A Sampler of Civil War Literature
»Blacks as Principal Characters

back to the Civil War Sampler Home Page
back to the intro to this section


 
"The Devil's Frying Pan"

go to the next article in this section

Text from Harper’s Weekly

May 7, 1864, pages 294 (2) – 295 (3)

The United States sloop of war Dragon-Fly swung lightly to her anchor in the soft west wind, and the officers and men of the larboard-watch lounged idly about the decks or slept beneath the bulwarks dreaming of their Northern homes and waiting sweet-hearts.

Astern stretched broad leagues of moonlit waters, ahead gleamed among his countless islands the stately Sound of Altamaha, and close abeam rose Little St. Simon’s Island, while a dark cloud upon the horizon showed where Sapelo lay.

"Dull work this blockading, Fenwick," yawned Lieutenant Benton, to Dr. Fenwick the surgeon, who had come on deck to enjoy the beauty of the night, and now stood lounging against the taffrail close beside the young officer.

"Rather so. But these long days are grand for study. Why don’t you get yourself up in an ‘ology,’ Benton, and astonish our fair friends in Boston by your erudition when we return.

"H’m. A fellow that has seen service as I have doesn’t need any erudition to recommend him to the fair sex nowadays, Doctor," responded the Lieutenant, foppishly twisting his little mustache.

"True. I forgot that." And the surgeon pulled away at his cheroot with a merry twinkle in his dark eyes.

"Have you ever been seriously wounded, Benton?" asked he, carelessly, after a moment or two of silence.

"Why, no, I can’t say that I have. You see I never was actually in action, but then—"

"But then you might have been. I see. Well, we none of us can improve the opportunities that are not given to us."

Lieutenant Benton, with a disagreeable consciousness of being very young and inexperienced left off pulling his mustache and walked up the quarter-deck, casting a scrutinizing glance aloft, and sternly bidding the look-out man to "mind his eye."

The seaman thus exhorted suddenly restored his attention from the stars to things terrestrial, or rather maritime, and immediately shouted,

"Boat ahoy!"

"There it is," remarked the surgeon, as Benton sprang to the side and looked over, and pointed to a small black object slowly approaching the sloop down the broad wake of the setting moon.

"Dug-out ahoy!" he might have hailed, "remarked the officer, forgetting his momentary annoyance. "It will be a contraband, I suppose."

"Running the blockade. Now is the Dragon-Fly’s chance for distinguishing herself."

"Perhaps it is a fetich-man come off to compare notes on the healing art with you, Doctor."

"Or some dusky maiden who has hear of your mustache, Lieutenant," laughed the surgeon.

"Bother!" ejaculated the young man, and leaned farther over the rail to scrutinize the clumsy little craft now within hail of the sloop.

"It’s a boy—no it’s a dwarf—or a monkey! What is it, Doctor?"

"One of Count Monboddo’s humans in an early stage of the transformation from baboon to man, I should say."

"Well here he is. Hallo there! Range alongside and give me your name and business."

The dug-out was, after many awkward attempts, placed in the required position; and a voice from the lumpish heap of clothes, arms, legs, and close curled wool, responded:

"Lor, mas’r, ‘tain’t noffin but me!"

"And who are you, and what do you want?"

"I’s Ban, mas’r, dat’s short for Caliban, an’ I’s come to tell yer sumfin."

"Well, Ban, make fast your dug-out to the cable there and come aboard."

A few moments after a dark ball alighted suddenly upon the quarter-deck and presently developed into a human form about four feet in height, and nearly as much in shoulder-girth, with the shortest and crookedest of legs, and the longest and most muscular of arms. A bullet-head surmounted this singular frame, and the crisp wool curled about a face inscrutable as to age, ugly in its lineaments, and expressive of mirth and cunning, good nature and violent passions.

The surgeon and Lieutenant gazed in silent astonishment at this strange figure, and he in turn rolled his large eyes over their persons, the clustering group of sailors amid-ships, and the novel objects that surrounded him.

"Be you mas’r cap’n?" asked the stranger, suddenly, his eyes reverting to the Lieutenant.

"Lord, Sirs! Can it talk?" quoted the surgeon, in an under-voice, while Lieutenant Benton answered, good-naturedly,

"No, Ban; but I can serve your turn as well as if I were. What is it?"

