The little girl in her arms, and the boy at her side, showed no trace whatever of African origin. The girl had the chestnut hair and blue eyes of her father; but the boy had inherited the black hair and dark eyes of his mother. The critically learned in such matters, knowing his parentage, might have imagined they could detect the evidence of his mother’s race, by the slightly mezzo-tinto expression of his eyes, and the rather African fulness of his lips; but the casual observer would have passed him by without dreaming that a drop of negro blood coursed through his veins. His face was expressive of much intelligence, and he now seemed to listen with an earnest interest to the conversation that was going on between his father and a dark-complexioned gentleman who sat beside him.
“And so you say, Winston, that they never suspected you were coloured?”
“I don’t think they had the remotest idea of such a thing. At least, if they did, they must have conquered their prejudices most effectually, for they treated me with the most distinguished consideration. Old Mr. Priestly was like a father to me; and as for his daughter Clara and her aunt, they were politeness embodied. The old gentleman was so much immersed in business, that he was unable to bestow much attention upon me; so he turned me over to Miss Clara to be shown the lions. We went to the opera, the theatre, to museums, concerts, and I can’t tell where all. The Sunday before I left I accompanied her to church, and after service, as we were coming out, she introduced me to Miss Van Cote and her mamma. Mrs. Van Cote was kind enough to invite me to her grand ball.”
“And did you go?” interrupted Mr. Garie.
“Of course, I did—and what is more, as old Mr. Priestly has given up balls, he begged me to escort Clara and her aunt.”
“Well, Winston, that is too rich,” exclaimed Mr. Garie, slapping his hand on the table, and laughing till he was red in the face; “too good, by Jove! Oh! I can’t keep that. I must write to them, and say I forgot to mention in my note of introduction that you were a coloured gentleman. The old man will swear till everything turns blue; and as for Clara, what will become of her? A Fifth-avenue belle escorted to church and to balls by a coloured gentleman!” Here Mr. Garie indulged in another burst of laughter so side-shaking and merry, that the contagion spread even to the little girl in Mrs. Garie’s arms, who almost choked herself with the tea her mother was giving her, and who had to be hustled and shaken for some time before she could be brought round again.