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- The Little Immigrant - 3/5 -
"I do not see how anything can be prettier," said Renestine one day after they had been in their home about a week. She had just finished looping the pretty Swiss curtains at the windows of their living room. "I really do not," she continued, stepping back, her finger tips together, her head quizzically on one side. "Nothing can be sweeter or prettier than our home. Jaffray, have you noticed how dainty the chintz furniture is and how well it goes with the walls? I think I deserve commendation for that wall paper, Jaffray."
"Indeed, you do, my darling," returned Jaffray, pulling solemnly at his pipe and looking half amused, half serious, at his young wife. "Are you quite sure the pattern is large enough?" he said, laughing.
"Oh, you ungrateful man, you are making fun of me, I do believe. Come into the dining-room and have dinner. Caroline is just bringing it in."
Arm in arm, they stepped into a long, narrow room which went the width of the house, only excepting a little room off the main bedroom which was used for a dressing room.
The house consisted of a living room, a small hall and across from the living room, the bedroom. Back of the little room was a small porch and detached from the house, but connected by a covered walk, was the kitchen. The dining-room was a foot below the two front rooms, the kitchen joining it by the covered passage way. They could never explain why the dining-room was so arranged, but concluded that the owner had added it on at a later time. It was cosy and comfortable and became attractive under the deft fingers of Renestine. The little covered porch in front of the house was screened by running vines from the gaze of the street.
"Now for my book shelf!" exclaimed Jaffray, after he had smoked his afternoon pipe. "You must help me arrange them, Renestine. No real home without books, little girl."
Josiah brought in the large drygoods box, which he opened, and together Jaffray and Renestine took out the books, dusted them and placed them on the shelves built in one side of the wall. Among them were Byron,
Moore, Pope, History of the United States, Josephus, Irving's Life of Washington. It was late when the last one had been put away, and they were glad enough to rest in their rockers on the porch in the gloaming.
THE day was hot and sultry. The chinaberry trees gave out their sweet flower fragrance, almost too sweet to breathe freely in, while their lacy leaves scarcely stirred. A great shady one grew in the corner of the paling-fence around the yard and close to the two-room living quarters for the negro servants. Aunt Caroline sat in the door combing her wiry hair with a curry comb, a jagged piece of broken mirror in her lap to guide her in her hairdressing; close by were a couple of rush-bottom chairs set face to face and holding across their seats a pillow with a mosquito netting pulled tight across the top of the backs. Every once in a while Aunt Caroline would twist her neck in the direction of the improvised bed and, finding nothing stirring, would resume her hair-brushing.
"Oh, Aunt Caroline," rushed out of the air and a two-year-old little girl threw herself heavily against the old servant's knees, nearly dashing her toilet articles to the ground. Aunt Caroline started, raised her curry brush over her head and shook it hard at the child.
"My lands," she said, in a low voice. "Whar you come from and making all dat noise and your sister lying dar asleep. Ain't you never swine to renembar what I's al'ays tellin' yer, not ter brash up against one like out de Sperrit world and nearly scare yer old mammy ter deth? Ennyhow yer look tired; come heah in my lap and le' me rock yer."
"May I have your looking glass, then, Aunt Caroline?"
"Look out, chile, you'll cut yerself! No. I's got to lay dis up on de shelf for mahself. Dis no lookin' glass fer a white chile. Now you come heah and get in my lap dis minute."
The child, tired from play and romping around, lifted her arms to be taken up into her dear old mammy's lap. With her curlv head pressed against Aunt Caroline's breast, she fell asleep in a little while and was resting there long after Aunt Caroline had stopped tilting her chair forward and backward--a way quite familiar to Southern nurses in lulling children to sleep. In a little while she had succumbed to the silent noon hour herself.
"Looka heah, nigger. What you mean holden dat chile in yer lap and you fast ter sleep? Wake up. Yer heah? Miss Tiny is comin!" Josiah shoved his brogan over Aunt Caroline's thinly shod foot and she jerked her head up with a start.
