THE PUNISHMENT

The next day Miss Jane, observing my unusual thoughtfulness, said:

“Come, now, Ann, you are not quite free. From the airs that you have put
on, one would think you had been made so.”

“What have I done, Miss Jane?” This was asked in a quiet tone, perhaps
not so obsequiously as she thought it should be. Thereupon she took
great offence.

“How dare you, Miss, speak _to me_ in that tone? Take that,” and she
dealt me a blow across the forehead with a long, limber whalebone, that
laid the flesh open. I was so stunned by it that I reeled, and should
have fallen to the floor, had I not supported myself by the bed-post.

“Don’t you dare to scream.”

I attempted to bind up my brow with a handkerchief. This she regarded as
affectation.

“Take care, Miss Ann,” she often prefixed the Miss when she was mad, by
way of taunting me; “give yourself none of those important airs. I’ll
take you down a little.”

When Mr. Summerville entered, she began to cry, saying:

“Husband, this nigger-wench has given me a great deal of impertinence.
Father never allowed it; now I want to know if you will not protect me
from such insults.”

“Certainly, my love, I’ll not allow any one, white or black, to insult
you. Ann, how dare you give your mistress impudence?”

“I did not mean it, Master William.” I had thus addressed him ever since
his marriage.

I attempted to relate the conversation that had occurred, wherein Miss
Jane thought I had been impudent, when she suddenly sprang up,
exclaiming:

“Do you allow a negro to give testimony against your own wife?”

“Certainly not.”

“Now, Mr. Summerville,” she was getting angry with him, “I require you
to whip that girl severely; if you don’t do it–why–” and she ground
her teeth fiercely.

“I will have her whipped, my dear, but I cannot whip her.”

“Why can’t you?” and the lady’s eye flashed.

“Because I should be injured by it. _Gentlemen_ do not correct negroes;
they hire others to do that sort of business.”

“Ah, well, then, hire some one who will do it well.”

“Come with me, Ann,” he said to me, as I stood speechless with fear and
mortification.

Seeing him again motion me to follow, I, forgetful of the injustice that
had been done me, and the honest resentment I should feel–forgetful of
everything but the humiliation to which they were going to subject
me–fell on my knees before Miss Jane, and besought her to excuse, to
forgive me, and I would never offend her again.

“Don’t dare to ask mercy of me. You know that I am too much like father
to spare a nigger.”

Ah, well I knew it! and vainly I sued to her. I might have known that
she rejoiced too much in the sport; and, had she been in the country,
would have asked no higher pleasure than to attend to it personally. A
negro’s scream of agony was music to her ears.

I governed myself as well as I could while I followed Mr. Summerville
through the halls and winding galleries. Down flights of steps, through
passages and lobbys we went, until at last we landed in the cellar.
There Mr. Summerville surrendered me to the care of a Mr. Monkton, the
bar-keeper of the establishment duly appointed and fitted for the office
of slave-whipping.

“Here,” said Mr. Summerville, “give this girl a good, genteel whipping;
but no cruelty, Monkton, and here is your fee;” so saying he handed him
a half-dollar, then left the dismal cellar.

I have since read long and learned accounts of the gloomy, subterranean
cells, in which the cruel ministers of the Spanish Inquisition performed
their horrible deeds; and I think this cellar very nearly resembled
them. There it was, with its low, damp, vault-like roof; its unwholesome
air, earthen floor, covered with broken wine bottles, and oyster cans,
the debris of many a wild night’s revel! There stood the monster
Monkton, with his fierce, lynx eye, his profuse black beard, and frousy
brows; a great, stalwart man, of a hard face and manner, forming no bad
picture of those wolfish inquisitors of cruel, Catholic Spain!

Over this untempting scene a dim, waning lamp, threw its blue glare,
only rendering the place more hideous.

“Now, girl, I am to lick you well. You see the half-dollar. Well, I’m to
git the worth of it out of your hide. Now, what would you think if I
didn’t give you a single lick?”

I looked him full in the face, and even by that equivocal light I had
power to discern his horrid purpose, and I quickly and proudly replied,

“I should think you did your duty poorly.”

“And why?”

“Because you engaged to do _the job_, and even received your pay in
advance; therefore, if you fail to comply with your bargain, you are not
trustworthy.”

“Wal, you’re smart enough for a lawyer.”

“Well, attend to your business.”

“This is my business,” and he held up a stout wagon-whip; “come, strip
off.”

“That is not a part of the contract.”

“Yes; but it’s the way I always whips ’em.”

“You were not told to use me so, and I am not going to remove one
article of my clothing.”

“Yes, but you _shall_;” and he approached me, his wild eye glaring with
a lascivious light, and the deep passion-spot blazing on his cheek.

“Girl, you’ve got to yield to me. I’ll have you now, if it’s only to
show you that I can.”

I drew back a few steps, and, seizing a broken bottle, waited, with a
deadly purpose, to see what he would do. He came so near that I almost
fancied his fetid breath played with its damnable heat upon my very
cheek.

“You’ve got to be mine. I’ll give you a fine calico dress, and a pretty
pair of ear-bobs!”

This was too much for further endurance. What! must I give up the
angel-sealed honor of my life in traffic for trinkets? Where is the
woman that would not have hotly resented such an insult?

I turned upon him like a hungry lioness, and just as his wanton hand was
about to be laid upon me, I dexterously aimed, and hurled the bottle
directly against his left temple. With a low cry of pain he fell to the
floor, and the blood oozed freely from the wound.

As my first impression was that I had slain him, so was it my first
desperate impulse to kill myself; yet with a second thought came my
better intention, and, unlocking the door, I turned and left the gloomy
cell. I mounted the dust-covered steps, and rapidly threaded silent,
spider festooned halls, until I regained the upper courts. How beautiful
seemed the full gush of day-light to me! But the heavy weight of a
supposed crime bowed me to the earth.

My first idea was to proceed directly to Mr. Summerville’s apartment and
make a truthful statement of the affair. What he would do or have done
to me was a matter upon which I had expended no thought. My apprehension
was altogether for the safety of my soul. Homicide was so fearful a
thing, that even when committed in actual self-defence, I feared for the
justice of it. The Divine interrogatory made to Cain rang with painful
accuracy in my mental ear! “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I repeated it
again and again, and I lived years in the brief space of a moment. Away
over the trackless void of the future fled imagination, painting all
things and scenes with a sombre color.

The first recognizable person whom I met was Mr. Winston. I knew there
was but little to hope for from him, for ever since the argument between
himself and Mr. Trueman, he had appeared unusually haughty; and the
waiters said that he had become excessively overbearing, that he was
constantly knocking them around with his gold-headed cane, and swearing
that Kentucky slaves were almost as bad as Northern free negroes.

Henry (who had become a _most dear friend of mine_) told me that Mr.
Winston had on one or two occasions, without the slightest provocation,
struck him severely over the head; but these things were pretty
generally done in the presence of Mr. Trueman, and for no higher object,
I honestly believe, than to annoy that pure-souled philanthropist. So I
was assured that he was not one to entrust with my secret, especially as
a great intimacy had sprung up between him and Miss Jane. I, therefore,
hastily passed him, and a few steps on met Mr. Trueman. How serene
appeared his chaste, marble face! Who that looked upon him, with his
quiet, reflective eye, but knew that an angel sat enthroned within his
bosom? Do not such faces help to prove the perfectibility of the race?
If, as the transcendentalists believe, these noble characters are only
types of what the _whole man_ will be, may we not expect much from the
advent of that dubious personage?

“Mr. Trueman,” I said, and my voice was clear and unfaltering, for
something in his face and manner exorcised all fear, “I have done a
fearful deed.”

“What, child?” he asked, and his eye was full of solicitude.

I then gave him a hurried account of what had occurred in the cellar.
After a slight pause, he said:

“The best thing for you to do will be to make instant confession to Mr.
Summerville. Alas! I fear it will go hard with you, for _you are a
slave_.”

I thanked him for the interest he had manifested in me, and passed on
to Miss Jane’s room. I paused one moment at the door, before turning the
knob. What a variety of feelings were at work in my breast! Had I a
fellow-creature’s blood upon my hands? I trembled in every limb, but at
length controlled myself sufficiently to enter.

There sat Miss Jane, engaged at her crochet-work, and Master William
playing with the balls of cotton and silk in her little basket.

“Well, Ann, I trust you’ve got your just deserts, a good whipping,” said
Miss Jane, as she fixed her eyes upon me.

Very calmly I related all that had occurred. Mr. Summerville sprang to
his feet and rushed from the room, whilst Miss Jane set up a series of
screams loud enough to reach the most distant part of the house. All my
services were required to keep her from swooning, or _affecting to
swoon_.

The ladies from the adjoining rooms rushed in to her assistance, and
were soon busy chafing her hands, rubbing her feet, and bathing her
temples.

“Isn’t this terrible!” ejaculated one.

“What _is_ the matter?” cried another.

“Poor creature, she is hysterical,” was the explanation of a third.

I endeavored to explain the cause of Miss Jane’s excitement.

“You did right,” said one lady, whose truly womanly spirit burst through
all conventionality and restraint.

“What,” said one, a genuine Southern conservative, “do you say it was
right for a slave to oppose and resist the punishment which her master
had directed?”

“Certainly not; but it was right for a female, no matter whether white
or black, to resist, even to the shedding of blood, the lascivious
advances of a bold libertine.”

“Do you believe the girl’s story?”

“Yes; why not?”

“I don’t; it bears the impress of falsehood on its very face.”

“No,” added another Kentucky true-blue, “Mr. Monkton was going to whip
her, and she resisted him. That’s the correct version of the story, I’ll
bet my life on it.”

To all of this aspersion upon myself, I was bound to be a silent
auditor, yet ever obeying their slightest order to hand them water,
cologne, &c. Is not this slavery indeed?

When Mr. Summerville left the room, he hastily repaired to the bar,
where he made the story known, and getting assistance, forthwith went to
the cellar, Mr. Winston forming one of the party of investigation. His
Southern prejudices were instantly aroused, and he was ready “to do or
die” for the propogation of the “peculiar institution.”

The result of their trip was to find Monkton very feeble from the loss
of blood, and suffering from the cut made by the broken bottle, but with
enough life left in him for the fabrication of a falsehood, which was of
course believed, as he had a _white face_. He stated that he had
proceeded to the administration of the whipping, directed by my master;
that I resisted him; and finding it necessary to bind me, he was
attempting to do so, when I swore that I would kill him, and that
suiting the action to the word, I hurled the broken bottle at his
temples.

When Mr. Summerville repeated this to Miss Jane, in my presence, stating
that it was the testimony that Monkton was prepared to give in open
court, for I was to be arrested, I could not refrain from uttering a cry
of surprise, and saying:

“Mr. Monkton has misrepresented the case, as ‘I can show.'”

“Yes, but you will not be allowed to give evidence,” said Master
William.

“Will Mr. Monkton’s testimony be taken?” I inquired.

“Certainly, but a negro cannot bear witness against a white person.”

I said nothing, but many thoughts were troubling me.

“You see, Ann, what your bad conduct has brought _you to_,” said Miss
Jane.

Again I attempted to tell the facts of the case, and defend myself, but
she interrupted me, saying:

“Do you suppose I believe a word of that? I can assure you I do not,
and, moreover, I’m not going to spend my money to have a lawyer employed
to keep you from the punishment you so richly deserve. So you must
content yourself to take the public hanging or whipping in the jail
yard, which is the penalty that will be affixed to your crime.” Turning
to Mr. Summerville, she added, “I think it will do Ann good, for it will
take down her pride, and make her a valuable nigger. She has been too
proud of her character; for my part, I had rather she had had less
virtue. I’ve always thought she was virtuous because she did not want us
to increase in property, and was too proud to have her children live in
bondage.”

I dared not make any remark; but there I stood in dread of the
approaching arrest, which came full soon.

As I was sewing for Miss Jane, Mr. Summerville opened the door, and said
to a rough man, pointing to me–

“There’s the girl.”

“Come along with me to jail, gal.”

How fearfully sounded the command. The jail-house was a place of terror,
and though I had in my brief life “supped full of horrors,” this was a
new species of torture that I had hoped to leave untasted.

Taking with me nothing but my bonnet, I followed Constable Calcraft down
stairs into the street. Upon one of the landings I met Henry, and I knew
from his kindly mournful glance, that he gave me all his compassion.

“Good-bye, Ann,” he said, extending his hand to me, “good-bye, and keep
of good cheer; the Lord will be with you.” I looked at him, and saw that
his lip was quivering; and his dark eye glittered with a furtive tear. I
dared not trust my voice, so, with a grateful pressure of the hand, I
passed him by, keeping up my composure right stoutly. At the foot of the
stair I met Louise, who was weeping.

“I believe you, Ann, we all believe you, and the Lord will make it
appear on the day of your trial that you are right, only keep up your
spirits, and read this,” and she slipped a little pocket-Testament into
my hand, which was a welcome present.

Now, I thought, the last trial is over. All the tender ones who love me
have spoken their comforting words, and I may resume my pride and
hauteur; but no–standing within the vestibule was the man whom I
reverenced above all others, Mr. Trueman. One effort more, and then I
might be calm; but before the sunshine of his kindliness the snow and
ice of my pride melted and passed away in showers of tears. The first
glance of his pitying countenance made me weep. I was weary and
heavy-laden, and, even as to a mortal brother, I longed to pour into his
ear the pent-up agony of my soul.

“Poor girl,” he said kindly, as he offered me his white and
finely-formed hand, “I believe you innocent; there is that in your
clear, womanly look, your unaffected utterance, that proves to me you
are worthy to be heard. Trust in God.”

Oh, can I ever forget the diamond-like glister of his blue eyes! and
_that tear_ was evoked from its fountain for my sorrow; even then I felt
a thrill of joy. We love to have the sympathy and confidence of the
truly great. I made no reply, in words, to Mr. Trueman, but he
understood me.

Conducted by the constable, I passed through a number of streets, all
crowded with the busy and active, perhaps the _happy_. Ah, what a fable
that word seemed to express! I used to doubt every smiling face I saw,
and think it a _radiant lie_! but, since then, though in a subdued
sense, I have learned that mortals may be happy.

We stopped, after a long walk, in front of a large building of Ionic
architecture, and of dark brown stone, ornamented by beautiful flutings,
with a tasteful slope of rich sward in front, adorned with a variety of
flowers and shrubbery. Through this we passed and reached the first
court, which was surrounded by a high stone-wall. Passing through a low
door-way, we stood on the first pave; here I was surrendered to the
keeping of the jailer, a man apparently devoid of generosity and
humanity. After hearing from Constable Calcraft an account of the crime
for which I was committed, he observed–

“A sassy, impudent, _on_ruly gal, I guess; we have plenty _sich_; this
will larn her a lessin. Come with me,” he said, as he turned his
besotted face toward me.

Through dirty, dark, filthy passages I went, until we reached a gloomy,
loathsome apartment, in which he rudely thrust me, saying–

“Thar’s your quarters.”

Such a place as it was! A small room of six by eight, with a dirty,
discolored floor, over which rats and mice scampered _ad libitum_. One
miserable little iron grate let in a stray ray of daylight, only
revealing those loathsome things which the friendly darkness would have
concealed. Cowering in the corner of this wretched pen was a poor,
neglected white woman, whose face seemed unacquainted with soap and
water, and her hair tagged, ragged, and unused to comb or brush. She
clasped to her breast a weasly suckling, that every now and then gave a
sickly cry, indicative of the cholic or a heated atmosphere.

“Poor comfort!” said the woman, as I entered, “poor comfort here, whare
the starved wretches are cryin’ for ar. My baby has bin a sinkin’ ever
sense I come here. I’d not keer much if we could both die.”

“For what are you to be tried?”

“For takin’ a loaf of bread to keep myself and child from starvin’.”

She then asked me for what I stood accused. I told her my story, and we
grew quite talkative and sociable, thereby realizing the old axiom,
“Misery loves company.”

* * * * * * *

For several days I lingered on thus, diversifying the time only by
reading my Testament, the gift of Louise, and occasionally having a long
talk with my companion, whom I learned to address by the name of Fanny.
She was a woman of remarkably sensitive feelings, quick and warm in all
her impulses; just such a creature as an education and kindly training
would have made lovely and lovable; but she had been utterly
neglected–had grown up a complete human weed.

Our meals were served round to us upon a large wooden drawer, as filthy
as dirt and grease could make it. The cuisine dashed our rations, a
slice of fat bacon and “pone” of corn bread to us, with as little
ceremony as though we had been dogs; and we were allowed one blanket to
sleep on.

One day, when I felt more than usually gloomy, I was agreeably
disappointed, as the cumbersome door opened to admit my kind friend
Louise. The jailer remarked:

“You may stay about a quarter of an hour, but no longer.”

“Thank you, sir,” she replied.

“This is very kind of you, Louise,” for I was touched by the visit.

“I wanted to see you, Ann; and look what I brought you!” She held a
beautiful bouquet to me.

“Thank you, thank you a thousand times, this _is_ too kind,” I said, as
I watered the lovely flowers with my tears.

“Oh, they were sent to you,” she answered, with a smile.

“And who sent them?”

“Why, Henry, of course;” and again she smiled.

I know not why, but I felt the blood rushing warmly to my face, as I
bent my head very low, to conceal a confusion which I did not
understand.

“But here is something that I did bring you,” and, opening a basket, she
drew out a nice, tempting pie, some very delicious fruit cake, and white
bread.

“I suppose your fare is miserable?”

“Oh, worse than miserable.”

Fanny drew near me, and without the least timidity, stretched forth her
hand.

“Oh, please give me some, only a little; I’m nearly starved?”

I freely gave her the larger portion, for she could enjoy it. I had the
flowers, the blessed flowers, that Henry had sent, and they were food
and drink for me!

Louise informed me that, since my arrest, she had cleared up and
arranged Miss Jane’s room; and she thought it was Mr. Summerville’s
intention to sell me after the trial.

“Have you heard who will buy me?” I asked.

“Oh, no, I don’t suppose an offer has yet been made; nor do I know that
it is their positive intention to sell you; but that is what I judged
from their conversation.”

“If they get me a good master I am very willing to be sold; for I could
not find a worse home than I have now.”

“I expect if he sells you, it will be to a trader; but, keep up your
heart and spirits. Remember, ‘sufficient for the day is the evil
thereof.’ But I hear the sound of footsteps; the jailer is coming; my
quarter of an hour is out.”

“How came he to admit you?”

“Oh, I know Mr. Trayton very well. I’ve washed for his wife, and she
owes me a little bill of a couple of dollars; so when I came here, I
said by way of a bait, ‘Now, Mrs. Trayton, I didn’t come to dun you,
I’ll make you a present of that little bill;’ then she and he were both
in a mighty good humor with me. I then said, ‘I’ve got a friend here,
and I’d take it as a favor if you’d let me see her for a little while.'”

“Mr. Trayton said:”

“‘Oh, that can’t be–it’s against the rules.'”

“So his wife set to work, and persuaded him that he owed me a favor, and
he consented to let me see you for a quarter of an hour only. Before he
comes, tell me what message I am to give Henry for you. I know he will
be anxious to hear.”

Again I felt the blood tingling in my veins, and overspreading my face.
I began to play with my flowers, and muttered out something about
gratitude for the welcome present, a message which, incoherent as it
was, her woman’s wit knew to be sincere and gracious. After a few
moments the jailer came, saying:

“Louise, your time is up.”

“I am ready to go,” and she took up her basket. After bidding me a kind
adieu she departed, carrying with her much of the sunshine which her
presence had brought, but not all of it, for she left with me a ray or
so to illumine the darkened cell of recollection. There on my lap lay
the blooming flowers, _his_ gift! Flowers are always a joy to us–they
gladden and beautify our outer and every-day life; they preach us a
sermon of beauty and love; but to the weary, lonely captive, in his
dismal cell, they are particularly beautiful! They speak to him in a
voice which nothing else can, of the glory of the sun-lit world, from
which he is exiled. Thanks to God for flowers! Rude, and coarse, and
vile must be the nature that can trample them with unhallowed feet!

There I sat toying with them, inhaling their mystic odor, and
luxuriating upon the delicacy of their ephemeral beauty. All flowers
were dear to me; but these were particularly precious, and wherefore? Is
there a single female heart that will not divine “the wherefore”? You,
who are clad in satin, and decked with jewels, albeit your face is as
white as snow, cannot boast of emotions different from ours? Feeling,
emotion, is the same in the African and the white woman? We are made of
the same clay, and informed by the same spirit.

