THE TRADER

Morn did break, bright and clear, over the face of the sleeping earth!
It was a still and blessed hour. Man, hushed from his rushing activity,
lay reposeful in the arms of “Death’s counterfeit–sleep.” All animated
nature was quiet and calm, till, suddenly, a gush of melody broke from
the clear throats of the wildwood birds and made the air vocal. Another
day was dawning; another day born to witness sins and cruelties the most
direful. Do we not often wonder why the sky can smile so blue and
lovingly, when such outrages are enacted beneath it? But I must not
anticipate.

As soon as the sun had fairly risen I knocked at the house-door, which
was opened by Miss Bradly, whose languid face and crumpled dress, proved
that she had taken no rest during the night. Bidding her a polite
good-morning, I inquired if the ladies had risen? She answered that they
were still asleep, and had rested well during the night. I next inquired
for master’s health.

“Oh,” said she, “I think he is well, quite well again. He slept soundly.
I think he only suffered from a violent and sudden mental excitement. A
good night’s rest, and a sedative that I administered, have restored
him; but _to-day_, oh, _to-day_, how I do dread to-day.”

To the latter part of this speech I made no answer; for, of late, I had
learned to distrust her. Even if her belief was right, I could not
recognize her as one heroic enough to promulgate it from the
house-tops. I saw in her only a weak, servile soul, drawn down from the
lofty purpose of philanthropy, seduced by the charm of “vile lucre.”
Therefore I observed a rigid silence. Feeling a little embarrassed, I
began playing with the strings of my apron, for I was fearful that the
expression of my face might betray what was working in my mind.

“What is the matter, Ann?”

This recalled the tragedy that had occurred in the cabin, and I said, in
a faltering tone,

“Death has been among us. Poor Aunt Polly is gone.”

“Is it possible? When did she die? Poor old creature!”

“She died some time before midnight. When I left the house I was
surprised to find her still sleeping, so I thought perhaps she was too
sluggish, and, upon attempting to arouse her, I discovered that she was
dead!”

“Why did you not come and inform me? I would have assisted you in the
last sad offices.”

“Oh, I did not like to disturb you. I did everything very well myself.”

“Johnny and I sat up all night; that is, I suppose he was up, though he
left the room a little after midnight, and has not since returned. I
should not wonder if he has been walking the better part of the night.
He so loves solitude and the night-time–but then,” she added, musingly
“he has a bad cough, and it may be dangerous. The night was chilly, the
atmosphere heavy. What if this imprudence should rapidly develop a
fearful disease?” She seemed much concerned.

“I will go,” said she, “and search for him;” but ere these words had
fairly died upon her lips, we were startled by a cough, and, looking up,
we beheld the subject of our conversation within a few steps of us. Oh,
how wretchedly he was changed! It appeared as if the wreck of years had
been accomplished in the brief space of a night. Haggard and pale, with
his eyes roving listlessly, dark purple lines of unusual depth
surrounding them, and with his bright, gold hair, heavy with the dew,
and hanging neglected around his noble head, even his clear, pearl-like
complexion appeared dark and discolored.

“Where have you been, Johnny?” asked Miss Bradly.

“To commune with the lonely and comfort the bound; at the door of the
‘lock-up,’ our miniature Bastile, I have spent the night.” Here
commenced a paroxysm of coughing, so violent that he was obliged to seat
himself upon the door-sill.

“Oh, Johnny,” exclaimed the terrified lady.

But as he attempted to check her fears, another paroxysm, still more
frightful, took place, and this time the blood gushed copiously from his
mouth. Miss Bradly threw her arms tenderly around him, and, after a
succession of rapid gushes of blood, his head fell languidly on her
shoulder, like a pale, broken lily!

I instantly ran to call up the ladies, when master approached from his
chamber; seeing young master lying so pale, cold, and insensible in the
arms of Miss Bradly, he concluded he was dead, and, crying out in a
frantic tone, he asked,

“In h–l’s name, what has happened to my boy?”

“He has had a violent hemorrhage,” replied Miss Bradly, with an
ill-disguised composure.

The sight of the blood, which lay in puddles and clots over the steps,
increased the terror of the father, and, frantically seizing his boy in
his arms, he covered the still, pale face with kisses.

“Oh, my boy! my boy! how much you are like _her_! This is her mouth,
eyes, and nose, and now you ‘pears jist like she did when I seed her
last. These limbs are stiff and frozen. It can’t be death; no, it can’t
be. I haven’t killed you, too–say, Miss Bradly, is he dead?”

“No, sir, only exhausted from the violence of the paroxysm, and the
copious hemorrhage, but he requires immediate medical treatment; send,
promptly, for Dr. Mandy.”

Master turned to me, saying,

“Gal, go order Jake to mount the swiftest horse, and ride for life and
death to Dr. Mandy; tell him to come instantly, my son is dying.”

I obeyed, and, with all possible promptitude, the message was
dispatched. Oh, how different when _his_ son was ill. Then you could see
that human life was valuable; had it been a negro, he would have waited
until after breakfast before sending for a doctor.

Mr. Peterkin bore his son into the house, placed him on the bed, and,
seating himself beside him, watched with a tenderness that I did not
think belonged to his harsh nature.

In a very short time Jake returned with Dr. Mandy, who, after feeling
young master’s pulse, sounding his chest, and applying the stethescope,
said that he feared it was an incipient form of lung-fever. We had much
cause for apprehension. There was a perplexed expression upon the face
of the doctor, a tremulousness in his motions, which indicated that he
was in great fear and doubt as to the case. He left some powders, to be
administered every hour, and, after various and repeated injunctions to
Miss Bradly, who volunteered to nurse the patient, he left the house.

After taking the first powder, young master lay in a deep, unbroken
sleep. As I stood by his bedside I saw how altered he was. The cheek,
which, when he was walking, had seemed round and full, was now shrunk
and hollow, and a fiery spot burned there like a living coal; and the
dark, purple ring that encircled the eyes, and the sharp contraction of
the thin nostril, were to me convincing omens of the grave. Then, too,
the anxious, care-written face of Miss Bradly tended to deepen my
apprehension. How my friends were falling around me! Now, just when I
was beginning to live, came the fell destroyer of my happiness.
Happiness? Oh, does it not seem a mockery for the slave to employ that
word? As if he had anything to do with it! The slave, who owns nothing,
ay, literally nothing. His wife and children are all his master’s. His
very wearing apparel becomes another’s. He has no right to use it, save
as he is advised by his owner. Go, my kind reader, to the hotels of the
South and South-west, look at the worn and dejected countenances of the
slaves, and tell me if you do not read misery there. Look in at the
saloons of the restaurants, coffee-houses, &c., at late hours of the
night; there you will see them, tired, worn and weary, with their aching
heads bandaged up, sighing for a few moments’ sleep. There the proud,
luxurious, idle whites sip their sherbets, drink wine, and crack their
everlasting jokes, but there must stand your obsequious slave, with a
smile on his face, waiter in hand, ready to attend to “Master’s
slightest wish.” No matter if his tooth is aching, or his child dying,
he must smile, or be flogged for gruffness. This “chattel personal,”
though he bear the erect form of a man, has no right to any privileges
or emotions. Oh, nation of the free, how long shall this be? Poor,
suffering Africa, country of my sires, how much longer upon thy bleeding
shoulders must the cross be pressed! Is there no tomb where, for a short
space, thou shalt lie, and then, bursting the bonds of night and death,
spring up free, redeemed and regenerate?

“Oh, will he die?” I murmured, “he who reconciles me to my bondage, who
is my only friend? Another affliction I cannot bear; I’ve been so tried
in the furnace, that I have not strength to meet another.”

Those thoughts passed through my brain as I stood beside young master;
but the entrance of Mr. Peterkin diverted them, and, stepping up to him,
I said, “Master, Aunt Polly is dead.”

“You lie!” he thundered out.

“No, Mr. Peterkin, the old woman is really dead,” said Miss Bradly, in a
kind but mournful tone.

“Who killed her?” again he thundered.

Ay, who did kill her? Could I not have answered, “Thou art the man”? But
I did not. Silently I stood before him, never daring to trust myself
with a word.

“What time did she kick the bucket?” asked Mr. Peterkin, in one of the
favorite Kentucky vulgarisms, whereby the most solemn and awful debt of
nature is ridiculed by the unthinking.

I told him how I had found her, what I had done, &c., all of which is
known to the reader.

“I believe h–l is loose among the niggers. Now, here’s Poll had to die
bekase she couldn’t cut any other caper. I might have made a sight o’
money by her sale; and she, old fool, had to cut me outen it. Wal, I’ll
only have to sell some of the others, fur I’s bound to make up a sartin
sum of money to pay to some of my creditors in L—-.”

This speech was addressed to Miss Bradly, upon whom it made not half the
impression that it did upon me. How I hoped I should be one, for if
young master, as I began to believe, should die soon, the place would
become to me more horrible than a tiger’s den. Any change was desirable.

When the young ladies rose from their beds I went in to attend on them,
and communicated the news of young master’s illness and Aunt Polly’s
death. For their brother they expressed much concern, but the faithful
old domestic, who had served them so long, was of no more consequence
than a dog. Miss Jane did seem provoked to think that she “had died on
their hands,” as she expressed it. “If pa had sold her months ago, we
might have had the money, or something valuable, but now we must go to
the expense of furnishing her with a coffin.”

“Coffin! hoity-toity! Father’s not going to give her a coffin, an old
store-box is good enough to put her old carcass in.” And thus they spoke
of one of God’s dead.

Usually persons respect those upon whom death has set his ghastly
signet; but these barbarians (for such I think they must have been)
spoke with an irreverence of one whose body lay still and cold, only few
steps from them. To some people no thing or person is sacred.

After breakfast I waited in great anxiety to hear how and when master
intended to have Aunt Polly buried.

I had gone into the little desolate cabin, which was now consecrated by
the presence of the dead. There _she_ lay, cold and ashen; and the long
white strip that I had thrown over her was too thin to conceal the face.
It was an old muslin curtain that I had found in looking over the boxes
of the deceased, and out of respect had flung it over the remains. So
rigid and hard-set seemed her features in that last, deep sleep, so
tightly locked were those bony fingers, so mournful looked the
straightened, stiffened form, so devoid of speculation the half-closed
eyes, that I turned away with a shudder, saying inwardly:

“Oh, death, thou art revolting!” Yet when I bethought me of the peace
passing human understanding into which she had gone, the safe bourne
that she had attained, “where the wicked cease from troubling and the
weary are at rest;” when I thought of this, death lost its horror, and
the grave its gloom. Oh, Eternity, problem that the living can never
solve. Oh, death, full of victory to the Christian! wast thou not, to my
old and weary friend, a messenger of sweet peace; and was not the tomb a
gateway to new and undreamed-of happiness? Yes, so will I believe; for
so believing am I made joyful.

Relieved thus by faith from the burden of grief, I moved gently about
the room, trying to bring something like order to its ragged appearance;
for Jake, who had been dispatched for Doctor Mandy to come and see young
master, had met on the way a colored preacher, to whom he announced Aunt
Polly’s death, and who had promised to come and preach a funeral sermon,
and attend the burial. This was to the other negroes a great treat; they
regarded a funeral as quite a gala occasion, inasmuch as we had never
had such a thing upon the farm. I had my own doubts, though I did not
express them, whether master would permit it.

Young master still slept, from the strong effects of the sleeping potion
which had been administered to him. Miss Bradly, overcome by the night’s
watching, dozed in a large chair beside the bed, and an open Bible, in
which she had been reading, lay upon her lap. The blinds were closed,
but the dim light of a small fire that blazed on the hearth gave some
appearance of life to the room. Every one who passed in and out, stepped
on tip-toe, as if fearful of arousing the sleeper.

Oh, the comfort of a white skin! No darkened room, no comfortable air,
marked the place where she my friend had died. No hushed dread nor
whispered voice paid respect to the cabin-room where lay her dead body;
but, thanks to God, in the morning of the resurrection we shall come
forth alike, regardless of the distinctions of color or race, each one
to render a faithful account of the deeds done in the body.

Mr. Peterkin came to the kitchen-door, and called Nace, saying:

“Where is that old store-box that the goods and domestics for the house
was fetched home in, from L—-, last fall?”

“It’s in de smoke-house, Masser.”

“Wal, go git it, and bury ole Poll in it.”

“It’s right dirty and greasy, Master,” I ventured to say.

“Who keres if ’tis? What right has you to speak, slut?” and he gave me a
violent kick in the side with his rough brogan.

“Take that for yer imperdence. Who tole you to put yer mouth in?”

Nace and Dan soon produced the box, which had no top, and was dirty and
greasy, as it well might be from its year’s lodgment in the meat-house.

“Now, go dig a hole and put Poll in it.”

As master was turning away, he was met by a neatly-dressed black man,
who wore a white muslin cravat and white cotton gloves, and carried two
books in his hand. He had an humble, reverent expression, and I readily
recognized him as the free colored preacher of the neighborhood–a good,
religious man, God-fearing and God-serving. No one knew or could say
aught against him. How I did long to speak to him; to sit at his feet as
a disciple, and learn from him heavenly truths.

As master turned round, the preacher, with a polite air, took off his
hat, saying:

“Your servant, Master.”

“What do you want, nigger?”

“Why, Master, I heard that one of your servants was dead, and I come to
ask your leave to convene the friends in a short prayer-meeting, if you
will please let us.”

“No, I be d—-d if you shall, you rascally free nigger; if you don’t
git yourself off my place, I’ll git my cowhide to you. I wants none of
yer tom-foolery here.”

“I beg Master’s pardon, but I meant no harm. I generally go to see the
sick, and hold prayer over the dead.”

“You doesn’t do it here; and now take your dirty black hide away, or it
will be the worse for you.”

Without saying one word, the mortified preacher, who had meant well,
turned away. I trust he did as the apostles of old were bidden by their
Divine Master to do, “shook the dust from his feet against that house.”
Oh, coarse and sense-bound man, you refused entertainment to an “angel,
unawares.”

“Well, I sent that prayin’ rascal a flyin’ quick enough;” and with this
self-gratulatory remark, he entered the house.

Nace and Jake carried the box into the cabin, preceded by me.

Most reverently I laid away the muslin from the face and form; and
lifting the head, while Nace assisted at the feet, we attempted to place
the body in the box, but found it impossible, as the box was much too
short. Upon Nace’s representing this difficulty to Mr. Peterkin, he only
replied:

“Wal, bury her on a board, without any more foolin’ ’bout it.”

This harsh mandate was obeyed to the letter. With great expedition, Nace
and Jake dug a hole in the earth, and laid a few planks at the bottom,
upon which I threw an old quilt, and on that hard bed they laid her.
Good and faithful servant, even in death thou wast not allowed a bed!
Over the form I spread a covering, and the men laid a few planks,
box-fashion, over that, and then began roughly throwing on the fresh
earth. “Dust to dust,” I murmured, and, with a secret prayer, turned
from her unmarked resting-place. Mr. Peterkin expressly ordered that it
should not have a grave shape, and so it was patted and smoothed down,
until, save for the moisture and fresh color of the earth, you could not
have known that the ground had ever been broken.

About noon a gaudily-dressed and rough-looking man rode up to the gate,
and alighted from a fine bay horse. With that free and easy sort of way
so peculiar to a _certain class_ of mankind, he walked up the avenue to
the front door.

“Gal,” he said, addressing me, “whar’s yer master?”

“In the house. Will you walk in?”

“No, it is skersely worth while; jist tell him that me, Bill Tompkins,
wants to see him; but stay,” he added, as I was turning to seek my
master, “is you the gal he sold to me yesterday?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Wal, you is devilish likely. Put out yer foot. Wal, it is nice enuff to
belong to a white ‘ooman. You is a bright-colored mulatto. I _must_ have
you.”

“Heavens! I hope not,” was my half-uttered expression, as I turned away,
for I had caught the meaning of that lascivious eye, and shrank from the
threatened danger. Though I had been cruelly treated, yet had I been
allowed to retain my person inviolate; and I would rather, a
thousand-fold, have endured the brutality of Mr. Peterkin, than those
loathsome looks which I felt betokened ruin.

“Master, a man, calling himself Bill Tompkins, wishes to see you,” said
I, as I entered his private apartment.

“Can’t yer say Mr. Tompkins?”

“He told me to tell you Bill Tompkins; I only repeat his words.”

“Whar is he?”

“At the front door.”

“Didn’t yer ax him in, hussy?”

“Yes, sir, but he refused, saying it was not worth while.”

“Oh,” thought I, when left alone, “am I sold to that monster? Am I to
become so utterly degraded? No, no; rather than yield my purity I will
give up my life, and trust to God to pardon the suicide.”

In this state of mind I wandered up and down the yard, into the kitchen,
into the cabin, into the room where young master lay sleeping, into the
presence of the young ladies, and out again into the air; yet my
curious, feverish restlessness, could not be allayed. A trader was in
the house–a bold, obscene man, and into his possession I might fall!
Oh, happy indeed must be those who feel that he or they have the
exclusive custody of their own persons; but the poor negro has nothing,
not even–save in rare cases–the liberty of choosing a home.

I had not dared, since daylight, to go near the “lock-up,” for a fearful
punishment would have been due the one whom Mr. Peterkin found loitering
there.

I was so tortured by apprehension, that my eyes burned and my head
ached. I had heard master say that the unlooked-for death of Aunt Polly
would force him to sell some of the other slaves, in order to realize a
certain sum of money, and Tompkins had expressed a desire for me. It was
likely that he would offer a good price; then should I be lost. Oh,
heavenly Virtue! do not desert me! Let me bear up under the fiercest
trials!

I had wandered about, in this half-crazed manner, never daring to
venture within “ear-shot” of master and Mr. Tompkins, fearing that the
latter might, upon a second sight of me, have the fire of his wicked
passions aroused, and then my fate would be sealed.

I determined to hide in the cabin, to pray there, in the room that had
been hallowed by the presence of God’s angel of Death; but there,
cowering on the old brick hearth, like a hen with her brood of chickens,
I found, to my surprise, Amy, with little Ben in her arms, and the two
girls crouched close to her side, evidently feeling that her presence
was sufficient to protect them.

“Lor’, Ann,” said Amy, her wide eyes stretched to their utmost tension,
“thar is a trader talkin’ wid Masser; I won’er whose gwine to be sole. I
hope tain’t us.”

I didn’t dare reply to her. I feared for myself, and I feared for her.

