Part 2 - Uncle Tom's Cabin Audiobook by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Chs 8-11)


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Transcript:
CHAPTER VIII Eliza's Escape
Eliza made her desperate retreat across the river just in the dusk of twilight.
The gray mist of evening, rising slowly from the river, enveloped her as she
disappeared up the bank, and the swollen current and floundering masses of ice
presented a hopeless barrier between her and her pursuer.
Haley therefore slowly and discontentedly returned to the little tavern, to ponder
further what was to be done.
The woman opened to him the door of a little parlor, covered with a rag carpet,
where stood a table with a very shining black oil-cloth, sundry lank, high-backed
wood chairs, with some plaster images in
resplendent colors on the mantel-shelf, above a very dimly-smoking grate; a long
hard-wood settle extended its uneasy length by the chimney, and here Haley sat him down
to meditate on the instability of human hopes and happiness in general.
"What did I want with the little cuss, now," he said to himself, "that I should
have got myself treed like a coon, as I am, this yer way?" and Haley relieved himself
by repeating over a not very select litany
of imprecations on himself, which, though there was the best possible reason to
consider them as true, we shall, as a matter of taste, omit.
He was startled by the loud and dissonant voice of a man who was apparently
dismounting at the door. He hurried to the window.
"By the land! if this yer an't the nearest, now, to what I've heard folks call
Providence," said Haley. "I do b'lieve that ar's Tom Loker."
Haley hastened out.
Standing by the bar, in the corner of the room, was a brawny, muscular man, full six
feet in height, and broad in proportion.
He was dressed in a coat of buffalo-skin, made with the hair outward, which gave him
a shaggy and fierce appearance, perfectly in keeping with the whole air of his
physiognomy.
In the head and face every organ and lineament expressive of brutal and
unhesitating violence was in a state of the highest possible development.
Indeed, could our readers fancy a bull-dog come unto man's estate, and walking about
in a hat and coat, they would have no unapt idea of the general style and effect of his
physique.
He was accompanied by a travelling companion, in many respects an exact
contrast to himself.
He was short and slender, lithe and catlike in his motions, and had a peering, mousing
expression about his keen black eyes, with which every feature of his face seemed
sharpened into sympathy; his thin, long
nose, ran out as if it was eager to bore into the nature of things in general; his
sleek, thin, black hair was stuck eagerly forward, and all his motions and evolutions
expressed a dry, cautious acuteness.
The great man poured out a big tumbler half full of raw spirits, and gulped it down
without a word.
The little man stood tiptoe, and putting his head first to one side and then the
other, and snuffing considerately in the directions of the various bottles, ordered
at last a mint julep, in a thin and
quivering voice, and with an air of great circumspection.
When poured out, he took it and looked at it with a sharp, complacent air, like a man
who thinks he has done about the right thing, and hit the nail on the head, and
proceeded to dispose of it in short and well-advised sips.
"Wal, now, who'd a thought this yer luck 'ad come to me?
Why, Loker, how are ye?" said Haley, coming forward, and extending his hand to the big
man. "The devil!" was the civil reply.
"What brought you here, Haley?"
The mousing man, who bore the name of Marks, instantly stopped his sipping, and,
poking his head forward, looked shrewdly on the new acquaintance, as a cat sometimes
looks at a moving dry leaf, or some other possible object of pursuit.
"I say, Tom, this yer's the luckiest thing in the world.
I'm in a devil of a hobble, and you must help me out."
"Ugh? aw! like enough!" grunted his complacent acquaintance.
"A body may be pretty sure of that, when you're glad to see 'em; something to be
made off of 'em. What's the blow now?"
"You've got a friend here?" said Haley, looking doubtfully at Marks; "partner,
perhaps?" "Yes, I have.
Here, Marks! here's that ar feller that I was in with in Natchez."
"Shall be pleased with his acquaintance," said Marks, thrusting out a long, thin
hand, like a raven's claw.
"Mr. Haley, I believe?" "The same, sir," said Haley.
"And now, gentlemen, seein' as we've met so happily, I think I'll stand up to a small
matter of a treat in this here parlor.
So, now, old coon," said he to the man at the bar, "get us hot water, and sugar, and
cigars, and plenty of the real stuff and we'll have a blow-out."
Behold, then, the candles lighted, the fire stimulated to the burning point in the
grate, and our three worthies seated round a table, well spread with all the
accessories to good fellowship enumerated before.
Haley began a pathetic recital of his peculiar troubles.
Loker shut up his mouth, and listened to him with gruff and surly attention.
Marks, who was anxiously and with much fidgeting compounding a tumbler of punch to
his own peculiar taste, occasionally looked up from his employment, and, poking his
sharp nose and chin almost into Haley's
face, gave the most earnest heed to the whole narrative.
The conclusion of it appeared to amuse him extremely, for he shook his shoulders and
sides in silence, and perked up his thin lips with an air of great internal
enjoyment.
"So, then, ye'r fairly sewed up, an't ye?" he said; "he! he! he!
It's neatly done, too."
"This yer young-un business makes lots of trouble in the trade," said Haley,
dolefully.
"If we could get a breed of gals that didn't care, now, for their young uns,"
said Marks; "tell ye, I think 't would be 'bout the greatest mod'rn improvement I
knows on,"--and Marks patronized his joke by a quiet introductory sniggle.
"Jes so," said Haley; "I never couldn't see into it; young uns is heaps of trouble to
'em; one would think, now, they'd be glad to get clar on 'em; but they arn't.
And the more trouble a young un is, and the more good for nothing, as a gen'l thing,
the tighter they sticks to 'em." "Wal, Mr. Haley," said Marks, "'est pass
the hot water.
Yes, sir, you say 'est what I feel and all'us have.
Now, I bought a gal once, when I was in the trade,--a tight, likely wench she was, too,
and quite considerable smart,--and she had a young un that was mis'able sickly; it had
a crooked back, or something or other; and
I jest gin 't away to a man that thought he'd take his chance raising on 't, being
it didn't cost nothin';--never thought, yer know, of the gal's takin' on about it,--
but, Lord, yer oughter seen how she went on.
Why, re'lly, she did seem to me to valley the child more 'cause 't was sickly and
cross, and plagued her; and she warn't making b'lieve, neither,--cried about it,
she did, and lopped round, as if she'd lost every friend she had.
It re'lly was droll to think on 't. Lord, there ain't no end to women's
notions."
"Wal, jest so with me," said Haley.
"Last summer, down on Red River, I got a gal traded off on me, with a likely lookin'
child enough, and his eyes looked as bright as yourn; but, come to look, I found him
stone blind.
Fact--he was stone blind.
Wal, ye see, I thought there warn't no harm in my jest passing him along, and not
sayin' nothin'; and I'd got him nicely swapped off for a keg o' whiskey; but come
to get him away from the gal, she was jest like a tiger.
So 't was before we started, and I hadn't got my gang chained up; so what should she
do but ups on a cotton-bale, like a cat, ketches a knife from one of the deck hands,
and, I tell ye, she made all fly for a
minit, till she saw 't wan't no use; and she jest turns round, and pitches head
first, young un and all, into the river,-- went down plump, and never ris."
"Bah!" said Tom Loker, who had listened to these stories with ill-repressed disgust,--
"shif'less, both on ye! my gals don't cut up no such shines, I tell ye!"
"Indeed! how do you help it?" said Marks, briskly.
"Help it? why, I buys a gal, and if she's got a young un to be sold, I jest walks up
and puts my fist to her face, and says, 'Look here, now, if you give me one word
out of your head, I'll smash yer face in.
I won't hear one word--not the beginning of a word.'
I says to 'em, 'This yer young un's mine, and not yourn, and you've no kind o'
business with it.
I'm going to sell it, first chance; mind, you don't cut up none o' yer shines about
it, or I'll make ye wish ye'd never been born.'
I tell ye, they sees it an't no play, when I gets hold.
I makes 'em as whist as fishes; and if one on 'em begins and gives a yelp, why,--" and
Mr. Loker brought down his fist with a thump that fully explained the hiatus.
"That ar's what ye may call emphasis," said Marks, poking Haley in the side, and going
into another small giggle. "An't Tom peculiar? he! he!
I say, Tom, I s'pect you make 'em understand, for all niggers' heads is
woolly. They don't never have no doubt o' your
meaning, Tom.
If you an't the devil, Tom, you 's his twin brother, I'll say that for ye!"
Tom received the compliment with becoming modesty, and began to look as affable as
was consistent, as John Bunyan says, "with his doggish nature."
Haley, who had been imbibing very freely of the staple of the evening, began to feel a
sensible elevation and enlargement of his moral faculties,--a phenomenon not unusual
with gentlemen of a serious and reflective turn, under similar circumstances.
"Wal, now, Tom," he said, "ye re'lly is too bad, as I al'ays have told ye; ye know,
Tom, you and I used to talk over these yer matters down in Natchez, and I used to
prove to ye that we made full as much, and
was as well off for this yer world, by treatin' on 'em well, besides keepin' a
better chance for comin' in the kingdom at last, when wust comes to wust, and thar
an't nothing else left to get, ye know."
"Boh!" said Tom, "don't I know?--don't make me too sick with any yer stuff,--my stomach
is a leetle riled now;" and Tom drank half a glass of raw brandy.
"I say," said Haley, and leaning back in his chair and gesturing impressively, "I'll
say this now, I al'ays meant to drive my trade so as to make money on 't fust and
foremost, as much as any man; but, then,
trade an't everything, and money an't everything, 'cause we 's all got souls.
I don't care, now, who hears me say it,-- and I think a cussed sight on it,--so I may
as well come out with it.
I b'lieve in religion, and one of these days, when I've got matters tight and snug,
I calculates to tend to my soul and them ar matters; and so what's the use of doin' any
more wickedness than 's re'lly necessary?-- it don't seem to me it's 't all prudent."
"Tend to yer soul!" repeated Tom, contemptuously; "take a bright lookout to
find a soul in you,--save yourself any care on that score.
If the devil sifts you through a hair sieve, he won't find one."
"Why, Tom, you're cross," said Haley; "why can't ye take it pleasant, now, when a
feller's talking for your good?"
"Stop that ar jaw o' yourn, there," said Tom, gruffly.
"I can stand most any talk o' yourn but your pious talk,--that kills me right up.
After all, what's the odds between me and you?
'Tan't that you care one bit more, or have a bit more feelin'--it's clean, sheer, dog
meanness, wanting to cheat the devil and save your own skin; don't I see through it?
And your 'gettin' religion,' as you call it, arter all, is too p'isin mean for any
crittur;--run up a bill with the devil all your life, and then sneak out when pay time
comes!
Bob!" "Come, come, gentlemen, I say; this isn't
business," said Marks. "There's different ways, you know, of
looking at all subjects.
Mr. Haley is a very nice man, no doubt, and has his own conscience; and, Tom, you have
your ways, and very good ones, too, Tom; but quarrelling, you know, won't answer no
kind of purpose.
Let's go to business. Now, Mr. Haley, what is it?--you want us to
undertake to catch this yer gal?" "The gal's no matter of mine,--she's
Shelby's; it's only the boy.
I was a fool for buying the monkey!" "You're generally a fool!" said Tom,
gruffly.
"Come, now, Loker, none of your huffs," said Marks, licking his lips; "you see, Mr.
Haley 's a puttin' us in a way of a good job, I reckon; just hold still--these yer
arrangements is my forte.
This yer gal, Mr. Haley, how is she? what is she?"
"Wal! white and handsome--well brought up. I'd a gin Shelby eight hundred or a
thousand, and then made well on her."
"White and handsome--well brought up!" said Marks, his sharp eyes, nose and mouth, all
alive with enterprise. "Look here, now, Loker, a beautiful
opening.
We'll do a business here on our own account;--we does the catchin'; the boy, of
course, goes to Mr. Haley,--we takes the gal to Orleans to speculate on.
An't it beautiful?"
Tom, whose great heavy mouth had stood ajar during this communication, now suddenly
snapped it together, as a big dog closes on a piece of meat, and seemed to be digesting
the idea at his leisure.
"Ye see," said Marks to Haley, stirring his punch as he did so, "ye see, we has
justices convenient at all p'ints along shore, that does up any little jobs in our
line quite reasonable.
Tom, he does the knockin' down and that ar; and I come in all dressed up--shining
boots--everything first chop, when the swearin' 's to be done.
You oughter see, now," said Marks, in a glow of professional pride, "how I can tone
it off.
One day, I'm Mr. Twickem, from New Orleans; 'nother day, I'm just come from my
plantation on Pearl River, where I works seven hundred niggers; then, again, I come
out a distant relation of Henry Clay, or some old cock in Kentuck.
Talents is different, you know.
Now, Tom's roarer when there's any thumping or fighting to be done; but at lying he
an't good, Tom an't,--ye see it don't come natural to him; but, Lord, if thar's a
feller in the country that can swear to
anything and everything, and put in all the circumstances and flourishes with a long
face, and carry 't through better 'n I can, why, I'd like to see him, that's all!
I b'lieve my heart, I could get along and snake through, even if justices were more
particular than they is.
Sometimes I rather wish they was more particular; 't would be a heap more
relishin' if they was,--more fun, yer know."
Tom Loker, who, as we have made it appear, was a man of slow thoughts and movements,
here interrupted Marks by bringing his heavy fist down on the table, so as to make
all ring again, "It'll do!" he said.
"Lord bless ye, Tom, ye needn't break all the glasses!" said Marks; "save your fist
for time o' need." "But, gentlemen, an't I to come in for a
share of the profits?" said Haley.
"An't it enough we catch the boy for ye?" said Loker.
"What do ye want?"
"Wal," said Haley, "if I gives you the job, it's worth something,--say ten per cent. on
the profits, expenses paid."
"Now," said Loker, with a tremendous oath, and striking the table with his heavy fist,
"don't I know you, Dan Haley? Don't you think to come it over me!
