The pale moonlight slept

In about an hour Lindy came in, looking very much excited, yet
attempting to conceal it beneath the mask of calmness. I affected not to
notice it, yet was it evident, from various little attentions and
manifold kind words, that she sought to divert suspicion, and avoid all
questioning as to her absence.

“Where,” she asked me, “are the young ladies? have they company?”

“Yes,” I replied, “Miss Bradly is with them, and they are expecting a
young gentleman, an acquaintance of Miss B.’s.”

“Who is he?”

“Why, Lindy, how should I know?”

“I thought maybe you hearn his name.”

“No, I did not, and, even if I had, it would have been so unimportant to
me that I should have forgotten it.”

She opened her eyes with a vacant stare, but it was perceptible that she
wandered in thought.

“Now, Lindy,” I began, “Miss Jane has missed you from the house, and
both she and Miss Tildy have sworn vengeance against you.”

“So have I sworn it agin’ them.”

“What! what did you say, Lindy?”

Really I was surprised at the girl’s hardihood and boldness. She had
been thrown from her guard, and now, upon regaining her composure, was
alarmed.

“Oh, I was only joking, Ann; you knows we allers jokes.”

“I never do,” I said, with emphasis.

“Yes, but den, Ann, you see you is one ob de quare uns.”

“What do you mean by quare?” I asked.

“Oh, psha, ‘taint no use ob talkin wid you, for you is good; but kum,
tell me, is dey mad wid me in de house, and did dey say dey would beat
me?”

“Well, they threatened something of the kind.”

Her face grew ashen pale; it took that peculiar kind of pallor which the
negro’s face often assumes under the influence of fear or disease, and
which is so disagreeable to look upon. Enemy of mine as she had deeply
proven herself to be, I could not be guilty of the meanness of exulting
in her trouble.

“But,” she said, in an imploring tone, “you will not repeat what I jist
said in fun.”

“Of course I will not; but don’t you remember that it was your falsehood
that gained for me the only post-whipping that I ever had?”

“Yes; but den I is berry sorry fur dat, and will not do it any more.”

This was enough for me. An acknowledgment of contrition, and a
determination to do better, are all God requires of the offender; and
shall poor, erring mortals demand more? No; my resentment was fully
satisfied. Besides, I felt that this poor creature was not altogether
blamable. None of her better feelings had been cultivated; they were
strangled in their incipiency, whilst her savage instincts were left to
run riot. Thus the bad had ripened into a full and noxious development,
whilst the noble had been crushed in the bud. Who is to be answerable
for the short-comings of such a soul? Surely he who has cut it off from
all moral and mental culture, and has said to the glimmerings of its
faint intellect, “Back, back to the depths of darkness!” Surely he will
and must take upon himself the burden of accountability. The sin is at
his door, and woe-worth the day, when the great Judge shall come to pass
sentence upon him. I have often thought that the master of slaves must,
for consistency’s sake, be an infidel–or doubt man’s exact
accountability to God for the deeds done in the body; for how can he
willingly assume the sins of some hundreds of souls? In the eye of human
law, the slave has no responsibility; the master assumes all for him. If
the slave is found guilty of a capital offence, punishable with death,
the master is indemnified by a paid valuation, for yielding up the
person of the slave to the demands of offended justice? If a slave earns
money by his labors at night or holidays, or if he is the successful
holder of a prize ticket in a lottery, his master can legally claim the
money, and there is no power to gainsay him? If, then, human law
recognizes a negro as irresponsible, how much more lenient and just will
be the divine statute? Thus, I hold (and I cannot think there is just
logician, theologian, or metaphysician, who will dissent), that the
owner of slaves becomes sponsor to God for the sins of his slave; and I
cannot, then, think that one who accredits the existence of a just God,
a Supreme Ruler, to whom we are all responsible for our deeds and words,
would willingly take upon himself the burden of other people’s faults
and transgressions.

Whilst I stood talking with Lindy, the sound of merry laughter reached
our ears.

