“Will you never mind me? I’ve told you again and again not to go, and still you persist in disobeying me. I’ll cut you to pieces if you don’t mind. Will you ever go again?” she almost screamed in the ears of the terrified child.
“Oh, no, mother, never; please don’t whip me, I’ll mind you;” and as she spoke, she shrank as far as possible into the corner of the room. “What’s all this—what’s the matter, Jule? What on earth are you going to whip Liz for?”
“Because she deserves it,” was the sharp reply; “she don’t mind a word I say. I’ve forbid her again and again to go next door to visit those little niggers, and she will do it in spite of me. She slipped off this afternoon, and has been in their house over an hour; and it was only this morning I detected her kissing their Clarence through the fence.”
“Faugh,” said Mr. Stevens, with a look of disgust; “you kissed a nigger! I’m ashamed of you, you nasty little thing; your mother ought to have taken a scrubbing-brush and cleaned your mouth, never do such a thing again; come here to me.”
As he spoke, he extended his hand and grasped the delicately rounded arm of his little girl.
“What induces you to go amongst those people; hasn’t your mother again and again forbidden you to do so. Why do you go, I say?” he continued, shaking her roughly by the arm, and frowning savagely. “Why don’t you answer?—speak!”
The child, with the tears streaming down her lovely face, was only able to answer in her defence. “Oh, pa, I do love them so.”
“You do, do you?” replied her exasperated father, stamping his foot, and pushing her from him; “go to bed, and if ever I hear of you going there again, you shall be well whipped.” The tearful face lingered about the door in hope of a reprieve that did not come, and then disappeared for the night.
“The children must not be suffered to go in there, Jule; something I’ve learned to-day will——” here Mr. Stevens checked himself; and in answer to his wife’s impatient “What have you learned?” replied, “Oh, nothing of consequence—nothing that will interest you,” and sat with his slipper in his hand, engaged in deep thought.
Now for Mr. Stevens to commence a communication to his wife, and then break off in the middle of it, was as novel as disagreeable, as he was generally very communicative, and would detail to her in the evening, with pleasing minuteness, all the rogueries he had accomplished during the day; and his unwillingness to confide something that evidently occupied his mind caused his spouse to be greatly irritated.
Mr. Stevens drank his tea in silence, and during the evening continued absorbed in reflection; and, notwithstanding the various ill-natured remarks of his wife upon his strange conduct retired without giving her the slightest clue to its cause.