Topsy gave the short, blunt laugh that was her common mode of expressing incredulity.
“Don’t you think so?” said Eva.
“No; she can’t bar me, ’cause I’m a nigger!—she’d ’s soon have a toad touch her! There can’t nobody love niggers, and niggers can’t do nothin’! I don’t care,” said Topsy, beginning to whistle.
“O, Topsy, poor child, I love you!” said Eva, with a sudden burst of feeling, and laying her little thin, white hand on Topsy’s shoulder; “I love you, because you haven’t had any father, or mother, or friends;—because you’ve been a poor, abused child! I love you, and I want you to be good. I am very unwell, Topsy, and I think I shan’t live a great while; and it really grieves me, to have you be so naughty. I wish you would try to be good, for my sake;—it’s only a little while I shall be with you.”
The round, keen eyes of the black child were overcast with tears;—large, bright drops rolled heavily down, one by one, and fell on the little white hand. Yes, in that moment, a ray of real belief, a ray of heavenly love, had penetrated the darkness of her heathen soul! She laid her head down between her knees, and wept and sobbed,—while the beautiful child, bending over her, looked like the picture of some bright angel stooping to reclaim a sinner.
“Poor Topsy!” said Eva, “don’t you know that Jesus loves all alike? He is just as willing to love you, as me. He loves you just as I do,—only more, because he is better. He will help you to be good; and you can go to Heaven at last, and be an angel forever, just as much as if you were white. Only think of it, Topsy!—you can be one of those spirits bright, Uncle Tom sings about.”
“O, dear Miss Eva, dear Miss Eva!” said the child; “I will try, I will try; I never did care nothin’ about it before.”
St. Clare, at this instant, dropped the curtain. “It puts me in mind of mother,” he said to Miss Ophelia. “It is true what she told me; if we want to give sight to the blind, we must be willing to do as Christ did,—call them to us, and put our hands on them.”
“I’ve always had a prejudice against negroes,” said Miss Ophelia, “and it’s a fact, I never could bear to have that child touch me; but, I don’t think she knew it.”
“Trust any child to find that out,” said St. Clare; “there’s no keeping it from them. But I believe that all the trying in the world to benefit a child, and all the substantial favors you can do them, will never excite one emotion of gratitude, while that feeling of repugnance remains in the heart;—it’s a queer kind of a fact,—but so it is.”
“I don’t know how I can help it,” said Miss Ophelia; “they are disagreeable to me,—this child in particular,—how can I help feeling so?”
“Eva does, it seems.”
“Well, she’s so loving! After all, though, she’s no more than Christ-like,” said Miss Ophelia; “I wish I were like her. She might teach me a lesson.”