Kneeling down in the corner of the cabin, I besought mercy of the
All-merciful; but somehow, my prayers fell back cold upon my heart. God
seemed a great way off, and I could not realize the presence of angels.
“Oh,” I cried, “for the uplifting faith that hath so often blest me! oh
for the hopefulness, the trustingness of times past! Why, why is the
gate of heaven shut against me? Why am I thus self-bound? Oh, for a
wider, broader and more liberal view!” But I could not pray. Great God!
had that last and only soul-stay been taken from me? With a black
hopelessness gathering at my heart, I arose from my knees, and looked
round upon those desolate orphans, shrinking terror-stricken, hiding
away from the merciless pursuit of a giant; and then I bethought me of
my own desolation, and I almost arraigned the justice of Heaven. Most
wise Father! pardon me! Thou, who wast tempted by Satan, and to whom the
cup of mortality was bitter, pity me and forgive!

Turning away from the presence of those pleading children I entered the
kitchen, and there were Jake and Dan, terror written on their strong,
hard faces; for, no matter how hard is the negro’s present master, he
always regards a change of owners as entailing new dangers; and no
wonder that, from education and experience, he is thus suspicious, for
so many troubles have come and do come upon him, that he cannot imagine
a change whereby he is to be benefited.

“Has you hearn anything, Ann?” asked Dan, with his great flabby lips
hanging loosely open, and his eyes considerably distended.

“Nothing.”

“Who’s gwine to be sole?” asked Jake.

“I don’t know?”

“Hope tisn’t me.”

“And hope tisn’t me,” burst from the lips of both of them, and to this
my heart gave a fervent though silent echo.

“He is de one dat’s bought Lindy,” said old Nace, who now entered, “and
Masser’s gwine to sell some de rest ob yer.”

“Why do yer say de rest ob yer? Why mayn’t it be you?” asked Dan.

“Bekase he ain’t gwine to sell me, ha! ha! I sarved him too long fur
dat.”

Ginsy and Sally came rushing in, frightened, like all the rest,
exclaiming,

“Oh, we’s in danger; a nigger-trader is talkin’ wid master.”

We had no time for prolonged speculation, for the voice of Mr. Peterkin
was heard in the entry, and, throwing open the door, he entered,
followed by Tompkins.

“Here’s the gang, and a devilish good-lookin’ set they is.”

“Yes, but let me fust see the one I have bought.”

“Here, Nace,” said master, “take this key, and tell Lindy to dress
herself and come here.” The last part of this sentence was said in an
under-tone.

In terror I fled from the kitchen. Scarcely knowing what I did, I rushed
into the young ladies’ room, into which Nace had conducted Lindy, upon
whom they were placing some of their old finery. A half-worn calico
dress, gingham apron and white collar, completed the costume. I never
shall forget the expression of Lindy’s face, as she looked vacantly
around her, hunting for sympathy, yet finding none, from the cold,
haughty faces that gazed upon her.

“Now go,” said Miss Jane, “and try to behave yourself in your new home.”

“Good-bye, Miss Jane,” said the humbled, weeping negro.

“Good-bye,” was coldly answered; but no hand was extended to her.

“Good-bye, Miss Tildy.”

Miss Tildy, who was standing at the glass arranging her hair, never
turned round to look upon the poor wretch, but carelessly said,

“Good-bye.”

She looked toward me; her lip was quivering and tears were rolling down
her cheeks. I turned my head away, and she walked off with the farewell
unspoken.

Quickly I heard Jake calling for me. Then I knew that my worst fears
were on the point of realization. With a timid, hesitating step, I
walked to the kitchen. There, ranged in single file, stood the servants,
with anxious faces, where a variety of contending feelings were written.
I nerved myself for what I knew was to follow, and stepping firmly up,
joined the phalanx.

“That’s the one,” said Tompkins, as he eyed me with that _same_ look.
There he stood, twirling a heavy bunch of seals which depended from a
large, curiously-wrought chain. He looked more like a fiend than a
_man_.

“This here one is your’n,” said Mr. Peterkin, pointing to Lindy; “and,
gal, that gentleman is yer master.”

Lindy dropped a courtesy to him, and tried to wipe away her tears; for
experience had taught her that the only safe course was to stifle
emotions.

“Here, gal, open yer mouth,” Tompkins said to Lindy. She obeyed.

“Now let me feel yer arms.”

He then examined her feet, ankles, legs, passed his hands over various
parts of her body, made her walk and move her limbs in different ways,
and then, seemingly satisfied with the bargain, said,

“Wal, that trade is closed.”

Looking toward me, his dissolute eyes began to glare furiously. Again my
soul quailed; but I tried to govern myself, and threw upon him a glance
as cold as ice itself.

“What will you take for this yallow gal?” he said, as he laid his hand
upon my shoulder. I shrank beneath his touch; yet resistance would only
have made the case worse, and I was compelled to submit.

“I ain’t much anxious to sell her; she is my darter Jane’s waitin’
‘ooman, and, you see, my darters are putty much stuck up. They thinks
they must have a waitin’-maid; but, if you offer a far price, maybe we
will close in.”

“Wal, as she is a fancy article, I’ll jist say take twelve hundred
dollars, and that’s more an’ she’s actilly worth; but I wants her fur my
_own use_; a sorter private gal like, you knows,” and he gave a
lascivious blink, which Mr. Peterkin seemed to understand. I felt a deep
crimson suffuse my face. Oh, God! this was the heaviest of all
afflictions. _Sold!_ and for _such a purpose_!

“I reckon the bargain is closed, then,” said Mr. Peterkin.

I felt despair coiling around my heart. Yet I knew that to make an
appeal to their humanity would be worse than idle.

“Who, which of them have you sold, father?” asked Miss Jane, who entered
the kitchen, doubtless for the humane object of witnessing the distress
of the poor creatures.

“Wal, Lindy’s sold, and we are ’bout closing the bargain for Ann.”

“Why, Ann belongs to me.”

“Yes, but Tompkins offers twelve hundred dollars; and six hundred of it
you shill have to git new furniture.”

“She shan’t go for six thousand. I want an accomplished maid when I go
up to the city, and she just suits me. Remember I have your deed of
gift.”

This relieved me greatly, for I understood her determination; and,
though I knew all sorts of severity would be exercised over me in my
present home, I felt assured that my honor would remain unstained.

The trader tried to persuade and coax Miss Jane; but she remained
impervious to all of his importunities.

“Wal, then,” he said, after finding she would yield to no argument,
“haven’t you none others you can let me have? I am ‘bliged to fill up my
lot.”

“Wal, since my darter won’t trade nohow, I must try and let you have
some of the others, though I don’t care much ’bout sellin’.”

Mr. Peterkin was what was called tight on a trade; now, though he was
anxious enough to sell, he affected to be perfectly indifferent. This
was what would be termed an excellent ruse de guerre.

“If you want children, I think we can supply you,” said Miss Jane, and,
looking round, she asked,

“Where are Amy and her sisters?”

My heart sank within me, and, though I knew full well where they were, I
would not speak.

Little Jim, the son of Ginsy, cried out,

“Yes, I know where dey is. I seed em in dar.”

“Well, run you young rascal, and tell ’em to come here in a minnit,”
said Mr. Peterkin; and away the boy scampered. In a few moments he
returned, followed by Amy, who was bearing Ben in her arms; and, holding
on to her skirts, were the two girls, terror limned on their dark,
shining faces.

“Step up here to this gentleman, Amy, and say how would you like him for
a master?” said Mr. Peterkin.

“Please, sir,” replied Amy, “I don’t kere whar I goes, so I takes these
chillen wid me.”

“I do not want Amy to be sold. Sell the children, father; but let us
keep Amy for a house-girl.” Cold and unfeeling looked the lady as she
pronounced these words; but could you have seen the expression of Amy’s
face! There is no human language, no painter’s power, to show forth the
eye of frantic madness with which the girl glared around on all.
Clutching little Ben tightly, savagely to her bosom, she said no word,
and all seemed struck by the extreme wildness of her manner.

“Let’s look at that boy,” said the trader, as he attempted to unfasten
Amy’s arms but were locked round her treasure.

“Dont’ee, dont’ee,” shrieked the child.

“Yes, but he will,” said Mr. Peterkin, as, with a giant’s force, he
broke asunder the slight arms, “you imperdent hussy, arn’t you my
property? mine to do what I pleases with; and do you dar’ to oppose me?”

The girl said nothing; but the wild expression began to grow wilder,
fiercer, and more frightful. Little Ben, who was not accustomed to any
kind of notice, and felt at home nowhere except in Amy’s arms, set up a
furious scream; but this the trader did not mind, and proceeded to
examine the limbs.

“Something is the matter with this boy, he’s got hip-disease; I knows
from his teeth he is older than you says.”

“Yes,” said Amy seizing the idea, “he is weakly, he won’t do no good
widout me; buy me too, please, Masser,” and she crouched down at the
trader’s feet, with her hands thrown up in an air of touching
supplication; but she had gone to the wrong tribunal for mercy. Who can
hope to find so fair a flower blooming amid the dreary brambles of a
negro-trader’s breast?

Tompkins took no other notice of her than to give her a contemptuous
kick, as much as to say, “thing, get out of my way.”

Turning to Mr. Peterkin he said,

“This boy is not sound. I won’t have him at any price,” and he handed
him back to Amy, who exclaimed, in a thrilling tone,

“Thank God! Bless you, Masser!” and she clasped the shy little Ben
warmly to her breast.

Ben, whose intellect seemed clouded, looked wonderingly around on the
group; then, as if slowly realizing that he had escaped a mighty
trouble, clung closer to Amy.

“Look here, nigger-wench, does you think to spile the sale of property
in that ar’ way? Wal, I’ll let you see I’ll have things my way. No
nigger that ever was born, shall dictate to me.”

“No, father, I’d punish her well, even if I had to give Ben away; he is
no account here, merely an expense; and do sell those other two girls,
Amy’s sisters.”

Mr. Peterkin then called up Lucy and Janey. I have mentioned these two
but rarely in the progress of this book, and for the reason that their
little lives were not much interwoven with the thread of mine. I saw
them often, but observed nothing particular about them. They were quiet,
taciturn, and what is usually called stupid children. They, like little
Ben, never ventured far away from Amy’s protecting wing. Now, with a shy
step and furtive glance toward the trader, they obeyed their master’s
summons. Poor Amy, with Ben clasped to her heart, strained her body
forward, and looked with stretched eyes and suspended breath toward
Tompkins, who was examining them.

“Wal, I’ll give you three hundred and fifty a-piece for ’em. Now, come,
that’s the highest I’ll give, Peterkin, and you mustn’t try to git any
more out of me. You are a hard customer; but I am in a hurry, so I makes
my largest offer right away: I ain’t got the time to waste. That’s more
‘an anybody else would give for ’em; but I sees that they has good
fingers fur to pick cotton, therefore I gives a big price.”

“It’s a bargain, then. They is yourn;” and no doubt Mr. Peterkin thought
he had a good bargain, or he never would have chewed his tobacco in that
peculiarly self-satisfied manner.

“Stand aside, then,” said the trader, pushing his new purchases, as if
they were a bundle of dry goods. Running up to Amy, they began to hold
to her skirts and tremble violently, scarcely knowing what the words of
Tompkins implied.

“Dey ain’t sold?” asked Amy, turning first from one to the other; yet no
one answered. Mr. Peterkin and Tompkins were too busy with their trade,
and the negroes too much absorbed in their own fate, to attend to her.
For my part I had not strength to confirm her half-formed doubt. There
she stood, gathering them to her side with a motherly love.

“What will you give fur this one?” and Mr. Peterkin pointed to Ginsy,
who stood with an humble countenance. When called up she made a low
courtesy, and went through the examination. Name and age were given; a
fair price was offered for her and her child, and was accepted.

“Take this boy for a hundred dollars,” said Mr. Peterkin, as he jerked
Ben from the arms of the half-petrified Amy.

“Wal, he isn’t much ‘count; but, rather then seem contrary, I’ll give
that fur him.”

And thus the trade was closed. Human beings were disposed of with as
little feeling as if they had been wild animals.

“I’m sorry you won’t, young Miss, let me have that maid of yourn; but
I’ll be ‘long next fall, and, fur a good price, I ‘spect you’ll be
willin’ to trade. I wants that yallow wench,” and he clicked his fingers
at me.

“Say, Peterkin, ken you lend me a wagen to take ’em over to my pen?”

“Oh, yes; and Nace can drive ’em over.”

Conscious of having got a good price, Mr. Peterkin was in a capital
humor.

“Come, go with me, Peterkin, and we’ll draw up the papers, and I’ll pay
you your money.”

This was an agreeable sound to master. He ordered Nace to bring out the
wagon, and the order was hardly given before it was obeyed. Dismal
looked that red wagon, the same which years before had carried me away
from the insensible form of my broken-hearted mother. It appeared more
dark and dreary, to me, than a coffin or hearse.

“Say, Peterkin, don’t let ’em take many close; jist a change. It tires
’em too much if they have big bundles to carry.”

“They shan’t be troubled with that.”

“Now, niggers, git your bundles and come ‘long,” said master.

“Oh,” cried Lindy, “can I git to see young master before I start? I
wants to thank him for de comfort he gib me last night,” and she wiped
the tears from her eyes, and was starting toward the door of the house,
when Miss Jane intercepted her.

“No, you runaway hussy, you shan’t go in to disturb him, and have a
scene here.”

“Please, Miss Jane, I only wants to say good-bye.”

“You shan’t do it.”

Mournfully, and with the tears streaming far down her cheeks, she turned
to me, saying, “Please, you, Ann, tell him good-bye fur me, and good-bye
to you. I hope you will forgive me for all de harm I has done to you.”

I took her hand, but could not speak a word. Silently I pressed it.

“Whar’s your close, gal?” asked Tompkins.

“I’m gwine to git ’em.”

“Well, be in a hurry ’bout it.”

She went off to gather up a few articles, scarcely sufficient to cover
her; for we were barely allowed a change of clothing, and that not very
decent.

Ginsy, leading her child with one hand, while she held in the other a
small bundle, walked up to Miss Jane, and dropping a low courtesy, said,

“Farewell, Miss Jane; can I see Miss Tildy and young master?”

“No, John is sick, and Tildy can’t be troubled just now.”

“Yes, ma’m; please tell ’em good-bye fur me; and I hopes young Masser
will soon be well agin. I’d like to see him afore I went, but I don’t
want to ‘sturb him.”

“Well, that will do, go on now.”

“Tell young Masser good-bye,” Ginsy said, addressing her child.

“Good-bye,” repeated Miss Jane very carelessly, scarcely looking toward
them, and they moved away, and shaking hands with the servants, they
marched on to the wagon.

All this time Amy had remained like one transfixed; little Ben held one
of her hands, whilst Janey and Luce grasped her skirts firmly. These
children had no clothes, for, as they performed no regular labor, they
were not allowed a change of apparel. On a Saturday night, whilst they
slept, Amy washed out the articles which they had worn during the week;
and now, poor things, they had no bundles to be made up.

“Come ‘long wid yer, young ones,” and Tompkins took Ben by the hand;
but he stoutly refused to go, crying out:

“Go ‘way, and let me ‘lone.”

“Come on, I’ll give you a lump of sugar.”

“I won’t, I won’t.”

All of them held tightly to Amy, whose vacant face was so stony in its
deep despair, that it struck terror to my soul.

“No more fuss,” said Mr. Peterkin, and he raised his large whip to
strike the screaming Ben a blow; but that motherly instinct that had
taught Amy to protect them thus long, was not now dead, and upon her
outstretched arm the blow descended. A great, fearful gash was made,
from which the fresh blood streamed rapidly; but she minded it not.
What, to that lightning-burnt soul, were the wounds of the body?
Nothing, aye nothing!

“Oh, don’t mark ’em, Peterkin, it will spile the sale,” said Tompkins.

“Come ‘long now, niggers, I has no more time to wait;” and, with a
strong wrench, he broke Ben’s arms loose from Amy’s form, and, holding
him firmly, despite his piteous cries, he ordered Jake to bring the
other two also. This order was executed, and quickly Luce and Janey were
in the grasp of Jake, and borne shrieking to the cart, in which all
three of them were bound and laid.

Speechless, stony, petrified, stood Amy. At length, as if gifted with a
supernatural energy, she leaped forward, as the cart drove off, and fell
across the path, almost under the feet of the advancing horses. But not
yet for thee, poor suffering child, will come the Angel of Death! It has
been decreed that you shall endure and wait a while longer.

By an adroit check upon the rein, Nace stopped the wagon suddenly, and
Jake, who was standing near by, lifted Amy up.

“Take her to the house, and see that she does herself no harm,” said Mr.
Peterkin.

“Yes, Masser, I will,” was the reply of the obsequious Jake.

And so the cart drove on. I shall never forget the sight! Those poor,
down-cast creatures, tied hand and foot, were conveyed they knew not
whither. The shrieks and screams of those children ring now in my ears.
Oh, doleful, most doleful! Why came there no swift execution of that
Divine threat, “Whoso causeth harm to one of these little ones, it were
better for him that a mill-stone were hung about his neck and that he
were drowned in the sea.”

Continue Reading

YOUNG ABOLITIONIST

As young Master strode away, Misses Jane and Tildy regarded each other
in silent wonder. At length the latter, who caught the cue from her
sister, burst forth in a violent laugh, that I can define only by
calling it a romping laugh, so full of forced mirth. Miss Jane took up
the echo, and the house resounded with their assumed merriment. No one
else, however, seemed to take the infection; and they had the fun all to
themselves.

“Well, Ann,” said Miss Tildy, putting on a quizzical air, “I suppose you
have been very much edified by your young master’s explosion of
philanthropy and good-will toward you darkies.”

Too well I knew my position to make an answer; so there I stood, silent
and submissive.

“Oh, yes, I suppose this young renegade has delivered abolition lectures
in the kitchen hall, to his ‘dearly belubed’ brederen ob de colored
race,” added Miss Matilda, intending to be vastly witty.

“I think we had better send him on to an Anti-slavery convention, and
give him a seat ‘twixt Lucy Stone and Fred Douglas. Wouldn’t his white
complexion contrast well with that of the sable orator?” and this Miss
Jane designed should be exceedingly pungent.

Still no one answered. Mr. Worth’s face wore a troubled expression; the
doctor still played with his wine-glass; and Miss Bradly’s face was
buried deeper in her hands.

