Chapter 14-part 3

Topsy Continued Again…

‘Why, Eva, where did you get your necklace?’ said Miss Ophelia.

‘Get it? Why, I have had it on all day,’ answered Eva, rather surprised. ‘And what is funny, aunty, I had it on all night too. I forgot to take it off when I went to bed.’

Miss Ophelia looked perfectly astonished. She was more astonished still when, next minute, Rosa, who was one of the housemaids, came in with a basket of clean clothes, wearing her coral ear-rings as usual.

I’m sure I don’t know what to do with such a child,’ she said, in despair. ‘What in the world made you tell me you took those things, Topsy?’

‘Why, missis said I must ‘fess. I couldn’t think of nothing else to ‘fess,’ said Topsy, wiping her eyes.

‘But of course, I didn’t want you to confess things you didn’t do,’ said Miss Ophelia. ‘That is telling a lie just as much as the other.’

‘Laws, now, is it?’ said Topsy, looking surprised and innocent.

‘Poor Topsy,’ said Eva, ‘why need you steal? You are going to be taken good care of now. I am sure I would rather give you anything of mine than have you steal it.’

Topsy had never been spoken to so kindly and gently in all her life. For a minute she looked as if she were going to cry. The next she was grinning as usual in her ugly way.

What was to be done with Topsy? Miss Ophelia was quite puzzled. She shut her up in a dark room till she could think about it.

‘I don’t see,’ she said to Mr. St. Clare, ‘how I am going to manage that child without whipping her.’

‘Well, whip her, then.’

‘I never heard of bringing up children without it,’ said Miss Ophelia.

‘Oh, well, do as you think best. Only, I have seen this child beaten with a poker, knocked down with the shovel or tongs, or anything that came handy. So I don’t think your beatings will have much effect.’

‘What is to be done with her, then?’ said Miss Ophelia. ‘I never saw such a child as this.’

But Mr. St. Clare could not answer her question. So Miss Ophelia had to go on, as best she could, trying to make Topsy a good girl.

She taught her to read and to sew. Topsy liked reading, and learned her letters like magic. But she could not bear sewing. So she broke her needles or threw them away. She tangled, broke, and dirtied her cotton and hid her reels. Miss Ophelia felt sure all these things could not be accidents. Yet she could never catch Topsy doing them.

In a very few days Topsy had learned how to do Miss Ophelia’s room perfectly, for she was very quick and clever. But if Miss Ophelia ever left her to do it by herself there was sure to be dreadful confusion.

Instead of making the bed, she would amuse herself with pulling off the pillow-cases. Then she would butt her woolly head among the pillows, until it was covered with feathers sticking out in all directions. She would climb the bedpost, and hang head downwards from the top; wave the sheets and covers all over the room; dress the bolster up in Miss Ophelia’s nightgown and act scenes with it, singing, whistling, and making faces at herself in the looking-glass all the time.

‘Topsy,’ Miss Ophelia would say, when her patience was at an end, ‘what makes you behave so badly?’

‘Dunno, missis—I’spects’ cause I’s so wicked.’

‘I don’t know what I shall do with you, Topsy.’

‘Laws, missis, you must whip me. My old missis always did. I an’t used to workin’ unless I gets whipped.’

So Miss Ophelia tried it. Topsy would scream and groan and implore. But half an hour later she would be sitting among the other little servants belonging to the house, laughing about it. ‘Miss Feely whip!’ she would say, ‘she can’t do it nohow.’

‘Law,’ she would go on, ‘does you know you’s all sinners? Well, you is; everybody is. White folks is sinners too—Miss Feely says so. But ye an’t any of ye up to me. I’s so awful wicked, there can’t nobody do nothin’ with me. I ‘spects I’s the wickedest crittur in the world.’ Then she would turn a somersault, and come up bright and smiling, evidently quite pleased with herself.

Chapter list