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" YOU HAVE BOUGHT ME,
WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?"
cording to his wont, were gone from
A mysterious feeling of terror crept over and helped to sober him. How long had he lain asleep? By degrees he seemed to remember that two or three times he had awakened far enough to drink from the bottle under his pillow, only to sink again into heavier stupefaction. By degrees, too, he seemed to remember that other things had happened - a driving of vehicles this way and that, a hurrying of people along the street. He had thought it the breaking-up of M. Xaupi's ball. More than once had not someone shaken and tried to arouse him ? Through the wall of
Harry Sikes's barber-shop had he not arching ribs and knotted by crossing muscles; heard cries of pain — sobs of distress? and his shirt-sleeve, falling away to the shoul- He staggered to the window, threw open der from his bent arm, revealed its crowded the shutters, and, kneeling at the sill, looked muscles in the high relief of heroic bronze. For out. The street was deserted. The houses opalthough he had been sold as a vagrant, old posite were closed. Cats were sleeping in the King Solomon had in earlier years followed silent doorways. But as he looked up and the trade of a digger of cellars, and the stren- down he caught sight of people hurrying along uous use of mattock and spade had developed cross-streets. From a distant lumber-yard every sinew to the utmost. His whole person, came the muffled sound of rapid hammerings. now half naked and in repose, was full of the On the air was the faint roll of vehicles — the suggestions of unspent power. Only his face, hush and the vague noises of a general terrifyswollen and red, only his eyes, bloodshot and ing commotion. dull, bore the impress of wasted vitality. There, In the middle of the street below him a keg all too plainly stamped, were the passions long was burning, and, as he looked, the hoops gave since raging and still on fire.
way, the tar spread out like a stream of black The sunlight had stirred him to but a low lava, and a cloud of inky smoke and deep-red degree of consciousness, and some minutes furious flame burst upward through thesagging passed before he realized that a stifling, resin- air. Just beneath the window a common cart ous fume impregnated the air. He sniffed it had been backed close up to the door of the quickly; through the window seemed to come house. In it had been thrown a few small artithe smell of burning tar. He sat up on the cles of furniture, and on the bottom bedclothes edge of the bed and vainly tried to clear his had been spread out as if for a pallet. While thoughts.
he looked old Charlotte hurried out with a The room was a clean but poor habitation - pillow. uncarpeted, whitewashed, with a piece or two of He called down to her in a strange, unsteady the cheapest furniture, and a row of pegs on one voice: wall, where usually hung those tattered coats “ What is the matter? What are you doing, and pantaloons, miscellaneously collected, that Aunt Charlotte ?" were his purple and fine linen. He turned his She uttered a cry, dropped the pillow, and eyes in this direction now and noticed that his stared up at him. Her face looked dry and clothes were missing. The old shoes had dis- wrinkled. appeared from their corner; the cigar stumps, “ My God! De chol'ra 's in town! I 'm picked up here and there in the streets ac- waitin' on you! Dress, en come down en fetch
Vol. XXXVIII.- 33.
de bun'le by de dooh.” And she hurried back tidd'y mohnin' —all day, en all las' night, en dis into the house.
mohnin’! De man he done lock up de huss, But he continued leaning on his folded arms, en dey been buryin' 'em in cyarts. En de his brain stunned by the shock of the intelli- grave-diggah he done run away, en hit look gence. Suddenly he leaned far out and looked like d' ain' nobody to dig de graves.” down at the closed shutters of the barber-shop. She bent over the bundle, tying again the Old Charlotte reappeared.
four corners of the sheet. Through the win“Where is Harry Sikes ?” he asked. dow came the sound of the quick hammers “Dead en buried.”
driving nails. She threw up her arms into the “When did he die ? "
air, and then seizing the bundle dragged it “Yestidd'y evenin'."
rapidly to the door. “What day is this? ”
“You heah dat? Dey nailin' up cawfins in “Sadd’y."
de lumbah-yahd! Put on yo' clo'es, honey, M. Xaupi's ball had been on Thursday en come on." evening. That night the cholera had broken A resolution had suddenly taken shape out. He had lain in his drunken stupor ever his mind.
ince. Their talk had lasted but a minute, but “Go on away and save your life. Don't she looked up anxiously and urged him. wait for me; I 'm not going. And good-bye,
“D'ain' no time to was’e, honey! D'ain' Aunt Charlotte, in case I don't see you any no time to was'e. I done got dis cyart to tek more. You 've been very kind to me - kinder you 'way in, en I be ready to start in a minute. than I deserved. Where have you put my Put yo' clo'es on en bring de bun'le wid all mattock and spade?" yo' yudder things in it.”