"Reck’n I’ll wait an’ see mas’r cap’n, mas’r," returned Ban, after a little hesitation.

"The old man wouldn’t want to be called up for any thing this creature can have to say, think?" inquired the Lieutenant aside of the surgeon.

"That depends on what it is," oracularly returned the surgeon.

"Well, you try him, Doctor. You’re older than I, and perhaps he will be more willing to confide his secret sorrows to your ear, if indeed my first guess is not the right one after all, and he is the fetich man."

"We will see." And the Doctor bidding Caliban follow him, led the way to a secluded part of the deck, where he placed the negro full in the light of the waning moon, and stood looking curiously down at him from the altitude of his six feet two inches.

"Where do you come from, Ban?" asked he, at length.

"De Debbil’s Fryin’-Pan, mas’r."

"And a very likely specimen of his cookery you are," mentally ejaculated the Doctor, but the only audible response was a wondering repetition of the name,

"The Devil’s Frying Pan!"

"Yis, mas’r, dats whar we lib."

"Who lives there besides you?"

"Dad an’ mam, an’ lots o’ pickaninnies."

"And how did you get here?"

"In de dug-out, mas’r."

"I know. But where is the Devil’s Frying-Pan? And how far from here?"

"Right up in de Soun’, mas’r, ‘bout two mile from dis, I reckon."

"Is it an island?"

"Yis, mas’r."

"And who gave it that name?"

"Donno, mas’r, I’s sure. Reckon it alluz had it."

"And who named you Caliban?"

"Oh, mas’r! my mammy, she brung up on de ole plantation, an’ daddy he a free nigger. So he bought mammy an’ me, an’ de rest of de young uns has come along since."

"And your father brought your mother and you to the Devil’s Frying-Pan to live?"

"Yis, mas’r. It don’t b’long to no one in ‘ticlar, an’ so we jis libs dere."

"And how old are you, Caliban?"

"Donno, mas’r. Didn’ nebber ask."

"And how do your father and you live? How do you earn money, I mean?"

"We ketches fish, mas’r, an’ isters, an’ lobsters, an’ we raises some truck in de gardin, an’ w’en we wants money we totes a load o’ fish an’ sarce up to town an’ trades it off. Den I fiddles for de dancin’ sometimes an’ gits w’at I kin."

"You fiddle!"

"Yis, mas’r."

"Well now, Ban, w hat did you come her for to-night? You had better tell me, and if I judge it of sufficient importance I will send to ask the Captain to see you. He is asleep now, and we don’t like to disturb him without necessity."

Ban, in whose mind the surgeon’s magnificent proportions had inspired a much greater degree of reverence than he was inclined to accord to the juvenile Lieutenant, drew confidentially close to his side, before he replied,

"Yis, mas’r, I tell you all ‘bout it. Dis yer ship am sot to cotch all dem dat tries to go in an’ out dis yer Soun’, ain’t she?"

"All that belong to the rebels, or are trying to trade with them. Why do you ask?"

"Cause dere’s a big schooner in her, hidin’ away ‘mongst de islan’s, all loaded down wid cotton, an’ dey’s gwine to git out sure dey says, fer all de dam Yankees kin do to hender ‘em."

"When will they sail?" asked the surgeon, hastily.

"Jes’ arter moonset ‘morrer night. Jes ‘bout dis time."

"How do you know?"

"De ossifers an’ some ob de gen’lemen dat’s gwine passinger in her come ashore dis arternoon to look roun’ at de Debbil’s Fryin’-Pan, cause its kind o’ curus der, an’ I heerd ‘em talk. Den dey tole dad to kitch a right smart chance of o’ fish an’ git som isters or lobsters to-morrer, an’ mam’s gwine to cook a supper fer ‘em, an’ I tole ‘em I could fiddle fust-rate ef they’d a mind fer a dance. Dey liked dat tip-top, an’ ‘greed to come jes’ arter sundown, an’ den I heerd ‘em say dey couldn’ sail till nigh two ‘clock in de mornin’."

"And they are to be at your house after sunset?"

"Yis, mas’r. So den I ‘flected dat ef de Yankees wanted fer ter kitch ‘em all, dere’d be a fus’-rate chance, an’ mabbe mas’r Cap’n ‘d gib a por nigger suffin fer de news."