Suppose Marks and I have taken up the catchin' trade, jest to 'commodate
gentlemen like you, and get nothin' for ourselves?--Not by a long chalk! we'll have
the gal out and out, and you keep quiet,
or, ye see, we'll have both,--what's to hinder?
Han't you show'd us the game? It's as free to us as you, I hope.
If you or Shelby wants to chase us, look where the partridges was last year; if you
find them or us, you're quite welcome."
"O, wal, certainly, jest let it go at that," said Haley, alarmed; "you catch the
boy for the job;--you allers did trade far with me, Tom, and was up to yer word."
"Ye know that," said Tom; "I don't pretend none of your snivelling ways, but I won't
lie in my 'counts with the devil himself. What I ses I'll do, I will do,--you know
that, Dan Haley."
"Jes so, jes so,--I said so, Tom," said Haley; "and if you'd only promise to have
the boy for me in a week, at any point you'll name, that's all I want."
"But it an't all I want, by a long jump," said Tom.
"Ye don't think I did business with you, down in Natchez, for nothing, Haley; I've
learned to hold an eel, when I catch him.
You've got to fork over fifty dollars, flat down, or this child don't start a peg.
I know yer."
"Why, when you have a job in hand that may bring a clean profit of somewhere about a
thousand or sixteen hundred, why, Tom, you're onreasonable," said Haley.
"Yes, and hasn't we business booked for five weeks to come,--all we can do?
And suppose we leaves all, and goes to bush-whacking round arter yer young uns,
and finally doesn't catch the gal,--and gals allers is the devil to catch,--what's
then? would you pay us a cent--would you?
I think I see you a doin' it--ugh! No, no; flap down your fifty.
If we get the job, and it pays, I'll hand it back; if we don't, it's for our
trouble,--that's far, an't it, Marks?"
"Certainly, certainly," said Marks, with a conciliatory tone; "it's only a retaining
fee, you see,--he! he! he!--we lawyers, you know.
Wal, we must all keep good-natured,--keep easy, yer know.
Tom'll have the boy for yer, anywhere ye'll name; won't ye, Tom?"
"If I find the young un, I'll bring him on to Cincinnati, and leave him at Granny
Belcher's, on the landing," said Loker.
Marks had got from his pocket a greasy pocket-book, and taking a long paper from
thence, he sat down, and fixing his keen black eyes on it, began mumbling over its
contents: "Barnes--Shelby County--boy Jim,
three hundred dollars for him, dead or alive.
"Edwards--Dick and Lucy--man and wife, six hundred dollars; wench Polly and two
children--six hundred for her or her head.
"I'm jest a runnin' over our business, to see if we can take up this yer handily.
Loker," he said, after a pause, "we must set Adams and Springer on the track of
these yer; they've been booked some time."
"They'll charge too much," said Tom. "I'll manage that ar; they 's young in the
business, and must spect to work cheap," said Marks, as he continued to read.
"Ther's three on 'em easy cases, 'cause all you've got to do is to shoot 'em, or swear
they is shot; they couldn't, of course, charge much for that.
Them other cases," he said, folding the paper, "will bear puttin' off a spell.
So now let's come to the particulars. Now, Mr. Haley, you saw this yer gal when
she landed?"
"To be sure,--plain as I see you." "And a man helpin' on her up the bank?"
said Loker. "To be sure, I did."
"Most likely," said Marks, "she's took in somewhere; but where, 's a question.
Tom, what do you say?" "We must cross the river tonight, no
mistake," said Tom.
"But there's no boat about," said Marks. "The ice is running awfully, Tom; an't it
dangerous?" "Don'no nothing 'bout that,--only it's got
to be done," said Tom, decidedly.
"Dear me," said Marks, fidgeting, "it'll be--I say," he said, walking to the window,
"it's dark as a wolf's mouth, and, Tom--"
"The long and short is, you're scared, Marks; but I can't help that,--you've got
to go.
Suppose you want to lie by a day or two, till the gal 's been carried on the
underground line up to Sandusky or so, before you start."
"O, no; I an't a grain afraid," said Marks, "only--"
"Only what?" said Tom. "Well, about the boat.
Yer see there an't any boat."
"I heard the woman say there was one coming along this evening, and that a man was
going to cross over in it. Neck or nothing, we must go with him," said
Tom.
"I s'pose you've got good dogs," said Haley.
"First rate," said Marks. "But what's the use? you han't got nothin'
o' hers to smell on."
"Yes, I have," said Haley, triumphantly. "Here's her shawl she left on the bed in
her hurry; she left her bonnet, too." "That ar's lucky," said Loker; "fork over."
"Though the dogs might damage the gal, if they come on her unawars," said Haley.
"That ar's a consideration," said Marks.
"Our dogs tore a feller half to pieces, once, down in Mobile, 'fore we could get
'em off."
"Well, ye see, for this sort that's to be sold for their looks, that ar won't answer,
ye see," said Haley. "I do see," said Marks.
"Besides, if she's got took in, 'tan't no go, neither.
Dogs is no 'count in these yer up states where these critters gets carried; of
course, ye can't get on their track.
They only does down in plantations, where niggers, when they runs, has to do their
own running, and don't get no help."
"Well," said Loker, who had just stepped out to the bar to make some inquiries,
"they say the man's come with the boat; so, Marks--"
That worthy cast a rueful look at the comfortable quarters he was leaving, but
slowly rose to obey.
After exchanging a few words of further arrangement, Haley, with visible
reluctance, handed over the fifty dollars to Tom, and the worthy trio separated for
the night.
If any of our refined and Christian readers object to the society into which this scene
introduces them, let us beg them to begin and conquer their prejudices in time.
The catching business, we beg to remind them, is rising to the dignity of a lawful
and patriotic profession.
If all the broad land between the Mississippi and the Pacific becomes one
great market for bodies and souls, and human property retains the locomotive
tendencies of this nineteenth century, the
trader and catcher may yet be among our aristocracy.
While this scene was going on at the tavern, Sam and Andy, in a state of high
felicitation, pursued their way home.
Sam was in the highest possible feather, and expressed his exultation by all sorts
of supernatural howls and ejaculations, by divers odd motions and contortions of his
whole system.
Sometimes he would sit backward, with his face to the horse's tail and sides, and
then, with a whoop and a somerset, come right side up in his place again, and,
drawing on a grave face, begin to lecture
Andy in high-sounding tones for laughing and playing the fool.
Anon, slapping his sides with his arms, he would burst forth in peals of laughter,
that made the old woods ring as they passed.
With all these evolutions, he contrived to keep the horses up to the top of their
speed, until, between ten and eleven, their heels resounded on the gravel at the end of
the balcony.
Mrs. Shelby flew to the railings. "Is that you, Sam?
Where are they?" "Mas'r Haley 's a-restin' at the tavern;
he's drefful fatigued, Missis."
"And Eliza, Sam?" "Wal, she's clar 'cross Jordan.
As a body may say, in the land o' Canaan."
"Why, Sam, what do you mean?" said Mrs. Shelby, breathless, and almost faint, as
the possible meaning of these words came over her.
"Wal, Missis, de Lord he persarves his own.
Lizy's done gone over the river into 'Hio, as 'markably as if de Lord took her over in
a charrit of fire and two hosses."
Sam's vein of piety was always uncommonly fervent in his mistress' presence; and he
made great capital of scriptural figures and images.
"Come up here, Sam," said Mr. Shelby, who had followed on to the verandah, "and tell
your mistress what she wants.
Come, come, Emily," said he, passing his arm round her, "you are cold and all in a
shiver; you allow yourself to feel too much."
"Feel too much!
Am not I a woman,--a mother? Are we not both responsible to God for this
poor girl? My God! lay not this sin to our charge."
"What sin, Emily?
You see yourself that we have only done what we were obliged to."
"There's an awful feeling of guilt about it, though," said Mrs. Shelby.
"I can't reason it away."
"Here, Andy, you nigger, be alive!" called Sam, under the verandah; "take these yer
hosses to der barn; don't ye hear Mas'r a callin'?" and Sam soon appeared, palm-leaf
in hand, at the parlor door.
"Now, Sam, tell us distinctly how the matter was," said Mr. Shelby.
"Where is Eliza, if you know?" "Wal, Mas'r, I saw her, with my own eyes,
a crossin' on the floatin' ice.
She crossed most 'markably; it wasn't no less nor a miracle; and I saw a man help
her up the 'Hio side, and then she was lost in the dusk."
"Sam, I think this rather apocryphal,--this miracle.
Crossing on floating ice isn't so easily done," said Mr. Shelby.
"Easy! couldn't nobody a done it, without de Lord.
Why, now," said Sam, "'t was jist dis yer way.
Mas'r Haley, and me, and Andy, we comes up to de little tavern by the river, and I
rides a leetle ahead,--(I's so zealous to be a cotchin' Lizy, that I couldn't hold
in, no way),--and when I comes by the
tavern winder, sure enough there she was, right in plain sight, and dey diggin' on
behind. Wal, I loses off my hat, and sings out nuff
to raise the dead.
Course Lizy she hars, and she dodges back, when Mas'r Haley he goes past the door; and
then, I tell ye, she clared out de side door; she went down de river bank;--Mas'r
Haley he seed her, and yelled out, and him, and me, and Andy, we took arter.
Down she come to the river, and thar was the current running ten feet wide by the
shore, and over t' other side ice a sawin' and a jiggling up and down, kinder as 't
were a great island.
We come right behind her, and I thought my soul he'd got her sure enough,--when she
gin sich a screech as I never hearn, and thar she was, clar over t' other side of
the current, on the ice, and then on she
went, a screeching and a jumpin',--the ice went crack! c'wallop! cracking! chunk! and
she a boundin' like a buck! Lord, the spring that ar gal's got in her
an't common, I'm o' 'pinion."
Mrs. Shelby sat perfectly silent, pale with excitement, while Sam told his story.
"God be praised, she isn't dead!" she said; "but where is the poor child now?"
"De Lord will pervide," said Sam, rolling up his eyes piously.
"As I've been a sayin', dis yer 's a providence and no mistake, as Missis has
allers been a instructin' on us.
Thar's allers instruments ris up to do de Lord's will.
Now, if 't hadn't been for me today, she'd a been took a dozen times.
Warn't it I started off de hosses, dis yer mornin' and kept 'em chasin' till nigh
dinner time?
And didn't I car Mas'r Haley night five miles out of de road, dis evening, or else
he'd a come up with Lizy as easy as a dog arter a coon.
These yer 's all providences."
"They are a kind of providences that you'll have to be pretty sparing of, Master Sam.
I allow no such practices with gentlemen on my place," said Mr. Shelby, with as much
sternness as he could command, under the circumstances.
Now, there is no more use in making believe be angry with a negro than with a child;
both instinctively see the true state of the case, through all attempts to affect
the contrary; and Sam was in no wise
disheartened by this rebuke, though he assumed an air of doleful gravity, and
stood with the corners of his mouth lowered in most penitential style.
"Mas'r quite right,--quite; it was ugly on me,--there's no disputin' that ar; and of
course Mas'r and Missis wouldn't encourage no such works.
I'm sensible of dat ar; but a poor nigger like me 's 'mazin' tempted to act ugly
sometimes, when fellers will cut up such shines as dat ar Mas'r Haley; he an't no
gen'l'man no way; anybody's been raised as I've been can't help a seein' dat ar."
"Well, Sam," said Mrs. Shelby, "as you appear to have a proper sense of your
errors, you may go now and tell Aunt Chloe she may get you some of that cold ham that
was left of dinner today.
You and Andy must be hungry." "Missis is a heap too good for us," said
Sam, making his bow with alacrity, and departing.
It will be perceived, as has been before intimated, that Master Sam had a native
talent that might, undoubtedly, have raised him to eminence in political life,--a
talent of making capital out of everything
that turned up, to be invested for his own especial praise and glory; and having done
up his piety and humility, as he trusted, to the satisfaction of the parlor, he
clapped his palm-leaf on his head, with a
sort of rakish, free-and-easy air, and proceeded to the dominions of Aunt Chloe,
with the intention of flourishing largely in the kitchen.
"I'll speechify these yer niggers," said Sam to himself, "now I've got a chance.
Lord, I'll reel it off to make 'em stare!"
It must be observed that one of Sam's especial delights had been to ride in
attendance on his master to all kinds of political gatherings, where, roosted on
some rail fence, or perched aloft in some
tree, he would sit watching the orators, with the greatest apparent gusto, and then,
descending among the various brethren of his own color, assembled on the same
errand, he would edify and delight them
with the most ludicrous burlesques and imitations, all delivered with the most
imperturbable earnestness and solemnity; and though the auditors immediately about
him were generally of his own color, it not
infrequently happened that they were fringed pretty deeply with those of a
fairer complexion, who listened, laughing and winking, to Sam's great self-
congratulation.
In fact, Sam considered oratory as his vocation, and never let slip an opportunity
of magnifying his office.
Now, between Sam and Aunt Chloe there had existed, from ancient times, a sort of
chronic feud, or rather a decided coolness; but, as Sam was meditating something in the
provision department, as the necessary and
obvious foundation of his operations, he determined, on the present occasion, to be
eminently conciliatory; for he well knew that although "Missis' orders" would
undoubtedly be followed to the letter, yet
he should gain a considerable deal by enlisting the spirit also.
He therefore appeared before Aunt Chloe with a touchingly subdued, resigned
expression, like one who has suffered immeasurable hardships in behalf of a
persecuted fellow-creature,--enlarged upon
the fact that Missis had directed him to come to Aunt Chloe for whatever might be
wanting to make up the balance in his solids and fluids,--and thus unequivocally
acknowledged her right and supremacy in the
cooking department, and all thereto pertaining.
The thing took accordingly.
No poor, simple, virtuous body was ever cajoled by the attentions of an
electioneering politician with more ease than Aunt Chloe was won over by Master
Sam's suavities; and if he had been the
prodigal son himself, he could not have been overwhelmed with more maternal
bountifulness; and he soon found himself seated, happy and glorious, over a large
tin pan, containing a sort of olla podrida
of all that had appeared on the table for two or three days past.
