“Here you all are, hard at work,” exclaimed he, in his usual hearty manner, accepting at the same time the chair offered to him by Esther.
“Come, now,” continued he, “lay aside your work and newspapers, for I have great news to communicate.”
“Indeed, what is it?—what can it be?” cried the three females, almost in a breath; “do let us hear it!”
“Oh,” said Mr. Walters, in a provokingly slow tone, “I don’t think I’ll tell you to-night; it may injure your rest; it will keep till to-morrow.”
“Now, that is always the way with Mr. Walters,” said Caddy, pettishly; “he always rouses one’s curiosity, and then refuses to gratify it;—he is so tantalizing sometimes!”
“I’ll tell you this much,” said he, looking slily at Caddy, “it is connected with a gentleman who had the misfortune to be taken for a beggar, and who was beaten over the head in consequence by a young lady of my acquaintance.”
“Now, father has been telling you that,” exclaimed Caddy, looking confused, “and I don’t thank him for it either; I hear of that everywhere I go—even the Burtons know of it.”
Mr. Walters now looked round the room, as though he missed some one, and finally exclaimed, “Where is Charlie? I thought I missed somebody—where is my boy?”
“We have put him out to live at Mrs. Thomas’s,” answered Mrs. Ellis, hesitatingly, for she knew Mr. Walters’ feelings respecting the common practice of sending little coloured boys to service. “It is a very good place for him,” continued she—“a most excellent place.”
“That is too bad,” rejoined Mr. Walters—“too bad; it is a shame to make a servant of a bright clever boy like that. Why, Ellis, man, how came you to consent to his going? The boy should be at school. It really does seem to me that you people who have good and smart boys take the very course to ruin them. The worst thing you can do with a boy of his age is to put him at service. Once get a boy into the habit of working for a stipend, and, depend upon it, when he arrives at manhood, he will think that if he can secure so much a month for the rest of his life he will be perfectly happy. How would you like him to be a subservient old numskull, like that old Robberts of theirs?”
Here Esther interrupted Mr. Walters by saying, “I am very glad to hear you express yourself in that manner, Mr. Walters—very glad. Charlie is such a bright, active little fellow; I hate to have him living there as a servant. And he dislikes it, too, as much as any one can. I do wish mother would take him away.”
“Hush, Esther,” said her mother, sharply; “your mother lived at service, and no one ever thought the worse of her for it.”
Esther looked abashed, and did not attempt to say anything farther.