross they feet, and that makes a mighty difference in the sin o' dancin'. Of course, we all of us knows that it's a sin for a Christyun to dance; but, as you say, Brer Rylan' is oncharitable sometimes in talkin' 'bout young folks' ways and frolickin'. He will let them promenade to the music of the band when the students has parties at the college, but never a dancin' step!"


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        "Not even," with a shrill giggle, "if they don't cross they feet?"

        As time whitened the good man's hair and brought heavier duties to his head and hands, he fell into the habit of delegating the afternoon service at the "Old African" to his neophytes in the Divinity School. He may have judged rightly that it was excellent practice for the 'prentice hand of embryo pulpit orators. One of the brightest of these who afterward made good the promise of distinguished usefulness in the Southern Church, was the officiating evangelist on a certain Sunday afternoon, when a lively party of girls and collegians planned to attend the "Old African," in a body, and witness his maiden performance.

        He knew we were coming, and why, but he uttered not a word of protest. As he said afterward, "The sooner he got used to mixed audiences, the better."

        What were known as the "Amen benches," at the left of the pulpit, were reserved for white auditors. They were always full. On this afternoon they were packed tightly. The main body of the church was also filled, and we soon became aware that an unusual flutter of solemn excitement pervaded the well-dressed throng. The front block of seats on each side of the middle aisle was occupied by women, dressed in black, many of them closely veiled, and pocket- handkerchiefs were ostentatiously displayed, generally clasped between black-gloved hands folded upon the pit of the stomach.

        "Reminds one of a rising thundercloud!" whispered a graceless youth behind me.

        Presently a deacon, likewise lugubrious in aspect, tip-toed into the pulpit, where sat the young theologue, and, holding his silk hat exactly upon the small of his back in the left hands bent low in offering the right to the preacher.

        The subdued rustle and shuffling, incident to the settling into place of a large congregation, prevented us from


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hearing the low colloquy that succeeded the handshake. We had it in full from one of the actors, that evening.

        The functionary began by expressing the gratification of the congregation that "Brer Rylan' had sent such a talentable young gentleman to 'ficiate 'pon dis occasion.

        "We been heerd a-many times of what a promisin' young gentleman Brer W. is, an' we is certainly mightily flattered at seein' him in our midst 'pon dis occasion. I jes' steps up here, suh, to say dis, an' to arsk is dere anything any of us ken do to resist Brer W. 'pon dis occasion."

        "Thank you, nothing!" responded the other, courteously. "You are very kind. The choir will take care of the music, as usual, I suppose?"

        "Suttinly, suh, suttinly! De choir am always dependable 'pon every occasion. An' dey has prepared special music for dis solemn occasion."

        Reiteration of the word had not aroused the listener's curiosity. The last adjective, and the tone in which it was brought out, awoke him wide.

        "Solemn!" he re-echoed. "Is there anything special in the services of to-day?"

        The hand grasping the silk hat executed a half-circle in the air that seemed to frame the black-robed block of sitters for the startled youth.

        "Yaas, suh! Surely Brer Rylan' must 'a' told Brer W. de nature of our comin' togedder to-day! It's a funeral, suh. De dear departed deceasted nigh 'pon two mont' ago, but we haven't foun' it agreeable, as you mought say, to all parties concerned, fur to bring all de family an' frien's together tell terday. But dey are here now, suh, as you may see fur yourself. An' we are moughty pleased dat Brer Rylan' has sont sech a 'sponsible preacher to us as Brer W."

        "Mercy, man!" gasped the affrighted novice, clutching frantically at the notes he had been conning when the


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deacon accosted him. "I knew nothing of the funeral when I came. I can't preach a funeral sermon out of hand! There isn't anything about death in my notes."

        His distress wrought visibly upon the deacon's sympathies. The hat described a reassuring parabola.

        "There, there! It ain't necessary for Brer W. to discombobberate himself 'pon dat account. A young gentleman of Brer W.'s talents needn't get sheered at a little thing like an ev'ry-day funeral. All dat Brer W. has to do is to say a few words 'bout de dear deceasted; 'bout de loss to de church, an' de family, an' frien's, an' de suttinty o' death, an' de las' change. An' den a few rousements, you know, throwed in at de end. Law! I ken hear Brer W. doin' it up fine, when I think on it!

