The old slave’s eyes glistened with excitement; he looked on astonished, as if some extraordinary scene had surprised him. As his agitation subsided, he continued, “Mas’r, I bin watch ’im dis long time. Reckon how nobody wouldn’t take ’em fo’h nobody else’s-fo’h true! Dar ain’t no spozin’ bout ’em, ’e so right smart twarn’t no use to guise ’em: da’h just like old Boss. Mas’r, nigger watch dem tings mighty close; more close den Buckra, cos’ Buckra tink ’e all right when nigger tink ’e all wrong.”
Marston is not quite content with this: he must needs put another question to the old man. “You are sure there can be no mistaking them for mine?” he rejoins, fixing his eyes upon the children with an almost death-like stare, as Daddy leads them out of the room. The door closes after them, he paces the room for a time, seats himself in his chair again, and is soon absorbed in contemplation. “I must do something for them-I must snatch them from the jaws of danger. They are full of interest-they are mine; there is not a drop of negro blood in their veins, and yet the world asks who are their mothers, what is their history? Ah! yes; in that history lies the canker that has eaten out the living springs of many lives. It is that which cuts deepest. Had I known myself, done what I might have done before it was too late, kindness would have its rewards; but I am fettered, and the more I move the worse for them. Custom has laid the foundation of wrong, the law protects it, and a free government tolerates a law that shields iniquities blackening earth.” In this train of thought his mind wandered. He would send the children into a free state, there to be educated; that they may live in the enjoyment of those rights with which nature had blest them. The obstacles of the law again stared him in the face; the wrong by which they were first enslaved, now forgotten, had brought its climax.
Suddenly arousing from his reverie, he started to his feet, and walking across the floor, exclaimed in an audible voice, “I will surmount all difficulties,—I will recognise them as my children; I will send them where they may become ornaments of society, instead of living in shame and licentiousness. This is my resolve, and I will carry it out, or die!”
A cloud of misfortune hangs over the plantation.
The document Marston signed for Lorenzo-to release him from the difficulties into which he had been drawn by Graspum-guaranteed the holder against all loss. This, in the absence of Lorenzo, and under such stranger circumstances, implied an amount which might be increased according to the will of the man into whose hands he had so unfortunately fallen.