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THE Sunday Edition CALL.
MAMMY PLEASANT ANGEL OR ARCH FIEND IN THE HOUSE OF MISTERY ? Auctioning Off Mammy Pleasant's Services as Cock. In ISSO, when the ship arrived in port which brought Mammy Pleasant and other pibneera around Cape Horn, the wealthy merchants and miners ra-ced to the water front to engage her Bervices, as she was heralded as one of the grreal Southern cooks. So many gentlemen wanted her the thnußht it only fair that they should 'bid for hor services, and she would work for the highest Mddor. So the bidding hepan, while Mammy stood on the fleck with folded arms and placidly looked on while the figures ran up Into the hun dreds. Finally the ita reached 1500 &Jid everybody seemed to think that was about fair pay per month for a cook, even if she was the best one. that ever came out of the South. But Mammy had her own ideas of the value of her services, just as she had on so many occasions afterward. "There's to be no washing," she stipulated. The delighted purchaser of her services nodded. "Not even dish washing," she added. Another nod of acquit set But when the lucky bidder offered at once to escort her with becoming pomp to hia bachelor's quarters and install her as goddess of the cook Stove Mammy suddenly folded her arms and calmly announced that she had changed her mind. She declared all bids off and said she'd tak» time, think the matter over and would let them know later what she proposed doing. HE "house of mystery" has lost Its most mysterious character. T "Mammy" Plrasant and Mrs. 801 l have separated. For the first time in twenty years greedy ears and prying eyes have been rewarded. Curious neighbors have at last had a peep behind the shroud of mystery that has settled like a pall over the Bell home, on the corner of Pine and Octavia stre< i Mammy Pleasant's exit was in keeping with her role of the most mysterious mystery in the house of mysteries. She did not leave in gaudy daylight, nor yet under the shadow of black night, but In the dusk, which, according to any and every yellow- Tback novei, Is the hour of hours for weird scenic effect. She did not announce her departure to the neighbors in the ap proved "blue-book" manner. Instead, they heard a voice that rane lharsh on th" ni^ht air despite the soft Southern accent, "Let me out! ■Let me out! Mrs. Bell has locked me In her room! Let me out!" Silhouetted against the topmost window of the "house of mys tery" was the figure of Mami Pleasant. A few moments and the big doors swung open and Mammy Pleasant walked down the stairs, escorted on either side by a police men. In the selfsame bonnet and plaid shawl which she wears in fair weather and in foul, to millionaire's palace and to pauper's hovel, with head erect and gliding step she left the house where for twenty years she has been the dictator. The officers of the law, having performed their duty In removing •her from the house, allowed Mammy to take her way unescorted. Long before she reached the home of her friend, Mrs. Ferry, on Webster street, the lights had been put out, 'the shutters drawn, and the "house of mystery" had relapsed into Its usual Impenetrable aspect. "Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Pleasant have quarreled," say the uninitiated. "Mrs Bell and Mrs. Pleasant have simply separated," say the in itiated. "Mammy Pleasant has lost her influence over Mrs. Bell," affirm the disinterested. k "Mammy Pleasant Is using her influence over Mrs. Bell," assert the Interested ones. "Mammy Pleasant has played her last card," say the wise ones. "Mammy Pleasant is playing her trump card," protest the wiser ones. Only time can decide which" is right. Perhaps Mrs. Bell and "Mammy" have really quarreled. But more likely they have seem ingly seperated at Mammy's instigation and for a purpose. As one of the wiser ones explained it: "You see creditors are anxiously and eagerly eying the estate with a view to the payment of their bills. Mammy Pleasant denies that she ever ordered the goods charged. Mrs. Bell declares that she never received any of them. As purchaser and receiver of the goods they are equally responsible for the debts. But they refuse to assume either of these titles, nor does Mr. Bell accuse Mammy of being both purchaser and receiver. They dis claim any responsibility, in the matter. And their denial smacks more of being genuine when they are supposed to be strangers and ene mies and no longer warm allies." So there are those who thus interpret Mammy's last move. They •will not believe that her influence over Mrs. Bell has waned. They ascribe her forcible ejecture as a clever guise to give the affair a realistic air and to satisfy Mammy's love for the spectacular. On the other hand there are those who believe that Mrs. Bell has finally awakened to the fact that she has been as putty in Mammy's hands; that the evidence offered at the trial last year took root in her mind and that Mammy's dismissal Is the result. At that trial Fred Bell endeavored to, prove that Mrs. Bell was incompetent to manage the estate or to have charge of the Bell children. The family skeleton was dragged into full light for the public eye. Charges and counter charges were made. Mammy Pleasant was cused of being a black leech who had fastened herself on the Bell money sack until It was as dry as a sucked orange. Mrs. Pleasant was held