Savory morsels of ham, golden blocks of corn-cake, fragments of pie of every
conceivable mathematical figure, chicken wings, gizzards, and drumsticks, all
appeared in picturesque confusion; and Sam,
as monarch of all he surveyed, sat with his palm-leaf cocked rejoicingly to one side,
and patronizing Andy at his right hand.
The kitchen was full of all his compeers, who had hurried and crowded in, from the
various cabins, to hear the termination of the day's exploits.
Now was Sam's hour of glory.
The story of the day was rehearsed, with all kinds of ornament and varnishing which
might be necessary to heighten its effect; for Sam, like some of our fashionable
dilettanti, never allowed a story to lose
any of its gilding by passing through his hands.
Roars of laughter attended the narration, and were taken up and prolonged by all the
smaller fry, who were lying, in any quantity, about on the floor, or perched in
every corner.
In the height of the uproar and laughter, Sam, however, preserved an immovable
gravity, only from time to time rolling his eyes up, and giving his auditors divers
inexpressibly droll glances, without
departing from the sententious elevation of his oratory.
"Yer see, fellow-countrymen," said Sam, elevating a turkey's leg, with energy, "yer
see, now what dis yer chile 's up ter, for fendin' yer all,--yes, all on yer.
For him as tries to get one o' our people is as good as tryin' to get all; yer see
the principle 's de same,--dat ar's clar.
And any one o' these yer drivers that comes smelling round arter any our people, why,
he's got me in his way; I'm the feller he's got to set in with,--I'm the feller for yer
all to come to, bredren,--I'll stand up for
yer rights,--I'll fend 'em to the last breath!"
"Why, but Sam, yer telled me, only this mornin', that you'd help this yer Mas'r to
cotch Lizy; seems to me yer talk don't hang together," said Andy.
"I tell you now, Andy," said Sam, with awful superiority, "don't yer be a talkin'
'bout what yer don't know nothin' on; boys like you, Andy, means well, but they can't
be spected to collusitate the great principles of action."
Andy looked rebuked, particularly by the hard word collusitate, which most of the
youngerly members of the company seemed to consider as a settler in the case, while
Sam proceeded.
"Dat ar was conscience, Andy; when I thought of gwine arter Lizy, I railly
spected Mas'r was sot dat way.
When I found Missis was sot the contrar, dat ar was conscience more yet,--cause
fellers allers gets more by stickin' to Missis' side,--so yer see I 's persistent
either way, and sticks up to conscience, and holds on to principles.
Yes, principles," said Sam, giving an enthusiastic toss to a chicken's neck,--
"what's principles good for, if we isn't persistent, I wanter know?
Thar, Andy, you may have dat ar bone,-- tan't picked quite clean."
Sam's audience hanging on his words with open mouth, he could not but proceed.
"Dis yer matter 'bout persistence, feller- niggers," said Sam, with the air of one
entering into an abstruse subject, "dis yer 'sistency 's a thing what an't seed into
very clar, by most anybody.
Now, yer see, when a feller stands up for a thing one day and night, de contrar de
next, folks ses (and nat'rally enough dey ses), why he an't persistent,--hand me dat
ar bit o' corn-cake, Andy.
But let's look inter it. I hope the gen'lmen and der fair sex will
scuse my usin' an or'nary sort o' 'parison. Here!
I'm a trying to get top o' der hay.
Wal, I puts up my larder dis yer side; 'tan't no go;--den, cause I don't try dere
no more, but puts my larder right de contrar side, an't I persistent?
I'm persistent in wantin' to get up which ary side my larder is; don't you see, all
on yer?"
"It's the only thing ye ever was persistent in, Lord knows!" muttered Aunt Chloe, who
was getting rather restive; the merriment of the evening being to her somewhat after
the Scripture comparison,--like "vinegar upon nitre."
"Yes, indeed!" said Sam, rising, full of supper and glory, for a closing effort.
"Yes, my feller-citizens and ladies of de other sex in general, I has principles,--
I'm proud to 'oon 'em,--they 's perquisite to dese yer times, and ter all times.
I has principles, and I sticks to 'em like forty,--jest anything that I thinks is
principle, I goes in to 't;--I wouldn't mind if dey burnt me 'live,--I'd walk right
up to de stake, I would, and say, here I
comes to shed my last blood fur my principles, fur my country, fur de gen'l
interests of society."
"Well," said Aunt Chloe, "one o' yer principles will have to be to get to bed
some time tonight, and not be a keepin' everybody up till mornin'; now, every one
of you young uns that don't want to be
cracked, had better be scase, mighty sudden."
"Niggers! all on yer," said Sam, waving his palm-leaf with benignity, "I give yer my
blessin'; go to bed now, and be good boys."
And, with this pathetic benediction, the assembly dispersed.
>
CHAPTER IX In Which It Appears That a Senator
Is But a Man
The light of the cheerful fire shone on the rug and carpet of a cosey parlor, and
glittered on the sides of the tea-cups and well-brightened tea-pot, as Senator Bird
was drawing off his boots, preparatory to
inserting his feet in a pair of new handsome slippers, which his wife had been
working for him while away on his senatorial tour.
Mrs. Bird, looking the very picture of delight, was superintending the
arrangements of the table, ever and anon mingling admonitory remarks to a number of
frolicsome juveniles, who were effervescing
in all those modes of untold gambol and mischief that have astonished mothers ever
since the flood. "Tom, let the door-knob alone,--there's a
man!
Mary! Mary! don't pull the cat's tail,--poor
pussy!
Jim, you mustn't climb on that table,--no, no!--You don't know, my dear, what a
surprise it is to us all, to see you here tonight!" said she, at last, when she found
a space to say something to her husband.
"Yes, yes, I thought I'd just make a run down, spend the night, and have a little
comfort at home. I'm tired to death, and my head aches!"
Mrs. Bird cast a glance at a camphor- bottle, which stood in the half-open
closet, and appeared to meditate an approach to it, but her husband interposed.
"No, no, Mary, no doctoring! a cup of your good hot tea, and some of our good home
living, is what I want. It's a tiresome business, this
legislating!"
And the senator smiled, as if he rather liked the idea of considering himself a
sacrifice to his country.
"Well," said his wife, after the business of the tea-table was getting rather slack,
"and what have they been doing in the Senate?"
Now, it was a very unusual thing for gentle little Mrs. Bird ever to trouble her head
with what was going on in the house of the state, very wisely considering that she had
enough to do to mind her own.
Mr. Bird, therefore, opened his eyes in surprise, and said,
"Not very much of importance."
"Well; but is it true that they have been passing a law forbidding people to give
meat and drink to those poor colored folks that come along?
I heard they were talking of some such law, but I didn't think any Christian
legislature would pass it!" "Why, Mary, you are getting to be a
politician, all at once."
"No, nonsense! I wouldn't give a fig for all your
politics, generally, but I think this is something downright cruel and unchristian.
I hope, my dear, no such law has been passed."
"There has been a law passed forbidding people to help off the slaves that come
over from Kentucky, my dear; so much of that thing has been done by these reckless
Abolitionists, that our brethren in
Kentucky are very strongly excited, and it seems necessary, and no more than Christian
and kind, that something should be done by our state to quiet the excitement."
"And what is the law?
It don't forbid us to shelter those poor creatures a night, does it, and to give 'em
something comfortable to eat, and a few old clothes, and send them quietly about their
business?"
"Why, yes, my dear; that would be aiding and abetting, you know."
Mrs. Bird was a timid, blushing little woman, of about four feet in height, and
with mild blue eyes, and a peach-blow complexion, and the gentlest, sweetest
voice in the world;--as for courage, a
moderate-sized cock-turkey had been known to put her to rout at the very first
gobble, and a stout house-dog, of moderate capacity, would bring her into subjection
merely by a show of his teeth.
Her husband and children were her entire world, and in these she ruled more by
entreaty and persuasion than by command or argument.
There was only one thing that was capable of arousing her, and that provocation came
in on the side of her unusually gentle and sympathetic nature;--anything in the shape
of cruelty would throw her into a passion,
which was the more alarming and inexplicable in proportion to the general
softness of her nature.
Generally the most indulgent and easy to be entreated of all mothers, still her boys
had a very reverent remembrance of a most vehement chastisement she once bestowed on
them, because she found them leagued with
several graceless boys of the neighborhood, stoning a defenceless kitten.
"I'll tell you what," Master Bill used to say, "I was scared that time.
Mother came at me so that I thought she was crazy, and I was whipped and tumbled off to
bed, without any supper, before I could get over wondering what had come about; and,
after that, I heard mother crying outside
the door, which made me feel worse than all the rest.
I'll tell you what," he'd say, "we boys never stoned another kitten!"
On the present occasion, Mrs. Bird rose quickly, with very red cheeks, which quite
improved her general appearance, and walked up to her husband, with quite a resolute
air, and said, in a determined tone,
"Now, John, I want to know if you think such a law as that is right and Christian?"
"You won't shoot me, now, Mary, if I say I do!"
"I never could have thought it of you, John; you didn't vote for it?"
"Even so, my fair politician." "You ought to be ashamed, John!
Poor, homeless, houseless creatures!
It's a shameful, wicked, abominable law, and I'll break it, for one, the first time
I get a chance; and I hope I shall have a chance, I do!
Things have got to a pretty pass, if a woman can't give a warm supper and a bed to
poor, starving creatures, just because they are slaves, and have been abused and
oppressed all their lives, poor things!"
"But, Mary, just listen to me.
Your feelings are all quite right, dear, and interesting, and I love you for them;
but, then, dear, we mustn't suffer our feelings to run away with our judgment; you
must consider it's a matter of private
feeling,--there are great public interests involved,--there is such a state of public
agitation rising, that we must put aside our private feelings."
"Now, John, I don't know anything about politics, but I can read my Bible; and
there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate;
and that Bible I mean to follow."
"But in cases where your doing so would involve a great public evil--"
"Obeying God never brings on public evils. I know it can't.
It's always safest, all round, to do as He bids us.
"Now, listen to me, Mary, and I can state to you a very clear argument, to show--"
"O, nonsense, John! you can talk all night, but you wouldn't do it.
I put it to you, John,--would you now turn away a poor, shivering, hungry creature
from your door, because he was a runaway?
Would you, now?"
Now, if the truth must be told, our senator had the misfortune to be a man who had a
particularly humane and accessible nature, and turning away anybody that was in
trouble never had been his forte; and what
was worse for him in this particular pinch of the argument was, that his wife knew it,
and, of course was making an assault on rather an indefensible point.
So he had recourse to the usual means of gaining time for such cases made and
provided; he said "ahem," and coughed several times, took out his pocket-
handkerchief, and began to wipe his glasses.
Mrs. Bird, seeing the defenceless condition of the enemy's territory, had no more
conscience than to push her advantage.
"I should like to see you doing that, John- -I really should!
Turning a woman out of doors in a snowstorm, for instance; or may be you'd
take her up and put her in jail, wouldn't you?
You would make a great hand at that!"
"Of course, it would be a very painful duty," began Mr. Bird, in a moderate tone.
"Duty, John! don't use that word! You know it isn't a duty--it can't be a
duty!
If folks want to keep their slaves from running away, let 'em treat 'em well,--
that's my doctrine.
If I had slaves (as I hope I never shall have), I'd risk their wanting to run away
from me, or you either, John.
I tell you folks don't run away when they are happy; and when they do run, poor
creatures! they suffer enough with cold and hunger and fear, without everybody's
turning against them; and, law or no law, I never will, so help me God!"
"Mary! Mary!
My dear, let me reason with you."
"I hate reasoning, John,--especially reasoning on such subjects.
There's a way you political folks have of coming round and round a plain right thing;
and you don't believe in it yourselves, when it comes to practice.
I know you well enough, John.
You don't believe it's right any more than I do; and you wouldn't do it any sooner
than I."
At this critical juncture, old Cudjoe, the black man-of-all-work, put his head in at
the door, and wished "Missis would come into the kitchen;" and our senator,
tolerably relieved, looked after his little
wife with a whimsical mixture of amusement and vexation, and, seating himself in the
arm-chair, began to read the papers.
After a moment, his wife's voice was heard at the door, in a quick, earnest tone,--
"John! John!
I do wish you'd come here, a moment."
He laid down his paper, and went into the kitchen, and started, quite amazed at the
sight that presented itself:--A young and slender woman, with garments torn and
frozen, with one shoe gone, and the
stocking torn away from the cut and bleeding foot, was laid back in a deadly
swoon upon two chairs.
There was the impress of the despised race on her face, yet none could help feeling
its mournful and pathetic beauty, while its stony sharpness, its cold, fixed, deathly
aspect, struck a solemn chill over him.
He drew his breath short, and stood in silence.
His wife, and their only colored domestic, old Aunt Dinah, were busily engaged in
restorative measures; while old Cudjoe had got the boy on his knee, and was busy
pulling off his shoes and stockings, and chafing his little cold feet.
"Sure, now, if she an't a sight to behold!" said old Dinah, compassionately; "'pears
like 't was the heat that made her faint.
She was tol'able peart when she cum in, and asked if she couldn't warm herself here a
spell; and I was just a-askin' her where she cum from, and she fainted right down.
Never done much hard work, guess, by the looks of her hands."
"Poor creature!" said Mrs. Bird, compassionately, as the woman slowly
unclosed her large, dark eyes, and looked vacantly at her.
Suddenly an expression of agony crossed her face, and she sprang up, saying, "O, my
Harry! Have they got him?"
The boy, at this, jumped from Cudjoe's knee, and running to her side put up his
arms. "O, he's here! he's here!" she exclaimed.
"O, ma'am!" said she, wildly, to Mrs. Bird, "do protect us! don't let them get him!"
"Nobody shall hurt you here, poor woman," said Mrs. Bird, encouragingly.
"You are safe; don't be afraid."
"God bless you!" said the woman, covering her face and sobbing; while the little boy,
seeing her crying, tried to get into her lap.