The better portion of the night I sat there, sadly wakeful, still
clutching those flowers to my breast, and covering them with kisses.

The heavy breathing of my companion sounded drowsily in my ear, yet
never wooed me to a like repose. Thus wore on the best part of the
night, until the small, shadowy hours, when I sank to a sweet dream. I
was wandering in a rich garden of tropical flowers, with Henry by my
side! Through enchanted gates we passed, hand in hand, singing as we
went. Long and dreamily we loitered by low-gurgling summer fountains,
listening to the lulling wail of falling water. Then we journeyed on
toward a fairy flower-palace, that loomed up greenly in the distance,
which ever, as we approached it, seemed to recede further.

I awoke before we reached the floral palace, and I am womanly enough to
confess, that I felt annoyed that the dream had been broken by the cry
of Fanny’s babe. I puzzled myself trying to read its import. Are there
many women who would have differed from me? Yet I was distressed to
find Fanny’s little boy-babe very sick, so much so as to require
medical attention; but, alas! she was too poor to offer remuneration to
a doctor, therefore none was sent for; and, as the child was attacked
with croup, it actually died for the want of medical attention. And this
occurred in a community boasting of its enlightenment and Christianity,
and in a city where fifty-two churches reared their gilded domes and
ornamented spires, in a God-fearing and God-serving community, proud of
its benevolent societies, its hospitals, &c. In what, I ask, are these
Christians better than the Pharisees of old, who prayed long, well, and
much, in their splendid temples?

The day of my trial dawned as fair and bright as any that ever broke
over the sinful world. It rose upon my slumber mildly, and without
breaking its serenity. I slept better on the night preceding the trial,
than I had done since my incarceration.

I knew that I was friendless and alone, and on the eve of a trial
wherein I stood accused of a fearful crime; that I was defenceless; yet
I rested my cause with Him, who has bidden the weary and heavy-laden to
come unto Him, and He will give them rest. Strong in this consciousness,
I sank to the sweetest slumber and the rosiest dreams. Through my mind
gracefully flitted the phantom of Henry.

When Fanny woke me to receive my unrelished breakfast, she said:

“You’ve forgot that this is the day of trial; you sleep as unconsarned
as though the trial was three weeks off. For my part, now that the baby
is dead, I don’t kere much what becomes of me.”

“My cause,” I replied, “is with God. To His keeping I have confided
myself; therefore, I can sleep soundly.”

“Have you got any lawyer?”

“No; I am a slave, and my master will not employ one.”

After a few hours we heard the sound of a bell, that announced the
opening of court. The jailer conducted me out of the jail yard into the
Court House. It was the first time I had ever seen the interior of a
court-room, when the court was in full session, and I was not very much
edified by the sight.

The outside of the building was very tasteful and elegant, with most
ornate decorations; but the interior was shocking. In the first place it
was unfinished, and the bald, unplastered walls struck me as being
exceedingly comfortless. Then the long, redundant cobwebs were gathered
in festoons from rafter to rafter, whilst the floor was fairly
tesselated with spots of tobacco-juice, which had been most dexterously
ejected from certain _legal_ orifices, commonly known as the _mouths of
lawyers_, who, for want of opportunity to _speak_, resorted to chewing.

The judge, a lazy-looking old gentleman, sat in a time-worn arm-chair,
ready to give his decision in the case of the Commonwealth _versus_ Ann,
slave of William Summerville; and seeming to me very much as though his
opinion was made up without a hearing.

And there, ranged round his Honor, were the practitioners and members of
the bar, all of them in seedy clothes, unshorn and unshaven. Here and
there you would find a veteran of the bar, who claimed it as his
especial privilege to outrage the King’s or the President’s English and
common decency; and, as a matter of course, all the younger ones were
aiming to imitate him; but, as it was impossible to do that in ability,
they succeeded, to admiration, in copying his ill-manners.

Two of them I particularly noticed, as I sat in the prisoner’s dock,
awaiting the “coming up of my case.” One of them the Court frequently
addressed as Mr. Spear, and a very pointless spear he seemed;–a little,
short, chunky man, with yellow, stiff, bristling hair, that stood out
very straight, as if to declare its independence of the brain, and away
it went on its owner’s well-defined principle of “going it on your own
hook.” He had a little snub of a nose that possessed the good taste to
turn away in disgust from its neighbor, a tobacco-stained mouth of no
particular dimensions, and, I should judge from the sneer of the said
nose, of no very pleasant odor; little, hard, flinty, grizzly-gray eyes,
that seemed to wink as though they were afraid of seeing the truth.
Altogether, it was the most disagreeably-comic phiz that I remember ever
to have seen. To complete the ludicrous picture, he was a
self-sufficient body, quite elate at the idea of speaking “in public on
the stage.” His speech was made up of the frequent repetition of “my
client claims” so and so, and “may it please your Honor,” and “I’ll call
the attention of the Court to the fact,” and such like phrases, but
whether his client was guilty of the charge set forth in the indictment,
he neither proved nor disproved.

The other individual whom I remarked, was a great, fat, flabby man,
whose flesh (like that of a rhinoceros) hung loosely on the bones. He
seemed to consider personal ease, rather than taste, in the arrangement
of his toilet; for he appeared in the presence of the court in a pair of
half-worn slippers, stockings “down-gyved,” a shirt-bosom much spotted
with tobacco-juice, and a neck-cloth loosely adjusted about his red,
beefish throat. His little watery blue eye reminded me forcibly of
skimmed milk; whilst his big nose, as red as a peony, told the story
that he was no advocate of the Maine liquor law, and that he had “_voted
for license_.”

He was said, by some of the bystanders, to have made an excellent speech
adverse to his client, and in favor of the side against which he was
employed.

“Hurrah for litigation,” said an animadverter who stood in proximity to
me. After awhile, and in due course of docket, my case came up.

“Has she no counsel?” asked the judge.

After a moment’s pause, some one answered, “No; she has none.”

I felt a chill gathering at my heart, for there was a slight movement in
the crowd; and, upon looking round, I discovered Mr. Trueman making his
way through the audience. After a few words with several members of the
bar and the judge, he was duly sworn in, and introduced to the Court as
Mr. Trueman, a lawyer from Massachusetts, who desired to be admitted as
a practitioner at this bar. Thus duly qualified, he volunteered his
services in my defence. The look which I gave him came directly from my
overflowing heart, and I am sure spoke my thanks more effectual than
words could have done. But he gave me no other recognition than a faint
smile.

As the case began, my attention was arrested. The jury was selected
without difficulty; for, as none of the panel had heard of the case, the
counsel waived the privilege of challenging. After the reading of the
indictment, setting forth formally “an assault upon Mr. Monkton, with
intent to kill, by one Ann, slave of William Summerville,” the
Commonwealth’s attorney introduced Mr. Monkton himself as the only
witness in the case.

In a very minute and evidently pre-arranged story, he proceeded to
detail the circumstances of a violent and deadly assault, which seemed
to impress the jury greatly to my prejudice. When he had concluded, the
prosecutor remarked that he had no further evidence, and proposed to
submit the case, without argument, to the jury, as Mr. Trueman had no
witnesses in my favor. To this proposal, however, Mr. Trueman would not
accede; and so the prosecutor briefly argued upon the testimony and the
law applicable to it. Then Mr. Trueman rose, and a thrill seemed to run
through the audience as his tall, commanding form stood proud and erect,
his mild saint-like eyes glowing with a fire that I had never seen
before. He began by endeavoring to disabuse the minds of the jury of the
very natural ill-feeling they might entertain against a slave, supposed
to have made an attack upon the life of a white man; reviewed at length
the distinctions which are believed, at the South, to exist between the
two races; and dwelt especially upon those oppressive enactments which
virtually place the life of a slave at the mercy of even the basest of
the white complexion. Passing from these general observations, he
examined, with scrutiny the prepared story of Mr. Monkton, showing it to
be a vile fabrication of defeated malice, flatly contradictory in
essential particulars, and utterly unworthy of reliance under the wise
maxim of the law, that “being false in one thing, it was false in all.”
In conclusion, he made a stirring appeal to the jury, exhorting them to
rescue this feeble woman from the foul machinations which had been
invented for her ruin; to rebuke, by their righteous verdict, this
swift and perjured witness; and to vindicate before the world the honor
of their dear old Commonwealth, which was no less threatened by this
ignominious proceeding than the safety of his poor and innocent client.

The officers of the Court could scarcely repress the applause which
succeeded this appeal.

“Finally, gentlemen,” resumed Mr. Trueman, “permit me to take back to my
Northern home the warm, personal testimony to your love of justice,
which, unbiased by considerations of color, is dealt out to high and
low, rich and poor, white and black, with equal and impartial hands.
Disarm, by your verdict in this instance, the reproach by which Kentucky
may hereafter be assailed when her enemies shall taunt her with
injustice and cruelty. It has long been said, at the North, that ‘the
South cannot show justice to a slave.’ Now, gentlemen, ’tis for you, in
the character of sworn jurors, to disprove, by your verdict, this
oft-repeated, and, alas! in too many instances, well-authenticated
charge. And I conjure you as men, as Christians, as jurors, to deal
justly, kindly, humanely with this poor uncared-for slave-woman. As you
are men and fathers, slave-holders even, show her justice, and, if need
be, mercy, as in like circumstances you would have these dispensed to
your own daughters or slaves. She is a woman, it may be an uncultured
one; this place, this Court, is strange to her. There she sits alone,
and seemingly friendless, in the dock. Where was her master? Had he
prepared or engaged an advocate? No, sir; he left her helpless and
undefended; but that God, alike the God of the Jew and the Gentile, has,
in the hour of her need, raised up for her a friend and advocate. And be
ye, Gentlemen of the Jury, also the friend of the neglected female! By
all the artlessness of her sex, she appeals to you to rescue her name
from this undeserved aspersion, and her body from the tortures of the
lash or the halter. Mark, with your strongest reprobation, that lying
accuser of the powerless, who, thwarted in the attempt to violate one
article in the Decalogue, has here, and in your presence, accomplished
the outrage of another, invoking upon his soul, with unholy lips, the
maledictions with which God will sooner or later overwhelm the perjurer.
Look at him now as he cowers beneath my words. His blanched cheek and
shrivelling eye denote the detected villain. He dares not, like an
honest, truth-telling man, face the charges arrayed against him. No,
conscious guilt and wicked passion are bowing him now to the earth. Dare
he look me full in the eye? No; for he fears lest I, with a lawyer’s
skill, should draw out and expose the malicious fiend that has urged him
on to the persecution of the innocent and defenceless. Send him from
your midst with the brand of severest condemnation, as an example of the
fate which awaits a false witness in the Courts of the Commonwealth of
Kentucky. Restore to this prisoner the peace of mind which has been
destroyed by this prosecution. Thus you will provide for yourselves a
source of consolation through all the future, and I shall thank heaven
with my latest breath for the chance that threw me, a stranger, in your
city to-day, and led me to this temple of justice to urge your minds to
the right conclusion.”

He sat down amid such thunders of applause as incurred the censure of
the judge. When order was restored, the Commonwealth’s attorney rose to
close the case. He said “he could see no reason for doubting the
veracity of his witness whom the opposition had so strenuously
endeavored to impeach. For his own part, he had long known Mr. Monkton,
and had always regarded him as a man of truth. The present was the first
attempt at his impeachment that he had ever heard of; and he felt
perfectly satisfied that Mr. Monkton would survive it. Had he been the
character which his adversary had described, it might have been possible
to find some witness who could invalidate his testimony. No one,
however, has appeared; and I take it that no one exists. The gentleman
would do well to observe a little more caution before he attacks so
recklessly the reputation of a man.”

Mr. Trueman rising, requested the prosecutor to indulge him for one
moment.

“Certainly,” was the reply.

“I desire the jury and the Court to remember,” said Mr. Trueman, “that I
made no attack upon the _reputation_ of the witness in this case.
Doubtless _that_ is all which it is claimed to be. I freely concede it;
but the earnest prosecutor must permit me to distinguish between
_reputation_ and _character_. I did assail the character of the man, but
not hypothetically or by shrewd conjectures; ‘out of his own mouth I
condemned him.’ This is not the first instance of crime committed by a
man, who, up to the period of transgression, stood fair before the
world. The gentleman’s own library will supply abundant proofs of the
success of strong temptation in its encounters with even _established
virtue_; and I care not if this willing witness could bolster up his
reputation with the voluntary affidavits of hosts of friends; his own
testimony, to-day, would have still produced and riveted the conviction
of his really base character. I thank the gentleman for his indulgence.”

The prosecutor continuing, endeavored to show that the testimony was,
upon its face, entirely credible, and ought to have its weight with the
jury. He labored hard to reconcile its many and material contradictions,
reiterated his own opinion of the witness as a man of truth; and, with
an inflammatory warning against the _Abolition counsel_, who, he said,
was perhaps now “meditating in our midst some sinister design against
the peculiar institution of the South,” he ended his fiery harangue.

When he had taken his seat, Mr. Trueman addressed the Court as follows:

“Before the jury retire, may it please your Honor, as the case is of a
serious nature, and as we have no witness for the defence, I would ask
permission merely to repeat the version of the circumstances of this
case detailed to me by the prisoner at the bar. Such a statement, I am
aware, is not legal evidence; but if, in your clemency, you would permit
it to go to the jury simply for what it is worth, the course of justice
I am sure would by no means be impeded.”

The judge readily consented to this request, and Mr. Trueman rehearsed
my story, as narrated in the foregoing pages.

The Commonwealth’s attorney then rejoined with a few remarks.

After a retirement of a few minutes, the jury returned with a verdict of
“guilty as charged in the indictment,” ordering me to receive two
hundred lashes on my bare back, not exceeding fifty at a time. I was
then remanded to jail to await the execution of my sentence.

Very gloomy looked that little room to me when I returned to it, with a
horrid crime of which, Heaven knows, I was guiltless, affixed to my
name, and the prospect of a cruel punishment awaiting me. Who may tell
the silent, unexpressed agony that I there endured? Certain I am, that
the nightly stars and the old pale moon looked not down upon a more
wretched heart. There I sat, looking ever and again at the stolid Fanny,
who had been sentenced to the work-house for a limited time. Since the
death of her infant she had lost all her loquacity, and remained in a
kind of dreamy, drowsy state, between waking and sleeping.

Through how many scenes of vanished days, worked the plough-share of
memory, upturning the fresh earth, where lay the buried seeds of some
few joys! And, sometimes, a sly, nestling thought of Henry hid itself
away in the most covert folds of my heart. His melancholy bronze face
had cut itself like a fine cameo, on my soul. The old, withered flowers,
which he had sent, lay carefully concealed in a corner of the cell.
Their beauty had departed like a dim dream; but a little of their
fragrance still remained despite decay.

One day, after the trial, I was much honored and delighted by a visit
from no less a personage than Mr. Trueman himself.

I was overcome, and had not power to speak the thanks with which my
grateful heart ran over. He kindly pitied my embarrassment, and relieved
me by saying,

“Oh, I know you are thankful to me. I only wish, my good girl, that my
speech had rescued you from the punishment you have to suffer. Believe
me, I deeply pity you; and, if money could avert the penalty which I
know you have not merited, I would relieve you from its infliction; but
nothing more can be done for you. You must bear your trouble bravely.”

“Oh, my kind, noble friend!” I passionately exclaimed, “words like these
would arm me with strength to brave a punishment ten times more severe
than the one that awaits me. Sympathy from you can repay me for any
suffering. That a noble white gentleman, of distinguished talents,
should stoop from his lofty position to espouse the cause of a poor
mulatto, is to me as pleasing as it is strange.”

“Alas, my good girl, you and all of your wronged and injured race are
objects of interest and affection to me. I would that I could give you
something more available than sympathy: but these Southerners are a
knotty people; their prejudices of caste and color grow out, unsightly
and disgusting, like the rude excrescences upon a noble tree, eating it
away, and sucking up its vital sap. These Western people are of a noble
nature, were it not for their sectional blemishes. I never relied upon
the many statements which I have heard at the North, taking them as
natural exaggerations; but my sojourn here has proved them to be true.”

I then told him of the discussion that I had overheard between him and
Mr. Winston.

“Did you hear that?” he asked with a smile. “Winston has been very cool
toward me ever since; yet he is a man with some fine points of
character, and considerable mental cultivation. This one Southern
feeling, or rather prejudice, however, has well-nigh corrupted him. He
is too fiery and irritable to argue; but all Southerners are so. They
cannot allow themselves to discuss these matters. Witness, for instance,
the conduct of their Congressional debaters. Do they reason? Whenever a
matter is reduced to argumentation, the Southerner flies off at a
tangent, resents everything as personal, descends to abuse, and thus
closes the debate.”

I ventured to ask him some questions in relation to Fred Douglas; to all
of which he returned satisfactory answers. He informed me that Douglas
had once been a slave; that he was now a man of social position; of
very decided talent and energy. “I know of no man,” continued Mr.
Trueman, “who is more deserving of public trust than Douglas. He
conducts himself with extreme modesty and propriety, and a quiet dignity
that inclines the most fastidious in his favor.”

He then cited the case of Miss Greenfield (_the_ black swan), showing
that my race was susceptible of cultivation and refinement in a high
degree.

Thus inspired, I poured forth my full soul to him. I told him how, in
secret, I had studied; how diligently I had searched after knowledge;
how I longed for the opportunity to improve my poor talents. I spoke
freely, and with a degree of nervous enthusiasm that seemed to affect
him.

“Ann,” he said, and large tears stood in his eyes, “it is a shame for
you to be kept in bondage. A proud, aspiring soul like yours, if once
free to follow its impulses, might achieve much. Can you not labor to
buy yourself? At odd times do extra work, and, by your savings, you may,
in the course of years, be enabled to buy yourself.”

“My dear sir, I’ve no ‘odd times’ for extra work, or I would gladly
avail myself of them. Lazy I am not; but my mistress requires all my
time and labor. If she were to discover that I was working, even at
night for myself, she would punish me severely.”

I said this in a mournful tone; for I felt that despair was my portion.
He was silent for awhile; then said,

“Well, you must do the best you can. I would that I could advise you;
but now I must leave. A longer stay would excite suspicion. You heard
what they said the other day about Abolitionists.”

I remembered it well, and was distressed to think that he had been
abused on my account.

With many kind words he took his leave, and I felt as if the sunshine
had suddenly been extinguished.

During his entire visit poor Fanny had slept. She lay like one in an
opium trance. For hours after his departure she remained so, and much
time was left me for reflection.

On the last and concluding day of the term of the court, the jailer
signified to me that the constable would, on the morrow, administer the
first fifty lashes; and, of course, I passed the night in great
trepidation.

But the morning came bright and clear, and the jailer, accompanied by
Constable Calcraft, entered.

“Come, girl,” said the latter, “I have to execute the sentence upon
you.”

Without one word, I followed him into the jail yard.

“Strip yourself to the waist,” said the constable.

I dared not hesitate, though feminine delicacy was rudely shocked. With
a prayer to heaven for fortitude, I obeyed.

Then, with a strong cowhide, he inflicted fifty lashes (the first
instalment of the sentence) upon my bare back; each lacerating it to the
bone. I was afterwards compelled to put my clothes on over my raw,
bloody back, without being allowed to wash away the clotted gore; for,
upon asking for water to cleanse myself, I was harshly refused, and
quickly re-conducted to the cell, where, wounded, mortified, and
anguish-stricken, I was left to myself.

Oh, God of the world-forgotten Africa! Thou dost see these things; Thou
dost hear the cries which daily and nightly we are sending up to Thee!
On that lonely, wretched night Thou wert with me, and my prison became
as a radiant mansion, for angels cheered me there! Glory to God for the
cross which He sent me; for it led me on to Him.

Poor Fanny, after her sentence was pronounced, was soon sent to the
work-house; so I was alone. The little Testament which Louise had given
me, was all the company that I desired. Its rich and varied words were
as manna to my hungry soul; and its blessed promises rescued me from a
dreadful bankruptcy of faith.

Subsequently, and at three different times, I was led forth to receive
the remainder of my punishment.

After the last portion was given, I was allowed to go to the kitchen of
the jail and wash myself and dress in some clean clothes, which Miss
Jane had sent me. I was then conducted by the constable to the hotel.

Miss Jane met me very distantly, saying–

“I trust you are somewhat humbled, Ann, and will in future be a better
nigger.”

I was in but a poor mood to take rebukes and reproaches; for my flesh
was perfectly raw, the intervals between the whippings having been so
short as not to allow the gashes even to close; so that upon this, the
final day, my back presented one mass of filth and clotted gore. I was
then, as may be supposed, in a very irritable humor, but a slave is not
allowed to have feeling. It is a privilege denied him, because his skin
is black.

