The Passing of Grandison by Charles Waddell Chesnutt
When it is said that it was done to please a woman, there ought perhaps
to be enough said to explain anything; for what a man will not do to
please a woman is yet to be discovered. Nevertheless, it might be well
to state a few preliminary facts to make it clear why young Dick Owens
tried to run one of his father's negro men off to Canada.
In the early fifties, when the growth of anti-slavery sentiment and the
constant drain of fugitive slaves into the North had so alarmed the
slaveholders of the border States as to lead to the passage of the
Fugitive Slave Law, a young white man from Ohio, moved by compassion for
the sufferings of a certain bondman who happened to have a "hard
master," essayed to help the slave to freedom. The attempt was
discovered and frustrated; the abductor was tried and convicted for
slave-stealing, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the
penitentiary. His death, after the expiration of only a small part of
the sentence, from cholera contracted while nursing stricken fellow
prisoners, lent to the case a melancholy interest that made it famous in
Dick Owens had attended the trial. He was a youth of about twenty-two,
intelligent, handsome, and amiable, but extremely indolent, in a
graceful and gentlemanly way; or, as old Judge Fenderson put it more
than once, he was lazy as the Devil,?a mere figure of speech, of
course, and not one that did justice to the Enemy of Mankind. When asked
why he never did anything serious, Dick would good-naturedly reply, with
a well-modulated drawl, that he did n't have to. His father was rich;
there was but one other child, an unmarried daughter, who because of
poor health would probably never marry, and Dick was therefore heir
presumptive to a large estate. Wealth or social position he did not need
to seek, for he was born to both. Charity Lomax had shamed him into
studying law, but notwithstanding an hour or so a day spent at old Judge
Fenderson's office, he did not make remarkable headway in his legal
"What Dick needs," said the judge, who was fond of tropes, as became a
scholar, and of horses, as was befitting a Kentuckian, "is the whip of
necessity, or the spur of ambition. If he had either, he would soon need
the snaffle to hold him back."
But all Dick required, in fact, to prompt him to the most remarkable
thing he accomplished before he was twenty-five, was a mere suggestion
from Charity Lomax. The story was never really known to but two persons
until after the war, when it came out because it was a good story and
there was no particular reason for its concealment.
Young Owens had attended the trial of this slave-stealer, or
martyr,?either or both,?and, when it was over, had gone to call on
Charity Lomax, and, while they sat on the veranda after sundown, had
told her all about the trial. He was a good talker, as his career in
later years disclosed, and described the proceedings very graphically.
"I confess," he admitted, "that while my principles were against the
prisoner, my sympathies were on his side. It appeared that he was of
good family, and that he had an old father and mother, respectable
people, dependent upon him for support and comfort in their declining
years. He had been led into the matter by pity for a negro whose master
ought to have been run out of the county long ago for abusing his
slaves. If it had been merely a question of old Sam Briggs's negro,
nobody would have cared anything about it. But father and the rest of
them stood on the principle of the thing, and told the judge so, and the
fellow was sentenced to three years in the penitentiary."
Miss Lomax had listened with lively interest.
"I 've always hated old Sam Briggs," she said emphatically, "ever since
the time he broke a negro's leg with a piece of cordwood. When I hear of
a cruel deed it makes the Quaker blood that came from my grandmother
assert itself. Personally I wish that all Sam Briggs's negroes would run
away. As for the young man, I regard him as a hero. He dared something
for humanity. I could love a man who would take such chances for the
sake of others."
"Could you love me, Charity, if I did something heroic?"
"You never will, Dick. You 're too lazy for any use. You 'll never do
anything harder than playing cards or fox-hunting."
"Oh, come now, sweetheart! I 've been courting you for a year, and it 's
the hardest work imaginable. Are you never going to love me?" he
His hand sought hers, but she drew it back beyond his reach.
"I 'll never love you, Dick Owens, until you have done something. When
that time comes, I 'll think about it."
