I became domesticated very soon in Mr. Josiah Smith’s family. I learned
what my work was, and did it very faithfully, and I believe to their
The family proper consisted of Mr. Smith, his wife, two daughters, and a
niece. Mr. Smith was a merchant, of considerable wealth and social
influence, and the young ladies were belles par-excellence. Mrs. Smith
was the domestic of the concern, who carried on the establishment, a
little, busy, fussy sort of woman, that went sailing it round the house
with a huge bunch of keys dangling at her side, an incessant scold, with
a voice sharp and clear like a steamboat bell; a managing, thrifty sort
of person, a perfect terror to negroes; up of a morning betimes, and in
the kitchen, fussing with the cook about breakfast.
I had very little to do with Mrs. Letitia. My business was almost
exclusively with the young ladies. I cleaned and arranged their rooms,
set the parlors right, swept and dusted them, and then attended to the
dining-room. This part of my work threw me under Mrs. Letitia’s dynasty;
but as I generally did my task well, she had not much objection to make,
though her natural fault-finding disposition sharpened her optics a good
deal, and she generally discovered something about which to complain.
Miss Adele Smith was the elder of the two daughters, a tall, pale girl,
with dark hair, carefully banded over a smooth, polished brow, large
black eyes and a pleasing manner.
The second, Miss Nellie, was a round, plump girl of blonde complexion,
fair hair and light eyes, with a rich peach-flush on her cheek, and a
round, luscious, cherry-red mouth, that was always curling and
curvetting with smiles.
The cousin, Lulu Carey, was a real romantic character, with a light,
fragile form, milk-white skin, the faintest touch of carmine playing
over the cheek, mellow gray eyes, earnest and loving, and a profusion of
chestnut-brown hair fell in the richest ringlets to her waist. Her
features and caste of face were perfect. She was habited in close
mourning, for her mother had been dead but one year, and the
half-perceptible shadow of grief that hung over her face, form and
manner, rendered her glorious beauty even more attractive.
It was a real pleasure to me to serve these young ladies, for though
they were the élite, the cream of the aristocracy, they were without
those offensive “airs” that render the fashionable society of the West
so reprehensible. Though their parlors were filled every evening with
the gayest company, and they were kept up late, they always came to
their rooms with pleasant smiles and gracious words, and often chided me
for remaining out of bed.
“Don’t wait for us, Ann,” they would say. “It isn’t right to keep you
from your rest on our account.”
I slept on a pallet in their chamber, and took great delight in
remaining up until they came, and then assisted them in disrobing.
It was the first time I had ever known white ladies (and young) to be
amiable, and seemingly philanthropic, and of course a very powerful
interest was excited for them. They had been educated in Boston, and had
imbibed some of the liberal and generous principles that are, I think,
indigenous to high Northern latitudes. Indeed, I believe Miss Lulu
strongly inclined toward their social and reformatory doctrines, though
she did not dare give them any very open expression, for Mr. and Mrs.
Josiah Smith were strong pro-slavery, conservative people, and would not
have countenanced any dissent from their opinions.
Mrs. Smith used to say, “Niggers ought to be exterminated.”
And Miss Lulu, in her quiet way, would reply,
“Yes, as slaves they should be exterminated.”
And then how pretty and naïvely she arched her pencilled brows. This was
always understood by the sisters, who must have shared her liberal
Mr. Smith was so much absorbed in mercantile matters, that he seldom
came home, except at meals or late at night, when the household was
wrapped in sleep; and, even on Sundays, when all the world took rest, he
was locked up in his counting-room. This seemed singular to me, for a
man of Mr. Smith’s reputed and apparent wealth might have found time, at
least on Sunday, for quiet.
The young ladies were very prompt and regular in their attendance at
church, but I used often to hear Miss Lulu exclaim, after returning,
“Why don’t they give us something new? These old rags of theology weary,
not to say annoy me. If Christianity is marching so rapidly on, why have
we still, rising up in our very midst, institutions the vilest and most
revolting! Why are we cursed with slavery? Why have we houses of
prostitution, where beauty is sold for a price? Why have we pest and
alms-houses? Who is the poor man’s friend? Who is there with enough of
Christ’s spirit to speak kindly to the Magdalene, and bid her ‘go and
sin no more’? Alas, for Christianity to-day!”
“But we must accept life as it is, and patiently wait the coming of the
millennium, when things will be as they ought,” was Miss Adele’s reply.
“Oh, now coz, don’t you and sis go to speculating upon life’s troubles,
but come and tell me what I shall wear to the party to-morrow night,”
broke from the gay lips of the lively Nellie.
In this strain I’ve many times heard them talk, but it always wound up
with a smile at the suggestion of the volatile Miss Nellie.
