“You must certainly be misinformed,” responded Miss Jordan. “I know their father—he has frequently been here. He is a Southerner, a thorough gentleman in his manners; and, if ever a man was white, I am sure he is.”
“Have you seen their mother?” asked Mrs. Stevens, significantly.
“No, I never have,” replied Miss Jordan; “she is in poor health; but she must unquestionably be a white woman—a glance at the children ought to convince you of that.”
“It might, if I had not seen her, and did not know her to be a coloured woman. You see, my dear Miss Jordan,” continued she, in her blandest tone, “I am their next-door neighbour and have seen their mother twenty times and more; she is a coloured woman beyond all doubt.”
“I never could have dreamed of such a thing!” exclaimed Miss Jordan, as an anxious look overspread her face; then, after a pause, she continued: “I do not see what I am to do—it is really too unfortunate—I don’t know how to act. It seems unjust and unchristian to eject two such children from my school, because their mother has the misfortune to have a few drops of African blood in her veins. I cannot make up my mind to do it. Why, you yourself must admit that they are as white as any children in the room.”
“I am willing to acknowledge they are; but they have nigger blood in them, notwithstanding; and they are, therefore, as much niggers as the blackest, and have no more right to associate with white children than if they were black as ink. I have no more liking for white niggers than for black ones.”
The teacher was perplexed, and, turning to Mrs. Stevens, said, imploringly: “This matter seems only known to you; let me appeal to your generosity—say nothing more about it. I will try to keep your daughter away from them, if you wish—but pray do not urge me to the performance of an act that I am conscious would be unjust.”
Mrs. Stevens’s face assumed a severe and disagreeable expression. “I hoped you would look at this matter in a reasonable light, and not compel those who would be your friends to appear in the light of enemies. If this matter was known to me alone, I should remove my daughter and say nothing more about it; but, unfortunately for you, I find that, by some means or other, both Mrs. Kinney and Mrs. Roth have become informed of the circumstance, and are determined to take their children away. I thought I would act a friend’s part by you, and try to prevail on you to dismiss these two coloured children at once. I so far relied upon your right judgment as to assure them that you would not hesitate for a moment to comply with their wishes; and I candidly tell you, that it was only by my so doing that they were prevented from keeping their children at home to-day.”
Miss Jordan looked aghast at this startling intelligence; if Mrs. Roth and Mrs. Kinney withdrew their patronage and influence, her little school (the sole support of her mother and herself) would be well-nigh broken up.