I did not go out of Miss Jane’s room, except on matters of business,
about which she sent me. I would, then, go slipping around, afraid of
meeting Henry. I did not wish him to see me in that mutilated condition.
I saw Louise in Miss Jane’s room; but there she merely nodded to me.
Subsequently we met in a retired part of the hall, and there she
expressed that generous and friendly sympathy which I knew she so warmly
cherished for me.

Somehow or other she had contrived to insinuate herself wondrously into
Miss Jane’s good graces; and all her influence she endeavored to use in
my favor.

In this private interview she told me that she would induce Miss Jane
to let me sleep in her room; and she thought she knew what key to take
her on.

“If,” added she, “I get you to my apartment, I will care for you well. I
will wash and dress your wounds, and render you every attention in my
power.”

I watched, with admiration, her tactics in managing Miss Jane. That
evening when I was seated in an obscure corner of the room, Miss Jane
was lolling in a large arm-chair, playing with a bouquet that had been
sent her by a gentleman. This bouquet had been delivered to her, as I
afterwards learned, by Louise. Miss Jane had grown to be fashionable
indeed; and had two favorite beaux, with whom she interchanged notes,
and Louise had been selected as a messenger.

On this occasion, the wily mulatto came up to her, rather familiarly, I
thought, and said–

“Ah, you are amusing yourself with the Captain’s flowers! I must tell
him of it. Dear sakes! but it will please him;” she then whispered
something to her, at which both of them laughed heartily.

After this Miss Jane was in a very decided good humor, and Louise fussed
about the apartment pretty much as she pleased. At length, throwing open
the window, she cried out–

“How close the air is here! Why, Mrs. St. Lucian, the fashionable,
dashing lady who occupied this room just before you, Mrs. Somerville,
wouldn’t allow three persons to be in it at a time; and her servant-girl
always slept in my room. By the way, that just reminds me how impolite
I’ve been to you; do excuse me, and I will be glad to relieve you by
letting Ann go to my room of nights.”

“Oh, it will trouble you, Louise.”

“Don’t talk or think of troubling me; but come along girl,” she said,
turning to me.

“Go with Louise, Ann,” added Miss Jane, as she perceived me hesitate,
“but come early in the morning to get me ready for breakfast.”

Happy even for so small a favor as this, I followed Louise to her room.
There I found everything very comfortable and neat. A nice, downy bed,
with its snowy covering; a bright-colored carpet, a little bureau,
washstand, clock, rocking-chair, and one or two pictures, with a few
crocks of flowers, completed the tasteful furniture of this apartment.

All this, I inly said, is the arrangement and taste of a mulatto in the
full enjoyment of her freedom! Do not her thrift and industry disprove
the oft-repeated charge of indolence that is made upon the negro race?

She seemed to read my thoughts, and remarked, “You are surprised, Ann,
to see my room so nice! I read the wonder in your face. I have marked it
before, in the countenances of slaves. They are taught, from their
infancy up, to regard themselves as unfit for the blessings of free,
civilized life; and I am happy to give the lie, by my own manner of
living, to this rude charge.”

“How long have you been free, Louise, and how did you obtain your
freedom?”

“It is a long story,” she answered; “you must be inclined to sleep; you
need rest. At some other time I’ll tell you. Here, take this arm-chair,
it is soft; and your back is wounded and sore; I am going to dress it
for you.”

So saying, she left the room, but quickly returned with a basin of warm
water and a little canteen of grease. She very kindly bade me remove my
dress, then gently, with a soft linten-rag, washed my back, greased it,
and made me put on one of her linen chemises and a nice gown, and giving
me a stimulant, bade me rest myself for the night upon her bed, which
was clean, white, and tempting.

When she thought I was soundly sleeping, she removed from a little
swinging book-shelf a well-worn Bible. After reading a chapter or so,
she sank upon her knees in prayer! There may be those who would laugh
and scoff at the piety of this woman, because of her tawny complexion;
but the Great Judge, to whose ear alone her supplication was made,
disregards all such distinctions. Her soul was as precious to Him, as
though her complexion had been of the most spotless snow.

On the following morning, whilst I was arranging Miss Jane’s toilette,
she said to me, in rather a kind tone:

“Ann, Mr. Summerville wants to sell you, and purchase a smaller and
cheaper girl for me. Now, if you behave yourself well, I’ll allow you to
choose your own home.”

This was more kindness than I expected to receive from her, and I
thanked her heartily.

All that day my heart was dreaming of a new home–perhaps a kind, good
one! On the gallery I met Mr. Trueman (I love to write his name).
Rushing eagerly up to him, I offered my hand, all oblivious of the wide
chasm that the difference of race had placed between us; but, if that
thought had occurred to me, his benignant smile would have put it to
flight. Ah, he was the true reformer, who illustrated, in his own
deportment, the much talked-of theory of human brotherhood! He, with all
his learning, his native talent, his social position and legal
prominence, could condescend to speak in a familiar spirit to the
lowliest slave, and this made me, soured to harshness, feel at ease in
his presence.

I told him that I was fast recovering from the effects of my whipping. I
spoke of Louise’s kindness, &c.

“I am to be sold, Mr. Trueman; I wish that you would buy me.”

“My good girl, if I had the means I would not hesitate to make the
purchase, and instantly draw up your free papers; but I am, at the
present, laboring under great pecuniary embarrassments, which deny me
the right of exercising that generosity which my heart prompts in this
case.”

I thanked him, over and over again, for his kindness. I felt not a
little distressed when he told me that he should leave for Boston early
on the following day. In bidding me adieu, he slipped, very modestly,
into my hand a ten-dollar bill, but this I could not accept from one to
whom I was already heavily indebted.

“No, my good friend, I cannot trespass so much upon you. Already I am
largely your debtor. Take back this money.” I offered him the bill, but
his face colored deeply, as he replied:

“No, Ann, you would not wound my feelings, I am sure.”

“Not for my freedom,” I earnestly answered.

“Then accept this trifling gift. Let it be among the first of your
savings, as my contribution, toward the purchase-money for your
freedom.” Seeing that I hesitated, he said, “if you persist in refusing,
you will offend me.”

“Anything but that,” I eagerly cried, as I took the money from that
blessed, charity-dispensing hand.

And this was the last I saw of him for many years; and, when we again
met, the shadow of deeper sorrows was resting on my brow.

* * * * *

Several weeks had elapsed since Miss Jane’s announcement that I was to
be sold, and I had heard no more of it. I dared not renew the subject to
her, no matter from what motive, for she would have construed it as
impudence. But my time was now passing in comparative pleasure, for Miss
Jane was wholly engrossed by fun, frolic, and dissipation. Her mornings
were spent in making or receiving fashionable calls, and her afternoons
were devoted to sleep, whilst the night-time was given up entirely to
theatres, parties, concerts, and such amusements. Consequently my
situation, as servant, became pretty much that of a sinecure. Oh, what
delightful hours I passed in Louise’s room, reading! I devoured
everything in the shape of a book that fell into my hands. I began to
improve astonishingly in my studies. It seemed that knowledge came to me
by magic. I was surprised at the rapidity of my own advancement. In the
afternoons, Henry had a good deal of leisure, and he used to steal round
to Louise’s room, and sit with us upon a little balcony that fronted it,
and looked out upon a beautiful view. There lay the placid Ohio, and
just beyond it ran the blessed Indiana shore! “Why was I not born on
that side of the river?” I used to say to Henry, as I pointed across the
water. “Or why,” he would answer, as his dark eye grew intensely black,
“were our ancestors ever stolen from Africa?”

“These are questions,” said the more philosophical Louise, “that we must
not propose. They destroy the little happiness we already enjoy.”

“Yes, you can afford to talk thus, Louise, for you are free; but we,
poor slaves, know slavery from actual experience and endurance,” said
Henry.

“I have had my experience too,” she answered, “and a dark one has it
been.”

The evening on which this conversation occurred, was unusually fair and
calm. I shall ever remember it. There we three sat, with mournful
memories working in our breasts; there each looking at the other,
murmuring secretly, “Mine is the heaviest trouble!”

“Louise,” I said, “tell us how you broke the chains of bondage.”

“I was,” said she, after a moment’s pause, “a slave to a family of
wealth, residing a few miles from New Orleans. I am, as you see, but
one-third African. My mother was a bright mulatto. My father a white
gentleman, the brother of my mistress. Louis De Calmo was his name. My
mother was a housemaid, and only fifteen years of age at my birth. She
was of a meek, quiet disposition, and bore with patience all her
mistress’ reproaches and harshness; but, when alone with my father, she
urged him to buy me, and he promised her he would; still he put her off
from time to time. She often said to him that for herself she did not
care; but, for me, she was all anxiety. She could not bear the idea of
her child remaining in slavery. All her bright hopes for me were
suddenly brought to a close by my father’s unexpected death. He was
killed by the explosion of a steamboat on the lower Mississippi, and his
horribly-mangled body brought home to be buried. My mother loved him;
and, in her grief for his death, she had a double cause for sorrow. By
it her child was debarred the privilege of freedom. I was but nine years
of age at the time, but I well remember her wild lamentation. Often she
would catch me to her heart, and cry out, ‘if you could only die I
should be so happy;’ but I did not. I lived on and grew rapidly. We had
a very kind overseer, and his son took a great fancy to me. He taught me
to read and write. I was remarkably quick. When I was but fifteen, I
recollect mistress fancied, from my likely appearance and my delicate,
gliding movements, that she would make a dining-room servant of me. I
was taken into the house, and thus deprived of the instructions which
the overseer’s son had so faithfully rendered me. I have often read half
of the night. Now I approach a melancholy part of my story. Master
becoming embarrassed in his business, he must part with some of his
property. Of course the slaves went. My mother was numbered among the
lot. I longed and begged to be sold with her; but to this mistress would
not consent,–she considered me too valuable as a house-girl. Well,
mother and I parted. None can ever know my wretchedness, unless they
have suffered a similar grief, when I saw her borne weeping and
screaming away from me. I have never heard from her since. Where she
went or into whose hands she fell, I never knew. She was sold to the
highest bidder, under the auctioneer’s hammer, in the New Orleans
market. I lived on as best I could, bearing an aching heart, whipped for
every little offence, serving, as a bond-woman, her who was, by nature
and blood, _my Aunt_. After a year or so I was sold to James Canfield, a
bachelor gentleman in New Orleans, and I lived with him, as a wife, for
a number of years. I had several beautiful children, though none lived
to be more than a few months old. At the death of this man I was set
free by his will, and three hundred dollars were bequeathed me by him. I
had saved a good deal of money during his life-time, and this, with his
legacy, made me independent. I remained in the South but a short time.
For two years after his death I sojourned in the North, sometimes hiring
myself out as chambermaid, and at others living quietly on my means; but
I must work. In activity I stifle memory, and for awhile am happy, or,
at least, tranquil.”

After this synopsis of her history, Louise was silent. She bent her
head upon her hand, and mused abstractedly.

“I think, Henry, you are a slave,” I said, as I turned my eye upon his
mournful face.

“Yes, and to a hard master,” was the quick reply; “but he has promised
me I shall buy myself. I am to pay him one thousand dollars, in
instalments of one hundred dollars each. Three of these instalments I
have already paid.”

“Does he receive any hire for your services at this hotel?”

“Oh yes, the proprietor pays him one hundred and fifty dollars a year
for me.”

“How have you made the money?”

“By working at night and on holidays, going on errands, and doing little
jobs for gentlemen boarding in the house. Sometimes I get little
donations from kind-hearted persons, Christmas gifts in money, &c. All
of it is saved.”

“You must work very hard.”

“Oh yes, it’s very little sleep I ever get. How old would you think me?”

“Thirty-five,” I answered, as I looked at his furrowed face.

“That is what almost every one says; yet I am only twenty-five. All
these wrinkles and hard spots are from work.”

“You ought to rest awhile,” I ventured to suggest.

“Oh, I’ll wait until I am my own master; then I’ll rest.”

“But you may die before that time comes.”

“So I may, so I may,” he repeated despondingly. “All my family have died
early and from over-work. Sometimes I think freedom too great a blessing
for me ever to realize.”

He brushed a tear from his eye with the back of his hand. I looked at
him, so young and energetic, yet lonely. Noble and handsome was his
face, despite the lines of care and labor. What wonder that a soft
feeling took possession of my heart, particularly when I remembered how
he had gladdened my imprisonment with kind messages and the gift of
flowers. I did but follow an irrepressible and spontaneous impulse, when
I said with earnestness,

“Do not work so hard, Henry.”

He looked me full in the face. Why did my eye droop beneath that warm,
inquiring gaze; and why did he ask so low, in a half whisper:

“Should I die who will grieve for me?”

And did not my uplifted glance tell him who would? We understood each
other. Our hearts had spoken, and what followed may easily be guessed.
Evening after evening we met upon that balcony to pledge our souls in
earnest vows. Henry’s eye grew brighter; he worked the harder; but his
pile of money did not increase as it had done. Many a little present to
me, many a rare nosegay, that was purchased at a price he was not able
to afford, put off to a greater distance his day of freedom. Like a
green, luxuriant spot in the wide desert of a lonely life, seems to me
the memory of those hours. On Sunday evenings, when his labor was over,
which was generally about eight o’clock, we walked through the city, and
on moonlight nights we strayed upon the banks of the Ohio, and planned
for the future.

Henry was to buy himself, then go North, and labor in some hotel, or at
whatever business he could make the most money; then he would return to
buy me. This was one of our plans; but as often as we talked, we made a
new one.

“Oh, we shall be so happy, Ann,” he would exclaim.

Then I would repeat the often-asked question, “Where shall we live?”

Sometimes we decided upon New York city; then a village in the State of
New York; but I think Henry’s preference was a Canadian town. Idle
speculators that we were, we seldom adhered long to our preference for
any one spot!

“At least, dear,” he used to say, in his encouraging way, “we will hunt
a home; and, no matter where we find it, we can make it a happy one if
we are together.”

And to this my heart gave a warm echo. I was beginning to be happy; for
imagination painted joys in the future, and the present was not all
mournful, for Henry was with me! The same roof covered us. Twenty times
a-day I met him in the dining-room, hall, or in the lobby, and he was
always with me in the evening.

Slaves as we were, I’ve often thought as we wandered beneath the golden
light of the stars, that, for the time being, we were as happy as
mortals could be. Young first-love knit the air in a charmed silver mist
around us; and, hand in hand, we trod the wave-washed shore, always with
our eyes turned toward the North, the bourne whither all our thoughts
inclined.

“Does not the north star point us to our future home?” Henry frequently
asked. I love to recall this one sunny epoch in my life. For months, not
an unpleasant thing occurred.

Immediately after my trial, Monkton left the city, and went, as I
understood, south. Miss Jane was busied with fashion and gayety. Mr.
Summerville was engaged at his business, and every one whom I saw was
kind to me. So I may record the fact that for a while I was happy!

Continue Reading

ITS CEREMONIES

Time passed on; Mr. Peterkin drank more and more violently. He had grown
immense in size, and now slept nearly all the day as well as night. Dr.
Mandy had told the young ladies that there was great danger of apoplexy.
I frequently saw them standing off, talking, and looking at their father
with a strange expression, the meaning of which I could not divine; but
sure I am there was no love in it, ’twas more like a surmise or inquiry,
“How long will you be here?” I would not “set down aught in malice,” I
would rather “extenuate,” yet am I bound in truth to say that I think
their father’s death was an event to which they looked with pleasure. He
had not been showy enough for them, nor had he loved such display as
they wished: true, he allowed them any amount of money; but he objected
to conforming to certain fashions, which they considered indispensable
to their own position; and this difference in ideas and tastes created
much discord. They were not girls of feeling and heart. To them, a
father was nothing more than an accidental guardian, whose duty it was
to supply them with money.

Late one night, when I had fallen into a profound sleep, such an one as
I had not known for months, almost years, I was suddenly aroused by a
loud knocking at the cabin-door, and a shout of–

“Ann! Ann!”

I instantly recognized the sharp staccato notes of Miss Jane’s voice;
and, starting quickly up, I opened the door, but half-dressed, and
inquired what was wanting?

“Are you one of the Seven Sleepers, that it requires such knocking to
arouse you? Here I’ve been beating and banging the door, and yet you
still slept on.”

I stammered out something like an excuse; and she told me master was
very ill, and I must instantly heat a large kettle of water; that Dr.
Mandy had been sent for, and upon his arrival, prescribed a hot bath.

As quickly as the fire, aided by mine and Sally’s united efforts, could
heat the water, it was got ready. Jake, Nace, and Dan lifted the large
bathing-tub into Mr. Peterkin’s room, filled it with the warm water, and
placed him in it. The case was as Dr. Mandy had predicted. Mr. P. had
been seized with a violent attack of apoplexy, and his life was
despaired of.

All the efforts of the physician seemed to fail. When Mr. Peterkin did
revive, it was frightful to listen to him. Such revolting oaths as he
used! Such horrid blasphemy as poured from his lips, I shrink from the
foulness of recording.

Raving like a madman, he called upon God to restore his son, or stand
condemned as unjust. His daughters, in sheer affright, sent for the
country preacher; but the good man could effect nothing. His pious words
were wasted upon ears duller than stone.

“I don’t care a d–n for your religion. None of your hypocritical
prayin’ round me,” Mr. Peterkin would say, when the good parson sought
to beguile his attention, and lead him to the contemplation of divine
things.

Frightful it was, to me, to stand by his bed-side, and hear him call
with an oath for whiskey, which was refused.

He had drunk so long, and so deeply, that now, when he was suddenly
checked, the change was terrible to witness. He grew timid, and seemed
haunted by terrible spectres. Anon he would call to some fair-haired
woman, and shout out that there was blood, clotted blood, on her
ringlets; then, rolling himself up in the bed covering, he would shriek
for the skies and mountains to hide him from the meek reproach of those
girlish eyes!

“Something terrible is on his memory,” said the doctor to Miss Jane.
“Do you know aught of this?”

“Nothing,” she replied with a shudder.

“Don’t you remember,” asked Miss Tildy, “how often Johnny’s eyes seemed
to recall a remorseful memory, and how father would, as now, cry for
them to shut out that look which so tormented him?”

“Yes, yes,” and they both fled from the room, and did not again go near
their father. On the third evening of his illness, when Dr. Mandy (who
had been constantly with him) sat by his bed, holding his pulse, he
turned on his side, and asked in a mild tone, quite unusual to him,

“Doctor, must I die? Tell me the truth; I don’t want to be deceived.”

After a moment’s pause, the doctor replied, “Yes, Mr. Peterkin, I will
speak the truth; I don’t think you can recover from this attack, and, if
I am not very much mistaken, but a few hours of mortal life now remain
to you.”

“Then I must speak on a matter what has troubled me a good deal. If I
was a good scholar I’d a writ it out, and left it fur you to read; but
as I warn’t much edicated, I couldn’t do that, so I’ll jist tell you
all, and relieve my mind.” Here Mr. Peterkin’s face assumed a frightful
expression; his eyes rolled terribly in his head, and blazed with an
expression which no language can paint. His very hair seemed erect with
terror.

“Don’t excite yourself; be calm! Wait until another time, then tell me.”