"And what do you think the Captain, or whichever of us got hold of you first, would give you if you led us into a trap, and sold us to the rebels, just as you now offer to sell them to us?" demanded Fenwick, sternly, as he fixed his penetrating eyes upon the negro’s face.

"’Spec’s you’d shoot me jes’ like dog. Sarve um right too," returned Ban emphatically, and with such unflinching steadiness of voice and eye as set at rest the momentary suspicion in the keen mind of his examiner.

"You are right. Whatever happened to us, your own life would be the price of treachery. Remember that, my boy, and draw back even now if you are not sure of yourself."

"I wish I was as sure ob ten dollars as I is o’ de truve ob what I sez." remarked Ban, tranquilly.

"Very well. I will ask Lieutenant Benton to report your errand to the Captain. I suppose you want to return before morning."

"Lordy, yis, mas’r. Ef de folks aboard de Sword-Fish sights do ole dug-out, an’ ‘spects whar she’s ben, it’s all day wid dis nigger, an’ wid yore plans too, mas’r."

"Very well. Stay just here till you are called."

The visit of the dwarf was reported to the Captain, and Caliban was soon summoned to the cabin to repeat his story, which he did with the utmost steadiness, unshaken by the somewhat sever cross-examination of the astute commander.

This over, Ban was dismissed under charge of the steward to refresh himself, and a hasty council was held as to the best manner of using his information.

It was finally decided that two boats’ crews under charge of the two Lieutenants should, early in the ensuing night, quietly land at the Devil’s Frying-Pan, surround the house and secure the merry-makers, and then proceed to capture the schooner, it not being thought advisable to involve the sloop in the intricate channels and dangerous reefs of that portion of the Sound.

Dr. Fenwick volunteered to accompany his young friend, Lieutenant Benton, and his powerful assistance was gratefully accepted.

The next question was of a guide. It was obvious that the absence of Caliban after his engagement as musician would cause suspicion in the minds of the guests, and might defeat the whole plan, and yet no one on board the Dragon-Fly could boast the slightest knowledge of the locale of the Devil’s Frying-Pan or of the contraband schooner.

Under these circumstances Ban was recalled to the council, and the difficulty stated.

"’Twon’t nebber do for dis chile to be mongst de missin’," said he, thoughtfully, "nor dad n’ither. But Nep’d do fus-rate. He knows de chan’l an’ all jes same’s I do. I’ll fotch ye Nep."

"Who is Nep?" demanded the Captain, cautiously.

"He one o’ mammy’s young uns. He smart chile, Nep is."

"How old is he?"

"Lord, mas’r, we don’ none ob us know noffin ‘bout dat. We jes grows same as de grass, nebber mindin’ when we begun. Nep he good big boy."

"Well, you may bring him off, and we will see what we think of him. When will you be here?"

"Ain’t got time to go home an’ back ‘fore day, nohow," considered Ban. "But Nep he’ll take de dug-out roun’ back side o’ de Pan, an’ jes paddle off easy arter dey gits dere. Den he tell mas’r cap’n how many of ‘em come, an’ p’raps hark roun’ an’ fin’ out suffin ‘bout how man’s lef’ aboard de Sword Fish."

"And can he find his way out to the Dragon-Fly alone and in season?"

"Lord, yis, mas’r. Nep he smart fellow."

"We will judge of that before we trust him as a pilot; and remember that the first sign of treachery will be his death-warrant, and yours too, if we lay hold of you," said the Captain, sternly.

"Ef mas’r cap’n tinks I’s lyin’ to him he no need to come. I’s tryin’ to ‘blige him, an’ he talks ‘bout shootin’ and’ hangin’ me an’ my brother as ef we was tryin’ to do him all de bad we could." And Caliban, half-sulky, half-hurt, left the cabin abruptly, and laboriously climbed on deck.

"He’s honest, Captain, take my word for it, and I have no doubt his information is perfectly reliable." said Dr. Fenwick, earnestly. And the Captain, who depended very much upon his friend’s judgment, ordered the steward to regal Ban with another glass of grog, and then to bring him to the cabin to receive his final directions.

The dwarf’s injured feelings were easily pacified by this attention, and half an hour later he paddled away from the Dragon-Fly in the fullest amity with all its inmates.

