If ever Africa shall show an elevated and cultivated race, — and come it must, some time, her turn to figure in the great drama of human improvement. — life will awake there with a gorgeousness and splendor of which our cold western tribes faintly have conceived. In that far-off mystic land of gold, and gems, and spices, and waving palms, and wondrous flowers, and miraculous fertility, will awake new forms of art, new styles of splendor; and the negro race, no longer despised and trodden down, will, perhaps, show forth some of the latest and most magnificent revelations of human life. Certainly they will, in their gentleness, their lowly docility of heart, their aptitude to repose on a superior mind and rest on a higher power, their childlike simplicity of affection, and facility of forgiveness. In all these they will exhibit the highest form of the peculiarly Christian life, and, perhaps, as God chasteneth whom he loveth, he hath chosen poor Africa in the furnace of affliction, to make her the highest and noblest in that kingdom which he will set up, when every other kingdom has been tried, and failed; for the first shall be last, and the last first.
Was this what Marie St. Clare was thinking of, as she stood, gorgeously dressed, on the verandah, on Sunday morning, clasping a diamond bracelet on her slender wrist? Most likely it was. Or, if it wasn't that, it was something else; for Marie patronized good things, and she was going now, in full force, — diamonds, silk, and lace, and jewels, and all, — to a fashionable church, to be very religious. Marie always made a point to be very pious on Sundays. There she stood, so slender, so elegant, so airy and undulating in all her motions, her lace scarf enveloping her like a mist. She looked a graceful creature, and she felt very good and very elegant indeed. Miss Ophelia stood at her side, a perfect contrast. It was not that she had not as handsome a silk dress and shawl, and as fine a pocket-handkerchief; but stiffness and squareness, and bolt-uprightness, enveloped her with as indefinite yet appreciable a presence as did grace her elegant neighbor; not the grace of God, however, — that is quite another thing!
"Where's Eva?" said Marie.
"The child stopped on the stairs, to say something to Mammy."
And what was Eva saying to Mammy on the stairs? Listen, reader, and you will hear, though Marie does not.
"Dear Mammy, I know your head is aching dreadfully."
"Lord bless you, Miss Eva! my head allers aches lately. You don't need to worry."
"Well, I'm glad you're going out; and here," — and the little girl threw her arms around her, — "Mammy, you shall take my vinaigrette."
"What! your beautiful gold thing, thar, with them diamonds! Lor, Miss, 't wouldn't be proper, no ways."
"Why not? You need it, and I don't. Mamma always uses it for headache, and it'll make you feel better. No, you shall take it, to please me, now."
"Do hear the darlin talk!" said Mammy, as Eva thrust it into her bosom, and kissing her, ran down stairs to her mother.
"What were you stopping for?"
"I was just stopping to give Mammy my vinaigrette, to take to church with her."
"Eva" said Marie, stamping impatiently, — "your gold vinaigrette to Mammy! When will you learn what's proper? Go right and take it back this moment!"
Eva looked downcast and aggrieved, and turned slowly.
"I say, Marie, let the child alone; she shall do as she pleases," said St. Clare.
"St. Clare, how will she ever get along in the world?" said Marie.
"The Lord knows," said St. Clare, "but she'll get along in heaven better than you or I."
"O, papa, don't," said Eva, softly touching his elbow; "it troubles mother."
"Well, cousin, are you ready to go to meeting?" said Miss Ophelia, turning square about on St. Clare.
"I'm not going, thank you."
"I do wish St. Clare ever would go to church," said Marie; "but he hasn't a particle of religion about him. It really isn't respectable."
"I know it," said St. Clare. "You ladies go to church to learn how to get along in the world, I suppose, and your piety sheds respectability on us. If I did go at all, I would go where Mammy goes; there's something to keep a fellow awake there, at least."
"What! those shouting Methodists? Horrible!" said Marie.
"Anything but the dead sea of your respectable churches, Marie. Positively, it's too much to ask of a man. Eva, do you like to go? Come, stay at home and play with me."
"Thank you, papa; but I'd rather go to church."
"Isn't it dreadful tiresome?" said St. Clare.
"I think it is tiresome, some," said Eva, "and I am sleepy, too, but I try to keep awake."
"What do you go for, then?"
"Why, you know, papa," she said, in a whisper, "cousin told me that God wants to have us; and he gives us everything, you know; and it isn't much to do it, if he wants us to. It isn't so very tiresome after all."
"You sweet, little obliging soul!" said St. Clare, kissing her; "go along, that's a good girl, and pray for me."
"Certainly, I always do," said the child, as she sprang after her mother into the carriage.
St. Clare stood on the steps and kissed his hand to her, as the carriage drove away; large tears were in his eyes.
"O, Evangeline! rightly named," he said; "hath not God made thee an evangel to me?"
So he felt a moment; and then he smoked a cigar, and read the Picayune, and forgot his little gospel. Was he much unlike other folks?
"You see, Evangeline," said her mother, "it's always right and proper to be kind to servants, but it isn't proper to treat them just as we would our relations, or people in our own class of life. Now, if Mammy was sick, you wouldn't want to put her in your own bed."
"I should feel just like it, mamma," said Eva, "because then it would be handier to take care of her, and because, you know, my bed is better than hers."
Marie was in utter despair at the entire want of moral perception evinced in this reply.
"What can I do to make this child understand me?" she said.
"Nothing," said Miss Ophelia, significantly.
Eva looked sorry and disconcerted for a moment; but children, luckily, do not keep to one impression long, and in a few moments she was merrily laughing at various things which she saw from the coach-windows, as it rattled along.