“Oh, dat is Miss Tildy, now is my time to go in, and see what dey will
say to me; maybe while dey is in a good humor, dey will not beat me.”

And, thus saying, Lindy hurried away. Sad thoughts were crowding in my
mind. Dark misgivings were stirring in my brain. Again I thought of the
blessed society, with its humanitarian hope and aim, that dwelt afar off
in the north. I longed to ask Miss Bradly more about it. I longed to
hear of those holy men, blessed prophets foretelling a millennial era
for my poor, down-trodden and despised race. I longed to ask questions
of her; but of late she had shunned me; she scarcely spoke to me; and
when she did speak, it was with indifference, and a degree of coldness
that she had never before assumed.

With these thoughts in my mind I stole along through the yard, until I
stood almost directly under the window of the parlor. Something in the
tone of a strange voice that reached my ear, riveted my attention. It
was a low, manly tone, lute-like, yet swelling on the breeze, and
charming the soul! It refreshed my senses like a draught of cooling
water. I caught the tone, and could not move from the spot. I was
transfixed.

“I do not see why Fred Douglas is not equal to the best man in the land.
What constitutes worth of character? What makes the man? What gives
elevation to him?” These were the words I first distinctly heard, spoken
in a deep, earnest tone, which I have never forgotten. I then heard a
silly laugh, which I readily recognized as Miss Jane’s, as she answered,
“You can’t pretend to say that you would be willing for a sister of
yours to marry Fred Douglas, accomplished as you consider him?”

“I did not speak of marrying at all; and might I not be an advocate of
universal liberty, without believing in amalgamation? Yet, it is a
question whether even amalgamation should be forbidden by law. The negro
is a different race; but I do not know that they have other than human
feelings and emotions. The negroes are, with us, the direct descendants
from the great progenitor of the human family, old Adam. They may, when
fitted by education, even transcend us in the refinements and graces
which adorn civilized character. In loftiness of purpose, in mental
culture, in genius, in urbanity, in the exercise of manly virtues, such
as fortitude, courage, and philanthropy, where will you show me a man
that excels Fred Douglas? And must the mere fact of his tawny complexion
exclude him from the pale of that society which he is so eminently
fitted to grace? Might I not (if it were made a question) prefer uniting
my sister’s fate with such a man, even though partially black, to seeing
her tied to a low fellow, a wine-bibber, a swearer, a villain, who
possessed not one cubit of the stature of true manhood, yet had a
complexion white as snow? Ah, Miss, it is not the skin which gives us
true value as men and women; ’tis the momentum of mind and the purity of
morals, the integrity of purpose and nobility of soul, that make our
place in the scale of being. I care not if the skin be black as Erebus
or fair and smooth as satin, so the heart and mind be right. I do not
deal in externals or care for surfaces.”

These words were as the bread of life to me. I could scarcely resist the
temptation to leave my hiding-place and look in at the open window, to
get sight of the speaker; surely, I thought, he must wear the robes of a
prophet. I could not very distinctly hear what Miss Jane said in reply.
I could catch many words, such as “nigger” and “marry” “white lady,” and
other expressions used in an expostulatory voice; but the platitudes
which she employed would not have answered the demand of my higher
reason. Old perversions and misinterpretations of portions of the Bible,
such as the story of Hagar, and the curse pronounced upon Ham, were
adduced by Miss Jane and Miss Tildy in a tone of triumph.