Sunset of the following day found such of the crew of the sloop as had been detailed for the approaching expedition full of busy preparation and anticipation, while the unfortunate remainder either watched their comrades in envious silence, or indulged in open complaints of their own inactivity. Some few croakers found pleasure in intimating that the whole affair was a trap, and that those who were so "precious green" as to walk into it with their eyes open deserved no better than the fate probably awaiting them. Another party held that the negro, terrified by the Captain’s threats, would not dare to pursue the matter, and that no pilot would appear. This suggestion, however, was speedily negatived by the hail of

"Boat ahoy!"

And the next moment the dug-out once more ranged alongside the Dragon-Fly, and a tall young fellow leaped nimbly to the deck, with the brief announcement,

"He’ I is."

"Oh, you’re Nep, are you?" inquired Lieutenant Benton, who had been anxiously waiting for his appearance.

"Yis, mas’r."

"Own brother to the fellow who was here last night?"

"Dunno, mas’r; ‘spec’ so, dough."

The question was pardonable; for this second envoy from the Devil’s Frying-Pan presented as great a contrast to the first as can well be conceived in members of the same family. Tall, straight, and finely proportioned in figure, his features were regular and lofty, his eyes large and clear, and his expression bold and intelligent. In face, could his bright brown skin have been changed for Saxon red and white, Nep would have ranked indisputably as an uncommonly fine-looking fellow. In age he appeared to be about eighteen years old, but like Ban he had no ideas of his own upon the subject.

Ordered to the cabin for examination, Nep acquitted himself very satisfactorily, and after a brief interview the Captain dismissed him, and proceeded to give his formal orders, as he had not yet done, for the expedition.

It was not considered expedient to set out until about ten o’clock, the boat from the Sword-Fish having been ordered to return for its passengers at twelve, and the schooner expecting to sail at two, or soon after. Nep brought the additional information that the passengers mentioned by Ban as forming part of the proposed fish party were the officers of a brig just purchased by the rebels from the English Government, and now awaiting its armament and crew at Nassau, N. P.

Punctual to the appointed hour the two boats silently parted from the side of the Dragon-Fly, and guided by Nep, who crouched in the stern of the foremost one, steered by the first lieutenant, they struck out into the broad waters of the Sound.

The moon, slightly obscured by vapory clouds, gave just sufficient light to allow Nep to distinguish the various islands and other landmarks by which he directed his course, but not sufficient to reveal distant objects with any degree of certainty. This point it will readily be seen was much in favor of our adventurers, should they come within eye-range of the Sword-Fish—a danger little to be feared, however, as Nep, pursuing a devious and intricate course, kept his charge concealed behind the islands and high rocks whenever practicable.

"Now, mas’r, here we is," announced he, suddenly, in a whisper, pointing ahead to a small round island, around whose entire circumference rose a low ridge of naked rocks, while a long reef of the same extended straight out into the Sound, whose waters broke over it in loud reiteration of angry menace.

No appearance of life or even vegetation was visible, and the first lieutenant, demanded, in an incredulous whisper,

"Is this the place?"

"Yis, mas’r. Dis de Fryin’-Pan, and dat’s de handle," said Nep, pointing to the low reef, over which and a small intervening island the upper part of the masts and rigging of a large topsail schooner were dimly visible.

"And how do you get ashore?"

"Jis in here, mas’r;" and, under Nep’s directions, the boats were laid close inshore, at a spot where a break in the natural fortifications of the little island afforded access to its interior.

With as much expedition and as little noise as possible, the two boats’ crews, well armed and full of eager anticipation, were now landed upon the narrow beach, the boats anchored off, under charge of a small guard, and the party, numbering twenty stout fellows besides the officers, proceeded noiselessly inland, still under guidance of Nep.

Passing through the rocky gap they found themselves in a large level area, comprising perhaps a dozen acres, divided into field and pasturage, with a somewhat neglected garden-patch surrounding a cabin of considerable extent, from whose low windows streamed a ruddy light, while the shrill notes of a violin, mingled with roars of laughter, gave evidence that the inmates of the Devil’s Frying-Pan were in a very jovial mood.

"Stop here, mas’r, w’ile I go an’ peek roun’ a lilly bit," suggested Nep, and the party were accordingly halted while he crept softly up, peered through the windows for a moment, and then noiselessly retreated.

