Three gentlemen, who represented the main interests, called on Louis,
and he expressed to them what seemed to him to be the truth regarding
this, and said:
"The years to come will be replete with suffering, and vice,
degradation, and misery are sure to follow in the steps you are taking.
I do not say that you realize this, but if you will think of it as I
have, you cannot fail to reach the same conclusion. You cause to be rung
a morning bell at five o'clock, that rouses not only men from their
slumbers, but the little growing children who need their unbroken
morning dreams. These children must work all day in the close and
stifling rooms of your mill. Their tender life must feel the daily
dropping seed of disease, and with each recurring nightfall, overworked
bodies fall into a heavy slumber, instead of slipping gradually over
into the realm of peace. The mothers and fathers of these children
suffer in this strife for daily bread. Fathers knowing not their
children, and entire families living to feel only the impetus of a
desire to satisfy the cravings of hunger, and to shield themselves from
the cold of winter or the summer's heat. What does all this mean? If we
look at the elder among your employees we shall find men, who, not being
strong enough to work twelve hours a day, naturally, and almost of
necessity, have resorted to the stimulant of tobacco, and the strength
of spirituous liquors.
"I can personally vouch for the truth of all I say regarding it. The
practice of fathers is already adopted or soon will be adopted by their
children, and by this means the little substance they may gain through
hard toil, for you well know their gain is small if your profit is what
you desire, falls through the grated bars of drunkenness and waste, into
the waiting pit of penury and pauperism. Bear with me, gentlemen, if I
speak thus plainly, and believe me it is for your own comfort as well as
for the cultivation of the untouched soil in the minds of your workmen,
that I feel called upon to address you earnestly.
"You do not ask, neither would you permit, your wives and children to
work in the mill beside these people, and only the line of gold draws
the distinction between you. There are sweet faces in your mill, there
are tender hearts and there is intellect which might grow to be a power
in our midst. But the sweet faces have weary eyes, the tender hearts
beat without pity, and the strength which might exalt these men and us
as their brothers, becomes the power of a consuming fire, which as time
flies, and our population increases, will burn out all the true and
loyal life that might have developed among us. When our village becomes
a city, we, like other denizens of cities, must see prison houses rise
before us, and to-day we are educating inmates for these walls. Remember
also, that the laces our wives shall wear in those days of so-called
prosperity, will be bought with human life. I will not stand amenable
before God for crime like this.
"If you will drop your present schemes, if you will be content to share
with these men and children a portion of your profits, to let them toil
eight hours instead of twelve per day, and if on every Saturday you will
give to them one full long day in God's dear sunlight, I will invest the
amount of capital necessary to cover all which you as a body have
invested, and I will stand beside you in your mill. I would to God,
gentlemen, you were ready to accept this offer, for it comes from my
heart, but I can anticipate your reply. You will say I am speaking ahead
of my time, that the world is not ready for these theories, much less
for the practice I desire. And in return I would ask, when will it ever
be? Has any new and valuable dispensation sought us through time, when
hands were not raised in holy horror, and the voice of the majority has
not sounded against it. You are to-day enjoying, in the machinery you
use, the benefit of thought which against much opposition fought its way
to the front. And shall we rest on our oars, and say we cannot even try
to do what we know to be right, because the world, the unthinking,
unmindful world, sees no good in it? It would be easier for many acting
as one man, to move the wheels, but if this cannot be, I must wait as
other hearts have waited, but I will work in any and in all ways to
break the yokes which encircle the necks of our people."
He paused and looking still earnestly at them, waited a reply. The
eldest said in answer:
"Mr. Desmonde, while you have spoken that which we have never before
heard, I think I may say for my friends as well as myself, that your
sentiments do not fall on entirely barren soil. While you were talking,
it seemed to me the way looked plain, and I felt to say, Amen. But I
know we are not ready for such a movement as this. Perhaps we ought to
be, and if your picture is a true one, I say from the bottom of my heart
I will for myself try to be of some good. I am willing to be taught
Louis crossed the room, and offering his hand, said with emotion:
"Thank God, the truth I uttered found soil. May the years water with the
dews of their love, the one seed fallen on rich ground, and may we, sir,
live to be a unit in our thought and action, and you too, gentlemen,"
turning to the two who were silent.