"But it takes so long to do anything worth mentioning, and I don't want
to wait. One must read two years to become a lawyer, and work five more
to make a reputation. We shall both be gray by then."
"Oh, I don't know," she rejoined. "It does n't require a lifetime for a
man to prove that he is a man. This one did something, or at least tried
"Well, I 'm willing to attempt as much as any other man. What do you
want me to do, sweetheart? Give me a test."
"Oh, dear me!" said Charity, "I don't care what you do, so you do
something. Really, come to think of it, why should I care whether you
do anything or not?"
"I 'm sure I don't know why you should, Charity," rejoined Dick humbly,
"for I 'm aware that I 'm not worthy of it."
"Except that I do hate," she added, relenting slightly, "to see a really
clever man so utterly lazy and good for nothing."
"Thank you, my dear; a word of praise from you has sharpened my wits
already. I have an idea! Will you love me if I run a negro off to
"What nonsense!" said Charity scornfully. "You must be losing your wits.
Steal another man's slave, indeed, while your father owns a hundred!"
"Oh, there 'll be no trouble about that," responded Dick lightly; "I 'll
run off one of the old man's; we 've got too many anyway. It may not be
quite as difficult as the other man found it, but it will be just as
unlawful, and will demonstrate what I am capable of."
"Seeing 's believing," replied Charity. "Of course, what you are talking
about now is merely absurd. I 'm going away for three weeks, to visit my
aunt in Tennessee. If you 're able to tell me, when I return, that you 've
done something to prove your quality, I 'll?well, you may come and tell
me about it."
Young Owens got up about nine o'clock next morning, and while making his
toilet put some questions to his personal attendant, a rather bright
looking young mulatto of about his own age.
"Tom," said Dick.
"Yas, Mars Dick," responded the servant.
"I 'm going on a trip North. Would you like to go with me?"
Now, if there was anything that Tom would have liked to make, it was a
trip North. It was something he had long contemplated in the abstract,
but had never been able to muster up sufficient courage to attempt in
the concrete. He was prudent enough, however, to dissemble his feelings.
"I would n't min' it, Mars Dick, ez long ez you 'd take keer er me an'
fetch me home all right."
Tom's eyes belied his words, however, and his young master felt well
assured that Tom needed only a good opportunity to make him run away.
Having a comfortable home, and a dismal prospect in case of failure, Tom
was not likely to take any desperate chances; but young Owens was
satisfied that in a free State but little persuasion would be required
to lead Tom astray. With a very logical and characteristic desire to
gain his end with the least necessary expenditure of effort, he decided
to take Tom with him, if his father did not object.
Colonel Owens had left the house when Dick went to breakfast, so Dick
did not see his father till luncheon.
"Father," he remarked casually to the colonel, over the fried chicken,
"I 'm feeling a trifle run down. I imagine my health would be improved
somewhat by a little travel and change of scene."
"Why don't you take a trip North?" suggested his father. The colonel
added to paternal affection a considerable respect for his son as the
heir of a large estate. He himself had been "raised" in comparative
poverty, and had laid the foundations of his fortune by hard work; and
while he despised the ladder by which he had climbed, he could not
entirely forget it, and unconsciously manifested, in his intercourse
with his son, some of the poor man's deference toward the wealthy and
"I think I 'll adopt your suggestion, sir," replied the son, "and run
up to New York; and after I 've been there awhile I may go on to Boston
for a week or so. I 've never been there, you know."
"There are some matters you can talk over with my factor in New York,"
rejoined the colonel, "and while you are up there among the Yankees, I
hope you 'll keep your eyes and ears open to find out what the rascally
abolitionists are saying and doing. They 're becoming altogether too
active for our comfort, and entirely too many ungrateful niggers are
running away. I hope the conviction of that fellow yesterday may
discourage the rest of the breed. I 'd just like to catch any one trying
to run off one of my darkeys. He 'd get short shrift; I don't think any
Court would have a chance to try him."