"All right, mas’r" whispered he in a gleeful tone, "Dey’s hard at it , singin’, an’ dancin’, an’ drinkin’ like de berry ole Nick. De feller dey sot to watch roun’ de house has got a mug o’ likker, an’ he’s settin’ in de doorway wid he gun on de floor ‘side ob him, an’ Ban he fiddlin’ away fit to t’ar de ole fiddle to bits, an’ rollin’ he eyes dis way an’ dat lookin’ arter de comp’ny he axed to de breakdwon fer hisself."

"He sha’n’t have long to look, then. Forward men, and remember no noise till the word is given."

With stealthy tread the party approached the house and surrounded it. Dr. Fenwick, foremost of the line, paused at the same window through which Nep had reconnoitered the interior, and cautiously peered in.

It was a large low room occupying nearly the whole area of the cabin, and generally used by the numerous family as kitchen, parlor, and hall. Now, however, it had been cleared of much of its usual disorder, including the countless tribe of sooty youngsters, who, having been packed into the loft with terrific threats of what should befall them in case of their becoming visible, were now regaling themselves with an airy view of the festivities below through the chinks in the floor.

In the centre of the room stood a table covered with the remnants of a savory supper, prepared in old Sally’s highest style of art, and around it were seated twelve men, smoking, drinking, and watching with much amusement the exertion of two of their comrades, who had undertaken to give the company a specimen of the genuine Spanish fandango.

None of the negroes were visible except Ban, who, perched upon the top of a heavy bureau or chests of drawers, with this stunted legs coiled beneath him, and his long arms writhing sinuously in the vehemence of his exertions, was dragging from the bowels of a battered old violin a perfect storm of sound, with no particular reference to either melody or harmony, but very expressive of his own condition of nervous excitement, ever since the moment when his wildly-rolling eyes had encountered those of his brother peering in at the window.

The surgeon had barely had time to master these details when the voice of the first lieutenant shouted, clearly,

"Now, lads!"

And through the opposite door rushed a crowd of blue jackets, over powering the sentry before he could even recover his musket, and grappling fiercely with the revelers, who, although taken by surprise, drew their revolvers and knives in an instant, and were ready for resistance.

The surgeon applying his shoulder to the frail sash, burst it in, and throwing himself through the aperture, laid an irresistible grasp upon the collar of a stout fellow in the uniform of a naval commander, and ordered him to yield himself prisoner. The Captain, who had just aimed his revolver at the curly head of Lieutenant Benton on the opposite side of the room, drew the trigger, but missed his mark, and with a furious oath turned upon his new antagonist, drawing a formidable bowie-knife, and thrusting savagely at his breast.

Seizing the uplifted wrist in his left hand, the Doctor suddenly shifted his right from the collar to the waist of his antagonist, and tripping him at the same instant, brought him heavily to the floor, disarmed him, and bound his arms behind his back with a bit of rope snatched from the surgeon’s ready pocket.

"You’re safe, my fine fellow," muttered the victor, coolly, as he rose to his feet and looked about for another antagonist. In a corner he saw little Benton grappling with a muscular rebel, whose brawn and muscle were evidently an overmatch for the stripling strength of the Lieutenant, even backed as it was by an illimitable amount of pluck. Both had lost their weapons, and the rebel (who, dressed in plain clothes, gave no indication of his rank) had succeeded in throwing his antagonist, and with one knee upon his chest, and one hand fiercely griping his throat, was at the moment the Doctor’s eye fell upon reaching after his knife.

Fenwick sprung across the room, but, slipping in a pool of blood, fell forward; and although he recovered himself almost immediately, the instant thus gained sufficed for the stalwart rebel to reach his weapon and raise it, with a fearful oath, over the heart of his prostrate victim. At this moment Fenwick, recovering his feet, threw himself upon the uplifted arm; but, although he diverted, he was too late to arrest the blow, and it fell, inflicting a long flesh wound upon the cheek and shoulder of the almost insensible lad.

"Coward!" shouted Dr. Fenwick, roused for the first time from his usual phlegmatic calm at seeing the blood of his young favorite, and wrenching the knife from the hand of the astonished rebel, he was about to inflict summary vengeance, when Ban, springing like a cat from the perch where he had crouched throughout the fray, shouting and screaming with all his might, alighted full upon the head of the Lieutenant’s assailant, and bore him heavily to the ground.

"Now, Mas’r Doctor! Pitch in wid de knife. Ban hole him steddy fer yer."

