The Passing of Grandison
by Charles W. Chesnutt
When it is said that it was done to please a woman,
there ought perhaps to be enough said to explain
anything; for what a man will not do to please a
woman is yet to be discovered. Nevertheless, it
might be well to state a few preliminary facts to
make it clear why young Dick Owens tried to run
one of his father's negro men off to Canada.
In the early fifties, when the growth of anti-slavery
sentiment and the constant drain of fugitive slaves
into the North had so alarmed the slaveholders of the
border States as to lead to the passage of the Fugitive
Slave Law, a young white man from Ohio, moved by
compassion for the sufferings of a certain bondman
who happened to have a "hard master," essayed to help
the slave to freedom. The attempt was discovered and
frustrated; the abductor was tried and convicted for
slave-stealing, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment
in the penitentiary. His death, after the expiration
of only a small part of the sentence, from cholera
contracted while nursing stricken fellow prisoners,
lent to the case a melancholy interest that made it
famous in anti-slavery annals.
Dick Owens had attended the trial. He was a youth of
about twenty-two, intelligent, handsome, and amiable,
but extremely indolent, in a graceful and gentlemanly
way; or, as old Judge Fenderson put it more than once,
he was lazy as the Devil,--a mere figure of speech, of
course, and not one that did justice to the Enemy of
Mankind. When asked why he never did anything serious,
Dick would good-naturedly reply, with a well-modulated
drawl, that he didn't have to. His father was rich;
there was but one other child, an unmarried daughter,
who because of poor health would probably never marry,
and Dick was therefore heir presumptive to a large
estate. Wealth or social position he did not need to
seek, for he was born to both. Charity Lomax had shamed
him into studying law, but notwithstanding an hour or
so a day spent at old Judge Fenderson's office, he did
not make remarkable headway in his legal studies.
"What Dick needs," said the judge, who was fond of
tropes, as became a scholar, and of horses, as was
befitting a Kentuckian, "is the whip of necessity,
or the spur of ambition. If he had either, he would
soon need the snaffle to hold him back."
But all Dick required, in fact, to prompt him to the
most remarkable thing he accomplished before he was
twenty-five, was a mere suggestion from Charity Lomax.
The story was never really known to but two persons
until after the war, when it came out because it was
a good story and there was no particular reason for
Young Owens had attended the trial of this slave-stealer,
or martyr,--either or both,--and, when it was over,
had gone to call on Charity Lomax, and, while they sat
on the veranda after sundown, had told her all about
the trial. He was a good talker, as his career in later
years disclosed, and described the proceedings very
"I confess," he admitted, "that while my principles
were against the prisoner, my sympathies were on his
side. It appeared that he was of good family, and that
he had an old father and mother, respectable people,
dependent upon him for support and comfort in their
declining years. He had been led into the matter by
pity for a negro whose master ought to have been run
out of the county long ago for abusing his slaves. If
it had been merely a question of old Sam Briggs's negro,
nobody would have cared anything about it. But father
and the rest of them stood on the principle of the thing,
and told the judge so, and the fellow was sentenced to
three years in the penitentiary."
Miss Lomax had listened with lively interest.
"I've always hated old Sam Briggs," she said emphatically,
"ever since the time he broke a negro's leg with a piece
of cordwood. When I hear of a cruel deed it makes the
Quaker blood that came from my grandmother assert itself.
Personally I wish that all Sam Briggs's negroes would run
away. As for the young man, I regard him as a hero. He
dared something for humanity. I could love a man who
would take such chances for the sake of others."
"Could you love me, Charity, if I did something heroic?"
"You never will, Dick. You're too lazy for any use. You'll
never do anything harder than playing cards or fox-hunting."
"Oh, come now, sweetheart! I've been courting you for a
year, and it's the hardest work imaginable. Are you never
going to love me?" he pleaded.
His hand sought hers, but she drew it back beyond his
"I'll never love you, Dick Owens, until you have done
something. When that time comes, I'll think about it."