up as the faithful black "mammy," who was constant to the end, whose hand went deep into her private pocket that her mistress might have luxuries. She was pictured as a black crook, a heartless wretch. She was painted whiter than the lilies of the field, as kind as the angels of mercy. The Bell family, cave Fred Bell, saw naught tut shining .virtues In Mammy despite evidence calculated to make them think to the contrary. The door of the "house of mystery" v/as barrel! to the oldesl Bon of the houst i>f Bell. The latchkey was reintrusted to Mammy. In fact sh< had not even during the trial relinquished any of her rights as dictator. Qntil her departure last week it was thought that Mrs. Pleasant would reign as absolute monarch until the end. Those who know her best still think her power is supreme. Even Fred Hell, who has been readmitted to his mother's presence since Mammy's departure, is doubtful as to th" genuineness of the quarrel. Mammj Pleasant's lasi experience, real or studied, is a fitting climax tn a life that would seem Impossible even between the covers i>f a book. She came to California. In '50. There was a price <>n her h^ad in the South and she wanted to i^et as far away fr->m home as possible. Hei connection with the "underground railway" was an established fact and planters whose slaves she had helped cross the border to ih" fret North demanded her life as a recompense. In the early tifties "a ship coming in through the Golden Onto" we* a far rarer and more welcome sight in San Francisco than a gold nugget. So when the vessel on which Mrs. Pleasant was a passenger around Cape Horn put Into th ■ harbor all of tent-co San Francisco was there to welcome it. When the rich merchants, richer miners and Rood livers In town heard that there was a colored girl on the vessel and that she was "one of the greatest cooks that ever came out of the South" there was an excited and tumultuous scramble to engage her services. Tom Bell, Bill Sharon and a lot of other wealthy men held nut well filled wallets as a bonus. But shrewd Mammy Pleasant held back; so many gentlemen wanted her she thought it only fair that they should bid for her services and she would work for the highest bidder. So the bidding began while Mammy stood on the deck with folded arms and placidly looked on while the figures ran up into the hun dreds. Finally the sum reached $500 and everybody seemed to think that was about fair pay for a cook, even if she was the best one that ever came out of the South. But Mammy had her own Ideas of the value of her services, Just as she had on so many occasions afterward. "There's to be no washing." she stipulated. The delighted purchaser of her services nodded. "Not even dish washing," she added. Another nod of acquiescence. But when the lucky bidder offered at once to escort her with becoming pomp to his bachelor's quarters and install her as goddess of the cook stove Mammy suddenly folded her arms and calmly an nounced that she had changed her mind. She declared all bids off and said she'd take time, think the matter over and would let them know what she proposed doing. As she was the only cook that had come to town on that vessel the crestfallen millionaires, nabobs of provision houses and land burdened philosophers were obliged to wend their ways sadly saloon ward or across lots and wait for the autocrat of the cook stove to make up her mind. Mammy took a room in town. Next day the plutocracy of the town were informed by notes that the new cook had determined to open up a boarding-house bo that not any one particular man could monopolize her table dishes, but all good men could enjoy them. Twice in the years that followed Mammy Pleasant moved her house. Some of her clientele had lost their money, others had doubled and trebled their fortunes. They had become prominent in business or in the affairs of state. Whether they had married or remained single they came to Mammy Pleasant for advice. Black or white no other woman in this State has ever had the confidence 1 of so many of its prominent men— and no other woman has ever helped in the exposing and concealing of so many family skeletons. People marveled at her Intelligence and at the total lack of the usual characteristics of her race. Her skin was as black as ebony, but her features were not those of a negress. Many said that she was half Indian and she never disclaimed it. There was none of the cringing, whining slnvo about her. She dictated to every one who came In contact with her. In those days Mammy's chief delight was matchmaking. Thomas Bell was interested in a protege of Mrs. Pleasant'e. That that pro tege was already provided with a husband did not disconcert Mammy. The first Incumbent was given hl3 walking papers and Mr. Bell, with The Last Scene In the House of Mystery. Mammy Pleasant ordered out of the house where she had controlled affairs for over twenty years. During that period so many sensa tional and mysterious events occurred there that the place acquired the title of the "House of Mystery." a marriage license, undertook his duties. Half a dozen ethers were likewise mated or misrnated by Mammy. Then Cupid growing shy Mammy gave up her place and moved her household gods to another quarter. All sorts of idle and ugly rumors floated around. It was said that she dug pitfalls into which unheeding girls could stumble. It was at this time that