When I had been there but two days, I began to suspect Mrs. Smith’s
disposition, for she several times declared her opinion that niggers had
no business with company, and that her’s shouldn’t have any. This was a
damper to my hopes, for my chief motive for wishing to be sold in L—-
was the pleasure I expected to derive from Henry’s society. Every night,
as early as eight, the servants were ordered to their respective
quarters, and, as I slept in the house, a stolen interview with him
would have been impossible, as Mrs. Smith was too alert for me to make
an unobserved exit. On the second evening of my sojourn there, Henry
called to see me about half-past seven o’clock; and, just as I was
beginning to yield myself up to pleasure, Mrs. Smith came to the
kitchen, and, seeing him there, asked,
“Whose negro is this?”
“Henry Graham is my name, Missis,” was the reply.
“Well, what business have you here?”
Henry was embarrassed; he hung his head, and, after a moment, faltered
“I came to see Ann, Missis.”
“Where do you belong?”
“I belong to Mr. Graham, but am hired to the G—- House.”
“Well, then, go right there; and, if ever I catch you in my kitchen
again, I’ll send your master word, and have you well flogged. I don’t
allow negro men to come to see my servants. I want them to have no false
notions put into their heads. A nigger has no business visiting; let him
stay at home and do his master’s work. I shouldn’t be surprised if I
missed something out of the kitchen, and if I do, I shall know that you
stole it, and you shall be whipped for it; so shall Ann, for daring to
bring strange niggers into my kitchen. Now, clear yourself, man.”
With an humbled, mortified air, Henry took his leave. A thousand
scorpions were writhing in my breast. That he, my love, so honest,
noble, honorable, and gentlemanly in all his feelings, should be so
accused almost drove me to madness. I could not bear to have his pride
so bowed and his dearly-cherished principles outraged. From that day I
entertained no kind feeling for Mrs. Smith.
On another occasion, a Saturday afternoon, when Louise came to sit a few
moments with me, she heard of it, and, rushing down stairs, ordered her
to leave on the instant, adding that her great abomination was free
niggers, and she wouldn’t have them lurking round her kitchen,
corrupting her servants, and, perhaps, purloining everything within
Louise was naturally of a quick and passionate disposition; and, to be
thus wantonly and harshly treated, was more than she could bear. So she
furiously broke forth, and such a scene as occurred between them was
disgraceful to humanity! Miss Adele hearing the noise instantly came
out, and in a positive tone ordered Louise to leave; which order was
obeyed. After hearing from her mother a correct statement of the case,
Miss Adele burst into tears and went to her room. I afterward heard her
kindly remonstrating with her mother upon the injustice of such a course
of conduct toward her servants. But Mrs. Smith was confirmed in her
notions. They had been instilled into her early in life; had grown with
her growth and strengthened with her years. So it was not possible for
her young and philanthropic daughter to remove them. Once, when Miss
Adele was quite sick, and after I had been nursing her indefatigably for
some time, she said to me,
“Ann, you have told me the story of your love. I have been thinking of
Henry, and pitying his condition, and trying to devise some way for you
to see him.”
“Thank you, Miss Adele, you are very kind.”
“The plan I have resolved upon is this: I will pretend to send you out
of evenings on errands for me; you can have an understanding with Henry,
and meet at some certain point; then take a walk or go to a friend’s;
but always be careful to get home before ten o’clock.”
This was kindness indeed, and I felt the grateful tears gathering in my
eyes! I could not speak, but knelt down beside the bed, and reverently
kissed the hem of her robe. Goodness such as hers, charity and love to
all, elicited almost my very worship!
I remember the first evening that I carried this scheme into effect. She
was sitting in a large arm-chair, carefully wrapped up in the folds of
an elegant velvet _robe-de-chambre_. Her mother, sister, and cousin were
beside her, all engaged in a cheerful conversation, when she called me
to her, and pretended to give me some errand to attend to out in the
city, telling me _pointedly_ that it would require my attention until
near ten o’clock. How like a lovely earth-angel appeared she then!
I had previously apprized Henry of the arrangement, and named a point of
meeting. Upon reaching it, I found him already waiting for me. We took a
long stroll through the lamp-lit streets, talking of the blessed hopes
that struggled in our bosoms; of the faint divinings of the future; told
over the story of past sufferings, and renewed olden vows of devotion.
He, with the most lover-like fondness, had brought me some little gift;
for this I kindly reproved him, saying that all his money should be
appropriated to himself, that, by observing a rigid economy, we but
hastened on the glorious day of release from bondage. Before ten I was
at home, and waiting beside Miss Adele. How kindly she asked me if I had
enjoyed myself; and with what pride I told her of the joy that her
kindness had afforded me! Surely the sweet smile that played so
luminously over her fair face was a reflex of the peace that irradiated
her soul! How beautifully she illustrated, in her single life, the holy
ministrations of true womanhood! Did she not, with kind words and
generous acts, “strive to bind up the bruised, broken heart.” At the
very mention of her name, aye, at the thought of her even, I never fail
to invoke a blessing upon her life!
