Hezekiah Butterworth.

A zigzag journey in the sunny South, or, Wonder tales of early American history : a visit to the scenes and associations of the early American settlements in the southern states and the West Indies online

. (page 13 of 19)
Online LibraryHezekiah ButterworthA zigzag journey in the sunny South, or, Wonder tales of early American history : a visit to the scenes and associations of the early American settlements in the southern states and the West Indies → online text (page 13 of 19)
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he is dead, — right before his own eyes, too. Sold for a dollar. To that young
feller they call Dessalines. Curi's kind of a name."

" Who was Squire Tapley 1 " I asked.

" Who was he .-• He ain't dead, stranger. They generally have the funeral



STORY-TELLING AT ST. AUGUSTINE.



209



first, and the auction afterwards, but this time they 're havin' the auction first ;
but the funeral, in my opinion, will be pretty sure to follow. There is the Judge
now — Square Tapley — by the chamber window there."




THE AUCTION.



An old man leaned out of tfce open window and looked at the auctioneer.
A terrible look came into his thin face. His hair was white, scant, and
uncombed ; his mouth opened and shaped words without sound or any emotional



14



2IO A ZIGZAG JOURNEY IN THE SUNNY SOUTH.

expression. A young man came and stood beside him. He had a marked face
and was elegantly dressed.

" That is Tinley Tapley, the broker, the Judge's son. I wonder how he
feels to-day."

There was an anxious look in the young man's face, and I noticed that he
bent his eye upon me suspiciously. .1 heard him ask some unseen person, "Who
is that stranger .' " And I wondered why the appearance of a stranger at a
public auction should have excited his attention.

His face was what would be called handsome, but was heartless and unprin-
cipled. I felt sure that character had moulded it the impression of the soul, and
had written upon it the secrets of the inner life. The face of the soul always
comes to the surface at last.

" School books and law books ! " shouted the round-faced auctioneer ;
" Scott's novels ; the works of Fletcher ; Methodist hymn-book ; Family
Bible —

" Eh, Squire, shall I put in the family Bible .?

"Yes, the old Bible, — Mrs. Tapley's old books, all good as new. The
Squire always took good care of his things.

" How much am I offered .' Start the lot, somebody. School books, law
books, and religious books.

" Two dollars.

" Three, do I hear it .■•

" Two dollars — who says three .''

" Going, once, do I hear it ?

" Twice, do I hear it 1

"Three times, do I hear it.? {In low voice) Going, going, going, going,
going, etc.

"Going — gone to what 's your name again, stranger.? Dessahnes. Sold
to Dessalines for two dollars."

There was a strange movement at the chamber window. The old Squire
leaned out and shook his cane in an agitated way. His son laid his hand upon
his arm firmly and drew it back. I never shall forget the look that came into
the old man's face. It was bitter beyond anything I ever saw. His eyelids
dropped and his lips curled.

Some of the people in the yard had noticed this mysterious episode. I heard
the question passing from mouth to mouth, " Who is Dessalines .' " No one
seemed able to answer the question except in one way : " The old Squire knows
who he is."



STORY-TELLING AT ST. AUGUSTINE. 211

I could but notice that there was something remarkable about this young
stranger, perhaps thirty or thirty-five years of age, who had given his name to
the auctioneer as Dessalines. He was tall and well-formed, with a mild, dark
eye ; his face mirrored his emotions, and had grown into a picture of
benevolence.

It was a face so beautiful in its beneficent expressions, so serenely spiritual,
as to win confidence at once, and to assure you that some good angel of charac-
ter lighted it from within. It presented a strong contrast to Tinley's.

I turned to the old man beside me, and asked, —

" Who is Dessalines ? "

'' I was just a-goin' to ask you that question myself. As you are a stranger,
I did n't know but that he might have come along with you !• You don't know
him, then .' "

" No. I have never been in this place before ; I am spending a few days at
the Kino House in the town. I was taking a walk, saw that an auction was
going on here, stopped out of curiosity, and that is all I know except what I
have seen. He does not seem to know any one here."

" It seems as though he does, too. I 've been watching him. He seems to
be kind o' recognizin' people by his looks. He looked at me just now, and
appeared to know me, though he said nothin'. Strange that he should-be here
!)iiyin' a cradle, — old Squire Tapley's, too!"

" I should have thought the son, Tinley, would have bought that cradle."

"But hold, stranger! Don't you know.? He's bankrupted, — isn't worth
a dollar. Failed. I thought everybody knew that, — Tinley, the New York
broker. Why, it 's been in all the papers. Ruined the Square, too. Ye see,
the Square endorsed Tinley's papers ; that 's why this auction is here to-day."