"Hold Hard, then, Ban." But much to the negro’s disappointment, the Doctore, instead of the knife, merely armed himself with another bit of rope, of which it may be as well to confess he had prepared a small private stock for this very use, and proceeded to bind his second captive as securely as the first.

This done, and the fight being now well-nigh over, the surgeon turned his attention to the wounded Lieutenant, and was relived at finding his wound far from serious.

"There, my boy," said he, after rapidly dressing it, with the help of his pocket-case of instruments and Ban’s ready aid, "that’s all over; and, if it smarts a little for a few days, console yourself by remembering how much better an honorable scar is than the stiffest of ologies."

The brave young fellow smiled gayly, in spite of the stinging pain of his wound, and was beginning to declare his determination of accompanying the party in the attack upon the schooner, when his lips suddenly turned white, his eyes rolled wildly, and he fell back insensible in Ban’s arms.

"Poor lad! Poor, brave boy!" murmured the grim surgeon in woman-soft tones. "It is his first experience. Ban, you must get some pillow and coverings, and make him comfortable here till morning, and then bring him off to the Dragon-Fly. Any other wounds to attend to?"

There were a few, but none very serious. The contest had been so brief and so close that it had been more of a hand-to-hand struggle than a fight, and few of the combatants had found time for more than one blow before the outnumbered and outwitted rebels had yielded themselves prisoners. These, being carefully bound, were now secured in the shanty to await the event of the attack on the schooner.

The surgeon’s arrangements for the wounded Lieutenant were approved by the officer in command of the party, who, moreover, stimulated Ban to faithfulness and zeal by promises and threats, which the surgeon, with more tact, had omitted to employ.

"Mas’r Doctor, I wants to ‘peak a lilly word to you den," whispered Ban, mysteriously, as the party were about to leave the cabin.

"Speak quickly, then, as we go down to the boat. There is no time to spare."

"Mas’r Doctor, dere’s a gal in dah ‘long o’ my ammy dat’s wantin’ to git Norf powerful bad. How’s we gwine to fix it?"

"A girl! What girl!"

"Name’s Livy. She’s mos’ white, and’ she mighty pooty; do you eye good ter look at her. Too pooty to stay roun’ dese parts, mas’r, ‘less she one o’ dem no ‘count gals dat don’ keer wot dey does. Livy ain’t one o’ dem sort, mas’r. She mighty good, an’ so she run’d away from her ole mas’r, and’ dad an’ me fotcht her down her las’ week. But she sot on gwine Norf."

"She is nearly white, very pretty, and has run away from her master because she wants to be virtuous?" asked the Doctor.

"Yis, mas’r, dem’s um."

"Well, she must be helped. But she had better cut off her hair, pretty though it may be, and slip on a suit of Nep’s clothes. Pretty young girls, especially if they are not white, are somewhat out of place in a man-of-war. Let her come off with you when you bring Lieutenant Benton to-morrow morning, and I will see what can be done."

They had now reached the strip of beach, and Ban was placed in one boat and Nep in the other to guide the helmsman in avoiding numerous rocks and shoals, rendering the vicinity of the Devil’s Frying-Pan a very dangerous one to the uninitiated mariner.

The drowsy watch on board the schooner had scarcely recognized the cautious dip of oars as the two boats rapidly approached when they were alongside, and the crews swarming up the sides. Taken entirely by surprise, without officers or discipline, the rebel crew made but slight resistance, and the schooner was captured and its astonished inmates secured below hatches before many of them had fully understood their position.

The boats were next dispatched to the Devil’s Frying-Pan for the prisoners and wounded, and no sooner were they aboard than sail was made upon the schooner, the rebel pilot consenting to service his new masters as faithfully as he had done his old under temptation of a handsome reward in posse, and a loaded pistol in esse. And so well did he perform his task that, when the sun next morning shot his first rays across the blue Atlantic, they glanced aside in astonishment from the white sails and brilliant bulwarks of a large top-sail schooner anchored under the guns of the jubilant little sloop of war Dragon-Fly.

Not long after sunrise the clumsy old dug-out appeared creeping slowly across the sunny Sound, and on its nearer approach was found to contain Ban, the Lieutenant, already convalescent, and a smart-looking lad of quadroon caste, with great shadowy eyes and cheeks, where the color came and went each time any body looked at him.

No sooner were the three aboard than Ban drew the Doctor aside.

"Mas’r," asked he, anxiously, "what dey gwine to do wid de prize—dem Sword-Fish?"