“No, no, I must speak now, I feel it ’twill do me good. Long time ago I
had a good kind mother, and one lovely sister;” and here his voice sank
to a whisper. “My father I can’t remember; he died when I was a baby. I
was a wild boy; a ‘brick,’ as they usin’ to call me. ‘Way off in old
Virginny I was born and raised. My mother was a good, easy sort of
woman, that never used any force with her children, jist sich a person
as should raise gals, not fit to manage onruly boys like me. I jist had
my own way; came and went when I pleased. Mother didn’t often reprove
me; whenever she did, it was in a gentle sort of way that I didn’t mind
at all. I’d promise far enough; but then, I’d go and do my own way. So I
growed up to the age of eighteen. I’d go off on little trips; get myself
in debt, and mother’d have to pay. She an’ sis had to take in sewin’ to
support ’emselves, and me too. Wal, they didn’t make money fast enough
at this; so they went out an’ took in washin’. Sis, poor little thing,
hired herself out by the day, to get extry money for to buy little
knic-nacs fur mother, whose health had got mighty bad. Wal, their rent
had fell due, and Lucy (my sister) and mother had bin savin’ up money
fur a good while, without sayin’ anything to me ’bout it; but of nights
when they thought I was asleep, I seed ’em slip the money in a drawer of
an old bureau, that stood in the room whar I slept. Wal, I owed some men
a parcel of money, gamblin’ debts, and they had bin sorter quarrelin’
with me ’bout it, and railin’ of me ’bout my want of spirit, and I was
allers sort of proud an’ very high-tempered. So I ‘gan to think mother
and Luce was a saving up money fur to buy finery fur ’emselves, an’ I
‘greed I’d fix ’em fur it. So one night I made my brags to the boys that
I’d pay the next night, with intrust. Some of ’em bet big that I
wouldn’t do it. So then I was bound fur it. Accordin’, next night I
tried to get inter the drawer; but found it fast locked. I tried agin.
At length, with a wrinch, I bust it open, an’ thar before me, all in
bright specie, lay fifty dollars! A big sum it ‘peared to me, and then I
was all afired with passion, for Luce had refused me when I had axed her
to lend me money. Jist as I had pocketed it, an’ was ‘about to drive out
of the room, Lucy opened the door, an’ seein’ the drawer wide open, she
guessed it all. She gave one loud scream, saying, ‘Oh, all our hard
savin’s is gone.’ I made a sign to her to keep silent; but she went on
hallowin’ and cotcht hold of me, an’ by a sort of quare strength, she
got her arm round me, an’ her hand in my pocket, where the money was.”

“You musn’t have this, indeed you musn’t,” said she, “for it is to pay
our rent.”

“One desperate effort I made, an’ knocked her to the floor. Her head
struck agin the sharp part of the bureau, and the blood gushed from it;
I give one loud yell for mother, an’ then fled. Give me some water,” he
added, in a hollow tone.

After moistening his lips, he continued:

“Reachin’ my companions, I paid down every cent of the money, principal
and interest, then got my bet paid, and left ’em, throwin’ a few dollars
toward ’em for the gineral treat.

“About midnight, soft as a cat, I crept along to our house; and I knew
from the light through the open shutter of the winder, that she was
either dead or dyin’; for it was a rule at our house to have the lights
put out afore ten.

“I slipped up close to the winder, and lookin’ in, saw the very wust
that I had expected–Lucy in her shroud! A long, white sheet was spread
over the body! Two long candles burnt at the head and foot of the
corpse. Three neighbor-women was watchin’ with her. While I still
looked, the side door opened, and mother came in, looking white as a
ghost. She turned down the sheet from the body. I pressed my face still
closer to the winder-pane; and saw that white, dead face; the forehead,
where the wound had been given, was bandaged up. Mother knelt down, and
cried out with a tone that froze my blood–

“‘My child, my murdered child!’ I did not tarry another minute; but with
one loud yell bounded away. This scream roused the women, who seized up
the candle and run out to the door. I looked back an’ saw them with
candles in hand, examining round the house. For weeks I lived in the
woods on herbs and nuts; occasionally stoppin’ at farm-houses, an’
buyin’ a leetle milk and bread, still I journeyed on toward the West, my
land of promise. At last, on foot, after long travel, I reached
Kaintuck. I engaged in all sorts of head-work, but didn’t succeed very
well till I began to trade in niggers; then I made money fast enough. I
was a hard master. It seemed like I was the same as that old Ishmael you
read of in the old book; my hand was agin every man, and every man’s
agin me. After while, I got mighty rich from tradin’ in niggers, and
married. These is my children. This is all of my story,–a bad one ’tis
too; but, doctor, that boy, my poor, dead Johnny, was so like Lucy that
he almost driv’ me mad. At times he had a sartin look, jist like hern,
that driv’ a dagger to my heart. Oh, Lord! if I die, what will become of
me? Give me some whiskey, doctor, I mus’ have some, for the devil and
all his imps seem to be here.”

He began raving in a frightful manner, and sprang out of bed so
furiously that the doctor deemed it necessary to have him confined.
Jake, Dan, and Nace were called in to assist in tying their master. It
was with difficulty they accomplished their task; but at last it was
done. Panting and foaming at the mouth, this Goliath of human
abominations lay! He, who had so often bound negroes, was now by them
bound down! If he had been fully conscious, his indignation would have
known no limits.

Miss Jane sent for me to come to her room. I found her in hysterics.
Immediately, at her command, I set about rubbing her head, and chafing
her temples and hands with cologne; but all that I could do seemed to
fall far short of affording any relief. It appeared to me that her lungs
were unusually strong, for such screams I hardly ever listened to; but
her life was stout enough to stand it. The wicked are long-lived!

Miss Tildy had more self-control. She moved about the house with her
usual indifference, caring for and heeding no one, except as she
bestowed upon me an occasional reprimand, which, to this day, I cannot
think I deserved. If she mislaid an article of apparel, she instantly
accused me of having stolen it; and persisted in the charge until it was
found. She always accompanied her accusations with impressive blows. It
is treatment such as this that robs the slave of all self-respect. He is
constantly taught to look upon himself as an animal, devoid of all good
attributes, without principle, and full of vice. If he really tries to
practice virtue and integrity, he gets no credit for it. “_Honest for a
nigger_,” is a phrase much in use in Kentucky; the satirical
significance of which is perfectly understood by the astute African. I
knew that it was hard for me to hold fast to my principles amid such
fierce trials. It was so common a charge–that of liar and thief–that
despite my practice to the contrary, I almost began to accept the terms
as deserved. In some cases, the human conscience is a flexile thing!
but, thank Heaven! mine withstood the trial!

* * * * * * *

On the morning of the fifth day after Mr. Peterkin’s illness, his
perturbed spirit, amid imprecations and blasphemies the most horrible,
took its leave of the mortal tenement. Whither went it, oh, angel of
mercy? A fearful charge had his guardian-angel to render up.

This was the second time I had witnessed the death of a human master. I
had no tears; and, as a veracious historian, I am bound to say that I
regard it as a beneficent dispensation of Divine Providence. He, my
tyrant, had gone to his Judge to render a fearful account of the
dreadful deeds done in the body.

After he was laid out and appropriately dressed, and the room darkened,
the young ladies came in to look at him. I believe they wept. At least,
I can testify to the premonitory symptoms of weeping, viz., the
fluttering of white pocket-handkerchiefs, in close proximity to the
eyes! The neighbors gathered round them with bottles of sal-volatile,
camphor, fans, &c., &c. There was no dearth of consolatory words, for
they were rich. Though Mr. Peterkin’s possessions were vast, he could
carry no tithe of them to that land whither he had gone; and at that bar
before which he must stand, there would flash on him the stern eye of
Justice. His trial there would be equitable and rigid. His money could
avail him nought; for _there_ were allowed no “packed juries,” bribed
and suborned witnesses, no wily attorneys to turn Truth astray; no
subtleties and quibbles of litigation; all is clear, straight, open,
even-handed justice, and his own deeds, like a mighty cloud of
evidence, would rise up against him–and so we consign him to his fate
and to his mother earth.

But he was befittingly buried, even with the rites of Christianity!
There was a man in a white neck-cloth, with a sombre face, who read a
psalm, offered up a well-worded prayer, gave out a text, and therefrom
preached an appropriate, elegiac sermon. Not one, to be sure, in which
the peculiar virtues of brother Peterkin were set forth, but a sort of
pious oration, wherein religion, practical and revealed, was duly
encouraged, and great sympathy offered to the _lovely_ and bereaved
daughters, &c., &c.

The body was placed in a very fine coffin, and interred in the family
burying-ground, near his wife and son! At the grave, Miss Jane, who well
understood scenic effect, contrived to get up an attack of syncope, and
fell prostrate beside the new-made grave. Of course “the friends”
gathered round her with restoratives, and, shouting for “air,” they made
an opening in the crowd, through which she was borne to a carriage and
driven home.

I had lingered, tenderly, beside young master’s tomb, little heeding
what was passing around, when this theatrical excitement roused me. Oh!
does not one who has real trouble, heart-agony, sicken when he hears of
these affectations of grief?

Slowly, but I suspect with right-willing hearts, the crowd turned away
from the grave, each betaking himself to his own home and pursuit.

A few weeks after, a stately monument, commemorative of his good deeds,
was erected to the memory of James Peterkin.

Weeks rolled monotonously by after the death of Mr. Peterkin. There was
nothing to break the cloud of gloom that enveloped everything.

The ladies were, as ever, cruel and abusive. Existence became more
painful to me than it had been before. It seemed as if every hope was
dead in my breast. An iron chain bound every aspiration, and I settled
down into the lethargy of despair. Even Nature, all radiant as she is,
had lost her former charms. I looked not beyond the narrow horizon of
the present. The future held out to me no allurements, whilst the dark
and gloomy past was an arid plain, without fountain, or flower, or
sunshine, over which I dared not send my broken spirit.

In this state of dreary monotony, I passed my life for months, until an
event occurred which changed my whole after-fate.

Mr. Summerville, who, it seems, had kept up a regular correspondence
with Miss Jane, made us a visit, and, after much secret talking in dark
parlors, long rambles through the woods, twilight and moonlight
whisperings on the gallery, Miss Jane announced that there would, on the
following evening, be performed a marriage ceremony of importance to
all, but of very particular interest to Mr. Summerville and herself.

Accordingly, on the evening mentioned, the marriage rite was solemnized
in the presence of a few social friends, among whom Dr. Mandy and wife
shone conspicuously. I duly plied the guests with wine, cakes and
confections.

Miss Tildy, by the advice of her bride-sister, enacted the pathetic
very perfectly. She wept, sighed, and, I do believe, fainted or tried to
faint. This was at the special suggestion of her sister, who duly
commended and appreciated her.

Mr. Summerville, for the several days that he remained with us, looked,
and was, I suppose, the very personification of delight.

In about a week or ten days after the solemnization of the matrimonial
rite, Mr. Summerville made his “better half” (or worse, I know not
which), understand that very important business urged his immediate
return to the city. Of course, whilst the novelty of the situation
lasted, she was as obedient and complaisant as the most exacting husband
could demand, and instantly consented to her lord’s request. She bade me
get ready to accompany her; and, as she had heard that people from the
country were judged according to the wardrobe of their servants, she
prepared for me quite a decent outfit.

One bright morning, I shall ever remember it, we started off with
innumerable trunks, band-boxes, &c.–for the city of L—-. Without one
feeling of regret, I turned my face from the Peterkin farm. I never saw
it after, save in dark and fearful dreams, from which I always awoke
with a shudder. I felt half-emancipated, when my back was turned against
it, and in the distance loomed up the city and freedom. I had a queer
fancy, that if the Peterkin influence were once thrown off, the rest
would speedily succeed!

If I had only been allowed, I could have shouted out like a school-boy
freed from a difficult lesson; but Miss Jane’s checking glance was upon
me, and ’twas like winter’s frozen breath over a gladsome lake.

I well remember the beautiful ride upon the boat, and how long and
lingeringly I gazed over the guard, looking down at the blue,
dolphin-like waves. All the day, whilst others lounged and talked, I was
looking at those same curling, frothy billows, making, in my own mind,
fifty fantastic comparisons, which then appeared to me very brilliant,
but, since I have learned to think differently. Truly, the foam has died
on the wave.

When night came on, wrapped in her sombre purple, yet glittering with a
cuirass of stars and a helmet of planets, the waters sparkled and danced
with a fairy-like beauty, and I thought I had never beheld anything half
so ecstatic! There was none on that crowded steamer who dreamed of the
glory that was nestling, like a thing of love, deep and close down in
the poor slave’s breast!

To those who surrounded me, this was but an ordinary sight; to me it was
one of strange, unimagined loveliness. I was careful however, to
disguise my emotions. I would have given worlds (had I been their
possessor) to speak my joy in one wild word, or to shout it forth in a
single cry.

This pleasure, like all others, found its speedy end. The next morning,
about ten o’clock, we landed in L–, a city of some commercial
consequence in the West. Indeed, by old residents of the interior of
Kentucky, it is regarded as “_the city_.” I have often since thought of
my first landing there; of its dusty, dirty coal-besmoked appearance; of
its hedge of drays, its knots of garrulous and noisy drivers, and then
the line of dusky warehouses, storage rooms, &c. All this instantly
rises to my mind when I hear that growing city spoken of.

Mr. Summerville engaged one of the neatest-looking coaches at the wharf;
and into it Miss Jane, baggage and servant were unceremoniously hurried.
I had not the privilege and scarcely the wish to look out of the
coach-window, yet, from my crowded and uncomfortable position, I could
catch a sight of an occasional ambitious barber’s pole, or myriad-tinted
chemists’ bottles; all these, be it remembered, were novelties to me,
who had never been ten miles from Mr. Peterkin’s farm. At length the
driver drew a halt at the G—- House, as Mr. Summerville had directed,
and, at this palatial-looking building Mr. Summerville had taken
quarters. How well I recollect its wide hall, its gothic entrance and
hospitable-looking vestibule! The cane-colored floor cloth,
corresponding with the oaken walls struck me as the harmonious design of
an artistic mind.

For a few moments only was Miss Jane left in the neat reception-room,
when a nice-looking mulatto man entered, and, in a low, gentlemanly
tone, informed her that her room was ready. Taking the basket and
portmanteau from me, he politely requested that we would follow him to
room No. 225. Through winding corridors and interminable galleries, he
conducted us, until, at last, we reached it. Drawing a key from his
pocket, he applied it to the lock, and bade Miss Jane enter. She was
much pleased with the arrangement of the furniture, the adjustment of
the drapery, &c.

The floor was covered with a beautiful green velvet carpet, torn bouquet
pattern, whilst the design of the rug was one that well harmonized with
the disposition of the present tenant. It was a wild tiger reposing in
his native jungle.

After Miss Jane had made an elaborate toilette, she told me, as a great
favor, she would allow me to go down stairs, or walk through the halls
for recreation, as she had no further use for me.

I wandered about, passing many rooms, all numbered in gilt figures. The
most of them had their doors open, and I amused myself watching the
different expressions of face and manners of their occupants. This had
always been a habit of mine, for the indulgence of which, however, I had
had but little opportunity.

I strayed on till I reached the parlors, and they burst upon me with the
necromantic power of Aladdin’s hall. A continuity of four apartments
rolled away into a seeming mist, and the adroit position of a mirror
multiplied their number and added greatly to the gorgeous effect. There
were purple and golden curtains, with their many tinsel ornaments;
carpets of the gayest style, from the richest looms. “Etruscan vases,
quaint and old” adorned the mantel-shelf, and easy divans and lounges of
mosaic-velvet were ranged tastefully around. An arcade, with its stately
pillars, divided two of the rooms, and the inter-columniations were
ornamented with statues and statuettes; and upon a marble table, in the
centre of one of the apartments, was a blooming magnolia, the first one
I had ever seen! That strange and mysterious odor, that, like a fine,
inner, sub-sense, pervades the nerve with a quickening power, stole over
me! I stood before the flower in a sort of delicious, delirious joy.
There, with its huge fan-like leaves of green, this pure white blossom,
queen of all the tribe of flowers, shed its glorious perfume and
unfolded its mysterious beauty. It seemed that a new life was opening
upon me. Surely, I said, this _is_ fairy land. For more than an hour I
lingered beside that splendid magnolia, vainly essaying to drink in its
glory and its mystery.

Miss Jane and Mr. Summerville had gone out to take a drive over the
city, and I was comparatively free, in their absence, to go
whithersoever I pleased.

Whilst I still loitered near the flower, a very sweet but manly voice
asked:

“Do you love flowers?”

I turned hastily, and to my surprise, beheld a fine-looking gentleman
standing in close contiguity to me. With pleasure I think now of his
broad, open face, written all over with love and kindness; his deep,
fervid blue eye, that wore such a gentle expression; and the scant, yet
fair hair that rolled away from his magnificent forehead! He appeared to
be slightly upwards of fifty; but I am sure from his face, that those
fifty years had been most nobly spent.

I trembled as I replied:

“Yes, I am very fond of flowers.”

He noticed my embarrassment, and smiled most benignantly.

“Did you ever see a magnolia before?”

“Is this a magnolia?” I inquired, pointing to the luxurious flower.

“Yes, and one of the finest I ever saw. It belongs to the South. Are you
sure you never saw one before?” He fixed his eyes inquiringly upon me as
I answered:

“Oh, quite sure, sir; I never was ten miles from my master’s farm in my
life.”

“You are a slave?”

“Yes, sir, I am.”

He waited a moment, then said:

“Are you happy?”

I dared not tell a falsehood, yet to have truly stated my feelings,
would have been dangerous; so I evasively replied:

“Yes, as much so as most slaves.”

I thought I heard him sigh, as he slowly moved away.

My eyes followed him with inquiring wonder. Who could he be? Certain I
was that no malice had prompted the question he had asked me. The
circumstance created anxiety in my mind. All that day as I walked about,
or waited on Miss Jane, that stranger’s faces shone like a new-risen
moon upon my darkened heart. Had I found, accidentally, one of those
Northern Abolitionists, about whom I had heard so much? Often after when
sent upon errands for my mistress, I met him in the halls, and he always
gave me a kind smile and a friendly salutation. Once Miss Jane observed
this, and instantly accused me of having a dishonorable acquaintance
with him. My honor was a thing that I had always guarded with the utmost
vigilance, and to such a serious charge I perhaps made some hasty reply,
whereupon Miss Jane seized a riding-whip, and cut me most severely
across the face, leaving an ugly mark, a trace of which I still bear,
and suppose I shall carry to my grave. Mr. Summerville expostulated with
his wife, saying that it was better to use gentle means at first.

“No, husband,” (she always thus addressed him,) “I know more about the
management of _niggers_ than you do.”

This gross pronunciation of the word negro has a popular use even among
the upper and educated classes of Kentucky. I am at a loss to account
for it, in any other way than by supposing that they use it to express
their deepest contempt.

Mr. Summerville was rather disposed to be humane to his servants. He was
no advocate of the rod; he used to term it the relic of barbarism. He
preferred selling a refractory servant to whipping him. This did not
accord particularly well with Miss Jane’s views, and the consequence was
they had many a little private argument that did not promise to end
well.

Miss Jane made many acquaintances among the boarders in the hotel, with
whom she was much pleased. She had frequent invitations to attend the
theatre, concerts, and even parties. Many of the fashionables of the
city called upon her, offering, in true Kentucky style, the
hospitalities of their mansions. With this she was quite delighted, and
her new life became one of intense interest and gratification, as her
letters to her sister proved.

She would often regret Tildy was not there to share in her delight; but
it had been considered best for her to remain at the old homestead until
some arrangement could be made about the division of the estate. Two of
the neighbors, a gentleman and his wife, took up their abode with her;
but she expected to visit the city so soon as Miss Jane went to
house-keeping, which would be in a few months. Miss Jane was frequently
out spending social days and evenings with her friends, thus giving me
the opportunity of going about more than I had ever done through the
house. In this way I formed a pleasant acquaintance with several of the
chambermaids, colored girls and free. Friendships thus grew up which
have lasted ever since, and will continue, I trust, until death closes
over us. One of the girls, Louise, a half-breed, was an especial
favorite. She had read some, and was tolerably well educated. From her I
often borrowed interesting books, compends of history, bible-stories,
poems, &c. I also became a furious reader of newspapers, thus picking
up, occasionally, much useful information. Louise introduced me,
formally, to the head steward, an intelligent mulatto man, named Henry,
of most prepossessing appearance; but the shadow of a great grief lurked
in the full look of his large dark eye! “I am a slave, God help me!”
seemed stamped upon his face; ’twas but seldom that I saw him smile, and
then it was so like the reflection of a tear, that it pained me full as
much as his sigh. He had access to the gentlemen’s reading-room; and
through him I often had the opportunity of reading the leading
Anti-slavery journals. With what avidity I devoured them! How full they
were of the noblest philanthropy! Great exponents of real liberty! at
the words of your argument my heart leaped like a new-fledged bird!
Still pour forth your burning eloquence; it will yet blaze like a
watchfire on the Mount of Liberty! The gladness, the hope, the faith it
imparted to my long-bowed heart, would, I am sure, give joy to those
noble leaders of the great cause.

One day, when Miss Jane and Mr. Summerville had gone out at an early
hour to spend the entire day, I little knew what to do with myself as I
had no books nor papers to read, and Louise had business that took her
out of the house.

The day was unusually soft and pleasant. I wandered through the halls,
and, drawing near a private gallery that ran along in front of the
gentlemen’s room, I paused to look at a large picture of an English
fox-chase, that adorned the wall. Whilst examining its rare and peculiar
beauties, my ear was pleasantly struck by the sound of a much-esteemed
voice, saying–

“Well, very well! Let us take seats here, in this retired place, and
begin the conversation we have been threatening so long.”