I began to grow interested in the history of this family, hitherto as unknown
to me as any people could be. The disappointed face of the excited old man at
the window, the weak handsome face of the son beside him, and the mysterious
figure of Dessalines made for me three contrasting pictures, — like open books,
written in characters that I could easily outline and guess, but not quite trans-
late or comprehend.

The sale went on. Noon came. The bread-cart men rode up with jing-
ling bells, and the farmers bought gingerbread and buns, and ate them in the
shade. The ospreys wheeled overhead in the open sky, and now and then
sweet-scented winds came drifting through the apple-blossoms. The auctioneer
was asked into the house to dine with the Squire and Tinley. Dessahnes had
disappeared.



212 A ZIGZAG JOURNEY IN THE SUNNY SOUTH.

" Have you found out who that young man was ? " said the man with
the crutch. '

" No."

The neighbors, seeing the farmer questioning me, began to gather in a near
circle around me.

" I '11 tell you who he reminds me of," said the old man, addressing his
neighbors. " Fletcher."

" Who is Fletcher > " I asked.

" You see that spire yonder .■' "

" Yes." A golden vane on a white pinnacle shone over the green sea of
the tree-tops.

" Well, Fletcher first started the society out of which that church grew."

"But who was he.'"

" He was the son of a French Huguenot who died young," continued the
old man, "and the Square married the widow. So the Square was his step-
father."

" Well ? "

" Well, the Square he was a money-making kind of man, and he came to
hate the boy. The Square used to say that he could never make anything of
him ; that there was no business in him.

" Well, Tinley was born. The Square set the world by him, and he used
to treat the boy Fletcher shamefully.

" There was a great religious interest in the town about the time Fletcher
was sixteen years old,' and Fletcher joined the church and thought that he had
a call to preach. The Square always hated anything of that kind, and one day
he turned the poor boy out of doors, and forbade him to come back again, even
to visit his own mother.

" His mother loved him ; and she never saw a happy hour after that day.
She began to droop and lie awake of nights, and at last her reason went out.
She became violent, and they took her to an insane hospital.

" Everybody pitied Fletcher, and this sympathy made the Square hate him
the more. He used to speak of him as ' that worthless French fellow.' Men
always hate those whom they injure. The Selectmen offered the lad the
district school ; and although the Square opposed the appointment, he began
to teach, and he put his mind and heart and conscience into his work. We
never had a teacher like Fletcher.

" One day, after he began to teach, there came riding up to the schoolhouse
on horseback a man from the hospital, with a message that made his face



SIORY-TELLING AT ST. AUGUSTINE.



213



turn white. The man said to him leaning down from the horse and speak-
ing through the open window, ' Your mother is dying, and wishes you to
come.'

" Fletcher sank down into a chair as though smitten. The children began
to cry. Then he dismissed the school, and hurried towards the Squire's and
asked for the use of one of the horses to ride to the hospital.

" ' I told you not to come here again,' said the Square. ' You have made
me trouble enough. I can't gratify the whims of a crazy wife. If she 'd been
dying, she would have sent for me.'

" Fletcher walked to the hospital, a distance of seven miles. It was as the
messenger had said ; the poor woman's sufferings were almost over. The
scene between the mother and her son made those who saw it shed tears like
children.

" ' Fletcher,' she said, ' my own boy, the darkness has gone ; and the doctor
said that when the darkness went, I would die. I 've been praying for you,
Fletcher.' The boy took his mother's hand.

" ' I 've been praying God would make your life a blessing, Fletcher. My
boy, He has heard. I want you to make me a promise, Fletcher. 'Tis about
the Square. 'Tis a hard promise, for he has not used you well. If ever sorrow
comes upon him, I want you to promise to be to him a son.' "

"'Whv.?'

" ' For Christ's sake. 'T is a hard thing ; but he said, " Love your enemies," —
you know the rest. His words are so beautiful ! And God has promised me
in my spirit that He will bless you. Will you promise ? '

" ' O mother ! '

"'Is it yes, Fletcher.?'

"'Yes.'

" ' Will you be to Tinley a brother, if trouble comes ? '

"'Yes.'

"The peace of death came. Her crazed brain had entered the endless
calm. They brought home her body, and buried it in the corner of the east
meadow. It is a hay-field now. His mother's sorrow ^nd death made a feel-
ing man of Fletcher. He became unlike other people ; he seemed never to
think of himself. His mother's influence appeared to be with him always like
an angel of good ; people said, ' He has his mother's heart.'