A short and pleasant conversation followed, and they took their
departure. As they left us, Clara said:
"Well done, Louis. Here is a work and Emily will help you do it."
Louis had grown grandly beautiful through these years, and never had he
seemed for one moment careless or unmindful of any simplest need. We
walked together truly, keeping pace through the years whose crown we
wore as yet lightly. He said I grew young all the time, and often, when
thoughts of his work filled his mind, as he sat looking on into the
future, finding one by one the paths which, like small threads running
through a garment, led to the unfoldment of life, he would hold my hands
in his, and when, like a picture, the way and means all made plain, he
"My Emily, do you see it? Oh? you have helped me to find it, and still
you see it not; then I must tell you," and he would unfold to me the
work not of a coming day only - but sometimes even that of months and
He kept the promise made to the mill-owners, and the hearts of the
little operatives knew him as their friend. When the work he was doing
for them commenced, Aunt Hildy had said:
"That's it; put not your light under a bushel but where men can see it,
Louis, for I tell you the candles you carry to folks' hearts are run in
the mould of the Lord's love, and every gleam on 'em is worth seein'."
Aunt Hildy's step we knew was growing less firm, and now and then she
rode to the village. Matthias got on bravely, and gloried in the deposit
of some "buryin' money," as he called it, with Louis, who took it to the
bank and brought him a bank-book.
"Who'd a thought on't, Mas'r Louis, me, an old nigger slave, up heah in
de Norf layin' up money."
Ben had a saw-mill now of his own, and was an honest and thrifty young
man. Many new houses had been built in our midst, and with them came of
course new people and their needs.
We had, up to this time, heard often from our Southern Mary, and her
letters grew stronger, telling us how noble a womanhood had crowned her
life, and the latter part of 1851 she wrote us of a true marriage with
one who loved her dearly. Her gifts to Mrs. Goodwin had been munificent,
and well appreciated by this good woman. We hoped some time to see her
in the North. She had never lost sight of Mr. Benton, and he still lived
with his wife and boys. This delighted the heart of Mary, and I grew to
think of him as one who perhaps had been refined through the fire of
suffering, which I secretly hoped had done its work so well that he
would not need, as Matthias thought Mas'r Sumner would, "dat eternal
LIFE PICTURES AND LIFE WORK.
The pictures Louis painted were not on canvas, but living, breathing
entities, and my heart rejoiced as the years rolled over us that the
brush he wielded with such consummate skill was touched also by my hand;
that it had been able to verify Clara's "Emily will do it," and that now
in the days that came I heard her say "Louis and Emily are doing great
good." I think nothing is really pleasure as compared with the
blessedness of benefitting others.
My experience in my earliest years had taught me to believe gold could
buy all we desired, but after Clara came to us and one by one the burden
of daily planning to do much with very little fell out of our lives, and
the feeling came to us that we had before us a wider path, with more
privileges than we had ever before known, I found the truth under it
all, that the want of a dollar is not the greatest one in life, neither
the work and struggle "to make both ends meet," as we said, the hardest
It was good to know my parents were now free from petty anxieties, that
no unsettled bills hung over my father's head like threatening clouds,
and that my mother could, if she would, take more time; to herself.
Indeed she was forced to be less busy with hard work, for Aunt Hildy
worked with power and reigned supreme here, and I helped her in every
way. It was the help that came in these ways, I firmly believed, that
saved mother's life and kept her with us. This was a great comfort, but
none of us could say our desires ended here.
No, as soon as the vexed question of how to live had settled itself,
then within our minds rose the great need of enlarged understanding.
Millions of dollars could not have rendered me happy when my mind was
clouded, and now it seemed to me, while strength lasted, no work,
however hard it might be, could deprive me of the happiness and love
that filled my heart. I loved to read and think, and I loved to work
Sometimes when my hands were filled with work and I could not stop to
write, beautiful couplets would come to me, and after a time stanzas
which I thought enough of to copy. In this way I "wrote myself down," as
Louis termed it, and occasionally he handed me a paper with my verses
printed, saying always:
"Another piece of my Emily."