"Send her to New York, Ban, under a prize-master and crew."

"An’ w’y couldn’ dis yer boy—Tom’s his name, mas’r—why couldn’ he an’ me go long wid ‘em?"

"You can, I suppose. But why are you going, Ban; your family are all free, why do you care to go North?"

"Now, mas’r, dat am powerful hard question fer to answer; but I’s tell ye honest, an’ then yer kin laugh ef yer o’ mineter. De truf is, mas’r, dat dis chile cant’ help—"

"Well, Ban?"

"Mas’r, ain’t she powerful harnsum?"

"What, this boy Tom?"

"Hi, hi! Mas’r," chuckled the negro, nervously. "Dey don’ pull de wool ober you eyes berry easy. Well now, ain’t she a picter?"

"She is very handsome certainly," assented the Doctor, wondering more and more what al lthis should come to.

"Well, mas’r, dough I’s dat ugly dat I nebber dare to look down in de water w’en it still, I’s got eyes, an’ I knows dat Livy mighty nice gal to look at, an’ got awful pooty ways too, an’ de sof’est leetly vi’ce dat eber you hear, mas’r. Now I don’ ‘spec’," and here Ban sighed deeply, "dat dis pooty leetly gal gwine to look at a pore ugly creter like dis yer, dough mas’r she’s dat good an’ kin’ to ebery one dat she nebber showed she t’ought Ban look any dif’ent from Nep, fac’ she olluz seemed ‘o like Ban de bes’, and’ so, mas’r, I’s gwine to foller she wharsumbber she goes, trew de worl’, and’ take keer ob her, an’ work fer her, an’ see dat no one do she harm, an’ den ef she take up wid some good feller by-an’-by, w’y Ban will be de fus’ to say, ‘All right.’"

"Poor Ban," said the Doctor, softly, his dark eyes shining as he looked down upon the misshapen form that had so unexpectedly developed a heart romantic and delicate as that of a poet.

"Boat ahoy!" hailed the look-out, and the Doctor turned to see Nep’s agile form suddenly appear over the rail. He respectfully doffed his torn hat to the Captain upon the quarter-deck, but his eyes eagerly ranged forward until they fell upon the form of the disguised quadroon girl, and the Doctor saw with a real pang of grief and dismay that as Livy met this gaze her own eyes dropped suddenly, and she blushed intensely.

"Poor Ban!" murmured the Doctor again, and went aft to hear Nep offering his services as seaman on board the prize into whatever Northern port she might be bound for.

"All right boy! Your brother and that other fellow have just shipped as passengers, and you can work your passage and theirs too."

"Yis, mas’r," joyfully assented Nep, and hastened forward to Livy, who shyly welcoming him, soon allowed herself to be drawn aside to the bows, where leaning over the rail, a long and whispered conversation ensued.

Dr. Fenwick returned to Ban.

The dwarf was squatted in a coil of rope, his arms grotesquely crossed upon his knees and his chin resting upon them. But the deep eyes of the kindly surgeon saw no grotesquerie, no deformity in the soul that dimly struggled up and looked out in the gaze that the dwarf so steadily fixed upon the graceful and happy lovers.

Had Ban shown jealousy, anger, revenge, the Doctor would have consoled him with money, and turned away with his habit of cynicism a shade more firmly fixed upon him. But the uncouth features and great eyes showed none of these, nothing but deep despair struggling with a love that could not be crushed but would be purified and elevated by its very hopelessness.

Dr. Fenwick took his hand out of his pocket, and sat down in another coil of rope, close beside him.

"Ban, you are a man. Now is the time to show it," said he, quietly.

"Yis, mas’r," said Ban, in a choked voice.

"If I can help you, Ban, in this or any thing else, remember I am your friend."

"T’ank you berry kin’ly, mas’r," said the negro, in the same tone, but never moving his eyes from those two graceful figures.

"What to you mean to do now, Ban?" asked the Doctor again after a little pause.

"Folly her trew de worl’, an’ sarve her faithful, an’—an’ him fer her sake," said Ban, and the Doctor humbly said,

"Shake hands with me, Ban. You are stronger than I."

 

Website design © 1998-1999 HarpWeek, LLC
Images, logos, and all other content © 1998-1999 HarpWeek, LLC., unless otherwise noted.
Please report problems to webmaster@harpweek.com