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- Bricks Without Straw - 60/87 -


anger displayed. One is inclined to ask, with a laugh, "Well, what of it?" Perhaps there is not a single Northern resident of the South who has not more than once offended some personal friend by smiling in his face while he raged, with white lips and glaring eyes, about this culminating ignominy. Yet it was sadly real to them. In comparison with this, all other evils seemed light and trivial, and whatever tended to prevent it, was deemed fair and just. For this reason, the Southerners felt themselves not only justified, but imperatively called upon, in every way and manner, to resist and annul all legislation having this end in view. Regarding it as inherently fraudulent, malicious, and violent, they felt no compunctions in defeating its operation by counter-fraud and violence.

It was thus that the elements of reconstruction affected the hearts and heads of most of the Southern whites. To admit that they were honest in holding such views as they did is only to give them the benefit of a presumption which, when applied to the acts and motives of whole peoples, becomes irrefutable. A mob may be wrong-headed, but it is always right-hearted. What it does may be infamous, but underlying its acts is always the sting of a great evil or the hope of a great good.

Thus it was, too, that to the subtler mind and less selfish heart of Hesden Le Moyne, every attempt to nullify the effect or evade the operation of the Reconstruction laws was tinged with the idea of personal dishonor. To his understanding, the terms of surrender were, not merely that he would not again fight for a separate governmental existence, but, also, that he would submit to such changes in the national polity as the conquering majority might deem necessary and desirable as conditions precedent to restored power; and would honestly and fairly, as an honorable man and a brave soldier, carry out those laws either to successful fruition or to fair and legitimate repeal.

He was not animated by any thought of advantage to himself or to his class to arise from such ideas. Unlike Jordan Jackson, and men of his type, there was nothing which his class could gain thereby, except a share in the ultimate glory and success of an enlarged and solidified nation. The self-abnegation which he had learned from three years of duty as a private soldier and almost a lifetime of patient attendance upon a loved but exacting invalid, inclined to him to study the movements of society and the world, without especial reference to himself, or the narrow circle of his family or class. To his mind, _honor_--that honor which he accounted the dearest birthright his native South had given--required that from and after the day of his surrender he should seek and desire, not the gratification of revenge nor the display of prejudice, but the success and glory of the great republic. He felt that the American Nation had become greater and more glorious by the very act of overcoming rebellion. He recognized that the initial right or wrong of that struggle, whatever it might have been, should be subordinated in all minds to the result--an individual Nation. It was a greater and a grander thing to be an American than to have been a Confederate! It was more honorable and knightly to be true in letter and in spirit to every law of his reunited land than to make the woes of the past an excuse for the wrongs of the present. He felt all the more scrupulous in regard to this, because those measures were not altogether such as he would have adopted, nor such as he could yet believe would prove immediately successful. He thought that every Southern man should see to it especially that, if any element of reconstruction failed, it should not be on account of any lack of honest, sincere and hearty co-operation on his part.

It was for this reason that he had taken such interest in the experiment that was going on at Red Wing in educating the colored people. He did not at first believe at all in the capacity of the negro for culture, progress, self-support, or self-government; but he believed that the experiment, having been determined on by the nation, should be fairly and honestly carried out and its success or failure completely demonstrated. He admitted frankly that, if they had such capacity, they undoubtedly had the right to use it; because he believed the right inherent and inalienable with any race or people having the capacity. He considered that it was only the lack of co-ordinate capacity that made the Africans unfit to exercise co-ordinate power with individuals of the white race.

He thought they should be encouraged by every means to develop what was in them, and readily admitted that, should the experiment succeed and all distinction of civil right and political power be successfully abolished, the strength and glory of the nation would be wonderfully enhanced. His partiality for the two chief promoters of the experiment at Red Wing had greatly increased his interest in the result, which had by no means been diminished by his acquaintance with Mollie Ainslie.

It was not, however, until he bent over his unconscious charge in the stillness of the morning, made an examination of the wounds of his old playmate by the flickering light of the lamp, and undertook the process of resuscitation and cure, that he began to realize how his ancient prejudice was giving way before the light of what he could not but regard as truth. The application of some simple remedies soon restored Eliab to consciousness, but he found that the other injuries were so serious as to demand immediate surgical attendance, and would require considerable time for their cure.