With many gentle and womanly offices, which none knew better how to render than Mrs.
Bird, the poor woman was, in time, rendered more calm.
A temporary bed was provided for her on the settle, near the fire; and, after a short
time, she fell into a heavy slumber, with the child, who seemed no less weary,
soundly sleeping on her arm; for the mother
resisted, with nervous anxiety, the kindest attempts to take him from her; and, even in
sleep, her arm encircled him with an unrelaxing clasp, as if she could not even
then be beguiled of her vigilant hold.
Mr. and Mrs. Bird had gone back to the parlor, where, strange as it may appear, no
reference was made, on either side, to the preceding conversation; but Mrs. Bird
busied herself with her knitting-work, and Mr. Bird pretended to be reading the paper.
"I wonder who and what she is!" said Mr. Bird, at last, as he laid it down.
"When she wakes up and feels a little rested, we will see," said Mrs. Bird.
"I say, wife!" said Mr. Bird after musing in silence over his newspaper.
"Well, dear!"
"She couldn't wear one of your gowns, could she, by any letting down, or such matter?
She seems to be rather larger than you are."
A quite perceptible smile glimmered on Mrs. Bird's face, as she answered, "We'll see."
Another pause, and Mr. Bird again broke out,
"I say, wife!"
"Well! What now?"
"Why, there's that old bombazin cloak, that you keep on purpose to put over me when I
take my afternoon's nap; you might as well give her that,--she needs clothes."
At this instant, Dinah looked in to say that the woman was awake, and wanted to see
Missis.
Mr. and Mrs. Bird went into the kitchen, followed by the two eldest boys, the
smaller fry having, by this time, been safely disposed of in bed.
The woman was now sitting up on the settle, by the fire.
She was looking steadily into the blaze, with a calm, heart-broken expression, very
different from her former agitated wildness.
"Did you want me?" said Mrs. Bird, in gentle tones.
"I hope you feel better now, poor woman!"
A long-drawn, shivering sigh was the only answer; but she lifted her dark eyes, and
fixed them on her with such a forlorn and imploring expression, that the tears came
into the little woman's eyes.
"You needn't be afraid of anything; we are friends here, poor woman!
Tell me where you came from, and what you want," said she.
"I came from Kentucky," said the woman.
"When?" said Mr. Bird, taking up the interogatory.
"Tonight." "How did you come?"
"I crossed on the ice."
"Crossed on the ice!" said every one present.
"Yes," said the woman, slowly, "I did.
God helping me, I crossed on the ice; for they were behind me--right behind--and
there was no other way!"
"Law, Missis," said Cudjoe, "the ice is all in broken-up blocks, a swinging and a
tetering up and down in the water!" "I know it was--I know it!" said she,
wildly; "but I did it!
I wouldn't have thought I could,--I didn't think I should get over, but I didn't care!
I could but die, if I didn't.
The Lord helped me; nobody knows how much the Lord can help 'em, till they try," said
the woman, with a flashing eye. "Were you a slave?" said Mr. Bird.
"Yes, sir; I belonged to a man in Kentucky."
"Was he unkind to you?" "No, sir; he was a good master."
"And was your mistress unkind to you?"
"No, sir--no! my mistress was always good to me."
"What could induce you to leave a good home, then, and run away, and go through
such dangers?"
The woman looked up at Mrs. Bird, with a keen, scrutinizing glance, and it did not
escape her that she was dressed in deep mourning.
"Ma'am," she said, suddenly, "have you ever lost a child?"
The question was unexpected, and it was thrust on a new wound; for it was only a
month since a darling child of the family had been laid in the grave.
Mr. Bird turned around and walked to the window, and Mrs. Bird burst into tears;
but, recovering her voice, she said, "Why do you ask that?
I have lost a little one."
"Then you will feel for me. I have lost two, one after another,--left
'em buried there when I came away; and I had only this one left.
I never slept a night without him; he was all I had.
He was my comfort and pride, day and night; and, ma'am, they were going to take him
away from me,--to sell him,--sell him down south, ma'am, to go all alone,--a baby that
had never been away from his mother in his life!
I couldn't stand it, ma'am.
I knew I never should be good for anything, if they did; and when I knew the papers the
papers were signed, and he was sold, I took him and came off in the night; and they
chased me,--the man that bought him, and
some of Mas'r's folks,--and they were coming down right behind me, and I heard
'em.
I jumped right on to the ice; and how I got across, I don't know,--but, first I knew,
a man was helping me up the bank." The woman did not sob nor weep.
She had gone to a place where tears are dry; but every one around her was, in some
way characteristic of themselves, showing signs of hearty sympathy.
The two little boys, after a desperate rummaging in their pockets, in search of
those pocket-handkerchiefs which mothers know are never to be found there, had
thrown themselves disconsolately into the
skirts of their mother's gown, where they were sobbing, and wiping their eyes and
noses, to their hearts' content;--Mrs. Bird had her face fairly hidden in her pocket-
handkerchief; and old Dinah, with tears
streaming down her black, honest face, was ejaculating, "Lord have mercy on us!" with
all the fervor of a camp-meeting;--while old Cudjoe, rubbing his eyes very hard with
his cuffs, and making a most uncommon
variety of wry faces, occasionally responded in the same key, with great
fervor.
Our senator was a statesman, and of course could not be expected to cry, like other
mortals; and so he turned his back to the company, and looked out of the window, and
seemed particularly busy in clearing his
throat and wiping his spectacle-glasses, occasionally blowing his nose in a manner
that was calculated to excite suspicion, had any one been in a state to observe
critically.
"How came you to tell me you had a kind master?" he suddenly exclaimed, gulping
down very resolutely some kind of rising in his throat, and turning suddenly round upon
the woman.
"Because he was a kind master; I'll say that of him, any way;--and my mistress was
kind; but they couldn't help themselves.
They were owing money; and there was some way, I can't tell how, that a man had a
hold on them, and they were obliged to give him his will.
I listened, and heard him telling mistress that, and she begging and pleading for me,-
-and he told her he couldn't help himself, and that the papers were all drawn;--and
then it was I took him and left my home, and came away.
I knew 't was no use of my trying to live, if they did it; for 't 'pears like this
child is all I have."
"Have you no husband?" "Yes, but he belongs to another man.
His master is real hard to him, and won't let him come to see me, hardly ever; and
he's grown harder and harder upon us, and he threatens to sell him down south;--it's
like I'll never see him again!"
The quiet tone in which the woman pronounced these words might have led a
superficial observer to think that she was entirely apathetic; but there was a calm,
settled depth of anguish in her large, dark eye, that spoke of something far otherwise.
"And where do you mean to go, my poor woman?" said Mrs. Bird.
"To Canada, if I only knew where that was.
Is it very far off, is Canada?" said she, looking up, with a simple, confiding air,
to Mrs. Bird's face. "Poor thing!" said Mrs. Bird,
involuntarily.
"Is 't a very great way off, think?" said the woman, earnestly.
"Much further than you think, poor child!" said Mrs. Bird; "but we will try to think
what can be done for you.
Here, Dinah, make her up a bed in your own room, close by the kitchen, and I'll think
what to do for her in the morning. Meanwhile, never fear, poor woman; put your
trust in God; he will protect you."
Mrs. Bird and her husband reentered the parlor.
She sat down in her little rocking-chair before the fire, swaying thoughtfully to
and fro.
Mr. Bird strode up and down the room, grumbling to himself, "Pish! pshaw!
confounded awkward business!" At length, striding up to his wife, he
said,
"I say, wife, she'll have to get away from here, this very night.
That fellow will be down on the scent bright and early tomorrow morning: if 't
was only the woman, she could lie quiet till it was over; but that little chap
can't be kept still by a troop of horse and
foot, I'll warrant me; he'll bring it all out, popping his head out of some window or
door.
A pretty kettle of fish it would be for me, too, to be caught with them both here, just
now! No; they'll have to be got off tonight."
"Tonight!
How is it possible?--where to?"
"Well, I know pretty well where to," said the senator, beginning to put on his boots,
with a reflective air; and, stopping when his leg was half in, he embraced his knee
with both hands, and seemed to go off in deep meditation.
"It's a confounded awkward, ugly business," said he, at last, beginning to tug at his
boot-straps again, "and that's a fact!"
After one boot was fairly on, the senator sat with the other in his hand, profoundly
studying the figure of the carpet.
"It will have to be done, though, for aught I see,--hang it all!" and he drew the other
boot anxiously on, and looked out of the window.
Now, little Mrs. Bird was a discreet woman,--a woman who never in her life said,
"I told you so!" and, on the present occasion, though pretty well aware of the
shape her husband's meditations were
taking, she very prudently forbore to meddle with them, only sat very quietly in
her chair, and looked quite ready to hear her liege lord's intentions, when he should
think proper to utter them.
"You see," he said, "there's my old client, Van Trompe, has come over from Kentucky,
and set all his slaves free; and he has bought a place seven miles up the creek,
here, back in the woods, where nobody goes,
unless they go on purpose; and it's a place that isn't found in a hurry.
There she'd be safe enough; but the plague of the thing is, nobody could drive a
carriage there tonight, but me."
"Why not? Cudjoe is an excellent driver."
"Ay, ay, but here it is.
The creek has to be crossed twice; and the second crossing is quite dangerous, unless
one knows it as I do.
I have crossed it a hundred times on horseback, and know exactly the turns to
take. And so, you see, there's no help for it.
Cudjoe must put in the horses, as quietly as may be, about twelve o'clock, and I'll
take her over; and then, to give color to the matter, he must carry me on to the next
tavern to take the stage for Columbus, that
comes by about three or four, and so it will look as if I had had the carriage only
for that. I shall get into business bright and early
in the morning.
But I'm thinking I shall feel rather cheap there, after all that's been said and done;
but, hang it, I can't help it!"
"Your heart is better than your head, in this case, John," said the wife, laying her
little white hand on his. "Could I ever have loved you, had I not
known you better than you know yourself?"
And the little woman looked so handsome, with the tears sparkling in her eyes, that
the senator thought he must be a decidedly clever fellow, to get such a pretty
creature into such a passionate admiration
of him; and so, what could he do but walk off soberly, to see about the carriage.
At the door, however, he stopped a moment, and then coming back, he said, with some
hesitation.
"Mary, I don't know how you'd feel about it, but there's that drawer full of things-
-of--of--poor little Henry's." So saying, he turned quickly on his heel,
and shut the door after him.
His wife opened the little bed-room door adjoining her room and, taking the candle,
set it down on the top of a bureau there; then from a small recess she took a key,
and put it thoughtfully in the lock of a
drawer, and made a sudden pause, while two boys, who, boy like, had followed close on
her heels, stood looking, with silent, significant glances, at their mother.
And oh! mother that reads this, has there never been in your house a drawer, or a
closet, the opening of which has been to you like the opening again of a little
grave?
Ah! happy mother that you are, if it has not been so.
Mrs. Bird slowly opened the drawer.
There were little coats of many a form and pattern, piles of aprons, and rows of small
stockings; and even a pair of little shoes, worn and rubbed at the toes, were peeping
from the folds of a paper.
There was a toy horse and wagon, a top, a ball,--memorials gathered with many a tear
and many a heart-break!
She sat down by the drawer, and, leaning her head on her hands over it, wept till
the tears fell through her fingers into the drawer; then suddenly raising her head, she
began, with nervous haste, selecting the
plainest and most substantial articles, and gathering them into a bundle.
"Mamma," said one of the boys, gently touching her arm, "you going to give away
those things?"
"My dear boys," she said, softly and earnestly, "if our dear, loving little
Henry looks down from heaven, he would be glad to have us do this.
I could not find it in my heart to give them away to any common person--to anybody
that was happy; but I give them to a mother more heart-broken and sorrowful than I am;
and I hope God will send his blessings with them!"
There are in this world blessed souls, whose sorrows all spring up into joys for
others; whose earthly hopes, laid in the grave with many tears, are the seed from
which spring healing flowers and balm for the desolate and the distressed.
Among such was the delicate woman who sits there by the lamp, dropping slow tears,
while she prepares the memorials of her own lost one for the outcast wanderer.
After a while, Mrs. Bird opened a wardrobe, and, taking from thence a plain,
serviceable dress or two, she sat down busily to her work-table, and, with needle,
scissors, and thimble, at hand, quietly
commenced the "letting down" process which her husband had recommended, and continued
busily at it till the old clock in the corner struck twelve, and she heard the low
rattling of wheels at the door.
"Mary," said her husband, coming in, with his overcoat in his hand, "you must wake
her up now; we must be off."
Mrs. Bird hastily deposited the various articles she had collected in a small plain
trunk, and locking it, desired her husband to see it in the carriage, and then
proceeded to call the woman.
Soon, arrayed in a cloak, bonnet, and shawl, that had belonged to her
benefactress, she appeared at the door with her child in her arms.
Mr. Bird hurried her into the carriage, and Mrs. Bird pressed on after her to the
carriage steps.
Eliza leaned out of the carriage, and put out her hand,--a hand as soft and beautiful
as was given in return.
She fixed her large, dark eyes, full of earnest meaning, on Mrs. Bird's face, and
seemed going to speak.
Her lips moved,--she tried once or twice, but there was no sound,--and pointing
upward, with a look never to be forgotten, she fell back in the seat, and covered her
face.
The door was shut, and the carriage drove on.
What a situation, now, for a patriotic senator, that had been all the week before
spurring up the legislature of his native state to pass more stringent resolutions
against escaping fugitives, their harborers and abettors!
Our good senator in his native state had not been exceeded by any of his brethren at
Washington, in the sort of eloquence which has won for them immortal renown!
How sublimely he had sat with his hands in his pockets, and scouted all sentimental
weakness of those who would put the welfare of a few miserable fugitives before great
state interests!
He was as bold as a lion about it, and "mightily convinced" not only himself, but
everybody that heard him;--but then his idea of a fugitive was only an idea of the
letters that spell the word,--or at the
most, the image of a little newspaper picture of a man with a stick and bundle
with "Ran away from the subscriber" under it.