I glanced out at the crevice of the partially open door, and distinctly
recognized the gentleman who had spoken to me of the magnolia, and who
(I had learned) was James Trueman, of Boston, a man of high standing and
social position, and a successful practitioner of law in his native
State.

The other was a gentleman from Virginia, one of the very first families
(there are no second, I believe), by the name of Winston, a man reputed
of very vast possessions, a land-holder, and an extensive owner of
slaves. I had frequently observed him in company with Mr. Trueman, and
had inquired of Henry who and what he was.

I felt a little reluctant to remain in my position and hear this
conversation, not designed for me; yet a singular impulse urged me to
remain. I felt (and I scarce know why) that it had a bearing upon the
great moral and social question that so agitated the country. Whilst I
was debating with myself about the propriety of a retreat, I caught a
few words, which determined me to stay and hear what I believed would
prove an interesting discussion.

“Let us, my dear Mr. Winston,” began Mr. Trueman, “indulge for a few
moments in a conversation upon this momentous subject. Both of us have
passed that time of life when the ardor and impetuosity of youthful
blood might unfit us for such a discussion, and we may say what we
please on this vexed question with the distinct understanding, that
however offensive our language may become, it will be regarded as
_general_, neither meant nor understood to have any application to
ourselves.”

“I am quite willing and ready to converse as you propose,” replied the
other, in a quick, unpleasant tone, “and I gladly accept the terms
suggested, in which you only anticipate my design. It is well to agree
upon such restraint; for though, as you remind me, our advancing years
have taken much of the fervor from our blood, and left us calm, sober,
thoughtful men, the agitating nature of the subject and the deep
interest which both of us feel in it, should put us on our guard. If,
then, during the progress of the conversation, either of us shall be
unduly excited, let the recollection of the conditions upon which we
engage in it, recall him to his accustomed good-humor.”

“Well, we have settled the preliminaries without difficulty, and to
mutual satisfaction. And now, the way being clear, our discussion may
proceed. I assume, then, in the outset, that the institution of slavery,
as it exists in the South, is a monstrous evil. I assume this
proposition; not alone because it is the universal sentiment of the
‘rest of mankind;’ but also, because it is now very generally conceded
by slave-holders themselves.”

“Pray, where did you learn that slave-holders ever made such a
concession? As to what may be the sentiment of the ‘rest of mankind,’ I
may speak by-and-bye. For the present, my concern is with the opinion of
that large slave-holding class to which I belong. I am extensively
acquainted among them, and if that is their opinion of our peculiar
institution, I am entirely ignorant of it.”

“Your ignorance,” said Mr. Trueman, with a smile, “in that regard, while
it by no means disproves my proposition, may be easily explained. With
your neighbors, who feel like yourself the dread responsibility of this
crying abomination, it is not pleasant, perhaps, to talk upon it, and
you avoid doing so without the slightest trouble; because you have other
and more engaging topics, such as the condition of your farms, the
prospect of fine crops, and all the ‘changes of the varying year.’ But,
read the declarations of your chosen Representatives, the favorite sons
of the South, in the high councils of our nation; and you will discover,
that in all the debates involving it, slavery, in itself, and in its
consequences, is frankly admitted to be a tremendous evil.”

“Our Representatives may have sometimes thought proper to make such an
admission to appease the fanaticism of Northern Abolitionists, and to
quiet the agitations of the country in the spirit of generous
compromise: but _I_ am not bound to make it, and _I will not make it_.
Neither do I avoid conversations with my neighbors upon the subject of
slavery from the motive you intimate, nor from any other motive. I have
frequently talked with them upon it, boldly and candidly, as I am
prepared to talk to you or any reasonable man. Your proposition I
positively deny, and can quickly refute.” I thought there was a little
anger in the tone in which he said this; but no excitement was
discernible in the clear, calm voice with which Mr. Trueman answered–

“Independently of the admission of your Representatives, which, I think,
ought to bind you (for you must have been aware of it, and since it was
public and undisputed, your acquiescence might be fairly presumed),
there are many considerations that establish the truth of my position.
But I cannot indorse your harsh reflection upon the Representatives of
your choice. I cannot believe them capable of admitting, for any
purpose, a proposition which, in their opinion and that of their
constituents, asserts a falsehood. The immortal Henry Clay and such men
as he are responsible for the admission, and not one of them was ever so
timid as to be under the dominion of fear, or so dishonest as to be
hypocritical.”

A moment’s pause ensued, when Mr. Winston appeared to rally, and said,

“I do not understand, then, if that was their real opinion, how it was
possible for them to continue to hold slaves. To say the least of it,
their practice was not in accordance with their theory. Hence I said,
that under certain circumstances and to serve a special purpose, they
may have conceded slavery to be an evil. For my own part, if I were
persuaded that this proposition is true, it would constrain me to
liberate all my slaves, whatever may be my attachment to them or the
loss I should necessarily suffer. Some of them have been acquired by
purchase; others by inheritance: all of them seem satisfied with their
treatment upon my estate; yet nothing could induce me to claim the
property I have hitherto thought I possessed in them, when convinced of
the evil which your proposition asserts.”

“Nothing could be fairer, my dear Mr. Winston. Your conviction will
doubtless subject you to immense sacrifices: but these will only enhance
your real worth as a man, and I am sure you will make them without
hesitation, though it may be, not without reluctance. Now, it is a
principle of law, well settled, that no person can in any manner convey
a title, even to those things which are property, greater than that
which he rightfully possesses. If, for instance, I acquire, by theft or
otherwise, unlawful possession of your watch or other articles of value,
which is transferred, by the operation of purchase and sale, through
many hands, your right never ceases; and the process of law will enable
you to obtain possession. Each individual who purchased the article, may
have his remedy against him from whom he procured it, however extended
the series of purchasers: but, since whatever right any one of them has
was derived originally from me, and since my unlawful acquisition
conferred no right at all, it follows that none was transmitted.
Consequently, you were not divested, and the just spirit of law,
continuing to recognize your property in the article whenever found,
provides the ready means whereby you may reduce it once more to
possession. This principle of law is not peculiar to a single locality;
it enters into the remedial code of all civilized countries. Its
benefits are accessible to the free negro in this land of the dark
Southern border; and, I trust, it will not be long before those who are
now held in slavery may be embraced in its beneficent operation. Whether
it is recognized internationally, I am not fully prepared to say; but it
ought to be, if it is not, for it is the dictate of equity and common
sense. But, upon the hypothesis that it is so recognized, if the
property of an inhabitant of Africa were stolen from him by a citizen of
the United States, he might recover it. As for those people who, in the
Southern States, are held as slaves, they or their ancestors came here
originally not by their own choice, but by compulsion, from distant
Africa. You will hardly deny, I presume, what is, historically, so
evident–that “they were captured,” as the phrase is, or, in our honest
vernacular, _stolen_ and brought by violence from their native homes.
Had they been the proper subjects of property, what could prevent the
application of the principle I have quoted?”

After two or three hems and haws, Mr. Winston began:

“I have never inquired particularly into the matter; but have always
entertained the impression which pervades the Southern mind, that our
negroes are legitimately our slaves, in pursuance of the malediction
denounced by God against Ham and his descendants, of whom they are a
part. And, so thinking, I believed we were entitled to the same right to
them which we exercise over the beasts of the field, the fowls of the
air, and the fishes of the deep. Moreover, your principle of law, which
is indeed very correct, is inapplicable to their case. There is also a
principle in the law of my State, incapacitating slaves to hold
property. They are property themselves; and property cannot hold
property. Apart from the terrible curse, which doomed them in the
beginning, they were slaves in their own country to men of their own
race; slaves by right of conquest. Therefore, taking the instance you
have suggested, by way of illustration, were any article of value
wrested from their possession, under this additional principle, the law
could not give them any redress. But, inasmuch as whatever they may
acquire becomes immediately the property of their master, to him the law
will furnish a remedy.”

“You do not deny,” and here Mr. Trueman’s tone was elevated and a little
excited, “that the first of those who reached this country were stolen
in Africa. Now, for the sake of the argument merely, I will admit that
they were slaves at home. If they were slaves at home–it matters not
whether by ‘right or conquest,’ or ‘in pursuance of _the curse_,’ they
must have been the property of somebody, and those who stole them and
sold them into bondage in America could give no valid title to their
purchasers; for by the theft they had acquired none themselves. Hence,
if ever they were slaves, they are still the property of their masters
in Africa; but, if your interpretation of “the curse” is correct, those
masters were also slaves, and, being such, under the principle of law
which you have quoted, they could not for this reason hold property.
Therefore, those oppressed and outraged, though benighted people, who
were first sold into slavery, to the eternal disgrace of our land, were,
in sheer justice, either _free_, or the property–even after the
sale–of their African masters, if they had any; in neither case could
they belong to those of our citizens who were unfortunate enough to buy
them. They were not slaves of African masters: for, according to your
argument, all of the race are slaves, and slaves cannot own slaves any
more than horses can own horses; therefore, since no other people
claimed dominion over them, they were, necessarily, free. You cannot
escape from this dilemma, and the choice of either horn is fatal to your
cause. Being free, might they not have held property like other
nations? And, had any of it been stolen from them by those who are
amenable to our laws, would not consistency compel us, who recognize the
just principle I have quoted, to restore it to them? This is the course
pursued among ourselves; and it ceases not with restoration; but on the
offender it proceeds to inflict punishment, to prevent a repetition of
the offence. This is the course we should pursue toward that
down-trodden race whose greatest guilt is ‘a skin not colored like our
own.’

“As the case stands, it is not a question of property, but of that more
valuable and sacred right, the right of _personal liberty_, of which we
now boast so loudly. What, in the estimation of the world, is the worth
of those multitudinous orations, apostrophies to liberty, which, on each
recurring Fourth of July, in whatever quarter of the globe Americans may
be assembled, penetrate the public ear? What are they worth to us, if,
while reminding us of early colonial and revolutionary struggles against
the galling tyranny of the British crown, they fail to inculcate the
easy lesson of respect for the rights of all mankind? In keeping those
poor Africans in the South still enslaved, you practically ignore this
lesson, and you trample with unholy feet that divine ordinance which
commands you ‘to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’
By the oppression to which we were subjected under the yoke of Britain,
and against which we wrestled so long, so patiently, so vigorously, in
so many ways, and at last so triumphantly, I adjure you to put an end,
at once and forever, to this business of holding slaves. This is
oppression indeed, in comparison with which, that which drew forth our
angry and bitter complaints, was very freedom. Let us, instead of
perpetuating this infamous institution, be true to ourselves; let us
vindicate the pretensions we set up when we characterize ours as ‘the
land of liberty, the asylum of the oppressed,’ by proclaiming to the
nations of the earth that, so soon as a slave touches the soil of
America, his manacles shall fall from him: let us verify the words
engraven in enduring brass on the old bell which from the tower of
Independence Hall rang out our glorious Declaration, and in deed and in
truth proclaim ‘Liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison
doors to them that are bound.’ As you value truth, honor, justice,
consistency, aye, humanity even, wipe out the black blot which defiles
the border of our escutcheon, and the country will then be in reality
what is now only in name, a _free_ country, loving liberty
disinterestedly for its own sake, and for that of all people, and
nations, and tribes, and tongues.

“You may still, if you choose, dispute and philosophize about the
inequality of races, and continue to insist on the boasted superiority
of _our_ Caucasian blood; but the greatest disadvantages which a
comparison can indicate will not prove that one’s claim to liberty is
higher than another’s. It may be that we of the white race, are vastly
superior to our African brethren. The differences, however, are not
flattering to us; for we should remember with shame and confusion of
face, that our injustice and cruelty have produced them. Having first
enslaved the poor Africans and subsequently withheld from them every
means of improvement, it is not strange that such differences should
exist as those on which we plume ourselves. But is it not intolerable
that we should now quote them with such brazen self-gratulation?

“Despite the manifold disadvantages that encumber and clog the movements
of the Africans, unfortunately for the validity of your argument their
race exhibits many proud specimens to prove their capability of culture,
and of the enjoyment of freedom. Give them but the same opportunities
that we have, and they will rival us in learning, refinement,
statesmanship, and general demeanor, as is incontestibly shown in the
lives and characters of many now living. Such men as Fred Douglas and
President Roberts, would honor any complexion; or, I ought rather to
say, should make us forget and despise the distinctions of color, since
they reach not below the surface of the skin, nor affect, in the least,
that better part that gives to man all his dignity and worth. Nor need I
point to these illustrious examples to rebut the inferences you deduce
from color. Every village and hamlet in your own sunny South, can
furnish an abundant refutation, in its obscure but eloquent ‘colored
preachers’–noble patterns of industry and wisdom, who show forth, by
their exemplary bearing, all the beauty of holiness,–‘allure to
brighter worlds and lead the way.'”

It is impossible to furnish even the faintest description of the
pleading earnestness of the speaker’s tone. His full, round, rich voice,
grew intense, low and silvery in its harmonious utterance. As he
pronounced the last sentence, it was with difficulty I could repress a
cry of applause. Oh, surely, surely, I thought, our cause, the African’s
cause, is not helpless, is not lost, whilst it still possesses such an
advocate. My eyes overflowed with grateful tears, and I longed to kiss
the hem of his garment.

“You forget,” answered Mr. Winston, “or you would do well to consider,
that these cases are exceptional cases, which neither preclude my
inferences nor warrant your assumption.”

“Exceptions, indeed, they are; but why?” inquired Mr. Trueman.
“Exceptions, you know, prove the rule. Now, you infer from the sooty
complexion of the Africans, a natural and necessary incapacity for the
blessings of self-government and the refinements of education. I have
mentioned individuals of this fatal complexion who are in the wise
enjoyment of these sublime privileges: one of them has acquired an
enviable celebrity as an orator, the other is the accomplished President
of the infant Liberian Republic. If color incapacitated, as you seem to
think, it would affect all alike; but it has not incapacitated these,
therefore it does not incapacitate at all. These are exceptions not to
the general _capacity_ of the blacks, but only to their general
opportunity. What they have done others may do–the opportunities being
equal.”

“I have listened to you entire argument,” rejoined Mr. Winston, “very
patiently, with the expectation of hearing the proposition sustained
with which you so vauntingly set out. You will, perhaps, accord to me
the credit of being–what in this age of ceaseless talk is rarely
met–‘a good listener.’ But, after all my patience and attention, I am
still unsatisfied–if not unshaken. You have failed to meet the
argument drawn from the ‘curse’ pronounced on the progenitors of the
unfortunate race: you have failed to present or notice what is generally
considered by theologians and moralists the right of a purchaser–in
your illustration from stolen goods–to something for the money with
which he parts; and here, I think, you manifested great unfairness; and,
above all, you have failed to propose any feasible remedy for the state
of things against which you inveigh. What have you to say on these
material points?”

“Very much, my good sir, as you will find, if, instead of taking
advantage of every momentary pause to make out such a ‘failure’ as you
desire, you only prolong your very complimentary patience. I wish you to
watch the argument narrowly; to expose the faintest flaw you can detect
in it; and, at the end, if unsatisfied, cry out ‘failure,’ or let it
wring from you a reluctant confession. You will, at least, before I
shall have done, withdraw the illiberal imputation of unfairness. It
would be an easy task for me to anticipate all you can say, and to
refute it; but such a course would leave you nothing to say, and, since
I intend this discussion to be strictly a conversation, I shall leave
you at liberty to present your own arguments in your own way. Now, as to
the argument from ‘the curse,’ you must permit me to observe, that your
interpretation is too free and latitudinarian. Mine is more literal,
more in accordance with the character of God; it fully satisfies the
Divine vengeance, and, whether correct or not, has, at least, as much
authority in its favor. Granting the dominion of the white over the
black race to be in virtue of ‘the curse,’ it by no means conveys such
power as your Southern institution seeks to justify. The word _slave_
nowhere occurs in that memorable malediction; but there is an obvious
distinction between _its_ import and that of the word _servant_, which
it _does_ employ. Surely, for the offence of looking upon the nakedness
of his father, Ham could not have incurred and entailed upon his
posterity a heavier punishment than they would necessarily suffer as
the simple servants of their brethren. And this consideration should
induce you to give them, at least, the same share of freedom as is
enjoyed by the _white servants_ to be found in many a household in the
South. Such servitude would be the utmost that a merciful God could
require. Even this, however, was under the old dispensation; and the
reign of its laws, customs, and punishments, should melt under the
genial rays of the sun of Christianity. Many of your own patriots,
headed by Washington and Jefferson, have long since thought so; and but
few in these days plead ‘the curse’ as excuse or justification for that
‘damned spot’ which all will come ultimately to consider the disgrace of
this enlightened age and nation. As to your next point, the right which
a purchaser of stolen goods may acquire in them in consideration of the
money which he pays, I grant all the benefit that even the most generous
theologian or moralist can allow in the best circumstances of such a
case. And what does this amount to? A return of the purchase-money, with
a reasonable or very high rate of interest for the detention, would be
as much as any one could demand. Applying this to the case of the stolen
Africans, how many of those who were forced from their native land to
this have died on their master’s hands without yielding by their labor,
not alone the principal, but a handsome percentage upon the money
invested in their purchase? Thus purchasers were indemnified–abundantly
indemnified, against loss. The indemnity, however, should have been
sought from the seller, not from the article or person sold. But, at
best, purchasers of stolen goods, to entitle themselves to any
indemnity, should at least be innocent; for if they buy such goods,
_knowing them to be stolen_, they are guilty of a serious misdemeanor,
which is everywhere punishable under the law. ‘He who asks equity must
do equity.’ When, therefore, you of the South would realize the benefit
of the concession of theologians and moralists–the benefit of
justice–you should bring yourselves within the conditions they require;
you should come into court with clean hands, and with the intention of
acting in good faith. Have you done so? Did your fathers do so before
you? Not at all. They were not ignorant purchasers of the poor, ravished
African; they knew full well that he had been stolen and brought by
violence from his distant home: consequently, they were guilty of a
misdemeanor in purchasing; consequently, too, they come not within the
case proposed by the theologians and moralists, which might entitle them
to indemnity; nor were they in a condition to ask it. The present
generation, claiming through them, find themselves in the same
predicament, with the same title only, and the same unclean hands,
perpetuating their foul oppression. None of them, as I have shown, had a
right to claim indemnity by reason of having invested their money in
that way; and, if they ever had such right, they have been richly
indemnified already. Therefore, it is absurd for you to continue the
slave business upon this plea. Having thus answered your only objections
to my position, I might remind you of your determination, and call upon
you to ‘liberate your slaves,’ and take sides with me in opposition to
the cruel institution. You are greatly mistaken in supposing that my
omission to propose a plan, by which slave-holders could _conveniently,
and without pecuniary loss_, emancipate their slaves, constitutes the
slightest objection to the argument I have advanced. If you defer their
emancipation until such a plan is proposed; if you are unwilling to
incur even a little sacrifice, what nobility will there be in the act,
to entitle you to the consideration of the just and good, or to the
approval of your own consciences? I sought by this discussion, to
convince you that slavery is an enormous evil; the proposition was
declared in all its boldness. You volunteered a pledge to release your
slaves if I could sustain it, let the sacrifice be what it might. Some
sacrifice, then, you must have anticipated; and, should your conviction
now demand it, you have no cause to complain of me. Your pledge was
altogether voluntary; I did not even ask it; nor did I design to suggest
any such plan of universal emancipation as would suit the _convenience_
of everybody. I am not so extravagantly silly as to hope to do that.
But, after all, why wait for a _plan_? Immediate, universal
emancipation is not impracticable, and numberless methods might and
would at once be devised, if the people of your States were sincere when
they profess to desire its accomplishment. Their _real_ wish, however,
whatever it may be, need not interfere between your individual pledge,
and its prompt fulfilment.”

Mr. Trueman paused for full five minutes, and, as I peered out from my
hiding-place, I thought there was a very quizzical sort of expression on
his fine face.

“Well, what have you to say?” he at length asked.

“It seems to me,” Mr. Winston began, in an angry tone, “you speak very
flippantly and very wildly about general emancipation. Consider, sir,
that slavery is so woven into our society, that there is scarcely a
family that would not be more or less affected by a change. Fundamental
alterations in society, to be safely made, must be the slow work of
years:

‘Not the hasty product of a day,
But the well-ripened fruit of wise delay.’