" He taught school here three years. He began a Sunday-school in the
school-house. It has changed into a church. The old school-house is gone,
and a new one has taken its place, but his influence lives in the character of



214



A ZIGZAG JOURNEY IN THE SUNNY SOUTH.



every scholar that it touched. He multiplied good in others. Every sufferer
found in him a friend.

"Tinley, — do you want to know about Tinley .■" He never seemed to have
but one purpose in life, and that was to gratify himself. But the Square used
to say that he had business in him, and that he would be a rich man one day.
He spent his Sundays in riding and his evenings at the billiard-saloon in the
village, where there was a bar.




THE BOY PROMISES.



" The Square let him have money, and he went to New York. 'Tinley will
open your eyes one day,' the Square used to say.

" He did open our eyes. He speculated. They said that he was rich. He
spent his summers at Saratoga and at the watering-places. He came back
here one summer, drove fast horses and entertained gay people. The old
Square seemed delighted that his prophecy had proved true. Then he failed
and opened our eyes again. What you see to-day is the end of it all."

The good farmer, seeing that I was greatly interested, went on : —



STORY-TELLING AT ST. AUGUSTINE. 215

"Tinley gave to the town a billiard-saloon. That would have been well
enough, but he put into it a bar. Tinley's old comrades are all ruined or dead,
and his gilded saloon is turning out wrecks of character and paupers. His life
has withered whatever it has touched. He has no true friends. He is lost to
himself and to everybody.

" They tell two stories, — the lives of those two boys. One's acts of good are
helps to others, and one's acts of wrong are injuries to others, for we all of us
live in others' live.s as well as our own. Ah, well, stranger," said the farmer in
conclusion, "young folks cannot see things as older. eyes see them. When the
making up of life's account comes, it is less what we have gained of this world
than what we have surrendered that will be'lthe account that we shall most like
to see."

The old auctioneer came out of the house. A carriage was driven into the
yard, and two strangers alighted from it, hitched the horse, and stood silently
apart by themselves. They were dressed differently from the townspeople. I
was sure they came from the city. I suspected that they were officers of the
law.

The auction went on. But the country-people seemed to lose all interest
in the sale. They gathered together in little groups ahd talked in low tones.
In the afternoon women came and filled the old house. I could see theni
whispering together here and there, and watching every movement of the four
strangers on the premises, — the two officer-like looking men, Dessalines, and
myself. There was an air of mystery everywhere.

Dessalines returned about the middle of the afternoon, and spoke to me.

" I have been walking over the farm," he said. " There is one place here
that is more sacred to me than any other on earth, — a grave in the meadow.
It was hard to find it."

And now the great sale of all is to be made, — the Tapley farm itself.

The men gathered around the auctioneer. Heads filled the windows.
Dessalines and I stood outside the circle of men. The two strangers whom I
had taken to be officers were passing about nervously from place to place.

The old Squire came out of the front door slowly, and stood upon the
piazza. He was alone. No one cared to share his company in this critical hour
of his life. His head was 'uncovered, and his hair was white and thin. The
declining sun poured its light over the tree-tops. The green aisles of the old
orchard back of the house grew shadowy^ The martins came back to the bird-
houses beneath the eaves, and the doves cooed in the dove-cotes. Nearly
sunset.



2l6 A ZIGZAG JOURNEY IN THE SUNNY SOUTH.

"Are you ready ? " asked the auctioneer.

The old Squire looked toward the open fields through the opening in the
locust trees. The waving meadow where his father and mother and wife slept
was there. The family graves were to go with the rest. Sunset.

" Are you ready ? " The auctioneer now addressed the Squire.

"Wait — where is Tinley } I want him here."

There was a stay in the proceedings. Men inquired for Tinley ; women
looked for him in all the rooms.

But more anxious than the old man or the country-folks appeared the two
strangers. The latter entered the house and went from room to room. A
thrill of suspicion and excitement ran through the crowd of people. Presently
the men appeared upon the piazza beside the old man, and one of them whis-
pered in his ear. Every eye was turned from the impatient auctioneer upon
the old Squire.

The Squire turned upon the strangers his cold gray eye. The look that
came into his face cannot be pictured. It was as though hope — as though his
very soul — had died then and there. He stood still, with motionless lips; only
his thin fingers trembled.

I looked into the face of Dessalines. He laid his hand on my arm.

" Ready all," said the auctioneer.

"The Tapley farm and hotnestead, — the finest farm in Tolland. Buildings
all in the best of order. You all know it, — how much am I offered .''"

" Two thousand dollars," bid a farmer.

" Two thousand dollars. Worth five. Do I hear the three .' Three, do I
hear it .-'

"Two thousand dollars ! Look out on. the orchards and meadows; what
more could any one wish } Two thousand dollars."

