HOW DASDY CAME THROUGH.
"What's de matter wid yer, Dasdy?" asked Aunt Zilpha, looking up from the wash-tub at her good-looking daughter.
"Dey ain't nuthin' de matter wid me," replied Dasdy, slamming her iron viciously on the ironing-board, where a limp mass of snowy linen was gradually assuming form and substance under her skillful hand.
Aunt Zilpha rubbed away for several minutes, and then asked another question:
"Is yer gwine ter chu'ch ter-night, Dasdy?"
"I dunno as I is," replied Dasdy—(short for Desdemona—) gloomily.
"Better g'long, honey," continued Aunt Zilpha. "Elder Smith gwine to preach to-night."
Dasdy worked away vigorously at the ironing-board. Presently she said: "'Lizah Davis had on dat new silk dress and velvet bonnet las' night."
"Wonder whar dat gal got de money ter buy a silk dress?" asked Aunt Zilpha, contemptuously; "it mus' be dis here cheap silk."
"I 'spect it's secon'-hand," remarked Dasdy, as she changed her iron. "She never had no silk dress 'fo' she went to C'lumbia. She say her sister give 'er dat dress—but I dunno."
"Did 'Dolphus ax yer to go to ch'uch wid 'im ary night dis week?" asked Aunt Zilpha, after a pause.
"No, he's be'n gwine wid dat 'Lizah Davis all de week. She was shoutin' las' night."
"Umph!" grunted Aunt Zilpha, "dat's all 'pocrisy—dat gal ain't got no religion." She wrung out a few more pieces, and then continued:
"Better g'long to chu'ch, honey. Good religion better dan sweethearts."
There was a great revival in progress at the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church, the chief tabernacle of worship for the colored people of Patesville. The interest had been kept up for six weeks, and was still unabated, and the number of conversions and additions to the church was something unprecedented. The elder in charge had not been able to do half the work, and preachers had come from distant towns to assist him. Meetings were held nightly, and on Sundays five times a day—beginning at sunrise and ending only at midnight. In fact the religious enthusiasm of the colored people at Patesville, who constituted half the population, was at fever heat.
Adolphus Sampson was among the earliest converts. Adolphus was head waiter at the Clarendon House, the leading hotel of the town, and being yellow and rather good-looking, was very popular among the young women who were willing to fulfill their duty to society by getting married.
Before the revival began 'Dolphus had for a long time kept company with Dasdy Williams, one of the best looking of the girls that attended the Baptist church. He had hesitated a little at one time between Dasdy and 'Lizah Davis, another dusky belle. But Dasdy was more attractive in person and could earn more money as a laundress than 'Lizah as a nurse, and 'Dolphus' susceptible heart had prudently succumbed to this combination of attractions.
But now everything was changed. Soon after the revival 'Dolphus had been converted, and his zeal for religion had temporarily overshadowed his fondness for Dasdy's company. She was still a sinner, and the callow saint was fond of trying his new wings. He found in Dasdy a poor listener to that kind of conversation—she preferred the old style. A slight coolness had thus sprung up between the lovers, when 'Lizah Davis appeared upon the scene with all the prestige of a visit to Columbia, and with the additional charms conferred by a new silk dress and a velvet bonnet. Moreover, she was converted during the second week of the revival and 'Dolphus hence found in her a sympathetic listener, and enjoyed at the same time the somewhat worldly satisfaction of going to church with the best-dressed girl in the congregation.
Of course this was gall and wormwood to Dasdy. She was in love with 'Dolphus and did not at all approve of the turn affairs had taken. The condition of her mind at this time predisposed her to sentimental impressions. A powerful sermon by Elder Smith affected her considerably, and one evening she left her seat in church and went forward to the mourners' bench. The next day the impressions of the evening before seemed to have passed away entirely. Dasdy tried to think of her sins, but the figure of 'Dolphus intruded itself persistently, and instead of reflecting on her own shortcomings she could not keep her mind from the meanness of 'Lizah Davis, who had stolen her lover. At night Dasdy did not feel the least inclincation to go forward when the mourners were invited up to the front seats. But curious eyes were watching her, and consistency required that she should not give up so soon.
While she hesitated 'Dolphus came into the church at the right door and 'Lizah Davis at the left, resplendent in her new dress and bonnet; they had evidently come to church together.
Dasdy struggled for a moment between two powerful emotions—love for 'Dolphus, which made her feel like crying, and hatred for the other girl, which made her feel like tearing her eyes out.
Then another motive for going to the mourners' bench suggested itself: If she could only get religion 'Dolphus might come back to her; and she liked to think of Brother 'Dolphus bending over her at the mourners' bench, encouraging her in tones of love and religion combined. Yielding to the impulse of this idea, she went forward and knelt at the front seat. Now it happened that during the whole evening 'Dolphus did not come near her. There was a large congregation and many mourners; and 'Dolphus did not know she was at the mourners' bench for some time, and then could not reach her for the crowd of women standing around.