So it is only by almost imperceptible degrees that the emancipationists
and impertinent Abolitionists can ever attain ‘the consummation’ they
pretend to have so much at heart. If they would just stay at home and
devote their spare time to cleansing their own garments, leaving us of
the South to suffer alone what they are pleased to esteem the evil and
sin and curse, the shame, burden and abomination of slavery, we should
the sooner discover its blasting enormities, and strive more zealously
to abolish them and the institution from which they proceed. Their
super-serviceable interference, hitherto, has only riveted and tightened
the bondage of those with whom they sympathize; and such a result will
always attend it. Our slaves, as at present situated, are very well
satisfied, as, indeed, they ought to be: for they are exempt from the
anxious cares of the free, as to what they shall eat or what they shall
drink, or wherewithal they shall be clothed. Many poor men of our own
color would gladly exchange conditions with them, because they find life
to be a hard, an incessant struggle for the scantiest comforts, with
which our slaves are supplied at no cost of personal solicitude.
Besides, sir, our institution of slavery is vastly more burdensome to
ourselves than to the negroes for whom you affect so much fraternal
love.”

“One would suppose, that if you thought it burdensome, you would be
making some effort to relieve yourselves,” interposed Mr. Trueman, in
that clear and pointed manner that was his peculiarity; “and, if
immediate emancipation were deemed impracticable in consequence of the
radical hold which this institution has at the South, you might
naturally be expected to be doing something toward that end by the
encouragement of education among those in bondage, by the sanction of
marriage ties between them, and by other efforts to ameliorate their
condition. Certain inducements might be presented for the manumission of
slaves by individual owners, for there are some of this class, I am
happy to think, who, in tender humanity, would release their slaves, if
the stringency of the laws did not deter them from it. Would it not be
well to abate somewhat of this rigor, and allow all slaves, voluntarily
manumitted, to remain in the several States with at least the privileges
of the free negroes now resident therein, so that the olden ties, which
have grown up between themselves and their owners, might not be abruptly
snapped asunder? Besides, to enforce the propriety of this alteration of
the law, it would be well to reflect that the South is the native home
of most of the slaves, who cherish their local attachments quite as much
as ourselves; and hence the law which now requires them, when by any
means they have obtained their freedom, to remove beyond the limits of
the State, is a very serious hardship and should cease to exist. This
would be a long stride toward your own relief from the burden of which
you complain. As to the slaves, who you think should be content with
their condition, in which they have, as you say, ‘no care for necessary
food and raiment,’ I would suggest that they have the faculty of
distinguishing between slavery and bondage, and have sense enough to see
that though these things, which are generally of the coarsest kind, are
provided by their masters, the means by which they are furnished are but
a scanty portion of their own hard earnings. Were they free, they could
work in the same way, and be entitled to _all_ the fruits of their
labor. Then they would have the same inducements to toil that we now
have, and the same ambition to lift themselves higher and higher in the
social scale. Those white men whom you believe willing to exchange
situations with them, are too indolent to enjoy the privileges of
freedom, and would be utterly worthless as slaves. You declaim against
the course which the Abolitionists have pursued, and seem disposed, in
consequence, to tighten the cords of servitude. You would be let alone,
forsooth, to bear this burden as long as you please, and to get rid of
it at pleasure. So long as there was any hope that you would do what you
ought in the matter, you were let alone, and if you were the only
sufferers from your peculiar institution, you might continue
undisturbed; but the yoke lies heavy and galling upon the poor slaves
themselves, whose voices are stifled, and it is high time for the
friends of human rights to speak in their behalf, till they make
themselves heard. At this momentous period, when new States and
Territories are knocking for admission at the doors of our Union–States
and Territories of free and virgin soil, which you are seeking to defile
by the introduction of slavery–it is fit that they should persevere in
their noble efforts, that they should resist your endeavors, and strive
with all their energies to confine the obnoxious institution within its
already too-extended bounds; for they know, that, if they would attain
their object–the ultimate and entire abolition of slavery from our
land–they should oppose strenuously every movement tending to its
extension; for, the broader the surface over which it spreads, the more
formidable will be the difficulty of its removal. Therefore it is that
they are now so zealously engaged, and they address you as men whose
‘judgment has not fled to brutish beasts,’ with arguments against the
evil itself and the weight of anguish it entails. Thus they have ever
done, and you tell me that the result has been to rivet the chains of
those in whose behalf they plead. As well might the sinner, whose guilt
is pointed out to him by the minister of God, resolve for that very
reason to plunge more deeply into sin.”

His voice became gradually calmer and calmer, until finally it sank into
the low notes of a solemn half-whisper. I held my breath in intense
excitement, but this transport was broken by the harsh tones of the
Virginian, who said:

“All this is very ridiculous as well as unjust; for, at the South slaves
are regarded as property, and, inasmuch as our territories are acquired
by the common blood and treasure of the whole country, we have as much
right to locate in them with our property as you have with any of those
things which are recognized as property at the North. In your great love
of human rights you might take some thought of us; but the secret of
your action is jealousy of our advancement by the aid of slave-labor,
which you would have at the North if you needed it. We understand you
well, and we are heartily tired of your insulting and impudent cant
about the evils of the system of slavery. We want no more of it.”

Mr. Trueman, without noticing the insolence of Winston, continued in the
same impressive manner:

“We do take much thought of you at the South, and hence it is that we
dislike to see you passively submitting to the continuance of an
institution so fraught with evil in itself, and very burdensome, as even
you have admitted. We, of the North, feel strongly bound to you by the
recollection of common dangers, struggles and trials; and, with an
honorable pride, we wish our whole nation to stand fair, and, so far as
possible, blameless before the world. We are doing all we can to remove
the evils of every kind which exist at the North; and, as we are not
sectional in our purposes, we would stimulate you to necessary action in
regard to your especial system. We know its evils from sore experience,
for it once prevailed amongst us; but, fortunately, we opened our eyes,
and gave ourselves a blessed riddance of it. The example is well worthy
of your imitation, but, ‘pleased as you are with the possession’, says
Blackstone, speaking of the origin and growth of property, ‘you seem
afraid to look back to the means by which it was acquired, as if fearful
of some defect in your title; or, at best, you rest satisfied with the
decision of the laws in your favor, without examining the reason or
authority upon which those laws have been built.’ To the eyes of the
nations, who regard us from far across the ocean, and who see us, as a
body, better than we see ourselves, slavery is the great blot that
obscures the disc of our Republic, dimming the effulgence of its
Southern half, as a partial eclipse darkens the world’s glorious
luminary. It is, therefore, not alone upon the score of human rights in
general, but from a personal interest in our National character, that
the Abolitionists interfere. Various Congressional enactments have
confirmed the justice of these views, which they are endeavoring to
enforce by moral suasion (for they deprecate violence) upon the South.
Those enactments assume jurisdiction, to some extent at least, upon the
subject of slavery, having gone so far as to prohibit the continuance of
the slave-trade, denouncing it as piracy, and punishing with death those
who are in any way engaged in it. I have yet to learn that the South has
ever protested against this law, in which the Abolitionists see a strong
confirmation of their own just principles. Why should they not go a step
further, and forbid all traffic in slaves, such as is pursued among your
people? Why do not the States themselves interpose their power to put
down at once and forever, such nefarious business? This would be
productive of vastly more good than anything which Colonization
societies can effect.”

“Suppose, sir,” began Mr. Winston, “we were to annul the present laws
regulating the manumission of slaves, and to abolish the institution
entirely from our midst; where would be the safety of our own white
race? There is great cause for the apprehension generally entertained,
of perpetual danger and annoyance, if they were permitted to remain
among us. They are there in large numbers, and, having once obtained
their freedom, with permission to reside where they now are, they would
seek to become ‘a power in the State,’ which would incite them, if
resisted, into fearful rebellion. These are contingencies which
sagacious statesmen have foreseen, and which they would be unable to
avert. Consequently, they had rather bear those ills they have, than fly
to others that they know not of.”

“How infelicitous,” Mr. Trueman suddenly retorted, “is your quotation,
for, truly, you ‘know not’ that these anticipated consequences would
ensue; but ‘motes they are to trouble the mind’s eye.’ Your sagacious
statesmen might more wisely employ their thoughts in contemplating the
more probable results of continuing your slaves in their present abject
condition. Far more reason is there to apprehend rebellion and
insurrection now, than the distant dangers you predict. Even this last
objection is vain, unsubstantial, and, at best, only speculative,
resorted to as an unction to mollify the sores of conscience. Some of
your eminent men have expressed a hope that the colored race might be
removed from the South, and from slavery, through the instrumentality of
Colonization, by which, it is expected, that they would eventually be
transported to Africa, and encouraged to establish governments for
themselves. This proposal is liable, and with more emphasis, to the
objection I advanced a while ago, when speaking of the laws which
practically discourage manumission, for, if it is a hardship (as I
contend it is) for them to be driven from their native State to one
strange and unfamiliar to them, it is increasing that severity to
require them to seek a home in Africa, whose climate is as uncongenial
to them as to us, and with whose institutions they feel as little
interest, or identity, as we do. Admit, for a moment, the practicability
of such a scheme. We should, soon after, be called upon to recognize
them as one of the nations of the earth, with whom we should treat as we
do now with the English, French, German, and other nations. I will
suggest to your Southern sages, who delight in speculations, that, in
the progress of years, they might desire, in imitation of some other
people, to accept the invitations we extend to the oppressed and unhappy
of the earth. What is there, in that case, to hinder them from
immigrating in large numbers? Could you distinguish between immigrants
of their class, and those who now settle upon our soil? Either you could
or you could not. If you could not so distinguish, you would in all
likelihood have them speedily back, in greater numbers than they come
from Green Erin, or Fader-land. Thus you would be reduced to almost the
same condition as general emancipation would bring about; but, if you
could, and did make the distinction, is it not quite likely that deadly
offence would be given to their government, which, added to their
already accumulated wrongs, would light up the fires of a more frightful
war than the intestine rebellion you have talked of; or than any that
has ever desolated this continent? Bethink yourselves of these things
amid your gloomy forebodings, and you will find them pregnant with
fearful issues. You will discover, too, the folly of longer maintaining
your burdensome system, and the wisdom of heeding whilst you may, the
counsel of the philanthropic, which urges you to just, generous, speedy,
universal emancipation. But I have fatigued you, and will stop; hoping
soon to hear that you have magnanimously redeemed the promise which I
had the gratification to hear at the commencement of our conversation.”

When Mr. Trueman paused, Mr. Winston sprang to his feet in a rage,
knocking over his chair in the excitement, and declaring that he had
most patiently listened to flimsy Abolition talk, in which there was no
shadow of argument, mere common cant; that he would advise Mr. Trueman
to be more particular in the dissemination of his dangerous and
obnoxious opinions; and, as to his own voluntary pledge, it was
conditional, and those conditions had not been complied with, and he did
not consider himself bound to redeem it. Mr. Trueman endeavored to calm
and soothe the hot-blooded Southerner; but his words had no effect upon
the illiberal man, whom he had so fairly demolished in argument.

As they passed my hiding-place, _en route_ to their respective
apartments, I peeped out through a crevice in the door at them. It was
very easy to detect the calm, self-poised man, the thoughtful reasoner,
in the still, pale face and erect form of Trueman; whilst the red,
hot-flushed countenance, the quick, peering eye and audacious manner of
the other, revealed his unpleasant disposition and unsystematized mind.

When the last echo of their retreating footsteps had died upon the ear,
I stole from my concealment, and ventured to my own quarters. Many new
thoughts sprang into existence in my mind, suggested by the conversation
to which I had listened.

I venerated Mr. Trueman more than ever. No disciple ever regarded the
face of his master so reverently as I watched his countenance, when I
chanced to meet him in any part of the house.

Continue Reading

After spreading the snowy drapery

Very lonely to me were the nights that succeeded Amy’s death. I spent
them alone in the cabin. A strange kind of superstition took possession
of me! The room was peopled with unearthly guests. I buried my face in
the bed-covering, as if that could protect me or exclude supernatural
visitors. For two weeks I scarcely slept at all; and my constitution had
begun to sink under the over-taxation. This was all the worse, as Amy’s
death entailed upon me a double portion of work.

“What!” said Mr. Peterkin to me, one day, “are you agoin to die, too,
Ann? Any time you gits in the notion, jist let me know, and I’ll give
you rope enough to do it.”

In this taunting way he frequently alluded to that fatal tragedy which
should have bowed his head with shame and remorse.

Young master had returned, but not at all benefited by his trip. A deep
carnation was burnt into his shrivelled cheek, and he walked with a
feeble, tottering step. The least physical exertion would bring on a
violent paroxysm of coughing. The unnatural glitter of his eye, with its
purple surroundings, gave me great uneasiness; but he was the same
gentle, kind-spoken young master that he had ever been. His glossy,
golden hair had a dead, dry appearance; whilst his chest was fearfully
sunken; yet his father refused to believe that all these marks were the
heralds of the great enemy’s approach.

“The spring will cure you, my boy.”

“No, father, the spring is coming fast; but long before its flowers
begin to scent the vernal gales, I shall have passed through the narrow
gateway of the tomb.”

“No, it shall not be. All my money shall go to save you.”

“I am purchased, father, with a richer price than gold; the inestimable
blood of the Lamb has long since paid my ransom; I go to my father in
heaven.”

“Oh, my son! you want to go; you want to leave me. You do not love your
father.”

“Yes, I do love you, father, very dearly; and I would that you were
going with me to that lovely land.”

“I shill never go thar.”

“‘Tis that fear that is killing me, father.”

“What could I, now, do to be saved?”

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and be baptized.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, that is all; but it embraces a good deal, dear father; a good deal
more than most persons deserve. In order to a perfect belief in the Lord
Jesus, you must act consistently with that belief. You must deal justly.
Abundantly give to the poor, and, above all, you must love mercy, and do
mercifully to all. Now I approach the great subject upon which I fear
you will stumble. You must,” and he pronounced the words very slowly,
“liberate your slaves.” There was a fair gleam from his eyes when he
said this.

Mr. Peterkin turned uneasily in his chair. He did not wish to encourage
a conversation upon this subject.

One evening, when it had been raining for two or three days, and the
damp condition of the atmosphere had greatly increased young master’s
complaint, he called me to his bedside.

“Ann,” he said, in that deep, sepulchral tone, “I wish to ask you a
question, and I urge you not to deceive me. Remember I am dying, and it
will be a great crime to tell me a falsehood.”

I assured him that I would answer him with a faithful regard to truth.

“Then tell me what occasioned Amy’s death? Did she come to it by
violence?”

I shall never forget the deep, penetrating glance that he fixed upon
me. It was an inquiry that went to my soul. I could not have answered
him falsely.

Calmly, quietly, and without exaggeration, I told him all the
circumstances of her death.

“Murder!” he exclaimed, “murder, foul and most unnatural!”

I saw him wipe the tears from his hollow eyes, and that sunken chest
heaved with vivid emotion.

Mr. Peterkin came in, and was much surprised to find young master so
excited.

“What is the matter, my boy?”

“The same old trouble, father, these unfortunate negroes.”

“Hang ’em; let them go to the d–l, at once. They are not worth all this
consarn on your part.”

“Father, they possess immortal souls, and are a part of Christ’s
purchase.”

“Oh, that kind of talk does very well for preachers and church members.”

“It should do for all humanity.”

“I doesn’t know what pity means whar a nigger is consarned.”

“And ’tis this feeling in you that has cost me my life.”

“Confound thar black hides. Every one of ’em that ever growed in Afriky
isn’t worth that price.”

“Their souls are as precious in God’s eyes as ours, and the laws of man
should recognize their lives as valuable.”

“Oh, now, my boy! don’t talk any more ’bout it. It only ‘stresses you
for nothing.”

“No, it distresses me for a great deal. For the value of
Christ-purchased souls.”

Mr. Peterkin concluded the argument as he usually did, when it reached a
knotty point, by leaving. All that evening I noticed that young master
was unusually restless and feverish. His mournful eyes would follow me
withersoever I moved about the room. From the constant and earnest
movement of his lips, I knew that he was engaged in prayer.

When Miss Bradly came in and looked at him, I thought, from the
frightened expression of her face, that she detected some alarming
symptoms. This apprehension was confirmed by the manner of Dr. Mandy.
All the rest of the evening I wandered near Miss Bradly and the doctor,
trying to catch, from their conversation, what they thought of young
master’s condition; but they were very guarded in what they said, well
knowing how acutely sensitive Mr. Peterkin was on the subject. Miss Jane
and Miss Tildy did not appear in the least anxious or uneasy about him.
They sewed away upon their silks and laces, never once thinking that the
angel of death was hovering over their household and about to snatch
from their embrace one of their most cherished idols. Verily, oh, Death,
thou art like a thief in the night; with thy still, feline tread, thou
enterest our chambers and stealest our very breath away without one
admonition of thy coming!

But not so came he to young master. As a small-voiced angel, with
blessings concealed beneath his shadowy wing, he came, the herald of
better days to him! As a well-loved bridegroom to a waiting bride, was
the angel of the tombs to that expectant spirit! ‘Twas painful, yet
pleasant, to watch with what patient courage he endured bodily pain.
Often, unnoticed by him, did I watch, with a terrible fascination, the
heroic struggle with which he wrestled with suffering and disease. Sad
and piteous were the shades and inflections of severe agony that passed
over his noble face! I recall now with sorrow, the memory of that time!
How well, in fancy, can I see him, as he lay upon that downy bed, with
his beautiful gold hair thrown far back from his sunken temples, his
blue, upturned eyes, fringed by their lashes of fretted gold, and those
pale, thin hands that toyed so fitfully with the drapery of the couch,
and the restless, loving look which he so frequently cast upon each of
the dear ones who drew around him. It must be that the “sun-set of life”
gives us a keener, quicker sense, else why do we love the more fondly as
the curtain of eternity begins to descend upon us? Surely, there must be
a deeper, undeveloped sense lying beneath the surface of general
feeling, which only the tightening of life’s cords can reveal! He grew
gentler, if possible, as his death approached. Very heavenly seemed he
in those last, most trying moments! All that had ever been earthly of
him, began to recede; the fleshly taints (if there were any) grew
fainter and fainter, and the glorious spiritual predominated! Angel more
than mortal, seemed he. The lessons which his life taught me have sunk
deep in my nature; and I can well say, “it was good for him to have been
here.”

It was a few weeks after the death of Amy, when Miss Tildy was
overlooking the bureau that contained the silver and glass ware, she
gave a sudden exclamation, that, without knowing why, startled me very
strangely. A thrill passed over my frame, an icy contraction of the
nerves, and I knew that something awful was about to be revealed.

“What _is_ the matter with you?” asked Miss Jane.

Still she made no reply, but buried her face in her hands, and remained
thus for several minutes; when she did look up, I saw that something
terrible was working in her breast. “Culprit,” was written all over her
face. It was visible in the downcast terror of her eye, and in the
blanched contraction of the lips, and quivered in the dilating nostril,
and was stamped upon the whitening brow!

“What ails you, Tildy?” again inquired her sister.

“_Why, look here!_” and she held up, to my terror, the two missing
forks!

Oh, heavens! and for her own carelessness and mistake had Amy been
sacrificed? I make no comment. I merely state the case, and leave others
to draw their own conclusions. Yet, this much I will add, that there
were no Caucasian witnesses to the bloody deed, therefore no legal
cognizance could be taken of it! Most noble and righteous American laws!
Who that lives beneath your shelter, would dare to say they are not wise
and sacred as the laws of the Decalogue? Thrice a day should their
authors go up into the Temple, and thank our Lord that they are not like
publicans and sinners.

One evening–oh! I shall long remember it, as one full of sacredness,
full of sorrow, and yet tinged with a hue of heaven! It was in the deep,
delicious beauty of the flowering month of May. The twilight was
unusually red and refulgent. The evening star shone like the full eye of
love upon the dreamy earth! The flowers, each with a dew-pearl
glittering on its petals, lay lulled by the calm of the hour. Young
master, fair saint, lay on his bed near the open window, through which
the scented gales stole sweetly, and fanned his wasted cheek! Thick and
hard came his breath, and we, who stood around him, could almost see the
presence of the “monster grim,” whose skeleton arms were fast locking
him about!

Flitting round the bed, like a guardian spirit, was Miss Bradly, whilst
her tearful eye never wandered for an instant from that face now growing
rigid with the kiss of death! Miss Jane stood at the head of the bed
wiping the cold damps from his brow, and Miss Tildy was striving to
impart some of her animal warmth to his icy feet. Mr. Peterkin sat with
one of those thin hands grasped within his own, as if disputing and
defying the advance of that enemy whom no man is strong enough to
baffle.