        "Dar! de choir is a-startin' de funeral anthim. Thank you, suh, fur comin' to us, and don't give yo'self no oneasiness! Sling in dem remarks 'spectin' de dear deceasted, and you'll be all right."

        I forget the text of the sermon that followed the anthem and the prayer. I but know that neither it, nor the introduction, had any relevancy to the "occasion." Our friend became a brilliant speaker in later life. Now, he was no more sophomoric than are nine-tenths of seminary students. But as he went on, we - in the slang of this era - began to sit up and take notice; for with dexterity remarkable in a tyro, he switched off from the main line into a by-road that led, like the paths of glory, to the grave. He had fine feeling and a lively imagination, and the scene and the music had laid hold upon both. As he confessed, subsequently, he surprised himself by his intimate acquaintance with the departed brother. He dwelt upon his fidelity to duty, his devotion to the Church of his love, and what he had done for her best interests. Singling out, as by divination, the widow, whose long crêpe veil billowed stormily with audible sobs, he referred tenderly to her loneliness,


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and committed her and the fatherless children to the Great Father and Comforter of all. By this time the congregation was a seething mass of emotion. Fluttering handkerchiefs, sighs that swept the church like fitful breezes, and suppressed wails from the central block of reserved seats, drowned the feeling peroration, but we guessed the purport from the speaker's face and gestures.

        As he sat down, the audience arose, as one woman, and broke into a funeral chant never written in any music-book, and in which the choir, who sang by note, took no part:

        "We'll pass over Jordan, O my brothers, O my sisters! De water's chilly an' cold, but Hallelujah to de Lamb! Honor de Lamb, my chillun, honor de Lamb!"

        This was shouted over and over, with upraised arms at one portion, and, as the refrain was repeated, all joined hands with those nearest to them and shook from head to foot in a sort of Dervish dance, without, however, raising the feet from the floor. It was such an ecstatic shiver as I saw thirty-odd years thereafter, when a Nubian dancer gave an exhibition in a private house in the suburbs of Jerusalem.

        I shall have more to say of that chant presently. Return we to the orator of the occasion, whose extemporaneous "effort" had stirred up the pious tumult.

        As soon as his share of the service was over, he slipped out of the box-pulpit and sidled through the throng to the corner where we were grouped, watching for a chance to make our exit without attracting the attention of the worshippers. He had just reached us when the quick-eyed, fleet-footed deacon was at his side. We overheard what passed between them.

        "Brer W., suh, I come to thank you in the name o' de bereaved fam'ly of de dear deceasted, suh, for yo' powerful sermon dis afternoon. Nothin' could 'a' been better an'


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mo'suitabler. Dey all agree on dat ar' p'int, suh. Every one on 'em is puffickly satisfied! You couldn't 'a' done no better, suh, ef you 'a' had a year to get ready in."

        Poor W., red to the roots of his fair hair, murmured his thanks, and the sable official was backing away when he recollected something unsaid:

        "Dar was jes' one little matter I mought 'a' mentioned at de fust, suh (not dat it made no difference whatsomever; de fam'ly, maybe, wouldn't keer to have me speak o' sech a trifle), but de dear deceasted was a sister!"

        Then it was that W. turned an agonized face upon our convulsed group:

        "For Heaven's sake, is there a back door or window by which a fellow can get out of this place?"

        The choir of the "Old African" was one of the shows of the city. Few members of it could read the words of the hymns and anthems. Every one of them could read the notes, and follow them aright. The parts were well balanced and well-sustained. Those who have heard the Fisk University Jubilee singers do not need the assurance that the quality of the negro voice is rarely sweet and rich, and that, as a race, they have a passion for music. Visitors from Northern cities who spent the Sabbath in Richmond seldom failed to hear the famed choir of the Old African. On this afternoon, the then popular and always beautiful Jerusalem, My Happy Home, was rendered with exquisite skill and feeling. George F. Root, who heard the choir more than once while he was our guest, could not say enough of the beauty of this anthem-hymn as given by the colored band. He declared that one soloist had "the finest natural tenor he ever heard."

