Hopkins, Pauline E.
|CHAPTER VII. -- FRIENDSHIP.|
What is so great as friendship? The only reward of virtue is virtue: the only way to have a friend is to be one.-- Emerson .
After that evening the two girls were much together. Sappho's beauty appealed strongly to Dora's artistic nature; but hidden beneath the classic outlines of the face, the graceful symmetry of the form, and the dainty coloring of the skin, Dora's shrewd common sense and womanly intuition discovered a character of sterling worth--bold, strong and ennobling; while into Sappho's lonely self-suppressed life the energetic little Yankee girl swept like a healthful, strengthening breeze. Care was forgotten; there was new joy in living. It was the Southern girl's first experience of Northern life. True, the seductive skies of her nativity had a potent hold upon her affections, but truth demanded her to recognize the superiority of the vigorous activity in the life all about her. The Negro, while held in contempt by many, yet reflected the spirit of his surroundings in his upright carriage, his fearlessness in advancing his opinions, his self-reliance, his anxiety to obtain paying employment that
Sappho generally carried her work home in the morning, but ten o'clock would find her seated at her desk and ready to begin her task anew. Some days she was unoccupied; but this did not happen very frequently. These free days were the gala days of her existence, when under Dora's guidance she explored various points of interest, and learned from observation the great plan of life as practiced in an intelligent, liberty-loving community. Here in the free air of New England's freest city, Sappho drank great draughts of freedom's subtle elixir. Dora was interested and amused in watching the changes on the mirror-like face of her friend whenever her attention was arrested by a new phenomenon. It was strange to see this girl, resembling nothing so much as a lily
Now was the beginning of the storm season in New England, and on stormy days the two girls would sit before the fire in Sappho's room and talk of the many things dear to women, while they embroidered or stitched. So they sat one cold, snowy day. The storm had started the afternoon before and had raged with unceasing fury all night,--snow and rain
It was a very convenient stove that Sappho had in her room. The ornamental top could be turned back on its movable hinge, and there was a flat stove cover ready to hold any vessel and heat its contents to just the right temperature. Sappho was prouder of that stove than a daughter of Fortune would have been of the
Sappho lay back among her cushions, lazily stretching her little slippered feet toward the warm stove, where the fire burned so cheerily and glowed so invitingly as it shone through the isinglass door. She folded her arms above her head and turned an admiring gaze on the brown face of her friend, who swayed gently back and forth in her rocking-chair, her feet on a hassock, and a scarlet afghan wrapped about her knees. Dora was telling Sappho all about her engagement to John Langley and their plans for the future.
"I think you will be happy, Dora, if you love him. All things are possible if love is the foundation stone," said Sappho, after a slight pause, as she nestled among her pillows. Dora was sitting bolt upright with the usual business-like look upon her face.
"I like him well enough to marry him, but I don't believe there's enough sentiment in me to make love a great passion, such as we read of in books. Do you believe marriage is the beautiful state it is painted by writers?"
"Why, yes," laughed Sappho; "I wouldn't believe anything else for your sake, my little brownie."
"No joking, Sappho; this is dead earnest. Don't you ever expect to marry, and don't you speculate about the pros and cons and the maybes and perhapses of the situation?" asked Dora, as she filled the cups with steaming cocoa and passed one to her friend.
"Dora, you little gourmand, what have you got in the refrigerator?" A box ingeniously nailed to the window seat outside, and filled with shelves, and having a substantial door, was the ice-box, or refrigerator, where Sappho kept materials handy for a quick lunch. Dora closed the window and returned quickly to her seat, placing a glass dish on the table as she did so.
"It's only part of a cream pie that ma had left last night. I though it would help out nicely with our lunch."
"What, again!" said Sappho significantly. "That's the fourth time this week, and here it is but Friday. You'll be as fat as a seal, and
Dora laughed guiltily and said, as she drew a box from her apron pocket: "Well, here are John's chocolate bonbons that he brought last night. I suppose you won't want me to touch them , for fear of getting fat."
Sappho shook her head in mock despair. "And your teeth, your beautiful white teeth, where will they be shortly if you persist in eating a pound of bonbons every day? Think of your fate, Dora, and pause in your reckless career--forty inches about the waist and only scraggy snags to show me when you grin!"
"Thank heaven I'll never come to that while there's a dentist in the city of Boston! I'll eat all the bonbons I want in spite of you, Sappho, and if you don't hurry I'll eat your slice of cream pie, too." At this dire threat there ensued a scramble for the pie, mingled with peals of merry laughter, until all rosy and sparkling, Sappho emerged from the fray with the dish containing her share of the dainty held high in the air.
Presently lunch was over, and they resumed their old positions, prepared to "take comfort."
"You haven't answered my question yet, Sappho."