Thus, for weeks and months, through her ingenuity, I saw Henry and
Louise frequently. Otherwise, how dull and dreary would have seemed to
me that long, cold winter, with its heaped snow-banks, its dull, gray
sky, its faint, chill sun, and leafless trees; but the sunbeam of her
kindness made the season bright, warm and grateful!
In Mr. Smith’s family of servants was Emily, the cook, a sagacious
woman, but totally without education, knowledge, or the peculiar
ambition that leads to its acquisition. She was a bold, raw, unthinking
spirit; and, from the fact that she had been kept closely confined to
the house, never allowed any social pleasure, she resolved to be
revenged, and unfortunately in her desire for “spite” (as she termed
it), had sacrificed her character, and was the mother of two children,
with unacknowledged fathers. Possessed of a violent temper, she would,
at periods, rave like a mad-woman; and only the severest lashing could
bring her into subjection. She was my particular terror. Her two
children, half-bloods, were little, sick, weasly things that excited the
compassion of all beholders, and though two years of age (twins), were,
from some physical derangement, unable to walk.
There was also a man servant, Duke, who attended to odd ends of
housework, and served in the capacity of decorated carriage-driver, and
a girl, Elsy, a raw, green, country concern, good-natured and foolish,
with a face as black as tar. They had hired her from a man in the
country, and she being quite delighted with town and the off-cast finery
of the ladies, was as happy as _she_ could be–yet the mistakes she
constantly made were truly amusing. She had formed quite an attachment
for Duke, which he did not in the slightest degree return; yet, with
none of the bashfulness of her sex, she confessed to the feeling, and
declared that “Duke was very mean not to love her a little.” This never
failed to excite the derision of the more sprightly Emily.
“Well, you is a fool,” she would exclaim, with an odd shake of the head.
“I loves him, and don’t kere who knows it.”
“Does he love you?” asked Emily.
“_Well_, he doesn’t.”
“_Then I’d hate him_,” replied Emily, as, with a great force, she
brought her rolling-pin down on the table.
“No, I wouldn’t,” answered the loving Elsy.
“You ain’t worth shucks.”
“Wish I was worth Duke.”
“You needn’t git mad, kase I don’t think as you does.”
“I is mad bekase you is a fool.”
“Who made me one?”
“You was born it, I guess.”
“Then I aren’t to blame fur it. Them that made me is.”
Conversations like this were of frequent occurrence, and once, when I
ventured to ask Elsy if she wouldn’t like to learn to read, she laughed
“Does you think I wants to run off?”
“Den why did you ax me if I wanted to larn to read?”
“So you might have a higher source of enjoyment than you now have.”
“Oh, yes, so as to try to git my freedom! You is jist a spy fur de white
folks, and wants to know if I’ll run away. Go off, now, and mind yer own
business, kase I has hearn my ole Masser, in de country, say dat
whenever niggers ‘gan to read books dey was ob no ‘count, and allers had
freedom in dar heads.”
Finding her thus obstinate, I gave up all attempts to persuade her, and
left her to that mental obscuration in which I found her. Emily
sometimes threatened to apply herself, with vigor, to the gaining of
knowledge, and thus defeat and “spite” her owners; but knowledge so
obtained, I think, would be of little avail, for, like religion, it
must be sought after from higher motives–sought for itself _only_.
I could find but little companionship with those around me, and lived
more totally within myself than I had ever done. Many times have I gone
to my room, and in silence wept over the isolation in which my days were
spent; but three nights out of the seven were marked with white stones,
for on these I held blissful re-unions with Henry. Our appointed spot
for meeting was near an old pump, painted green, which was known as the
“green pump,” a very favorite one, as the water, pure limestone, was
supposed to be better, cooler, and stronger than that of others. Much
has been written, by our popular authors, on the virtues and legends of
old town pumps, but, to me, this one had a beauty, a charm, a glory
which no other inanimate object in wide creation possessed! And of a
moonlight night, when I descried, at a distance, its friendly handle,
outstretched like an arm of welcome, I have rushed up and grasped it
with a right hearty good feeling! Long time afterwards, when it had
ceased to be a love-beacon to me, I never passed it without taking a
drink from its old, rusty ladle, and the water, like the friendly
draught contained in the magic cup of eastern story, transported me over
the waste of time to poetry and love! Even here I pause to wipe away the
fond, sad tears, which the recollection of that old “green pump” calls
up to my mind, and I should love to go back and stand beside it, and
drink, aye deeply, of its fresh, cool water! There are now many stately
mansions in that growing city, that sits like a fairy queen upon the
shore of the charmed Ohio; but away from all its lofty structures and
edifices of wealth, away from her public haunts, her galleries and
halls, would I turn, to pay homage to the old “green pump”!