May, 1853, brought Southern Mary and her husband to us. We met them with
our own carriage, and within her arms there nestled a dainty parcel
called "our baby," of whose coming we had not been apprised. What a
beautiful picture she was, this little lady, nine months old, the
perfect image of her mother, with little flaxen rings that covered her
head like a crown. I heeded not the introduction to her father, but,
reaching my hands to her, said:
"Let me have her, Mary, let me take her. I cannot wait a minute."
Louis gently reminded me that Mr. Waterman was speaking to me, and I
apologized hastily, as I gathered the blossom to my heart, where she sat
just as quiet as a kitten all the way home. Clara was delighted with the
"little bud," as she called her.
"Tell me her name," I said.
"Oh! guess it," said Mary.
"No, no, you can never guess, for we called her Althea, after kind Mrs.
Goodwin, who nursed me so tenderly, and Emily, for another lady we
know" - and she looked at me with her bright eyes, while an arch smile
played over her face. I only kissed the face of the beautiful child, and
"My Emily's name is fit for the daughter of a king. God bless the little
namesake," and Althea Emily gave utterance to a protracted "goo," which
meant, of course, _yes_.
You should have heard her talk, though, when Matthias came over to see
"Come shufflin' over to see you," he said, "an' O my! but aint she jest
as pooty. O" - and at this moment she realized his presence, both her
little hands were stretched forth in welcome, and "ah goo! ah goo!" came
a hundred times from her sweet mouth as she tried to spring out of her
"Take her, Matthias," I said.
"Wall, wall, she 'pears as ef she know me, Miss Emily - reckon she's got
a mammy down thar."
"She has, indeed," said Mary, "and I know she will miss Mammy Lucy. She
was my nurse, and she cried bitterly when we left, but I do not need
her, Allie is just nothing to care for, and I like to be with her
myself, for I am her mother, you know," she added proudly.
"I mus' know that ole Mammy Lucy, doesn't I, Miss Molly?"
"Certainly you do, Matthias, and she has sent a bandanna turban for your
wife, and a pair of knitted gloves for you. She told me to say she
didn't forget you, and was mighty glad for your freedom. Father long
since gave her her's and she has quite a sum of money of her own."
All this time white baby fingers were pawing Matthias' face, as if in
pity, and losing their little tips among his woolly hair.
When he rose to leave she cried bitterly, and turning back he said:
"Kin I tote her over to see Peg to-morrer?"
"Oh! yes," said Mary "give her my love and tell her I am coming over."
"Look out for breakers," said Aunt Hildy, when she saw the child, "this
house'll be a bedlam now, but then we were all as leetle as that once, I
spos'e," and her duty evidently spoke at that moment, saying, "You must
bear with it." But she was not troubled.
Allie never troubled us, she was as sweet and sunny as a May morning all
through, and even went to meeting and behaved herself admirably. She
never said a word till the service ended, when she uttered one single
"goo" as if well pleased. Aunt Hildy said at the supper-table she
didn't believe any such thing ever happened before in the annals of our
"She's the best baby I ever see. Wish she'd walk afore you leave."
"She has never deigned to creep," said Mary; "the first time I tried to
have her, she looked at me and then at her dress as if to say, "That
isn't nice," and could not be coaxed to crawl. She hitches along
instead, and even that is objectionable. I imagine some nice morning she
will get right up and walk." At that moment Allie threw back her head of
dainty yellow rings, and laughed heartily, as if she knew what we said.
Mrs. Goodwin claimed the trio for one-half of the six weeks allotted to
their stay, and she said afterward:
"They were three beautiful weeks with three beautiful folks."
Louis at this time was working hard with the brush of his active
goodness, and had before him much canvas to work upon. The days were
placing it in his view, and we both dreamed at night of the work which
had come and was coming.
It was a sunny day in June when he said: "Will my Emily go with me
to-day? The colors are waiting on the pallet of the brain, and our hands
must use them to-day."
"Your Emily is ready," I replied, "and Gipsy (our horse) will take us, I
We went first to Jane North's, and Louis said to her;
"Jane, are you ready now to help us as you have promised?"
