“The days will tell,” I replied, and our walk at last was ended.
It had been thoroughly uncomfortable to me, although he had seemed to be enjoying every step. I went to my room that night, and in my dreams tried to find the garden of Eden somewhere in our town, while a snake, with eyes like Wilmur Benton’s, seemed to be crawling close behind me, and with the daybreak, I said:
“That dream means something.”
Aunt Peg told me she should go to work and clean up the ground-room, and if father had any old “chunks of wood he could spare, Plint could come over and get ’em, and when that new nigger came, there’d be a prospect awaitin’.”
I carried the message, and father thought it would be a good plan to have Matthias Jones appear, as he had more wood cut in the forest than he could haul with Ben’s help, and doubtless this poor man would be glad of the job. Mother said the room could be made ready, she thought, inasmuch as there was an extra high-post bedstead in our attic chamber. Aunt Hilda added, “I’ve got a good feather mattress to put on it, and a straw-bed is easily fixed.”
So I wrote a letter to Aunt Phebe, and Plint came over for the chunks of wood, riding back on a load of things we had gathered. When the ground-room was ready for occupancy, it was not a cheerless place. A nicely-made bed in its north-west corner, a deal table at the east side of the room, two rush-bottomed chairs, and a straight-backed rocker, two breadths of carpet lying through its centre, the wide-mouthed fireplace, with well-filled wood-box at its right hand,—all savored of comfort. To cap the climax, Clara put up to the windows some half curtains of unbleached cotton, bound with bright French red. It really looked nice, and Aunt Peg said: “I do hope, mam, he’s clean.”
The days sped on quickly, and Clara felt better. Mr. Benton had evidently dropped all thought of her, and his uniformly kind treatment of us, began, after a little, to make me feel ashamed of the suspicions which had crossed my mind. Letters from Louis came as usual, and I wish I could give them now—such beautifully-expressed thoughts, such tender touches did he give to his word pictures, that I read and re-read them. Treasures they were, and I have them all yet; not one but is too sacred to lose. My heart grew strong in its love for him, and his thoughts were all as hands reaching for my own.
The teaching of Hosea Ballou.
February first brought Matthias Jones. Father met him at the village, and our curiosity which was aroused regarding this new comer, was thoroughly gratified at his appearance. A better specimen of a southern negro was never seen. He was above the medium size, broad-shouldered; his hair thick and wooly, sprinkled with grey, and covering a large, flat surface on the top of his head. His nose was of extra size, mouth in proportion, and his eyes, which were not dull, expressed considerable feeling, and you would know when you looked at them he was honest. His gait was slow, slouchy as I called it, and, as he walked leisurely along the path, Ben whispered, “My soul, what feet!” Sure enough, they seemed to stretch back too far, and they were immense.