Some quiet evenings, too, had I in Louise’s room, listening to Henry
sing, while he played upon his banjo. His voice was fine, full, and
round, and rang out with the clearness of a bell. Though possessed of
but slight cultivation, I considered it the finest one I ever heard.
But again my pleasures were brought to a speedy close. As the winter
began to grow more cold, and the city more dull, the young ladies began
to talk of a jaunt to New Orleans. Their first determination was to
carry me with them; but, after calculating the “cost,” they concluded it
was better to go without a servant, and render all necessary toilette
services to each other. They had no false pride–thanks to their
Northern education for that!
Before their departure they gave quite a large dinner-party, served up
in the most fantastic manner, consisting of six different courses. I
officiated as waiter, assisted by Duke. Owing to the scarcity of
servants in the family, Elsy was forced to attend the door, and render
what assistance she could at the table.
Whilst they were engaged on the fourth course, a violent ring was heard
at the door-bell, which Elsy was bound to obey.
In a few moments she returned, saying to one of the guests:
“Miss Allfield, a lady wishes to speak with you.”
“_With me?_” interrogated the lady.
“Who can she be?” said Miss Allfield, in surprise.
“Bid the lady be seated in the parlor, and say that Miss Allfield is at
dinner,” replied Mrs. Smith.
“If the company will excuse me, I will attend to this unusual visitor,”
said Miss Allfield, as she rose to leave.
“_It is a colored lady_, and she is waitin’ fur you at the door,” put in
The blank amazement that sat upon the face of each guest, may be better
imagined than described! Some of them were ready to go into convulsions
of laughter. A moment of dead silence reigned around, when Miss Nellie
set the example of a hearty laugh, in which all joined, except Mr. and
Mrs. Smith, whose faces were black as a tempest-cloud.
But there stood the offending Elsy, all unconscious of her guilt. When
she first came to town, she had been in the habit of announcing company
to the ladies as “a man wants to see you,” or “a woman is in the
parlor,” and had, every time, been severely reprimanded, and told that
she should say “a lady or gentleman is in the parlor.” And the poor,
green creature, in her great regard for “ears polite,” did not know how
to make the distinction between the races; but most certainly was she
taught it by the severe whipping that was administered to her afterwards
by Mr. Smith. No intercession or entreaty from the ladies could be of
any avail. Upon Elsy’s bare back must the atonement be made! After this
public whipping, she was held somewhat in disgrace by the other
servants. Duke gave her a very decided cut, and Emily, who had never
liked her, was now lavish in her abuse and ill-treatment. She even
struck the poor, offenceless creature many blows; and from this there
was no redemption, for she was in sad disrepute with Mr. and Mrs. Smith;
and, after the young ladies’ departure, she had no friend at all, for I
was too powerless to be of use to her.
* * * * * * *
The remainder of the winter was dull indeed. My interviews with Henry
had been discontinued; and I never saw Louise. I had no time for
reading. It was work, work, delve and drudge until my health sank under
it. Mrs. Smith never allowed us any time on Sundays, and the idea of a
negro’s going to church was outrageous.
“No,” she replied, when I asked permission to attend church, “stay at
home and do your work. What business have negroes going to church? They
don’t understand anything about the sermon.”
Very true, I thought, for the most of them; but who is to blame for
their ignorance? If opportunities for improvement are not allowed them,
assuredly they should not suffer for it.
How dead and lifeless lay upon my spirit that dull, cold winter! The
snow-storm was without; and ice was within. Constant fault-finding and
ten thousand different forms of domestic persecution well-nigh crushed
the life out of me. Then there was not one break of beauty in my
over-cast sky! No faint or struggling ray of light to illume the
ice-bound circle that surrounded me!
But the return of spring began to inspire me with hope; for then I
expected the arrival of my unknown mistress. Henry and Louise both knew
her, and they represented her as possessed of very amiable and
philanthropic views. How eagerly I watched for the coming of the May
blossoms, for then she, too, would come, and I be released from torture!
How dull and drear seemed the howling month of March, and even the
fitful, changeful April. Alternate smiles and tears were wearying to me,
and sure I am, no school-girl elected queen of the virgin month, ever
welcomed its advent with such delight as I!
With its first day came the young ladies. Right glad was I to see them.
They returned blooming and bright as flowers, with the same gentle
manners and kindly dispositions that they had carried away.
Miss Nellie had many funny anecdotes to tell of what she had seen and
heard; really it was delightful to hear her talk in that mirth-provoking
manner! In her accounts of Southern dandyisms and fopperies, she drew
forth her father’s freest applause.
