|Beautiful Belmont, Part 31 -- The Trip Home.|
by John Salisbury Cochran.
See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 30 -- The Society of Friends.
After enjoying the hospitality of Friends and again attending their meeting in the afternoon, Minerva and I started on a leisurely return ride by moonlight to her sister's, and from there back home. As we arrived at the foot of the hill just over a mile south of Mt. Pleasant, Minerva asked, "Are we not somewhere near the house where the romantic marriage of our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Chandler, took place?"
"Yes," I replied, "the log house that you see on our right, just ahead of us, is the place. It was pointed out to me by Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, and Mr. Chandler told me the incidents of that elopement and wedding in the presence of his wife, and both appeared to enjoy recounting it."
Love and Elopement
Minerva asked to hear the story, and I obliged. "John Hogg," I said, "the father of Mrs. Chandler, was a very wealthy man; in fact, as you know, he probably was the most wealthy in this whole section. He opposed the marriage, and for no reason except, possibly, the fact that Mr. Chandler was not blessed with an abundance of this world's goods. Mr. Chandler is an exceptionally fine man, well educated, and most respected and loved by everybody. The couple secured the services of a strong, resolute driver, with a closed carriage, into which Mr. Chandler entered unobserved. He was driven to the house of a friend in the southeast end of town, where Miss Thersa Hogg, now Mrs. Chandler, was waiting for him. They were driven hastily to this log cabin, where a friend of the proposed bride lived, and there were quickly married by a minister. They immediately took the return road to Mt. Pleasant until they struck the road at its southeast end, leading to Steubenville, to which they hurried with all speed."
"The Hogg family had been keeping a close watch over Thersa," I continued, "and her absence was discovered soon after the married couple had turned onto the Steubenville Road." I described how the bride's oldest brother, William, a man then between 35 and 40, immediately hitched a team of swift horses to a light buggy and began the pursuit to Steubenville. He was in utter ignorance of the fact the marriage had already taken place. He overtook them somewhere on the road, passed them, and then taking a position in front of the oncoming carriage, sprang out, caught the bits of the horses, stopped it, and demanded to know if his sister and Chandler were inside. The driver confirmed that they were, and Thersa's brother then insisted that the driver turn his team around and drive back to Mt. Pleasant instantly. The driver refused, stating that he took his instructions from Mr. Chandler; William asserted his rights as Thersa's brother, and again insisted that the carriage be turned around under threat of the driver being arrested.
I reported that Chandler then opened the carriage door and said, "Now, Mr. Hogg, you are the one who will be arrested if you do not release your hold on that team. Neither you nor your father has control over Thersa any longer. She is of age and can do and go as she pleases. She is now my wife. We married within the last hour, and you have no right to stop us in this manner on our bridal trip in the public highway." "Do you mean to say you are already married?' asked Hogg. "I do, and here is the marriage certificate," said Chandler. "It makes no difference; I want you to get out of there, Thersa, and go home with me," responded Hogg.
The new Mrs. Chandler refused her brother's demand, and he then, grasping the reins of the bridle, threatened to force the carriage to turn around. The carriage driver demanded that Mr. Hogg stop; the driver then jumped from his perch, and struck Hogg over the knuckles with the handle of the whip. Hogg let go of the reins and stepped back, but the driver followed him, threatening further injury. Hogg knew the fighting abilities of the man, and slowly went to his buggy with a badly bruised hand. He followed the couple a short distance, but finally turned around and went back to Mt. Pleasant, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Chandler to enjoy their honeymoon. A family reconciliation soon followed, and no member in it was subsequently more highly regarded by the others than Mr. Chandler.
Talk of Slavery and Politics
Minerva noted that the Chandlers seem to have lived happily ever since, that they had a nice, attractive home which was a delight to visit, and that she was thankful to have them as neighbors. "By the way," she added, "I learn our friend Charlie Chandler is going to college this fall at Twinsburg -- to Dr. Samuel Bissell's Academy -- and that you are going there also. Will you please tell me where? You know I am interested."
"Charlie is going this fall," I replied, "but I shall continue my studies at the Martins Ferry High School this winter, and shall not go to college until next fall, when I expect to go to Oberlin." Upon my mention of Oberlin, Minerva then asked if Aunt Tilda had heard from her daughter Lucinda, who had escaped (now) seven years before. I said that they had only heard secondhand stories about Lucinda and Sam; otherwise, after Lucinda's arrival at Oberlin, both former slaves seemed to have dropped out of sight.
