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?

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