The magic of the real presence of distress,--the imploring human eye, the
frail, trembling human hand, the despairing appeal of helpless agony,--these he had
never tried.
He had never thought that a fugitive might be a hapless mother, a defenceless child,--
like that one which was now wearing his lost boy's little well-known cap; and so,
as our poor senator was not stone or
steel,--as he was a man, and a downright noble-hearted one, too,--he was, as
everybody must see, in a sad case for his patriotism.
And you need not exult over him, good brother of the Southern States; for we have
some inklings that many of you, under similar circumstances, would not do much
better.
We have reason to know, in Kentucky, as in Mississippi, are noble and generous hearts,
to whom never was tale of suffering told in vain.
Ah, good brother! is it fair for you to expect of us services which your own brave,
honorable heart would not allow you to render, were you in our place?
Be that as it may, if our good senator was a political sinner, he was in a fair way to
expiate it by his night's penance.
There had been a long continuous period of rainy weather, and the soft, rich earth of
Ohio, as every one knows, is admirably suited to the manufacture of mud--and the
road was an Ohio railroad of the good old times.
"And pray, what sort of a road may that be?" says some eastern traveller, who has
been accustomed to connect no ideas with a railroad, but those of smoothness or speed.
Know, then, innocent eastern friend, that in benighted regions of the west, where the
mud is of unfathomable and sublime depth, roads are made of round rough logs,
arranged transversely side by side, and
coated over in their pristine freshness with earth, turf, and whatsoever may come
to hand, and then the rejoicing native calleth it a road, and straightway essayeth
to ride thereupon.
In process of time, the rains wash off all the turf and grass aforesaid, move the logs
hither and thither, in picturesque positions, up, down and crosswise, with
divers chasms and ruts of black mud intervening.
Over such a road as this our senator went stumbling along, making moral reflections
as continuously as under the circumstances could be expected,--the carriage proceeding
along much as follows,--bump! bump! bump!
slush! down in the mud!--the senator, woman and child, reversing their positions so
suddenly as to come, without any very accurate adjustment, against the windows of
the down-hill side.
Carriage sticks fast, while Cudjoe on the outside is heard making a great muster
among the horses.
After various ineffectual pullings and twitchings, just as the senator is losing
all patience, the carriage suddenly rights itself with a bounce,--two front wheels go
down into another abyss, and senator,
woman, and child, all tumble promiscuously on to the front seat,--senator's hat is
jammed over his eyes and nose quite unceremoniously, and he considers himself
fairly extinguished;--child cries, and
Cudjoe on the outside delivers animated addresses to the horses, who are kicking,
and floundering, and straining under repeated cracks of the whip.
Carriage springs up, with another bounce,-- down go the hind wheels,--senator, woman,
and child, fly over on to the back seat, his elbows encountering her bonnet, and
both her feet being jammed into his hat, which flies off in the concussion.
After a few moments the "slough" is passed, and the horses stop, panting;--the senator
finds his hat, the woman straightens her bonnet and hushes her child, and they brace
themselves for what is yet to come.
For a while only the continuous bump! bump! intermingled, just by way of variety, with
divers side plunges and compound shakes; and they begin to flatter themselves that
they are not so badly off, after all.
At last, with a square plunge, which puts all on to their feet and then down into
their seats with incredible quickness, the carriage stops,--and, after much outside
commotion, Cudjoe appears at the door.
"Please, sir, it's powerful bad spot, this' yer.
I don't know how we's to get clar out. I'm a thinkin' we'll have to be a gettin'
rails."
The senator despairingly steps out, picking gingerly for some firm foothold; down goes
one foot an immeasurable depth,--he tries to pull it up, loses his balance, and
tumbles over into the mud, and is fished
out, in a very despairing condition, by Cudjoe.
But we forbear, out of sympathy to our readers' bones.
Western travellers, who have beguiled the midnight hour in the interesting process of
pulling down rail fences, to pry their carriages out of mud holes, will have a
respectful and mournful sympathy with our unfortunate hero.
We beg them to drop a silent tear, and pass on.
It was full late in the night when the carriage emerged, dripping and bespattered,
out of the creek, and stood at the door of a large farmhouse.
It took no inconsiderable perseverance to arouse the inmates; but at last the
respectable proprietor appeared, and undid the door.
He was a great, tall, bristling Orson of a fellow, full six feet and some inches in
his stockings, and arrayed in a red flannel hunting-shirt.
A very heavy mat of sandy hair, in a decidedly tousled condition, and a beard of
some days' growth, gave the worthy man an appearance, to say the least, not
particularly prepossessing.
He stood for a few minutes holding the candle aloft, and blinking on our
travellers with a dismal and mystified expression that was truly ludicrous.
It cost some effort of our senator to induce him to comprehend the case fully;
and while he is doing his best at that, we shall give him a little introduction to our
readers.
Honest old John Van Trompe was once quite a considerable land-owner and slave-owner in
the State of Kentucky.
Having "nothing of the bear about him but the skin," and being gifted by nature with
a great, honest, just heart, quite equal to his gigantic frame, he had been for some
years witnessing with repressed uneasiness
the workings of a system equally bad for oppressor and oppressed.
At last, one day, John's great heart had swelled altogether too big to wear his
bonds any longer; so he just took his pocket-book out of his desk, and went over
into Ohio, and bought a quarter of a
township of good, rich land, made out free papers for all his people,--men, women, and
children,--packed them up in wagons, and sent them off to settle down; and then
honest John turned his face up the creek,
and sat quietly down on a snug, retired farm, to enjoy his conscience and his
reflections.
"Are you the man that will shelter a poor woman and child from slave-catchers?" said
the senator, explicitly. "I rather think I am," said honest John,
with some considerable emphasis.
"I thought so,"' said the senator.
"If there's anybody comes," said the good man, stretching his tall, muscular form
upward, "why here I'm ready for him: and I've got seven sons, each six foot high,
and they'll be ready for 'em.
Give our respects to 'em," said John; "tell 'em it's no matter how soon they call,--
make no kinder difference to us," said John, running his fingers through the shock
of hair that thatched his head, and bursting out into a great laugh.
Weary, jaded, and spiritless, Eliza dragged herself up to the door, with her child
lying in a heavy sleep on her arm.
The rough man held the candle to her face, and uttering a kind of compassionate grunt,
opened the door of a small bed-room adjoining to the large kitchen where they
were standing, and motioned her to go in.
He took down a candle, and lighting it, set it upon the table, and then addressed
himself to Eliza. "Now, I say, gal, you needn't be a bit
afeard, let who will come here.
I'm up to all that sort o' thing," said he, pointing to two or three goodly rifles over
the mantel-piece; "and most people that know me know that 't wouldn't be healthy to
try to get anybody out o' my house when I'm agin it.
So now you jist go to sleep now, as quiet as if yer mother was a rockin' ye," said
he, as he shut the door.
"Why, this is an uncommon handsome un," he said to the senator.
"Ah, well; handsome uns has the greatest cause to run, sometimes, if they has any
kind o' feelin, such as decent women should.
I know all about that."
The senator, in a few words, briefly explained Eliza's history.
"O! ou! aw! now, I want to know?" said the good man, pitifully; "sho! now sho!
That's natur now, poor crittur! hunted down now like a deer,--hunted down, jest for
havin' natural feelin's, and doin' what no kind o' mother could help a doin'!
I tell ye what, these yer things make me come the nighest to swearin', now, o' most
anything," said honest John, as he wiped his eyes with the back of a great,
freckled, yellow hand.
"I tell yer what, stranger, it was years and years before I'd jine the church,
'cause the ministers round in our parts used to preach that the Bible went in for
these ere cuttings up,--and I couldn't be
up to 'em with their Greek and Hebrew, and so I took up agin 'em, Bible and all.
I never jined the church till I found a minister that was up to 'em all in Greek
and all that, and he said right the contrary; and then I took right hold, and
jined the church,--I did now, fact," said
John, who had been all this time uncorking some very frisky bottled cider, which at
this juncture he presented.
"Ye'd better jest put up here, now, till daylight," said he, heartily, "and I'll
call up the old woman, and have a bed got ready for you in no time."
"Thank you, my good friend," said the senator, "I must be along, to take the
night stage for Columbus."
"Ah! well, then, if you must, I'll go a piece with you, and show you a cross road
that will take you there better than the road you came on.
That road's mighty bad."
John equipped himself, and, with a lantern in hand, was soon seen guiding the
senator's carriage towards a road that ran down in a hollow, back of his dwelling.
When they parted, the senator put into his hand a ten-dollar bill.
"It's for her," he said, briefly. "Ay, ay," said John, with equal
conciseness.
They shook hands, and parted.
>
CHAPTER X The Property Is Carried Off
The February morning looked gray and drizzling through the window of Uncle Tom's
cabin. It looked on downcast faces, the images of
mournful hearts.
The little table stood out before the fire, covered with an ironing-cloth; a coarse but
clean shirt or two, fresh from the iron, hung on the back of a chair by the fire,
and Aunt Chloe had another spread out before her on the table.
Carefully she rubbed and ironed every fold and every hem, with the most scrupulous
exactness, every now and then raising her hand to her face to wipe off the tears that
were coursing down her cheeks.
Tom sat by, with his Testament open on his knee, and his head leaning upon his hand;--
but neither spoke.
It was yet early, and the children lay all asleep together in their little rude
trundle-bed.
Tom, who had, to the full, the gentle, domestic heart, which woe for them! has
been a peculiar characteristic of his unhappy race, got up and walked silently to
look at his children.
"It's the last time," he said.
Aunt Chloe did not answer, only rubbed away over and over on the coarse shirt, already
as smooth as hands could make it; and finally setting her iron suddenly down with
a despairing plunge, she sat down to the table, and "lifted up her voice and wept."
"S'pose we must be resigned; but oh Lord! how ken I?
If I know'd anything whar you 's goin', or how they'd sarve you!
Missis says she'll try and 'deem ye, in a year or two; but Lor! nobody never comes up
that goes down thar!
They kills 'em! I've hearn 'em tell how dey works 'em up on
dem ar plantations." "There'll be the same God there, Chloe,
that there is here."
"Well," said Aunt Chloe, "s'pose dere will; but de Lord lets drefful things happen,
sometimes. I don't seem to get no comfort dat way."
"I'm in the Lord's hands," said Tom; "nothin' can go no furder than he lets it;-
-and thar's one thing I can thank him for. It's me that's sold and going down, and not
you nur the chil'en.
Here you're safe;--what comes will come only on me; and the Lord, he'll help me,--I
know he will." Ah, brave, manly heart,--smothering thine
own sorrow, to comfort thy beloved ones!
Tom spoke with a thick utterance, and with a bitter choking in his throat,--but he
spoke brave and strong.
"Let's think on our marcies!" he added, tremulously, as if he was quite sure he
needed to think on them very hard indeed. "Marcies!" said Aunt Chloe; "don't see no
marcy in 't!
'tan't right! tan't right it should be so! Mas'r never ought ter left it so that ye
could be took for his debts. Ye've arnt him all he gets for ye, twice
over.
He owed ye yer freedom, and ought ter gin 't to yer years ago.
Mebbe he can't help himself now, but I feel it's wrong.
Nothing can't beat that ar out o' me.
Sich a faithful crittur as ye've been,--and allers sot his business 'fore yer own every
way,--and reckoned on him more than yer own wife and chil'en!
Them as sells heart's love and heart's blood, to get out thar scrapes, de Lord'll
be up to 'em!"
"Chloe! now, if ye love me, ye won't talk so, when perhaps jest the last time we'll
ever have together! And I'll tell ye, Chloe, it goes agin me to
hear one word agin Mas'r.
Wan't he put in my arms a baby?--it's natur I should think a heap of him.
And he couldn't be spected to think so much of poor Tom.
Mas'rs is used to havin' all these yer things done for 'em, and nat'lly they don't
think so much on 't. They can't be spected to, no way.
Set him 'longside of other Mas'rs--who's had the treatment and livin' I've had?
And he never would have let this yer come on me, if he could have seed it aforehand.
I know he wouldn't."
"Wal, any way, thar's wrong about it somewhar," said Aunt Chloe, in whom a
stubborn sense of justice was a predominant trait; "I can't jest make out whar 't is,
but thar's wrong somewhar, I'm clar o' that."
"Yer ought ter look up to the Lord above-- he's above all--thar don't a sparrow fall
without him."
"It don't seem to comfort me, but I spect it orter," said Aunt Chloe.
"But dar's no use talkin'; I'll jes wet up de corn-cake, and get ye one good
breakfast, 'cause nobody knows when you'll get another."
In order to appreciate the sufferings of the negroes sold south, it must be
remembered that all the instinctive affections of that race are peculiarly
strong.
Their local attachments are very abiding. They are not naturally daring and
enterprising, but home-loving and affectionate.
Add to this all the terrors with which ignorance invests the unknown, and add to
this, again, that selling to the south is set before the negro from childhood as the
last severity of punishment.
The threat that terrifies more than whipping or torture of any kind is the
threat of being sent down river.
We have ourselves heard this feeling expressed by them, and seen the unaffected
horror with which they will sit in their gossipping hours, and tell frightful
stories of that "down river," which to them is
"That undiscovered country, from whose bourn No traveller returns."
(NOTE: A slightly inaccurate quotation from Hamlet, Act III, scene I, lines 369-370.)
A missionary figure among the fugitives in Canada told us that many of the fugitives
confessed themselves to have escaped from comparatively kind masters, and that they
were induced to brave the perils of escape,
in almost every case, by the desperate horror with which they regarded being sold
south,--a doom which was hanging either over themselves or their husbands, their
wives or children.
This nerves the African, naturally patient, timid and unenterprising, with heroic
courage, and leads him to suffer hunger, cold, pain, the perils of the wilderness,
and the more dread penalties of recapture.
The simple morning meal now smoked on the table, for Mrs. Shelby had excused Aunt
Chloe's attendance at the great house that morning.