"They are a pestiferous lot," assented Dick, "and dangerous to our
institutions. But say, father, if I go North I shall want to take Tom
Now, the colonel, while a very indulgent father, had pronounced views on
the subject of negroes, having studied them, as he often said, for a
great many years, and, as he asserted oftener still, understanding them
perfectly. It is scarcely worth while to say, either, that he valued
more highly than if he had inherited them the slaves he had toiled and
"I don't think it safe to take Tom up North," he declared, with
promptness and decision. "He 's a good enough boy, but too smart to
trust among those low-down abolitionists. I strongly suspect him of
having learned to read, though I can't imagine how. I saw him with a
newspaper the other day, and while he pretended to be looking at a
woodcut, I 'm almost sure he was reading the paper. I think it by no
means safe to take him."
Dick did not insist, because he knew it was useless. The colonel would
have obliged his son in any other matter, but his negroes were the
outward and visible sign of his wealth and station, and therefore sacred
"Whom do you think it safe to take?" asked Dick. "I suppose I 'll have
to have a body-servant."
"What 's the matter with Grandison?" suggested the colonel. "He 's handy
enough, and I reckon we can trust him. He 's too fond of good eating,
to risk losing his regular meals; besides, he 's sweet on your mother's
maid, Betty, and I 've promised to let 'em get married before long. I 'll
have Grandison up, and we 'll talk to him. Here, you boy Jack," called
the colonel to a yellow youth in the next room who was catching flies
and pulling their wings off to pass the time, "go down to the barn and
tell Grandison to come here."
"Grandison," said the colonel, when the negro stood before him, hat in
"Have n't I always treated you right?"
"Have n't you always got all you wanted to eat?"
"And as much whiskey and tobacco as was good for you, Grandison?"
"I should just like to know, Grandison, whether you don't think yourself
a great deal better off than those poor free negroes down by the plank
road, with no kind master to look after them and no mistress to give
them medicine when they 're sick and?and"??
"Well, I sh'd jes' reckon I is better off, suh, dan dem low-down free
niggers, suh! Ef anybody ax 'em who dey b'long ter, dey has ter say
nobody, er e'se lie erbout it. Anybody ax me who I b'longs ter, I ain'
got no 'casion ter be shame' ter tell 'em, no, suh, 'deed I ain', suh!"
The colonel was beaming. This was true gratitude, and his feudal heart
thrilled at such appreciative homage. What cold-blooded, heartless
monsters they were who would break up this blissful relationship of
kindly protection on the one hand, of wise subordination and loyal
dependence on the other! The colonel always became indignant at the mere
thought of such wickedness.
"Grandison," the colonel continued, "your young master Dick is going
North for a few weeks, and I am thinking of letting him take you along.
I shall send you on this trip, Grandison, in order that you may take
care of your young master. He will need some one to wait on him, and no
one can ever do it so well as one of the boys brought up with him on the
old plantation. I am going to trust him in your hands, and I 'm sure
you 'll do your duty faithfully, and bring him back home safe and
sound?to old Kentucky."
Grandison grinned. "Oh yas, marster, I 'll take keer er young Mars
"I want to warn you, though, Grandison," continued the colonel
impressively, "against these cussed abolitionists, who try to entice
servants from their comfortable homes and their indulgent masters, from
the blue skies, the green fields, and the warm sunlight of their
southern home, and send them away off yonder to Canada, a dreary
country, where the woods are full of wildcats and wolves and bears,
where the snow lies up to the eaves of the houses for six months of the
year, and the cold is so severe that it freezes your breath and curdles
your blood; and where, when runaway niggers get sick and can't work,
they are turned out to starve and die, unloved and uncared for. I
reckon, Grandison, that you have too much sense to permit yourself to be
led astray by any such foolish and wicked people."
"'Deed, suh, I would n' low none er dem cussed, low-down abolitioners
ter come nigh me, suh. I 'd?I 'd?would I be 'lowed ter hit 'em, suh?"
