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TIDY'S WAY TO FREEDOM (chapter5)

2006-09-08 21:20

    CHAPTER V.

    A NEW HOME.

    AFTER Colonel Lee's death, which happened when Tidy was about ten years old, the plantation and all the slaves were sold, and Miss Matilda, with Tidy, who was her own personal property, found a home with her brother. Mr. Richard Lee owned an estate about twenty miles from Rosevale. His lands had once been well cultivated, but now received very little attention, for medicinal springs had been discovered there a few years before, and it was expected that these springs, by being made a resort for invalids and fashionable people, would bring to the family all the income they could desire.

    Mr. and Mrs. Lee were not very pleasant people. They were selfish and penurious, and hard-hearted and severe towards their servants. They no doubt were happy to have their sister take up her abode with them; but there is reason to believe she was chiefly welcome on account of the valuable little piece of property she brought with her. Tidy was just exactly what Mrs. Lee wanted to fill a place in her family, which she had never before been able to supply to her satisfaction. She needed her as an under-nurse, and waiter-and-tender in general upon her four children. Amelia, the eldest, was just Tidy's age, and Susan was two years younger. Then came Lemuel, a boy of three, and George, the baby.

    Mammy Grace was the family nurse, but as she was growing old and somewhat infirm, she required a pair of young, sprightly feet to run after little Lemmy to keep him out of mischief, and to carry the teething, worrying baby about. Tidy was just the child for her.

    The morning after her arrival, Mrs. Lee instructed her in her duties thus:-

    "You are to do what Mammy Grace and the children tell you to. See that Lemmy doesn't stuff things into his ears and nose; mind you don't let the baby fall, and behave yourself."

    She wasn't told what would be the consequence if she did not "behave herself," but Tidy felt that she had something to fear from that flashing eye and heavy brow. Miss Matilda had protected her, as far as she was able, though without the child's knowledge, by saying to her sister that she was willing her little servant should be employed in the family, but that she was never to be whipped.

    "You're mighty saving of your little piece of flesh and blood," said her sister-in-law. "I find it doesn't work well to be too tender; they need a little cuffing now and then to keep them straight."

    "Tidy is a good child," replied Miss Matilda. "She always does as she is told, and I have never had occasion to punish her in my life; and I can not consent to her being treated severely."

    "We shall see," said Mrs. Lee; "but, I tell you, I take no impudence from my hands."

    Miss Matilda's stipulation and her constant presence in the family no doubt screened Tidy from much that was unpleasant from her new mistress; for if children or servants are ever so well inclined, an ugly and easily excited temper in a superior will provoke evil dispositions in them, and MAKE occasions of punishment. But in this case the mistress was evidently held in check. A knock on the head sometimes, a kick or a cross word, was the greatest severity she ventured to inflict; so that, upon the whole, the new home was a pleasant and happy one.

    The services Tidy was required to render were a perfect delight to her. Like all children, she liked to be associated with those of her own age, and, though called a slave, to all intents and purposes she was received as the playmate and companion of Amelia and Susan. They were good-natured, agreeable little girls, and it was a pleasure rather than a task to walk to and from school, and carry their books and dinner-basket for them. And to go into the play-house, and have the handling of the dolls, the tea-sets, and toys, was employment as charming as it was new.

    The nursery was in the cabin of Mammy Grace, which was situated a few steps from the family mansion, and was distinguished from the log-huts of the other slaves, by having brick walls and two rooms. The inner room contained the baby's cradle, a crib for the little one who had not yet outgrown his noon-day nap, her own bed, and now a cot for Tidy. In the outer stood the spinning-wheel,——at which the old nurse wrought when not occupied with the children,—— a small table, an old chest of drawers, and a few rude chairs. Some old carpets which had been discarded from the house were laid over the floors, and gave an air of comfort to the place. One shelf by the side of the fireplace held all the china and plate they had to use; for, you must know, little readers, that slave cabins contain very few of the conveniences which are so familiar to you. To assert, as some people do, that the negroes do not need them, is simply to say that they have never been used to the common comforts of life, and so do not know their worth.

    Nevertheless, the place with all its scantiness of furniture was a happy abode for Tidy, who found in Mammy Grace even a better mother than old Rosa had been to her; for, besides being kind and cheerful, she was pious, and from her lips it was that Tidy first heard the name of God. Would you believe it? Tidy had lived to be ten years old in this Christian land, and had never heard of the God who made her. Miss Lee, with all her kindness, was not a Christian, and never read the Bible, offered prayer, or went to church; so that the poor child had grown up thus far as ignorant of religious truth as a heathen.

    We may well consider then the providence of God which brought her under the care of Mammy Grace, the negro nurse, as another link in that golden chain of love which was to draw her up out of the shame and misery of her abject condition to the knowledge and service of her Heavenly Father.

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