Sunday, November 2d.
Yesterday was a day of novel sensations to me. First came a letter from mother announcing her determination to return home, and telling us to be ready next week. Poor mother! she wrote drearily enough of the hardships we would be obliged to undergo in the dismantled house, and of the new experience that lay before us; but n’importe! I am ready to follow her to Yankeeland, or any other place she chooses to go. It is selfish for me to be so happy here while she leads such a distasteful life in Clinton. In her postscript, though, she said she would wait a few days longer to see about the grand battle which is supposed to be impending; so our stay will be indefinitely prolonged. How thankful I am that we will really get back, though! I hardly believe it possible, however; it is too good to be believed.
The nightmare of a probable stay in Clinton being removed, I got in what the boys call a “perfect gale,” and sang all my old songs with a greater relish than I have experienced for many a long month. My heart was open to every one. So forgiving and amiable did I feel that I went downstairs to see Will Carter! I made him so angry last Tuesday that he went home in a fit of sullen rage. It seems that some time ago, some one, he said, told him such a joke on me that he had laughed all night at it. Mortified beyond all expression at the thought of having had my name mentioned between two men, I, who have thus far fancied myself secure from all remarks good, bad, or indifferent (of men), I refused to have anything to say to him until he should either explain me the joke, or, in case it was not fit to be repeated to me, until he apologized for the insult. He took two minutes to make up a lie. This was the joke, he said. Our milkman had said that that Sarah Morgan was the proudest girl he ever saw; that she walked the streets as though the earth was not good enough for her. My milkman making his remarks! I confess I was perfectly aghast with surprise, and did not conceal my contempt for the remark, or his authority either. But one can’t fight one’s milkman! I did not care for what he or any of that class could say; I was surprised to find that they thought at all! But I resented it as an insult as coming from Mr. Carter, until with tears in his eyes fairly, and in all humility, he swore that, if it had been anything that could reflect on me in the slightest degree, he would thrash the next man who mentioned my name. I was not uneasy about a milkman’s remarks, so I let it pass, after making him acknowledge that he had told me a falsehood concerning the remark which had been made. But I kept my revenge. I had but to cry “Milk!” in his hearing to make him turn crimson with rage. At last he told me that the less I said on the subject, the better it would be for me. I could not agree. “Milk” I insisted was a delightful beverage. I had always been under the impression that we owned a cow, until he had informed me it was a milkman, but was perfectly indifferent to the animal so I got the milk. With some such allusion, I could make him mad in an instant. Either a guilty conscience, or the real joke, grated harshly on him, and I possessed the power of making it still worse. Tuesday I pressed it too far. He was furious, and all the family warned me that I was making a dangerous enemy.
Yesterday he came back in a good humor, and found me in unimpaired spirits. I had not talked even of “curds,” though I had given him several hard cuts on other subjects, when an accident happened which frightened all malicious fun out of me. We were about going out after cane, and Miriam had already pulled on one of her buckskin gloves, dubbed “old sweety” from the quantity of cane-juice they contain, when Mr. Carter slipped on its mate, and held it tauntingly out to her. She tapped it with a case-knife she held, when a stream of blood shot up through the glove. A vein was cut and was bleeding profusely.
He laughed, but panic seized the women. Some brought a basin, some stood around. I ran after cobwebs, while Helen Carter held the vein and Miriam stood in silent horror, too frightened to move. It was, indeed, alarming, for no one seemed to know what to do, and the blood flowed rapidly.
Presently he turned a dreadful color, and stopped laughing. I brought a chair, while the others thrust him into it. His face grew more deathlike, his mouth trembled, his eyes rolled, his head dropped. I comprehended that these must be symptoms of fainting, a phenomenon I had never beheld. I rushed after water, and Lydia after cologne. Between us, it passed away; but for those few moments I thought it was all over with him, and trembled for Miriam. Presently he laughed again and said, “Helen, if I die, take all my negroes and money and prosecute those two girls! Don’t let them escape!” Then, seeing my long face, he commenced teasing me. “Don’t ever pretend you don’t care for me again! Here you have been unmerciful to me for months, hurting more than this cut, never sparing me once, and the moment I get scratched, it’s ‘O Mr. Carter!’ and you fly around like wild and wait on me!” In vain I represented that I would have done the same for his old lame dog, and that I did not like him a bit better; he would not believe it, but persisted that I was a humbug and that I liked him in spite of my protestations. As long as he was in danger of bleeding to death, I let him have his way; and, frightened out of teasing, spared him for the rest of the evening.
Just at what would have been twilight but for the moonshine, when he went home after the blood was stanched and the hand tightly bound, a carriage drove up to the house, and Colonel Allen was announced. I can’t say I was ever more disappointed. I had fancied him tall, handsome, and elegant; I had heard of him as a perfect fascinator, a woman-killer. Lo! a wee little man is carried in, in the arms of two others, — wounded in both legs at Baton Rouge, he has never yet been able to stand. . . . He was accompanied by a Mr. Bradford, whose assiduous attentions and boundless admiration for the Colonel struck me as unusual. . . . I had not observed him otherwise, until the General whispered, “Do you know that that is the brother of your old sweetheart?” Though the appellation was by no means merited, I recognized the one he meant. Brother to our Mr. Bradford of eighteen months ago! My astonishment was unbounded, and I alluded to it immediately. He said it was so; that his brother had often spoken to him of us, and the pleasant evenings he had spent at home.