His first idea had been to keep Eliab's presence at his house entirely concealed; but as soon as he realized the extent of his injuries, he saw that this would be impossible, and concluded that the safer way would be to entrust the secret to those servants who were employed "about the lot," which includes, upon a Southern plantation, all who are not regularly engaged in the crop. He felt the more willing to do this because of the attachment felt for the sweet-tempered but deformed minister at Red Wing by all of his race in the county. He carefully impressed upon the two women and Charles, the stable-boy, the necessity of the utmost caution in regard to the matter, and arranged with them to care for his patient by turns, so as never to leave him alone. He sent to the post at Boyleston for a surgeon, whose coming chanced not to be noticed by the neighbors, as he arrived just after dark and went away before daylight to return to his duty. A comfortable cot was arranged for the wounded man, and, to make the care of him less onerous, as well as to avoid the remark which continual use of the ladder would be sure to excite, Charles was directed to cut a doorway through the other gable of the old house into one of the rooms in a newer part. Charles was one of those men found on almost every plantation, who can "turn a hand to almost anything." In a short time he had arranged a door from the chamber above "Marse Hesden's room," and the task of nursing the stricken man back to life and such health as he might thereafter have, was carried on by the faithful band of watchers in the dim light of the old attic and amid the spicy odor of the "bulks" of tobacco, which was stored there awaiting a favorable market.

Hesden was so occupied with fhis care that it was not until the next day that he became aware of Mollie's absence. As she had gone without preparation or farewell, he rightly judged that it was her intention to return. At first, he thought he would go at once to Red Wing and assure himself of her safety, but a moment's consideration showed him not only that this was probably unnecessary, but also that to do so would attract attention, and perhaps reveal the hiding-place of Eliab. Besides, he felt confident that she would not be molested, and thought it quite as well that she should not be at Mulberry Hill for a few days, until the excitement had somewhat worn away.

On the next day, Eliab inquired so pitifully for both Miss Mollie and Nimbus, that Hesden, although he knew it was a half-delirious anxiety, had sent Charles on an errand to a plantation in that vicinity, with directions to learn all he could of affairs there, if possible without communicating directly with Miss Ainslie.

This he did, and reported everything quiet--Nimbus and Berry not heard from; Eliab supposed to have been killed; the colored people greatly alarmed; and "Miss Mollie a-comfortin' an encouragin' on 'em night an' day."

Together with this anxiety came the trust confided to Hesden by Jordan Jackson, and the new, and at first somewhat arduous, duties imposed thereby. In the discharge of these he was brought into communication with a great many of the best people of the county, and did not hesitate to express his opinion freely as to the outrage at Red Wing. He was several times warned to be prudent, but he answered all warnings so firmly, and yet with so much feeling, that he was undisturbed. He stood so high, and had led so pure a life, that he could even be allowed to entertain obnoxious sentiments without personal danger, so long as he did not attempt to reduce them to practice or attempt to secure for colored people the rights to which he thought them entitled. However, a great deal of remark was occasioned by the fact of his having become trustee for the fugitive Radical, and he was freely charged with having disgraced and degraded himself and his family by taking the part of a "renegade, Radical white nigger," like Jackson. This duty took him from home during the day in a direction away from Red Wing, and a part of each night he sat by the bedside of Eliab. So that more than a week had passed, during which he had found opportunity to take but three meals with his mother, and had not yet been able to visit Red Wing.

CHAPTER XLVII.

BREASTING THE TORRENT.

To make up for the sudden loss of society occasioned by the simultaneous departure of Mollie and the unusual engrossment of Hesden in business matters of pressing moment, as he had informed her, Mrs. Le Moyne had sent for one of the sisters of her son's deceased wife, Miss Hetty Lomax, to come and visit her. It was to this young lady that Hesden had appealed when the young teacher was suddenly stricken down in his house, and who had so rudely refused. Learning that the object of her antipathy was no longer there, Miss Hetty came and made herself very entertaining to the invalid by detailing to her all the horrors, real and imagined, of the past few days. Day by day she was in the invalid's room, and it was from her that Mrs. Le Moyne had learned all that was contained in her letter to Mollie concerning the public feeling and excitement. A week had elapsed, when Miss Hetty one day appeared with a most interesting budget of news, the recital of which seemed greatly to excite Mrs. Le Moyne. At first she listened with incredulity and resentment; then conviction seemed to force itself upon her mind, and anger succeeded to astonishment. Calling her serving woman, she asked impetuously:

"Maggie, is your Master Hesden about the house?"

"Really now mistis," said the girl in some confusion, "I can't edsackly tell. He war, de las' time I seed him; but then he mout hev gone out sence dat, yer know."


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