Dasdy prayed mechanically, but her heart was not in it; and she went home in a worse frame of mind than that in which she had gone to church. The next day she had the conversation with her mother, and this good old woman persuaded her to go to church and continue her prayers.
At eight o'clock Dasdy got ready for church. She put on her plainest dress, and a starched gingham sunbonnet instead of her Sunday hat. Her face wore an expression which indicated some determined purpose. As she left the house her mother said:
"Try ter get through dis week, Dasdy. De big baptizn' gwine ter come off next Sunday, an' ef I was you I rudder be baptized at a big baptizin'."
"I feel dat I'm gwine ter git through dis night," said Dasdy, firmly.
The church was crowded that night, and the enthusiasm ran high. Dasdy did not go forward at the first call; but when 'Lizah Davis came in and took her seat in front of the pulpit, just behind the last of the benches reserved for mourners, Dasdy's eyes glistened with something which was not a tear nor yet religious feeling. She went forward and knelt a short distance from 'Lizah's seat. Prayers and hymns followed each other in rapid succession. By and by somebody started one of the popular and stirring revival songs. During this hymn Dasdy was observed to slip from the seat where she was kneeling and fall to the floor, where she lay at full length, with half closed eyes, moaning and groaning, with occasional writhings and spasmodic movements of the limbs.
"Sister Dasdy Williams under conviction," ran round the room. A circle was formed about her, a special prayer was offered, and a special hymn sung for her benefit. One or two sisters knelt beside her and poured exhortations into her ears. Others in the back ground exchanged opinions as to whether she would get through that evening or not. Dasdy through her half-shut eeyes saw 'Lizah Davis join the circle about her. Then her movements became more violent.
"I b'leeve she's comin' through," said one sister, breathlessly, looking over the shoulder of the woman in front of her."
"I knowed she'd git through in time fur de big baptizin'," whispered another young woman, sarcastically, pressing forward into the circle. The spectators in the gallery were leaning over toward the crowd below. Suddenly Dasdy sprang to her feet, her face beaming. Uttering a loud shout she jumped straight up and down for a dozen times.
"Glory!" she cried; "oh, so happy! praise de Lamb!" She threw her arms out sidewise. One hand struck a sister on the nose, and the crimson tide proceeding from that organ compelled her to retire. Then as a backward movement in the circle indicated a disposition on the part of the more timid to seek safety, Dasdy sprang in the direction of 'Lizah Davis, and seizing her new velvet bonnet, swung it once or twice on high; then, still shouting, and as though unconscious of what she did, dropped it to the floor and trempled it under foot. Another hat shared the same fate. Half a dozen officious women grasped her arms and tried to hold her. Meanwhile 'Lizah, with an angry look, was trying to get her bonnet. Dasdy slipped down between the encircling arms of those who held her, and reaching out caught the overskirt of 'Lizah's silk dress.
Rip! r-r-r-ip! went the fragile fabric—it was cheap silk—and as 'Lizah attempted to escape the fastenings of the overskirt gave way at the waist, and the devoted garment fell under the feet of the women who tried to hold the still writhing Dasdy. 'Lizah finally escaped with the fragments of her finery, and with feelings far different from what a religious meeting should have inspired, forced a passage through the crowded aisles and hastened homeward, to weep scalding tears of rage and grief. Her bonnet was entirely ruined, and the silk dress never entirely recovered its pristine splendor.
Dasdy was baptised the following Sunday, and established her reputation for piety by the fine exhibition of shouting she gave on that occasion. Her designs on Adolphus were successful; she had added one more to the long list of those who have stolen the livery of heaven to serve their own selfish ends; those who believe that all is fair in love may perhaps find excuse for her. The Sunday after the baptising she appeared at church in a new blue silk dress, with satin trimmings, and a hat gorgeous in the wealth of feathers and ribbons that adorned it. The susceptible but inconstant 'Dolphus could not resist this new combination of beauty, gorgeousness and sanctity, and returned to his former allegiance. And from the following announcement which recently appeared in the local colored newspaper, it may be inferred that the course of true love ran thenceforth smoothly to its proper goal: "Last Wednesday evening the efficient and scholarly head waiter of the Clarendon House led to the hymeneal altar the lovely and accomplished Miss Desdemona Brown, one of our most popular young society ladies. The ceremony was performed at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church by Elder Smith, and the happy pair. left the following morning for a two weeks' bridal tour, after which they will reside temporarily with the bride's mother. Mr. Sampson will still continue to preside over the Clarendon dining-room."