"Yes, sir," she replied; "I am."
"Will you take two boys to care for; one eleven years of age, and the
"I'll do just what you say, or try to, and if my patience gives out I
can tell you, I 'spose, but I'm bound to do my duty, for I scolded and
fretted and tended to other folk's business fifteen years jist because
my own plans was upset, and I couldn't bear to see anybody happy. Well,
'twas the power of sin that did it, and if some of the old Apostles fell
short I can't think I'm alone, though that don't make it any better for
me. When are they coming?"
"To-night, I think. Give them a good room and good food, and I will
remunerate you as far as money goes. I would like you to take them; you
are so neat and thrifty, and will treat them well. When they get settled
we will see just what to do for them," said Louis, and we drove on to
the village. Our next stopping-place was found in the narrowest street
there, and where a few small and inconvenient dwellings had been erected
by the mill owners for such of their help as could afford to pay only
for these miserable homes. They looked as if they had fallen together
there by mistake. And the plot of ground which held the six houses
seemed to me to be only a good-sized house lot. We stopped at the third
one and were admitted by a careworn woman, who looked about fifty years
of age. She greeted us gladly, though when Louis introduced me, I knew
she felt the meager surroundings and wished he had been alone, for her
face flushed and her manner was nervous. I spoke kindly and took the
chair she proffered, being very careful not to appear to notice the
scantily furnished room.
"Well," said Louis, "Mrs. Moore, are you ready to let your boy go with
"Oh, sir," she said, "only too willing; but I have been afraid you would
not come. It seemed so strange that you should make us such an offer - so
strange that you can afford to do it, and be willing, too, for
experience has taught us to expect nothing, especially from those who
have money. But Willie's clothes, sir, are sadly worn. I have patched
them beyond holding together, almost; but I could get no new ones."
"Never mind that," said Louis. "We will go to the mill for him and his
little friend, too, if he can go."
"Oh! yes, sir; he can, and I am so glad, for the father is a miserably
discouraged man. He drinks to drown trouble, and it seems to me he will
drown them all after a little. A pleasant man, too. His wife says poor
health first caused him to use liquor."
We then called on the woman in question and obtained her tearful
consent, for while the promise of a home for her boy was a bright gleam,
"He is the oldest. Oh! I shall miss him when we are sick."
"He shall come to you any time," said Louis, "and you shall visit him."
And in a few moments we were at the mill. Entering the office, Louis was
cordially greeted by one of the three gentlemen who had called on us. He
evidently anticipated his errand, for he said:
"So, you are come for Willie Moore and Burton Brown?"
"Yes, sir," Louis replied. "Can I go to the room for them?"
"As you please, Mr. Desmonde, I can call them down. Their room is not a
very desirable place for a lady to visit."
Louis looked at him as if to remind him of something, while I said:
"My place is beside my husband."
"Yes," added Louis, "we work together. Come, Emily," and he led the way
to the fourth floor, where, under the flat roof in a long, low room,
were the little wool pickers. I thought at first I could not breathe,
the air was so close and sickening. And here were twenty boys, not one
of them more than twelve or thirteen years old, working through long
hours. The heat was stifling, and the fuzz from the wool made it worse.
They wore no stockings or shoes, nothing but a shirt and overalls, and
these were drenched as with rain.
As we entered Louis whispered, "See the pictures," and it was a bright,
glad light that came suddenly into all their eyes at sight of their
friend. He spoke to them all, introducing me as we passed through the
long line that lay between the two rows of boys. When we came to Willie
and Burton, Louis whispered to them:
"Get ready to go with me."
They went into the adjoining hall to put on the garments which they wore
to and from the mill, and in less time than it takes me to write it,
they stood ready for a start. As we passed again between the lines of
boys Louis dropped into every palm a silver piece, saying, as he did
"Hold on, boys, work with good courage, and we will see you all in a
different place one of these days."
"Thank you, sir;" and "yes, sir, we will," fell upon our ears as we
passed out. Our two little proteg√©s ran out in advance. And as I looked
back a moment, standing on the threshold of the large door, I said:
"It is a beautiful picture, Louis. You are a master artist."
