On his way to his hotel he passed the old State House, the bell of which was just striking ten. “It’s too late to go to-night,” said he, “it shall be the first thing I attend to in the morning;” and after walking on a short distance farther, he found himself at the door of his domicile.
As he passed through the little knot of waiters who were gathered about the doors, one of them turning to another, asked, “Ain’t that man a Southerner, and ain’t he in your rooms, Ben?”
“I think he’s a Southerner,” was the reply of Ben. “But why do you ask, Allen?” he enquired. “Because it’s time he had subscribed something,” replied Mr. Allen. “The funds of the Vigilance Committee are very low indeed; in fact, the four that we helped through last week have completely drained us. We must make a raise from some quarter, and we might as well try it on him.”
Mr. Winston was waiting for a light that he might retire to his room, and was quickly served by the individual who had been so confidentially talking with Mr. Allen.
After giving Mr. Winston the light, Ben followed him into his room and busied himself in doing little nothings about the stove and wash-stand. “Let me unbutton your straps, sir,” said he, stooping down and commencing on the buttons, which he was rather long in unclosing. “I know, sir, dat you Southern gentlemen ain’t used to doing dese yer things for youself. I allus makes it a pint to show Southerners more ’tention dan I does to dese yer Northern folk, ’cause yer see I knows dey’r used to it, and can’t get on widout it.”
“I am not one of that kind,” said Winston, as Ben slowly unbuttoned the last strap. “I have been long accustomed to wait upon myself. I’ll only trouble you to bring me up a glass of fresh water, and then I shall have done with you for the night.”
“Better let me make you up a little fire, the nights is werry cool,” continued Ben. “I know you must feel ’em; I does myself; I’m from the South, too.”
“Are you?” replied Mr. Winston, with some interest; “from what part!”
“From Tuckahoe county, Virginia; nice place dat.”
“Never having been there I can’t say,” rejoined Mr. Winston, smiling; “and how do you like the North? I suppose you are a runaway,” continued he.
“Oh, no sir! no sir!” replied Ben, “I was sot free—and I often wish,” he added in a whining tone, “dat I was back agin on the old place—hain’t got no kind marster to look after me here, and I has to work drefful hard sometimes. Ah,” he concluded, drawing a long sigh, “if I was only back on de old place!” “I heartily wish you were!” said Mr. Winston, indignantly, “and wish moreover that you were to be tied up and whipped once a day for the rest of your life. Any man that prefers slavery to freedom deserves to be a slave—you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Go out of the room, sir, as quick as possible!”
“Phew!” said the astonished and chagrined Ben, as he descended the stairs; “that was certainly a great miss,” continued he, talking as correct English, and with as pure Northern an accent as any one could boast.