" Three." <

"Three I am offered. Four.' Four.' Do I hear the four.? Think how
the old Squire has thriven here. Four ? Do I hear it .' Do I hear the four .' "

" Four."

" Four thousand dollars. Five } Do I hear the five .' Four, four ; do I
hear the five .' Five, do I hear it .' Are you all done 1 Are you ready }

"Going — one."

" Four, one hundred," bid one.

" Four, one. Four, one. Now, two."

" Two," bid another.

' Four ■>. "



STORY-TELLING AT ST. AUGUSTINE.



217



■ Four."

"Nine?"

"Nine."

"Four thousand nine hundred dollars. Do I hear the five? Five, five?
Do I hear the five ? "

" Five thousand dollars."

The voice startled the people. It was a mild voice, a beautiful voice, — that
of Dessalines.

I felt his hand tremble on my arm. There was a pause, — a painful silence,
except that the birds were singing.

The old man stood as rigid as marble. He had not answered the question
"of the officer beside him. He never would now.

"Five thousand dollars. Five, one? Are you all ready? Five — once,
do I hear it ? Five — twice, do I hear it ? Five thousand dollars — your third
and last chance — going, going, gone for five thousand dollars, and sold to — "

He paused and repeated the old musical ditty —

" Good people, all give ear

To my ' Going, going, gone ! '
I 'm a country auctioneer.

And my good.s are going, gone.
Prize well your blessings here.
For they soon will disappear ;
For Life 's an auctioneer,

And his goods are going, gone.''

He added, amid an awful silence, " Are you all done bidding ?

" Going, going, once.

" Going, going, twice.

" Going, going, third and last chance — to Jean Dessalines Fletcher."

The white-haired old man stood like a figure of alabaster in the red light of
the sunset. His figure then seemed to shrink, and his thin fingers clutched at
the air. He tried to speak, but simply said, —

" Gone."

They bore him to his room paralyzed.

Dessalines moved slowly toward the house. His old neighbors pressed
upon him. They tried to grasp his hands. He entered the house, and went to
the chamber where lay the old Squire, breathing heavily. The room, the'door,
the stairs, were filled with people.

Presently the old Squire opened his eyes.



2l8



A ZIGZAG JOURNEY IN THE SUNNY SOUTH.



" Where is Tinley ? " he asked in an apprehensive tone, like one awakened
from a fearful dream.

" He has escaped," said the old housekeeper. Then she added in a low
tone to Fletcher, " The two strange men accused him of forgery."

The Squire bent his eyes upon Fletcher.

" You will let me die here ? "

" Yes,/a^^^r»and live here."

" Then you forgive me .-' "




SCENE IN MARTINIQUE.



" As the All-Merciful has forgiven me."

" Did you i.z.y father ? "

" Father."

The old man turned his face upon the pillow. He was a child again.



A year passed. I again visited the town, and passed the old Tapley estate.
The church spire glimmered above the trees. Groups of children were playing
about the beautiful school-house.



STORY-TELLING AT ST. AUGUSTINE. 219

From a corner of a meadow near the fork of the road, and enclosed by an
iron fence, a white shaft of marble rose. I stopped to read the inscription : —

ERECTED /

BY TOWNSMEN OF TOLLAND
TO THE MEMORY OF

MARY FLETCHER TAPLEY,

THE MOTHER OF THE «.

REV. JEAN DESSALINES FLETCHER,

MISSIONARY TO MARTINIQUE,

WHOSE EARLY LIFE IN THIS TOWN

WAS THAT OF A BENEFACTOR.

Beside the base of the shaft was a fresh grave. It was the Squire's.

The life of Dessalines bears its flowers and fruits in the Windward Islands,
and his influence has lifted there a gold-crossed spire above the savannas,
near the old provincial town of Port Royal. I count it among my blessings to
have met the influence of his young life even there at that country auction,
under the apple-boughs. A good life preaches wherever it may be. His has
left an ideal in my memory, and has made me a better man.

Many years have passed since that day, but often the musical tones of the
old auctioneer have come back to rile with the haunting ditty, — '

" Good people, all give ear

To my ' Going, going, gone ! '
I 'm a country auctioneer.

And my goods are going, gone.
Prize well your blessings here.
For they soon will disappear ;
For Life 's an auctioneer,

And his goods are going, gone."

They were a true-hearted and lovely people, the French Huguenots who
came to our shores.

Mrs. Laurens followed this narrative with another provincial story.



2 20 A ZIGZAG JOURNEY IN THE SUNNY SOUTH.



"WHEN THE STARS BEGIN TO FALL."