"But it takes so long to do anything worth mentioning,
and I don't want to wait. One must read two years to
become a lawyer, and work five more to make a reputation.
We shall both be gray by then."
"Oh, I don't know," she rejoined. "It doesn't require a
lifetime for a man to prove that he is a man. This one
did something, or at least tried to."
"Well, I'm willing to attempt as much as any other man.
What do you want me to do, sweetheart? Give me a test."
"Oh, dear me!" said Charity, "I don't care what you do,
so you do something. Really, come to think of it, why
should I care whether you do anything or not?"
"I'm sure I don't know why you should, Charity," rejoined
Dick humbly, "for I'm aware that I'm not worthy of it."
"Except that I do hate," she added, relenting slightly,
"to see a really clever man so utterly lazy and good for
"Thank you, my dear; a word of praise from you has sharpened
my wits already. I have an idea! Will you love me if I
run a negro off to Canada?"
"What nonsense!" said Charity scornfully. "You must be
losing your wits. Steal another man's slave, indeed,
while your father owns a hundred!"
"Oh, there'll be no trouble about that," responded Dick
lightly; "I'll run off one of the old man's; we've got
too many anyway. It may not be quite as difficult as the
other man found it, but it will be just as unlawful, and
will demonstrate what I am capable of."
"Seeing's believing," replied Charity. "Of course, what
you are talking about now is merely absurd. I'm going away
for three weeks, to visit my aunt in Tennessee. If you're
able to tell me, when I return, that you've done something
to prove your quality, I'll--well, you may come and tell
me about it."
Young Owens got up about nine o'clock next morning, and
while making his toilet put some questions to his personal
attendant, a rather bright looking young mulatto of about
his own age.
"Tom," said Dick.
"Yas, Mars Dick," responded the servant.
"I'm going on a trip North. Would you like to go with me?"
Now, if there was anything that Tom would have liked to
make, it was a trip North. It was something he had long
contemplated in the abstract, but had never been able to
muster up sufficient courage to attempt in the concrete.
He was prudent enough, however, to dissemble his feelings.
"I wouldn't min' it, Mars Dick, ez long ez you'd take
keer er me an' fetch me home all right."
Tom's eyes belied his words, however, and his young master
felt well assured that Tom needed only a good opportunity
to make him run away. Having a comfortable home, and a
dismal prospect in case of failure, Tom was not likely to
take any desperate chances; but young Owens was satisfied
that in a free State but little persuasion would be required
to lead Tom astray. With a very logical and characteristic
desire to gain his end with the least necessary expenditure
of effort, he decided to take Tom with him, if his father
did not object.
Colonel Owens had left the house when Dick went to breakfast,
so Dick did not see his father till luncheon.
"Father," he remarked casually to the colonel, over the
fried chicken, "I'm feeling a trifle run down. I imagine
my health would be improved somewhat by a little travel
and change of scene."
"Why don't you take a trip North?" suggested his father.
The colonel added to paternal affection a considerable
respect for his son as the heir of a large estate. He
himself had been "raised" in comparative poverty, and had
laid the foundations of his fortune by hard work; and while
he despised the ladder by which he had climbed, he could
not entirely forget it, and unconsciously manifested, in
his intercourse with his son, some of the poor man's
deference toward the wealthy and well-born.
"I think I'll adopt your suggestion, sir," replied the
son, "and run up to New York; and after I've been there
awhile I may go on to Boston for a week or so. I've
never been there, you know."
"There are some matters you can talk over with my factor
in New York," rejoined the colonel, "and while you are
up there among the Yankees, I hope you'll keep your eyes
and ears open to find out what the rascally abolitionists
are saying and doing. They're becoming altogether too
active for our comfort, and entirely too many ungrateful
niggers are running away. I hope the conviction of that
fellow yesterday may discourage the rest of the breed.
I'd just like to catch any one trying to run off one of
my darkeys. He'd get short shrift; I don't think any
Court would have a chance to try him."
"They are a pestiferous lot," assented Dick, "and dangerous
to our institutions. But say, father, if I go North I
shall want to take Tom with me."