Minerva asked me to tell her what I had learned about the escaped lovers. I told Minerva that Lucinda had remained a week or more at Joshua Cope's mill, and learning that Maxwell had placed men on the line of the underground railroad from Mt. Pleasant to Oberlin, she was quietly moved to the house of William Robinson in Trenton one night. (Robinson had a means of concealment that no one was able to discover.) From there, through intermediate stops, and in order to be out of the path of the searchers, she ultimately reached the home of Isaac Clandennen near Chester Hill, some ten miles south of McConnellsville. Then she was taken to McConnellsville and finally reached Oberlin. The vigilance of the searchers had been very great. As Mr. Clandennen passed through Pennsville with Lucinda riding beside him dressed up in his wife's clothes and a long Quaker bonnet with a heavy veil, the searchers had been sitting on the hotel porch. While "the Clandennens" leisurely passed by them, a bystander had remarked, "There goes Isaac Clandennen and his wife." As for Sam, he was taken first to Mt. Pleasant, then to Smithfield, Salineville, Hanoverton, New Garden, Salem, and then all trace of him was lost.
"Aunt Tilda grieves after Lucinda, and longs to hear something of her," I continued, "but her chief concern is about 'Poor Mose,' as she so often calls him, with tears in her eyes. She gets down by her bed morning and evening, as regularly as the sun rises and sets and prays God to free her poor boy. I tell you, Minerva, I never heard such pathetic appeals as that tenderhearted mother sends out for her 'Poor Mose.' I think she has a much deeper and more abiding affection for Mose than for Lucinda, though she undoubtedly loves her." I indicated that I had once asked Aunt Tilda why she doted so much on Mose, and Aunt Tilda had told me that Mose reminded her of the fate of her former husband, who had died a slave in the rice fields of South Carolina. She said that she knew they would all be reuinted in Heaven, but wanted to see Mose one last time while still on the earth, and felt that she would. At the time, Aunt Tilda also predicted that all the slaves would someday be free, but only after a terrible and bloody price had been paid.
"Has she ever heard from Mose?" asked Minerva. "Not a word since she said goodbye to him at the auction block in Wheeling," I replied. Minerva then commented that the times certainly looked ominous politically. The Lincoln-Douglas debates, she remarked, had made Lincoln appear the logical Republican candidate for the next presidential election. Lincoln had already stated his belief that the nation could not continue to exist half slave and half free, remarks that fired the Southern heart and awakened the entire North. Minerva wondered whether the South would carry out its threat to disrupt the government if a Republican president was elected. "They may try it," I replied, adding that the entire matter would probably end in a civil war, and that Lincoln was right -- oil and water would not mix. We both praised Helper's book The Impending Crisis and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, agreeing that the country seemed to be on the brink of a great political and economic revolution.
Minerva then asked me about the upcoming Mountain View Literary Society debate against a team from Farmington on "Squatter Sovereignty," scheduled to be held at Blackford's schoolhouse the following Saturday evening. Uncertain what the subject of the debate was to be, she asked me to explain the term "Squatter Sovereignty." I explained that the idea behind the expression was attributed to Judge Douglas, who advocated the plan of determining by popular vote of the inhabitants of each territory the question as to whether it should become a free or slave state -- free from the interference of Congress. "It is derisively called 'Squatter,' instead of 'popular' sovereignty," I explained, "indicative of the habit of proslavery advocates going from Missouri and other slave states to Kansas and other territories, squatting on a piece of land a sufficient length of time to vote, and then going back home." I said that I expected to be beaten because our team, which included Alexander McBride, was supposed to argue in support of the practice -- against our own convictions. I added that the opponents, Cope and Dungan, were in any case good debaters, but would now have the added advantage of having right on their side.
The Gypsy Camp
As Minerva and I, in the course of our moonlight drive, arrived at the bridge across Little Short Creek on the old plank road southeast of and close to the Solomon Bracken house, later the Cleaver mansion, we came upon a gypsy camp close to the road. I stopped the horse for a few minutes to take in the strange and interesting appearance and adornments of these representatives of that ever restless, wandering people. Their equipment appeared more handsomely adorned than usual, and their horses were fine ones and in good condition. Two milk cows were tethered on the grass near the creek. What appeared to be a handsome show wagon with landscapes finely painted on the sides, along with a lion in the distance reclining under the word "Queen" in gilded letters, stood a little apart from the other wagons. Around the smoldering embers of what had been their supper fire sat a number of men smoking, while a little to one side sat several black-haired women, one or two of whom were very beautiful.