I am about to give you as well as I can a picture of old slave life as it was,
somewhat as my husband has aimed to give you a view of the devout and amia-
ble character of a typical French Huguenot.

Well, first the scene, — I recall it vividly. It was like this : —

Aunty, within doors, was churning ; I, on the back steps, was shelling peas,
— for the days of the old regime had gone by, and in our Southern home we
had proved that white hands, though not so skilled as black ones, were apt
enough in household work.

From the pantry came irregular strokes of the churn-dasher. Aunty had
her own way of performing her task. There she sat, — an old sun-bonnet pulled
over her eyes to keep out the light, and her head bent down over a well-worn
copy of Bunyan. She would churn furiously for a moment ; then, as she reached
some thrilling incident, the strokes were fewer, slower, until they would cease
altogether, only to begin again faster than ever.

The gate-latch clicked, and little George, a copper-colored youngster of ten,
came languidly up the walk.

"Gran'mamy's mighty sick," said he, as he shook hands affably. "She do
say de angel Gabriel is callin' her at las'. She wants you chillen to come right
away."

"Why didn't she send for us before.?" cried I, springing up, forgetful of
the peas, that scattered themselves far and wide to the delight of a motherly old
hen and her family looking for grubworms near by.

Little George took a seat and munched a pea-pod.

"Well, she kep' a-thinkin' some of you would drop in," said he, reflectively.
" An' Mammy could n't stop her washin', an' I 'm pretty busy with my
schoolin'." And he crossed his short legs with easy dignity.

Aunty's serious brown eyes were tender and troubled. Bunyan was thrown
into a corner, and the churning recommenced vigorously.

" You girls must go at once," said she. " I will hurry with the butter, and
send her a nice fresh pat. Ruth can beat up some sponge-cakes, and you can
gather some figs for the poor old soul."

Ruth was in the coolest place in the house, — the front hall upstairs by an
open window, — from which she could look past the long white streets, to the



STORY-TELLING AT ST. AUGUSTINE. 221

gold-crowned hills in the distance. She was engaged in the prosaic work of
darning stockings ; but her thoughts were, wandering wild and free, to judge
from the song that gushed upon the air, —

" I '11 chase the antelope o'er the plain,
The tiger's cub I '11 bind with a chain,
And the wild gazelle, with his siWery feet,
I '11 give thee for a playmate sweet."

" Ruth ! " screamed I, as she paused for breath ; and the next instant her
flower-like face peeped over the baluster. " Come down, my dear, and Aunty
will tell you what she wants you to do."

Then seizing my basket, I set out for a long row of fig trees that stretched
half across the garden, their thick green leaves clustering close, and their tough
branches crooked into cosey seats, where I had done my day-dreaming, safe from
all intrusion save that of the impertinent sun, who peeped at me shyly and left
his mark on face and hands.

I was soon up in one tree, and little George in another. While I dropped
the luscious fruit in my basket, my thoughts turned lovingly to dear old Gran'-
mamy, and all she had been to us from the time we were babies in her
arms.

- She was all tenderness when we were wee toddlers, not more than able to
catch at the great gold hoops in her ears, or cling to her gown as she bustled
about ; but she showed a sharper side as we grew older, and " bothered around
the kitchen " with inquisitive eyes and fingers and tongues.

" I never seed sich chillen in all my born days," she groaned one day when
Ruth interrupted her in the midst of custard-making, to beg leave to get in
the kettle of boiling soap, that she might be boiled clean once for all, and never
need another bath ; while Sam on the other side entreated that she make
three " points " of gravy with the fried chicken for dinner.

Sam always came out strong on pronunciation. His very errors leaned to
virtue's side.

" I 'clare to gracious," said poor Gran'mamy, " you '11 all drive de sense clean
out o' my head. How Miss Mary expec's me to git a dinner fit for white folks
to eat, wid you little onruly sinners under foot, is more dan I kin say. An'
heah 's Leah an' Frances, my own gran'chillen, a' no more use dan two pieces
o' yaller dirt."

Gran'mamy looked very threatening as she shook her rolling-pin at her
delinquent grandchildren. They only grinned in an aggravating way ; for to
them as well as to us, the great wide kitchen was the pleasantest place in the



222



A ZIGZAG JOURNEY IN THE SUNNY SOUTH.



world, with its roomy fireplace, where the back-logs glowed and the black kettle
hung beneath the smoky rafters from which swung strings of bright peppers


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Online LibraryHezekiah ButterworthA zigzag journey in the sunny South, or, Wonder tales of early American history : a visit to the scenes and associations of the early American settlements in the southern states and the West Indies → online text (page 13 of 19)