- The Old and the New Order. A Story of Southern Life, Giving a Glimpse at the Trials of the Educated Colored Man and the Conservatism of Prejudice—in Three Chapters
[New York Freeman, 20 Feb. 1886, p. 1.]
I have been told that the town of Hempstead was quite an aristocratic place before the war. The statement is, no doubt, correct; for the white people have the appearance of those who have “seen better days,” and the houses are mostly old Southern mansions with extensive grounds and numerous out-houses, formerly used for the accommodation of slaves. It is not necessary to give a minute description of Hempstead. I will merely state that it is situated near the central part of Georgia, and, like all Southern towns, looks as though its inhabitants, who have recently awakened from a Rip Van Winkle sleep, finding it impossible to adapt themselves to the new order of things, have decided to plod along as best they can.
Late in the afternoon of a pleasant day in October, two well dressed gentlemen might have been seen walking leisurely along one of the principal streets of the upper part of the town. The elder was Judge Warren, the wealthiest citizen of Hempstead. He was about fifty years of age, tall, well formed, with a handsome face, whose troubled expression indicated a continual struggle between pride and reason. The younger gentleman was a bright mulatto of four and twenty. His features bore a striking resemblance to those of the judge; but his form was slight and his manners gentle and winning. For more than an hour the two had been together, and the ever contending forces which sought to sway the mind and control the actions of Judge Warren had carried on a fierce warfare. Finally a compromise was effected. George was far superior to the average Negro, and therefore, entitled to more respect. He was a Negro, however, the son of an ex-slave, and could not be the equal of a white man.
“I’ll tell you, George,” said the judge, opening his front gate, “those Northerners do not feel towards you colored people as we do. They stand off and clamor about your rights and endeavor to teach you that we are your enemies; but, my boy, there is not one of them who will take you in his house and treat you as a member of his family. We feel near to you. We look upon you as our people. Let me see. How long were you away?” [End Page 272]
“Sixteen years,” answered George.
“Well, now, did you, in all that time, find one Northern man who seemed willing to associate with you? I mean when there was nothing to be gained by your friendship.”
“I lived with the Rev. Mr. Robinson, as an adopted son,” said George, a little coldly, “and his friends regarded me as such.”
“Yes, yes, that may be true; but yours was an exceptional case. I know what Northern men are, George.”
By this time they had reached the house. Passing the main entrance, Judge Warren opened a side door and ushered his companion into the dining room.
“Make yourself at home, George,” he said in his blandest tones. “I am going to call Mrs. Warren and Miss Effie. They are both anxious to see you.”
The young man could not suppress a slight curl of the lip. He had seen the ladies through the parlor window and wondered what rule of Southern etiquette forbade his visiting them there.
“I will submit to it this time,” he said, when left alon[e]. “After all, I should not mind it. He probably knows no better.”
The judge soon returned, followed by his wife and daughter. George arose, bowed politely and held out his hand to Mrs. Warren.
“I am glad to see you, George,” said the lady, seating herself without noticing the proffered hand. “When did you come home?”
Miss Effie, who was but eighteen, had no recollection of George. She had heard of him, however, and was delighted to see him.
There were but four chairs in the room...