“Oh, I sicken over these stories,” said the same winning voice. “How
long will Christians willingly resist the known truth? How long will
they bay at heaven with their cruel blasphemies? For I hold it to be
blasphemy when a body of Christians, professing to be followers of Him
who came from heaven to earth, and assumed the substance of humanity to
teach us a lesson, argue thus. Our Great Model declares that ‘He came
not to be ministered unto but to minister.’ He inculcated practically
the lesson of humility in the washing of the disciples’ feet; yet, these
His modern disciples, the followers of to-day, preach, even from the
sacred desk, the right of men to hold their fellow-creatures in bondage
through endless generations, to sell them for gold, to beat them, to
keep them in a heathenish ignorance; and yet declare that it all has the
divine sanction. Verily, oh night of Judaism, thou wast brighter than
this our noon-day of Christianity! Black and bitter is the account, oh
Church of God, that thou art gathering to thyself! I could pray for a
tongue of inspiration, wherewith to denounce this foul crime. I could
pray for the power to show to my country the terrible stain she has
painted upon the banner of freedom. How dare we, as Americans, boast of
this as the home and temple of liberty? Where are the ‘inalienable
rights’ of which our Constitution talks in such trumpet-tones? Does not
our Declaration of Independence aver, that all men are born free and
equal? Now, do we not make this a practical falsehood? Let the poor
slave come up to the tribunal of justice, and ask the wise judge upon
the bench to interpret this piece of plain English to him! How would the
man of ermine blush at his own quibbles?”

I could tell from the speaker’s voice that he had risen from his seat,
and I knew, from the sound of footsteps, that he was approaching the
window. I crouched down lower and lower, in order to conceal myself from
observation, but gazed up to behold one whose noble sentiments and bold
expression of them had so entranced me.

Very noble looked he, standing there, with the silver moonlight beaming
upon his broad, white brow, and his deep, blue eye uplifted to the
star-written skies. His features were calm and classic in their mould,
and a mystic light seemed to idealize and spiritualize his face and
form. Kneeling down upon the earth, I looked reverently to him, as the
children of old looked upon their prophets. He did not perceive me, and
even if he had, what should I have been to him–a pale-browed student,
whose thought, large and expansive, was filled with the noble, the
philanthropic, and the great. Yet, there I crouched in fear and
trembling, lest a breath should betray my secret place. But, would not
his extended pity have embraced me, even me, a poor, insignificant,
uncared-for thing in the great world–one who bore upon her face the
impress of the hated nation? Ay, I felt that he would not have condemned
me as one devoid of the noble impulse of a heroic humanity. If the
African has not heroism, pray where will you find it? Are there, in the
high endurance of the heroes of old Sparta, sufferings such as the
unchronicled life of many a slave can furnish forth? Martyrs have gone
to the stake; but amid the pomp and sounding psaltery of a choir, and
above the flame, the fagot and the scaffold, they descried the immortal
crown, and even the worldly and sensuous desire of canonization may not
have been dead with them. The patriot braves the battle, and dies amid
the thickest of the carnage, whilst the jubilant strains of music herald
him away. The soldier perishes amid the proud acclaim of his countrymen;
but the poor negro dies a martyr, unknown, unsung, and uncheered. Many
expire at the whipping-post, with the gleesome shouts of their inhuman
tormentors, as their only cheering. Yet few pity us. We are valuable
only as property. Our lives are nothing, and our souls–why they
scarcely think we have any. In reflecting upon these things, in looking
calmly back over my past life, and in reviewing the lives of many who
are familiar to me, I have felt that the Lord’s forbearance must indeed
be great; and when thoughts of revenge have curdled my blood, the prayer
of my suffering Saviour: “Father forgive them, for they know not what
they do,” has flashed through my mind, and I have repelled them as angry
and unchristian. Jesus drank the wormwood and the gall; and we, oh,
brethren and sisters of the banned race, must “tread the wine-press
alone.” We must bear firmly upon the burning ploughshare, and pass
manfully through the ordeal, for vengeance is His and He will repay.

But there, in the sweet moonlight, as I looked upon this young apostle
of reform, a whole troop of thoughts less bitter than these swept over
my mind. There were gentle dreamings of a home, a quiet home, in that
Northland, where, at least, we are countenanced as human beings. “Who,”
I asked myself, “is this mysterious Fred Douglas?” A black man he
evidently was; but how had I heard him spoken of? As one devoted to
self-culture in its noblest form, who ornamented society by his imposing
and graceful bearing, who electrified audiences with the splendor of his
rhetoric, and lured scholars to his presence by the fame of his
acquirements; and this man, this oracle of lore, was of my race, of my
blood. What he had done, others might achieve. What a high determination
then fired my breast! Give, give me but the opportunity, and my chief
ambition will be to prove that we, though wronged and despised, are not
inferior to the proud Caucasians. I will strive to redeem from unjust
aspersion the name of my people. He, this illustrious stranger, gave the
first impetus to my ambition; from him my thoughts assumed a form, and
one visible aim now possessed my soul.

