Miss Ophelia felt the loss; but, in her good and honest heart, it bore fruit unto everlasting life. She was more softened, more gentle; and, though equally assiduous in every duty, it was with a chastened and quiet air, as one who communed with her own heart not in vain. She was more diligent in teaching Topsy, — taught her mainly from the Bible, — did not any longer shrink from her touch, or manifest an ill-repressed disgust, because she felt none. She viewed her now through the softened medium that Eva's hand had first held before her eyes, and saw in her only an immortal creature, whom God had sent to be led by her to glory and virtue. Topsy did not become at once a saint; but the life and death of Eva did work a marked change in her. The callous indifference was gone; there was now sensibility, hope, desire, and the striving for good, — a strife irregular, interrupted, suspended oft, but yet renewed again.
One day, when Topsy had been sent for by Miss Ophelia, she came, hastily thrusting something into her bosom.
"What are you doing there, you limb? You've been stealing something, I'll be bound," said the imperious little Rosa, who had been sent to call her, seizing her, at the same time, roughly by the arm.
"You go 'long, Miss Rosa!" said Topsy, pulling from her; "'tan't none o' your business!"
"None o' your sa'ce!" said Rosa, "I saw you hiding something, — I know yer tricks," and Rosa seized her arm, and tried to force her hand into her bosom, while Topsy, enraged, kicked and fought valiantly for what she considered her rights. The clamor and confusion of the battle drew Miss Ophelia and St. Clare both to the spot.
"She's been stealing!" said Rosa.
"I han't, neither!" vociferated Topsy, sobbing with passion.
"Give me that, whatever it is!" said Miss Ophelia, firmly.
Topsy hesitated; but, on a second order, pulled out of her bosom a little parcel done up in the foot of one of her own old stockings.
Miss Ophelia turned it out. There was a small book, which had been given to Topsy by Eva, containing a single verse of Scripture, arranged for every day in the year, and in a paper the curl of hair that she had given her on that memorable day when she had taken her last farewell.
St. Clare was a good deal affected at the sight of it; the little book had been rolled in a long strip of black crape, torn from the funeral weeds.
"What did you wrap this round the book for?" said St. Clare, holding up the crape.
"Cause, — cause, — cause 't was Miss Eva. O, don't take 'em away, please!" she said; and, sitting flat down on the floor, and putting her apron over her head, she began to sob vehemently.
It was a curious mixture of the pathetic and the ludicrous, — the little old stockings, — black crape, — text-book, — fair, soft curl, — and Topsy's utter distress.
St. Clare smiled; but there were tears in his eyes, as he said,
"Come, come, — don't cry; you shall have them!" and, putting them together, he threw them into her lap, and drew Miss Ophelia with him into the parlor.
"I really think you can make something of that concern," he said, pointing with his thumb backward over his shoulder. "Any mind that is capable of a real sorrow is capable of good. You must try and do something with her."
"The child has improved greatly," said Miss Ophelia. "I have great hopes of her; but, Augustine," she said, laying her hand on his arm, "one thing I want to ask; whose is this child to be? — yours or mine?"
"Why, I gave her to you," said Augustine.
"But not legally; — I want her to be mine legally," said Miss Ophelia.
"Whew! cousin," said Augustine. "What will the Abolition Society think? They'll have a day of fasting appointed for this backsliding, if you become a slaveholder!"
"O, nonsense! I want her mine, that I may have a right to take her to the free States, and give her her liberty, that all I am trying to do be not undone."
"O, cousin, what an awful 'doing evil that good may come'! I can't encourage it."
"I don't want you to joke, but to reason," said Miss Ophelia. "There is no use in my trying to make this child a Christian child, unless I save her from all the chances and reverses of slavery; and, if you really are willing I should have her, I want you to give me a deed of gift, or some legal paper."
"Well, well," said St. Clare, "I will;" and he sat down, and unfolded a newspaper to read.
"But I want it done now," said Miss Ophelia.
"What's your hurry?"
"Because now is the only time there ever is to do a thing in," said Miss Ophelia. "Come, now, here's paper, pen, and ink; just write a paper."
St. Clare, like most men of his class of mind, cordially hated the present tense of action, generally; and, therefore, he was considerably annoyed by Miss Ophelia's downrightness.
"Why, what's the matter?" said he. "Can't you take my word? One would think you had taken lessons of the Jews, coming at a fellow so!"
"I want to make sure of it," said Miss Ophelia. "You may die, or fail, and then Topsy be hustled off to auction, spite of all I can do."
"Really, you are quite provident. Well, seeing I'm in the hands of a Yankee, there is nothing for it but to concede;" and St. Clare rapidly wrote off a deed of gift, which, as he was well versed in the forms of law, he could easily do, and signed his name to it in sprawling capitals, concluding by a tremendous flourish.
"There, isn't that black and white, now, Miss Vermont?" he said, as he handed it to her.
"Good boy," said Miss Ophelia, smiling. "But must it not be witnessed?"
"O, bother! — yes. Here," he said, opening the door into Marie's apartment, "Marie, Cousin wants your autograph; just put your name down here."
"What's this?" said Marie, as she ran over the paper. "Ridiculous! I thought Cousin was too pious for such horrid things," she added, as she carelessly wrote her name; "but, if she has a fancy for that article, I am sure she's welcome."
"There, now, she's yours, body and soul," said St. Clare, handing the paper.
"No more mine now than she was before," Miss Ophelia. "Nobody but God has a right to give her to me; but I can protect her now."