        But these were not the representative singers of the race. Still less should airs, composed by white musicians and sung all over the country as "negro melodies," pass as characteristic. They are the white man's conception of


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what the expatriated tribes should think and feel and sing.

        More than thirty years after the maiden sermon of which I have written, our little party of American travellers drew back against the wall of the reputed "house of Simon the Tanner" in Jaffa (the ancient Joppa), to let a funeral procession pass. The dead man, borne without a coffin, upon the shoulders of four gigantic Nubians, was of their race. Two-thirds of the crowd, that trudged, barefooted through the muddy streets behind the bier, were of the same nationality. And as they plodded through the mire, they chanted the identical "wild, wailing measure" familiar to me from my infancy, which was sung that Sunday afternoon to the words "We'll pass over Jordan" - even to the oft-iterated refrain, "Honor, my chillun, honor de Lamb!"

        The gutterals of the outlandish tongue were all that was unlike. The air was precisely the same, and the time and intonations.

        We have taken great pains to trace the negro folk-lore back to its root. The musical antiquarian is yet to arise who will track to their home the unwritten tunes and chants the liberated negro is trying to forget, and to which his grandparents clung lovingly, all unaware that they were an inheritance more than a dozen generations old.

        Trained choirs might learn "book music," and scorn the airs crooned over their cradles, and shouted and wailed in prayer and camp meetings, by mothers and fathers. The common people held obstinately to their very own music, and were not to be shaken loose by the "notions" of "young folks who hadn't got the egg-shells offen they hades."

        I asked once, during a concert given by students from Hampton Institute, if the leader would call upon them for certain of the old songs - naming two or three. I was


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told that they objected to learning them, because they were associated with the days of their bondage. I did not take the trouble to convince the spruce maestro that what I wished to hear were memorials of the days of wildest liberty, when their forbears hunted "big game" in their tangled native forests, and paddled their boats upon rivers the white man had never explored.


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XXIII

HOW "ALONE" CAME TO BE

"June 5th, 1854.

        " . . . You anticipate from this formidable array of duties, hindrances, etc., that it will be some time, yet, before I can avail myself of your bewitching invitation. I doubt if I shall be ready to accept Powhie's gallant offer of his escort, although it is tempting. But -

                        " 'I'm coming! yes, I'm coming!'

        in July, wind, weather, and all else permitting.

        "You will probably see a more august personage next Sunday. I cannot resist the temptation to let you into the secret of a little manoeuvring of my own. I had an intimation a few weeks ago that Miss L. and poor lonely Mr. S., her near neighbor, were nodding at each other across the road. There was an allusion to horseback rides, and a less fertile imagination could have concocted a very tolerable story out of the facts (?) in hand.

        "But didn't I make it tell? The plausible tale crashed into the peaceful brain of our worthy uncle-in-law like a bombshell into a quiet chamber at midnight. How he squirmed, and fidgeted, and tried to smile! 'Twas all a ghastly grin! I winked at Herbert, who chanced to come in while the narrative was in progress. The rogue had heard but the merest outline, and paid no attention to that; but he made a 'sight draught' upon his inventive talents, and - adding to the rides, 'moonlight walks, afternoon strolls to the tobacco patch, and along the road toward the big gate to see whether the joint-worm was in the wheat,' and insinuations that these excursions


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were more to the lady's taste than 'sanctuary privileges' almost drove the venerable wooer crazy.

        " 'Yes!' said he, bitterly, pushing back his chair from the table. 'He has a house and plantation. A land-rope is a strong rope! Women look at these things.'

        "He actually followed Herbert to the front door to supplicate - Herbert declares, 'with tears in both eyes' - that he would at least tell him if his information was 'authentic, or if it might not be that he was trying to scare him?' Herbert excused himself upon the plea of pressing business, but invited him to 'drop into the office some time if he would have further particulars.'

        "Our plot works to a charm. The reverend swain sets out 'this very week' for Powhatan, and 'means to have the matter settled.' So, look out for him!