How long I remained there listening I do not remember, for soon the
subject of conversation was changed, and I noted not the particular
words; but that mournfully musical voice had a siren-charm for my ear,
and I could not tear myself away. Whilst listening to it, sweet sleep,
like a shielding mantle, fell upon me.

It must have been long after midnight when I awoke. I do not remember
whether I had dreamed or not, but the slumber had brought refreshment to
my body and peace to my heart.

I was aroused by the sound of voices, in a suppressed whisper, or rather
in a tone slightly above a whisper. I thought I detected the voice of
Lindy, and, as I rose from my recumbent posture, I caught sight of a
figure flitting round the gable of the house. I followed, but there was
nothing visible. The pale moonlight slept lovingly upon the dwelling and
the roofs of the out-buildings. Whither could the figure have fled?
There was no sign of any one having been there. Slowly and sadly I
directed my steps toward Aunt Polly’s cabin. I opened the door
cautiously, not wishing to disturb her; but easy and noiseless as were
my motions, they roused that faithful creature. She sprang from the bed,
exclaiming:

“La, Ann, whar has yer bin? I has bin so oneasy ’bout yer.”

With my native honesty I explained to her that I had been beguiled by
the melody of a human voice, and had lingered long out in the autumn
moonlight.

“Yes; but, chile, you’ll be sick. Sleepin’ out a doors is berry
onwholesome like.”

“Yes; but, Aunt Polly, there is an interior heat which no autumnal frost
has power to chill.”

“Yes, chile, you does talk so pretty, like dem ar’ great white
scholards. Many times I has wondered how a poor darkie could larn so
much. Now it ‘pears to me as if you knowed much as any ob ’em. I don’t
tink Miss Bradly hersef talks any better dan you does.”

“Oh, Aunt Polly, your praise is sweet to me; but then, you must remember
not to do me more than justice. I am a poor, illiterate mulatto girl,
who has indeed improved the modicum of time allowed her for
self-culture; yet, when I hear such ladies as Miss Bradly talk, I feel
how far inferior I am to the queens of the white tribe. Often I ask
myself why is this? Is it because my face is colored? But then there is
a voice, deep down in my soul, that rejects such a conclusion as
slanderous. Oh, give me but opportunity, and I will strive to equal them
in learning.”

“I don’t see no use in yer wanting to larn, when you is nothing but a
poor slave. But I does think the gift of fine speech mighty valable.”

