“Turn About, Fair Play,” by Augusta Moore (from Youth’s Companion, April 13, 1865; p. 57)
A great screaming and pleading was heard from the summer-house, and several of the school-girls ran to see what was the matter.
Nothing; only Regina Clayton was scratching down the back of her little slave girl with a large pin.
“O ’Gina!” cried her schoolmates, “how can you be so cruel? Stop that, or I will this instant run and tell Mrs. Hoyt of you.”
“What business of yours is it if I punish my slave, I should like to know?” cried Regina, furiously. “Go away, every one of you. I’ll treat my stupid nigger as I see fit.”
“Mrs. Hoyt will have her taken from you. You know it was only by particular favor that you were allowed to keep her here. Your father said you were so very delicate and so fond of Rosa that you could not possibly do without her, and Mrs. Hoyt unwillingly consented that you should keep her; but not to abuse her, as you will find.”
The young tyrant calmed down somewhat, and giving the weeping Rosa a push, bade her “get out of sight,” which she was only too glad to do.
She ran to the kitchen, where she was a great pet, for she was pretty, amusing and good-humored, and showed her back to the fat cook, who cried till her great bosom shook with sobs, and called Regina all kinds of hard names, and put cool plantain leaves on the scars, and condoled the little suffering one right tenderly.
God always provides some consolation for such as are in want of it.
Meantime there was a hot and loud discussion carried on in the summer-house between the Northern and the Southern minded maidens.
Regina haughtily contended that “niggers” were made for slaves, and that their owners had a right to do as they chose with them. Her handsome and graceful form were animated by the determined passion of her mind, and she raved like a little madcap against “abolition infidels.”
“Come away, girls,” said the gentle voice of Jane Grey, “ ’tis useless to reason with her. Let her alone.”
“But she shan’t abuse Rosa while she is North, shall she, Jenny?” said May Mace.
“Not if we can help it, dear. And we will hope that by the time she returns South she may have come to a better mind than she now has, and may realize that her great wealth ought to make her the benefactor, instead of the tyrant of those beneath her.”
“Yah! yah! yah!” mocked Regina, who, following the other girls, had heard all. She twisted her blooming young features into all sorts of horrid shapes, and then turning from her companions, ran towards the house.
“What a dreadful girl she is,” said May Mace, gravely.
All through the South men were arming in hot haste. They were bent on rebellion against the government of their country. Among the first and most eager of those who rushed into the conflict was Col. Clayton, the father of Regina! She had been suddenly recalled from her school, and was with Rosa now upon the plantation on which she was born.
Here she, unrestrained, exercised her wayward and cruel will, and she was in the act of beating one of her little slaves when news of the battle of Bull Run reached her with tidings of the fall of her father.
This was a terrible blow to the young girl, for with all her faults she had vehemently loved her father. He was the only parent that she knew, her mother having died before she was three years old. But the sorrows of Regina had only just begun. Col. Clayton’s estate was very much involved, and the times made men in haste to settle up all their affairs. His creditors, looking closely into matters, discovered that there was little more than property enough to cover all the debts. This did not matter so much, seeing there proved to be no direct heirs, for it now came out that Miss Regina was herself one of that unhappy class for whom she had so much contempt. She was the child of a slave; her mother had never been a wife; her father had neglected to make her lawfully free. Regina was a slave.
She was sold with the estate, and presented by the gentleman who bought her to his wife. Her frantic grief and shame were of no avail. Her fate was sealed.
Did she remember Rosa when her young masters and mistresses slapped and pinched her?
Did she believe in slavery then, and think that abolitionists were all infidels? Hardly.
Well, the Lord was more merciful to Regina than she had been to others. War is a wild rover. There is no telling which way it will choose to rush. And suddenly as the stroke of fate falls, the thunderous tide of battle came rolling down over the fair plantations of Regina’s new home.
The owners were panic-stricken, and hastily fled, taking with them a few reluctant slaves. They sought for Regina, but not long, there was not time; and from her hiding place in a thick-leaved tree she gladly beheld them hurry away. The soldiers were almost upon them; indeed, before its master and mistress had been half an hour gone, the house they had forsaken was filled with laughing and singing Yankee soldiers. No blood had that day been shed, and the troops were in jolly spirits. The slaves flocked about them, all eager to march out of the land of bondage. Regina was with the rest.
At last, after many hardships, after sufferings which had broken her pride and almost her heart, Regina reached New York, and found friends who sheltered her until she was rested and refreshed, and then obtained for her present employment as child’s nurse, with a promise that something better should be done for her as soon as possible. For her friends had learned that Regina, now sixteen years of age, had been very well educated, and was competent to take a teacher’s place.
As the poor, humbled girl sat waiting in the hall for the coming of the lady who was to employ her, a light form crossed it, a bright face turned on her. There was a start, a cry of surprise and almost dismay, for Jane Grey had instantly recognized in the ill-clad, wan young girl who was come to be her mother’s servant, her formerly haughty and cruel schoolmate, Regina Clayton.
“How is it possible?" she asked.
“The fortunes of war,” replied Regina, thinking, at first, “I will never tell her that I was a slave. But I will,” was her second thought. “Jenny is a good and noble girl. She will not despise and glory over me.”
So she told her all. The mother came, and to her the sad tale was repeated, and, said Regina, weeping,
“I am served exactly right. I shall be a better girl than I used to be. I see every thing very differently now. I know the Lord has smitten me in mercy, and I thank Him for showing me how wicked and cruel I was before it is too late for me to change.”
Regina was right. Trouble made a good and true woman of her. She has a better position now than that of servant; and no one will ever taunt her (for none capable of such meanness know her secret) with having in her veins the negro blood, or with having been a slave.