        "All this rigmarole is strictly true. No boy of seventeen was ever more angrily jealous or desperate. You may, if you like, let the Montrosians into the fun, but, until the matter is settled, don't let the key pass into other hands.

        "Isn't it glorious? Two bald heads ducking and ogling to one fortunate damsel - their bleared eyes looking 'pistols for two, coffee for one!' at each other? What an entrancing interruption to the monotony of a life that, until now, has flowed as gently as a canal stream over a grade of a foot to a mile?"

        I remark, en passant, what will probably interest not a living creature of this generation - to wit, that neither of the competitors won the amiable woman they made ridiculous by their wintry wooing. She returned a kindly negative to both bachelor and widower, and died, as she had lived, the beloved maiden "Auntie" of numerous nieces and nephews.

        Before transcribing other passages from the same letter - one of unusual length even for that epistolary age - I must retrace my steps to pick up the first thread of what was in time to thicken into a "cord of stronger twine."

        When I was sixteen I began to write a book. It was a


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school-girl's story - a picture crudely done, but as truthful as I could make it - of what was going on in the small world I thought large, and every personage who figured in it was a portrait. In that book I lived and moved, and had my inmost being for that year. I spoke to nobody of what I was doing. The shrinking from confiding to my nearest and dearest what I was writing, was reluctance unfeigned and unconquerable in the case of this, my best-beloved brain- child. None of my own household questioned me as to what went on in the hours spent in my "study," as the corner, or closet, or room where I planted myself and desk, was named. We had a way of respecting one another's eccentricities that had no insignificant share in maintaining the harmony which earned for ours the reputation of a singularly happy family.

        I was allowed to plan my day's work, so long as it did not impinge upon the rights or convenience of the rest. Directly after breakfast, I called my two willing little pupil-sisters to their lessons. The rock and shoals of threatened financial disaster that menaced our home for a while, were safely overpast by now. We were once more in smooth water, and sacrifices might be remitted. I continued to teach my little maids for sheer love of them, and of seeing their minds grow. Both were bright and docile. Alice had an intellect of uncommon strength and of a remarkably original cast. It was a delight to instruct her for some years. After that, we studied together.

        Our "school-time" lasted from nine until one. I never emerged from the study until three - the universal dinner-hour in Richmond. If visitors called, as often happened, my mother and sister excused me. In the afternoon we went out together, making calls, or walking, or driving. In the evening there was usually company, or we practiced with piano and flute, and, as Herbert grew old enough to join our "band," he brought in his guitar, or we met in


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"the chamber," and one read aloud in the sweet old way while the others wrought with needle and pencil and drawing-board. This was the routine varied by occasional concerts and parties. Now and then, I got away from the group and wrote until midnight.

        In 1853 the Southern Era, a semi-literary weekly owned and run by the then powerful and popular "Sons of Temperance," offered a prize of fifty dollars for the best temperance serial of a given length. I had written at sixteen, and recast it at eighteen, a story entitled "Marrying Through Prudential Motives," and sent it secretly to Godey's Magazine. It bore the signature of "Mary Vale" - a veiled suggestion of my real name. For four years I heard nothing of the waif. I had had experiences enough of the same kind to dishearten a vain or a timorous writer. It was balm to my mortified soul to reflect that nobody was the wiser for the ventures and the failures.

        So I set my pen in rest, and went in for the prize; less, I avow, for the fifty dollars than for the reward for seeing my ambitious banding in print. So faint and few were my expectations of this consummation, that I went off to Boston for the summer, without intimating to any one the audacious cast I had made. I had been with my cousins six weeks when my mother sent me a copy of the Southern Era, containing what she said in a letter by the same mail, "promised to be the best serial it had published." I opened the letter first, and tore the wrapper from the paper carelessly.

        How it leaped at me from the outermost page!

OUR PRIZE STORY!

KATE HARPER

By Marion Harland


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        All set up in what we christened in the last quarter-century, "scare-heads."

        As I learned later from home-letters, the editor, after advertising vainly for the author's address, had published without waiting for it. I wrote home that night to my father, pouring out the whole revelation, and stipulating that the secret should be kept among ourselves.