The gypsies were well dressed, in the manner so characteristic of that nomadic people. As Minerva and I sat looking at the "Queen" wagon, a finely-paneled door at the rear end opened, and a pair of carpeted steps unfolded to the ground. Down these steps came one of the most beautiful and imposing woman I had ever seen -- so compelling that I felt ill at ease the moment she laid eyes on me. She was tall and commanding, with hair as black and glossy as it could be, and with the blackest and most piercing eyes I had ever beheld. Her clothing was of the very finest silk, artistically made and fitted, and she had on her fingers four gold rings set with large diamonds so nicely cut as to sparkle in the moonlight. The buckles of her shoes were of bright silver, and she wore a band of gold around her head suggestive of a crown, with sparkling stone settings and scintillating stars.
The gypsy woman walked up to within ten feet of Minerva and me, and stood there, piercing us through and through with her look without uttering a word. I returned her gaze with a half inquisitive smile. She slowly turned her gaze upon Minerva, and for a moment I felt relieved. I noticed Minerva's cheek reddening under what seemed to him to be the woman's probing eyes. Indeed, I saw Minerva growing pale as a result, and it angered me. The gypsy slowly turned her eyes back to me, and in a surprisingly sweet, musical voice said, "I came out to tell your fortunes, sir, but when I see your faces and read the honest love you have for your companion, and know what is in store for you, I find I have no need to do so."
"Is it because you imagined I do not believe in fortune telling and would not pay for such foolishness if you did?" I replied haughtily. "I asked you for no money," she replied, "nor did I intend to. I stopped for the sake of that kindred blood that makes us all brothers and sisters."
I was now intrigued. "Since it is to cost me nothing," I asked, "what is the future evil to us that your words imply?"
"You are trifling with dangerous things, sir," she rejoined. "You love that noble-hearted lady beside you and she is worthy of it. You have loved her all your life, and have told her so. That was honest and manly of you. I shall not tell you what her feelings are for you. I leave that for her to do in her own time, as she has promised you. You laugh now. The time is coming when you will cry, for your soul will be full of bitterness, but I shall not tell you why. It is written in fate. Goodbye, and when it comes, remember what the Queen of the gypsies said to you. Then you may laugh, if you can!"
With a graceful wave of the hand and queenly stride, the woman turned and disappeared within her grand wagon, the door closing behind her. Both Minerva and I were struck with her beauty, the softness and music of her voice, and cultivated expression. We rode in silence for some distance, before Minerva broke it by asking me how the woman had impressed him. "Most ominously and forcibly," I replied. "Somehow I am persuaded that she was revealing facts from the future, though I am absolutely and entirely convinced of the fallacy of divination."
"You must believe nothing of the kind," Minerva assured me. "It is all folly. She only wanted to make an impression; you must not think about it. I am getting concerned about your superstitious, or, to put it more precisely, your feelings of foreboding."
"But Minerva, she told us so many things that were true about our lives," I replied.
"She was only guessing, and that's all there is to it. Here, I want you to enjoy the evening breeze," she said. With that, she removed my hat, placed it in her lap, and pushed back my hair, looking into my eyes.
The Runaway Slave
As we made our way up the plank road from the creek, a form rose from a clump of alders by the fence at the roadside and, with hat removed in a most deferential manner, approached the buggy and bowing respectfully, asked for directions to the house of Mr. Vickers. The figure proved to be a black man, and I presumed from his polite manner and dialect that he was a plantation slave, possibly striking out for his freedom. I pointed out Isaac Vickers' house, and assured the man that Vickers would help him. I urged the man not to approach everybody he met, however, as there were those who might inform on him and send him back to slavery again.
"We are your friends and will do anything we can to help," I added. "Now, go over to the house there and if you do not find Mr. Vickers, return here and we will see what we can do for you." We watched him until Mr. Vickers had greeted him at the door, and then drove slowly on. I teased Minerva about having been an accomplice in the escape of a fugitive slave, liable to arrest and imprisonment.
"I think if we were arrested I could successfully blame it on you," she said laughingly, "but tell me, suppose Mr. Vickers had not been there, or had refused, what would you have done?" "I would have either taken him down there to Isaac Loyd's, Solomon Bracken's, or up the hill to Dr. Benjamin Mitchell's," I said. (In later years and long after the incidents of this story transpired, a small, secret chamber between two rooms, approached by a closet, was discovered in the Mitchell building; a number of families had resided in the house without ever becoming aware of it.)
We eventually arrived at Minerva's house. After bidding her goodnight, I drove thoughtfully back down the plank road to the McBride farm and then down Buckeye Run to our house. The ill-omened words of the gypsy worried me, and I could not shake them off. I went to sleep only to dream of weeping over the dead body of Minerva, and was awakened from this hideous nightmare by my brother.
See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 32 -- A Visit With Grandfather.
For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.
This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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