He said this very quietly and sat up on the With incredible activity she climbed into edge of the bed, his feet hanging down, and the cart and began to roll up the bedclothes. his hand stretched out towards her. In reality she had made up her mind to put “Honey," she explained coaxingly, from him into the cart somehow, and the pallet had where she stood, “ can't you sobah up a little been made for him to lie and finish his drunken en put on yo'clo’es ? I gwine to tek you 'way sleep on, while she drove him away to a place to de country. You don'wan' no tools. You of safety.
can' dig no cellahs now. De chol'ra 's in town Still he did not move from the window-sill. en de people 's dyin' like sheep.”. He was thinking of Harry Sikes, who had "I expect they will need me," he answered. shaved him many a time for nothing. Then She perceived now that he was sober. For he suddenly called down to her:
an instant her own fear was forgotten in an “ Have many died of the cholera ? Are outburst of resentment and indignation. there many cases in town?”
Dig graves fuh 'em, when dey put you up She went on with her preparations and took on de block en sell you same ez you wuz a no notice of him. He repeated the question. niggah! Dig graves fuh 'em, when dey allers She got down quickly from the cart and began callin' you names on de street en makin' fun to mount the staircase. He went back to bed, o' you !” pulled the sheet up over him, and propped “They are not to blame. I have brought it himself up among the pillows. Her soft, heavy all on myself.” footsteps slurred on the stairway as though her “But we can' stay heah en die o' de cholstrength were failing, and as soon as she en- ra!" tered the room she sank into a chair, overcome “ You must n't stay. You must go away at with terror. He looked at her with a sudden once." sense of pity.
“ But if I go, who gwine tek cyah o' you ? ” “ Don't be frightened,” he said kindly. “It "Nobody. might only make it the worse for you."
She came quickly across the room to the "I can'he'p it, honey," she answered, wring- bed, fell on her knees, clasped his feet to her ing her hands and rocking herself to and fro; breast, and looked up into his face with an ex“ de ole niggah can' he'p it. If de Lohd jes pression of imploring tenderness. Then, with spah me to git out'n dis town wid you! Honey, incoherent cries and with sobs and tears, she ain' you able to put on yo' clo'es ? "
pleaded with him— pleaded for dear life; his “ You 've tied them all up in the sheet.” and her own. “ De Lohd he'p de crazy ole niggah!” It was a strange scene. What historian of
She started up and tugged at the bundle, the heart will ever be able to do justice to those and laid out a suit of his clothes, if things so peculiar ties which bound the heart of the negro incongruous could be called a suit.
in years gone by to a race of not always worthy “Have many people died of the cholera ?” masters? This old Virginia nurse had known “Dey been dyin' like sheep ev' since yes- King Solomon when he was a boy playing with
her young master, till that young master died fused to go. A hurried footstep paused beon the way to Kentucky.
neath the window and a loud voice called At the death of her mistress she had be- up. The old nurse got up and went to the come free, with a little property. By thrift and window. A man was standing by the cart at industry she had greatly enlarged this. Years her door. passed and she became the only surviving “For God's sake let me have this cart to member of the Virginian household, which had take my wife and little children away to the emigrated early in the century to the blue-grass country! There is not a vehicle to be had in region. The same wave of emigration had town. I will pay you —” He stopped, seebrought in old King Solomon from the same ing the distress on her face. neighborhood. As she had risen in life, he “Is he dead ?” he asked, for he knew of had sunk. She sat on the sidewalks selling her her care of old King Solomon.