"To tell you the truth, I had forgotten your remark, Dora; what was it?"
"I suspect that is a bit of a fib to keep me from teasing you about getting married. What I want to know is: Do you ever mean to marry, or are you going to pine in single blessedness on my hands and be a bachelor-maid to the end?"
"Well," replied Sappho, with a comical twist to her face, "in the words of Gulliver, "I mote, an then again I moten't."
"What troubles me is having a man bothering around. Now I tell John P. that I'm busy, or something like that, and I'm rid of him; but after you marry a man, he's on your hands for good and all. I'm wondering if my love could stand the test."
"That's queer talk for an engaged girl, with a fine, handsome fellow to court her. Why, Dora, 'I'm s'prised at yer!'" laughed Sappho gaily.
"I'm not ashamed of John P.'s appearance in company; he looks all right; but when one is terribly in love one is supposed to want the dear object always near; but matches,--love matches,--my child, turn out so badly that a girl hesitates to 'git jined to eny man fer betterer or worserer,' as Dr. Peters says. Then I get tired of a man so soon! (This with a doleful
Sappho laughed outright at the woe-begone countenance before her.
"It is generally the other way: the men get tired of us first. A woman loves one man, and is true to him through all eternity."
"That's just what makes me feel so unsexed , so to speak; I like John's looks. He's the style among all the girls in our set. I like to know that I can claim him before them all. It's fun to see 'em fluttering around him, kindly trying to put my nose out of joint. I must say that I feel real comfortable to spoil sport by walking off with him just when they think they've got things running as they wish. Yes, it's real comfortable to know that they're all as jealous as can be. But for all that, I know I'll get tired of him."
"Let us hope not, if you have really made up your mind to marry him. Dora, sometimes I am afraid that you mean what you say. I notice that you call him 'John P.' What's the P for?"
"Pollock--John Pollock Langley. His grandfather was his father's master, and Pollock was his name," sang Dora, as she rocked gently
"Who is he?" asked Sappho, with languid interest.
"Properly speaking, he's Dr. Arthur Lewis. We were children together, although he is five years older than I. He's a fine scholar and a great business man. He has a large industrial school in Louisiana. He's gone up in the world, I tell you, since we made mud pies on the back doorsteps; but I never think of him except as old Arthur, who used to drag me to school on his sled."
There was a gleam of fun in Sappho's eyes, as she said demurely: "You seem to know all about him. Was he ever a lover of yours?"
"Lover! no, indeed!" Dora flushed vividly under her brown skin. "The idea of Arthur as my lover is too absurd."
"Excuse me, dear, for my mistake," said Sappho mischievously. "I didn't know but that he might be the mysterious link which would join love, marriage and the necessary man in a harmonious whole."
"Well," said Dora, after a slight pause, blushing furiously, "I don't say he wouldn't like the rôle. You'll see him soon; he's coming to Boston on business in a few weeks. Oh, we've
"Ah, yes; I think I understand. Poor John!"
"John's all right. Don't shed any tears over him," said Dora testily. They sat awhile in silence, listening to the sound of the whirling frozen flakes wind-driven against the window panes. It was scarce three o'clock, but darkness was beginning to envelop the city, and it was already a pleasant twilight in the room.
"Tell me about Dr. Lewis and his work, Dora," said Sappho presently. "Do you know, he interests me exceedingly."
"I don't really understand Arthur's hobbies, but I believe that he is supposed to be doing a great work in the Black Belt. His argument is, as I understand it, that industrial education and the exclusion of politics will cure all our race troubles."
"I doubt it," returned Sappho quickly, with an impatient toss of the head. "That reasoning might be practically illustrated with benefit to us for a few years in the South, but to my mind would not effect a permanent cure for race troubles if we are willing to admit that human nature is the same in us as in others.
"I am willing to confess that the subject is a little deep for me," replied Dora. "I'm not the least bit of a politician, and I generally accept whatever the men tell me as right; but I know that there is something very wrong in our lives, and nothing seems to remedy the evils under which the colored man labors."
"But you can see, can't you, that if our men are deprived of the franchise, we become aliens in the very land of our birth?"
"Arthur says that would be better for us; the great loss of life would cease, and we should be at peace with the whites."
"Ah, how can he argue so falsely! I have lived beneath the system of oppression in the South. If we lose the franchise, at the same time we shall lose the respect of all other citizens. Temporizing will not benefit us; rather, it will leave us branded as cowards, not worthy a freeman's respect--an alien people, without a country and without a home."
Dora gazed at her friend with admiration, and wished that she had a kodak, so that she
"I predict some fun when you and Arthur meet. I'll just start you both out some night, and you'll be spitting at each other like two cats inside of five minutes. Arthur thinks that women should be seen and not heard, where politics is under discussion."
