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|Uncle Tom's Cabin||Harriet Beecher Stowe|
|Page 4 of 11||
"Is it a year, or more, or less?"
"Dun no, Missis."
"Laws, Missis, those low negroes,--they can't tell; they don't know anything about time," said Jane; "they don't know what a year is; they don't know their own ages.
"Have you ever heard anything about God, Topsy?"
The child looked bewildered, but grinned as usual.
"Do you know who made you?"
"Nobody, as I knows on," said the child, with a short laugh.
The idea appeared to amuse her considerably; for her eyes twinkled, and she added,
"I spect I grow'd. Don't think nobody never made me."
"Do you know how to sew?" said Miss Ophelia, who thought she would turn her inquiries to something more tangible.
"What can you do?--what did you do for your master and mistress?"
"Fetch water, and wash dishes, and rub knives, and wait on folks."
"Were they good to you?"
"Spect they was," said the child, scanning Miss Ophelia cunningly.
Miss Ophelia rose from this encouraging colloquy; St. Clare was leaning over the back of her chair.
"You find virgin soil there, Cousin; put in your own ideas,--you won't find many to pull up."
Miss Ophelia's ideas of education, like all her other ideas, were very set and definite; and of the kind that prevailed in New England a century ago, and which are still preserved in some very retired and unsophisticated parts, where there are no railroads. As nearly as could be expressed, they could be comprised in very few words: to teach them to mind when they were spoken to; to teach them the catechism, sewing, and reading; and to whip them if they told lies. And though, of course, in the flood of light that is now poured on education, these are left far away in the rear, yet it is an undisputed fact that our grandmothers raised some tolerably fair men and women under this regime, as many of us can remember and testify. At all events, Miss Ophelia knew of nothing else to do; and, therefore, applied her mind to her heathen with the best diligence she could command.
The child was announced and considered in the family as Miss Ophelia's girl; and, as she was looked upon with no gracious eye in the kitchen, Miss Ophelia resolved to confine her sphere of operation and instruction chiefly to her own chamber. With a self-sacrifice which some of our readers will appreciate, she resolved, instead of comfortably making her own bed, sweeping and dusting her own chamber,--which she had hitherto done, in utter scorn of all offers of help from the chambermaid of the establishment,--to condemn herself to the martyrdom of instructing Topsy to perform these operations,--ah, woe the day! Did any of our readers ever do the same, they will appreciate the amount of her self-sacrifice.
Miss Ophelia began with Topsy by taking her into her chamber, the first morning, and solemnly commencing a course of instruction in the art and mystery of bed-making.
Behold, then, Topsy, washed and shorn of all the little braided tails wherein her heart had delighted, arrayed in a clean gown, with well-starched apron, standing reverently before Miss Ophelia, with an expression of solemnity well befitting a funeral.
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|Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe
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