“Are you going so soon?”
“Yes. St. Clare’s brother has written, and he and the lawyer think that the servants and furniture had better be put up at auction, and the place left with our lawyer.”
“There’s one thing I wanted to speak with you about,” said Miss Ophelia. “Augustine promised Tom his liberty, and began the legal forms necessary to it. I hope you will use your influence to have it perfected.”
“Indeed, I shall do no such thing!” said Marie, sharply. “Tom is one of the most valuable servants on the place,—it couldn’t be afforded, any way. Besides, what does he want of liberty? He’s a great deal better off as he is.”
“But he does desire it, very earnestly, and his master promised it,” said Miss Ophelia.
“I dare say he does want it,” said Marie; “they all want it, just because they are a discontented set,—always wanting what they haven’t got. Now, I’m principled against emancipating, in any case. Keep a negro under the care of a master, and he does well enough, and is respectable; but set them free, and they get lazy, and won’t work, and take to drinking, and go all down to be mean, worthless fellows, I’ve seen it tried, hundreds of times. It’s no favor to set them free.”
“But Tom is so steady, industrious, and pious.”
“O, you needn’t tell me! I’ve see a hundred like him. He’ll do very well, as long as he’s taken care of,—that’s all.”
“But, then, consider,” said Miss Ophelia, “when you set him up for sale, the chances of his getting a bad master.”
“O, that’s all humbug!” said Marie; “it isn’t one time in a hundred that a good fellow gets a bad master; most masters are good, for all the talk that is made. I’ve lived and grown up here, in the South, and I never yet was acquainted with a master that didn’t treat his servants well,—quite as well as is worth while. I don’t feel any fears on that head.”
“Well,” said Miss Ophelia, energetically, “I know it was one of the last wishes of your husband that Tom should have his liberty; it was one of the promises that he made to dear little Eva on her death-bed, and I should not think you would feel at liberty to disregard it.”
Marie had her face covered with her handkerchief at this appeal, and began sobbing and using her smelting-bottle, with great vehemence.
“Everybody goes against me!” she said. “Everybody is so inconsiderate! I shouldn’t have expected that you would bring up all these remembrances of my troubles to me,—it’s so inconsiderate! But nobody ever does consider,—my trials are so peculiar! It’s so hard, that when I had only one daughter, she should have been taken!—and when I had a husband that just exactly suited me,—and I’m so hard to be suited!—he should be taken! And you seem to have so little feeling for me, and keep bringing it up to me so carelessly,—when you know how it overcomes me! I suppose you mean well; but it is very inconsiderate,—very!” And Marie sobbed, and gasped for breath, and called Mammy to open the window, and to bring her the camphor-bottle, and to bathe her head, and unhook her dress. And, in the general confusion that ensued, Miss Ophelia made her escape to her apartment.