"Insufferable prig!" exclaimed Sappho, with snapping eyes.
"Oh, no, he isn't; Arthur's all right. But you see he is living South; his work is there, and he must keep in with the whites of the section where his work lies, or all he has accomplished will go for naught, and perhaps his life might be forfeited, too."
"I see. The mess of pottage and the birthright."
"Bless you! not so bad as that; but money makes the mare go," returned Dora, with a wink at her friend, and a shrewd business look on her bright little Yankee face. "I say to you, as Arthur says to me when I tell him what I think of his system: 'If you want honey, you must have money.' I don't know anything about politics, as I said before, but my opinion won't cost you anything: when we can say that lots of our men are as rich as Jews, there'll be
"Oh!" exclaimed Sappho disgustedly, as she resumed her lounging position.
"Sappho, how did you come to take up stenography? I should have thought you would have preferred teaching."
"I had to live, my dear; I could not teach school, because my education does not include a college course. I could not do housework, because my constitution is naturally weak."
It was noticeable in these confidential chats that Sappho never spoke of her early life. Dora had confided to her friend every event of importance that had occurred in her young life; and, in harmless gossip, had related the history of all the friends who visited the house intimately; but all this had begot no like unburdening to eager ears of the early history of her friend. Wonderful to relate, however, Dora did not resent this reserve, which she could see was studied. It spoke well for the sincerity of the love that had taken root in her heart for Sappho, that it subdued her inquisitiveness, and she gladly accepted her friendship without asking troublesome questions.
"How did you finally succeed in getting work? I have always heard that it was very difficult for colored girls to find employment
"And so it is, my dear. I sometimes think that if I lose the work I am on, I shall not try for another position. I shall never forget the day I started out to find work: the first place that I visited was all right until the man found I was colored; then he said that his wife wanted a nurse girl, and he had no doubt she would be glad to hire me, for I looked good-tempered. At the second place where I ventured to intrude the proprietor said: 'Yes; we want a stenographer, but we've no work for your kind.' However, that was preferable to the insulting familiarity which some men assumed. It was dreadful! I don't like to think about it. Father Andrew induced the man for whom I am working to employ me. I do not interfere with the other help, because I take my work home; many of the other clerks have never seen me, and so the proprietor runs no risk of being bothered with complaints from them. He treats me very well, too."
"I have heard many girls tell much the same tale about other lines of business," said Dora. "It makes me content to do the work of this house, and not complain."
"You ought to thank God every day for such a refuge as you have in your home."
"I cannot understand people. Here in the
"No, I cannot; to my way of thinking the whole thing is a Chinese puzzle."
"Bless my soul! Just look at that clock!" exclaimed Dora, as she scrambled to her feet and began gathering up her scattered property. "Five o'clock, and tea to get. Sappho, you've been lazy enough for one day. Come downstairs and help me get tea. The boys will be here in no time, as hungry as bears."
Piloted by Dora, Sappho became well acquainted with ancient landmarks of peculiar interest to the colored people. They visited the home for aged women on M--Street, and read and sang to the occupants. They visited St. Monica's Hospital, and carried clothes, flowers, and a little money saved from the cost of contemplated Easter finery. They scattered brightness along with charitable acts wherever a case of want was brought to their attention.
Dora had accepted the position of organist for a prominent colored church in the city. There was a small salary attached to the place, which she was glad to receive. Sappho usually went with her to choir rehearsals, and sitting in the shadows, well hidden from view, would
During these evenings, when she waited for the close of the rehearsals, she became acquainted with many odd specimens of the race: men of brain and thought, but of unique expression and filled with quaint humor. One of these characters was known as Dr. Abraham Peters. Doctor Peters was a well-read man, greatly interested in scientific research, but
"You see, Miss Sappho, I've knocked 'bout the worl' some consid'ble," he said one night, in his soft Southern tones and quaint Northernized dialect, as they sat in the cosy vestry waiting for the close of the rehearsal. "Ben po'rer than eny chuch mouse. But I've saved somethin', an' I know the worl'. Perhaps you's int'rest'd 'nuff in an ole man to want to hear how I come to 'vertis myself as a magnifyin' doctor, an' where I picked it up, eh?"
"Yes," replied Sappho, "I certainly am interested in your story."
"Well, while they're caterwaulin' on that Easter anthem in ten flats, I reckon I'll have time to tell you all 'bout it. Fust I knowed
"Oomhoo!" laughed Brother Jones, who was an interested listener to Doctor Peters' story. "Oomhoo, Brother Peters; done guv yerself 'way. What you know 'bout 'full hands an' pots?'"