"Certainly, Grandison," replied the colonel, chuckling, "hit 'em as hard
as you can. I reckon they 'd rather like it. Begad, I believe they
would! It would serve 'em right to be hit by a nigger!"
"Er ef I did n't hit 'em, suh," continued Grandison reflectively, "I 'd
tell Mars Dick, en he 'd fix 'em. He 'd smash de face off'n 'em, suh,
I jes' knows he would."
"Oh yes, Grandison, your young master will protect you. You need fear no
harm while he is near."
"Dey won't try ter steal me, will dey, marster?" asked the negro, with
"I don't know, Grandison," replied the colonel, lighting a fresh cigar.
"They 're a desperate set of lunatics, and there 's no telling what they
may resort to. But if you stick close to your young master, and remember
always that he is your best friend, and understands your real needs, and
has your true interests at heart, and if you will be careful to avoid
strangers who try to talk to you, you 'll stand a fair chance of getting
back to your home and your friends. And if you please your master Dick,
he 'll buy you a present, and a string of beads for Betty to wear when
you and she get married in the fall."
"Thanky, marster, thanky, suh," replied Grandison, oozing gratitude at
every pore; "you is a good marster, to be sho', suh; yas, 'deed you is.
You kin jes' bet me and Mars Dick gwine git 'long jes' lack I wuz own
boy ter Mars Dick. En it won't be my fault ef he don' want me fer his
boy all de time, w'en we come back home ag'in."
"All right, Grandison, you may go now. You need n't work any more
to-day, and here 's a piece of tobacco for you off my own plug."
"Thanky, marster, thanky, marster! You is de bes' marster any nigger
ever had in dis worl'." And Grandison bowed and scraped and disappeared
round the corner, his jaws closing around a large section of the
colonel's best tobacco.
"You may take Grandison," said the colonel to his son. "I allow he 's
Richard Owens, Esq., and servant, from Kentucky, registered at the
fashionable New York hostelry for Southerners in those days, a hotel
where an atmosphere congenial to Southern institutions was sedulously
maintained. But there were negro waiters in the dining-room, and mulatto
bell-boys, and Dick had no doubt that Grandison, with the native
gregariousness and garrulousness of his race, would foregather and
palaver with them sooner or later, and Dick hoped that they would
speedily inoculate him with the virus of freedom. For it was not Dick's
intention to say anything to his servant about his plan to free him, for
obvious reasons. To mention one of them, if Grandison should go away,
and by legal process be recaptured, his young master's part in the
matter would doubtless become known, which would be embarrassing to
Dick, to say the least. If, on the other hand, he should merely give
Grandison sufficient latitude, he had no doubt he would eventually lose
him. For while not exactly skeptical about Grandison's perfervid
loyalty, Dick had been a somewhat keen observer of human nature, in his
own indolent way, and based his expectations upon the force of the
example and argument that his servant could scarcely fail to encounter.
Grandison should have a fair chance to become free by his own
initiative; if it should become necessary to adopt other measures to get
rid of him, it would be time enough to act when the necessity arose; and
Dick Owens was not the youth to take needless trouble.
The young master renewed some acquaintances and made others, and spent a
week or two very pleasantly in the best society of the metropolis,
easily accessible to a wealthy, well-bred young Southerner, with proper
introductions. Young women smiled on him, and young men of convivial
habits pressed their hospitalities; but the memory of Charity's sweet,
strong face and clear blue eyes made him proof against the blandishments
of the one sex and the persuasions of the other. Meanwhile he kept
Grandison supplied with pocket-money, and left him mainly to his own
devices. Every night when Dick came in he hoped he might have to wait
upon himself, and every morning he looked forward with pleasure to the
prospect of making his toilet unaided. His hopes, however, were doomed
to disappointment, for every night when he came in Grandison was on hand
with a bootjack, and a nightcap mixed for his young master as the
colonel had taught him to mix it, and every morning Grandison appeared
with his master's boots blacked and his clothes brushed, and laid his
linen out for the day.