fruits and cakes; he sat on the sidewalks more “ He will die!” she sobbed. “Tilt de idle, more ragged and dissolute. On no other t’ings out on de pavement. I gwine t stay basis than these facts she began to assume a wid 'im en tek cyah o' 'im.” sort of maternal pitying care of him, patching his rags, giving him money for his vices, and when, a year or two before, he had ceased working almost entirely, giving him a room A LITTLE later, dressed once more in groin her house and taking in payment what he tesque rags and carrying on his shoulder a chose to pay.
rusty mattock and a rusty spade, old King He brushed his hand quickly across his eyes Solomon appeared in the street below and as she knelt before him now, clasping his feet stood looking up and down it with an air of to her bosom. From coaxing him as an in- anxious indecision. Then shuffling along raptractable child she had, in the old servile idly to the corner of Mill street, he turned up fashion, fallen to imploring him, with touching towards Main. forgetfulness of their real relations :
Here a full sense of the terror came to "O my marseter! O my marseter Solomon! him. A man, hurrying along with his head Go ’way en save yo’ life, en tek yo'po' ole down, ran full against him and cursed him for niggah wid you!'
the delay: But his resolution was formed, and he re- “ Get out of my way, you old beast !” he
cried. “If the cholera would carry you off it The orphaned children wandered past again, would be a blessing to the town.”
sobbing more wearily. He called them to him. Two or three little children, suddenly or- " Why do you not go home? Where is your phaned and hungry, wandered past, crying and mother ” he asked. wringing their hands. A crowd of negro men “She is dead in the house,” they answered; with the muscles of athletes, some with naked “and no one has come to bury her.” arms, some naked to the waist, their
di- Slowly down the street was coming a short lated, their mouths hanging open, sped along funeral train. It passed -a rude cortége: a in tumultuous disorder. The plague had broken common cart in the bottom of which rested a out in the hemp factory and scattered them box of plain boards containing the body of the beyond all control.
old French dancing-master; walking behind He grew suddenly faint and sick. His senses it, with a cambric handkerchief to his eyes, the swam, his heart seemed to cease beating, his old French confectioner; at his side, wearing tongue burned, his throat was dry, his spine like the robes of his office and carrying an umbrella ice. For a moment the contagion of deadly fear to ward off the burning sun, the beloved Bishop overcame him, and, unable to stand, he reeled Smith; and behind them, two by two and with to the edge of the sidewalk and sat down. linked arms, perhaps a dozen men, most of
Before him along the street passed the fly- whom had been at the ball. ing people — men on horseback with their No head was lifted or eye turned to notice wives behind and children in front, families the vagrant seated on the sidewalk. But when in carts and wagons, merchants in two-wheeled the train had passed he rose, laid his mattock gigs and sulkies. A huge red and yellow stage- and spade across his shoulder, and, stepping coach rolled ponderously by, filled within, on out into the street, fell into line at the end of top, in front, and behind with a company of the procession. riotous students of law and of medicine. A They moved down Short street to the old rapid chorus of voices shouted to him as they burying-ground, where the churchyard is topassed:
day. As they entered it, two grave-diggers “ Good-bye, old Solomon!”
passed out and hurried away. Those before “ The cholera ll have you befoah sunset!” them had fled. They had been at work but a
“ Dig yoah grave, old Solomon! That 'll be few hours. Overcome with horror at the sight yoah last cellah.”
of the dead arriving more and more rapidly, “ Dig us a big wine cellah undah the Medi- they, too, deserted that post of peril. No one cal Hall while we are away.”
was left. Here and there in the churchyard " And leave yo’ body there! We want to use could be seen bodies awaiting interment. Old yo' skeleton."