And here is another thing upon which I would generalize. Does it not
argue the possession of native mind–the immense value the African
places upon words–the high-flown and broad-sounding words that he
usually employs? The ludicrous attempts which the most untutored make at
grandiloquence, should not so much provoke mirth as admiration in the
more reflective of the white race. Through what barriers and obstacles
do not their minds struggle to force a way up to the light. I have often
been astonished at the quickness with which they seized upon
expressions, and the accuracy with which they would apply them. Every
crude attempt which they make toward self-culture is laughed at and
scorned by the master, or treated as the most puerile folly. No
encouragement is given them. If, by almost superhuman effort, they gain
knowledge, why they may; but, unaided and alone, they must work, as I
have done. Moreover, I have been wonder-stricken at the facility with
which the negro-boy acquires learning. ‘Tis as though the rudiments of
the school came to him by flashes of intuition. He is allowed only a
couple of hours on Sunday afternoons for recitations, and such odd
moments during the week as he can catch to prepare his lessons; for, a
servant-boy often caught with his book in hand, would be pronounced
indolent, and punished as such. Then, how unjust it is for the proud
statesman–prouder of his snowy complexion than of his stores of
knowledge–how unjust, I say, is it in him to assert, in the halls of
legislation, that the colored race are to the white far inferior in
native mind! Has he weighed the advantages and disadvantages of both?
Has he remembered that the whites, through countless generations, have
been cultivated and refined–familiarized with the arts and sciences and
elegancies of a graceful age, whilst the blacks are bound down in
ignorance; unschooled in lore; untrained in virtue; taught to look upon
themselves as degraded–the mere drudges of their masters; debarred the
privileges of social life; excluded from books, with the products of
their labor going toward the enrichment of others? When, as in some
solitary instance, a single mind dares to break through the restraints
and impediments imposed upon it, does not the fact show of what strength
the race, when properly cared for, is capable? Is not the bulb, which
enshrouds the snowy leaves of the fragrant lily, an unsightly thing?
Does the uncut diamond show any of the polish and brilliancy which the
lapidary’s hand can give it? Thus is it with the African mind. Let but
the schoolmen breathe upon it, let the architect of learning fashion it,
and no diamond ever glittered with more resplendence. With a more than
prismatic light, it will refract the beams of the sun of knowledge; and
the heart, the most noble African’s heart, that now slumbers in the bulb
of ignorance, will burst forth, pure and lovely as the white-petaled
lily!

I hope, kind reader, you will pardon these digressions, as I write my
inner as well as outer life, and I should be unfaithful to my most
earnest thoughts were I not to chronicle such reflections as these. This
book is not a wild romance to beguile your tears and cheat your fancy.
No; it is the truthful autobiography of one who has suffered long, long,
the pains and trials of slavery. And she is committing her story, with
her own calm deductions, to the consideration of every thoughtful and
truth-loving mind.

“Where,” I asked Aunt Polly, “is Lindy?”

“Oh, chile, I doesn’t know whar dat gal is. Sompen is de matter wid
her. She bin flyin’ round here like somebody out ob dar head. All’s not
right wid her, now you mark my words fur it.”

I then related to her the circumstance which had occurred whilst I was
under the window.

“I does jist know dat was Lindy! You didn’t see who she was talkin’
wid?”

“No; and I did not distinctly discern her form; but the voice I am
confident was her’s.”

“Well, sompen is gwine to happen; kase Lindy is berry great coward, and
I well knows ’twas sompen great dat would make her be out dar at
midnight.”

“What do you think it means?” I asked.

“Why, lean up close to me, chile, while I jist whisper it low like to
you. I believe Lindy is gwine to run off.”

I started back in terror. I felt the blood grow cold in my veins. Why,
if she made such an attempt as this, the whole country would be scoured
for her. Hot pursuers would be out in every direction. And then her
flight would render slavery ten times more severe for us. Master would
believe that we were cognizant of it, and we should be put to torture
for the purpose of wringing from us something in regard to her. Then,
apprehension of our following her example would cause the reins of
authority to be even more tightly drawn. What wonder, then, that fright
possessed our minds, as the horrid suspicion began to assume something
like reality. We regarded each other in silent horror. The dread
workings of the fiend of fear were visible in the livid hue which
overspread my companion’s face and shone in the glare of her aged eye.
She clasped her skinny hands together, and cried,

“Oh, my chile, orful times is comin’ fur us. While Lindy will be off in
that ‘lightful Canady, we will be here sufferin’ all sorts of trouble.
Oh, de Lord, if dar be any, hab marcy on us!”

“Oh, Aunt Polly, don’t say ‘if there be any;’ for, so certain as we both
sit here, there is a Lord who made us, and who cares for us, too. We
are as much the children of His love as are the whites.”

“Oh Lord, chile, I kan’t belieb it; fur, if he loves us, why does he
make us suffer so, an’ let de white folks hab such an easy time?”

“He has some wise purpose in it. And then in that Eternity which
succeeds the grave, He will render us blest and happy.”