The poor soul had expended all her little energies on this farewell feast,--had
killed and dressed her choicest chicken, and prepared her corn-cake with scrupulous
exactness, just to her husband's taste, and
brought out certain mysterious jars on the mantel-piece, some preserves that were
never produced except on extreme occasions.
"Lor, Pete," said Mose, triumphantly, "han't we got a buster of a breakfast!" at
the same time catching at a fragment of the chicken.
Aunt Chloe gave him a sudden box on the ear.
"Thar now! crowing over the last breakfast yer poor daddy's gwine to have to home!"
"O, Chloe!" said Tom, gently.
"Wal, I can't help it," said Aunt Chloe, hiding her face in her apron; "I 's so
tossed about it, it makes me act ugly."
The boys stood quite still, looking first at their father and then at their mother,
while the baby, climbing up her clothes, began an imperious, commanding cry.
"Thar!" said Aunt Chloe, wiping her eyes and taking up the baby; "now I's done, I
hope,--now do eat something. This yer's my nicest chicken.
Thar, boys, ye shall have some, poor critturs!
Yer mammy's been cross to yer."
The boys needed no second invitation, and went in with great zeal for the eatables;
and it was well they did so, as otherwise there would have been very little performed
to any purpose by the party.
"Now," said Aunt Chloe, bustling about after breakfast, "I must put up yer
clothes. Jest like as not, he'll take 'em all away.
I know thar ways--mean as dirt, they is!
Wal, now, yer flannels for rhumatis is in this corner; so be careful, 'cause there
won't nobody make ye no more. Then here's yer old shirts, and these yer
is new ones.
I toed off these yer stockings last night, and put de ball in 'em to mend with.
But Lor! who'll ever mend for ye?" and Aunt Chloe, again overcome, laid her head on the
box side, and sobbed.
"To think on 't! no crittur to do for ye, sick or well!
I don't railly think I ought ter be good now!"
The boys, having eaten everything there was on the breakfast-table, began now to take
some thought of the case; and, seeing their mother crying, and their father looking
very sad, began to whimper and put their hands to their eyes.
Uncle Tom had the baby on his knee, and was letting her enjoy herself to the utmost
extent, scratching his face and pulling his hair, and occasionally breaking out into
clamorous explosions of delight, evidently
arising out of her own internal reflections.
"Ay, crow away, poor crittur!" said Aunt Chloe; "ye'll have to come to it, too!
ye'll live to see yer husband sold, or mebbe be sold yerself; and these yer boys,
they's to be sold, I s'pose, too, jest like
as not, when dey gets good for somethin'; an't no use in niggers havin' nothin'!"
Here one of the boys called out, "Thar's Missis a-comin' in!"
"She can't do no good; what's she coming for?" said Aunt Chloe.
Mrs. Shelby entered. Aunt Chloe set a chair for her in a manner
decidedly gruff and crusty.
She did not seem to notice either the action or the manner.
She looked pale and anxious.
"Tom," she said, "I come to--" and stopping suddenly, and regarding the silent group,
she sat down in the chair, and, covering her face with her handkerchief, began to
sob.
"Lor, now, Missis, don't--don't!" said Aunt Chloe, bursting out in her turn; and for a
few moments they all wept in company.
And in those tears they all shed together, the high and the lowly, melted away all the
heart-burnings and anger of the oppressed.
O, ye who visit the distressed, do ye know that everything your money can buy, given
with a cold, averted face, is not worth one honest tear shed in real sympathy?
"My good fellow," said Mrs. Shelby, "I can't give you anything to do you any good.
If I give you money, it will only be taken from you.
But I tell you solemnly, and before God, that I will keep trace of you, and bring
you back as soon as I can command the money;--and, till then, trust in God!"
Here the boys called out that Mas'r Haley was coming, and then an unceremonious kick
pushed open the door.
Haley stood there in very ill humor, having ridden hard the night before, and being not
at all pacified by his ill success in recapturing his prey.
"Come," said he, "ye nigger, ye'r ready?
Servant, ma'am!" said he, taking off his hat, as he saw Mrs. Shelby.
Aunt Chloe shut and corded the box, and, getting up, looked gruffly on the trader,
her tears seeming suddenly turned to sparks of fire.
Tom rose up meekly, to follow his new master, and raised up his heavy box on his
shoulder.
His wife took the baby in her arms to go with him to the wagon, and the children,
still crying, trailed on behind.
Mrs. Shelby, walking up to the trader, detained him for a few moments, talking
with him in an earnest manner; and while she was thus talking, the whole family
party proceeded to a wagon, that stood ready harnessed at the door.
A crowd of all the old and young hands on the place stood gathered around it, to bid
farewell to their old associate.
Tom had been looked up to, both as a head servant and a Christian teacher, by all the
place, and there was much honest sympathy and grief about him, particularly among the
women.
"Why, Chloe, you bar it better 'n we do!" said one of the women, who had been weeping
freely, noticing the gloomy calmness with which Aunt Chloe stood by the wagon.
"I's done my tears!" she said, looking grimly at the trader, who was coming up.
"I does not feel to cry 'fore dat ar old limb, no how!"
"Get in!" said Haley to Tom, as he strode through the crowd of servants, who looked
at him with lowering brows.
Tom got in, and Haley, drawing out from under the wagon seat a heavy pair of
shackles, made them fast around each ankle.
A smothered groan of indignation ran through the whole circle, and Mrs. Shelby
spoke from the verandah,--"Mr. Haley, I assure you that precaution is entirely
unnecessary."
"Don' know, ma'am; I've lost one five hundred dollars from this yer place, and I
can't afford to run no more risks."
"What else could she spect on him?" said Aunt Chloe, indignantly, while the two
boys, who now seemed to comprehend at once their father's destiny, clung to her gown,
sobbing and groaning vehemently.
"I'm sorry," said Tom, "that Mas'r George happened to be away."
George had gone to spend two or three days with a companion on a neighboring estate,
and having departed early in the morning, before Tom's misfortune had been made
public, had left without hearing of it.
"Give my love to Mas'r George," he said, earnestly.
Haley whipped up the horse, and, with a steady, mournful look, fixed to the last on
the old place, Tom was whirled away.
Mr. Shelby at this time was not at home.
He had sold Tom under the spur of a driving necessity, to get out of the power of a man
whom he dreaded,--and his first feeling, after the consummation of the bargain, had
been that of relief.
But his wife's expostulations awoke his half-slumbering regrets; and Tom's manly
disinterestedness increased the unpleasantness of his feelings.
It was in vain that he said to himself that he had a right to do it,--that everybody
did it,--and that some did it without even the excuse of necessity;--he could not
satisfy his own feelings; and that he might
not witness the unpleasant scenes of the consummation, he had gone on a short
business tour up the country, hoping that all would be over before he returned.
Tom and Haley rattled on along the dusty road, whirling past every old familiar
spot, until the bounds of the estate were fairly passed, and they found themselves
out on the open pike.
After they had ridden about a mile, Haley suddenly drew up at the door of a
blacksmith's shop, when, taking out with him a pair of handcuffs, he stepped into
the shop, to have a little alteration in them.
"These yer 's a little too small for his build," said Haley, showing the fetters,
and pointing out to Tom.
"Lor! now, if thar an't Shelby's Tom. He han't sold him, now?" said the smith.
"Yes, he has," said Haley. "Now, ye don't! well, reely," said the
smith, "who'd a thought it!
Why, ye needn't go to fetterin' him up this yer way.
He's the faithfullest, best crittur--"
"Yes, yes," said Haley; "but your good fellers are just the critturs to want ter
run off.
Them stupid ones, as doesn't care whar they go, and shifless, drunken ones, as don't
care for nothin', they'll stick by, and like as not be rather pleased to be toted
round; but these yer prime fellers, they hates it like sin.
No way but to fetter 'em; got legs,-- they'll use 'em,--no mistake."
"Well," said the smith, feeling among his tools, "them plantations down thar,
stranger, an't jest the place a Kentuck nigger wants to go to; they dies thar
tol'able fast, don't they?"
"Wal, yes, tol'able fast, ther dying is; what with the 'climating and one thing and
another, they dies so as to keep the market up pretty brisk," said Haley.
"Wal, now, a feller can't help thinkin' it's a mighty pity to have a nice, quiet,
likely feller, as good un as Tom is, go down to be fairly ground up on one of them
ar sugar plantations."
"Wal, he's got a fa'r chance. I promised to do well by him.
I'll get him in house-servant in some good old family, and then, if he stands the
fever and 'climating, he'll have a berth good as any nigger ought ter ask for."
"He leaves his wife and chil'en up here, s'pose?"
"Yes; but he'll get another thar. Lord, thar's women enough everywhar," said
Haley.
Tom was sitting very mournfully on the outside of the shop while this conversation
was going on.
Suddenly he heard the quick, short click of a horse's hoof behind him; and, before he
could fairly awake from his surprise, young Master George sprang into the wagon, threw
his arms tumultuously round his neck, and was sobbing and scolding with energy.
"I declare, it's real mean! I don't care what they say, any of 'em!
It's a nasty, mean shame!
If I was a man, they shouldn't do it,--they should not, so!" said George, with a kind
of subdued howl. "O! Mas'r George! this does me good!" said
Tom.
"I couldn't bar to go off without seein' ye!
It does me real good, ye can't tell!" Here Tom made some movement of his feet,
and George's eye fell on the fetters.
"What a shame!" he exclaimed, lifting his hands.
"I'll knock that old fellow down--I will!" "No you won't, Mas'r George; and you must
not talk so loud.
It won't help me any, to anger him." "Well, I won't, then, for your sake; but
only to think of it--isn't it a shame?
They never sent for me, nor sent me any word, and, if it hadn't been for Tom
Lincon, I shouldn't have heard it. I tell you, I blew 'em up well, all of 'em,
at home!"
"That ar wasn't right, I'm 'feard, Mas'r George."
"Can't help it! I say it's a shame!
Look here, Uncle Tom," said he, turning his back to the shop, and speaking in a
mysterious tone, "I've brought you my dollar!"
"O! I couldn't think o' takin' on 't, Mas'r George, no ways in the world!" said Tom,
quite moved.
"But you shall take it!" said George; "look here--I told Aunt Chloe I'd do it, and she
advised me just to make a hole in it, and put a string through, so you could hang it
round your neck, and keep it out of sight;
else this mean scamp would take it away. I tell ye, Tom, I want to blow him up! it
would do me good!"
"No, don't Mas'r George, for it won't do me any good."
"Well, I won't, for your sake," said George, busily tying his dollar round Tom's
neck; "but there, now, button your coat tight over it, and keep it, and remember,
every time you see it, that I'll come down after you, and bring you back.
Aunt Chloe and I have been talking about it.
I told her not to fear; I'll see to it, and I'll tease father's life out, if he don't
do it." "O! Mas'r George, ye mustn't talk so 'bout
yer father!"
"Lor, Uncle Tom, I don't mean anything bad."
"And now, Mas'r George," said Tom, "ye must be a good boy; 'member how many hearts is
sot on ye.
Al'ays keep close to yer mother. Don't be gettin' into any of them foolish
ways boys has of gettin' too big to mind their mothers.
Tell ye what, Mas'r George, the Lord gives good many things twice over; but he don't
give ye a mother but once.
Ye'll never see sich another woman, Mas'r George, if ye live to be a hundred years
old.
So, now, you hold on to her, and grow up, and be a comfort to her, thar's my own good
boy,--you will now, won't ye?" "Yes, I will, Uncle Tom," said George
seriously.
"And be careful of yer speaking, Mas'r George.
Young boys, when they comes to your age, is wilful, sometimes--it is natur they should
be.
But real gentlemen, such as I hopes you'll be, never lets fall on words that isn't
'spectful to thar parents. Ye an't 'fended, Mas'r George?"
"No, indeed, Uncle Tom; you always did give me good advice."
"I's older, ye know," said Tom, stroking the boy's fine, curly head with his large,
strong hand, but speaking in a voice as tender as a woman's, "and I sees all that's
bound up in you.
O, Mas'r George, you has everything,-- l'arnin', privileges, readin', writin',--
and you'll grow up to be a great, learned, good man and all the people on the place
and your mother and father'll be so proud on ye!
Be a good Mas'r, like yer father; and be a Christian, like yer mother.
'Member yer Creator in the days o' yer youth, Mas'r George."
"I'll be real good, Uncle Tom, I tell you," said George.
"I'm going to be a first-rater; and don't you be discouraged.
I'll have you back to the place, yet.
As I told Aunt Chloe this morning, I'll build our house all over, and you shall
have a room for a parlor with a carpet on it, when I'm a man.
O, you'll have good times yet!"
Haley now came to the door, with the handcuffs in his hands.
"Look here, now, Mister," said George, with an air of great superiority, as he got out,
"I shall let father and mother know how you treat Uncle Tom!"
"You're welcome," said the trader.
"I should think you'd be ashamed to spend all your life buying men and women, and
chaining them, like cattle! I should think you'd feel mean!" said
George.
"So long as your grand folks wants to buy men and women, I'm as good as they is,"
said Haley; "'tan't any meaner sellin' on 'em, that 't is buyin'!"
"I'll never do either, when I'm a man," said George; "I'm ashamed, this day, that
I'm a Kentuckian.
I always was proud of it before;" and George sat very straight on his horse, and
looked round with an air, as if he expected the state would be impressed with his
opinion.
"Well, good-by, Uncle Tom; keep a stiff upper lip," said George.
"Good-by, Mas'r George," said Tom, looking fondly and admiringly at him.
"God Almighty bless you!
Ah! Kentucky han't got many like you!" he said,
in the fulness of his heart, as the frank, boyish face was lost to his view.
Away he went, and Tom looked, till the clatter of his horse's heels died away, the
last sound or sight of his home.
But over his heart there seemed to be a warm spot, where those young hands had
placed that precious dollar. Tom put up his hand, and held it close to
his heart.