“Suppose father had been here; what do you think he would have said?”
asked Miss Jane.

This, no doubt, recalled Dr. Mandy to the fact that Mr. Peterkin’s
patronage was well worth retaining, so he must speak _now_.

“Oh, your father, Miss Jane, is such a sensible man, that he would
consider it only the freak of an imprudent beardless boy.”

“Is, then,” I asked myself, “all expressed humanity but idle gibberish?
Is it only beardless boys who can feel for suffering slaves? Is all
noble philanthropy voted vapid by sober, serious, reflecting manhood? If
so, farewell hope, and welcome despair!” I looked at Mr. Worth; but his
face was rigid, and a snowy pallor overspread his gentle features. He
was young, and this was his first visit to Kentucky. In his home at the
North he had heard many stories of the manner in which slavery was
conducted in the West and South; but the stories, softened by distance,
had reached him in a mild form, consequently he was unprepared for what
he had witnessed since his arrival in Kentucky. He had, though desiring
liberty alike for all, both white and black, looked upon the system as
an unjust and oppressive one, but he had no thought that it existed in
the atrocious and cruel form which fact, not report, had now revealed to
him. His whole soul shuddered and shrivelled at what he saw. He
marvelled how the skies could be so blue and beautiful; how the flowers
could spring so lavishly, and the rivers roll so majestically, and the
stars burn so brightly over a land dyed with such horrible crimes.

“Father will not deal very leniently with this boy’s follies; he will
teach Johnny that there’s more virtue in honoring a father, than in
equalizing himself with negroes.” Here Miss Jane tossed her head
defiantly.

Just then a loud noise was heard from the avenue, and, looking out the
window, we descried the hunters returning crowned with exultation, for,
alas! poor Lindy had been found, and there, handcuffed, she marched
between a guard of Jake on the one side, and Dan on the other. There
were marks of blood on her brow, and her dress was here and there
stained. Cool as was the day, great drops of perspiration rolled off her
face. With her head bowed low on her breast, she walked on amid the
ribald jests of her persecutors.

“Well, we has cotch dis ‘ere runaway gal, and de way we did chase her
down is nuffen to nobody,” said old Nace, who had led the troop. “I
tells you it jist takes dis here nigger and his hounds to tree the
runaway. I reckons, Miss Lindy, you’ll not be fur trying ob it agin.”

“No, dat hab fixed her,” replied the obsequious Jake. Dan laughed
heartily, showing his stout teeth.

“Now, Masser,” said Nace, as taking off his remnant of a hat he scraped
his foot back, and grinned terribly, “dis ar’ nigger, if you pleases,
sar, would like to hab a leetle drap ob de critter dat you promise to
him.”

“Oh, yes, you black rascal, you wants some ob my fust-rate whiskey, does
you? Wal, I ‘spects, as you treed dat ar’ d—-d nigger-wench, you
desarves a drap or so.”

“Why, yes, Masser, you see as how I did do my best for to ketch her, and
I is right much tired wid de run. You sees dese old legs is gettin’
right stiff; dese jints ain’t limber like Jake and Dan’s dar, yet I
tink, Masser, I did de bestest, an’ I ought to hab a leetle drap de
most, please, sar.”

“Come, ‘long, come ‘long, boys, arter we stores dis gal away I’ll gib
you yer dram.”

There had stood poor Lindy, never once looking up, crestfallen, broken
in heart, and bruised in body, awaiting a painful punishment, scarce
hoping to escape with life and limb. Striking her a blow with his huge
riding-whip, Mr. Peterkin shouted, “off with you to the lock-up!”

Now, that which was technically termed the “lock-up,” was an old, strong
building, which had once been used as a smoke-house, but since the
erection of a new one, was employed for the very noble purpose of
confining negroes. It was a dark, damp place, without a window, and but
one low door, through which to enter. In this wretched place, bound and
manacled, the poor fugitive was thrust.

“There, you may run off if you ken,” said Mr. Peterkin, as he drew the
rough door to, and fastened on the padlock with the dignified air of a
regularly-installed jailer. “Now, boys, come ‘long and git the liquor.”

This pleasing announcement seemed to give an additional impetus to the
spirits of the servants, and, with many a “ha, ha, ha,” they followed
their master.

“Well, father,” said Miss Jane, whilst she stood beside Mr. Peterkin,
who was accurately measuring out a certain quantity of whiskey to the
three smiling slaves, who stood holding their tin cups to receive it, “I
am glad you succeeded in arresting that audacious runaway. Where did you
find her? Who was with her? How did she behave? Oh, tell me all about
the adventure; it really does seem funny that such a thing should have
occurred in our family; and now that the wretch has been caught, I can
afford to laugh at it.”

“Wal,” answered Mr. Peterkin, as he replaced the cork in the brown jug,
and proceeded to lock it up in his private closet, “you does ax the most
questions in one breath of any gal I ever seed in all my life. Why, I
haint bin in the house five minutes, and you has put more questions to
me than a Philadelphy lawyer could answer. ‘Pon my soul, Jane, you is a
fast ‘un.”

“Never mind my fastness, father, but tell me what I asked.”

“Wal, whar is I to begin? You axed whar Lindy was found? These dogs
hunted her to Mr. Farland’s barn. Thar they ‘gan to smell and snort
round and cut up all sorts of capers, and old Nace clumb up to the hay
loft, and sung out, in a loud voice, ‘Here she am, here she am.’ Then I
hearn a mighty scrambling and shufflin’ up dar, so I jist springed up
arter Nace, and thar was the gal, actually fightin’ with Nace, who
wanted to fetch her right down to the ground whar we was a waitin’. I
tells you, now, one right good lick from my powder-horn fetched her all
right. She soon seen it was no kind of use to be opposin’ of us, and so
she jist sot down right willin’. I then fetched several good licks, and
she knowed how to do, kase, when I seed I had drawed the blood, I didn’t
kere to beat her any more. So I ordered her to git down outen that ar’
loft quicker than she got up. Then we bound her hands, and driv her long
through the woods like a bull. I tells you she was mighty-much ‘umbled
and shamed; every now and thin she’d blubber out a cryin’, but my whup
soon shot up her howlin’.”

“I’ve a great notion to go,” said Jane, “and torment her a little more,
the impudent hussy! I wonder if she thinks we will ever take her back to
live with us. She has lost a good home, for she shall not come here any
more. I want you to sell her, father, and at the highest price, to a
regular trader.”

“That will I do, and there is a trader in this very neighborhood now.
I’ll ride over this arternoon and make ‘rangements with him fur her
sale. But come, Jane, I is powerful hungry; can’t you git me something
to eat?”

“But, father, I have a word to say with you in private, draw near me.”

“What ails you now, gals?” he said, as Miss Tildy joined them, with a
perplexed expression of countenance. As he drew close to them I heard
Miss Jane say, through her clenched teeth, in a hissing tone:

“Old Polly is insane; lost her reason from that blow which you gave her.
Do you think they could indict you?”

“Who, in the name of h–l, can say that I struck her? Who saw it? No,
I’d like fur to see the white man that would dar present Jeems Peterkin
afore the Grand Jury, and a nigger darn’t think of sich a thing, kase as
how thar testimony ain’t no count.”

“Then we are safe,” both of the ladies simultaneously cried.

“But whar is that d—-d old hussy? She ain’t crazy, only ‘possuming so
as to shuffle outen the work. Let me git to her once, and I’ll be bound
she will step as smart as ever. One shake of the old cowhide will make
her jump and talk as sensible as iver she did.”

“‘Tisn’t worth while, father, going near her. I tell you, Doctor Mandy
says she is a confirmed lunatic.”

“I tells yer I knows her constitution better ‘an any of yer, doctors,
and all; and this here cowhide is allers the best medicine fur niggers;
they ain’t like the white folks, no how nor ways.”

So saying he, followed by his daughters, went to the cabin where poor
Aunt Polly was sitting, in all the touching simplicity of second
childhood, playing with some bits of ribbon, bright-colored calico, and
flashy artificial flowers. Looking up with a vacant stare at the group
she spoke not, but, slowly shaking her head in an imbecile way,
murmured:

“These are putty, but yer mustn’t take ’em frum me; dese am all dat dis
ole nigger hab got, dese here am fadder, mudder, hustbund, an chile. Lit
me keep ’em.”

“You old fool, what’s you ’bout, gwine on at this here rate? Don’t you
know I is yer master, and will beat the very life outen yer, if yer
don’t git up right at once?”

“Now who is yer? Sure now, an’ dis old nigger doesn’t know yer. Yer is a
great big man, dat looks so cross and bad at me. I wish yer would go on
’bout yer own bisness, and be a lettin’ me ‘lone. I ain’t a troublin’ of
yer, no way.”

“You ain’t, arnt yer, you old fool? but I’ll give yer a drap of medicine
that’ll take the craze outen yer, and make yer know who yer master is.
How does you like that, and this, and this?” and, suiting the action to
the word, he dealt her blow after blow, in the most ferocious manner.
Her shoulders were covered with blood that gushed from the torn flesh. A
low howl (it could only be called a howl) burst from her throat, and
flinging up her withered hands, she cried, “Oh, good Lord Jesus, come
and help thy poor old servant, now in dis her sore time ob trouble.”

“The Lord Jesus won’t hear sich old nigger wretches as you,” said Mr.
Peterkin.

“Oh, yes, de Lord Jesus will. He ‘peared to me but a leetle bit ago,
and he was all dressed in white, wid a gold crown upon His head, and His
face war far and putty like young Masser’s, only it seemed to be heap
brighter, and he smiled at dis poor old sufferin’ nigger; and den
‘peared like a low, little voice ‘way down to de bottom ob my heart say,
Polly, be ob good cheer, de Lord Jesus is comin’ to take you home. He no
care weder yer skin is white or black. He is gwine fur to make yer happy
in de next world. Oh, den me feel so good, me no more care for
anything.”

“All of this is a crazy fancy,” said Dr. Mandy, who stepped into the
cabin; but taking hold of Polly’s wrist, and holding his fingers over
her pulse, his countenance changed. “She has excessive fever, and a
strong flow of blood to the brain. She cannot live long. Put her
instantly to bed, and let me apply leeches.”

“Do yer charge extry for leeching, doctor?” asked Mr. Peterkin.

“Oh, yes, sir, but it is not much consideration, as you are one of my
best customers.”

“I don’t want to run any useless expense ’bout the old ‘oman. You see
she has served my family a good many years.”

“And you are for that reason much attached to her,” interposed the
doctor.

“Not a bit of it, sir. I never was ‘tached to a nigger. Even when I was
a lad I had no fancy fur ’em, not even yer bright yallow wenches; and I
ain’t gwine fur to spend money on that old nigger, unless you cure her,
and make her able to work and pay fur the money that’s bin laid out fur
her.”

“I can’t promise to do that; neither am I certain that the leeches will
do her any material good, but they will assuredly serve to mitigate her
sufferings, by decreasing the fever, which now rages so high.”

“I don’ care a cuss for that. Taint no use then of trying the leeches.
If she be gwine to die, why let her do it in the cheapest way.”

Saying this, he went off with the young ladies, the doctor following in
the wake. As he was passing through the door-way, I caught him by the
skirts of his coat. Turning suddenly round, he saw who it was, and drew
within the cabin.

“Doctor,” and I spoke with great timidity, “is she so ill? Will she,
must she die? Please try the leeches. Here,” and I drew from an old
hiding-place in the wall the blessed half-dollar which Master Eddy had
given me as a keepsake. For years it had lain silently there, treasured
more fondly than Egyptian amulet or Orient gem. On some rare holiday I
had drawn it from its concealment to gloat over it with all a miser’s
pride. I did not value it for the simple worth of the coin, for I had
sense enough to know that its actual value was but slight; yet what a
wealth of memories it called up! It brought _back_ the times when _I had
a mother_; when, as a happy, careless child (though a slave), I wandered
through the wild greenwood; where I ranged free as a bird, ere the
burden of a blow had been laid upon my shoulders; and when my young
master and mistress sometimes bestowed kind words upon me. The fair
locks and mild eyes of the latter gleamed upon me with dream-like
beauty. The kind, tearful face of Master Eddy, his gentle words on that
last most dreadful day that bounded and closed the last chapter of happy
childhood–all these things were recalled by the sight of this simple
little half-dollar! And now I was going to part with it. What a struggle
it was! I couldn’t do it. No, I couldn’t do it. It was the one _silver_
link between me and remembered joy. To part with it would be to wipe out
the _bright_ days of my life. It would be sacrilege, in justice, a
wrong; no, I replaced it in the old faded rag (in which it had been
wrapped for years), and closed my hand convulsively over it. There stood
the doctor! He had caught sight of the gleaming coin, and (small as it
was) his cupidity was excited, and when he saw my hand closed over the
shining treasure, the smile fled from his face, and he said:

“Girl, for what purpose did you detain me? My time is precious. I have
other patients to visit this morning, and cannot be kept here longer!”

“Oh, doctor, try the leeches.”

“Your Master says he won’t pay for them.”

“But for the sake of charity, for the value of human life, you will do
it without pay.”

“Will I, though? Trust me for that–and who will feed my wife and
children in the meantime. I can’t be doctoring every old sick nigger
gratuitously. Her old fagged-out frame ain’t worth the waste of my
leeches. I thought you were going to pay for it; but you see a nigger is
a nigger the world over. They are too stingy to do anything for one of
their own tribe.”

“But this money is a keepsake, a parting-gift from my young Master, who
gave it to me years ago, when I was sold. I prize it because of the
recollections which it calls up.”

“A sentimental nigger! Well, _that is_ something new; but if you cared
for that old woman’s life you wouldn’t hesitate,” and, so saying, he
walked away. I looked upon poor Aunt Polly, and I fancied there was a
rebuking light in her feeble eye; and her withered hands seemed
stretched out to ask the help which I cruelly withheld.

And shall I desert her who has suffered so deeply for me? Well may she
reproach me with that “piteous action”–me, who for a romantic and
fanciful feeling withhold the means of saving her life. Oh, how I blamed
myself! How wicked and selfish I thought my heart.

“Doctor! come back, doctor! here is the money,” I cried.

He had stood but a few steps without the cabin door, doubtless expecting
this change in my sentiments.

“You have done well, Ann, to deny yourself, and make some effort to save
the life of the old woman. You see I would have done it for nothing; but
the leeches cost me money. It is inconvenient to get them, and I have a
family, a very helpless one, to support, and you know it won’t do to
neglect them, lest I be worse than a heathen and infidel. In your case,
my good girl, the case is quite different, for _niggers_ are taken care
of and supported by their Masters, and any little change that you may
have is an extra, for which you have no particular need.”

An “extra” indeed it was, and a very rare one. One that had come but
once in my life, and, God be praised, it afforded me an opportunity of
doing the good Samaritan’s work! I had seen how the Levite and the
priest had neglected the wounded woman, and with this little coin I
could do a noble deed; but as to my being well-cared and provided for, I
thought the doctor had shot wide of his mark. I was surprised at the
tone of easy familiarity which he assumed toward me; but this was
explained by the fact that he was what is commonly called a jolly
fellow, and had been pretty freely indulging in the “joyful glass.”
Besides, I was going to pay him; then, maybe, he felt a little ashamed
of his avarice, and sought by familiar tone and manner to beguile me,
and satisfy his conscience.

His “medical bags” had been left in the entry, for Miss Jane, who
delighted in the Lubin-perfumed extracts, would tolerate nothing less
sweet-scented, and by her prohibitory fiat, the “bags” were denied
admittance to the house. Once, when the doctor was suddenly called to
see a white member of the family, he, either through forgetfulness or
obstinacy, violated the order, and Miss Jane had every carpet taken up
and shaken, and the floor scoured, for the odor seemed to haunt her for
weeks. Since then he had rigidly adhered to the rule; I suspect, with
many secret maledictions upon the acuteness of her olfactories.

Now he requested me to bring the bags to him, I found them, as I had
expected, sitting in the very spot where he usually placed them.

“There they are, doctor, now be quick. Cure her, help her, do anything,
but let her not die whilst this money can purchase her life, or afford
her ease.”

He took the coin from my hand, surveyed it for a moment, a thing that I
considered very cruel, for, all the while, the victim was suffering
uncared for, unattended to.

“It is but a small piece, doctor, but it is my all; if I had more, you
should have it, but now please be quick in the application of your
remedy.”

“This money will pay but for a few leeches, not enough to do the
contusion much good. You see there is a great deal of diseased blood
collected at the left temple; but I’ll be charitable and throw in a few
leeches, for which you can pay me at some other time, when you happen to
have money.”

“Certainly, doctor, I will give you _all_ that you demand as fast as I
get it.”

After a little scarification he applied the leeches, twelve in number,
little, sleek, sharp, needle-pointed, oily-looking things. Quickly, as
if starved, the tiny vampires commenced their work of blood-sucking.

“She bore to be scarified better than any subject I ever saw. Not a
writhe or wince,” remarked the doctor.

Ah, thought I, she has endured too much pain to tremble at a needle
prick like that. She, whose body had bled at every pore, whose skin had
been torn and mangled until it bore a thousand scars, could surely bear,
without writhing, a pain so delicate as that. Though I thought thus, I
said not a word; for (to me) the worst part of our slavery is that we
are not allowed to speak our opinion on any subject. We are to be mutes,
save when it suits our owners to let us answer in words obsequious
enough to please their greedy love of authority.

Silently I stood watching the leeches. From the loss of blood, Aunt
Polly seemed somewhat exhausted, and was soon soundly, sweetly sleeping.

“Let her sleep,” said the doctor, as he removed the leeches and replaced
them in a little stone vase, “when she wakes she will probably be
better, and you will then owe me one dollar and a half, as the bill is
two dollars. It would have been more, but I allow part to go for
charity.” So saying he left the cabin and returned to the house. Oh,
most noble Christian “charity”! Is this the blessed quality that is
destined to “cover a multitude of sins”? He would not even leech a
half-dying woman without a pecuniary reward. Oh, far advanced whites,
fast growing in grace and ripening in holiness!

After wiping the fresh blood-stains (produced by the severe beating of
Mr. Peterkin) from Aunt Polly’s shoulders, and binding up her brow to
conceal the wounds made by the leeching process, I tenderly spread the
old coverlet over her form, and then turned away from her to go about my
usual avocations.