"Who give himself 'way, Brother Jones? Ever hear me say Ise better'n enybody else in this chuch? I'm er man, sah, I'm er man! Ise done truspassed on the flesh-pots of Egypt as much as eny other man. Don't yer 'oomhoo' me, Brother Jones, no sah!"
"Tech a sore place, Brother Peters, tech a sore place," laughed the brother as he walked away, his shoulders shaking like great mounds of jelly. It was some minutes before Doctor Peters could recover his equilibrium and go on with his tale.
"Possum Tooit was so mad an' disapinted that he finally challenged me to fight a jewel. I wasn't in no state of mind to be killed by any of his hoodoo tricks, Possum bein' an export at puttin' spells an' sech like on enybody fer from twenty-five cents up to five dollars; neither
"Well, I kep' on prayin' fer mo' faith until I got the power in my hands, an' by layin' em on a sick pusson I could 'lectrocute 'em instantly, an' thar bad feelin's would disappear. People got the notion I could pray a person night out the grave, an' my fame spread abroad until I began charging fer my services, explainin' to my patients that the dead might be raised, but not fer nuthin', after which I seed a fallin' off in my poperlarity. Business bein' purty brief jes' then, I took Susie an' moved up Norf, an' went ter cookin' on a steamboat. I've done mos' everythin' in this worl', honey, as I tol' you, to git an hones' livin' without stealin' it. An' I dunno," added the old man reflectively, as he stroked the gray, stubby fringe on his chin, "I dunno as I'm eny too good ef I got pushed real hard to help myself out; humans is humans, an' I've seen many a well-'tentioned feller settin' in the caboose when times was hard, an' the mule mortgaged for full value to three men at once to buy meal an' bread, an' hog an' hominy, an' terbaccer. But mos' in ginerally, I've got along without silin' my hands
"One day I got a telegraph at the other end of the route that the baby was dead an' no money to pay the undertaker, an' the ole 'ooman sick in the bed from worryin'. The Lord jes' seemed to pour his blessin' down on us in a house full o' chillun. After Susie'd had twenty I used to pray the Lord to stop blessin' us that way, 'cause he could see fer himself that too many blessins was a gittin' to be a nuisance. I cooked the dinner myself that day, bein' the other cook was ashore, an' you believe me, I sung an' I prayed an' I wrastled fer help in that ole steamboat kitchen down behin' my bigges' brass biler where I was kivered from pryin' eyes. All of a suddint I felt the power, an' the Lord spoke to me an' he said: 'Git up, Abraham Peters, an' go out an' hoodoo the fust man you meet.' Bless yo, chile, I riz up in a hurry an' started out, not knowin' no more than nuthin' what was meant by that. Fust man I saw when I got on deck was the cap'n; I went
"One of the owners of the boat took a great liking to me, an' he says to me one day, says he: 'Abe, how'd you like to wurk ashore so you could be nearer your family an' git better pay?' 'Like it?' says I. 'If you don't want to pulverize me, don' make me no sech an offer.' He laughed a bit, an' then he says: 'I've got a big buildin' up Washington Street, an' I want a trusty man to keep it clean an' look after the tenants. I'll give you ten dollars a week.'
"I took off my cap, an' I truly bowed down to that man, an' I says: 'The Lord's been a wurkin' on yer heart, Mr. Pierson.' 'Maybe
"Christian Science is a faith-cure; that is, it's usin' yer brains an' trainin' 'em to know that there's nuthin' 'tall the matter with you ef you only think there ain't. They argify that all sickness is a mistake, 'cause it's 'maginary. I don't b'lieve that, though, 'cause I had the rheumatism while I was there, an' the doctors started in to cure me by prayin' an' wurkin' on my body through my spirit, an' it warn't no more good than nuthin' 'tall. I've got as much faith as eny livin' man, but rheumatism is one o' them things that'll convince you agin' your will; it will draw speech out of a deef mute an' make a blind man see, when them pains is a grindin' inter your bones an' jints worse than a saw cuttin' thro' knots in a cord wood stick. I'm free to say that curin' my mind didn't have no effect on my pain, an' I jes' kep' on seein'
That night they walked home together after the rehearsal: the four young people--Dora and John, Sappho and Will. Some one of the choir boys walking ahead of them was singing in a sweet, high tenor voice the refrain of an old love song: "Couldst thou but know how much I love thee." It suited Will's mood, and voiced his dream exquisitely. Across the heavens the Northern Lights streamed in radiance. Meteors bright and shooting stars added to the beauty of the night. The moon, at its full, shed the light of day about them. The wind whispered amidst the leafless branches of the huge old trees on the Common and Public Garden as they passed them on their homeward way. Once Will took her hand in his; she let it stay a moment while she made an incoherent little speech about clouds and trees. Will said nothing. It was not time yet, he told himself. He would wait a little longer.