        "Marion Harland" was, again, a hint of my name, so overt that it was not guessed at by readers in general. The editor, an acquaintance of my father, was informed of my right to draw the money. I continued to send tales and poems to him for two years, and preserved my incognito.

        In the late spring of 1853, "Mea," Herbert, and I were sitting in the parlor on a wild night when it rained as rain falls nowhere else as in the seven-hilled city. My companions had their magazines. Mea's, as I well recollect, was Harper's New Monthly; my brother had the Southern Literary Messenger. Ned Rhodes had taken Harper's for me from the very first issue. My father subscribed conscientiously for the Messenger to encourage Southern literature. All right-minded Virginians acknowledged the duty of extending such encouragement to the extent of the subscription price of "native productions."

        I had dragged out the rough copy of my book from the bottom of my desk that day, and was now looking it over at a table on one side of the fireplace. Chancing upon the page describing Celestia Pratt's entrance upon school-life, I laughed aloud.

        "What is it?" queried my sister, looking up in surprise.

        "See if you know her," I responded, and read out the scene. She joined in the laugh.

        "To the life!" she pronounced. "Go on!"

        I finished the chapter, and the two resumed their magazines. Presently Herbert tossed his aside.


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        "I say!" with boyish impetuosity. "This is stupid after what you gave us. Haven't you 'anything more of the same sort?' "

        It was a slang phrase of the day.

        It was the "Open Sesame" of my literary life.

        They kept me reading until nearly midnight, dipping in here for a scene, there for a character-sketch, until my voice gave out.

        I began rewriting Alone next day, and we welcomed stormy evenings for the next two months. When the MS. was ready for the press, I wrote the "Dedication to Brother and Sister" as a pleasant surprise to my generous critics. They did not suspect it until they read it in print.

        Getting the work into print was not so easy as the eager praises of my small audience might have inclined me to expect. The principal book-store in Richmond at that time was owned by Adolphus Morris, a warm personal friend of my father. The two had been intimate for years, and the families of the friends maintained most cordial relations. Yet it was with sore and palpable quakings of heart that I betook myself to the office of the man who took on dignity as a prospective publisher, and laid bare my project. It was positive pain to tell him that I been writing under divers signatures for the press since I was fourteen. The task grew harder as the judicial look I have learned to know since as the publisher's perfunctory guise, crept over the handsome face. When I owned, with blushes that scorched my hair, to the authorship of the "Robert Remer" series, and of the prize story in the Era, he said frankly and coolly that he "had never read either." He "fancied that he had heard Mrs. Morris speak of Remer papers. Religious - were they not?"

        He liked me, and his pretty wife (who had far more brains and vivacity than he) had made a pet of me. He honored my father, and was under business obligations to


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him. I was conscious, while I labored away at my share in my first business interview, that he lent kindly heed to me for these reasons, and not that he had the smallest grain of faith in the merits of my work. I was a child in his sight, and he would humor my whim.

        "I am willing to submit your manuscript to my reader," he said, at last.

        I looked the blank ignorance I felt. He explained patronizingly. He had patronized me from the moment I said that I had written a book. I have become familiar with this phase of publisherhood, also, since that awful day.

        "John R. T. reads all my manuscripts!" fell upon my ear like a trickle of boiling lead. "Send it down when it is ready, and I will put it into his hands. You know, I suppose, that everything intended for printing must be written on one side of the paper?"

        I answered meekly that I had heard as much, bade him "Good morning!" and crept homeward, humbled to the dust.

        "John R. T.!" (Nobody ever left out the "R." in speaking of him, and nobody, so far as I ever heard, knew for what it stood.)

        He was the bright son of a worthy citizen; had been graduated at the University of Virginia; studied at the law, and entered the editorial profession as manager-in-chief, etc., of the Southern Literary Messenger. He had social ambitions, and had succeeded in acquiring a sort of world-weary air, and a gentle languor of tone and bearing which might have been copied from D'Israeli's Young Duke, a book in high favor in aristocratic circles. I never saw "Johnny" - as graceless youths who went to school with him grieved him to the heart by calling him on the street - without thinking of the novel. Like most caricatures, the likeness was unmistakable.