It was about a fortnight after the funeral, that Miss Ophelia, busied one day in her apartment, heard a gentle tap at the door. She opened it, and there stood Rosa, the pretty young quadroon, whom we have before often noticed, her hair in disorder, and her eyes swelled with crying.
O, Miss Feeley, she said, falling on her knees, and catching the skirt of her dress, do, do go to Miss Marie for me! do plead for me! Shes goin to send me out to be whippedlook there! And she handed to Miss Ophelia a paper.
It was an order, written in Maries delicate Italian hand, to the master of a whipping-establishment to give the bearer fifteen lashes.
What have you been doing? said Miss Ophelia.
You know, Miss Feely, Ive got such a bad temper; its very bad of me. I was trying on Miss Maries dress, and she slapped my face; and I spoke out before I thought, and was saucy; and she said that shed bring me down, and have me know, once for all, that I wasnt going to be so topping as I had been; and she wrote this, and says I shall carry it. Id rather shed kill me, right out.
Miss Ophelia stood considering, with the paper in her hand.
You see, Miss Feely, said Rosa, I dont mind the whipping so much, if Miss Marie or you was to do it; but, to be sent to a man! and such a horrid man,the shame of it, Miss Feely!
Miss Ophelia well knew that it was the universal custom to send women and young girls to whipping- houses, to the hands of the lowest of men,men vile enough to make this their profession,there to be subjected to brutal exposure and shameful correction. She had known it before; but hitherto she had never realized it, till she saw the slender form of Rosa almost convulsed with distress. All the honest blood of womanhood, the strong New England blood of liberty, flushed to her cheeks, and throbbed bitterly in her indignant heart; but, with habitual prudence and self-control, she mastered herself, and, crushing the paper firmly in her hand, she merely said to Rosa,
Sit down, child, while I go to your mistress.
Shameful! monstrous! outrageous! she said to herself, as she was crossing the parlor.
She found Marie sitting up in her easy-chair, with Mammy standing by her, combing her hair; Jane sat on the ground before her, busy in chafing her feet.
How do you find yourself, today? said Miss Ophelia.
A deep sigh, and a closing of the eyes, was the only reply, for a moment; and then Marie answered, O, I dont know, Cousin; I suppose Im as well as I ever shall be! and Marie wiped her eyes with a cambric handkerchief, bordered with an inch deep of black.
I came, said Miss Ophelia, with a short, dry cough, such as commonly introduces a difficult subject,I came to speak with you about poor Rosa.
Maries eyes were open wide enough now, and a flush rose to her sallow cheeks, as she answered, sharply,
Well, what about her?
She is very sorry for her fault.
She is, is she? Shell be sorrier, before Ive done with her! Ive endured that childs impudence long enough; and now Ill bring her down,Ill make her lie in the dust!
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