"Now, I tell ye what, Tom," said Haley, as he came up to the wagon, and threw in the
handcuffs, "I mean to start fa'r with ye, as I gen'ally do with my niggers; and I'll
tell ye now, to begin with, you treat me
fa'r, and I'll treat you fa'r; I an't never hard on my niggers.
Calculates to do the best for 'em I can.
Now, ye see, you'd better jest settle down comfortable, and not be tryin' no tricks;
because nigger's tricks of all sorts I'm up to, and it's no use.
If niggers is quiet, and don't try to get off, they has good times with me; and if
they don't, why, it's thar fault, and not mine."
Tom assured Haley that he had no present intentions of running off.
In fact, the exhortation seemed rather a superfluous one to a man with a great pair
of iron fetters on his feet.
But Mr. Haley had got in the habit of commencing his relations with his stock
with little exhortations of this nature, calculated, as he deemed, to inspire
cheerfulness and confidence, and prevent the necessity of any unpleasant scenes.
And here, for the present, we take our leave of Tom, to pursue the fortunes of
other characters in our story.
>
CHAPTER XI In Which Property Gets into an Improper
State of Mind
It was late in a drizzly afternoon that a traveler alighted at the door of a small
country hotel, in the village of N----, in Kentucky.
In the barroom he found assembled quite a miscellaneous company, whom stress of
weather had driven to harbor, and the place presented the usual scenery of such
reunions.
Great, tall, raw-boned Kentuckians, attired in hunting-shirts, and trailing their loose
joints over a vast extent of territory, with the easy lounge peculiar to the race,-
-rifles stacked away in the corner, shot-
pouches, game-bags, hunting-dogs, and little negroes, all rolled together in the
corners,--were the characteristic features in the picture.
At each end of the fireplace sat a long- legged gentleman, with his chair tipped
back, his hat on his head, and the heels of his muddy boots reposing sublimely on the
mantel-piece,--a position, we will inform
our readers, decidedly favorable to the turn of reflection incident to western
taverns, where travellers exhibit a decided preference for this particular mode of
elevating their understandings.
Mine host, who stood behind the bar, like most of his country men, was great of
stature, good-natured and loose-jointed, with an enormous shock of hair on his head,
and a great tall hat on the top of that.
In fact, everybody in the room bore on his head this characteristic emblem of man's
sovereignty; whether it were felt hat, palm-leaf, greasy beaver, or fine new
chapeau, there it reposed with true republican independence.
In truth, it appeared to be the characteristic mark of every individual.
Some wore them tipped rakishly to one side- -these were your men of humor, jolly, free-
and-easy dogs; some had them jammed independently down over their noses--these
were your hard characters, thorough men,
who, when they wore their hats, wanted to wear them, and to wear them just as they
had a mind to; there were those who had them set far over back--wide-awake men, who
wanted a clear prospect; while careless
men, who did not know, or care, how their hats sat, had them shaking about in all
directions. The various hats, in fact, were quite a
Shakespearean study.
Divers negroes, in very free-and-easy pantaloons, and with no redundancy in the
shirt line, were scuttling about, hither and thither, without bringing to pass any
very particular results, except expressing
a generic willingness to turn over everything in creation generally for the
benefit of Mas'r and his guests.
Add to this picture a jolly, crackling, rollicking fire, going rejoicingly up a
great wide chimney,--the outer door and every window being set wide open, and the
calico window-curtain flopping and snapping
in a good stiff breeze of damp raw air,-- and you have an idea of the jollities of a
Kentucky tavern.
Your Kentuckian of the present day is a good illustration of the doctrine of
transmitted instincts and pecularities.
His fathers were mighty hunters,--men who lived in the woods, and slept under the
free, open heavens, with the stars to hold their candles; and their descendant to this
day always acts as if the house were his
camp,--wears his hat at all hours, tumbles himself about, and puts his heels on the
tops of chairs or mantelpieces, just as his father rolled on the green sward, and put
his upon trees and logs,--keeps all the
windows and doors open, winter and summer, that he may get air enough for his great
lungs,--calls everybody "stranger," with nonchalant bonhommie, and is altogether the
frankest, easiest, most jovial creature living.
Into such an assembly of the free and easy our traveller entered.
He was a short, thick-set man, carefully dressed, with a round, good-natured
countenance, and something rather fussy and particular in his appearance.
He was very careful of his valise and umbrella, bringing them in with his own
hands, and resisting, pertinaciously, all offers from the various servants to relieve
him of them.
He looked round the barroom with rather an anxious air, and, retreating with his
valuables to the warmest corner, disposed them under his chair, sat down, and looked
rather apprehensively up at the worthy
whose heels illustrated the end of the mantel-piece, who was spitting from right
to left, with a courage and energy rather alarming to gentlemen of weak nerves and
particular habits.
"I say, stranger, how are ye?" said the aforesaid gentleman, firing an honorary
salute of tobacco-juice in the direction of the new arrival.
"Well, I reckon," was the reply of the other, as he dodged, with some alarm, the
threatening honor.
"Any news?" said the respondent, taking out a strip of tobacco and a large hunting-
knife from his pocket. "Not that I know of," said the man.
"Chaw?" said the first speaker, handing the old gentleman a bit of his tobacco, with a
decidedly brotherly air. "No, thank ye--it don't agree with me,"
said the little man, edging off.
"Don't, eh?" said the other, easily, and stowing away the morsel in his own mouth,
in order to keep up the supply of tobacco- juice, for the general benefit of society.
The old gentleman uniformly gave a little start whenever his long-sided brother fired
in his direction; and this being observed by his companion, he very good-naturedly
turned his artillery to another quarter,
and proceeded to storm one of the fire- irons with a degree of military talent
fully sufficient to take a city.
"What's that?" said the old gentleman, observing some of the company formed in a
group around a large handbill. "Nigger advertised!" said one of the
company, briefly.
Mr. Wilson, for that was the old gentleman's name, rose up, and, after
carefully adjusting his valise and umbrella, proceeded deliberately to take
out his spectacles and fix them on his
nose; and, this operation being performed, read as follows:
"Ran away from the subscriber, my mulatto boy, George.
Said George six feet in height, a very light mulatto, brown curly hair; is very
intelligent, speaks handsomely, can read and write, will probably try to pass for a
white man, is deeply scarred on his back
and shoulders, has been branded in his right hand with the letter H.
"I will give four hundred dollars for him alive, and the same sum for satisfactory
proof that he has been killed."
The old gentleman read this advertisement from end to end in a low voice, as if he
were studying it.
The long-legged veteran, who had been besieging the fire-iron, as before related,
now took down his cumbrous length, and rearing aloft his tall form, walked up to
the advertisement and very deliberately
spit a full discharge of tobacco-juice on it.
"There's my mind upon that!" said he, briefly, and sat down again.
"Why, now, stranger, what's that for?" said mine host.
"I'd do it all the same to the writer of that ar paper, if he was here," said the
long man, coolly resuming his old employment of cutting tobacco.
"Any man that owns a boy like that, and can't find any better way o' treating on
him, deserves to lose him.
Such papers as these is a shame to Kentucky; that's my mind right out, if
anybody wants to know!" "Well, now, that's a fact," said mine host,
as he made an entry in his book.
"I've got a gang of boys, sir," said the long man, resuming his attack on the fire-
irons, "and I jest tells 'em--'Boys,' says I,--'run now! dig! put! jest when ye want
to!
I never shall come to look after you!' That's the way I keep mine.
Let 'em know they are free to run any time, and it jest breaks up their wanting to.
More 'n all, I've got free papers for 'em all recorded, in case I gets keeled up any
o' these times, and they know it; and I tell ye, stranger, there an't a fellow in
our parts gets more out of his niggers than I do.
Why, my boys have been to Cincinnati, with five hundred dollars' worth of colts, and
brought me back the money, all straight, time and agin.
It stands to reason they should.
Treat 'em like dogs, and you'll have dogs' works and dogs' actions.
Treat 'em like men, and you'll have men's works."
And the honest drover, in his warmth, endorsed this moral sentiment by firing a
perfect feu de joi at the fireplace.
"I think you're altogether right, friend," said Mr. Wilson; "and this boy described
here is a fine fellow--no mistake about that.
He worked for me some half-dozen years in my bagging factory, and he was my best
hand, sir.
He is an ingenious fellow, too: he invented a machine for the cleaning of hemp--a
really valuable affair; it's gone into use in several factories.
His master holds the patent of it."
"I'll warrant ye," said the drover, "holds it and makes money out of it, and then
turns round and brands the boy in his right hand.
If I had a fair chance, I'd mark him, I reckon so that he'd carry it one while."
"These yer knowin' boys is allers aggravatin' and sarcy," said a coarse-
looking fellow, from the other side of the room; "that's why they gets cut up and
marked so.
If they behaved themselves, they wouldn't." "That is to say, the Lord made 'em men, and
it's a hard squeeze gettin 'em down into beasts," said the drover, dryly.
"Bright niggers isn't no kind of 'vantage to their masters," continued the other,
well entrenched, in a coarse, unconscious obtuseness, from the contempt of his
opponent; "what's the use o' talents and
them things, if you can't get the use on 'em yourself?
Why, all the use they make on 't is to get round you.
I've had one or two of these fellers, and I jest sold 'em down river.
I knew I'd got to lose 'em, first or last, if I didn't."
"Better send orders up to the Lord, to make you a set, and leave out their souls
entirely," said the drover.
Here the conversation was interrupted by the approach of a small one-horse buggy to
the inn.
It had a genteel appearance, and a well- dressed, gentlemanly man sat on the seat,
with a colored servant driving.
The whole party examined the new comer with the interest with which a set of loafers in
a rainy day usually examine every newcomer.
He was very tall, with a dark, Spanish complexion, fine, expressive black eyes,
and close-curling hair, also of a glossy blackness.
His well-formed aquiline nose, straight thin lips, and the admirable contour of his
finely-formed limbs, impressed the whole company instantly with the idea of
something uncommon.
He walked easily in among the company, and with a nod indicated to his waiter where to
place his trunk, bowed to the company, and, with his hat in his hand, walked up
leisurely to the bar, and gave in his name as Henry Butter, Oaklands, Shelby County.
Turning, with an indifferent air, he sauntered up to the advertisement, and read
it over.
"Jim," he said to his man, "seems to me we met a boy something like this, up at
Beman's, didn't we?" "Yes, Mas'r," said Jim, "only I an't sure
about the hand."
"Well, I didn't look, of course," said the stranger with a careless yawn.
Then walking up to the landlord, he desired him to furnish him with a private
apartment, as he had some writing to do immediately.
The landlord was all obsequious, and a relay of about seven negroes, old and
young, male and female, little and big, were soon whizzing about, like a covey of
partridges, bustling, hurrying, treading on
each other's toes, and tumbling over each other, in their zeal to get Mas'r's room
ready, while he seated himself easily on a chair in the middle of the room, and
entered into conversation with the man who sat next to him.
The manufacturer, Mr. Wilson, from the time of the entrance of the stranger, had
regarded him with an air of disturbed and uneasy curiosity.
He seemed to himself to have met and been acquainted with him somewhere, but he could
not recollect.
Every few moments, when the man spoke, or moved, or smiled, he would start and fix
his eyes on him, and then suddenly withdraw them, as the bright, dark eyes met his with
such unconcerned coolness.
At last, a sudden recollection seemed to flash upon him, for he stared at the
stranger with such an air of blank amazement and alarm, that he walked up to
him.
"Mr. Wilson, I think," said he, in a tone of recognition, and extending his hand.
"I beg your pardon, I didn't recollect you before.
I see you remember me,--Mr. Butler, of Oaklands, Shelby County."
"Ye--yes--yes, sir," said Mr. Wilson, like one speaking in a dream.
Just then a negro boy entered, and announced that Mas'r's room was ready.
"Jim, see to the trunks," said the gentleman, negligently; then addressing
himself to Mr. Wilson, he added--"I should like to have a few moments' conversation
with you on business, in my room, if you please."
Mr. Wilson followed him, as one who walks in his sleep; and they proceeded to a large
upper chamber, where a new-made fire was crackling, and various servants flying
about, putting finishing touches to the arrangements.
When all was done, and the servants departed, the young man deliberately locked
the door, and putting the key in his pocket, faced about, and folding his arms
on his bosom, looked Mr. Wilson full in the face.
"George!" said Mr. Wilson. "Yes, George," said the young man.
"I couldn't have thought it!"
"I am pretty well disguised, I fancy," said the young man, with a smile.
"A little walnut bark has made my yellow skin a genteel brown, and I've dyed my hair
black; so you see I don't answer to the advertisement at all."
"O, George! but this is a dangerous game you are playing.
I could not have advised you to it." "I can do it on my own responsibility,"
said George, with the same proud smile.
We remark, en passant, that George was, by his father's side, of white descent.
His mother was one of those unfortunates of her race, marked out by personal beauty to
be the slave of the passions of her possessor, and the mother of children who
may never know a father.
From one of the proudest families in Kentucky he had inherited a set of fine
European features, and a high, indomitable spirit.
From his mother he had received only a slight mulatto tinge, amply compensated by
its accompanying rich, dark eye.
A slight change in the tint of the skin and the color of his hair had metamorphosed him
into the Spanish-looking fellow he then appeared; and as gracefulness of movement
and gentlemanly manners had always been
perfectly natural to him, he found no difficulty in playing the bold part he had
adopted--that of a gentleman travelling with his domestic.
Mr. Wilson, a good-natured but extremely fidgety and cautious old gentleman, ambled
up and down the room, appearing, as John Bunyan hath it, "much tumbled up and down
in his mind," and divided between his wish
to help George, and a certain confused notion of maintaining law and order: so, as
he shambled about, he delivered himself as follows:
"Well, George, I s'pose you're running away--leaving your lawful master, George--
(I don't wonder at it)--at the same time, I'm sorry, George,--yes, decidedly--I think
I must say that, George--it's my duty to tell you so."
"Why are you sorry, sir?" said George, calmly.