"Grandison," said Dick one morning, after finishing his toilet, "this is
the chance of your life to go around among your own people and see how
they live. Have you met any of them?"
"Yas, suh, I 's seen some of 'em. But I don' keer nuffin fer 'em, suh.
Dey 're diffe'nt f'm de niggers down ou' way. Dey 'lows dey 're free,
but dey ain' got sense 'nuff ter know dey ain' half as well off as dey
would be down Souf, whar dey 'd be 'predated."
When two weeks had passed without any apparent effect of evil example
upon Grandison, Dick resolved to go on to Boston, where he thought the
atmosphere might prove more favorable to his ends. After he had been at
the Revere House for a day or two without losing Grandison, he decided
upon slightly different tactics.
Having ascertained from a city directory the addresses of several
well-known abolitionists, he wrote them each a letter something like
Dear Friend and Brother:??
A wicked slaveholder from Kentucky, stopping at the Revere House, has
dared to insult the liberty-loving people of Boston by bringing his
slave into their midst. Shall this be tolerated? Or shall steps be taken
in the name of liberty to rescue a fellow-man from bondage? For obvious
reasons I can only sign myself,
A Friend of Humanity.
That his letter might have an opportunity to prove effective, Dick made
it a point to send Grandison away from the hotel on various errands. On
one of these occasions Dick watched him for quite a distance down the
street. Grandison had scarcely left the hotel when a long-haired,
sharp-featured man came out behind him, followed him, soon overtook him,
and kept along beside him until they turned the next corner. Dick's
hopes were roused by this spectacle, but sank correspondingly when
Grandison returned to the hotel. As Grandison said nothing about the
encounter, Dick hoped there might be some self-consciousness behind this
unexpected reticence, the results of which might develop later on.
But Grandison was on hand again when his master came back to the hotel
at night, and was in attendance again in the morning, with hot water, to
assist at his master's toilet. Dick sent him on further errands from day
to day, and upon one occasion came squarely up to him?inadvertently of
course?while Grandison was engaged in conversation with a young white
man in clerical garb. When Grandison saw Dick approaching, he edged away
from the preacher and hastened toward his master, with a very evident
expression of relief upon his countenance.
"Mars Dick," he said, "dese yer abolitioners is jes' pesterin' de life
out er me tryin' ter git me ter run away. I don' pay no 'tention ter
'em, but dey riles me so sometimes dat I 'm feared I 'll hit some of 'em
some er dese days, an' dat mought git me inter trouble. I ain' said
nuffin' ter you 'bout it, Mars Dick, fer I did n' wanter 'sturb yo'
min'; but I don' like it, suh; no, suh, I don'! Is we gwine back home
'fo' long, Mars Dick?"
"We 'll be going back soon enough," replied Dick somewhat shortly, while
he inwardly cursed the stupidity of a slave who could be free and would
not, and registered a secret vow that if he were unable to get rid of
Grandison without assassinating him, and were therefore compelled to
take him back to Kentucky, he would see that Grandison got a taste of an
article of slavery that would make him regret his wasted opportunities.
Meanwhile he determined to tempt his servant yet more strongly.
"Grandison," he said next morning, "I 'm going away for a day or two,
but I shall leave you here. I shall lock up a hundred dollars in this
drawer and give you the key. If you need any of it, use it and enjoy
yourself,?spend it all if you like,?for this is probably the last
chance you 'll have for some time to be in a free State, and you 'd
better enjoy your liberty while you may."
When he came back a couple of days later and found the faithful
Grandison at his post, and the hundred dollars intact, Dick felt
seriously annoyed. His vexation was increased by the fact that he could
not express his feelings adequately. He did not even scold Grandison;
how could he, indeed, find fault with one who so sensibly recognized his
true place in the economy of civilization, and kept it with such
"I can't say a thing to him," groaned Dick. "He deserves a leather
medal, made out of his own hide tanned. I reckon I 'll write to father
and let him know what a model servant he has given me."