Now, the colonel, while a very indulgent father, had
pronounced views on the subject of negroes, having
studied them, as he often said, for a great many years,
and, as he asserted oftener still, understanding them
perfectly. It is scarcely worth while to say, either,
that he valued more highly than if he had inherited
them the slaves he had toiled and schemed for.
"I don't think it safe to take Tom up North," he declared,
with promptness and decision. "He's a good enough boy,
but too smart to trust among those low-down abolitionists.
I strongly suspect him of having learned to read, though
I can't imagine how. I saw him with a newspaper the other
day, and while he pretended to be looking at a woodcut,
I'm almost sure he was reading the paper. I think it by
no means safe to take him."
Dick did not insist, because he knew it was useless. The
colonel would have obliged his son in any other matter,
but his negroes were the outward and visible sign of his
wealth and station, and therefore sacred to him.
"Whom do you think it safe to take?" asked Dick. "I suppose
I'll have to have a body-servant."
"What's the matter with Grandison?" suggested the colonel.
"He's handy enough, and I reckon we can trust him. He's
too fond of good eating, to risk losing his regular meals;
besides, he's sweet on your mother's maid, Betty, and I've
promised to let 'em get married before long. I'll have
Grandison up, and we'll talk to him. Here, you boy Jack,"
called the colonel to a yellow youth in the next room who
was catching flies and pulling their wings off to pass the
time, "go down to the barn and tell Grandison to come here."
"Grandison," said the colonel, when the negro stood before
him, hat in hand.
"Haven't I always treated you right?"
"Haven't you always got all you wanted to eat?"
"And as much whiskey and tobacco as was good for you,
"I should just like to know, Grandison, whether you don't
think yourself a great deal better off than those poor
free negroes down by the plank road, with no kind master
to look after them and no mistress to give them medicine
when they're sick and--and"----
"Well, I sh'd jes' reckon I is better off, suh, dan dem
lowdown free niggers, suh! Ef anybody ax 'em who dey
b'long ter, dey has ter say nobody, er e'se lie erbout
it. Anybody ax me who I b'longs ter, I ain' got no 'casion
ter be shame' ter tell 'em, no, suh, 'deed I ain', suh!"
The colonel was beaming. This was true gratitude, and
his feudal heart thrilled at such appreciative homage.
What cold-blooded, heartless monsters they were who
would break up this blissful relationship of kindly
protection on the one hand, of wise subordination and
loyal dependence on the other! The colonel always
became indignant at the mere thought of such wickedness.
"Grandison," the colonel continued, "your young master
Dick is going North for a few weeks, and I am thinking
of letting him take you along. I shall send you on this
trip, Grandison, in order that you may take care of your
young master. He will need some one to wait on him, and
no one can ever do it so well as one of the boys brought
up with him on the old plantation. I am going to trust
him in your hands, and I'm sure you'll do your duty
faithfully, and bring him back home safe and sound--to
Grandison grinned. "Oh yas, marster, I'll take keer er
young Mars Dick."
"I want to warn you, though, Grandison," continued the
colonel impressively, "against these cussed abolitionists,
who try to entice servants from their comfortable homes
and their indulgent masters, from the blue skies, the
green fields, and the warm sunlight of their southern
home, and send them away off yonder to Canada, a dreary
country, where the woods are full of wildcats and wolves
and bears, where the snow lies up to the eaves of the
houses for six months of the year, and the cold is so
severe that it freezes your breath and curdles your blood;
and where, when runaway niggers get sick and can't work,
they are turned out to starve and die, unloved and uncared
for. I reckon, Grandison, that you have too much sense to
permit yourself to be led astray by any such foolish and
"'Deed, suh, I would n' low none er dem cussed, lowdown
abolitioners ter come nigh me, suh. I'd--I'd--would I be
'lowed ter hit 'em, suh?"
"Certainly, Grandison," replied the colonel, chuckling,
"hit 'em as hard as you can. I reckon they'd rather like
it. Begad, I believe they would! It would serve 'em right
to be hit by a nigger!"
"Er ef I didn't hit 'em, suh," continued Grandison
reflectively, "I'd tell Mars Dick, en he'd fix
'em. He'd smash de face off'n 'em, suh, I jes' knows he
"Oh yes, Grandison, your young master will protect you.
You need fear no harm while he is near."
"Dey won't try ter steal me, will dey, marster?" asked
the negro, with sudden alarm.
"I don't know, Grandison," replied the colonel, lighting
a fresh cigar. "They're a desperate set of lunatics, and
there's no telling what they may resort to. But if you
stick close to your young master, and remember always
that he is your best friend, and understands your real
needs, and has your true interests at heart, and if you
will be careful to avoid strangers who try to talk to
you, you'll stand a fair chance of getting back to your
home and your friends. And if you please your master
Dick, he'll buy you a present, and a string of beads
for Betty to wear when you and she get married in the
"Thanky, marster, thanky, suh," replied Grandison, oozing
gratitude at every pore; "you is a good marster, to be sho',
suh; yas, 'deed you is. You kin jes' bet me and Mars Dick
gwine git 'long jes' lack I wuz own boy ter Mars Dick. En
it won't be my fault ef he don' want me fer his boy all de
time, w'en we come back home ag'in."
"All right, Grandison, you may go now. You needn't work
any more to-day, and here's a piece of tobacco for you off
my own plug."
"Thanky, marster, thanky, marster! You is de bes' marster
any nigger ever had in dis worl'." And Grandison bowed and
scraped and disappeared round the corner, his jaws closing
around a large section of the colonel's best tobacco.
"You may take Grandison," said the colonel to his son. "I
allow he's abolitionist-proof."
Richard Owens, Esq., and servant, from Kentucky, registered
at the fashionable New York hostelry for Southerners in
those days, a hotel where an atmosphere congenial to
Southern institutions was sedulously maintained. But
there were negro waiters in the dining-room, and mulatto
bell-boys, and Dick had no doubt that Grandison, with the
native gregariousness and garrulousness of his race, would
foregather and palaver with them sooner or later, and Dick
hoped that they would speedily inoculate him with the
virus of freedom. For it was not Dick's intention to say
anything to his servant about his plan to free him, for
obvious reasons. To mention one of them, if Grandison
should go away, and by legal process be recaptured, his
young master's part in the matter would doubtless become
known, which would be embarrassing to Dick, to say the
least. If, on the other hand, he should merely give
Grandison sufficient latitude, he had no doubt he would
eventually lose him. For while not exactly skeptical
about Grandison's perfervid loyalty, Dick had been a
somewhat keen observer of human nature, in his own
indolent way, and based his expectations upon the
force of the example and argument that his servant
could scarcely fail to encounter. Grandison should
have a fair chance to become free by his own initiative;
if it should become necessary to adopt other measures
to get rid of him, it would be time enough to act
when the necessity arose; and Dick Owens was not the
youth to take needless trouble.
The young master renewed some acquaintances and made
others, and spent a week or two very pleasantly in the
best society of the metropolis, easily accessible to
a wealthy, well-bred young Southerner, with proper
introductions. Young women smiled on him, and young
men of convivial habits pressed their hospitalities;
but the memory of Charity's sweet, strong face and
clear blue eyes made him proof against the blandishments
of the one sex and the persuasions of the other.
Meanwhile he kept Grandison supplied with pocket-money,
and left him mainly to his own devices. Every night
when Dick came in he hoped he might have to wait upon
himself, and every morning he looked forward with
pleasure to the prospect of making his toilet unaided.
His hopes, however, were doomed to disappointment, for
every night when he came in Grandison was on hand with
a bootjack, and a nightcap mixed for his young master
as the colonel had taught him to mix it, and every
morning Grandison appeared with his master's boots
blacked and his clothes brushed, and laid his linen
out for the day.
"Grandison," said Dick one morning, after finishing
his toilet, "this is the chance of your life to go
around among your own people and see how they live.
Have you met any of them?"
"Yas, suh, I's seen some of 'em. But I don' keer
nuffin fer 'em, suh. Dey 're diffe'nt f'm de
niggers down ou' way. Dey 'lows dey 're free,
but dey ain' got sense 'nuff ter know dey ain'
half as well off as dey would be down Souf,
whar dey 'd be 'predated."
When two weeks had passed without any apparent
effect of evil example upon Grandison, Dick
resolved to go on to Boston, where he thought the
atmosphere might prove more favorable to his ends.
After he had been at the Revere House for a day
or two without losing Grandison, he decided upon
slightly different tactics.
Having ascertained from a city directory the
addresses of several well-known abolitionists,
he wrote them each a letter something like
Dear Friend and Brother:----
A wicked slaveholder from Kentucky, stopping at the
Revere House, has dared to insult the liberty-loving
people of Boston by bringing his slave into their
midst. Shall this be tolerated? Or shall steps be
taken in the name of liberty to rescue a fellow-man
from bondage? For obvious reasons I can only sign
A Friend of Humanity.
That his letter might have an opportunity to prove
effective, Dick made it a point to send Grandison
away from the hotel on various errands. On one of
these occasions Dick watched him for quite a distance
down the street. Grandison had scarcely left the
hotel when a long-haired, sharp-featured man came
out behind him, followed him, soon overtook him,
and kept along beside him until they turned the
next corner. Dick's hopes were roused by this
spectacle, but sank correspondingly when Grandison
returned to the hotel. As Grandison said nothing
about the encounter, Dick hoped there might be some
self-consciousness behind this unexpected reticence,
the results of which might develop later on.
But Grandison was on hand again when his master
came back to the hotel at night, and was in attendance
again in the morning, with hot water, to assist at
his master's toilet. Dick sent him on further errands
from day to day, and upon one occasion came squarely
up to him--inadvertently of course--while Grandison
was engaged in conversation with a young white man
in clerical garb. When Grandison saw Dick approaching,
he edged away from the preacher and hastened toward
his master, with a very evident expression of relief
upon his countenance.
"Mars Dick," he said, "dese yer abolitioners is
jes' pesterin' de life out er me tryin' ter git
me ter run away. I don' pay no 'tention ter 'em,
but dey riles me so sometimes dat I'm feared I'll
hit some of 'em some er dese days, an' dat mought
git me inter trouble. I ain' said nuffin' ter you
'bout it, Mars Dick, fer I did n' wanter 'sturb yo'
min'; but I don' like it, suh; no, suh, I don'!
Is we gwine back home 'fo' long, Mars Dick?"
"We'll be going back soon enough," replied Dick
somewhat shortly, while he inwardly cursed the
stupidity of a slave who could be free and would
not, and registered a secret vow that if he were
unable to get rid of Grandison without assassinating
him, and were therefore compelled to take him back
to Kentucky, he would see that Grandison got a taste
of an article of slavery that would make him regret
his wasted opportunities. Meanwhile he determined
to tempt his servant yet more strongly.
"Grandison," he said next morning, "I'm going
away for a day or two, but I shall leave you
here. I shall lock up a hundred dollars in this
drawer and give you the key. If you need any of
it, use it and enjoy yourself,--spend it all if
you like,--for this is probably the last chance
you'll have for some time to be in a free State,
and you'd better enjoy your liberty while you may."
When he came back a couple of days later and found
the faithful Grandison at his post, and the hundred
dollars intact, Dick felt seriously annoyed. His
vexation was increased by the fact that he could
not express his feelings adequately. He did not
even scold Grandison; how could he, indeed, find
fault with one who so sensibly recognized his
true place in the economy of civilization, and
kept it with such touching fidelity?
"I can't say a thing to him," groaned Dick. "He
deserves a leather medal, made out of his own
hide tanned. I reckon I'll write to father and
let him know what a model servant he has given
He wrote his father a letter which made the colonel
swell with pride and pleasure. "I really think,"
the colonel observed to one of his friends, "that
Dick ought to have the nigger interviewed by the
Boston papers, so that they may see how contented
and happy our darkeys really are."
Dick also wrote a long letter to Charity Lomax,
in which he said, among many other things, that
if she knew how hard he was working, and under
what difficulties, to accomplish something serious
for her sake, she would no longer keep him in
suspense, but overwhelm him with love and
Having thus exhausted without result the more
obvious methods of getting rid of Grandison, and
diplomacy having also proved a failure, Dick was
forced to consider more radical measures. Of
course he might run away himself, and abandon
Grandison, but this would be merely to leave him
in the United States, where he was still a slave,
and where, with his notions of loyalty, he would
speedily be reclaimed. It was necessary, in order
to accomplish the purpose of his trip to the North,
to leave Grandison permanently in Canada, where he
would be legally free.
"I might extend my trip to Canada," he reflected,
"but that would be too palpable. I have it! I'll
visit Niagara Falls on the way home, and lose him
on the Canada side. When he once realizes that he
is actually free, I'll warrant that he'll stay."
So the next day saw them westward bound, and in
due course of time, by the somewhat slow conveyances
of the period, they found themselves at Niagara.
Dick walked and drove about the Falls for several
days, taking Grandison along with him on most
occasions. One morning they stood on the Canadian
side, watching the wild whirl of the waters below
"Grandison," said Dick, raising his voice above
the roar of the cataract, "do you know where you
"I's wid you, Mars Dick; dat's all I keers."
"You are now in Canada, Grandison, where your
people go when they run away from their masters.
If you wished, Grandison, you might walk away
from me this very minute, and I could not lay my
hand upon you to take you back."
Grandison looked around uneasily.
"Let's go back ober de ribber, Mars Dick. I's
feared I'll lose you ovuh heah, an' den I won'
hab no marster, an' won't nebber be able to git
back home no mo'."
Discouraged, but not yet hopeless, Dick said, a
few minutes later,----
"Grandison, I'm going up the road a bit, to the
inn over yonder. You stay here until I return.
I'll not be gone a great while."
Grandison's eyes opened wide and he looked
"Is dey any er dem dadblasted abolitioners roun'
heah, Mars Dick?"
"I don't imagine that there are," replied his
master, hoping there might be. "But I'm not
afraid of your running away, Grandison.
I only wish I were," he added to himself.
Dick walked leisurely down the road to where the
whitewashed inn, built of stone, with true British
solidity, loomed up through the trees by the roadside.
Arrived there he ordered a glass of ale and a sandwich,
and took a seat at a table by a window, from which he
could see Grandison in the distance. For a while he
hoped that the seed he had sown might have fallen on
fertile ground, and that Grandison, relieved from the
restraining power of a master's eye, and finding
himself in a free country, might get up and walk
away; but the hope was vain, for Grandison remained
faithfully at his post, awaiting his master's return.
He had seated himself on a broad flat stone, and,
turning his eyes away from the grand and awe-inspiring
spectacle that lay close at hand, was looking anxiously
toward the inn where his master sat cursing his
By and by a girl came into the room to serve his
order, and Dick very naturally glanced at her;
and as she was young and pretty and remained in
attendance, it was some minutes before he looked
for Grandison. When he did so his faithful servant
To pay his reckoning and go away without the change
was a matter quickly accomplished. Retracing his
footsteps toward the Falls, he saw, to his great
disgust, as he approached the spot where he had
left Grandison, the familiar form of his servant
stretched out on the ground, his face to the sun,
his mouth open, sleeping the time away, oblivious
alike to the grandeur of the scenery, the thunderous
roar of the cataract, or the insidious voice of
"Grandison," soliloquized his master, as he stood
gazing down at his ebony encumbrance, "I do not
deserve to be an American citizen; I ought not to
have the advantages I possess over you; and I
certainly am not worthy of Charity Lomax, if I am
not smart enough to get rid of you. I have an idea!
You shall yet be free, and I will be the instrument
of your deliverance. Sleep on, faithful and affectionate
servitor, and dream of the blue grass and the bright
skies of old Kentucky, for it is only in your dreams
that you will ever see them again!"
Dick retraced his footsteps towards the inn. The
young woman chanced to look out of the window and saw
the handsome young gentleman she had waited on a few
minutes before, standing in the road a short distance
away, apparently engaged in earnest conversation with
a colored man employed as hostler for the inn. She
thought she saw something pass from the white man to
the other, but at that moment her duties called her
away from the window, and when she looked out again
the young gentleman had disappeared, and the hostler,
with two other young men of the neighborhood, one
white and one colored, were walking rapidly towards
Dick made the journey homeward alone, and as rapidly
as the conveyances of the day would permit. As he drew
near home his conduct in going back without Grandison
took on a more serious aspect than it had borne at any
previous time, and although he had prepared the colonel
by a letter sent several days ahead, there was still
the prospect of a bad quarter of an hour with him; not,
indeed, that his father would upbraid him, but he was
likely to make searching inquiries. And notwithstanding
the vein of quiet recklessness that had carried Dick
through his preposterous scheme, he was a very poor
liar, having rarely had occasion or inclination to
tell anything but the truth. Any reluctance to meet
his father was more than offset, however, by a stronger
force drawing him homeward, for Charity Lomax must
long since have returned from her visit to her aunt
Dick got off easier than he had expected. He told a
straight story, and a truthful one, so far as it went.
The colonel raged at first, but rage soon subsided
into anger, and anger moderated into annoyance, and
annoyance into a sort of garrulous sense of injury.
The colonel thought he had been hardly used; he had
trusted this negro, and he had broken faith. Yet,
after all, he did not blame Grandison so much as he
did the abolitionists, who were undoubtedly at the
bottom of it.
As for Charity Lomax, Dick told her, privately of
course, that he had run his father's man, Grandison,
off to Canada, and left him there.
"Oh, Dick," she had said with shuddering alarm, "what
have you done? If they knew it they'd send you to the
penitentiary, like they did that Yankee."
"But they don't know it," he had replied seriously;
adding, with an injured tone, "you don't seem to
appreciate my heroism like you did that of the Yankee;
perhaps it's because I wasn't caught and sent to the
penitentiary. I thought you wanted me to do it."
"Why, Dick Owens!" she exclaimed. "You know I never
dreamed of any such outrageous proceeding.
"But I presume I'll have to marry you," she concluded,
after some insistence on Dick's part, "if only to take
care of you. You are too reckless for anything; and a
man who goes chasing all over the North, being entertained
by New York and Boston society and having negroes to
throw away, needs some one to look after him."
"It's a most remarkable thing," replied Dick fervently,
"that your views correspond exactly with my profoundest
convictions. It proves beyond question that we were made
for one another."
They were married three weeks later. As each of them
had just returned from a journey, they spent their
honeymoon at home.
A week after the wedding they were seated, one afternoon,
on the piazza of the colonel's house, where Dick had
taken his bride, when a negro from the yard ran down
the lane and threw open the big gate for the colonel's
buggy to enter. The colonel was not alone. Beside him,
ragged and travel-stained, bowed with weariness, and
upon his face a haggard look that told of hardship and
privation, sat the lost Grandison.
The colonel alighted at the steps.