After again stopping in the office for a few words of conversation with
Mr. Damon, Louis was ready, the boys clambered into our carriage, and we
were on our way to their homes, first stopping to purchase for each of
them a suit of clothes, a large straw hat, and a black cap. The boys
said nothing, but looked a world of wondering thanks.
Louis made an arrangement for the boys to live with Jane, and to go to
our town school when it began in the fall.
"This summer," he said to their mothers, "they need all the out-door air
and free life they can have to help their pale cheeks grow rosy, and to
give to their weak muscles a little of the strength they require. I
desire no papers to pass between us, for I am not taking your children
from you, only helping you to give them the rest and change they need to
save their lives. They are the weakest boys in the mill and this is why
I chose them first. Every Saturday they shall come home to you, and stay
over the Sabbath if you desire, and they shall also bring to you as much
as they could earn in the mill. Will this be satisfactory?"
Both these mothers bowed their heads in silent appreciation of the real
service he was rendering, and I knew his labor was not lost. I felt like
adding my tribute to his, and said:
"Your boys will be well cared for, and you shall come often to see us.
We expect you to enjoy a little with them."
"Oh! mother, will you come over and bring the children?" said Willie.
"And you, too, mother," echoed Burton.
Weary Mrs. Moore said:
"I would like to breathe again in the woods and on the mountains, but I
have five little ones left here to care for;" and Mrs. Brown added:
"I could only come on Saturday, and the mill lets out an hour earlier,
and your father needs me on that day more than any other."
Her sad face and tearful eyes told my woman's heart that this was the
day he was tempted more than all others, and I afterward gathered as
much from Burton.
"Well, we must turn toward home," said Louis, and the boys kissed their
mothers and their little brothers and sisters, and said "good-bye," and
each with his bundles turned to the carriage. Louis untied Gipsy, and I
said to the mothers:
"Were they ever away over night?"
"No, never," said both at once.
"I will arrange for them. You shall hear to-morrow how the first night
passes with them."
"I was just thinking of that," said Mrs. Brown; "God bless you for your
thoughtfulness," and getting into the carriage, we all waved our
good-byes, and turned toward home. We told Jane all we could to interest
her, and particularly asked her to make everything pleasant for them,
that they should not be homesick. Louis went to their room with them,
and when we left them at Jones' gate, Willie Moore shouted after us:
"It's just heaven here, ain't it?"
He was an uncommonly bright little boy, and yet had no education
whatever beyond spelling words of three letters. He was twelve years of
age, and for three years he had worked in the mill. Clara and all at
home were delighted with our work, and Aunt Hildy said:
"Ef Jane North does well by them boys, she oughter have a pension from
the Gov'ment, and sence I know that'll never give her a cent, I'll do it
myself. I've got an idee in my head."
Then Southern Mary and her husband laughed, not in derision, for they
admired Aunt Hildy, and Mr. Waterman said:
"If men had your backbone, Mrs. Patten, there would be a different state
of things altogether."
"My husband is almost an Abolitionist," said Mary. "Some of our people
dislike him greatly; but my father is a good man and he does not
illtreat one of his people. He is one of the exceptional cases. But the
system is, I know, accursed by God. I believe it to be a huge scale that
fell from the serpent's back in the Garden, and I feel the day will dawn
when the accursed presence of slavery will be no longer known."
"Good!" said Aunt Hildy, "and there's more kinds than one. Them little
children is slaves - or was."
"When you get ready to make out your pension papers, Mrs. Patten," said
Mary, "let me help jest a little; I would like to lay a corner-stone
somewhere in this village for some one's benefit. You know this is the
site of a drama in my life; I pray never to enact its like again."
"I'll give you a chance," said Aunt Hildy.
Louis went over to Jane's in the morning, and the boys returned with him
to tell us what a good supper and breakfast they had had.
"And such a nice bed," added Burton. "When we looked out of the window
this morning I wished mother could come."
"Poor little soul!" I said, "your mother shall come. We will move every
obstacle from her path."
"If father could find work here it would be nice," and a little while
after, he said in a low tone:
"There ain't any rum shops here, is there?"