Slowly the invalid turned upon his couch, and, looking out upon the
setting sun, he heaved a deep sigh.

“Father,” he said, as he again turned his face toward Mr. Peterkin, who
still clasped his hand, “do you not know from my failing pulse, that my
life is almost spent?”

“Oh, my boy, it is too, too hard to give you up.”

“Yet you _must_ nerve yourself for it.

“I have no nerve to meet this trouble.”

“Go to God, He will give you ease.”

“I want Him to give me you.”

“Me He lent you for a little while. Now He demands me at your hands, and
His requisition you must obey.”

“Oh, I won’t give up; maybe you’ll yet be spared to me.”

“No, God’s decree it is, that I should go.”

“It cannot, shall not be.”

“Father, father, you do but blaspheme.”

“I will do anything rather than see you die.”

“I am willing to die. I have only one request to make of you. Will you
grant it? If you refuse me, I shall die wretched and unhappy.”

“I will promise you anything.”

“But will you keep your promise?”

“Yes, my boy.”

“Do you promise most faithfully?”

“I do.”

“Then promise me that you will instantly manumit your slaves.”

Mr. Peterkin hesitated a moment.

“Father, I shall not die happy, if you refuse me.”

“Then I promise faithfully to do it.”

A glad smile broke over the sufferer’s face, like a sunbeam over a
snow-cloud.

“Now, at least I can die contentedly! God will bless your effort, and a
great weight has been removed from my oppressed heart.”

Dr. Mandy now entered the room; and, taking young master’s hand within
his own, began to count the pulsations. A very ominous change passed
over his face.

“Oh, doctor,” cried the patient, “I read from your countenance the
thoughts that agitate your mind; but do not fear to make the disclosure
to my friends even here. It will do me no harm. I know that my hours are
numbered; but I am willing, nay, anxious to go. Life has been one round
of pain, and now, as I am about to leave the world, I take with me a
blessed assurance that I have not lived in vain. Doctor, I call upon
you, and all the dear ones here present, to witness the fact that my
father has most solemnly promised me to liberate each of his slaves and
never again become the holder of such property? Father, do you not
promise before these witnesses?”

“I do, my child, I do,” said the weeping father.

“Sisters,” continued young master, “will you promise to urge or offer
no objection to the furtherance of this sacred wish of your dying
brother?”

“I do,” “I do,” they simultaneously exclaimed.

“And neither of you will ever become the owner of slaves?”

“Never,” “never,” was the stifled reply.

“Come, now, Death, for I am ready for thee!”

“You have exerted yourself too much already,” said the doctor, “now pray
take this cordial and try to rest; you have overtaxed your power. Your
strength is waning fast.”

“No, doctor, I cannot be silent; whilst I’ve the strength, pray let me
talk. I wish this death-bed to be an example. Call in the servants. Let
me speak with them. I wish to devote my power, all that is left of me
now, to them.”

To this Mr. Peterkin and the doctor objected, alleging that his life
required quiet.

“Do not think of me, kind friends, I shall soon be safe, and am now
well-cared for. If I did not relieve myself by speech, the anxiety would
kill me. As a kind favor, I beg that you will not interrupt me. Call the
good servants.”

Instantly they all, headed by Nace, came into the chamber, each weeping
bitterly.

“Good friends,” he began, and now I noticed that his voice was weak and
trembling, “I am about to leave you. On earth you will never see me
again; but there is a better world, where I trust to meet you all. You
have been faithful and attentive to me. I thank you from the bottom of
my soul for it, and, if ever I have been harsh or unkind to you in any
way, I now beg that you will forgive me. Do not weep,” he continued, as
their loud sobs began to drown his feeble voice. “Do not weep, I am
going to a happy home, where trouble and pain will never harm me more.
Now let me tell you, that my father has promised me that each of you
shall be free immediately after my death.”

This announcement was like a panic to the poor, broken-spirited
wretches. They looked wonderingly at young master, and then at each
other, never uttering a word.

“Come, do not look so bewildered. Ah, you do not believe me; but, good
as is this news, it is true; is it not, father?”

“Yes, my son, it is true.”

When Mr. Peterkin spoke, they simultaneously started. That voice had
power to recall them from the wildest dream of romance. Though softened
by sorrow and suffering, there was still enough of the wonted harshness
to make those poor wretches know it was Mr. Peterkin who spoke, and they
quaked with fear.

“In the new home and new position in life, which you will take, my
friends, I hope you will not forget me; but, above all things, try to
save your souls. Go to church; pray much and often. Place yourselves
under God’s protection, and all will be right. You, Jake, had better
select as an occupation that of a farmer, or manager of a farm for some
one of those wealthy but humane men of the Northern States. You, Dan,
can make an excellent dray driver; and at that business, in some of the
Northern cities, you would make money. Sally can get a situation as
cook; and Ann, where is Ann?” he said, as he looked around.

I stepped out from a retired corner of the room, into which I had shrunk
for the purpose of indulging my grief unobserved.

“Don’t weep, Ann,” he began; “you distress me when you do so. You ought,
rather, to rejoice, because I shall so soon be set free from this
unhappy condition. If you love me, prepare to meet me in heaven. This
earth is not our home; ’tis but a transient abiding-place, and, to one
of my sensitive temperament, it has been none the happiest. I am glad
that I am going; yet a few pangs I feel, in bidding you farewell; but
think of me only as one gone upon a pleasant journey from snow-clad
regions to a land smiling with tropic beauty, rich in summer bloom and
vocal with the melody of southern birds! Think of me as one who has
exchanged the garments of a beggar for the crown of a king and the
singing-robes of a prophet. I hope you will do well in life, and I would
advise that you improve your education, and then become a teacher. You
are fitted for that position. You could fill it with dignity. Do all
you can to elevate the mind as well as manners of your most unfortunate
race. And now, poor old Nace, what pursuit must I recommend to you?”
After a moment’s pause, he added with a smile, “I will point out none;
for you are Yankee enough, Nace, to get along anywhere.”

He then requested that we should all kneel, whilst he besought for us
and himself the blessings of Divine grace.

I can never forget the words of that beautiful prayer. How like fairy
pearls they fell from his lips! And I do not think there was a single
heart present that did not send out a fervent response! It seemed as if
his whole soul were thrown into that one burning appeal to heaven. His
mellow eyes grew purple in their intense passionateness; his pale lip
quivered; and the throbbing veins, that wandered so blue and beautifully
through his temples, were swollen with the rapid tide of emotion.

As we rose from our knees, he elevated himself upon his elbow, and
looking earnestly at each one of us, said solemnly,

“God bless all of you!” then sank back upon the pillow; a bright smile
flitted over his face, and he held his hand out to Miss Bradly, who
clasped it lovingly.

“Good-bye, kind friend,” he murmured, “never forsake the noble
Anti-slavery cause. Cling to it as a rock and anchor of safety.
Good-bye, and God bless you.”

He then gave his other hand to Dr. Mandy, but, in attempting to speak,
he was checked by a violent attack of coughing, and blood gushed from
his mouth. The doctor endeavored to arrest the flow, but in vain; the
crimson tide, like a stream broken loose from its barrier, flowed with a
stifling rush.

Soon we discovered, from the ghastly whiteness of the patient’s face,
and the calm, set stare of the eyes, that his life was almost gone. Oh,
God! how hard, pinched and contracted appeared those once beauteous
features! How terrible was the blank fixedness of those blue orbs! No
motion of the hand could distract their look.

“Heavens!” cried Miss Jane, “his eyes are set!”

“No, no,” exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, and with many gestures, he attempted
to draw the staring eyes away from the object upon which they were
fastened; but vain were all his endeavors. He had no power to call back
a parting spirit; he, who had sent others to an unblest grave, could not
now breathe fresh vigor into a frame over which Death held his skeleton
arm. Where was Remorse, the unsleeping fiend, in that moment?

I was looking earnestly at young master’s face, when the great change
passed over it. I saw Dr. Mandy slowly press down the marble eye-lids
and gently straighten the rigid limbs; then, very softly turning to the
friends, whose faces were hidden by their clasped hands, he murmured,

“All is over!”

Great heaven! what screams burst from the afflicted family.

Mr. Peterkin was crazy. His grief knew no bounds! He raved, he tore his
hair, he struck his breast violently, and then blasphemed. He did
everything but pray. And that was a thing so unfamiliar to him, that he
did not know how to do it. Miss Jane swooned, whilst Miss Tildy raved
out against the injustice of Providence in taking her brother from her.

Miss Bradly and I laid the body out, dressed it in a suit of pure white,
and filletted his golden curls with a band of white rose-buds. Like a
gentle infant resting in its first, deep sleep, lay he there!

After spreading the snowy drapery over the body, Miss Bradly covered all
the furniture with white napkins, giving to the room the appearance of a
death-like chill. There were no warm, rosy, life-like tints. Upon
entering it, the very heart grew icy and still. The family, one by one,
retired to their own apartments for the indulgence of private and sacred
grief!

When I entered the kitchen, I found the servants still weeping
violently.

“Poor soul,” said Sally, “he’s at rest now. If he hain’t gone to heaven,
‘taint no use of havin’ any; fur he war de best critter I iver seed. He
never gived me a cross word in all his life-time. Oh, Lord, he am gone
now!”

“I ‘members de time, when Mister Jones whipt me, dat young masser comed
to me wid some grease and rubbed me all over, and talked so kind to me.
Den he tell me not to say nothin’ ’bout it, and I niver did mention it
from dat day until dis.”

“Wal, he was mighty good,” added Jake, “and I’s sorry he’s dead.”

“I’se glad he got us our freedom afore he died. I wonder if we’ll git
it?” asked Nace, who was always intent upon selfishness.

“Laws! didn’t he promise? Den he mus’ keep his word,” added Jake.

I made no comment. My thoughts upon the subject I kept locked in the
depths of my own bosom. I knew then, as now, that natures like Mr.
Peterkin’s could be changed only by the interposition of a miracle. He
had now shrunk beneath the power of a sudden blow of misfortune; but
this would soon pass away, and the savage nature would re-assert itself.

All that gloomy night, I watched with Miss Bradly and Dr. Mandy beside
the corpse. Often whilst the others dozed, would I steal to the bed and
turn down the covering, to gaze upon that still pale face! Reverently I
placed my hand upon that rich golden head, with its band of flowers.

There is an angel-like calm in the repose of death; a subdued awe that
impresses the coldest and most unbelieving hearts! As I looked at that
still body, which had so lately been illumined by a radiant soul, and
saw the noble look which the face yet wore, I inwardly exclaimed, ‘Tis
well for those who sleep in the Lord!

All that long night I watched and waited, hoped and prayed. The deep,
mysterious midnight passed, with all its fearful power of passion and
mystery; the still, small hours glided on as with silver slippers, and
then came the purple glory of a spring dawn! I left the chamber of
death, and went out to muse in the hazy day-break. And, as I there
reflected, my soul grew sick and sore afraid. One by one my friends had
been falling around me, and now I stood alone. There was no kind voice
to cheer me on; no gentle, loving hand stretched forth to aid me; no
smile of friendship to encourage me. In the thickest of the fight,
unbucklered, I must go. Up the weary, craggy mountain I must climb. The
burning sands I must tread alone! What wonder that my spirit, weak and
womanly, trembled and turned away, asking for the removal of the cup of
life! Only the slave can comprehend the amount of agony that I endured.
He alone who clanks the chain of African bondage, can know what a cloud
of sorrow swept over my heart.

I saw the great sun rise, like a blood-stained gladiator, in the East,
and the diamond dew that glittered in his early light. I saw the roses
unclose fragrantly to his warming call; yet my heart was chill. Through
the flower-decked grounds I walked, and the aroma of rarest blooms
filled my senses with delight, yet woke no answering thrill in my bosom.
Must it not be wretchedness indeed, when the heart refuses to look
around upon blooming, vernal Nature, and answer her with a smile of
freshness?

A little after daylight I re-entered the house, and found Miss Bradly
dozing in a large arm-chair, with one hand thrown upon the cover of the
bed where lay young master’s body. Dr. Mandy was outstretched upon the
lounge in a profound sleep. The long candles had burnt very low in the
sockets, and every now and then sent up that flicker, which has been so
often likened to the struggles of expiring humanity. I extinguished
them, and closed the shutters, to exclude the morning rays that would
else have stolen in to mar the rest of those who needed sleep. Then
returning to the yard, I culled a fresh bouquet and placed it upon the
breast of the dead. Gently touching Miss Bradly, I roused her and begged
that she would seek some more comfortable quarters, whilst I watched
with the body. She did so, having first imprinted a kiss upon the brow
of the heavenly sleeper.

When she withdrew, I took from my apron a bundle of freshly-gathered
flowers, and set about weaving fairy chains and garlands, which I
scattered in fantastic profusion over and around the body.

A beautiful custom is it to decorate the dead with fresh flowers! There
is something in the delicate, fairy-like perfume, and in the magical
shadings and formation of flowers, that make them appropriate offerings
to the dead. Strange mystical things that they are, seemingly instinct
with a new and inchoate life; breathing in their heavenly fragrance of a
hidden blessing, telling a story which our dull ears of clay can never
comprehend. Symbols of diviner being, expressions of quickening beauty,
we understand ye not. We only _feel_ that ye are God’s richest blessing
to us, therefore we offer ye to our loved and holy dead!

When the broad daylight began to beam in through the crevices of the
shutters, and noise of busy life sounded from without, the family rose.
Separately they entered the room, each turning down the spread, and
gazing tearfully upon the ghastly face. Often and often they kissed the
brow, cheek, and lips.

“How lovely he was in life,” said Miss Jane.

“Indeed he was, and he is now an angel,” replied Miss Tildy, with a
fresh gush of emotion.

“My poor, poor boy,” said Mr. Peterkin, as he sank down on the bed
beside the body; “how proud I was of him. I allers knowed he’d be tuck
‘way from me. He was too putty an’ smart an’ good fur this world. My
heart wus so sot on him! yit sometimes he almost run me crazy. I don’t
think it was just in Providence to take my only boy. I could have better
spared one of the gals. Oh, tain’t right, no how it can be fixed.”

And thus he rambled on, perfectly unconscious of the bold blasphemy
which he was uttering with every breath he drew. To impugn the justice
of his Maker’s decrees was a common practice with him. He had so long
rejoiced in power, and witnessed the uncomplaining vassalage of slaves,
that he began to regard himself as the very highest constituted
authority! This is but one of the corrupting influences of the
slave-system.

That long, wearing day, with its weight of speechless grief, passed at
last. The neighbors came and went. Each praised the beauty of the
corpse, and inquired who had dressed it. At length the day closed, and
was succeeded by a lovely twilight. Another night, with its star-fretted
canopy, its queenly, slow-moving moon, its soft aromatic air and pearly
dew. And another gray, hazy day-break, yet still, as before, I watched
near the dead. But on the afternoon of this day, there came a long,
black coffin, with its silver plate and mountings; its interior
trimmings of white satin and border of lace, and within this they laid
the form of young master! His pale, fair hands were crossed prayerfully
upon his breast; and a fillet of fresh white buds bound his smooth brow,
whilst a large bouquet lay on his breast, and the wreaths I had woven
were thrown round him and over his feet. Then the lid was placed on and
tightly screwed down. Then came the friends and neighbors, and a good
man who read the Bible and preached a soothing and ennobling sermon. The
friends gave one more look, another, a longer and more clinging kiss,
then all was over. The slow procession followed after the vehicle that
carried the coffin, the servants walking behind. Poor, uncared-for
slaves, as we were, we paid a heart-felt tribute to his memory, and
watered his new-made grave with as sincere tears as ever flowed from
eyes that had looked on happier times.

I lingered until long after the last shovel-full of dirt was thrown
upon him. Others, even his kindred, had left the spot ere I turned away.
That little narrow grave was dearer and nearer to me, as there it lay so
fresh and damp, shapen smoothly with the sexton’s spade, than when,
several weeks after, a patrician obelisk reared its Parian head towards
the blue sky. I have always looked upon grave-monuments as stony
barriers, shutting out the world from the form that slowly moulders
below. When the wild moss and verdant sward alone cover the grave, ’tis
easy for us to imagine death only a sleep; but the grave-stone, with its
carvings and frescoes, seems a sort of prison, cold and grim in its
aristocratic splendor. For the grave of those whom I love, I ask no
other decoration than the redundant grass, the enamelled mosaic of wild
flowers, a stream rolling by with its dirge-like chime, a weeping
willow, and a moaning dove.

The shades of evening were falling darkly ere I left the burial-ground.
There, amid the graves of his ancestors, beside the tomb of his mother,
I left him sleeping pleasantly. “Life’s fitful fever over,” his calm
soul rests well.

* * * * * * *

In a few weeks after his death, the family settled back to their
original manner of life. Mr. Peterkin grew sulky in his grief. He chewed
and drank incessantly. The remonstrances of his daughters had no effect
upon him. He took no notice of them, seemed almost to ignore their
existence. Feeding sullenly on his own rooted sorrow, he cared nothing
for those around him.

We, the servants, had been allowed a rather better time; for as he was
entirely occupied with his own moody reflections, he bestowed upon us no
thought. Yet we had heard no word about his compliance with the sacred
promise he had made to the dead. Did he feel no touch of remorse, or was
he so entirely sold to the d–l, as to be incapable of regret?

The young ladies had been busy making up their mourning, and took but
little notice of domestic affairs. Miss Jane concluded to postpone her
visit to the city, on account of their recent bereavement; but later in
the summer, she proposed going.

One afternoon, several weeks after the burial of young master, Miss
Bradly came over to see the ladies, for the purpose, as she said, of
bidding them farewell, as early on the following morning she expected to
start North, to rejoin her family, from whom she had been so long
separated. Miss Jane received the announcement with her usual haughty
smile; and Miss Tildy, who was rather more of a hypocrite, expressed
some regret at parting from her old teacher.

“I fear, dear girls, that you will soon forget me. I hoped that an
intimate friendship had grown up between us, which nothing could
destroy; but it seems as if, in the last half-year, you have ceased to
love me, or care for me.”

“I can only answer for myself, dear Miss Bradly,” said Miss Tildy, “and
I shall ever gratefully and fondly remember you, and my interesting
school-days.”

“So shall I pleasantly recollect my school-hours, and Miss Bradly as our
preceptress; and, had she not chosen to express and defend those awfully
disgraceful and incendiary principles of the North, I should have
continued to think of her with pleasure.” Miss Jane said this with her
freezing air of hauteur.

“But I remained silent, dear Jane, for years. I lived in your midst, in
the very families where slave-labor was employed; yet I molested none. I
did not inveigh against your peculiar domestic institution; though,
Heaven knows, every principle of my nature cried out against it. Surely
for all this I deserve some kind consideration.”

“‘Tis a great pity your prudence did not hold out to the last; and I can
assure you ’tis well for the safety of your life and person that you
were a woman, else would it have gone hard with you. Kited through the
streets with a coat of tar and a plumage of hen-feathers, you would have
been treated to a rail-ride, none the most complimentary.” Here Miss
Jane laughed heartily at the ridiculous picture she had drawn.

Miss Bradly’s face reddened deeply as she replied:

“And all this would have been inflicted upon me because I dared to have
an opinion upon a subject of vital import to this our proud Republic.
This would have been the gracious hospitality, which, as chivalry-loving
Southerners, you would have shown to a stranger from the North! If this
be your mode and manner of carrying out the Comity of States, I am
heartily glad that I am about returning to the other side of the
border.”

“And we give you joy of your swift return. Pray, tell all your Abolition
friends that such will be their reception, should they dare to venture
among us.”

“Yet, as with tearful eyes you stood round your brother’s death-bed, you
solemnly promised him that his dying wish, with regard to the liberation
of your father’s slaves, should be carried out, and that you would never
become the owner of such property.”

“Stop! stop!” exclaimed Miss Jane, and her face was livid with rage,
“you have no right to recur to that time. You are inhuman to introduce
it at this moment. Every one of common sense knows that brother was too
young to have formed a correct opinion upon a question of such momentous
value to the entire government; besides, a promise made to the dying is
never binding. Why should it be? We only wished to relieve him from
anxiety. Father would sell every drop of his blood before he would grant
a negro liberty. He is against it in principle. So am I. Negroes were
made to serve the whites; for that purpose only were they created, and I
am not one who is willing to thwart their Maker’s wise design.”

Miss Jane imagined she had spoken quite conclusively and displayed a
vast amount of learning. She looked around for admiration and applause,
which was readily given her by her complimentary sister.

“Ah, Jane, you should have been a man, and practiced law. The courts
would have been the place for the display of your brilliant talents.”

