“What did you say?” asked Charlie, whose attention had been arrested by the last question.
“Why I asked where you learned all dat ’bout de children of Israel.”
“Oh, I learned that at Philadelphia,” was his reply; “I learned it at school with the rest of the boys.”
“You did!” exclaimed she, raising her hands with astonishment. “Is dere many more of ’em like you?”
Charlie did not hear this last question of Aunt Comfort’s, therefore she was rather startled by his replying in a loud tone, “Immense hosts.”
“Did I ever—jis’ hear dat, dere’s ‘’mense hostes’ of ’em jest like him! only think of it. Is dey all dere yet, honey?”
“They were all drowned.”
“Oh, Lordy, Lordy,” rejoined she, aghast with horror; for Charlie’s reply to a question regarding the fate of Pharaoh’s army, had been by her interpreted as an answer to her question respecting his coloured schoolmates at Philadelphia.
“And how did you ’scape, honey,” continued she, “from drowning ’long wid the rest of ’em?”
“Why I wasn’t there, it was thousands of years ago.”
“Look here. What do you mean?” she whispered; “didn’t you say jest now dat you went to school wid ’em?”
This was too much for Charlie, who shook all over with suppressed laughter; nor was Miss Cass proof against the contagion—she was obliged to almost suffocate herself with her handkerchief to avoid a serious explosion.
“Aunt Comfort, you are mistaking him,” said she, as soon as she could recover her composure; “he is answering the questions of the superintendent—not yours, and very well he has answered them, too,” continued she. “I like to see little boys aspiring: I am glad to see you so intelligent—you must persevere, Charlie.”
“Yes, you must, honey,” chimed in Aunt Comfort. “I’se very much like Miss Cass; I likes to see children—’specially children of colour—have expiring minds.”
Charlie went quite off at this, and it was only by repeated hush—hushes, from Miss Cass, and a pinch in the back from Aunt Comfort, that he was restored to a proper sense of his position.
The questioning being now finished, Mr. Whately came to Charlie, praised him highly for his aptness, and made some inquiries respecting his knowledge of the catechism; also whether he would be willing to join the class that was to be catechised in the church during the afternoon. To this, Charlie readily assented, and, at the close of the school, was placed at the foot of the class, preparatory to going into the Church.
The public catechizing of the scholars was always an event in the village; but now a novelty was given it, by the addition of a black lamb to the flock, and, as a matter of course, a much greater interest was manifested. Had a lion entered the doors of St. Stephen’s church, he might have created greater consternation, but he could not have attracted more attention than did our little friend on passing beneath its sacred portals. The length of the aisle seemed interminable to him, and on his way to the altar he felt oppressed by the scrutiny of eyes through which he was compelled to pass. Mr. Dural, the pastor, looked kindly at him, as he stood in front of the chancel, and Charlie took heart from his cheering smile.