He wrote his father a letter which made the colonel swell with pride and
pleasure. "I really think," the colonel observed to one of his friends,
"that Dick ought to have the nigger interviewed by the Boston papers, so
that they may see how contented and happy our darkeys really are."
Dick also wrote a long letter to Charity Lomax, in which he said, among
many other things, that if she knew how hard he was working, and under
what difficulties, to accomplish something serious for her sake, she
would no longer keep him in suspense, but overwhelm him with love and
Having thus exhausted without result the more obvious methods of
getting rid of Grandison, and diplomacy having also proved a failure,
Dick was forced to consider more radical measures. Of course he might
run away himself, and abandon Grandison, but this would be merely to
leave him in the United States, where he was still a slave, and where,
with his notions of loyalty, he would speedily be reclaimed. It was
necessary, in order to accomplish the purpose of his trip to the North,
to leave Grandison permanently in Canada, where he would be legally
"I might extend my trip to Canada," he reflected, "but that would be too
palpable. I have it! I 'll visit Niagara Falls on the way home, and lose
him on the Canada side. When he once realizes that he is actually free,
I 'll warrant that he 'll stay."
So the next day saw them westward bound, and in due course of time, by
the somewhat slow conveyances of the period, they found themselves at
Niagara. Dick walked and drove about the Falls for several days, taking
Grandison along with him on most occasions. One morning they stood on
the Canadian side, watching the wild whirl of the waters below them.
"Grandison," said Dick, raising his voice above the roar of the
cataract, "do you know where you are now?"
"I 's wid you, Mars Dick; dat 's all I keers."
"You are now in Canada, Grandison, where your people go when they run
away from their masters. If you wished, Grandison, you might walk away
from me this very minute, and I could not lay my hand upon you to take
Grandison looked around uneasily.
"Let 's go back ober de ribber, Mars Dick. I 's feared I 'll lose you
ovuh heah, an' den I won' hab no marster, an' won't nebber be able to
git back home no mo'."
Discouraged, but not yet hopeless, Dick said, a few minutes later,??
"Grandison, I 'm going up the road a bit, to the inn over yonder. You
stay here until I return. I 'll not be gone a great while."
Grandison's eyes opened wide and he looked somewhat fearful.
"Is dey any er dem dadblasted abolitioners roun' heah, Mars Dick?"
"I don't imagine that there are," replied his master, hoping there
might be. "But I 'm not afraid of your running away, Grandison. I only
wish I were," he added to himself.
Dick walked leisurely down the road to where the whitewashed inn, built
of stone, with true British solidity, loomed up through the trees by the
roadside. Arrived there he ordered a glass of ale and a sandwich, and
took a seat at a table by a window, from which he could see Grandison in
the distance. For a while he hoped that the seed he had sown might have
fallen on fertile ground, and that Grandison, relieved from the
restraining power of a master's eye, and finding himself in a free
country, might get up and walk away; but the hope was vain, for
Grandison remained faithfully at his post, awaiting his master's return.
He had seated himself on a broad flat stone, and, turning his eyes away
from the grand and awe-inspiring spectacle that lay close at hand, was
looking anxiously toward the inn where his master sat cursing his
By and by a girl came into the room to serve his order, and Dick very
naturally glanced at her; and as she was young and pretty and remained
in attendance, it was some minutes before he looked for Grandison. When
he did so his faithful servant had disappeared.
To pay his reckoning and go away without the change was a matter quickly
accomplished. Retracing his footsteps toward the Falls, he saw, to his
great disgust, as he approached the spot where he had left Grandison,
the familiar form of his servant stretched out on the ground, his face
to the sun, his mouth open, sleeping the time away, oblivious alike to
the grandeur of the scenery, the thunderous roar of the cataract, or the
insidious voice of sentiment.
"Grandison," soliloquized his master, as he stood gazing down at his
ebony encumbrance, "I do not deserve to be an American citizen; I ought
not to have the advantages I possess over you; and I certainly am not
worthy of Charity Lomax, if I am not smart enough to get rid of you. I
have an idea! You shall yet be free, and I will be the instrument of
your deliverance. Sleep on, faithful and affectionate servitor, and
dream of the blue grass and the bright skies of old Kentucky, for it is
only in your dreams that you will ever see them again!"
