“And if I am,” I said, “what have you to do with it?” at the same time trying to release his arm from mine.
“I have the right of a dear friend, I hope,” he said, and the tears that would keep falling forced a confession from me and provoked his laughter, which grated on my ears at first, but he begged pardon for its seeming rudeness, and said he was thinking only of my going over the hills to cry, when I could have a whole house to fill with tears.
We walked farther than I intended, and Matthias passed us on his way over to his “ground room.”
I said, “Good evening, Mr. Jones,” and he saluted me with uncovered head, saying:
“De Lord keep you, miss, till mornin’.”
Realizing how far we had walked, I turned hack so suddenly that Mr. Benton came near being pushed into the stone wall on the old road corners. On our return he spoke of Matthias.
“I don’t like that fellow anyway, Emily.”
“Don’t like him! why not, pray?”
He gave a sort of derisive ejaculation, and added:
“You are a little simpleton, Emily, so good and true, you take all for gold.”
“Well,” I replied, “Matthias is good, I know; but why do you dislike him?”
“Oh! he belongs to a miserable, low-lived, thievish race, and he knows enough to be a dangerous fellow to have round. If I were you I’d not encourage his hanging round; he’ll do something to pay you for your kindness yet.”
A remedy for wrong-talking.
I could not believe what Mr. Benton said of Matthias, and did not refrain from speaking of it to Clara, whose opinions were golden to me, and her reply was perfectly in accordance with my own feelings. Each took her own route to the conclusion, but her interpretation came as an intuitive perception, while mine was more like something which fell into my mind with a power whenever his eyes met my own.
“Emily,” said Clara, “I have taken his dark hand in mine. I have come close to his white heart, when from his lips have fallen the words telling his history, and I would trust him everywhere. If any trouble comes to you, Emily, trust Matthias; he is as true as truth itself, and his soul is pure—purer, perhaps, than the souls of many who have had great advantages, and whose forms have been molded in a more beautiful shape. Our Father judges from within; let our judgment be like his.”
This was good for me to hear. I felt glad that I could sometimes come so near to Clara’s thoughts. I was greatly wrought upon by Matthias’ tales of the South; and yet he venerated the people of that country, and said:
“The Northerners are too cold-blooded: they didn’t invite folks to have a bite without first feelin’ in their pockets to see if they could find money there.”
I knew nothing from experience of Southern hospitality, but believed all he told me, and I thought it the greater pity that such a lovely land should be so marred with this terrible trade in lives, and I said to Clara, when we were discussing this subject: