One morning, while Miss Ophelia was busy in some of her domestic cares, St. Clares voice was heard, calling her at the foot of the stairs.
Come down here, Cousin, Ive something to show you.
What is it? said Miss Ophelia, coming down, with her sewing in her hand.
Ive made a purchase for your department,see here, said St. Clare; and, with the word, he pulled along a little negro girl, about eight or nine years of age.
She was one of the blackest of her race; and her round shining eyes, glittering as glass beads, moved with quick and restless glances over everything in the room. Her mouth, half open with astonishment at the wonders of the new Masrs parlor, displayed a white and brilliant set of teeth. Her woolly hair was braided in sundry little tails, which stuck out in every direction. The expression of her face was an odd mixture of shrewdness and cunning, over which was oddly drawn, like a kind of veil, an expression of the most doleful gravity and solemnity. She was dressed in a single filthy, ragged garment, made of bagging; and stood with her hands demurely folded before her. Altogether, there was something odd and goblin-like about her appearance,something, as Miss Ophelia afterwards said, so heathenish, as to inspire that good lady with utter dismay; and turning to St. Clare, she said,
Augustine, what in the world have you brought that thing here for?
For you to educate, to be sure, and train in the way she should go. I thought she was rather a funny specimen in the Jim Crow line. Here, Topsy, he added, giving a whistle, as a man would to call the attention of a dog, give us a song, now, and show us some of your dancing.
The black, glassy eyes glittered with a kind of wicked drollery, and the thing struck up, in a clear shrill voice, an odd negro melody, to which she kept time with her hands and feet, spinning round, clapping her hands, knocking her knees together, in a wild, fantastic sort of time, and producing in her throat all those odd guttural sounds which distinguish the native music of her race; and finally, turning a summerset or two, and giving a prolonged closing note, as odd and unearthly as that of a steam-whistle, she came suddenly down on the carpet, and stood with her hands folded, and a most sanctimonious expression of meekness and solemnity over her face, only broken by the cunning glances which she shot askance from the corners of her eyes.
Miss Ophelia stood silent, perfectly paralyzed with amazement. St. Clare, like a mischievous fellow as he was, appeared to enjoy her astonishment; and, addressing the child again, said,
Topsy, this is your new mistress. Im going to give you up to her; see now that you behave yourself.
Yes, Masr, said Topsy, with sanctimonious gravity, her wicked eyes twinkling as she spoke.
Youre going to be good, Topsy, you understand, said St. Clare.
O yes, Masr, said Topsy, with another twinkle, her hands still devoutly folded.
Now, Augustine, what upon earth is this for? said Miss Ophelia. Your house is so full of these little plagues, now, that a body cant set down their foot without treading on em. I get up in the morning, and find one asleep behind the door, and see one black head poking out from under the table, one lying on the door-mat,and they are mopping and mowing and grinning between all the railings, and tumbling over the kitchen floor! What on earth did you want to bring this one for?
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