The doctor was just making his adieux, and the ladies had gathered round
him in quite a social and sportive way. Misses Jane and Tildy were
playfully disputing which one should take possession of his heart and
hand, in the event of Mrs. Mandy’s sudden demise. All this merriment and
light-heartedness was exhibited, when but a few rods from them a poor,
old, faithful creature lay in the agonies of a torturing death, and a
young girl, who had striven for her liberty, and tried to achieve it at
a perilous risk, had just been bound, hand and foot, and cast into outer
darkness! Oh, this was a strange meeting of the extremes. What varied
colors the glass of life can show!

At length, with many funny speeches, and promises very ridiculous, the
doctor tore himself away from the chatty group.

Passing in and out of the house, through the hall or in the parlor, as
my business required, I saw Mr. Worth and Miss Bradly sitting quietly
and moodily apart, whilst, occasionally, Miss Tildy would flash out with
a coarse joke, or Miss Jane would speculate upon the feelings of Lindy,
in her present helpless and gloomy confinement.

“I reckon she does not relish Canada about this time.”

“No; let us ask her _candid_ opinion of it,” said Miss Tildy, who
considered herself _the wit_ of the family, and this last speech she
regarded as quite an extraordinary flash.

“That’s very good, Till,” said her patronizing sister, “but you are
always witty.”

“Now, sister, ain’t you ashamed to flatter me so?” and with the most
Laura Matilda-ish air, she turned her head aside and tried to blush.

I could read, from his clear, manly glance, that Mr. Worth was sick at
heart and goaded to anguish by what he saw and heard; yet, like many
another noble man, he sat in silent endurance. Miss Jane caught the idea
of his gloom, and, with a good deal of sly, vulpine malice, determined
to annoy him. She had not for him, as Miss Tildy had, a personal
admiration; so, by way of vexing him, as well as showing off her
smartness, she asked:

“Till, is there much Worth in Abolitionism?”

“I don’t know, but there is a _Robin_ in it.” This she thought a capital
repartee.

“Bravo! bravo, Till! who can equal you? You are the wittiest girl in
town or country.”

“Wit is a precious gift,” said Mr. Worth, as he satirically elevated his
brows.

“Indeed is it,” replied Miss Tildy, “but I am not conscious of its
possession.” Of course she expected he would gainsay her; but, as he was
silent, her cheeks blazed like a peony.

“What makes Miss Bradly so quiet and seemingly lachrymose? I do believe
Johnny’s Abolition lecture has given her the blues.”

“Not the lecture, but the necessity for the lecture,” put in Mr. Worth.

“What’s that? what’s that ’bout Aberlitionists?” exclaimed Mr. Peterkin,
as he rushed into the room. “Is there one of ’em here? Let me know it,
and my roof shan’t shelter the rascal. Whar is he?”

I looked toward Mr. Worth, for I feared that, on an occasion like this,
his principles would fail as Miss Bradly’s had; but the fear was
quickly dissipated, as he replied in a manly tone:

“I, a vindicator of the anti-slavery policy, and a denouncer of the
slave system, stand before you, and declare myself proud of my
sentiments.”

“You? ha! ha! ha! ha! that’s too ridiculous; a mere boy; a stripling, no
bigger than my arm. I’d not disgrace my manhood with a fight with the
like of yer.”

“So thought Goliath when David met him in warfare; but witness the
sequel, and then say if the battle is always to the strong, or the
victory with the proud. Might is not always right. I ask to be heard for
my cause. Stripling as you call me, I am yet able to vindicate my
abolition principles upon other and higher ground than mere brute
force.”

“Oh, yes; you has larnt, I s’pose, to talk. That’s all them windy
Aberlitionists ken do; they berate and talk, but they can’t act.”

A contemptuous smile played over the face of Mr. Worth, but he did not
deign to answer with words.

“Do you know, pa, that Johnny is an Abolitionist?” asked Miss Jane.

“What! John Peterkin? my son John?”

“The same,” and Miss Jane bowed most significantly.

“Well, that’s funny enuff; but I’ll soon bring it outen him. He’s a
quiet lad; not much sperrit, and I guess he’s hearn some ‘cock and bull
story’ ’bout freedom and equality. All smart boys of his age is apt to
feel that way, but he’ll come outen it. It’s all bekase he has hearn too
many Fourth of July speeches; but I don’t fear fur him, he is sure to
come outen it. The very idee of my son’s being an Aberlitionist is too
funny.”

“Funny is it, father, for your child to love mercy, and deal justly,
even with the lowliest?” As he said this, young master stood in the
doorway. He looked paler and even more spiritual than was his wont.

Mr. Peterkin sat for full five minutes, gazing at the boy; and, strange
to say, made no reply, but strode away from the room.

Miss Jane and Tildy regarded each other with evident surprise. They had
expected a violent outburst, and thus to see their father tamed and
subdued by the word and glance of their boy-brother, astonished them not
a little.

Miss Tildy turned toward young master, and said, in what was meant for a
most caustic tone,

“You are an embryo Van Amburgh, thus to tame the lion’s rage.”

“But you, Tildy, are too vulpine to be fascinated even by the glance of
Van Amburgh himself.”

“Well, now, Johnny, you are getting impertinent as well as spicy.”

“Pertinent, you mean,” said Mr. Worth. Miss Tildy would not look angry
at _him_; for she was besieging the fortress of his affections, and she
deemed kind measures the most advantageous.

Were I to narrate most accurately the conversation that followed, the
repartees that flashed from the lips of some, and the anger that burned
blue in the faces of others, I should only amuse the reader, or what is
more likely, weary him.

I will simply mention that, after a few hours’ sojourn, Mr. Worth took
his departure, not without first having a long conversation, in a
private part of the garden, with young master. Miss Bradly retired to
the young ladies’ room (for they would not allow her to leave the
house), under pretext of headache. Often, as I passed in and out to ask
her if she needed anything, I found her weeping bitterly. Late in the
evening, about eight o’clock, Mr. Peterkin returned; throwing the reins
of his horse to Nace, he exclaimed:

“Well, I’ve made a good bargain of it; I’ve sold Lindy to a trader for
one thousand dollars–that is, if she answers the description which I
gave of her. He is comin’ in the mornin’ to look at her; and, with a
little riggin’ up, I think she’ll ‘pear a rale good-lookin’ wench.”

When I went into the house to prepare some supper for Mr. Peterkin (the
family tea had been despatched two hours before), he was in an excellent
humor, well pleased, no doubt, with his good trade.

“Now, Ann, be brisk and smart, or you might find yourself in the
trader’s hands afore long. Likely yellow gals like you sells mighty
well; and if you doesn’t behave well you is a goner.”

“Down the river” was not terrible to me, nor did I dread being “sold;”
yet one thing I did fear, and that was separation from young master. In
the last few days he had become to me everything I could respect; nay, I
loved him. Not that it was in his power to do me any signal act of good.
He could not soften the severity of his father and sisters toward me;
yet one thing he could and did do, he spoke an occasional kind, hopeful
word to me. Those whose hearts are fed upon kindness and love, can
little understand how dear to the lonely, destitute soul, is one word of
friendliness. We, to whom the husks are flung with an unfeeling tone,
appreciate as manna from heaven the word of gentleness; and now I
thought if I were to leave young master _my soul would die_. Had not his
blessed smile elevated and inspired my sinking spirit, and his sweet
tone softened my over-taxed heart? Oh, blessed one! even now I think of
thee, and with a full heart thank God that such beings have lived!

I watched master dispatch his supper in a most summary manner. At length
he settled himself back in his chair, and, taking his tooth-pick from
his waistcoat pocket, began picking his teeth.

“Wal, Ann,” he said, as he swung himself back in his chair, “how’s ole
Poll?”

“She is still asleep.”

“Yes, I said she was possuming; but by to-morrow, if she ain’t up outen
that ar’ bunk of hers, I’ll know the reason; and I’ll sell her to the
trader that’s comin’ for Lindy.”

“I wish you would sell her, father, and buy a new cook; she prepares
everything in such an old-fashioned manner–can’t make a single French
dish,” said Miss Jane.

“I don’t care a cuss ’bout yer French dishes, or yer fashionable cooks;
I’s gwine to sell her, becase the craps didn’t yield me much this year,
and I wants money, so I must make it by sellin’ off niggers.”

“You must not sell Aunt Polly, and you shall not,” said young master,
with a fearful emphasis.

“What do you mean, lad?” cried the infuriated father, and he sprang from
his seat, and was in the very act of rushing upon the offender; but
suddenly he quailed before the fixed, determined gaze of that eye. He
looked again, then cowered, reeled, and staggered like a drunken man,
and, falling back in his chair, he covered his face with his hands, and
uttered a fearful groan. The ladies were frightened; they had never seen
their father thus fearfully excited. They dared not speak one word. The
finger of an awful silence seemed laid upon each and every one present.
At length young master, with a slow step, approached his father, and,
taking the large hand, which swung listlessly, within his own, said,
“Fath–;” but before he had finished the syllable, Mr. Peterkin sprang
up, exclaiming,

“Off, I say! off! off! she sent you here; she told you to speak so to
me.” Then gazing wildly at Johnny, he cried, “Those are her eyes, that
is her face. I say, away! away! leave me! you torment me with the sight
of that face! It’s hers it’s hers. Blood will have blood, and now you
comes to git mine!” and the strong man fell prostrate upon the floor, in
a paroxysm of agony. He foamed at the mouth, and rolled his great vacant
eyes around the room in a wildness fearful to behold.

“Oh Lor’,” said old Nace, who appeared in the doorway, “oh Lor’, him’s
got a fit.”

The ladies shrieked and screamed in a frightful manner. Young master was
almost preternaturally calm. He and Miss Bradly (after Nace and Jake had
placed master on the bed) rendered him every attention. Miss Bradly
chafed his temples with camphor, and moistened the lips and palms of
the hands with it. When he began to revive, he turned his face to the
wall and wept like a child. Then he fell off into a quiet sleep.

Young master and Miss Bradly watched beside that restless sleeper long
and faithfully. And from that night there grew up between them a fervent
friendship, which endured to the last of their mortal days.

Upon frequently going into Aunt Polly’s cabin, I was surprised to find
her still sleeping. At length when my duties were all discharged in the
house, and I went to prepare for the night’s rest, I thought I would
arouse her from her torpor and administer a little nourishment that
might benefit her.

To my surprise her arm felt rigid, and oh, so cold! What if she is dead!
thought I; and a cold thrill passed over my frame. The big drops burst
from my brow and stood in chilly dew upon my temples. Oh God! can it be
that she is dead! One look, one more touch, and the dreadful question
would be answered; yet, when I attempted to stretch forth my hand, it
was stiff and powerless. In a moment the very atmosphere seemed to grow
heavy; ’twas peopled with a strange, charnel gloom. My breath was thick
and broken, coming only at intervals and with choking gaspings. One more
desperate effort! I commanded myself, gathered all my courage, and,
seizing hold of the body with a power which was stronger than my own, I
turned it over–when, oh God of mercy, such a spectacle! the question
was answered with a fearful affirmation. There, rigid, still and
ghastly, she lay in death. The evident marks of a violent struggle were
stamped upon those features, which, despite their tough
hard-favoredness, and their gaunt gloom, were dear to me; for had she
not been my best of friends, nay proved her friendship by a martyrdom
which, if slower, was no less heroic than that which adorns the columns
of historical renown? Gently I closed those wide-staring, blank eyes,
and pressed tenderly together the distended jaws; and, taking from a box
a slipet of white muslin, bound up her cheeks. Slowly, and not without a
feeling of terror, I unwound the bandage from her brow, which concealed
the wound made by the leeches; this I replaced with my only
handkerchief. I then endeavored to straighten the contracted limbs, for
she had died lying upon her side, with her body drawn nearly double. I
found this a rather difficult task; yet was it a melancholy pleasure, a
duty that I performed irresolutely but with tenderness.

After all was done, and before getting the water to wash the body (for I
wished to enrobe her decently for the burial), I gave way to the luxury
of expressed grief, and, sinking down upon my knees beside that lifeless
form, thanked God for having taken her from this scene of trouble and
trial. “You are gone, my poor old friend; but that hereafter of which we
all entertain so much dread, cannot be to you so bad as this wretched
present; and though I am lonely without you, I rejoice that you have
left this land of bondage. And I believe that at this moment your tried
soul is free and happy!”

So saying, I stepped without the door of the cabin, and, looking up to
the clear, cold moon and the way-off stars, I smiled, even in my
bitterness, for I imagined I could see her emancipated soul soaring away
on its new-made wings, to the land forever flowing with milk and honey.
She had often in her earth-pilgrimage, as many tried martyrs had done
before her, fainted by the wayside; but then was she not sorely tempted,
and did not a life of captivity and seven-fold agony, atone for all her
short-comings? Besides, we are divinely informed that where little is
given, little is required. In view of this sacred assurance, let not the
sceptic reader think that my faith was stretched to an unwarranted
degree. Yes, I did and _do_ think that she was at that moment and is now
happy. If not, how am I to account for the strange feeling of peace that
settled over my mind and heart, when I thought of her! For a holy,
heavenly calm, like the dropping of a prophet’s mantle, overspread my
heart; a cool sense of ease, refreshing as the night dew, and sustaining
as the high stars, seemed to gird me round!

I did not heed the cold air, but walked out a few rods in the direction
of the out-house, where Lindy was confined. “Yonder,” I soliloquized,
“perishing for a kind word, lies a poor outcast, wretched being. I will
go to her, bury all thoughts of the past, and speak one kind word of
encouragement.”

As I drew near to the “lock-up,” the moon that had been sailing swift
and high through the heaven, passed beneath the screen of a dark cloud.
I paused in my steps and looked up to the sky. “Such,” I thought, “is
the transit of a human soul across the vault of life; beneath clouds and
shadows the serene face is often hidden, and the spirit’s mellow light
is often, by affliction, obscured from view.”

Just then a sob of anguish fell upon my ear. I knew it was Lindy, and
moved hastily forward; but, light as was my foot-fall, it aroused the
sentinel-dog, and, with a loud bark, he sprang toward me. “Down, Cuff!
down!” said I, addressing the dog, who, as soon as he recognized me,
crouched lovingly at my feet. Just then the moon glided with a queenly
air from behind the clouds. “So,” I said, “passeth the soul, with the
same Diana-like sweep, from the heavy fold and curtain of human sorrow.”
Another moan, deeper and more fearful than the first! I was close beside
the door of the “lock-up,” and, cowering down, with my mouth close to
the crevice, I called Lindy. “Who’s dar? who’s dar? For de love of
heaven somebody come to me,” said Lindy, in a half-frantic tone.

“‘Tis I, Lindy, don’t you know my voice?”

“Yes, it’s Ann! Oh, please, Ann, help me outen here. I’s seen such orful
sights and hearn sich dreful sounds, I’d be a slave all my born days
jist to git way frum here. Oh, Ann, I’s seed a _speerit_,” and then she
gave such a fearful shriek, that I felt my flesh grow cold and stony as
death. Yet I knew it was my duty to appear calm, and try to persuade her
that it was not true or real.

“Oh, no, Lindy, you must not be frightened; only hope and trust in God,
and pray to Him. He will take you away from all this trouble. He loves
you. He cares for you, for ’twas He who made you, Your soul is precious
to Him. Oh, try to pray.”

“Oh, but, Ann, I doesn’t know how to pray. I never seed God, and I is
afraid of Him. He might be like master.”

This was fearful ignorance, and how to begin to teach her the way to
believe was above my ability; yet I knew that every soul was precious to
God; so I made an endeavor to do all I could in the way of instruction.

“Say, Our Father, who art in heaven,” Lindy.

“Our Father, who art in heaven,” she repeated in a slow, nervous manner.

“Hallowed be Thy name.” Again she repeated, and so on we prayed, she
following accurately after me, though the heavy door separated us. Think
ye not, oh, gentle reader, that this prayer was heard above? Never did
words come more truly from my heart; and with a low moan, they rung
plaintively upon the still, moonlit air! I could tell, from the fervent
tone in which Lindy followed, that her whole soul was engaged. When the
final amen had been said, she asked, “Ann, what’s to become of me?”

I evaded her by saying, “how can I know what master will do?”

“Yes, but haven’t you heard? Oh, don’t fool me, Ann, but tell me all.”

For a moment I hesitated, then said: “Yes, Lindy, I’ll deal fairly with
you. I have heard that master intends selling you to-morrow to a trader,
whom he went to see to-day; and, if the trader is satisfied with you
to-morrow, the bargain will be closed.”

“Oh, Lord! oh, Lord!” she groaned forth, “oh, is I gwine down de ribber?
Oh, Lord, kill me right now; but don’t send me to dat dreful place, down
de ribber, down de ribber!”

“Oh, trust in the Lord, and He will protect you. Down the river can’t be
much worse than here, maybe not so bad. For my part, Lindy, I would
rather be sold and run the risk of getting a good master, than remain
here where we are treated worse than dogs.”

“Oh, dar isn’t no sort ob hope ob my gitten any better home den dis
here one; den I knows you all, and way off dar ‘mong strange black
folks, oh, no, I never can go; de Lord hab marcy on me.”

This begging of the poor negroes to the Lord to have mercy on them,
though frequent, has no particular significance. It is more a plaint of
agony than a cry for actual mercy; and, in Lindy’s case, it most
assuredly only expressed her grief, for she had no ripe faith in the
power and willingness of Our Father to send mercy to her. Religion she
believed consisted in going to church every Sunday twice; consequently
it was a luxury, which, like all luxuries, must be monopolized by the
whites. From the very depths of my heart I prayed that the light of
Divine grace might shine in upon her darkened intellect. Soul of Faith,
verily art thou soul of beauty! And though, as a special gift, faith is
not withheld from the lowliest, the most ignorant, yet does its
possession give to the poorest and most degraded Ethiopian a divine
consciousness, an inspiration, that as to what is grandest in the soul
exalts him above the noblest of poets.

Whilst talking to Lindy, I was surprised to hear the muffled sound of an
approaching footstep. Noiselessly I was trying to creep away, when young
master said in a low voice:

“Is this you, Ann? Wait a moment. Have you spoken to Lindy? Have you
told her–”

He did not finish the sentence, and I answered,

“Yes, I have told her that she is to be sold, and to a trader.”

“Is she willing?”

“No, sir, she has a great terror of down the river.”

“That is the way with them all, yet her condition, so far as treatment
is concerned, may be bettered, certainly it cannot be made worse.”

“Will you speak to her, young Master, and reconcile her to her
situation?”