Dick retraced his footsteps towards the inn. The young woman chanced to
look out of the window and saw the handsome young gentleman she had
waited on a few minutes before, standing in the road a short distance
away, apparently engaged in earnest conversation with a colored man
employed as hostler for the inn. She thought she saw something pass from
the white man to the other, but at that moment her duties called her
away from the window, and when she looked out again the young gentleman
had disappeared, and the hostler, with two other young men of the
neighborhood, one white and one colored, were walking rapidly towards
Dick made the journey homeward alone, and as rapidly as the conveyances
of the day would permit. As he drew near home his conduct in going back
without Grandison took on a more serious aspect than it had borne at any
previous time, and although he had prepared the colonel by a letter sent
several days ahead, there was still the prospect of a bad quarter of an
hour with him; not, indeed, that his father would upbraid him, but he
was likely to make searching inquiries. And notwithstanding the vein of
quiet recklessness that had carried Dick through his preposterous
scheme, he was a very poor liar, having rarely had occasion or
inclination to tell anything but the truth. Any reluctance to meet his
father was more than offset, however, by a stronger force drawing him
homeward, for Charity Lomax must long since have returned from her visit
to her aunt in Tennessee.
Dick got off easier than he had expected. He told a straight story, and
a truthful one, so far as it went.
The colonel raged at first, but rage soon subsided into anger, and anger
moderated into annoyance, and annoyance into a sort of garrulous sense
of injury. The colonel thought he had been hardly used; he had trusted
this negro, and he had broken faith. Yet, after all, he did not blame
Grandison so much as he did the abolitionists, who were undoubtedly at
the bottom of it.
As for Charity Lomax, Dick told her, privately of course, that he had
run his father's man, Grandison, off to Canada, and left him there.
"Oh, Dick," she had said with shuddering alarm, "what have you done? If
they knew it they 'd send you to the penitentiary, like they did that
"But they don't know it," he had replied seriously; adding, with an
injured tone, "you don't seem to appreciate my heroism like you did that
of the Yankee; perhaps it 's because I was n't caught and sent to the
penitentiary. I thought you wanted me to do it."
"Why, Dick Owens!" she exclaimed. "You know I never dreamed of any such
"But I presume I 'll have to marry you," she concluded, after some
insistence on Dick's part, "if only to take care of you. You are too
reckless for anything; and a man who goes chasing all over the North,
being entertained by New York and Boston society and having negroes to
throw away, needs some one to look after him."
"It 's a most remarkable thing," replied Dick fervently, "that your
views correspond exactly with my profoundest convictions. It proves
beyond question that we were made for one another."
* * * * *
They were married three weeks later. As each of them had just returned
from a journey, they spent their honeymoon at home.
A week after the wedding they were seated, one afternoon, on the piazza
of the colonel's house, where Dick had taken his bride, when a negro
from the yard ran down the lane and threw open the big gate for the
colonel's buggy to enter. The colonel was not alone. Beside him, ragged
and travel-stained, bowed with weariness, and upon his face a haggard
look that told of hardship and privation, sat the lost Grandison.
The colonel alighted at the steps.
"Take the lines, Tom," he said to the man who had opened the gate, "and
drive round to the barn. Help Grandison down,?poor devil, he 's so
stiff he can hardly move!?and get a tub of water and wash him and rub
him down, and feed him, and give him a big drink of whiskey, and then
let him come round and see his young master and his new mistress."
The colonel's face wore an expression compounded of joy and
indignation,?joy at the restoration of a valuable piece of property;
indignation for reasons he proceeded to state.
"It 's astounding, the depths of depravity the human heart is capable
of! I was coming along the road three miles away, when I heard some one
call me from the roadside. I pulled up the mare, and who should come out
of the woods but Grandison. The poor nigger could hardly crawl along,
with the help of a broken limb. I was never more astonished in my life.