"Why, to see you, as it were, setting yourself in opposition to the laws of your
country."
"My country!" said George, with a strong and bitter emphasis; "what country have I,
but the grave,--and I wish to God that I was laid there!"
"Why, George, no--no--it won't do; this way of talking is wicked--unscriptural.
George, you've got a hard master--in fact, he is--well he conducts himself
reprehensibly--I can't pretend to defend him.
But you know how the angel commanded Hagar to return to her mistress, and submit
herself under the hand; (NOTE: Gen. 16.
The angel bade the pregnant Hagar return to her mistress Sarai, even though Sarai had
dealt harshly with her.) and the apostle sent back Onesimus to his master."
(NOTE: Phil.
1:10. Onesimus went back to his master to become
no longer a servant but a "brother beloved.")
"Don't quote Bible at me that way, Mr. Wilson," said George, with a flashing eye,
"don't! for my wife is a Christian, and I mean to be, if ever I get to where I can;
but to quote Bible to a fellow in my
circumstances, is enough to make him give it up altogether.
I appeal to God Almighty;--I'm willing to go with the case to Him, and ask Him if I
do wrong to seek my freedom."
"These feelings are quite natural, George," said the good-natured man, blowing his
nose. "Yes, they're natural, but it is my duty
not to encourage 'em in you.
Yes, my boy, I'm sorry for you, now; it's a bad case--very bad; but the apostle says,
'Let everyone abide in the condition in which he is called.'
We must all submit to the indications of Providence, George,--don't you see?"
George stood with his head drawn back, his arms folded tightly over his broad breast,
and a bitter smile curling his lips.
"I wonder, Mr. Wilson, if the Indians should come and take you a prisoner away
from your wife and children, and want to keep you all your life hoeing corn for
them, if you'd think it your duty to abide in the condition in which you were called.
I rather think that you'd think the first stray horse you could find an indication of
Providence--shouldn't you?"
The little old gentleman stared with both eyes at this illustration of the case; but,
though not much of a reasoner, he had the sense in which some logicians on this
particular subject do not excel,--that of
saying nothing, where nothing could be said.
So, as he stood carefully stroking his umbrella, and folding and patting down all
the creases in it, he proceeded on with his exhortations in a general way.
"You see, George, you know, now, I always have stood your friend; and whatever I've
said, I've said for your good. Now, here, it seems to me, you're running
an awful risk.
You can't hope to carry it out. If you're taken, it will be worse with you
than ever; they'll only abuse you, and half kill you, and sell you down the river."
"Mr. Wilson, I know all this," said George.
"I do run a risk, but--" he threw open his overcoat, and showed two pistols and a
bowie-knife. "There!" he said, "I'm ready for 'em!
Down south I never will go.
No! if it comes to that, I can earn myself at least six feet of free soil,--the first
and last I shall ever own in Kentucky!" "Why, George, this state of mind is awful;
it's getting really desperate George.
I'm concerned. Going to break the laws of your country!"
"My country again!
Mr. Wilson, you have a country; but what country have I, or any one like me, born of
slave mothers? What laws are there for us?
We don't make them,--we don't consent to them,--we have nothing to do with them; all
they do for us is to crush us, and keep us down.
Haven't I heard your Fourth-of-July speeches?
Don't you tell us all, once a year, that governments derive their just power from
the consent of the governed?
Can't a fellow think, that hears such things?
Can't he put this and that together, and see what it comes to?"
Mr. Wilson's mind was one of those that may not unaptly be represented by a bale of
cotton,--downy, soft, benevolently fuzzy and confused.
He really pitied George with all his heart, and had a sort of dim and cloudy perception
of the style of feeling that agitated him; but he deemed it his duty to go on talking
good to him, with infinite pertinacity.
"George, this is bad.
I must tell you, you know, as a friend, you'd better not be meddling with such
notions; they are bad, George, very bad, for boys in your condition,--very;" and Mr.
Wilson sat down to a table, and began
nervously chewing the handle of his umbrella.
"See here, now, Mr. Wilson," said George, coming up and sitting himself determinately
down in front of him; "look at me, now.
Don't I sit before you, every way, just as much a man as you are?
Look at my face,--look at my hands,--look at my body," and the young man drew himself
up proudly; "why am I not a man, as much as anybody?
Well, Mr. Wilson, hear what I can tell you.
I had a father--one of your Kentucky gentlemen--who didn't think enough of me to
keep me from being sold with his dogs and horses, to satisfy the estate, when he
died.
I saw my mother put up at sheriff's sale, with her seven children.
They were sold before her eyes, one by one, all to different masters; and I was the
youngest.
She came and kneeled down before old Mas'r, and begged him to buy her with me, that she
might have at least one child with her; and he kicked her away with his heavy boot.
I saw him do it; and the last that I heard was her moans and screams, when I was tied
to his horse's neck, to be carried off to his place."
"Well, then?"
"My master traded with one of the men, and bought my oldest sister.
She was a pious, good girl,--a member of the Baptist church,--and as handsome as my
poor mother had been.
She was well brought up, and had good manners.
At first, I was glad she was bought, for I had one friend near me.
I was soon sorry for it.
Sir, I have stood at the door and heard her whipped, when it seemed as if every blow
cut into my naked heart, and I couldn't do anything to help her; and she was whipped,
sir, for wanting to live a decent Christian
life, such as your laws give no slave girl a right to live; and at last I saw her
chained with a trader's gang, to be sent to market in Orleans,--sent there for nothing
else but that,--and that's the last I know of her.
Well, I grew up,--long years and years,--no father, no mother, no sister, not a living
soul that cared for me more than a dog; nothing but whipping, scolding, starving.
Why, sir, I've been so hungry that I have been glad to take the bones they threw to
their dogs; and yet, when I was a little fellow, and laid awake whole nights and
cried, it wasn't the hunger, it wasn't the whipping, I cried for.
No, sir, it was for my mother and my sisters,--it was because I hadn't a friend
to love me on earth.
I never knew what peace or comfort was. I never had a kind word spoken to me till I
came to work in your factory.
Mr. Wilson, you treated me well; you encouraged me to do well, and to learn to
read and write, and to try to make something of myself; and God knows how
grateful I am for it.
Then, sir, I found my wife; you've seen her,--you know how beautiful she is.
When I found she loved me, when I married her, I scarcely could believe I was alive,
I was so happy; and, sir, she is as good as she is beautiful.
But now what?
Why, now comes my master, takes me right away from my work, and my friends, and all
I like, and grinds me down into the very dirt!
And why?
Because, he says, I forgot who I was; he says, to teach me that I am only a nigger!
After all, and last of all, he comes between me and my wife, and says I shall
give her up, and live with another woman.
And all this your laws give him power to do, in spite of God or man.
Mr. Wilson, look at it!
There isn't one of all these things, that have broken the hearts of my mother and my
sister, and my wife and myself, but your laws allow, and give every man power to do,
in Kentucky, and none can say to him nay!
Do you call these the laws of my country? Sir, I haven't any country, anymore than I
have any father. But I'm going to have one.
I don't want anything of your country, except to be let alone,--to go peaceably
out of it; and when I get to Canada, where the laws will own me and protect me, that
shall be my country, and its laws I will obey.
But if any man tries to stop me, let him take care, for I am desperate.
I'll fight for my liberty to the last breath I breathe.
You say your fathers did it; if it was right for them, it is right for me!"
This speech, delivered partly while sitting at the table, and partly walking up and
down the room,--delivered with tears, and flashing eyes, and despairing gestures,--
was altogether too much for the good-
natured old body to whom it was addressed, who had pulled out a great yellow silk
pocket-handkerchief, and was mopping up his face with great energy.
"Blast 'em all!" he suddenly broke out.
"Haven't I always said so--the infernal old cusses!
I hope I an't swearing, now.
Well! go ahead, George, go ahead; but be careful, my boy; don't shoot anybody,
George, unless--well--you'd better not shoot, I reckon; at least, I wouldn't hit
anybody, you know.
Where is your wife, George?" he added, as he nervously rose, and began walking the
room.
"Gone, sir gone, with her child in her arms, the Lord only knows where;--gone
after the north star; and when we ever meet, or whether we meet at all in this
world, no creature can tell."
"Is it possible! astonishing! from such a kind family?"
"Kind families get in debt, and the laws of our country allow them to sell the child
out of its mother's bosom to pay its master's debts," said George, bitterly.
"Well, well," said the honest old man, fumbling in his pocket: "I s'pose, perhaps,
I an't following my judgment,--hang it, I won't follow my judgment!" he added,
suddenly; "so here, George," and, taking
out a roll of bills from his pocket-book, he offered them to George.
"No, my kind, good sir!" said George, "you've done a great deal for me, and this
might get you into trouble.
I have money enough, I hope, to take me as far as I need it."
"No; but you must, George. Money is a great help everywhere;--can't
have too much, if you get it honestly.
Take it,--do take it, now,--do, my boy!" "On condition, sir, that I may repay it at
some future time, I will," said George, taking up the money.
"And now, George, how long are you going to travel in this way?--not long or far, I
hope. It's well carried on, but too bold.
And this black fellow,--who is he?"
"A true fellow, who went to Canada more than a year ago.
He heard, after he got there, that his master was so angry at him for going off
that he had whipped his poor old mother; and he has come all the way back to comfort
her, and get a chance to get her away."
"Has he got her?" "Not yet; he has been hanging about the
place, and found no chance yet.
Meanwhile, he is going with me as far as Ohio, to put me among friends that helped
him, and then he will come back after her. "Dangerous, very dangerous!" said the old
man.
George drew himself up, and smiled disdainfully.
The old gentleman eyed him from head to foot, with a sort of innocent wonder.
"George, something has brought you out wonderfully.
You hold up your head, and speak and move like another man," said Mr. Wilson.
"Because I'm a freeman!" said George, proudly.
"Yes, sir; I've said Mas'r for the last time to any man.
I'm free!"
"Take care! You are not sure,--you may be taken."
"All men are free and equal in the grave, if it comes to that, Mr. Wilson," said
George.
"I'm perfectly dumb-founded with your boldness!" said Mr. Wilson,--"to come right
here to the nearest tavern!"
"Mr. Wilson, it is so bold, and this tavern is so near, that they will never think of
it; they will look for me on ahead, and you yourself wouldn't know me.
Jim's master don't live in this county; he isn't known in these parts.
Besides, he is given up; nobody is looking after him, and nobody will take me up from
the advertisement, I think."
"But the mark in your hand?" George drew off his glove, and showed a
newly-healed scar in his hand. "That is a parting proof of Mr. Harris'
regard," he said, scornfully.
"A fortnight ago, he took it into his head to give it to me, because he said he
believed I should try to get away one of these days.
Looks interesting, doesn't it?" he said, drawing his glove on again.
"I declare, my very blood runs cold when I think of it,--your condition and your
risks!" said Mr. Wilson.
"Mine has run cold a good many years, Mr. Wilson; at present, it's about up to the
boiling point," said George.
"Well, my good sir," continued George, after a few moments' silence, "I saw you
knew me; I thought I'd just have this talk with you, lest your surprised looks should
bring me out.
I leave early tomorrow morning, before daylight; by tomorrow night I hope to sleep
safe in Ohio.
I shall travel by daylight, stop at the best hotels, go to the dinner-tables with
the lords of the land. So, good-by, sir; if you hear that I'm
taken, you may know that I'm dead!"
George stood up like a rock, and put out his hand with the air of a prince.
The friendly little old man shook it heartily, and after a little shower of
caution, he took his umbrella, and fumbled his way out of the room.
George stood thoughtfully looking at the door, as the old man closed it.
A thought seemed to flash across his mind. He hastily stepped to it, and opening it,
said,
"Mr. Wilson, one word more." The old gentleman entered again, and
George, as before, locked the door, and then stood for a few moments looking on the
floor, irresolutely.
At last, raising his head with a sudden effort--"Mr. Wilson, you have shown
yourself a Christian in your treatment of me,--I want to ask one last deed of
Christian kindness of you."
"Well, George." "Well, sir,--what you said was true.
I am running a dreadful risk.
There isn't, on earth, a living soul to care if I die," he added, drawing his
breath hard, and speaking with a great effort,--"I shall be kicked out and buried
like a dog, and nobody'll think of it a day after,--only my poor wife!
Poor soul! she'll mourn and grieve; and if you'd only contrive, Mr. Wilson, to send
this little pin to her.
She gave it to me for a Christmas present, poor child!
Give it to her, and tell her I loved her to the last.
Will you?
Will you?" he added, earnestly. "Yes, certainly--poor fellow!" said the old
gentleman, taking the pin, with watery eyes, and a melancholy quiver in his voice.
"Tell her one thing," said George; "it's my last wish, if she can get to Canada, to go
there.
No matter how kind her mistress is,--no matter how much she loves her home; beg her
not to go back,--for slavery always ends in misery.
Tell her to bring up our boy a free man, and then he won't suffer as I have.
Tell her this, Mr. Wilson, will you?" "Yes, George.
I'll tell her; but I trust you won't die; take heart,--you're a brave fellow.
Trust in the Lord, George. I wish in my heart you were safe through,
though,--that's what I do."
"Is there a God to trust in?" said George, in such a tone of bitter despair as
arrested the old gentleman's words. "O, I've seen things all my life that have
made me feel that there can't be a God.
You Christians don't know how these things look to us.
There's a God for you, but is there any for us?"
"O, now, don't--don't, my boy!" said the old man, almost sobbing as he spoke; "don't
feel so!
There is--there is; clouds and darkness are around about him, but righteousness and
judgment are the habitation of his throne. There's a God, George,--believe it; trust
in Him, and I'm sure He'll help you.
Everything will be set right,--if not in this life, in another."
The real piety and benevolence of the simple old man invested him with a
temporary dignity and authority, as he spoke.
George stopped his distracted walk up and down the room, stood thoughtfully a moment,
and then said, quietly, "Thank you for saying that, my good friend;
I'll think of that."
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