“Yes, I will do all I can.”

“And now I will go and stay with the corpse of dear Aunt Polly;” here I
found it impossible to restrain my tears, and, convulsed with emotion,
I seated myself upon the ground with my back against the door of the
lock-up.

“Dead? dead? Aunt Polly dead?” he asked in a bewildered tone.

“Yes, young Master, I found her dead, and with every appearance of
having had a severe struggle.”

I then told him about the leeching process, how the doctor had acted,
&c.

“Murdered! She was most cruelly murdered!” he murmured to himself.

In the excitement of conversation he had elevated his tone a good deal,
and the fearful news reached the ears of Lindy, and she shrieked out,

“Is Aunt Polly dead? Oh, tell me, for I thinks I sees her sperit now.”

Then such entreaties as she made to get out were agonizing to hear.

“Oh, if you can’t let me out, don’t leave me! Oh, don’t leave me, Ann! I
is so orful skeered. I do see such terrible sights, and it ‘pears like
when you is here talking, dem orful things don’t come arter me.”

“You go, Ann, and watch with Aunt Polly’s body; I will stay here with
this poor creature.”

“What, you, young master; no, no, you shall not, it will kill you. Your
cough will increase, and it might prove fatal. No, I will stay here.”

“But who will watch with Aunt Polly?”

“I will awaken Amy, and make her keep guard.”

“No, she is too young, lacks nerve, will be frightened; besides, you
must not be found here in the morning. You would be severely punished
for it. Go now, good Ann, and leave me here.”

“No, young master, I cannot leave you to what I am sure will be certain
death.”

“That would be no misfortune to me.”

And I shall never forget the calm and half-glorified expression of his
face, as he pronounced these words.

“Go, Ann,” he continued, “leave me to watch and pray beside this forlorn
creature, and, if the Angel of Death spreads his wings on this midnight
blast, I think I should welcome him; for life, with its broken promises
and its cold humanity, sickens me–oh so much.”

And his beautiful head fell languidly on his breast; and again I
listened to that low, husky cough. To-night it had an unusual sound,
and, forgetful of the humble relation in which I stood to him, I grasped
his arm firmly but lovingly, saying,

“Hark to that cough! Now you _must_ go in.”

“No, I cannot. I know best; besides, since nothing less gentle will do,
I needs must use authority, and command you to go.”

“I would that you did not exercise your authority against yourself.”

But he waved me off. Reluctantly I obeyed him. Again I entered the cabin
and roused Amy, who slept on a pallet or heap of straw at the foot of
the bed, where the still, unbreathing form of my old friend lay. It was
difficult to awake her, for she was always wearied at night, and slept
with that deep soundness peculiar to healthful childhood; but, after
various shakes, I contrived to make her open her eyes and speak to me.

“Come Amy,” I said, “rouse, I want you to help me.”

“In what way and what fur you wake me up?” she said as she sat upright
on the straw, and began rubbing her eyes.

“Never mind, but you get up and I will tell you.”

When she was fairly awake, she assisted me in lifting in a large tub of
water.

“Oh, is Aunt Polly any sicker?” she inquired.

“Amy, she is dead.”

“Oh, Lord, den I ain’t gwine to hope you, bekase I’s afeared ob a dead
body.”

“It can’t harm you.”

“Yes it ken; anyhow, I is feared ob it, and I ain’t gwine to hope you.”

“Well, you need not touch her, only sit up with me whilst I wash her and
dress her nicely.”

“Well, I’ll do dat much.”

Accordingly, she crouched down in the corner and concealed her face with
her hands, whilst I proceeded to wash the body thoroughly and dress it
out in an old faded calico, which, in life, had constituted her finest
robe. Bare and undecked, but clean, appeared that tabernacle of flesh,
which had once enshrined a tried but immortal spirit. When all was
finished, I seated myself near the partly-opened door, and waited for
the coming of day. Ah, when was the morn of glad freedom to break for
me?

Continue Reading

DISAFFECTION IN KENTUCKY

The freshening breeze, tempered with the keen chill of the coming
winter, made a lively music through the woods, as, floating along, it
toyed with the fallen leaves that lay dried and sere upon the earth.
There stood the giant trees, rearing their bald and lofty heads to the
heavens, whilst at their feet was spread their splendid summer livery.
Like the philosophers of old, in their calm serenity they looked away
from earth and its troubles to the “bright above.”

I wandered on, with a quick step, in the direction of the doctor’s. The
recent painful events were not calculated to color my thoughts very
pleasingly; yet I had taught myself to live so entirely _within_, to be
so little affected by what was _without_, that I could be happy in
imagination, notwithstanding what was going on in the external world.
‘Tis well that the negro is of an imaginative cast. Suppose he were by
nature strongly practical and matter-of-fact; life could not endure with
him. His dreaminess, his fancy, makes him happy in spite of the dreary
reality which surrounds him. The poor slave, with not a sixpence in his
pocket, dreams of the time when he shall be able to buy himself, and
revels in this most delightful Utopia.

I had walked on for some distance, without meeting any object of special
interest, when, passing through a large “_deadening_,” I was surprised
to see a gentleman seated upon a fragment of what had once been a noble
tree. He was engaged at that occupation which is commonly considered to
denote want of thought, viz., _whittling a stick_.

I stopped suddenly, and looked at him very eagerly, for now, with the
broad day-light streaming over him, I recognized the one whom I had
watched in the dubious moonbeams! This was Mr. Robert Worth, the man who
held those dangerous Abolition principles–the fanatic, who was rash
enough to express, south of Mason and Dixon’s line, the opinion that
negroes are human beings and entitled to consideration. Here now he was,
and I could look at him. How I longed to speak to him, to talk with him,
hear him tell all his generous views; to ask questions as to those free
Africans at the North who had achieved name and fame, and learn more of
the distinguished orator, Frederick Douglass! So great was my desire,
that I was almost ready to break through restraint, and, forgetful of my
own position, fling myself at his feet, and beg him to comfort me. Then
came the memory of Miss Bradly’s treachery, and I sheathed my heart.
“No, no, I will not again trust to white people. They have no sympathy
with us, our natures are too simple for their cunning;” and, reflecting
thus, I walked on, yet I felt as if I could not pass him. He had spoken
so nobly in behalf of the slave, had uttered such lofty sentiments, that
my whole soul bowed down to him in worship. I longed to pay homage to
him. There is a principle in the slave’s nature to reverence, to look
upward; hence, he makes the most devout Christian, and were it not for
this same spirit, he would be but a poor servant.

So it was with difficulty I could let pass this opportunity of speaking
with one whom I held in such veneration; but I governed myself and went
on. All the distance I was pondering upon what I had heard in relation
to those of my brethren who had found an asylum in the North. Oh, once
there, I could achieve so much! I felt, within myself, a latent power,
that, under more fortunate circumstances, might be turned to advantage.
When I reached Doctor Mandy’s residence I found that he had gone out to
visit a patient. His wife came out to see me, and asked,

“Who is sick at Mr. Peterkin’s?”

I told her, “Aunt Polly, the cook.”

“Is much the matter?”

“Yes, Madam; young master thinks she has lost her reason.”

“Lost her reason!” exclaimed Mrs. Mandy.

“Yes, Madam; she doesn’t seem to know any of us, and evidently wanders
in her thoughts.” I could not repress the evidence of emotion when I
remembered how kind to me the old creature had been, nay, that for me
she had received the blow which had deprived her of reason.

“Poor girl, don’t cry,” said Mrs. Mandy. This lady was of a warm, good
heart, and was naturally touched at the sight of human suffering; she
was one of that quiet sort of beings who feel a great deal and say but
little. Fearful of giving offence, she usually kept silence, lest the
open expression of her sympathy should defeat the purpose. A weak,
though a good person, she now felt annoyed because she had been beguiled
into even pity for a servant. She did not believe in slavery, yet she
dared not speak against the “peculiar institution” of the South. It
would injure the doctor’s practice, a matter about which she must be
careful.

I knew my place too well to say much; therefore I observed a respectful
silence.

“Now, Ann, you had better hurry home. I expect there is great excitement
at your house, and the ladies will need your services to-day,
particularly; to remain out too long might excite suspicion, and be of
no service to you.”

My looks plainly showed how entire was my acquiescence. She must have
known this, and then, as if self-interest suggested it, she said,

“You have a good home, Ann, I hope you will never do as Lindy has done.
Homes like yours are rare, and should be appreciated. Where will you
ever again find such kind mistresses and such a good master?”

“Homes such as mine are rare!” I would that they were; but, alas! they
are too common, as many farms in Kentucky can show! Oh, what a terrible
institution this one must be, which originates and involves so many
crimes! Now, here was a kind, honest-hearted woman, who felt assured of
the criminality of slavery; yet, as it is recognized and approved by
law, she could not, save at the risk of social position, pecuniary loss
and private inconvenience, even express an opinion against it. I was the
oppressed slave of one of her wealthy neighbors; she dared not offer me
even a word of pity, but needs must outrage all my nature by telling me
that I had a “good home, kind mistresses and a good master!” Oh, bitter
mockery of torn and lacerated feelings! My blood curdled as I listened.
How much I longed to fling aside the servility at which my whole soul
revolted, and tell her, with a proud voice, how poorly I thought she
supported the dignity of a true womanhood, when thus, for the poor
reward of gold, she could smile at, and even encourage, a system which
is at war with the best interest of human nature; which aims a deadly
blow at the very machinery of society; aye, attacks the noble and
venerable institution of marriage, and breaks asunder ties which God has
commanded us to reverence! This is the policy of that institution, which
Southern people swear they will support even with their life-blood! I
have ransacked my brain to find out a clue to the wondrous infatuation.
I have known, during the years of my servitude, men who had invested
more than half of their wealth in slaves; and he is generally accounted
the greatest gentleman, who owns the most negroes. Now, there is a
reason for the Louisiana or Mississippi planter’s investing largely in
this sort of property; but why the Kentucky farmer should wish to own
slaves, is a mystery: surely it cannot be for the petty ambition of
holding human beings in bondage, lording it over immortal souls! Oh,
perverse and strange human nature! Thoughts like these, with a
lightning-like power, drove through my brain and influenced my mind
against Mrs. Mandy, who, I doubt not, was, at heart, a kind,
well-meaning woman. How can the slave be a philanthropist?

Without saying anything whereby my safety could be imperilled, I left
Mrs. Mandy’s residence. When I had walked about a hundred yards from
the house, I turned and looked back, and was surprised to see her
looking after me. “Oh, white woman,” I inwardly exclaimed, “nursed in
luxury, reared in the lap of bounty, with friends, home and kindred,
that mortal power cannot tear you from, how can _you_ pity the poor,
oppressed slave, who has no liberty, no right, no father, no brother, or
friend, only as the white man chooses he shall have!” Who could expect
these children of wealth, fostered by prosperity, and protected by the
law, to feel for the ignorant negro, who through ages and generations
has been crushed and kept in ignorance? We are told to love our masters!
Why should we? Are we dogs to lick the hand that strikes us? Or are we
men and women with never-dying souls–men and women unprotected in the
very land they have toiled to beautify and adorn! Oh, little, little do
ye know, my proud, free brothers and sisters in the North, of all the
misery we endure, or of the throes of soul that we have! The humblest of
us feel that we are deprived of something that we are entitled to by the
law of God and nature.

I rambled on through the woods, wrapped in the shadows of gloom and
misanthropy. “Why,” I asked myself, “can’t I be a hog or dog to come at
the call of my owner? Would it not be better for me if I could repress
all the lofty emotions and generous impulses of my soul, and become a
spiritless thing? I would swap natures with the lowest insect, the
basest serpent that crawls upon the earth. Oh, that I could quench this
thirsty spirit, satisfy this hungry heart, that craveth so madly the
food and drink of knowledge! Is it right to conquer the spirit, which
God has given us? Is it best for a high-souled being to sit supinely
down and bear the vile trammels of an unnatural and immoral bondage? Are
these aspirings sent us from above? Are they wings lent the spirit from
an angel? Or must they be clipped and crushed as belonging to the evil
spirit?” As I walked on, in this state of mind, I neared the spot where
I had beheld the interesting stranger.

To my surprise and joy I found him still there, occupied as before, in
whittling, perhaps the same stick. You, my free friends, who, from the
fortunate accident of birth, are entitled to the heritage of liberty,
can but poorly understand how very humble and degraded American slavery
makes the victim. Now, though I knew this man possessed the very
information for which I so longed, I dared not presume to address him on
a subject even of such vital import. I dare say, and indeed after-times
proved, this young apostle of reform would have applauded as heroism
what then seemed to me as audacity.

With many a lingering look toward him, I pursued the “noiseless tenor of
my way.”

Upon my arrival home I found that the doctor, lured by curiosity, and
not by business, had called. The news of Lindy’s flight had reached him
in many garbled and exaggerated forms; so he had come to assure himself
of the truth. Of course, with all a Southern patriot’s ire, he
pronounced Lindy’s conduct an atrocious crime, for which she should
answer with life, or that far worse penalty (as some thought),
banishment “down the river.” Thought I not strangely, severely, of those
persons, the doctor and the ladies, as they sat there, luxuriating over
a bottle of wine, denouncing vengeance against a poor, forlorn girl, who
was trying to achieve her liberty;–heroically contending for that on
which Americans pride themselves? Had she been a Hungarian or an Irish
maid, seeking an asylum from the tyranny of a King, she would have been
applauded as one whose name was worthy to be enrolled in the litany of
heroes; but she was a poor, ignorant African, with a sooty face, and
because of this all sympathy was denied her, and she was pronounced
nothing but a “runaway negro,” who deserved a terrible punishment; and
the hand outstretched to relieve her, would have been called guilty of
treason. Oh, wise and boastful Americans, see ye no oppression in all
this, or do ye exult in that odious spot, which will blacken the fairest
page of your history “to the last syllable of recorded time”? Does not a
blush stain your cheeks when you make vaunting speeches about the
character of your government? Ye cannot, I know ye cannot, be easy in
your consciences; I know that a secret, unspoken trouble gnaws like a
canker in your breasts! Many of you veil your eyes, and grope through
the darkness of this domestic oppression; you will not listen to the
cries of the helpless, but sit supinely down and argue upon the “right”
of the thing. There were kind and tender-hearted Jews, who felt that the
crucifixion of the Messiah was a fearful crime, yet fear sealed their
lips. And are there not now time-serving men, who are worthy and capable
of better things, but from motives of policy will offer no word against
this barbarous system of slavery? Oh, show me the men, like that little
handful at the North, who are willing to forfeit everything for the
maintenance of human justice and mercy. Blessed apostles, near to the
mount of God! your lips have been touched with the flame of a new
Pentecost, and ye speak as never men spake before! Who that listens to
the words of Parker, Sumner, and Seward, can believe them other than
inspired? Theirs is no ordinary gift of speech; it burns and blazes with
a mighty power! Cold must be the ear that hears them unmoved; and hard
the heart that throbs not in unison with their noble and earnest
expressions! Often have I paused in this little book, to render a feeble
tribute to these great reformers. It may be thought out of place, yet I
cannot repress the desire to speak my voluntary gratitude, and, in the
name of all my scattered race, thank them for the noble efforts they
have made in our behalf!

All the malignity of my nature was aroused against Miss Bradly, when I
heard her voice loudest in denunciation against Lindy.

As I was passing through the room, I could catch fragments of
conversation anything but pleasing to the ear of a slave; but I had to
listen in meekness, letting not even a working muscle betray my dissent.
They were orthodox, and would not tolerate even from an equal a word
contrary to their views.

I did not venture to ask the doctor what he thought of Aunt Polly, for
that would have been called impudent familiarity, punishable with
whipping at the “post;” but when I met young master in the entry, I
learned from him that the case was one of hopeless insanity.
Blood-letting, &c., had been resorted to, but with no effect. The doctor
gave it as his opinion that the case was “without remedy.” Not knowing
that young master differed from his father and sisters, the doctor had,
in his jocose and unfeeling way, suggested that it was not much
difference; the old thing was of but little value; she was old and
worn-out. To all this young master made no other reply than a fixed look
from his meek eyes–a look which the doctor could not understand; for
the idea of sympathy with or pity for a slave would have struck him as
being a thing existing only in the bosom of a fanatical abolitionist,
whose conviction would not permit him to cross the line of Mason and
Dixon. Ah! little knew he (the coarse doctor) what a large heart full of
human charities had grown within; nay, was indigenous to this
south-western latitude. I believe, yes have reason to know, that the
pure sentiment of abolition is one that is near and dear to the heart of
many a Kentuckian; even those who are themselves the hereditary holders
of slaves are, in many instances, the most opposed to the system. This
sentiment is, perhaps, more largely developed in, and more openly
expressed by, the females of the State; and this is accounted for from
the fact that to be suspected of abolition tendencies is at once the
plague-mark whereby a man is ever after considered unfit for public
trust or political honor. It is the great question, the strong
conservative element of society. To some extent it likewise taboos, in
social circles, the woman who openly expresses such sentiments; though
as she has no popular interests to stake, in many cases her voice will
be on the side of right, not might.

In later years I remember to have overheard a colloquy between a lady
and gentleman (both slaveholders) in Kentucky. The gentleman had vast
possessions, about one-third of which consisted of slaves. The lady’s
entire wealth was in six negroes, some of them under the age of ten.
They were hired out at the highest market prices, and by the proceeds
she was supported. She had been raised in a strongly conservative
community; nay, her own family were (to use a Kentuckyism) the “pick
and choose” of the pro-slavery party. Some of them had been considered
the able vindicators of the “system;” yet she, despite the force of
education and the influence of domestic training, had broken away from
old trammels and leash-strings, and was, both in thought and expression,
a bold, ingrain abolitionist. She defied the lions in their chosen dens.
On the occasion of this conversation, I heard her say that she could not
remain happy whilst she detained in bondage those creatures who could
claim, under the Constitution, alike with her, their freedom; and so
soon as she attained her majority, she intended to liberate them. “But,”
said she–and I shall never forget the mournful look of her dark
eye–“the statute of the State will not allow them to remain here ten
days after liberation; and one of these men has a wife (to whom he is
much attached), who is a slave to a master that will neither free her
nor sell her. Now, this poor captive husband would rather remain in
slavery to me, than be parted from his wife; and here is the point upon
which I always stand. I wish to be humane and just to him; and yet rid
myself from the horrid crime to which, from the accident of inheritance,
I have become accessory.” The gentleman, who seemed touched by the
heroism of the girl, was beguiled into a candid acknowledgment of his
own sentiments; and freely declared to her that, if it were not for his
political aspirations, he would openly free every slave he owned, and
relieve his conscience from the weight of the “perilous stuff” that so
oppressed it. “But,” said he, “were I to do it in Kentucky, I should be
politically dead. It would, besides, strike a blow at my legal practice,
and then what could I do? ‘Othello’s occupation would be gone.’ Of what
avail, then, would be my ‘quiddits, quillets; my cases, tenures and my
tricks?’ I, who am high in political favor, should live to read my
shame. I, who now ‘tower in my pride of place, should, by some mousing
owl, be hawked at and killed.’ No, I must burden my conscience yet a
little longer.”