You could have knocked me down with a feather. He seemed pretty far
gone,?he could hardly talk above a whisper,?and I had to give him a
mouthful of whiskey to brace him up so he could tell his story. It 's
just as I thought from the beginning, Dick; Grandison had no notion of
running away; he knew when he was well off, and where his friends were.
All the persuasions of abolition liars and runaway niggers did not move
him. But the desperation of those fanatics knew no bounds; their guilty
consciences gave them no rest. They got the notion somehow that
Grandison belonged to a nigger-catcher, and had been brought North as a
spy to help capture ungrateful runaway servants. They actually kidnaped
him?just think of it!?and gagged him and bound him and threw him
rudely into a wagon, and carried him into the gloomy depths of a
Canadian forest, and locked him in a lonely hut, and fed him on bread
and water for three weeks. One of the scoundrels wanted to kill him, and
persuaded the others that it ought to be done; but they got to
quarreling about how they should do it, and before they had their minds
made up Grandison escaped, and, keeping his back steadily to the North
Star, made his way, after suffering incredible hardships, back to the
old plantation, back to his master, his friends, and his home. Why, it 's
as good as one of Scott's novels! Mr. Simms or some other one of our
Southern authors ought to write it up."
"Don't you think, sir," suggested Dick, who had calmly smoked his cigar
throughout the colonel's animated recital, "that that kidnaping yarn
sounds a little improbable? Is n't there some more likely explanation?"
"Nonsense, Dick; it 's the gospel truth! Those infernal abolitionists
are capable of anything?everything! Just think of their locking the
poor, faithful nigger up, beating him, kicking him, depriving him of his
liberty, keeping him on bread and water for three long, lonesome weeks,
and he all the time pining for the old plantation!"
There were almost tears in the colonel's eyes at the picture of
Grandison's sufferings that he conjured up. Dick still professed to be
slightly skeptical, and met Charity's severely questioning eye with
The colonel killed the fatted calf for Grandison, and for two or three
weeks the returned wanderer's life was a slave's dream of pleasure. His
fame spread throughout the county, and the colonel gave him a permanent
place among the house servants, where he could always have him
conveniently at hand to relate his adventures to admiring visitors.
* * * * *
About three weeks after Grandison's return the colonel's faith in sable
humanity was rudely shaken, and its foundations almost broken up. He
came near losing his belief in the fidelity of the negro to his
master,?the servile virtue most highly prized and most sedulously
cultivated by the colonel and his kind. One Monday morning Grandison was
missing. And not only Grandison, but his wife, Betty the maid; his
mother, aunt Eunice; his father, uncle Ike; his brothers, Tom and John,
and his little sister Elsie, were likewise absent from the plantation;
and a hurried search and inquiry in the neighborhood resulted in no
information as to their whereabouts. So much valuable property could not
be lost without an effort to recover it, and the wholesale nature of the
transaction carried consternation to the hearts of those whose ledgers
were chiefly bound in black. Extremely energetic measures were taken by
the colonel and his friends. The fugitives were traced, and followed
from point to point, on their northward run through Ohio. Several times
the hunters were close upon their heels, but the magnitude of the
escaping party begot unusual vigilance on the part of those who
sympathized with the fugitives, and strangely enough, the underground
railroad seemed to have had its tracks cleared and signals set for this
particular train. Once, twice, the colonel thought he had them, but
they slipped through his fingers.
One last glimpse he caught of his vanishing property, as he stood,
accompanied by a United States marshal, on a wharf at a port on the
south shore of Lake Erie. On the stern of a small steamboat which was
receding rapidly from the wharf, with her nose pointing toward Canada,
there stood a group of familiar dark faces, and the look they cast
backward was not one of longing for the fleshpots of Egypt. The colonel
saw Grandison point him out to one of the crew of the vessel, who waved
his hand derisively toward the colonel. The latter shook his fist
impotently?and the incident was closed.