"TRUTH is stranger than fiction;" and whoever reads the narrative of Alfrado, will find the assertion verified.
About eight years ago I became acquainted with the author of this book, and I feel it a privilege to speak a few words in her behalf. Through the instrumentality of an itinerant colored lecturer, she was brought to W -- -- -, Mass. This is an ancient town, where the mothers and daughters seek, not "wool and flax," but straw, -- working willingly with their hands! Here she was introduced to the family of Mrs. Walker, who kindly consented to receive her as an inmate of her household, and immediately succeeded in procuring work for her as a "straw sewer." Being very ingenious, she soon acquired the art of making hats; but on account of former hard treatment, her constitution was greatly impaired, and she was subject to seasons of sickness. On this account Mrs. W. gave her a room joining her own chamber, where she could hear her faintest call. Never shall I forget the expression of her "black, but comely" face, as she came to me one day, exclaiming, "O, aunt J -- -- -, I have at last found a home, -- and not only a home, but a mother. My cup runneth over. What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?"
Months passed on, and she was happy -- truly happy. Her health began to improve under the genial sunshine in which she lived, and she even looked forward with hope -- joyful hope to the future. But, alas, "it is not in man that
walketh to direct his steps." One beautiful morning in the early spring of 1842, as she was taking her usual walk, she chanced to meet her old friend, the "lecturer," who brought her to W -- -- -, and with him was a fugitive slave. Young, well-formed and very handsome, he said he had been a house-servant, which seemed to account in some measure for his gentlemanly manners and pleasing address. The meeting was entirely accidental; but it was a sad occurrence for poor Alfrado, as her own sequel tells. Suffice it to say, an acquaintance and attachment was formed, which, in due time, resulted in marriage. In a few days she left W -- -- -, and all her home comforts, and took up her abode in New Hampshire. For a while everything went on well, and she dreamed not of danger; but in an evil hour he left his young and trusting wife, and embarked for sea. She knew nothing of all this, and waited for his return. But she waited in vain. Days passed, weeks passed, and he came not; then her heart failed her. She felt herself deserted at a time, when, of all others, she most needed the care and soothing attentions of a devoted husband. For a time she tried to sustain herself, but this was impossible. She had friends, but they were mostly of that class who are poor in the things of earth, but "rich in faith." The charity on which she depended failed at last, and there was nothing to save her from the "County House;" go she must. But her feelings on her way thither, and after her arrival, can be given better in her own language; and I trust it will be no breach of confidence if I here insert part of a letter she wrote her mother Walker, concerning the matter.
* * * "The evening before I left for my dreaded journey to the 'house' which was to be my abode, I packed my trunk, carefully placing in it every little memento of affection received from you and my friends in W -- -- -, among which was the portable inkstand, pens and paper. My beautiful
little Bible was laid aside, as a place nearer my heart was reserved for that. I need not tell you I slept not a moment that night. My home, my peaceful, quiet home with you, was before me. I could see my dear little room, with its pleasant eastern window opening to the morning; but more than all, I beheld you, my mother, gliding softly in and kneeling by my bed to read, as no one but you can read, 'The Lord is my shepherd, -- I shall not want.' But I cannot go on, for tears blind me. For a description of the morning, and of the scant breakfast, I must wait until another time.
"We started. The man who came for me
was kind as he could be, -- helped me carefully into the wagon, (for I had no strength,) and drove
on. For miles I spoke not a word. Then the silence would be broken by the driver uttering some
sort of word the horse seemed to understand; for he invariably quickened his pace. And so, just
before nightfall, we halted at the institution, prepared for the homeless. With cold
civility the matron received me, and bade one of the inmates shew me my room. She did so; and
I followed up two flights of stairs. I crept as I was able; and when she said, 'Go in there,' I
obeyed, asking for my trunk, which was soon placed by me. My room was furnished some like
the 'prophet's chamber,' except there was no 'candlestick;' so when I could creep down I begged
for a light, and it was granted. Then I flung myself on the bed and cried, until I could cry no
longer. I rose up and tried to pray; the Saviour seemed near. I opened my precious little Bible,
and the first verse that caught my eye was -- 'I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon
me.' O, my mother, could I tell you the comfort this was to me. I sat down, calm, almost happy,
took my pen and wrote on the inspiration of the moment --
Two or three letters were received after this by her friends in W -- -- -, and then all was silent. No one of us knew whether she still lived or had gone to her home on high. But it seems she remained in this house until after the birth of her babe; then her faithless husband returned, and took her to some town in New Hampshire, where, for a time, he supported her and his little son decently well. But again he left her as before -- suddenly and unexpectedly, and she saw him no more. Her efforts were again successful in a measure in securing a meagre maintenance for a time; but her struggles with poverty and sickness were severe. At length, a door of hope was opened. A kind gentleman and lady took her little boy into their own family, and provided everything necessary for his good; and all this without the hope of remuneration. But let them know, they shall
be "recompensed at the resurrection of the just." God is not unmindful of this work, -- this labor of love. As for the afflicted mother, she too has been remembered. The heart of a stranger was moved with compassion, and bestowed a recipe upon her for restoring gray hair to its former color. She availed herself of this great help, and has been quite successful; but her health is again falling, and she has felt herself obliged to resort to another method of procuring her bread -- that of writing an Autobiography.
