She smiled with brimming eyes: “Why, I dunno, Miss Maud; whatsomeveh come, and whensomeveh, and howsomeveh de Lawd sen’ it, ef us feels his ahm und’ us, us ought to be ‘shame’ not to be happy, oughtn’t us?” All at once she sprang half up: “I tell you de Lawd neveh gi’n no niggeh de rights to snuggle down anywhuz an’ fo’git de auction-block!”
As suddenly the outbreak passed, yet as she settled down again her exaltation still showed through her fond smile. “You know what dat inqui’ance o’ yone bring to my ’memb’ance? Dass ow ole Canaan hymn——
“‘O I mus’ climb de
Pas’ many a sweet desiah,
De flow’ry road is not fo’ me,
I follows cloud an’ fiah.’”
After she was gone I lay trying so to contrive our next conversation that it should not flow, as all before it had so irresistibly done, into that one deep channel of her thoughts which took in everything that fell upon her mind, as a great river drinks the rains of all its valleys. Presently the open window gave me my cue: the stars! the unvexed and unvexing stars, that shone before human wrongs ever began, and that will be shining after all human wrongs are ended—our talk should be of them.
At the supper-table on the following evening I became convinced of something which I had felt coming for two or three days, wondering the while whether Sidney did not feel the same thing. When we rose aunt drew me aside and with caressing touches on my brow and temples said she was sorry to be so slow in bringing me into social contact with the young people of the neighboring plantations, but that uncle, on his arrival at home, had found a letter whose information had kept him, and her as well, busy every waking hour since. “And this evening,” she continued, “we can’t even sit down with you around the parlor lamp. Can you amuse yourself alone, dear, or with Sidney, while your uncle and I go over some pressing matters together?”
Surely I could. “Auntie, was the information—bad news?”
“It wasn’t good, my dear; I may tell you about it to-morrow.”
“Hadn’t I better go back to father at once?”
“Oh, my child, not for our sake; if you’re not too lonesome we’d rather keep you. Let me see; has Mingo ever danced for you? Why, tell Sidney to make Mingo come dance for you.”
Mingo came; his leaps, turns, postures, steps, and outcries were a most laughable wonder, and I should have begged for more than I did, but I saw that it was a part of Sidney’s religion to disapprove the dance.
“Sidney,” I said, “did you ever hear of the great clock in the sky? Yes, there’s one there; it’s made all of stars.” We were at the foot of some veranda steps that faced the north, and as she and Mingo were about to settle down at my feet I said if they would follow me to the top of the flight I would tell this marvel: what the learned believed those eternal lamps to be; why some were out of view three-fourths of the night, others only half, others not a quarter; how a very few never sank out of sight at all except for daylight or clouds, and yet went round and round with all the others; and why I called those the clock of heaven; which gained, each night, four minutes, and only four, on the time we kept by the sun.