Mrs. Pleasant met Sarah Althea Hill. After a year <>r two Mrs. Pleasant went to act as housekeeper in the home of Thomas Bell. She took absolute charge of all the domestic arrangements. All money matters between Mr. and Mrs. Bell were arranged by Mommy. Every day, in the long period when events ran smoothly, Bell handed her $100 for the usual household expenses. Outside of this Mammy frequently visited his office to get a check for two or three thousand dollars for special things needed by Mrs* Bell. That is. Mammy always explained them that way, and Millionaire Bell was a generous provider for his family. All ihe household money passed through her hands, even the pocket money for the children. She is supposed to have used a great deal of it on the Sharon case and when still more was needed she succeeded in making Mr. Bell personally advance it In the height of his financial power Bell was reputed to be worth $10,000,000; when he died his estate was appraised at $2,500,000, and now there is a struggle among the heirs and creditors to get the pickings of what is left. Her motives in the Sharon case, like all her other deeds, are open to argument. Her enemies say that she thought Sarah Althea would SAN FRANCISCO, SUNDAY, MAY 7, 1899. Angel »r Arch Fiend IN M llH^ °r WYMRY? get a million, half or all of which she herself would finally obtain. Her friends say it was friendship untainted by mercenary motives that prompted her. Until Mr. Bell's sudden and mysterious death about seven years ago Mammy's position in the Bell household was never questioned. Fred Bell, the eldest son, first took th<- bit between his teeth and chafed under the high hand with which "Mammy" held the household reins. The other children and Mis. Bell sided with Mammy. The Bells became financially embarrassed. Where was the money going? People said that "Mammy" was giving it with lavish hand to her innumerable proteges and retainers. It was even whispered that she could tell something of a hand that had helped Thomas Bell In his fall over the banisters which resulted in his death. When several years later Fred Bell was found in a crippled heap at the foot of the stairs in a house of one of Mrs. Pleasant's re tainers, the accusing finger was again uplifted. Fred Bell himself was too much under the influence of liquor to remember how the accident happened. After the trial last year the court ordered thnt the four younger children be sent to boarding school. Marie, the oldesi daughter, re turned to the "house of mystery" with her mother and Mammy Pleasant. What happened no one knows, but one day RJarie parked her things and went to live with friends. Since that day she has never seen or spoken to her mother. But she remained as completely under Mammy's control as though they were under the same roof. Mammy saw her constantly and is thought to have used her influence with both Mrs. Bell and Marie to widen the breach between them. To-day the inmates of the "house of mystery" are Bcattered to the four corners. Mammy Pleasant is living in one part of the city, In still another lives Marie Bell. In a flat out near Golden Gate Park Fred Bell is keeping house with his young wife. The other children are at school. Only Mrs. Bell, with a blind old man to wait upon her, remains in the "house of mystery." If Mrs. Pleasant has property or money she has safely concealed It under other people's names. Her's is not the greed of accumulation. it ifl the greed for the power of distribution and expenditure. If she has ducats hidden away they are down so deep that not even the lawyers can find them. The general belief Is that she has dissipated into thin air not only all her own money, but almost all the money . entrusted to her by other people. "Mammy Pleasant has the evil eye," said a man who has known her long and well. "Every one who has ever come under it has met with unhappiness and misfortune. For Sarah Althea, the bars of the madhouse, and'for Mrs. Bell, utter and absolute loneliness and the faculties still left to realize it. The other women— and their name ia legion— life lines have been closely entwined with Mammy's have likewise gathered but the fruit of the dead sea. "Mammy is an incomprehensible mixture— a generous giver and taker, not only of her own but of other people's possessions. She has not a spark of affection, nor an atom of conscience. She is the smoothest talker and the shrewdest woman in San Francisco. She is childish in her vanities, diabolical in her schemings. A woman to whom the feeling of power is the breath of life, and one who realizes that it is money that gives power. An intellectual giant, but a moral idiot." "Mammy Pleasant is the dearest old thing," said the girl who Is Marie Bell's intimate friend. "If you knew her and talked to her you'd never believe all the lies people tell. Do you suppose • Marie would listen to Mammy if she wasn't sure that she's the best frien<J the Bells ever had. You can't make me believe a word of the ridicu lous falsehoods they tell about Mammy's taking the Bell money. Why, thp poor woman wears the same dress year in and year out. She's white inside even if her skin is black. Nobody knows what Mammy Pleasant has done for. the Bell family." Which: is only too true. Nobody does know what she haß done for Bells. ; Has she been the fiend the archangel-la Jiouat of mystery?'"^ - :.-•• — — --— > ; -^ - j — >.---»» -v T.