"Bless mah soul!" She looked around with a frightened appearance at the chairs with the mosquito netting over them and two blue gray eyes were looking up into hers and a little fist was being devoured.
"Here you are with the children," said a low, sweet voice. "I've wondered if Lola was with you. Has the baby been asleep a long time, Aunt Caroline?"
"Yes'm. She jest now waken up. Ain't she purty, Miss Tiny? Just look at her little face looken like a cherub's. She shore is a buiful chile. Looks a hole lot like you wid her big eyes, on'y dey gray 'stead of black."
"Let me take Lola from you and you lift the baby and bring her to the house."
"Yes'm." Aunt Caroline didn't lose an opportunity, however, to turn around to remark to Josiah, who was hoeing not far away, "Yer, Josiah, you jes come heah, suh, and tote dis chile up to de house. She too hebby fer de Missus. You lubbering black nigger, you jes good fer nothin' nohow and doan you eber stamp on my foot agin! Go long, Miss Tiny, we will bring up de chillens!"
Jaffray was home for midday dinner. "I've bought a nurse girl for you, Renestine. Here is the bill of sale," he said, handing a light blue paper to her. Renestine read: "A copper colored girl," etc. When they were seated at the table Jaffray said: "I felt like a mean creature when I paid the money for that girl, but I knew we needed a nurse girl. Aunt Caroline can't cook and care any longer for the children too, so what was to be done? This slavery system is frightful, and mark my words, Renestine, the day will come when the darkies will be free. Where I was born on the Rhine, no one would believe for a moment that I would buy a human being. They would hate me as I hate myself for bartering in human flesh."
"I know, I know, Jaffray. I remember when my sister used to send Josiah out in the morning to work, he would come back in the evening with his pay that he had earned in the blacksmith shop and give it to her, and Aunt Caroline would bring her money, too, that she had made by a hard day's, washing and ironing. Oh, yes, it is all wrong and dreadful, but we will treat them well and wait for the day to set them free!"
"It will not be long now. There are all sorts of rumors about Lincoln doing this 'and that."
"You mean about setting the negroes free?"
"But how? People will not just let them walk away!
"Walk away! Oh, little woman, if it could be brought around that way the threatening clouds would not be so dark ahead! 'Just walk away.' The President is offering to find a way out. One is to 'compensate' owners out of Government funds for the release of their slaves; another is sending them to some warm country for colonization. Of course, he would ask Congress for an appropriation for this."
For long hours they sat reading the latest news in the day's paper and discussing the war reports with a very solemn foreboding of coming events.
WHEN the Civil War broke out the women of the South blanched with the terrible ordeal before them, but never for one moment doubted but that their beloved ones would come out of it all victorious. To them it was not conceivable that a cause so plainly one of individual rights could be lost. Sacrifice upon sacrifice was cheerfully made, even gloried in by these wonderful women of the South in 1861 and to the bitter end. Delicately nurtured women denied themselves comforts, sleep, food and drink; they were reduced to personal hardships which were met and borne with a sublime fortitude.
When it was all over those families which had possessed wealth and culture were in the grip of poverty, and it was then that the spirit of Southern womanhood showed its divine strength. Facing family troubles with the courage of noble resignation, those women who had been educated--some abroad--and accomplished, became school teachers at five dollars a month for a pupil, and many a woman to-day bears gratitude in her heart for the sweet influence of these school teachers, which has gone with her into every clime, into every condition, and proved an unfailing guide to the uplands and the heights. Many became seamstresses, some governesses and others traveling companions. But wherever these gentlewoman went they carried refinement and ideals.
The heroism of the Southern women in the Civil War is an Epic in American History!
Renestine was the mother now of three little daughters. Jaffray had gone to Mexico to buy up horses, saddles and commissaries for the army. Caroline and Josiah were her bodyguards and, faithful servants, they saved her little anxieties and looked after the welfare of the children.
Renestine made their little shoes by shaping cloth after their worn ones and sewing them together with pieces of soft cardboard for soles. She made coffee by drying beets, and flour by drying potatoes.
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