Clotel; or, The President's Daughter
Chapter 16. Death Of The Parson
CARLTON was above thirty years of age, standing on the last legs of a young man, and
entering on the first of a bachelor. He had never dabbled in matters of love, and looked
upon all women alike. Although he respected woman for her virtues, and often spoke of
the goodness of heart of the sex, he had never dreamed of marriage. At first he looked
upon Miss Peck as a pretty young woman, but after she became his religious teacher, he
regarded her in that light, that every one will those whom they know to be their superiors.
It was soon seen, however, that the young man not only respected and reverenced
Georgiana for the incalculable service she had done him, in awakening him to a sense of
duty to his soul, but he had learned to bow to the shrine of Cupid. He found, weeks after
he had been in her company, that when he met her at table, or alone in the drawing room,
or on the piazza, he felt a shortness of breath, a palpitating of the heart, a kind of
dizziness of the head; but he knew not its cause.
This was love in its first stage. Mr. Peck saw, or thought he saw, what would be the result
of Carlton's visit, and held out every inducement in his power to prolong his stay. The hot
season was just commencing, and the young Northerner was talking of his return home,
when the parson was very suddenly taken ill. The disease was the cholera, and the
physicians pronounced the case incurable. In less than five hours John Peck was a corpse.
His love for Georgiana, and respect for her father, had induced Carlton to remain by the
bedside of the dying man, although against the express orders of the physician. This act
of kindness caused the young orphan henceforth to regard Carlton as her best friend. He
now felt it his duty to remain with the young woman until some of her relations should be
summoned from Connecticut. After the funeral, the family physician advised that Miss
Peck should go to the farm, and spend the time at the country seat; and also advised
Carlton to remain with her, which he did.
At the parson's death his Negroes showed little or no signs of grief. This was noticed by
both Carlton and Miss Peck, and caused no little pain to the latter. "They are ungrateful,"
said Carlton, as he and Georgiana were seated on the piazza. "What," asked she, "have
they to be grateful for?" "Your father was kind, was he not?" "Yes, as kind as most men
who own slaves; but the kindness meted out to blacks would be unkindness if given to
whites. We would think so, should we not?" "Yes," replied he. "If we would not consider
the best treatment which a slave receives good enough for us, we should not think he
ought to be grateful for it. Everybody knows that slavery in its best and mildest form is
wrong. Whoever denies this, his lips libel his heart. Try him! Clank the chains in his ears,
and tell him they are for him; give him an hour to prepare his wife and children for a life
of slavery; bid him make haste, and get ready their necks for the yoke, and their wrists for
the coffle chains; then look at his pale lips and trembling knees, and you have nature's
testimony against slavery."
"Let's take a walk," said Carlton, as if to turn the conversation. The moon was just
appearing through the tops of the trees, and the animals and insects in an adjoining wood
kept up a continued din of music. The croaking of bull-frogs, buzzing of insects, cooing
of turtle-doves, and the sound from a thousand musical instruments, pitched on as many
different keys, made the welkin ring. But even all this noise did not drown the singing of