“Why, Nellie, you ought to write a book, you would beat Dickens,” he
used to say; but her more sober sister and cousin never failed to
reprove her, though gently, for her raillery.
“Well, Elsy,” she cried, when she met that little-respected personage,
“Have any more ‘colored ladies’ called during our absence?” This was
done in a kind, jocular way; but the poor negro felt it keenly, and held
her head down in mortification.
* * * * * * *
At length the second week of the month of May arrived, and with it came
my new mistress! A messenger, no less a person than Henry, was
despatched for me. The time for which I was hired at Mr. Smith’s having
expired two weeks previously, I hastily got myself ready, and Henry once
again shouldered my trunk.
With a feeling of delight, I said farewell to Mrs. Smith and the
servants; but when I bade the young ladies good-bye, I own to the
weakness of shedding tears! I tried to impress upon Miss Adele’s mind
the sentiment of love that I cherished for her, and I had the
satisfaction of knowing that she was not too proud to feel an interest
All the way to the G—- House, Henry was trying to cheer me up, and
embolden me for the interview with Miss Nancy. I had been looking
anxiously for the time of her arrival, and now I shrank from it. It was
well for my presence of mind that Miss Jane and her husband had returned
to their homestead, for I do not think that I could have breathed freely
in the same house with them, even though their control over me had
Arriving at the G—- House, I had not the courage to venture instantly
into Miss Nancy’s presence; but sought refuge, for a few moments, in
Louise’s apartment, where she gave me a very _cordial_ reception, and a
delightful beverage compounded of blackberries.
At last I contrived to “screw my courage to the sticking-place,” and go
to Miss Nancy’s room.
I paused at the closed door before knocking for admission. When I did
knock, I heard a not unpleasant voice say–
The tone of that voice re-inspired me, and I boldly entered.
There, resting upon the bed, was one of the sweetest and most benign
faces that I ever beheld. Age had touched it but to beautify. Serene and
clear, from underneath the broad cap frill shone her mild gray eyes. The
wide brow was calm and white as an ivory tablet, and the lip, like a
faded rose-leaf, hinted the bright hue which it had worn in health. The
cheek, like the lip, was blanched by the hand of disease. “Ah,” she
said, as with a slight cough she elevated herself upon the pillow, “it
is you, Ann. You are a little tardy. I have been looking for you for the
“I have been in the house some time, Miss Nancy, but had not the courage
to venture into your presence; and yet I have been watching for your
arrival with the greatest anxiety.”
“You must not be afraid of me, child, I am but a sorry invalid, who
will, I fear, often weary and overtax your patience; but you must bear
with me; and, if you are faithful, I will reward you for it. Henry has
told me that you are pretty well educated, and have a pleasant voice for
reading. This delights me much; for your principal occupation will be to
read to me.”
Certainly this pleased me greatly, for I saw at once that I was removed
from the stultifying influences which had so long been exercised over my
mind. Now I should find literary food to supply my craving. My eyes
fairly sparkled, as I answered,
“This is what I have long desired, Miss Nancy; and you have assigned to
me the position I most covet.”
“I am glad I have pleased you, child. It is my pleasure to gratify
others. Our lives are short, at best, and he or she only lives _truly_
who does the most good.”
This was a style and manner of talk that charmed me. Beautiful example
and type of womankind! I felt like doing reverence to her.
She reached her thin hand out to help herself to a glass of water, that
stood on a stand near by. I sprang forward to relieve her.
“Ah, thank you,” she said, in a most bland tone; “I am very weak; the
slightest movement convinces me of the failure of my strength.”
I begged that she would not exert herself, but always call on me for
everything that she needed.
“I came here to serve you, and I assure you, my dear Miss Nancy, I shall
be most happy in doing it. Mine will, I believe, truly be a ‘labor of
Another sweet smile, with the gilded light of a sunbeam, broke over her
calm, sweet face! Bless her! she and all of her class should be held as
“blessed among women;” for do they not walk with meek and reverent
footsteps in the path of her, the great model and prototype of all the
* * * * * * *
When I had been with her but a few days, she informed me that, as soon
as her health permitted, she intended being removed to her house on
Walnut street. I was not particularly anxious for this; for my sojourn
at the G—- House was perfectly delightful. My frequent intercourse
with Henry and Louise, was a source of intense pleasure to me. I was
allowed to pass the evenings with them. Truly were those hours dear and
bright. Henry played upon his banjo, and sang to us the most
enrapturing songs, airs and glees; and Louise generally supplied us with
cakes and lemonade! How exquisite was my happiness, as there we sat upon
the little balcony gazing at the Indiana shore, and talking of the time
when Henry and I should be free.
“How much remains to be paid to your master, Henry,” asked Louise.