I trust she will find a ready
sale for her interesting work; and let all the friends who purchase a volume, remember they are
doing good to one of the most worthy, and I had almost said most unfortunate, of the human
family. I will only add in conclusion, a few lines, calculated to comfort and strengthen this
sorrowful, homeless one. "I will help thee, saith the Lord."
TO THE FRIENDS OF OUR DARK-COMPLEXIONED BRETHREN AND SISTERS, THIS NOTE IS INTENDED.
Having known the writer of this book for a number of years, and knowing the many privations and mortifications she has had to pass through, I the more willingly add my testimony to the truth of her assertions. She is one of that class, who by some are considered not only as little lower than the angels, but far beneath them; but I have long since learned that we are not to look at the color of the hair, the eyes, or the skin, for the man or woman; their life is the criterion we are to judge by. The writer of this book has seemed to be a child of misfortune.
Early in life she was deprived of her parents, and all those endearing associations to which childhood clings. Indeed, she
may be said not to have had that happy period; for, being taken from home so young, and placed where she had nothing to love or cling to, I often wonder she had not grown up a monster; and those very people calling themselves Christians, (the good Lord deliver me from such,) and they likewise ruined her health by hard work, both in the field and house. She was indeed a slave, in every sense of the word; and a lonely one, too.
But she has found some friends in this degraded world, that were willing to do by others as they would have others do by them; that were willing she should live, and have an existence on the earth with them. She has never enjoyed any degree of comfortable health since she was eighteen years of age, and a great deal of the time has been confined to her room and bed. She is now trying to write a book; and I hope the public will look favorably on it, and patronize the same, for she is a worthy woman.
Her own health being poor, and having a child to care for, (for, by the way, she has been married,) and she wishes to educate him; in her sickness he has been taken from her, and sent to the county farm, because she could not pay his board every week; but as soon as she was able, she took him from that place, and now he has a home where he is contented and happy, and where he is considered as good as those he is with. He is an intelligent, smart boy, and no doubt will make a smart man, if he is rightly managed. He is beloved by his playmates, and by all the friends of the family; for the family do not recognize those as friends who do not include him in their family, or as one of them, and his mother as a daughter -- for they treat her as such; and she certainly deserves all the affection and kindness that is bestowed upon her, and they are always happy to have her visit them whenever she will. They are not wealthy, but the latch-string is always out when suffering humanity needs a shelter; the last loaf they are willing to divide with those more needy than themselves, remembering these words, Do good as
we have opportunity; and we can always find opportunity, if we have the disposition.
And now I would say, I hope those who call themselves friends of our dark-skinned brethren, will lend a helping hand, and assist our sister, not in giving, but in buying a book; the expense is trifling, and the reward of doing good is great. Our duty is to our fellow-beings, and when we let an opportunity pass, we know not what we lose. Therefore we should do with all our might what our hands find to do; and remember the words of Him who went about doing good, that inasmuch as ye have done a good deed to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me; and even a cup of water is not forgotten. Therefore, let us work while the day lasts, and we shall in no wise lose our reward.
MILFORD, JULY 20th, 1859.
Feeling a deep interest in the welfare of the writer of this book, and hoping that its circulation will be extensive, I wish to say a few words in her behalf. I have been acquainted with her for several years, and have always found her worthy the esteem of all friends of humanity; one whose soul is alive to the work to which she puts her hand. . Although her complexion is a little darker than my own, I esteem it a privilege to associate with her, and assist her whenever an opportunity presents itself. It is with this motive that I write these few lines, knowing this book must be interesting to all who have any knowledge of the writer's character, or wish to have. I hope no one will refuse to aid her in her work, as she is worthy the sympathy of all Christians, and those who have a spark of humanity in their breasts.
Thinking it unnecessary for me to write a long epistle, I will close
by bidding her God speed.
C. D. S.