The lady, with all a young girl’s na├»ve and beautiful enthusiasm,
besought him to disregard popular praise and worldly distinction. “Seek
first,” said she, “the kingdom of heaven, and all things else shall be
given you;” but the gentleman had grown hard in this world’s devious
wiles. He preferred throwing off his allegiance to Providence, and,
single-handed and alone, making his fate. Talk to me of your thrifty
men, your popular characters, and I instantly know that you mean a
cringing, parasitical server of the populace; one who sinks soul, spirit
and manly independence for the mere garments that cover his perishable
body, and to whom the empty plaudits of the unthinking crowd are better
music than the thankful prayer of suffering humanity. Let such an one, I
say, have his full measure of the “clapping of hands,” let him hear it
all the while; for he cannot see the frown that darkens the brow of the
guardian angel, who, with a sigh, records his guilt. Go on, thou worldly
Pharisee, but the day _will come_, when the lowly shall be exalted.
Trust and wait we longer. Oh, ye who “know the right, and yet the wrong
pursue,” a fearful reckoning will be yours.

But young master was not of this sort; I felt that his lips were closed
from other and higher motives. If it had been of any avail, no matter
what the cost to himself, he would have spoken. His soul knew but one
sentiment, and that was “love to God and good will to men on earth.” And
now, as he entered the room where the doctor and the ladies were seated,
and listened to their heartless conversation, he planted himself firmly
in their midst, saying:

“Sisters, the time has come when I _must_ speak. Patiently have I lived
beneath this my father’s roof, and witnessed, without uttering one word,
scenes at which my whole soul revolted; I have heard that which has
driven me from your side. On my bare knees, in the gloom of the forest,
I have besought God to soften your hearts. I have asked that the dew of
mercy might descend upon the hoary head of my father, and that womanly
gentleness might visit your obdurate hearts. I have felt that I could
give my life up a sacrifice to obtain this; but my unworthy prayers have
not yet been answered. In vain, in vain, I have hoped to see a change
in you. Are you women or fiends? How can you persecute, to the death,
poor, ignorant creatures, whose only fault is a black skin? How can you
inhumanly beat those who have no protectors but you? Reverse the case,
and take upon yourselves their condition; how would you act? Could you
bear silently the constant “wear and tear” of body, the perpetual
imprisonment of the soul? Could you surrender yourselves entirely to the
keeping of another, and that other your primal foe–one who for ages has
had his arm uplifted against your race? Suppose you every day witnessed
a board groaning with luxuries (the result of your labor) devoured by
your persecutors, whilst you barely got the crumbs; your owners dressed
in purple and fine linen, whilst you wore the coarsest material, though
all their luxury was the product of your exertion; what think you would
be right for you to do? Or suppose I, whilst lingering at the little
spring, should be stolen off, gagged and taken to Algiers, kept there in
servitude, compelled to the most drudging labor; poorly clad and
scantily fed whilst my master lived like a prince; kept in constant
terror of the lash; punished severely for every venial offence, and my
poor heart more lacerated than my body;–what would you think of me, if
a man were to tell me that, with his assistance, I could make my escape
to a land of liberty, where my rights would be recognized, and my person
safe from violence; I say what would you think, if I were to decline,
and to say I preferred to remain with the Algerines?” He paused, but
none replied. With eyes wonderingly fixed upon him, the group remained
silent.

“You are silent all,” he continued, “for conviction, like a swift arrow,
has struck your souls. Oh, God!” and he raised his eyes upward, “out of
the mouths of babes and sucklings let wisdom, holiness and truth
proceed. Touch their flinty hearts, and let the spark of grace be
emitted! Oh, sisters, know ye not that this Algerine captivity that I
have painted, is but a poor picture of the daily martyrdom which our
slaves endure? Look on that old woman, who, by a brutal blow from our
father, has been deprived of her reason. Look at that little haggard
orphan, Amy, who is the kicked football of you all. Look at the poor men
whom we have brutalized and degraded. Think of Lindy, driven by frenzy
to brave the passage to an unknown country rather than longer endure
what we have put upon her. Gaze, till your eyes are bleared, upon that
whipping-post, which rises upon our plantation; it is wet, even now,
with the blood that has gushed from innocent flesh. Look at the ill-fed,
ill-clothed creatures that live among us; and think they have immortal
souls, which we have tried to put out. Oh, ponder well upon these
things, and let this poor, wretched girl, who has sallied forth, let her
go, I say, to whatever land she wishes, and strive to forget the horrors
that haunted her here.”

Again he paused, but none of them durst reply. Inspired by their
silence, he went on:

“And from you, Miss Bradly, I had expected better things. You were
reared in a State where the brutality of the slave system is not
tolerated. Your early education, your home influences, were all against
it. Why and how can your womanly heart turn away from its true
instincts? Is it for you, a Northerner and a woman, to put up your voice
in defence of slavery? Oh, shame! triple-dyed shame, should stain your
cheeks! Well may my sisters argue for slavery, when you, their teacher,
aid and abet them. Could you not have instilled better things into their
minds? I know full well that your heart and mind are against slavery;
but for the ease of living in our midst, enjoying our bounty, and
receiving our money, you will silence your soul and forfeit your
principles. Yea, for a salary, you will pander to this horrid crime.
Judas, for thirty pieces of silver, sold the Redeemer of the world; but
what remorse followed the dastard act! You will yet live to curse the
hour of your infamy. You might have done good. Upon the waxen minds of
these girls you might have written noble things, but you would not.”

I watched Miss Bradly closely whilst he was speaking. She turned white
as a sheet. Her countenance bespoke the convicted woman. Not an eye
rested upon her but read the truth. Starting up at length from her
chair, Miss Jane shouted out, in a theatrical way,

“Treason! treason in our own household, and from one of our own number!
And so, Mr. John, you are the abolitionist that has sown dissension and
discontent among our domestics. We have thought you simple; but I
discover, sir, you are more knave than fool. Father shall know of this,
and take steps to arrest this treason.”

“As you please, sister Jane; you can make what report you please, only
speak the truth.”

At this she flew toward him, and, catching him by the collar, slapped
his cheeks severely.

“Right well done,” said a clear, manly voice; and, looking up, I saw Mr.
Worth standing in the open door. “I have been knocking,” said he, “for
full five minutes; but I am not surprised that you did not hear me, for
the strong speech to which I have listened had force enough to overpower
the sound of a thunder-storm.”

Miss Jane recoiled a few steps, and the deepest crimson dyed her cheeks.
She made great pretensions to refinement, and could not bear, now, that
a gentleman (even though an abolitionist) should see her striking her
brother. Miss Tildy assumed the look of injured innocence, and smilingly
invited Mr. Worth to take a seat.

“Do not be annoyed by what you have seen. Jane is not passionate; but
the boy was rude to her, and deserved a reproof.”

Without making a reply, but, with his eye fixed on young master, Mr.
Worth took the offered seat. Miss Bradly, with her face buried in her
hands, moved not; and the doctor sat playing with his half-filled glass
of wine; but young master remained standing, his eye flashing strangely,
and a bright crimson spot glowing on either cheek. He seemed to take no
note of the entrance of Mr. Worth, or in fact any of the group. There he
stood, with his golden locks falling over his white brow; and calm
serenity resting like a sunbeam on his face. Very majestic and imposing
was that youthful presence. High determination and everlasting truth
were written upon his face. With one look and a murmured “Father forgive
them, for they know not what they do,” he turned away.

“Stop, stop, my brave boy,” cried Mr. Worth, “stop, and let me look upon
you. Had the South but one voice, and that one yours, this country would
soon be clear of its great dishonor.”

To this young master made no spoken reply; but the clear smile that lit
his countenance expressed his thanks; and seeing that Mr. Worth was
resolved to detain him, he said,

“Let me go, good sir, for now I feel that I need the woods,” and soon
his figure was gliding along his well-beloved path, in the direction of
the spring. Who shall say that solitary communing with Nature unfits the
soul for active life? True, indeed, it does unfit it for baseness,
sordid dealings, and low detraction, by lifting it from its low
condition, and sending it out in a broad excursiveness.

Here, in the case of young master, was a sweet and glowing flower that
had blossomed in the wilds, and been nursed by nature only. The country
air had fanned into bloom the bud of virtue and the beauty of highest
truth.

Continue Reading

THE PRATTLINGS OF INSANITY

As Mr. Peterkin was passing through the vestibule of the front door, he
met young master standing there. Now, this was Mr. Peterkin’s favorite
child, for, though he did not altogether like that quietude of manner,
which he called “poke-easy,” the boy had never offered him any affront
about his incorrect language, or treated him with indignity in any way.
And then he was so beautiful! True, his father could not appreciate the
spiritual nobility of his face; yet the symmetry of his features and the
spotless purity of his complexion, answered even to Mr. Peterkin’s idea
of beauty. The coarsest and most vulgar soul is keenly alive to the
beauty of the rose and lily; though that concealed loveliness, which is
only hinted at by the rare fragrance, may be known only to the
cultivated and poetic heart. Often I have heard him say, “John is pretty
enoff to be a gal.”

Now as he met him in the vestibule, he said, “John, I’m in a peck o’
trouble.”

“I am sorry you are in trouble father.”

“That cussed black wench, Lindy, is off, and I’m ‘fraid the neighborhood
kant be waked up soon enough to go arter and ketch her. Let me git her
once more in my clutches, and I’ll make her pay for it. I’ll give her
one good bastin’ that she’ll ‘member, and then I’ll send her down the
river fur enough.”

The boy made no reply; but, with his eyes cast down on the earth, he
seemed to be unconscious of all that was going on around him. When he
raised his head his eyes were burning, his breath came thick and short,
and a deep scarlet spot shone on the whiteness of his cheek; the veins
in his forehead lay like heavy cords, and his very hair seemed to
sparkle. He looked as one inspired. This was unobserved by his parent,
who hastily strode away to find more willing listeners. I tarried in a
place where, unnoticed by others, I commanded a good out-look. I saw
young master clasp his hands fervently, and heard him passionately
exclaim–“How much longer, oh, how much longer shall this be?” Then
slowly walking down his favorite path, he was lost to my vision.
“Blessed youth, heaven-missioned, if thou wouldst only speak to me! One
word of consolation from God-anointed lips like thine, would soothe even
the sting of bondage; but no,” I added, “that earnest look, that gentle
tone, tell perhaps as much as it is necessary for me to know. This
silence proceeds from some noble motive. Soon enough he will make
himself known to us.”

In a little while the news of Lindy’s departure had spread through the
neighborhood like a flame. Our yard and house were filled with men come
to offer their services to their neighbor, who, from his wealth, was
considered a sort of magnate among them.

Pretty soon they were mounted on horses, and armed to the teeth, each
one with a horn fastened to his belt, galloping off in quest of the poor
fugitive. And is this thing done beneath the influence of civilized
laws, and by men calling themselves Christians? What has armed those
twelve men with pistols, and sent them on an excursion like this? Is it
to redeem a brother from a band of lawless robbers, who hold him in
captivity? Is it to right some individual wrong? Is it to take part with
the weak and oppressed against the strong and the overbearing? No, no,
my friends, on no such noble mission as this have they gone. No purpose
of high emprise has made them buckle on the sword and prime the pistol.
A poor, lone female, who, through years, has been beaten, tyrannized
over, and abused, has ventured out to seek what this constitution
professes to secure to every one–liberty. Barefoot and alone, she has
gone forth; and ’tis to bring her back to a vile and brutal slavery
that these men have sallied out, regardless of her sex, her destitution,
and her misery. They have set out either to recapture her or to shoot
her down in her tracks like a dog. And this is a system which Christian
men speak of as heaven-ordained! This is a thing countenanced by
freemen, whose highest national boast is, that theirs is the land of
liberty, equality, and free-rights! These are the people who yearly send
large sums to Ireland; who pray for the liberation of Hungary; who wish
to transmit armed forces across the Atlantic to aid vassal States in
securing their liberty! These are they who talk so largely of Cuba,
expend so much sympathy upon the oppressed of other lands, and predict
the downfall of England for her oppressive form of government! Oh,
America! “first pluck the beam out of thine own eye, then shalt thou see
more clearly the mote that is in thy brother’s.”

When I watched those armed men ride away, in such high courage and
eagerness for the hunt, I thought of Lindy, poor, lone girl, fatigued,
worn and jaded, suffering from thirst and hunger; her feet torn and
bruised with toil, hiding away in bogs and marshes, with an ear
painfully acute to every sound. I thought of this, and all the
resentment I had ever felt toward her faded away as a vapor.

All that day the house was in a state of intense excitement. The
servants could not work with their usual assiduity. Indeed, such was the
excitement, even of the white family, that we were not strictly required
to labor.

Miss Jane gave me some fancy-sewing to do for her. Taking it with me to
Aunt Polly’s cabin, intending to talk with her whilst time was allowed
me, I was surprised and pleased to find the old woman still asleep. “It
will do her good,” I thought, “she needs rest, poor creature! And that
blow was given to her on my account! How much I would rather have
received it myself.” I then examined her head, and was glad to find no
mark or bruise; so I hoped that with a good sleep she would wake up
quite well. I seated myself on an old stool, near the door, which,
notwithstanding the rawness of the day, I was obliged to leave open to
admit light. It was a cool, windy morning, such as makes a woollen shawl
necessary. My young mistresses had betaken themselves to cashmere
wrappers and capes; but I still wore my thin and “seedy” calico. As I
sewed on, upon Miss Jane’s embroidery, many _fancies_ came in troops
through my brain, defiling like a band of ghosts through each private
gallery and hidden nook of memory, and even to the very inmost
compartment of secret thought! My mother, with her sad, sorrow-stricken
face, my old companions and playfellows in the long-gone years, all
arose with vividness to my eye! Where were they all? Where had they been
during the lapse of years? Of my mother I had never heard a word. Was
she dead? At that suggestion I started, and felt my heart grow chill, as
though an icy hand had clenched it; yet why felt I so? Did I not know
that the grave would be to her as a bed of ease? What torture could
await her beyond the pass of the valley of shadows? She, who had been
faithful over a little, would certainly share in those blessed rewards
promised by Christ; yet it seemed to me that my heart yearned to look
upon her again in this life. I could not, without pain, think of her as
_one who had been_. There was something selfish in this, yet was it
intensely human, and to feel otherwise I should have had to be less
loving, less filial in my nature. “Oh, mother!” I said, “if ever we meet
again, will it be a meeting that shall know no separation? Mother, are
you changed? Have you, by the white man’s coarse brutality, learned to
forget your absent child? Do not thoughts of her often come to your
lonely soul with the sighing of the midnight wind? Do not the high and
merciful stars, that nightly burn above you, recall me to your heart?
Does not the child-loved moon speak to you of times when, as a little
thing, I nestled close to your bosom? Or, mother, have other ties grown
around your heart? Have other children supplanted your eldest-born? Do
chirruping lips and bright eyes claim all your thoughts? Or do you toil
alone, broken in soul and bent in body, beneath the drudgery of human
labor, without one soft voice to lull you to repose? Oh, not this, not
this, kind Heaven! Let her forget me, in her joy; give her but peace,
and on me multiply misfortunes, rain down evils, only spare, shield and
protect _her_.” This tide of thought, as it rolled rapidly through my
mind, sent the hot tears, in gushes, from my eyes. As I bent my head to
wipe them away, without exactly seeing it, I became aware of a blessed
presence; and, lifting my moist eyes, I beheld young master standing
before me, with that calm, spiritual glance which had so often charmed
and soothed me.

“What is the matter, Ann? Why are you weeping?” he asked me in a gentle
voice.

“Nothing, young Master, only I was thinking of my mother.”

“How long since you saw her?”

“Oh, years, young Master; I have not seen her since my childhood–not
since Master bought me.”

He heaved a deep sigh, but said nothing; those eyes, with a soft,
shadowed light, as though they were shining through misty tears, were
bent upon me.

“Where is your mother now, Ann?”

“I don’t know, young Master, I’ve never heard from her since I came
here.”

Again he sighed, and now he passed his thin white hand across his eyes,
as if to dissipate the mist.

“You think she was sold when you were, don’t you?”

“I expect she was. I’m almost sure she was, for I don’t think either my
young Masters or Mistresses wished or expected to retain the servants.”

“I wish I could find out something about her for you; but, at present,
it is out of my power. You must do the best you can. You are a good
girl, Ann; I have noticed how patiently you bear hard trouble. Do you
pray?”

“Oh, yes, young Master, and that is all the pleasure I have. What would
be my situation without prayer? Thanks to God, the slave has this
privilege!”

“Yes, Ann, and in God’s eyes you are equal to a white person. He makes
no distinction; your soul is as precious and dear to Him as is that of
the fine lady clad in silk and gems.”

I opened my eyes to gaze upon him, as he stood there, with his beautiful
face beaming with good feeling and love for the humblest and lowest of
God’s creatures. This was religion! This was the spirit which Christ
commended. This was the love which He daily preached and practiced.

“But how is Aunt Polly? I heard that she was suffering much.”

“She is sleeping easily now,” I replied.

“Well, then, don’t disturb her. It is better that she should sleep;” and
he walked away, leaving me more peaceful and happy than before. Blessed
youth!–why have we not more such among us! They would render the thongs
and fetters of slavery less galling.

The day was unusually quiet; but the frostiness of the atmosphere kept
the ladies pretty close within doors; and Mr. Peterkin had, contrary to
the wishes of his family, and the injunctions of his physician, gone out
with the others upon the search; besides, he had taken Nace and the
other men with him, and, as Aunt Polly was sick, Ginsy had been
appointed in her place to prepare dinner. After sewing very diligently
for some time, I wandered out through the poultry lot, lost in a
labyrinth of strange reflection. As I neared the path leading down
toward the spring, young master’s favorite walk, I could not resist the
temptation to follow it to its delightful terminus, where he was wont to
linger all the sunny summer day, and frequently passed many hours in the
winter time? I was superstitious enough to think that some of his deep
and rich philanthropy had been caught, as by inspiration, from this
lovely natural retreat; for how could the child of such a low, beastly
parent, inherit a disposition so heavenly, and a soul so spotless? He
had been bred amid scenes of the most revolting cruelty; had lived with
people of the harshest and most brutal dispositions; yet had he
contracted from them no moral stain. Were they not hideous to look upon,
and was he not lovely as a seraph? Were they not low and vulgar, and he
lofty and celestial-minded? Why and how was this? Ah, did I not believe
him to be one of God’s blessed angels, lent us for a brief season?

The path was well-trodden, and wound and curved through the woods, down
to a clear, natural spring of water. There had been made, by the order
of young master, a turfetted seat, overgrown by soft velvet moss, and
here this youth would sit for hours to ponder, and, perhaps, to weave
golden fancies which were destined to ripen into rich fruition in that
land beyond the shores of time. As I drew near the spring, I imagined
that a calm and holy influence was settling over me. The spirit of the
place had power upon me, and I yielded myself to the spell. It was no
disease of fancy, or dream of enchantment, that thus possessed me; for
there, half-reclining on the mossy bench, I beheld young master, and,
seated at his feet, with her little, odd, wondering face uplifted to
his, was Amy; and, crawling along, playing with the moss, and looking
down into the mirror of the spring, peered the bright eyes of little
Ben. It was a scene of such beauty that I paused to take a full view of
it, before making my presence known. Young master, with his pale,
intellectual face, his classic head, his sun-bright curls, and his
earnest blue eyes, sat in a half-lounging attitude, making no
inappropriate picture of an angel of light, whilst the two little black
faces seemed emblems of fallen, degraded humanity, listening to his
pleading voice.

“Wherever you go, or in whatever condition you may be, Amy, never forget
to pray to the good Lord.” As he said this, he bent his eyes
compassionately on her.

“Oh, laws, Masser, how ken I pray! de good Lord wouldn’t hear me. I is
too black and dirty.”

“God does not care for that. You are as dear to Him as the finest lady
of the land.”

“Oh, now, Masser, you doesn’t tink me is equal to you, a fine, nice,
pretty white gemman–dress so fine.”

“God cares not, my child, for clothes, or the color of the skin. He
values the heart alone; and if your heart is clear, it matters not
whether your face be black or your clothes mean.”

“Laws, now, young Masser,” and the child laughed heartily at the idea,
“you doesn’t ‘spect a nigger’s heart am clean. I tells you ’tis black
and dirty as dere faces.”

“My poor child, I would that I had power to scatter the gloomy mist that
beclouds your mind, and let you see and know that our dying Saviour
embraced all your unfortunate race in the merits of his divine
atonement.”

This speech was not comprehended by Amy. She sat looking vacantly at
him; marvelling all the while at his pretty talk, yet never once
believing that Jesus prized a negro’s soul. Young master’s eyes were, as
usual, elevated to the clear, majestic heavens. Not a cloud floated in
the still, serene expanse, and the air was chill. One moment longer I
waited, before revealing myself. Stepping forward, I addressed young
master in an humble tone.

“Well, Ann, what do you want?” This was not said in a petulant voice,
but with so much gentleness that it invited the burdened heart to make
its fearful disclosure.

“Oh, young Master, I know that you will pardon me for what I am going to
ask. I cannot longer restrain myself. Tell me what is to become of us?
When shall we be sold? Into whose hands shall I fall?”

“Alas, poor Ann, I am as ignorant of father’s intentions as you are. I
would that I could relieve your anxiety, but I am as uneasy about it as
you or any one can be. Oh, I am powerless to do anything to better your
unfortunate condition. I am weak as the weakest of you.”

“I know, young Master, that we have your kindest sympathy, and this
knowledge softens my trouble.”

He did not reply, but sat with a perplexed expression, looking on the
ground.

“Oh, Ann, you has done gin young Masser some trouble. What fur you do
dat? We niggers ain’t no ‘count any how, and you hab no sort ob
bisiness be troublin’ young Masser ’bout it,” said Amy.

“Be still, Amy, let Ann speak her troubles freely. It will relieve her
mind. You may tell me of yours too.”

Sitting down upon the sward, close to his feet, I relieved my oppressed
bosom by a copious flood of tears. Still he spoke not, but sat silent,
looking down. Amy was awed into stillness, and even little Ben became
calm and quiet as a lamb. No one broke the spell. No one seemed anxious
to do so. There are some feelings for which silence is the best
expression.

At length he said mildly, “Now, my good friends, it might be made the
subject of ungenerous remarks, if you were to be seen talking with me
long. You had better return to the house.”

As Amy and I, with little Ben, rose to depart, he looked after us, and
sighing, exclaimed, “poor creatures, my heart bleeds for you!”

Upon my return to the house I hastened on to the cabin, hoping to find
Aunt Polly almost entirely recovered. Passing hastily through the yard I
entered the cabin with a light step, and to my surprise found her
sitting up in a chair, playing with some old faded artificial flowers,
the dilapidated decorations of Miss Tildy’s summer bonnet, which had
been swept from the house with the litter on the day before. I had never
seen her engaged in a pastime so childish and sportive, and was not a
little astonished, for her aversion to flowers had often been to me the
subject of remark.

“What have you there that is pretty, Aunt Polly?” I asked with
tenderness.

With a wondering, childish smile, she held the crushed blossoms up, and
turning them over and over in her hands, said:

“Putty things! ye is berry putty!” then pressing them to her bosom, she
stroked the leaves as kindly as though she had been smoothing the truant
locks of a well-beloved child. I could not understand this freak, for
she was one to whose uncultured soul all sweet and pretty fancies seemed
alien. Looking up to me with that vacant glance which at once explained
all, she said:

“Who’s dar? Who is you? Oh, dat is my darter,” and addressing me by the
remembered name of her own long-lost child, she traversed, in thought,
the whole waste-field of memory. Not a single wild-flower in the wayside
of the heart was neglected or forgotten. She spoke of times when she had
toyed and dandled her infant darling upon her knee; then, shudderingly,
she would wave me off, with terror written all over her furrowed face,
and cry, “Get you away, Masser is comin’: thar, thar he is; see him wid
de ropes; he is comin’ to tar you ‘way frum me. Here, here child, git
under de bed, hide frum ’em, dey is all gwine to take you ‘way–‘way
down de river, whar you’ll never more see yer poor old mammy.” Then
sinking upon her knees, with her hands outstretched, and her eyes
eagerly strained forward, and bent on vacancy, she frantically cried:

“Masser, please, please Masser, don’t take my poor chile from me. It’s
all I is got on dis ar’ airth; Masser, jist let me hab it and I’ll work
fur you, I’ll sarve you all de days ob my life. You may beat my ole back
as much as you please; you may make me work all de day and all de night,
jist, so I ken keep my chile. Oh, God, oh, God! see, dere dey goes, wid
my poor chile screaming and crying for its mammy! See, see it holds its
arms to me! Oh, dat big hard man struck it sich a blow. Now, now dey is
out ob sight.” And crawling on her knees, with arms outspread, she
seemed to be following some imaginary object, until, reaching the door,
I feared in her transport of agony she would do herself some injury,
and, catching her strongly in my arms, I attempted to hold her back; but
she was endowed with a superhuman strength, and pushed me violently
against the wall.

“Thar, you wretch, you miserble wretch, dat would keep me from my chile,
take dat blow, and I wish it would send yer to yer grave.”

Recoiling a few steps, I looked at her. A wild and lurid light gathered
in her eye, and a fiendish expression played over her face. She clenched
her hands, and pressed her old broken teeth hard upon her lips, until
the blood gushed from them; frothing at the mouth, and wild with
excitement, she made an attempt to bound forward and fell upon the
floor. I screamed for help, and sprang to lift her up. Blood oozed from
her mouth and nose; her eyes rolled languidly, and her under-jaw fell as
though it were broken.

In terror I bore her to the bed, and, laying her down, I went to get a
bowl of water to wash the blood and foam from her face. Meeting Amy at
the door, I told her Aunt Polly was very sick, and requested her to
remain there until my return.

I fled to the kitchen, and seizing a pan of water that stood upon the
shelf, returned to the cabin. There I found young master bending over
Aunt Polly, and wiping the blood-stains from her mouth and nose with his
own handkerchief. This was, indeed, the ministration of the high to the
lowly. This generous boy never remembered the distinctions of color, but
with that true spirit of human brotherhood which Christ inculcated by
many memorable examples, he ministered to the humble, the lowly, and the
despised. Indeed, such seemed to take a firmer hold upon his heart.
Here, in this lowly cabin, like the good Samaritan of old, he paused to
bind up the wounds of a poor outcast upon the dreary wayside of
existence.

Bending tenderly over Aunt Polly, until his luxuriant golden curls swept
her withered face, he pressed his linen handkerchief to her mouth and
nose to staunch the rapid flow of blood.

“Oh, Ann, have you come with the water? I fear she is almost gone; throw
it in her face with a slight force, it may revive her,” he said in a
calm tone.

I obeyed, but there was no sign of consciousness. After one or two
repetitions she moved a little, young master drew a bottle of sal
volatile from his pocket, and applied it to her nose. The effect was
sudden; she started up spasmodically, and looking round the room laughed
wildly, frightfully; then, shaking her head, her face resumed its look
of pitiful imbecility.

“The light is quenched, and forever,” said young master, and the tears
came to his eyes and rolled slowly down his cheeks. Amy, with Ben in her
arms, stood by in anxious wonder; creeping up to young master’s side,
she looked earnestly in his face, saying–

“Don’t cry, Masser, Aunt Polly will soon be well; she jist sick for
little while. De lick Masser gib her only hurt her little time,–she
‘most well now, but her does look mighty wild.”

“Oh, Lord, how much longer must these poor people be tried in the
furnace of affliction? How much longer wilt thou permit a suffering race
to endure this harsh warfare? Oh, Divine Father, look pityingly down on
this thy humble servant, who is so sorely tried.” The latter part of the
speech was uttered as he sank upon his knees; and down there upon the
coarse puncheon floor we all knelt, young master forming the central
figure of the group, whilst little Amy, the baby-boy Ben, and the poor
lunatic, as if in mimicry, joined us. We surrounded him, and surely that
beautiful heart-prayer must have reached the ear of God. When such
purity asks for grace and mercy upon the poor and unfortunate, the ear
of Divine grace listens.

“What fur you pray?” asked the poor lunatic.

“I ask mercy for sore souls like thine.”

“Oh, dat is funny; but say, sir, whar is my chile? Whar is she? Why
don’t she come to me? She war here a minnit ago; but now she does be
gone away.”

“Oh, what a mystery is the human frame! Lyre of the spirit, how soon is
thy music jarred into discord.” Young master uttered this rhapsody in a
manner scarcely audible, but to my ear no sound of his was lost, not a
word, syllable, or tone!

“Poor Luce–is dat Luce?” and the poor, crazed creature stared at me
with a bewildered gaze! “and my baby-boy, whar is he, and my oldest
sons? Dey is all gone from me and forever.” She began to weep piteously.

“Watch with her kindly till I send Jake for the doctor,” he said to me;
then rallying himself, he added, “but they are all gone–gone upon that
accursed hunt;” and, seating himself in a chair, he pressed his fingers
hard upon his closed eye-lids. “Stay, I will go myself for the
doctor–she must not be neglected.”

And rising from his chair he buttoned his coat, and, charging me to take
good care of her, was about starting, but Aunt Polly sprang forward and
caught him by the arms, exclaiming,

“Oh, putty, far angel, don’t leab me. I kan’t let you leab me–stay
here. I has no peace when you is gone. Dey will come and beat me agin,
and dey will take my chil’en frum me. Oh, please now, you stay wid me.”

And she held on to him with such a pitiful fondness, and there was so
much anxiety in her face, such an infantile look of tenderness, with the
hopeless vacancy of idiocy in the eye, that to refuse her would have
been harsh; and of this young master was incapable. So, turning to me,
he said,

“You go, Ann, for the doctor, and I will stay with her–poor old
creature I have never done anything for her, and now I will gratify
her.”

As the horses had all been taken by the pursuers of Lindy, I was forced
to walk to Dr. Mandy’s farm, which was about two miles distant from Mr.
Peterkin’s. I was glad of this, for of late it was indeed but seldom
that I had been allowed to indulge in a walk through the woods. All
through the leafy glory of the summer season I had looked toward the old
sequestered forest with a longing eye. Each little bird seemed wooing me
away, yet my occupations confined me closely to the house; and a
pleasure-walk, even on Sunday, was a luxury which a negro might dream of
but never indulge. Now, though it was the lonely autumn time, yet loved
I still the woods, dismantled as they were. There is something in the
grandeur of the venerable forests, that always lifts the soul to
devotion! The patriarchal trees and the delicate sward, the wind-music
and the almost ceaseless miserere of the grove, elevate the heart, and
to the cultivated mind speak with a power to which that of books is but
poor and tame.

Continue Reading

EDIFYING TALK AMONG LADIES

I was not a little surprised to find young master now in an apparently
earnest colloquy with Aunt Polly. A deep carnation spot burned upon his
cheeks, and his soft eye was purple in its intensity.

“What is the matter?” I asked.

“Lor, chile,” replied Aunt Polly, “Lindy can’t be found nowhar.”

“Has every place been searched?” I inquired.

“Yes,” said little John, “and she is nowhere to be found.”

“Does master know it?”

“Not yet, and I hope it may be kept from him for some time, at least two
or three hours,” he replied, with a mournful earnestness of tone.

“Why? Is he not well enough to bear the excitement of it?” I inquired.

The boy fixed his large and wondering eyes upon me. His gaze lingered
for a minute or two; it was enough; I read his inmost thoughts, and in
my secret soul I revered him, for I bowed to the majesty of a
heaven-born soul. Such spirits are indeed few. God lends them to earth
for but a short time; and we should entertain them well, for, though
they come in forms unrecognized, yet must we, despite the guise of
humanity, do reverence to the shrined seraph. This boy now became to me
an object of more intense interest. I felt assured, by the power of that
magnetic glance, that he was not unacquainted with the facts of Lindy’s
flight.

“How far is it from here to the river?” he said, as if speaking with
himself, “nine miles–let me see–the Ohio once gained, and crossed,
they are comparatively safe.”

He started suddenly, as if he had been betrayed or beguiled of his
secret, and starting up quickly, walked away. I followed him to the
door, and watched his delicate form and golden head, until he
disappeared in a curve of the path which led to the spring. That was a
favorite walk with him. Early in the morning (for he rose before the
lark) and late in the twilight, alike in winter or summer, he pursued
his walk. Never once did I see him with a book in his hand. With his eye
upturned to the heavens or bent upon the earth, he seemed to be reading
Nature’s page. He had made no great proficiency in book-knowledge; and,
indeed, as he subsequently told me, he had read nothing but the Bible.
The stories of the Old Testament he had committed to memory, and could
repeat with great accuracy. That of Joseph possessed a peculiar
fascination for him. As I closed the kitchen door and rejoined Aunt
Polly, she remarked,

“Jist as I sed, Lindy is off, and we is left here to hab trouble; oh,
laws, look for sights now!”

I made no reply, but silently set about assisting her in getting
breakfast. Shortly after old Nace came in, with a strange expression
lighting up his fiendish face.

“Has you hearn de news?” And without waiting for a reply, he went on,
“Lindy is off fur Kanaday! ha, ha, ha!” and he broke out in a wild
laugh; “I guess dat dose ‘ere hounds will scent her path sure enoff; I
looks out for fun in rale arnest. I jist hopes I’ll be sint fur her, and
I’ll scour dis airth but what I finds her.”

And thus he rambled on, in a diabolical way, neither of us heeding him.
He seemed to take no notice of our silence, being too deeply interested
in the subject of his thoughts.

“I’d like to know at what hour she started off. Now, she was a smart one
to git off so slick, widout lettin’ anybody know ob it. She had no close
worth takin’ wid her, so she ken run de faster. I wish Masser would git
wake, kase I wants to be de fust one to tell him ob it.”

Just then the two field-hands, Jake and Dan, came in.

“Wal,” cried the former, “dis am news indeed. Lindy’s off fur sartin.
Now she tinks she is some, I reckon.”

“And why shouldn’t she?” asked Dan, a big, burly negro, good-natured,
but very weak in mind; of a rather low and sensuous nature, yet of a
good and careless humor–the best worker upon the farm. I looked round
at him as he said this, for I thought there was reason as well as
feeling in the speech. Why shouldn’t she be both proud and happy at the
success of her bold plan, if it gains her liberty and enables her to
reach that land where the law would recognize her as possessed of
rights? I could almost envy her such a lot.

“I guess she’ll find her Kanady down de river, by de time de dogs gits
arter her,” said Nace, with another of his ha, ha’s.

“I wonder who Masser will send fur her? I bound, Nace, you’ll be sent,”
said Jake.

“Yes, if dar is any fun, I is sure to be dar; but hurry up yer
hoe-cakes, old ‘ooman, so dat de breakfust will be ober, and we can hab
an airly start.”

The latter part of this speech was addressed to Aunt Polly, who turned
round and brandished the poker toward him, saying,

“Go ’bout yer business, Nace; kase you is got cause fur joy, it is not
wort my while to be glad. You is an old fool, dat nobody keres ’bout, no
how. I spects you would be glad to run off, too, if yer old legs was
young enuff fur to carry you.”

“Me, Poll, I wouldn’t be free if I could, kase, you see, I has done
sarved my time at de ‘post,’ and now I is Masser’s head-man, and I gits
none ob de beatings. It is fun fur me to see de oders.”

I turned my eyes upon him, and he looked so like a beast that I shut out
any feeling of resentment I might otherwise have entertained. Amy came
in, bearing little Ben in her arms, followed by her two sisters, Jinny
and Lucy.

“La, Aunt Polly, is Lindy gone?” and her blank eyes opened to an unusual
width, as she half-asked, half-asserted this fact.

“Yes, but what’s it to you, Amy?”

“I jist hear ’em say so, as I was comin’ along.”

“Whar she be gone to?” asked Lucy.

“None ob yer bisness,” replied Aunt Polly, with her usual gruffness.