“I have paid all but three hundred and fifty; one hundred of which I
already have; so, in point of fact, I lack only two hundred and fifty,”
“I am very anxious to leave here this fall. I wish to go to Montreal.
Now, if you could make your arrangements to go on with me, I should be
glad. I shall require the services and attentions of a man; and, if you
have not realized the money by that time, I think I can lend it to you,”
A bright light shone in Henry’s eye, as he returned his thanks; but
quickly the coming shadow banished that radiance of joy.
“But think of her,” he said tenderly, laying his hand on my shoulder;
“what can she do without us, or what should I be without her?”
“Oh, think not of me, dearest, I have a good home, and am well cared
for. Go, and as soon as you can, make the money, and come back for me.”
“Live years away from you? Oh, no, no!” and he wound his arm around my
waist, and, most naturally, my head rested upon his shoulder. Loud and
heavy was his breathing, and I knew that a fierce struggle was raging in
“I will never leave her, Louise,” he at length replied. “That tyrant,
the law, may part us; but, my free will and act–_never_.”
“Ah, well,” added she, as she looked upon us, “you will think better of
this after you give it a little reflection. This is only love’s
delusion;” and, in her own quiet, sensible way, she turned the stream of
conversation into another channel.
I think now, with pleasure, of the lovely scenes I enjoyed on those
evenings, with the fire-flies playing in the air; and many times have I
thought how beautifully and truly they typify the illusive glancings of
hope darting here and there with their fire-lit wings; eluding our
grasp, and sparkling e’en as they flit.
* * * * * * *
A few weeks after my installation in the new office, my mistress, whose
health had been improving under my nursing, began to get ready to move
to her sweet little cottage residence on Walnut street. I was not
anxious for the change, notwithstanding it gave me many local
advantages; for I should be removed from Henry, and though I knew that I
could see him often, yet the same roof would not cover us. But my life,
hitherto, had been too dark and oppressed for me to pause and mourn over
the “crumpled rose-leaf;” and so, with right hearty good will I set to
work “packing Miss Nancy’s trunk,” and gathering up her little articles
that had lain scattered about the room.
An upholsterer had been sent out to get the house ready for us. When we
were on the eve of starting, Henry came to carry the luggage, and Miss
Nancy paid him seventy-five cents, at which he took off his hat, made a
low bow, and said,
“Thank you, Missis.”
Miss Nancy was seated on the most comfortable cushion, and I directly
opposite, fanning her.
We drove up to the house, a neat little brick cottage, painted white,
with green shutters, and a deep yard in front, thickly swarded, with a
variety of flowers, and a few forest trees. Beautiful exotics, in rare
plaster, and stone vases, stood about in the yard, and a fine cast-iron
watch-dog slept upon the front steps. Passing through the broad hall,
you had a fine view of the grounds beyond, which were handsomely
decorated. The out-buildings were all neatly painted or white-washed. A
thorough air of neatness presided over the place. On the right of the
hall was the parlor, furnished in the very perfection of taste and
The carpet was of blue, bespeckled with yellow; a sofa of blue
brocatelle, chairs, and ottomans of the same material, were scattered
about. A cabinet stood over in the left corner, filled with the
collections and curiosities of many years’ gathering, whilst the long
blue curtains, with festoonings of lace, swept to the floor! Adjoining
the parlor was the dining-room, with its oaken walls, and cane-colored
floor-cloth. Opposite to the parlor, and fronting the street, was Miss
Nancy’s room, with its French bedstead, lounge, bureau, bookcase, table,
and all the et ceteras of comfort. Opening out from her room was a small
apartment, just large enough to contain a bed, chair, and wardrobe, with
a cheap little mirror overhanging a tasteful dresser, whereon were laid
a comb, brush, soap, basin, pitcher, &c. This room had been prepared for
me by my kind mistress. Pointing it out, she said,
“That, Ann, is your _castle_.” I could not restrain my tears.
“Heaven send me grace to prove my gratitude to you, kind Miss Nancy,” I
“Why, my poor girl, I deserve no thanks for the performance of my duty.
You are a human being, my good, attentive nurse, and I am bound to
consider your comfort or prove unworthy of my avowed principles.”
“This is so unlike what I have been used to, Miss Nancy, that it excites
my wonder as well as gratitude.”
“I fear, poor child, that you have served in a school of rough
experience! You are so thoroughly disciplined, that, at times, you
excite my keenest pity.”
“Yes, ma’m, I have had all sorts of trouble. The only marvel is that I
am not utterly brutalized.”
“Some time you must tell me your history; but not now, my nerves are too
unquiet to listen to an account so harrowing as I know your recital must
As I adjusted the pillow and arranged the beautiful silk spread (her own
manufacture), I observed that her eyes were filled with tears. I said
nothing, but the sight of _those tears_ served to soften many a painful
recollection of former years.