The clouds of ignorance hung too thick and close around her mind; and
the poor old woman did not see the justice of such a decree. She was not
to blame if, in her woeful ignorance, she yielded to unbelief; and, with
a profanity which knowledge would have rebuked, dared to boldly question
the Divine Purpose. This sin, also, is at the white man’s door.

I did not strive further to enlighten her; for, be it confessed, I was
myself possessed by physical fear to an unwonted degree. I did not think
of courting sleep. The brief dream which had fallen upon me as I slept
beneath the parlor window, had given me sufficient refreshment. And as
for Aunt Polly, she was too much frightened to think of sleep. Talk we
did, long and earnestly. I mentioned to her what I had heard Misses
Tildy and Jane say in regard to Amy.

“Poor thing,” exclaimed Aunt Polly, “she’ll not be able to stand it, for
her heart is wrapped up in dat ar’ chile’s. She ‘pears like its mother.”

“I hope they may change their intentions,” I ventured to say.

“No; neber. When wonst Miss Jane gets de notion ob finery in her head,
she is gwine to hab it. Lord lub you, Ann, I does wish dey would sell
you and me.”

“So do I,” was my fervent reply.

“But dey will neber sell you, kase Miss Jane tinks you is good-lookin’,
an’ I hearn her say she would like to hab a nice-lookin’ maid. You see
she tinks it is ‘spectable.”

“I suppose I must bear my cross and crown of thorns with patience.”

Just then little Ben groaned in his sleep, and quickly his ever-watchful
guardian was aroused; she bent over him, soothing his perturbed sleep
with a low song. Many were the endearing epithets which she employed,
such as, “Pretty little Benny, nothing shall hurt you.” “Bless your
little heart,” and “here I is by yer side,” “I’ll keep de bars way frum
yer.”

“Poor child,” burst involuntarily from my lips, as I reflected that even
that one only treasure would soon be taken from her; then in what a
hopeless eclipse would sink every ray of mind. Hearing my exclamation,
she sprung up, and eagerly asked,

“What is de matter, Ann? Why is you and Aunt Polly sittin’ up at dis
time ob of de night? It’s most day; say, is anything gwine on?”

“Nothing at all,” I answered, “only Aunt Polly does not feel very well,
and I am sitting up talking with her.”

Thus appeased, she returned to her bed (if such a miserable thing could
be called a bed), and was soon sleeping soundly.

Aunt Polly wiped her eyes as she said to me,

“Ann, doesn’t we niggers hab to bar a heap? We works hard, and gits
nothing but scanty vittels, de scraps dat de white folks leabes, and den
dese miserable old rags dat only half kevers our nakedness. I declare it
is too hard to bar.”

“Yes,” I answered, “it is hard, very hard, and enough to shake the
endurance of the most determined martyr; yet, often do I repeat to
myself those divine words, ‘The cup which my Father has given me will I
drink;’ and then I feel calmed, strong, and heroic.”

“Oh, Ann, chile, you does talk so beautiful, an’ you has got de rale
sort ob religion.”

“Oh, would that I could think so. Would that my soul were more patient.
I am not sufficiently hungered and athirst after righteousness. I pant
too much for the joys of earth. I crave worldly inheritance, whilst the
Christian’s true aim should be for the mansions of the blest.”

Thus wore on the night in social conversation, and I forgot, in that
free intercourse, that there was a difference between us. The heart
takes not into consideration the distinction of mind. Love banishes all
thought of rank or inequality. By her kindness and confidence, this old
woman made me forget her ignorance.

When the first red streak of day began to announce the slow coming of
the sun, Aunt Polly was out, and about her breakfast arrangements.

Since the illness of Master, and the departure of Mr. Jones, things had
not gone on with the same precision as before. There was a few minutes
difference in the blowing of the horn; and, for offences like these,
Master had sworn deeply that “every nigger’s hide” should be striped, as
soon as he was able to preside at the “post.” During his sickness he had
not allowed one of us to enter his room; “for,” as he said to the
doctor, “a cussed nigger made him feel worse, he wanted to be up and
beatin’ them. They needed the cowhide every breath they drew.” And, as
the sapient doctor decided that our presence had an exciting effect upon
him, we were banished from his room. “_Banished!_–what’s banished but
set free!”