Strange it was, that, when she was alone with me, she appeared to wax
soft and gentle in her nature; but, when with others, she was “wolfish.”
It seemed as if she had two natures. Now, with Nace, she was as vile and
almost as inhuman as he; but I, who knew her heart truly, felt that she
was doing herself injustice. I did not laugh or join in their talk, but
silently worked on.

“Now, you see, Ann is one ob de proud sort, kase she ken read, and her
face is yaller; she tinks to hold herself ‘bove us; but I ‘members de
time when Masser buyed her at de sale. Lor’ lub yer, but she did cry
when she lef her mammy; and de way old Kais flung herself on de ground,
ha! ha! it makes me laf now.”

I turned my eyes upon him, and, I fear, there was anything but a
Christian spirit beaming therefrom. He had touched a chord in my heart
which was sacred to memory, love, and silence. My mother! Could I bear
to have her name and her sorrow thus rudely spoken of? Oh, God, what
fierce and fiendish feelings did the recollection of her agony arouse?
With burning head and thorn-pierced heart, I turned back a blotted page
in life. Again, with horror stirring my blood, did I see her in that
sweat of mortal agony, and hear that shriek that rung from her soul! Oh,
God, these memories are a living torture to me, even now. But though
Nace had touched the tenderest, sorest part of my heart, I said nothing
to him. The strange workings of my countenance attracted Amy’s
attention, and, coming up to me, with an innocent air, she asked:

“What is the matter, Ann? Has anything happened to you?”

These questions, put by a simple child, one, too, whose own young life
had been deeply acquainted with grief, were too much for my assumed
stolidity. Tears were the only reply I could make. The child regarded
me curiously, and the expression, “poor thing,” burst from her lips. I
felt grateful for even her sympathy, and put my hand out to her.

She grasped it, and, leaning close to me, said:

“Don’t cry, Ann; me is sorry fur you. Don’t cry any more.”

Poor thing, she could feel sympathy; she, who was so loaded with
trouble, whose existence had none of the freshness and vernal beauty of
youth, but was seared and blighted like age, held in the depths of her
heart a pure drop of genuine sympathy, which she freely offered me. Oh,
did not my selfishness stand rebuked.

Looking out of the window, far down the path that wound to the spring, I
descried the fair form of the young John, advancing toward the house.
Pale and pure, with his blue eyes pensively looking up to heaven, an air
of peaceful thought and subdued emotion was breathing from his very
form. When I looked at him, he suggested the idea of serenity. There was
that about him which, like the moonlight, inspired calm. He was walking
more rapidly than I had ever seen him; but the pallor of his cheek, and
the clear, cold blue of his heaven-lit eye, harmonized but poorly with
the jarring discords of life. I thought of the pure, passionless apostle
John, whom Christ so loved? And did I not dream that this youth, too,
had on earth a mission of love to perform? Was he not one of the sacred
chosen? He came walking slowly, as if he were communing with some
invisible presence.

“Thar comes young Masser, and I is glad, kase he looks so good like. I
does lub him,” said Amy.

“Now, I is gwine fur to tell Masser, and he will gib you a beatin’,
nigger-gal, for sayin’ you lub a white gemman,” replied the sardonic
Nace.

“Oh, please don’t tell on me. I did not mean any harm,” and she burst
into tears, well-knowing that a severe whipping would be the reward of
her construed impertinence.

Before I had time to offer her any consolation, the subject of
conversation himself stood among us. With a low, tuneful voice, he spoke
to Amy, inquiring the cause of her tears.

“Oh, young Masser, I did not mean any harm. Please don’t hab me beat.”
Little Ben joined in her tears, whilst the two girls clung fondly to her
dress.

“Beaten for what?” asked young master, in a most encouraging manner.

“She say she lub you–jist as if a black wench hab any right to lub a
beautiful white gemman,” put in Nace.

“I am glad she does, and wish that I could do something that would make
her love me more.” And a _beatific_ smile overspread his peaceful face.
“Come, poor Amy, let me see if I haven’t some little present for you,”
and he drew from his pocket a picayune, which he handed her. With a wild
and singular contortion of her body, she made an acknowledgment of
thanks, and kissing the hem of his robe, she darted off from the
kitchen, with little Ben in her arms.

Without saying one word, young master walked away from the kitchen, but
not without first casting a sorrowful look upon Nace. Strange it seemed
to me, that this noble youth never administered a word of reproof to any
one. He conveyed all rebukes by means of looks. Upon me this would have
produced a greater impression, for those mild, reproachful eyes spoke
with a power which no language could equal; but on one of Nace’s
obtuseness, it had no effect whatever.

Shortly after, I left the kitchen, and went to the breakfast-room,
where, with the utmost expedition, I arranged the table, and then
repaired to the chamber of the young ladies. I found that they had
already risen from their bed. Miss Bradly (who had spent the night with
them) was standing at the mirror, braiding her long hair. Miss Jane was
seated in a large chair, with an elegant dressing-wrapper, waiting for
me to comb her “auburn hair,” as she termed it. Miss Tildy, in a lazy
attitude, was talking about the events of the previous evening.

“Now, Miss Emily, I do think him very handsome; but I cannot forgive his
gross Abolition sentiments.”

“How horribly vulgar and low he is in his notions,” said Miss Jane.

“Oh, but, girls, he was reared in the North, with those fanatical
Abolitionists, and we can scarcely blame him.”

“What a horrible set of men those Abolitionists must be. They have no
sense,” said Miss Jane, with quite a Minerva air.

“Oh, sense they assuredly have, but judgment they lack. They are a set
of brain-sick dreamers, filled with Utopian schemes. They know nothing
of Slavery as it exists at the South; and the word, which, I confess,
has no very pleasant sound, has terrified them.” This remark was made by
Miss Bradly, and so astonished me that I fixed my eyes upon her, and,
with one look, strove to express the concentrated contempt and
bitterness of my nature. This look she did not seem to heed. With
strange feelings of distrust in the integrity of human nature, I went on
about my work, which was to arrange and deck Miss Jane’s hair, but I
would have given worlds not to have felt toward Miss Bradly as I did. I
remembered with what a different spirit she had spoken to me of those
Abolitionists, whom she now contemned so much, and referred to as vain
dreamers. Where was the exalted philanthropy that I had thought dwelt in
her soul? Was she not, now, the weakest and most sordid of mortals?
Where was that far and heaven-reaching love, that had seemed to encircle
her as a living, burning zone? Gone! dissipated, like a golden mist! and
now, before my sight she stood, poor and a beggar, upon the great
highway of life.

“I can tell you,” said Miss Tildy, “I read the other day in a newspaper
that the reason these northern men are so strongly in favor of the
abolition of slavery is, that they entertain a prejudice against the
South, and that all this political warfare originated in the base
feeling of envy.”

“And that is true,” put in Miss Jane; “they know that cotton, rice and
sugar are the great staples of the South, and where can you find any
laborers but negroes to produce them?”

“Could not the poor class of whites go there and work for wages?”
pertinently asked Miss Tildy, who had a good deal of the spirit of
altercation in her.

“No, of course not; because they are free and could not be made to work
at all times. They would consent to be employed only at certain periods.
They would not work when they were in the least sick, and they would,
because of their liberty, claim certain hours as their own; whereas the
slave has no right to interpose any word against the overseer’s order.
Sick or well, he _must_ work at busy seasons of the year. The whip has a
terribly sanitary power, and has been proven to be a more efficient
remedy than rhubarb or senna.” After delivering herself of this
wonderful argument, Miss Jane seemed to experience great relief. Miss
Bradly turned from the mirror, and, smiling sycophantically upon her,
said: “Why, my dear, how well you argue! You are a very Cicero in
debate.”

That was enough. This compliment took ready root in the shallow mind of
the receiver, and her love for Miss B. became greater than ever.

“But I do think him so handsome,” broke from Miss Tildy’s lips, in a
half audible voice.

“Whom?” asked Miss Bradly.

“Why, the stranger of last evening; the fair-browed Robert Worth.”

“Handsome, indeed, is he!” was the reply.

“I hope, Matilda Peterkin, you would not be so disloyal to the South,
and to the very honorable institution under which your father
accumulated his wealth, as to even admire a low-flung northern
Abolitionist;” and Miss Jane reddened with all a Southron’s ire.

Miss Bradly was about to speak, but to what purpose the world to this
day remains ignorant, for oath after oath, and blasphemy by the volley,
so horrible that I will spare myself and the reader the repetition,
proceeded from the room of Mr. Peterkin.

The ladies sprang to their feet, and, in terror, rushed from the
apartment.

It was as I had expected; the news of Lindy’s flight had been
communicated by Nace to Mr. Peterkin, and his rage knew no limits. It
was dangerous to go near him. Raving like a madman, he tore the covering
of the bed to shreds, brandished his cowhide in every direction, took
down his gun, and swore he would “shoot every d—-d nigger on the
place.” His daughters had no influence over him. Out of bed he would
get, declaring that “all this devilment” would not have been perpetrated
if he had not been detained there by the order of that d—-d doctor,
who had no reason for keeping him there but a desire to get his money.
Fearing that his hyena rage might vent some of its gall on them, the
ladies made no further opposition to his intention.

Standing just without the door, I heard Miss Jane ask him if he would
not first take some breakfast.

“No; cuss your breakfast. I want none of it; I want to be among them ar’
niggers, and give ’em a taste of this cowhide, that they have been
sufferin’ fur.”

In affright I fled to the kitchen, and told Aunt Polly that the storm
had at length broken in all its fury. Each one of the negroes eyed the
others in silent dismay.

Pale with rage and debility, hot fury flashing from his eye, and white
froth gathering upon his lips, Mr. Peterkin dashed into the kitchen. “In
the name of h–ll and its fires, niggers, what does this mean? Tell me
whar that d—-d gal is, or I’ll cut every mother’s child of you to
death.”

Not one spoke. Lash after lash he dealt in every direction.

“Speak, h–ll hounds, or I’ll throttle you!” he cried, as he caught Jake
and Dan by the throat, with each hand, and half strangled them. With
their eyes rolling, and their tongues hanging from their mouths, they
had not power to answer. As soon as he loosened his grasp, and their
voices were sufficiently their own to speak, they attempted a denial;
but a blow from each of Mr. Peterkin’s fists levelled them to the floor.
In this dreadful state, and with a hope of getting a moment’s respite,
Jake (poor fellow, I forgive him for it) pointed to me, saying:

“She knows all ’bout it.”

This had the desired effect; finding one upon whom he could vent his
whole wrath, Peterkin rushed up to me, and Oh, such a blow as descended
upon my head! Fifty stars blazed around me. My brain burned and ached; a
choking rush of tears filled my eyes and throat. “Mercy! mercy!” broke
from my agonized lips; but, alas! I besought it from a tribunal where it
was not to be found. Blow after blow he dealt me. I strove not to parry
them, but stood and received them, as, right and left, they fell like a
hail-storm. Tears and blood bathed my face and blinded my sight. “You
cussed fool, I’ll make you rue the day you was born, if you hide from me
what you knows ’bout it.”

I asseverated, in the most solemn way, that I knew nothing of Lindy’s
flight.

“You are a liar,” he cried out, and enforced his words with another
blow.

“She is not,” cried Aunt Polly, whose forbearance had now given out.
This unexpected boldness in one of the most humble and timid of his
slaves, enraged him still farther, and he dealt her such a blow that my
heart aches even now, as I think of it.

A summons from one of the ladies recalled him to the house. Before
leaving he pronounced a desperate threat against us, which amounted to
this–that we should all be tied to the “post,” and beaten until
confession was wrung from us, and then taken to L—-, and sold to a
trader, for the southern market. But I did not share, with the others,
that wondrous dread of the fabled horror of “down the river.” I did not
believe that anywhere slavery existed in a more brutal and cruel form
than in the section of Kentucky where I lived. Solitary instances of
kind and indulgent masters there were; but they were the few exceptions
to the almost universal rule.

Now, when Mr. Peterkin withdrew, I, forgetful of my own wounds, lifted
Aunt Polly in my arms, and bore her, half senseless, to the cabin, and
laid her upon her ragged bed. “Great God!” I exclaimed, as I bent above
her, “can this thing last long? How much longer will thy divine patience
endure? How much longer must we bear this scourge, this crown of thorns,
this sweat of blood? Where and with what Calvary shall this martyrdom
terminate? Oh, give me patience, give me fortitude to bow to Thy will!
Sustain me, Jesus, Thou who dost know, hast tasted of humanity’s
bitterest cup, give me grace to bear yet a little longer!”

With this prayer upon my lips I rose from the bedside where I had been
kneeling, and, taking Aunt Polly’s horny hands within my own, I
commenced chafing them tenderly. I bathed her temples with cold water.
She opened her eyes languidly, looked round the room slowly, and then
fixed them upon me, with a bewildered expression. I spoke to her in a
gentle tone; she pushed me some distance from her, eyed me with a vacant
glance, then, shaking her head, turned over on her side and closed her
eyes. Believing that she was stunned and faint from the blow she had
received, I thought it best that she should sleep awhile. Gently
spreading the coverlet over her, I returned to the kitchen, where the
affrighted group of negroes yet remained. Stricken by a panic they had
not power of volition.

Casting one look of reproach upon Jake, I turned away, intending to go
and see if the ladies required my attention in the breakfast-room; but
in the entry, which separated the house from the kitchen, I encountered
Amy, with little Ben seated upon her hip. This is the usual mode with
nurses in Kentucky of carrying children. I have seen girls actually
deformed from the practice. An enlargement of the right hip is caused by
it, and Amy was an example of this. Had I been in a different mood, her
position and appearance would have provoked laughter. There she stood,
with her broad eyes wide open, and glaring upon me; her unwashed face
and uncombed hair were adorned by the odd ends of broken straws and bits
of hay that clung to the naps of wool; her mouth was opened to its
utmost capacity; her very ears were erect with curiosity; and her form
bent eagerly forward, whilst little Ben was coiled up on her hip, with
his sharp eyes peering like those of a mouse over her shoulder.

“Ann,” she cried out, “tell me what’s de matter? What’s Masser goin’ to
do wid us all?”

“I don’t know, Amy,” I answered in a faltering tone, for I feared much
for her.

“I hopes de child’en will go ‘long wid me, an’ I’d likes for you to go
too, Ann.”

I did not trust myself to reply; but, passing hastily on, entered the
breakfast-room, where Jane, Tildy, and Miss Bradly were seated at the
table, with their breakfast scarcely tasted. They were bending over
their plates in an intensity of interest which made them forget
everything, save their subject of conversation.

“How she could have gotten off without creating any alarm, is to me a
mystery,” said Miss Jane, as she toyed with her spoon and cup.

“Well, old Nick is in them. Negroes, I believe, are possessed by some
demon. They have the witch’s power of slipping through an auger-hole,”
said Miss Tildy.

“They are singular creatures,” replied Miss Bradly; “and I fear a great
deal of useless sympathy is expended upon them.”

“You may depend there is,” said Miss Jane. “I only wish these Northern
abolitionists had our servants to deal with. I think it would drive the
philanthropy out of them.”

“Indeed would it,” answered Miss Bradly, as she took a warm roll, and
busied herself spreading butter thereon; “they have no idea of the
trials attending the duty of a master; the patience required in the
management of so many different dispositions. I think a residence in the
South or South-west would soon change their notions. The fact is, I
think those fanatical abolitionists agitate the question only for
political purposes. Now, it is a clearly-ascertained thing, that slavery
would be prejudicial to the advancement of Northern enterprise. The
negro is an exotic from a tropical region, hence lives longer, and is
capable of more work in a warm climate. They have no need of black labor
at the North; and thus, I think, the whole affair resolves itself into a
matter of sectional gain and interest.”

Here she helped herself to the wing of a fried chicken. It seemed that
the argument had considerably whetted her appetite. Astonishing, is it
not, how the loaves and fishes of this goodly life will change and sway
our opinions? Even sober-minded, educated people, cannot repress their
pinings after the flesh-pots of Egypt.

Miss Jane seemed delighted to find that her good friend and instructress
held the Abolition party in such contempt. Just then young master
entered. With quiet, saintly manner, taking his seat at the table, he
said,

“Is not the abolition power strong at the North, Miss Emily?”

“Oh, no, Johnny, ’tis comparatively small; confined, I assure you, to a
few fanatical spirits. The merchants of New York, Boston, and the other
Northern cities, carry on a too extensive commerce with the South to
adopt such dangerous sentiments. There is a comity of men as well as
States; and the clever rule of ‘let alone’ is pretty well observed.”

Young master made no reply in words, but fixed his large, mysterious
eyes steadfastly upon her. Was it mournfulness that streamed, with a
purple light, from them, or was it a sublimated contempt? He said
nothing, but quietly ate his breakfast. His fare was as homely as that
of an ascetic; he never used meat, and always took bread without
butter. A simple crust and glass of milk, three times a day, was his
diet. Miss Jane gave him a careless and indifferent glance, then
proceeded with the conversation, totally unconscious of his presence;
but again and again he cast furtive, anxious glances toward her, and I
thought I noticed him sighing.

“What will father do with Lindy, if she should be caught?” asked Miss
Tildy.

“Send her down the river, of course,” was Miss Jane’s response.

“She deserves it,” said Miss Tildy.

“Does she?” asked the deep, earnest voice of young master.

Was it because he was unused to asking questions, or was there something
in the strange earnestness of his tone, that made those three ladies
start so suddenly, and regard him with such an astonished air? Yet none
of them replied, and thus for a few moments conversation ceased, until
he rose from the table and left the room.

“He is a strange youth,” said Miss Bradly, “and how wondrously handsome!
He always suggests romantic notions.”

“Yes, but I think him very stupid. He never talks to any of us–is
always alone, seeks old and unfrequented spots; neither in the winter
nor summer will he remain within doors. Something seems to lure him to
the wood, even when despoiled of its foliage. He must be slightly
crazed–ma’s health was feeble for some time previous to his birth,
which the doctors say has injured his constitution, and I should not be
surprised if his intellect had likewise suffered.” This speech was
pronounced by Miss Tildy in quite an oracular tone.

Miss Bradly made no answer, and I marvelled not at her changing color.
Had she not power to read, in that noble youth’s voice and manner, the
high enduring truth and singleness of purpose that dwelt in his nature?
Though he had never spoken one word in relation to slavery, I knew that
all his instincts were against it; and that opposition to it was the
principle deeply ingrained in his heart.

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