“I have heard that charge made, even by some Americans. I do not know. But there is a slavery that no legislation can abolish,—the slavery of caste. That, like all the slaveries on earth, is a double bondage. And what a bondage it is which compels a community, in order to preserve its established tyrannies, to walk behind the rest of the intelligent world! What a bondage is that which incites a people to adopt a system of social and civil distinctions, possessing all the enormities and none of the advantages of those systems which Europe is learning to despise! This system, moreover, is only kept up by a flourish of weapons. We have here what you may call an armed aristocracy. The class over which these instruments of main force are held is chosen for its servility, ignorance, and cowardice; hence, indolence in the ruling class. When a man’s social or civil standing is not dependent on his knowing how to read, he is not likely to become a scholar.”
“Of coze,” said Aurora, with a pensive respiration, “I thing id is doze climade,” and the apothecary stopped, as a man should who finds himself unloading large philosophy in a little parlor.
“I thing, me, dey hought to pud doze quadroon’ free?” It was Clotilde who spoke, ending with the rising inflection to indicate the tentative character of this daringly premature declaration.
Frowenfeld did not answer hastily.
“The quadroons,” said he, “want a great deal more than mere free papers can secure them. Emancipation before the law, though it may be a right which man has no right to withhold, is to them little more than a mockery until they achieve emancipation in the minds and good will of the people—’the people,’ did I say? I mean the ruling class.” He stopped again. One must inevitably feel a little silly, setting up tenpins for ladies who are too polite, even if able, to bowl them down.
Aurora and the visitor began to speak simultaneously; both apologized, and Aurora said:
“‘Sieur Frowenfel’, w’en I was a lill girl,”—and Frowenfeld knew that he was going to hear the story of Palmyre. Clotilde moved, with the obvious intention to mend the fire. Aurora asked, in French, why she did not call the cook to do it, and Frowenfeld said, “Let me,”—threw on some wood, and took a seat nearer Clotilde. Aurora had the floor.
AURORA AS A HISTORIAN
Alas! the phonograph was invented three-quarters of a century too late. If type could entrap one-half the pretty oddities of Aurora’s speech,—the arch, the pathetic, the grave, the earnest, the matter-of-fact, the ecstatic tones of her voice,—nay, could it but reproduce the movement of her hands, the eloquence of her eyes, or the shapings of her mouth,—ah! but type—even the phonograph—is such an inadequate thing! Sometimes she laughed; sometimes Clotilde, unexpectedly to herself, joined her; and twice or thrice she provoked a similar demonstration from the ox-like apothecary,—to her own intense amusement. Sometimes she shook her head in solemn scorn; and, when Frowenfeld, at a certain point where Palmyre’s fate locked hands for a time with that of Bras-Coupe, asked a fervid question concerning that strange personage, tears leaped into her eyes, as she said: