‘Come here, Topsy, you monkey,’ said Mr. St. Clare.
Topsy came, her hard, round eyes glittering and blinking, half in fear, half in mischief.
‘What makes you behave so?’ said Mr. St. Clare, who could not help being amused at her funny expression.
‘Spects it’s my wicked heart; Miss Feely says so.’
’Don’t you see how much Miss Ophelia has done for you? She says she has done everything she can think of.’
‘Lor’, yes, mas’r! Old missis used to say so, too. She whipped me a heap harder, and used to pull my hair and knock my head agin the door. But it didn’t do me no good. I ‘spect if they is to pull every hair out o’ my head it wouldn’t do no good neither. I’s so wicked. Laws! I’s nothin’ but a nigger noways.’
‘I shall have to give her up,’ said Miss Ophelia. ’I can’t have that trouble any longer.’
Eva had stood silent, listening. Now she took Topsy by the hand, and led her into a little room close by.
‘What makes you so naughty, Topsy?’ she said, with tears in her eyes. ‘Why don’t you try to be good? Don’t you love anybody, Topsy?’
‘Dunno nothin’ ‘bout love. I love candy, that’s all.’
‘But you love your father and mother?’
‘Never had none, ye know. I telled ye that, Miss Eva.’
‘Oh, I forgot,’ said Eva sadly. ’But hadn’t you any brother, or sister or aunt, or—’
’No, none on ’em. Never had nothin’ nor nobody.’
‘But, Topsy, if you would only try to be good you might—’
‘Couldn’t never be nothin’ but a nigger, if I was ever so good,’ said Topsy. ‘If I could be skinned, and come white, I’d try then.’
’But people can love you, if you are black, Topsy. Miss Ophelia would love you if you were good.’
Topsy laughed scornfully.
‘Don’t you think so?’ said Eva.
’No. She can’t bear me, ’cause I’m a nigger. She’d as soon have a toad touch her. There can’t nobody love niggers, and niggers can’t do nothin’. I don’t care,’ and Topsy began whistling to show that she didn’t.
‘Oh, Topsy! I love you,’ said Eva, laying her little, thin hand on Topsy’s shoulder. ’I love you, because you haven’t had any mother, or father, or friends; because you have been a poor, ill-used child. I love you, and I want you to be good. It makes me sorry to have you so naughty. I wish you would try to be good for my sake, because I’m going to die soon. I shan’t be here very long.’
Topsy’s round, bright eyes grew suddenly dim with tears. She did believe at last that it was possible for some one to love her. She laid her head down between her knees and wept and sobbed.
‘Poor Topsy,’ said Eva gently.
‘Oh, Miss Eva, dear Miss Eva,’ cried the poor little black child, ’I will try, I will try. I never did care nothin’ about it before.’