Now, when I rose from my seat, and bent over the form of Amy, and
watched her as she lay wrapt in a profound sleep, with one arm
encircling little Ben, and the two sisters, Jane and Luce, lying close
to her–so dependent looked the three, as they thus huddled round their
young protectress, so loving and trustful in that deep repose, that I
felt now would be a good time for the angel Death to come–now, before
the fatal fall of the Damoclesian sword, whose hair thread was about to
snap: but no–Death comes not at our bidding; he obeys a higher
appointment. The boy moaned again in his sleep, and Amy’s faithful arm
was tightened round him. Closer she drew him to her maternal heart, and
in a low, gurgling, songful voice, lulled him to a sweeter rest. I
turned away from the sight, and, sinking on my knees, offered up a
prayer to Him our common Father. I prayed that strength might be
furnished me to endure the torture which I feared would come with the
labors of the day. I asked, in an especial way, for grace to be given to
the child, Amy. God is merciful! He moves in a mysterious manner. All
power comes direct from Him; and, oh, did I not feel that this young
creature had need of grace to bear the burden that others were preparing
for her!

My business was to clean the house and set to rights the young ladies’
apartment, and then assist Lindy in the breakfast-room; but I dared not
venture in the ladies’ chamber until half-past six o’clock, as the
slightest foot-fall would arouse Miss Jane, who, I think, was too
nervous to sleep. Thus I was left some little time to myself; and these
few moments I generally devoted to reading some simple story-book or
chapters in the New Testament. Of course, the mighty mysteries of the
sacred volume were but imperfectly appreciated by me. I read the book
more as a duty than a pleasure; but this morning I could not read.
Christ’s beautiful parable of the Ten Virgins, which has such a wondrous
significance even to the most childish mind, failed to impart interest,
and the blessed page fell from my hands unread.

I then thought I would go to the kitchen and assist Aunt Polly. I found
her very much excited, and in close conversation with our master’s son
John, whom the servants familiarly addressed as “young master.”

I have, as yet, forborne all direct and special mention of him, though
he was by no means a person lacking interest. Unlike his father and
sisters, he was gentle in disposition, full of loving kindness; yet he
was so taciturn, that we had seldom an indication of that generosity
that burned so intensely in the very centre of his soul, and which
subsequent events called forth. His sisters pronounced him stupid; and,
in the choice phraseology of his father, he was “poke-easy;” but the
poor, undiscriminating black people, called him gentle. To me he said
but little; yet that little was always kindly spoken, and I knew it to
be the dictate of a soft, humane spirit.

Fair-haired, with deep blue eyes, a snowy complexion and pensive
manners, he glided by us, ever recalling to my mind the thought of
seraphs. He was now fifteen years of age, but small of stature and
slight of sinew, with a mournful expression and dejected eye, as though
the burden of a great sorrow had been early laid upon him. During all
my residence there, I had never heard him laugh loud or seen him run. He
had none of that exhilaration and buoyancy which are so captivating in
childhood. If he asked a favor of even a servant, he always expressed a
hope that he had given no trouble. When a slave was to be whipped, he
would go off and conceal himself somewhere, and never was he a spectator
of any cruelty; yet he did not remonstrate with his father or intercede
for the victims. No one had ever heard him speak against the diabolical
acts of his father; yet all felt that he condemned them, for there was a
silent expression of reproof in the earnest gaze which he sometimes gave
him. I always fancied when the boy came near me, that there was about
him a religion, which, like the wondrous virtue of the Saviour’s
garment, was manifest only when you approached near enough to touch it.
It was not expressed in any open word, or made evident by any signal
act, but, like the life-sustaining air which we daily breathe, we knew
it only through its beneficent though invisible influence.

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