King Solomon stepped quietly forward and, “Good-bye, old Solomon!”
getting down into one of the half-finished graves, A wretched carry-all passed with a house- began to dig. hold of more wretched women; their tawdry The vagrant had happened upon an avocaand gay attire, their haggard and painted and tion. ghastly faces, looking horrible in the blaze of the pitiless sunlight. They, too, simpered and hailed him and spent upon him their hardened All summer long, Clatterbuck's dancingand degraded badinage. Then there rolled by a pavilion was as silent in its grove of oaks as a high-swung carriage, with the most luxurious temple of the Druids, and his pleasure-boat of cushions, upholstered with white satin, with nestled in its moorings, with no hand to feather a coat-of-arms, a driver and a footman in livery, an oar in the little lake. All summer long, no and drawn by sparkling, prancing horses. Lying athletic young Kentuckians came to bathe back on the satin cushions a fine gentleman; their white bodies in Hugh Lonney's new bathat the window of the carriage two rosy chil. house for twelve and a half cents, and no one dren, who pointed their fingers at the vagrant read Daukins Tegway's advertisement that he and turned and looked into their father's face, was willing to exchange his Dunstable bonnets so that he leaned forward, smiled, leaned back for flax and feathers. The likely runaway boy, again, and was whirled away to a place of with a long, fresh scar across his face, was never safety.
found, nor the buffalo bull roasted for Daniel Thus they passed him, as he sat down on Webster, and Peter Leuba's guitars were never the sidewalk-even physicians from their pa- thrummed on any moonlighted verandas. Only tients, pastors from their stricken flocks. Why Dewees & Grant were busy, dispensing, not should not he flee? He had no ties, except snuff, but calomel. the faithful attection of an old negress. Should Grass grew in the deserted streets. Gardens he not at least save her life by going away, became little wildernesses of rank weeds and seeing that she would not leave him?
riotous creepers. Around shut window-lattices
roses clambered and shed their perfume into cotton saturated with camphor. Oftener the the poisoned air, or dropped their faded petals only visible figure in the streets was that of a to strew the echoless thresholds. In darkened faithful priest going about among his perishing rooms ancestral portraits gazed on sad vacancy fold, or that of the bishop moving hither and or looked helplessly down on rigid sheeted thither on his ceaseless ministrations. forms.
But over all the ravages of that terrible time In the trees of poplar and locust along the there towered highest the solitary figure of streets the unmolested birds built and brooded, that powerful grave-digger, who, nerved by the oriole swung its hempen nest from a bough the spectacle of the common misfortune, by over the door of the spider-tenanted factory, one heroic effort rose for the time above the and in front of the old Medical Hall the blue wrecks of his own nature. In the thick of
the plague, in the very garden spot of the pestilence, he ruled like an unterrified king. Through days unnaturally chill with gray cloud and drizzling rain, or unnaturally hot with the fierce sun and suffocating damps that appeared to steam forth from subterranean caldrons, he worked unfalteringly, sometimes with a helper, sometimes with none. There were times when, exhausted, he would lie down in the half-dug graves and there sleep until able to go on; and many a midnight found him under the spectral moon, all but hidden by the rank nightshade as he bent over to mark out the lines of one of those narrow mortal cellars.
What weaknesses he fought and conquered through all those days and nights ! Out of what unforeseen depths of nature did he draw the tough fiber of such a resolution! To be alone with the pestilential dead at night is not that a test of imperial courage ? To live for weeks braving swift death itself — is not that the fierce and ungovernable flaring up of the soul in heroism ? For all the mockery and derision of his name, had it not some fitness ? For had he not a royal heart ?
v. NATURE soon smiles upon her own
ravages and strews our graves with jay shot up his angry crest and screamed flowers, not as memories, but for other flowers harshly down at the passing bier. In a cage when the spring returns. hung against the wall of a house in a retired It was one cool, brilliant morning late in street a mocking-bird sung, beat its breast that autumn. The air blew fresh and invigagainst the bars, sung more passionately, grew orating, as though on all the earth there were silent and dropped dead from its perch, never no corruption, no death. Far southward had knowing that its mistress had long since become flown the plague. A spectator in the open a clod to its full-throated requiem.
court-square might have seen many signs of Famine lurked threateningly in the wake of life returning to the town. Students hurried the pestilence. Markets were closed. A few along, talking eagerly. Merchants met for the shops were kept open to furnish necessary first time and spoke of the winter trade. An supplies. Now and then might have been seen, old negress, gaily and neatly dressed, came driving a meat-wagon in from the country, into the market-place, and sitting down on a some old negro, his nostrils stuffed with white sidewalk displayed her yellow and red apples