"Take the lines, Tom," he said to the man who had opened
the gate, "and drive round to the barn. Help Grandison
down,--poor devil, he's so stiff he can hardly move!--and
get a tub of water and wash him and rub him down, and
feed him, and give him a big drink of whiskey, and then
let him come round and see his young master and his new
The colonel's face wore an expression compounded of joy
and indignation,--joy at the restoration of a valuable
piece of property; indignation for reasons he proceeded
"It's astounding, the depths of depravity the human
heart is capable of! I was coming along the road three
miles away, when I heard some one call me from the
roadside. I pulled up the mare, and who should come out
of the woods but Grandison. The poor nigger could hardly
crawl along, with the help of a broken limb. I was never
more astonished in my life. You could have knocked me
down with a feather. He seemed pretty far gone,--he
could hardly talk above a whisper,--and I had to give
him a mouthful of whiskey to brace him up so he could
tell his story. It's just as I thought from the beginning,
Dick; Grandison had no notion of running away; he knew
when he was well off, and where his friends were. All
the persuasions of abolition liars and runaway niggers
did not move him. But the desperation of those fanatics
knew no bounds; their guilty consciences gave them no
rest. They got the notion somehow that Grandison belonged
to a nigger-catcher, and had been brought North as a spy
to help capture ungrateful runaway servants. They actually
kidnaped him--just think of it!--and gagged him and bound
him and threw him rudely into a wagon, and carried him
into the gloomy depths of a Canadian forest, and locked
him in a lonely hut, and fed him on bread and water for
three weeks. One of the scoundrels wanted to kill him,
and persuaded the others that it ought to be done; but
they got to quarreling about how they should do it, and
before they had their minds made up Grandison escaped,
and, keeping his back steadily to the North Star, made
his way, after suffering incredible hardships, back to
the old plantation, back to his master, his friends, and
his home. Why, it's as good as one of Scott's novels!
Mr. Simms or some other one of our Southern authors
ought to write it up."
"Don't you think, sir," suggested Dick, who had calmly
smoked his cigar throughout the colonel's animated
recital, "that that kidnaping yarn sounds a little
improbable? Isn't there some more likely explanation?"
"Nonsense, Dick; it's the gospel truth! Those infernal
abolitionists are capable of anything--everything! Just
think of their locking the poor, faithful nigger up,
beating him, kicking him, depriving him of his liberty,
keeping him on bread and water for three long, lonesome
weeks, and he all the time pining for the old plantation!"
There were almost tears in the colonel's eyes at the
picture of Grandison's sufferings that he conjured up.
Dick still professed to be slightly skeptical, and met
Charity's severely questioning eye with bland
The colonel killed the fatted calf for Grandison, and
for two or three weeks the returned wanderer's life was
a slave's dream of pleasure. His fame spread throughout
the county, and the colonel gave him a permanent place
among the house servants, where he could always have him
conveniently at hand to relate his adventures to admiring
About three weeks after Grandison's return the colonel's
faith in sable humanity was rudely shaken, and its
foundations almost broken up. He came near losing his
belief in the fidelity of the negro to his master,--the
servile virtue most highly prized and most sedulously
cultivated by the colonel and his kind. One Monday
morning Grandison was missing. And not only Grandison,
but his wife, Betty the maid; his mother, aunt Eunice;
his father, uncle Ike; his brothers, Tom and John, and
his little sister Elsie, were likewise absent from the
plantation; and a hurried search and inquiry in the
neighborhood resulted in no information as to their
whereabouts. So much valuable property could not be
lost without an effort to recover it, and the wholesale
nature of the transaction carried consternation to the
hearts of those whose ledgers were chiefly bound in
black. Extremely energetic measures were taken by
the colonel and his friends. The fugitives were traced,
and followed from point to point, on their northward
run through Ohio. Several times the hunters were close
upon their heels, but the magnitude of the escaping
party begot unusual vigilance on the part of those who
sympathized with the fugitives, and strangely enough,
the underground railroad seemed to have had its tracks
cleared and signals set for this particular train. Once,
twice, the colonel thought he had them, but they slipped
through his fingers.
One last glimpse he caught of his vanishing property,
as he stood, accompanied by a United States marshal, on
a wharf at a port on the south shore of Lake Erie. On
the stern of a small steamboat which was receding rapidly
from the wharf, with her nose pointing toward Canada,
there stood a group of familiar dark faces, and the
look they cast backward was not one of longing for
the fleshpots of Egypt. The colonel saw Grandison point
him out to one of the crew of the vessel, who waved
his hand derisively toward the colonel. The latter
shook his fist impotently--and the incident was closed.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~