I am conscious, in writing these pages, that there will be few of my
white readers who can enter fully into my feelings. It is impossible for
them to know how deeply the slightest act of kindness impressed
_me_–how even a word or tone gently spoken called up all my
thankfulness! Those to whom kindness is common, a mere household
article, whose ears are greeted morning, noon and night, with loving
sounds and kind tones, will deem this strange and exaggerated; but, let
them recollect that I was a _slave_–not a mere servant, but a perpetual
slave, according to the abhorred code of Kentucky; and their wonder will
The first night that I threw myself down on my bed to sleep (did I state
that I had a bedstead–that I had _actually_ what slaves deemed a great
luxury–a _high-post bedstead_?) I felt as proud as a queen. Henry had
been to see me. I entertained him in a nice, clean, carpeted kitchen,
until a few minutes of ten o’clock, when he left me; for at that hour,
by the city ordinance, he was obliged to be at home.
“What,” I thought, “have I now to desire? Like the weary dove sent out
from the ark, I have at last found land, peace and safety. Here I can
rest contentedly beneath the waving of the olive branches that guard the
sacred portal of _home!_” _Home!_ home this truly was! A home where the
heart would always love to lurk; and how blessed seemed the word to me,
now that I comprehended its practical significance! No more was it a
fable, an expression merely used to adorn a song or round a verse!
That first night that I spent at home was not given up to sleep. No, I
was too happy for that! Through the long, mysterious hours, I lay
wakeful on my soft and pleasant pillow, weaving fairest fancies from the
dim chaos of happy hopes. Adown the sloping vista of the future I
descried nought but shade and flowers!
With my new mistress, I was more like a companion than a servant. My
duties were light–merely to read to her, nurse her, and do her sewing;
and, as she had very little of the latter, I may as well set it down as
the “extras” of my business, rather than the business itself.
I rose every morning, winter and summer, at five o’clock, and arranged
Miss Nancy’s room whilst she slept; and, so accustomed had she become to
my light tread, that she slept as soundly as though no one had been
stirring. After this was done, I placed the family Bible upon a stand
beside her bed; then took my sewing and seated myself at the window,
until she awoke. Then I assisted her in making her morning toilette,
which was very simple; wheeled the easy chair near the bed, and helped
her into it. After which she read a chapter from the holy book, followed
by a beautiful, extemporaneous prayer, in which we were joined by Biddy,
the Irish cook. After this, Miss Nancy’s breakfast was brought in on a
large silver tray,–a breakfast consisting of black tea, Graham bread,
and mutton chop. In her appetite, as in her character, she was simple.
After this was over, Biddy and I breakfasted in the kitchen. Our fare
was scarcely so plain, for hearty constitutions made us averse to the
abstemiousness of our mistress. We had hot coffee, steaming steaks,
omelettes and warm biscuits.
“Ah, but she is a love of a lady!” exclaimed Biddy, as she ate away
heartily at these luxuries. “Where in this city would we find such a
mistress, that allows the servants better fare than she takes herself?
And then she never kapes me from church. I can attend the holy mass, and
even go to vespers every Sunday of my life. The Lord have her soul for
it! But she is as good as a canonized saint, if she is a Protestant!”
Sometimes I used to repeat these conversations to Miss Nancy. They never
failed to amuse her greatly.
“Poor Biddy,” she would say, in a quiet way, with a sweet smile, “ought
to know that true religion is the same in all. It is not the being a
member of a particular church, or believing certain dogmas of faith,
that make us religious, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. It is
the living religion, not the simple believing of it, that constitutes us
_Christians_. We must feel that all men are our brothers, and all women
our sisters; for in the kingdom of heaven there will be no distinction
of race or color, and I see no reason why we should live differently
here. The Saviour of the world associated with the humblest. His chosen
twelve were the fishermen of Galilee. I want to live in constant
preparation for death; but, alas! my weak endeavor is but seldom crowned
How reverently I looked upon her at such times! What a beautiful saint
One evening in the leafy month of June, when the intensity of summer
begins to make itself felt, I took my little basket, filled with some
ruffling that I was embroidering for Miss Nancy’s wrapper, and seated
myself upon the little portico at the back of the house. I had been
reading to her the greater portion of the day, and felt that it was
pleasant to be left in an indolent, dreamy state of mind, that required
no concentration of thought. As my fingers moved lazily along, I was
humming an old air, that I had heard in far less happy days. Everything
around me was so pleasant! The setting sun was flinging floods of glory
over the earth, and the young moon was out upon her new wing, softening
and beautifying the scene. Afar off, the lull of pleasant waters and the
music-roar of the falls sounded dreamily in my ear! I laid my work down
in the basket, and, with closed eyes, thought over the events and
incidents of my past life of suffering; and, as the dreary picture of my
troubles at Mr. Peterkin’s returned to my mind, and my subsequent
imprisonment in the city, my trials at “the pen,” and then this my safe
harbor and haven of rest, so strange the whole seemed, that I almost
doubted the reality, and feared to open my eyes, lest the kindly,
illusive dream should be broken forever. But no, it was no dream; for,
upon turning my head, I spied through the unclosed door of the
dining-room the careful arrangement of the tea-table. There it stood,
with its snowy cover, upon which were placed the fresh loaf of Graham
bread, the roll of sweet butter, some parings of cheese, the glass bowl
of fruit and pitcher of cream, together with the friendly tea-urn of
bright silver, from which I, even _I_, had often been supplied with the
delightful beverage. And then, stepping through the door, with a calm
smile on her face, was Miss Nancy herself! How beautifully she looked in
her white, dimity wrapper, with the pretty blue girdle, and tiny lace
cap! She gazed out upon the yard, with the blooming roses, French pinks,
and Colombines that grew in luxuriance. Stepping upon the sward, she
gathered a handful of flowers, clipping them nicely from the bush with a
pair of scissors, that she wore suspended by a chain to her side. Seeing
me on the portico, she said,
“Ann, bring me my basket and thread here, and wheel my arm-chair out; I
wish to sit with you here.”
