"Well, now, the under sheet you must bring over the bolster, — so — and tuck it clear down under the mattress nice and smooth, — so, — do you see?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Topsy, with profound attention.
"But the upper sheet," said Miss Ophelia, "must be brought down in this way, and tucked under firm and smooth at the foot, — so, — the narrow hem at the foot."
"Yes, ma'am," said Topsy, as before; — but we will add, what Miss Ophelia did not see, that, during the time when the good lady's back was turned in the zeal of her manipulations, the young disciple had contrived to snatch a pair of gloves and a ribbon, which she had adroitly slipped into her sleeves, and stood with her hands dutifully folded, as before.
"Now, Topsy, let's see you do this," said Miss Ophelia, pulling off the clothes, and seating herself.
Topsy, with great gravity and adroitness, went through the exercise completely to Miss Ophelia's satisfaction; smoothing the sheets, patting out every wrinkle, and exhibiting, through the whole process, a gravity and seriousness with which her instructress was greatly edified. By an unlucky slip, however, a fluttering fragment of the ribbon hung out of one of her sleeves, just as she was finishing, and caught Miss Ophelia's attention. Instantly, she pounced upon it. "What's this? You naughty, wicked child, — you've been stealing this!"
The ribbon was pulled out of Topsy's own sleeve, yet was she not in the least disconcerted; she only looked at it with an air of the most surprised and unconscious innocence.
"Laws! why, that ar's Miss Feely's ribbon, an't it? How could it a got caught in my sleeve?
"Topsy, you naughty girl, don't you tell me a lie, — you stole that ribbon!"
"Missis, I declar for 't, I didn't; — never seed it till dis yer blessed minnit."
"Topsy," said Miss Ophelia, "don't you now it's wicked to tell lies?"
"I never tell no lies, Miss Feely," said Topsy, with virtuous gravity; "it's jist the truth I've been a tellin now, and an't nothin else."
"Topsy, I shall have to whip you, if you tell lies so."
"Laws, Missis, if you's to whip all day, couldn't say no other way," said Topsy, beginning to blubber. "I never seed dat ar, — it must a got caught in my sleeve. Miss Feeley must have left it on the bed, and it got caught in the clothes, and so got in my sleeve."
Miss Ophelia was so indignant at the barefaced lie, that she caught the child and shook her.
"Don't you tell me that again!"
The shake brought the glove on to the floor, from the other sleeve.
"There, you!" said Miss Ophelia, "will you tell me now, you didn't steal the ribbon?"
Topsy now confessed to the gloves, but still persisted in denying the ribbon.
"Now, Topsy," said Miss Ophelia, "if you'll confess all about it, I won't whip you this time." Thus adjured, Topsy confessed to the ribbon and gloves, with woful protestations of penitence.
"Well, now, tell me. I know you must have taken other things since you have been in the house, for I let you run about all day yesterday. Now, tell me if you took anything, and I shan't whip you."
"Laws, Missis! I took Miss Eva's red thing she wars on her neck."
"You did, you naughty child! — Well, what else?"
"I took Rosa's yer-rings, — them red ones."
"Go bring them to me this minute, both of 'em."
"Laws, Missis! I can't, — they 's burnt up!"
"Burnt up! — what a story! Go get 'em, or I'll whip you."
Topsy, with loud protestations, and tears, and groans, declared that she could not. "They 's burnt up, — they was."
"What did you burn 'em for?" said Miss Ophelia.
"Cause I 's wicked, — I is. I 's mighty wicked, any how. I can't help it."
Just at this moment, Eva came innocently into the room, with the identical coral necklace on her neck.
"Why, Eva, where did you get your necklace?" said Miss Ophelia.
"Get it? Why, I've had it on all day," said Eva.
"Did you have it on yesterday?"
"Yes; and what is funny, Aunty, I had it on all night. I forgot to take it off when I went to bed."
Miss Ophelia looked perfectly bewildered; the more so, as Rosa, at that instant, came into the room, with a basket of newly-ironed linen poised on her head, and the coral ear-drops shaking in her ears!
"I'm sure I can't tell anything what to do with such a child!" she said, in despair. "What in the world did you tell me you took those things for, Topsy?"
"Why, Missis said I must 'fess; and I couldn't think of nothin' else to 'fess," said Topsy, rubbing her eyes.
"But, of course, I didn't want you to confess things you didn't do," said Miss Ophelia; "that's telling a lie, just as much as the other."
"Laws, now, is it?" said Topsy, with an air of innocent wonder.
"La, there an't any such thing as truth in that limb," said Rosa, looking indignantly at Topsy. "If I was Mas'r St. Clare, I'd whip her till the blood run. I would, — I'd let her catch it!"
"No, no Rosa," said Eva, with an air of command, which the child could assume at times; "you mustn't talk so, Rosa. I can't bear to hear it."
"La sakes! Miss Eva, you 's so good, you don't know nothing how to get along with niggers. There's no way but to cut 'em well up, I tell ye."
"Rosa!" said Eva, "hush! Don't you say another word of that sort!" and the eye of the child flashed, and her cheek deepened its color.
Rosa was cowed in a moment.
"Miss Eva has got the St. Clare blood in her, that's plain. She can speak, for all the world, just like her papa," she said, as she passed out of the room.
Eva stood looking at Topsy.
There stood the two children representatives of the two extremes of society. The fair, high-bred child, with her golden head, her deep eyes, her spiritual, noble brow, and prince-like movements; and her black, keen, subtle, cringing, yet acute neighbor. They stood the representatives of their races. The Saxon, born of ages of cultivation, command, education, physical and moral eminence; the Afric, born of ages of oppression, submission, ignorance, toil and vice!