I obeyed her with pleasure, for I always liked to have her near me. She
was so much more the friend than the mistress, that I never felt any
reserve in her presence. All was love. As she took her seat in the
arm-chair, I threw a shawl over her shoulders to protect her from any
injurious influence of the evening air. She busied herself tying up the
flowers; and their arrangement of color, &c., with a view to effect,
would have done credit to a florist. My admiration was so much excited,
that I could not deny myself the pleasure of an expression of it.
“Ah, yes,” she answered, “this was one of the amusements of my youth.
Many a bouquet have I tied up in my dear old home.”
I thought I detected a change in her color, and heard a sigh, as she
“Of what State are you a native, Miss Nancy?”
“Dear old Massachusetts,” she answered, with a glow of enthusiasm.
“It is the State, of all others in the Union, for which I have the most
“Ah, well may you say that, poor girl,” she replied, “for its people
treat your unfortunate race with more humanity than any of the others.”
“I have read a great deal of their liberality and cultivation, of both
mind and heart, which has excited my admiring interest. Then, too, I
have known those born and reared beneath the shadow of its wise and
beneficent laws, and the better I knew them, the more did my admiration
for the State increase. Now I feel that Massachusetts is doubly dear to
me, since I have learned that it is your birth-place.”
She did not say anything, but her mild eyes were suffused with tears.
Just as I was about to speak to her of Mr. Trueman, Biddy came to
announce tea, and, after that, Miss Nancy desired to be left alone. As
was his custom, with eight o’clock came Henry. We sat out on the
portico, with the moonlight shining over us, and talked of the future! I
told him what Miss Nancy said of Massachusetts, and, I believe, he was
seized with the idea of going thither after purchasing himself.
He was unusually cheerful. He had made a great deal in the last few
months; had grown to be quite a favorite with the keeper of the hotel,
and was liberally paid for his Sunday and holiday labors, and, by
errands for, and donations from, the boarders, had contrived to lay up a
“I hope, dearest, to be able soon to accomplish my freedom; then I shall
be ready to buy you. How much does Miss Nancy ask for you?”
“Oh, Henry, I cannot leave her, even if I were able to pay down every
cent that she demands for me. I should dislike to go away from her. She
is so kind and good; has been such a friend to me that I could not
desert her. Who would nurse her? Who would feel the same interest in her
that I do? No, I will stay with her as long as she lives, and do all I
can to prove my gratitude.”
“What do you mean, Ann? Would you refuse to make me happy? Miss Nancy
has other friends who would wait upon her.”
“But, Henry, that does not release me from my obligation. When she was
on the eve of starting upon a journey, you went to her with the story of
my danger. She promptly consented to buy me without even seeing me. I
was not purchased as an article of property; with the noble liberality
of a philanthropist, she ransomed, at a heavy price, a suffering
sister, and shall I be such an ingrate as to leave her? No, she and Mr.
Trueman of Boston, are the two beings whom I would willingly serve
Just then a deep sigh burst from the full heart of some one, and I
thought I heard a retreating footstep.
“Who can that have been?” asked Henry.
We examined the hall, the dining-room, my apartment; and I knocked at
Miss Nancy’s door, but, receiving no answer, I judged she was asleep.
“It was but one of those peculiar voices of the night, which are the
better heard from this intense silence,” said Henry, and, finding that
my alarm was quieted, he bade me an affectionate good-night, and so we