“But the halls of legislation would not, I fear,” said Miss Bradly,
“have had the benefit of her wise, just, and philanthropic views.”

“I should never have allowed the Abolitionists their present weight of
influence, whilst the power of speech and the strength of action
remained to me,” answered Miss Jane, very tartly.

“Oh no, doubtless you would have met the Douglas in his hall, and the
lion in his den,” laughingly replied Miss Bradly.

Thus the conversation was carried on, upon no very friendly terms, until
Miss Jane espied me, when she thundered out,

“Leave the room, Ann, we’ve no use for negro company here, unless,
indeed, as I think most probable, Miss Bradly came to visit you, in
which case she had better be shown to the kitchen.”

This insult roused Miss Bradly’s resentment, and she rose, saying,

“Young ladies, I came this evening to take a pleasant adieu, little
expecting to meet with such treatment; but be it as you wish; I take my
leave;” and, with a slight inclination of the head, she departed.

“Oh, she is insulted!” cried Miss Tildy.

“I don’t care if she is, we owe her nothing. For teaching us she was
well paid; now let her take care of herself.”

“I am going after her to say I did not wish to insult her; for really,
notwithstanding her Abolition sentiments, I like her very much, and I
wish her always to like me.”

So she started off and overtook Miss Bradly at the gate. The explanation
was, I presume, accepted, for they parted with kisses and tears.

That evening, when I was serving the table, Miss Jane reported the
conversation to her father, who applauded her manner of argument
greatly.

“Set my niggers free, indeed! Catch me doing any such foolish thing. I’d
sooner be shot. Don’t you look for anything of the kind, Ann; I’d sooner
put you in my pocket.”

And this was the way he kept a sacred promise to his dead son! But cases
such as this are numerous. The negro is lulled with promises by humane
masters–promises such as those that led the terror-stricken Macbeth on
to his fearful doom. They

“Keep the word of promise to the ear,
But break it to the hope.”

How many of them are trifled with and lured on; buoyed up from year to
year with stories, which those who tell them are resolved shall never be
realized.

My memory runs back now to some such wretched recollections; and my
heart shrivels and crumbles at the bare thought, like scorched paper.
Oh, where is there to be found injustice like that which the American
slaves daily and hourly endure, without a word of complaint? “We die
daily”–die to love, to hope, to feeling, humanity, and all the high and
noble gifts that make existence something more than a mere breathing
span. We die to all enlargement of mind and expansion of heart. Our
every energy is bound down with many bolts and bars; yet whole folios
have been written by men calling themselves wise, to prove that we are
by far the happiest portion of the population of this broad Union! What
a commentary upon the liberality of free men!

After the conversation with Miss Bradly, the young ladies began to
resume their old severity, which the death of young master had checked;
but Mr. Peterkin still seemed moody and troubled. He drank to a
frightful excess. It seemed to have increased his moroseness. He slept
sounder at night, and later in the morning, and was swollen and bloated
to almost twice his former dimensions. His face was a dark crimson
purple; he spoke but little, and then never without an oath. His
daughters remarked the change, but sought not to dissuade him. Perhaps
they cared not if his excesses were followed by death. I had long known
that they treated him with respect only out of apprehension that they
would be cut short of patrimonial favors. But the death of young master
had almost certainly insured them against this, and they were unusually
insolent to their father; but this he appeared not to notice; for he
was too sottishly drunk even to heed them.

The necessity of wearing black, and the custom of remaining away from
places of amusement, had forced Miss Jane to decline, or at least,
postpone her trip to the city.

I shall ever remember that summer as one of unusual luxuriance. It
seemed to me, that the forests were more redundant of foliage than I had
ever before seen them. The wild flowers were gayer and brighter, and the
sky of a more glorious blue; even the little feathered songsters sang
more deliciously; and oh, the moonlight nights seemed wondrously soft
and silvery, and the hosts of stars seven times multiplied! I began to
live again. Away through the old primeval woods I took occasionally a
stolen ramble! Whole volumes of romance I drained from the ever-affluent
library of Nature. I truly found–

“Tongues in the trees; books, in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

It is impossible to imagine how much I enjoyed those solitary walks, few
and far between as they were. I used to wonder why the ladies did not
more enjoy the luxury of frequent communion with Nature in her loveliest
haunts! Strange, is it not, how little the privileged class value the
pleasures and benefits by which they are surrounded! I would have given
ten years of my life (though considering my trouble, the sacrifice would
have been small) to be allowed to linger long beside the winding,
murmuring brook, or recline at the fountain, looking far away into the
impenetrable blue above; or to gather wild flowers at will, and toy with
their tiny leaflets! but indulgences such as these would have been
condemned and punished as indolence.

I cannot now, honestly, recall a single pleasure that was allowed me,
during my long slavery to Mr. Peterkin. Then who can ask me, if I would
not rather go back into bondage than _live_, aye _live_ (that is the
word), with the proud sense of freedom mine? I have often been asked if
the burden of finding food and raiment for myself was not great enough
to make me wish to resign my liberty. No, a thousand times no! Let me go
half-clad, and meanly fed, but still give me the custody of my own
person, without a master to spy into and question out my up-risings and
down-sittings, and confine me like a leashed hound! Slavery in its
mildest phases (of which I have _only_ heard, for I’ve always seen it in
its darker terrors) must be unhappy. The very knowledge that you have no
control over yourself, that you are subject to the will, even whim, of
another; that every privilege you enjoy is yours only by concession, not
right, must depress and all but madden the victim. In no situation, with
no flowery disguises, can the revolting institution be made consistent
with the free-agency of man, which we all believe to be the Divine gift.
We have been and are cruelly oppressed; why may we not come out with our
petition of right, and declare ourselves independent? For this were the
infant colonies applauded; who then shall inveigh against us for a
practice of the same heroism? Every word contained in their admirable
Declaration, applies to us.

Continue Reading

Dis is de day

The winter was now drawing to a close. The heavy, dreary winter, that
had hung like an incubus upon my hours, was fast drawing to an end. Many
a little, tuneful bird came chirping with the sunny days of the waning
February. Already the sunbeam had begun to give us a hint of the
spring-warmth; the ice had melted away, and the moistened roofs of the
houses began to smoke with the drying breath of the sun, and little
green pods were noticeable upon the dried branches of the forest trees.
It was on such a day, when the eye begins to look round upon Nature, and
almost expects to solve the wondrous phenomenon of vegetation, that I
was engaged arranging Miss Jane’s wardrobe. I had just done up some
laces for her, and finished off a nice silk morning-dress. She was
making extensive preparations for a visit to the city of L. The
protracted rigors of the winter and her own fancied ill-health had
induced her to postpone the trip until the opening of spring.

It was decided that I should accompany her as lady’s maid; and the fact
is, I was desirous of any change from the wearying monotony of my life.

Young master had been absent during the whole winter. Frequent letters
from Dr. Mandy (who had accompanied him) informed the family of his
slowly-improving health; yet the doctor stated in each communication
that he was not strong enough to write a letter himself. This alarmed
me, for I knew that he must be excessively weak, if he denied himself
the gratification of writing to his family. Miss Bradly came to the
house but seldom; and then only to inquire the news from young master.
Her principles upon the slavery question had become pretty well known in
the neighborhood; so her residence there was not the most pleasant.
Inuendoes, of a most insulting character, had been thrown out, highly
prejudicial to her situation. Foul slanders were in busy circulation
about her, and she began to be a taboed person. So I was not surprised
to hear her tell Miss Jane that she thought of returning to the North
early in the spring. I had never held any private conversation with her
since that memorable one; for now that her principles were known, she
was too much marked for a slave to be allowed to speak with her alone.
Her sorrowful face struck me with pity. I knew her to be one of that
time-serving kind, by whom the loss of caste and social position is
regarded as the most fell disaster.

As I turned the key of Miss Jane’s wardrobe, she came into the room,
with an unusually excited manner, exclaiming,

“Ann, where is your Miss Tildy?”

Upon my answering that I did not know, she bade me go and seek her
instantly, and say that she wished to speak with her. As I left the
room, I observed Miss Jane draw a letter from the folds of her dress.
This was hint enough. My mother-wit told me the rest.

Finding Miss Tildy with a book, in a quiet corner of the parlor, I
delivered Miss Jane’s message, and withdrew. The contents of Miss Jane’s
letter soon became known; for it was, to her, of such an exciting
nature, that it could not be held in secresy. The letter was from Mr.
Summerville, and announced that he would pay her a visit in the course
of a few days.

And, for the next “few days,” the whole house was in a perfect
consternation. All hands were at work. Carpets were taken up, shaken,
and put down again with the “clean side” up. Paint was scoured, windows
were washed; the spare bedroom was re-arranged, and adjusted in style;
the French couch was overspread with Miss Tildy’s silk quilt, that had
taken the prize at the Agricultural Fair; and fresh bouquets were
collected from the green-house, and placed upon the mantel. Everything
looked very nice about the house, and in the kitchen all sorts of
culinary preparations had gone on. Cakes, cookies, and confections had
been made in abundance. As Amy expressed it, in her quaintly comical
way, “Christmas is comin’ again.” It was the first and only time since
the departure of “the children,” that I had heard her indulge in any of
her old drollery.

At length the “day” arrived, and with it came Mr. Summerville. Whilst he
remained with us, everything went off in the way that Miss Jane desired.
There were fine dinners, with plenty of wine, roast turkey, curry
powder, desserts, &c. The silver and best china had been brought out,
and Mr. Peterkin behaved himself as well as he could. He even consented
to use a silver fork, which, considering his prejudice against the
article, was quite a concession for him to make.

Time sped on (as it always will do), and brought the end of the week,
and with it, the end of Mr. Summerville’s visit. I thought, from a
certain softening of Miss Jane’s eye, and from the length of the parting
interview, that “_matters_” had been arranged between her and Mr.
Summerville. After the last adieu had been given, and Miss Jane had
rubbed her eyes enough with her fine pocket-handkerchief (or, perhaps,
in this case, it would be well to employ the suggestion of a modern
author, and say her “lachrymal,”) I say, after all was over, and Mr.
Summerville’s interesting form was fairly lost in the distance, Miss
Tildy proposed that they should settle down to their usual manner of
living. Accordingly, the silver was all rubbed brightly by Amy, whose
business it was, then handed over to Miss Tildy to be locked up in the
bureau.

For a few weeks matters went on with their usual dullness. Master was
still smoking his cob-pipe, kicking negroes, and blaspheming; and Miss
Jane making up little articles for the approaching visit to the city.
She and Miss Tildy sat a great deal in their own room, talking and
speculating upon the coming joys. Passing in and out, I frequently
caught fragments of conversation that let me into many of their
secrets. Thus I learned that Miss Jane’s chief object in visiting the
city was to purchase a bridal trousseau, that Mr. Summerville “had
proposed,” and, of course, been accepted. He lived in the city; so it
was decided that, after the celebration of the nuptial rite, Miss Tildy
should accompany the bride to her new home, and remain with her for
several weeks.

Sundry little lace caps were manufactured; handkerchiefs embroidered;
dresses made and altered; collars cut, and an immence deal of
“transfering” was done by the sisters Peterkin.

We, of the “colored population,” were stinted even more than formerly;
for they deemed it expedient to economize, in order to be the better
able to meet the pecuniary exigencies of the marriage. Thus time wore
along, heavily enough for the slaves; but doubtless delightful to the
white family. The enjoyment of pleasure, like all other prerogatives,
they considered as exclusively their own.

Time, in its rugged course, had brought no change to Amy. If her heart
had learned to bear its bereavement better, or had grown more tender in
its anxious waiting, we knew it not from her word or manner. The same
settled, rocky look, the same abstracted air, marked her deportment.
Never once had I heard her laugh, or seen her weep. She still avoided
conversation, and was assiduous in the discharge of her domestic duties.
If she did a piece of work well, and was praised for it, she received
the praise with the same indifferent air; or if, as was most frequently
the case, she was harshly chided and severely punished, ’twas all the
same. No tone or word could move those rigid features.

One evening Miss Bradly came over to see the young ladies, and inquire
the latest news from young master. Miss Jane gave orders that the table
should be set with great care, and all the silver displayed. They had
long since lost their olden familiarity, and, out of respect to the
present coldness that existed between them, they (the Misses Peterkin)
desired to show off “before the discredited school-mistress.” I heard
Miss Bradly ask Mr. Peterkin when he heard from young master.

“I’ve just got a letter from Dr. Mandy. They ar’ still in New Orleans;
but expected to start for home in ’bout three days. The doctor gives me
very little cause for hope; says Johnny is mighty weak, and had a pretty
tough cough. He says the night-sweats can’t be broke; and the boy is
very weak, not able to set up an hour at a time. This is very
discouragin’, Miss Emily. Sometimes it ‘pears like ‘twould kill me, too,
my heart is so sot ‘pon that boy;” and here Mr. Peterkin began to smoke
with great violence, a sure sign that he was laboring under intense
excitement.

“He is a very noble youth,” said Miss Bradly, with a quivering voice and
a moist eye; “I am deeply attached to him, and the thought of his death
is one fraught with pain to me. I hope Doctor Mandy is deceived in the
prognostics he deems so bad. Johnny’s life is a bright example, and one
that is needed.”

“Yes, you think it will aid the Abolition cause; but not in this region,
I can assure you,” said Miss Tildy, as she tossed her head knowingly.
“I’d like to know where Johnny learned all the Anti-slavery cant. Do you
know, Miss Emily, that your incendiary principles lost you caste in this
neighborhood, where you once stood as a model?”

Miss Tildy had touched Miss Bradly in her vulnerable point. “Caste” was
a thing that she valued above reputation, and reckoned more desirable
than honor. Had it not been for a certain goodness of heart, from which
she could not escape (though she had often tried) she would have
renounced her Anti-slavery sentiments and never again avowed them; but
young master’s words had power to rescue her almost shipwrecked
principles, and then, whilst smarting under the lash of his rebuke, she
attempted, like many an astute politician, to “run on both sides of the
question;” but this was an equivocal position that the “out and out”
Kentuckians were not going to allow. She had to be, in their distinct
phraseology, “one thing or the other;” and, accordingly, aided by young
master and her sense of justice, she avowed herself “the other.” And,
of course, with this avowal, came the loss of cherished friends. In
troops they fell away from her. Their averted looks and distant nods
nearly drove her mad. If young master had been by to encourage and
sustain her with gracious words, she could have better borne it; but,
single-handed and alone, she could not battle against adversity. And now
this speech of Miss Tildy’s was very untimely. She winced under it, yet
dared not reply. What a contemptible character, to the brave mind, seems
one lacking moral courage!

“I want to see Johnny once again, and then I shall leave for the North,”
said Miss Bradly, in a pitiful tone.

“See Naples and die, eh?” laughed Miss Tildy.

“Always and ever ready with your fun,” replied Miss Bradly.

At first her wiry turnings, her open and shameless sycophancy, and now
her cringing and fawning upon the Peterkins, caused me to lose all
respect for her. In the hour of her trouble, when deserted by those whom
she had loved as friends, when her pecuniary prospects were blighted, I
felt deeply for her, and even forgave the falsehood; but now when I saw
her shrink from the taunt and invective of Miss Tildy, and then minister
to her vanity, I felt that she was too little even for contempt. At tea,
that evening, whilst serving the table, I was surprised to observe Miss
Jane’s face very red with anger, and her manner exceedingly irascible. I
began to wonder if I had done anything to exasperate her; but could
think of no offence of which I had been guilty. I knew from the way in
which she conversed with all at the table, that none of them were
offenders. I was the more surprised at her anger, as she had been, for
the last week, in such an excellent humor, getting herself ready for the
visit to the city. Oh, how I dreaded to see Miss Bradly leave, for then,
I knew the storm would break in all its fury!

I was standing in the kitchen, alone, trying to think what could have
offended Miss Jane, when Amy came up to me, saying,

“Oh, Ann, two silver forks is lost, an’ Miss Tildy done ‘cuse me of
stealin’ ’em, an’ I declar ‘fore heaven, I gib ebery one of ’em to Miss
Tildy de mornin’ Misser Summerbille lef, an’ now she done told Miss Jane
dat I told a lie, and that I stole ’em. Lor’ knows what dey is gwine to
do ‘long wid me; but I don’t kere much, so dey kills me soon and sets me
out my misery at once.”

“When did they miss the forks?”

“Wy, to-night, when I went to set de table, I found dat two of ’em
wasn’t dar; so I axed Miss Tildy whar dey was, an’ she said she didn’t
know. Den I axed Miss Jane; she say, ‘ax Miss Tildy.’ Den when I told
Miss Tildy dat, she got mad; struck me a lick right cross my face. Den I
told her bout de time Mr. Summerbille lef, when I give ’em to her. She
say, ‘you’s a liar, an’ hab stole ’em.’ Den I begun to declar I hadn’t,
and she call Miss Jane, and say to her dat she knowed I hab stole ’em,
and Miss Jane got mad; kicked me, pulled my har till I screamed; den I
‘spose she did ‘ant want Miss Bradly to hear me; so she stopped, but
swar she’d beat me to death if I didn’t get ’em fur her right off. Now,
Ann, I doesn’t know whar dey is, if I was to be kilt for it.”

She drew the back of her hand across her eyes, and I saw that it was
moist. I was glad of this, for her silent endurance was more horrible to
look upon than this physical softness.

“Oh, God!” I exclaimed, “I would that young master were here.”

“What fur, Ann?”

“He might intercede and prevent them from using you so cruelly.”

“I doesn’t wish he was har; for I lubs young Masser, an’ he is good; if
he was to see me a sufferin’ it wud stress him, an’ make his complaint
worse; an’ he couldn’t do no good; for dey will beat me, no matter who
begs. Ob, it does seem so strange that black people was eber made. I is
glad dat de chillen isn’t har; for de sight ob dem cryin’ round de
‘post,’ wud nearly kill me. I can bar anythin’ fur myself, but not fur
’em. Oh, I hopes dey is dead.”

And here she heaved a dreadful groan. This was the first time I had
heard her allude to them, and I felt a choking rush in my throat.

“Don’t cry, Ann, take kere ob yourself. It ‘pears like my time has come.
I don’t feel ‘feard, an’ dis is de fust time I’se eber bin able to speak
’bout de chillen. If eber you sees ’em, (I niver will), tell ’em dat I
niver did forget ’em; dat night an’ day my mind was sot on ’em, an’
please, Ann, gib ’em dis.”

Here she took from her neck a string that held her mother’s gift, and
the coin young master had given her, suspended to it. She looked at it
long and wistfully, then, slowly pressing it to her lips, she said in a
low, plaintive voice that went to my heart, “Poor Mammy.”

I then took it from her, and hid it in my pocket. A cold horror stole
over me. I had not the power to gainsay her; for an instinctive idea
that something terrible was going to occur, chained my lips.

“Ann, I thanks you for all your kindness to me. I hopes you may hab a
better time den I has hab. I feel, Ann, as if I niver should come down
from dat post alive.

“Trust in God, Amy.”

She shook her head despairingly.

“He will save you.”

“No, God don’t kare for black folks.”

“What did young master tell you about that? Did he not say God loved all
His creatures alike?”

“Yes, but black folks aint God’s critters.”

“Yes, they are, just as much as white people.”

“No dey aint.”

“Oh, Amy, I wish I could make you understand how it is.”

“You kant make me belieb dat ar’ way, no how you can fix it. God don’t
kare what a comes ob niggers; an’ I is glad he don’t, kase when I dies,
I’ll jist lay down and rot like de worms, and dere wont be no white
folks to ‘buse me.”

“No, there will be no white folks to abuse you in heaven; but God and
His angels will love you, if you will do well and try to get there.”

“I don’t want to go ther, for God is one of the white people, and, in
course, he’d beat de niggers.”

Oh, was not this fearful, fearful ignorance? Through the solid rock of
her obtusity, I could, with no argument of mine, make an aperture for a
ray of heavenly light to penetrate. Do Christians, who send off
missionaries, realize that heathendom exists in their very midst; aye,
almost at their own hearthstone? Let them enlighten those that dwell in
the bonds of night on their own borders; then shall their efforts in
distant lands be blest. Numberless instances, such as the one I have
recorded, exist in the slave States. The masters who instruct their
slaves in religion, could be numbered; and I will venture to assert
that, if the census were taken in the State of Kentucky, the number
would not exceed twenty. Here and there you will find an instance of a
mistress who will, perhaps, on a Sunday evening, talk to a female slave
about the propriety of behaving herself; but the gist of the argument,
the hinge upon which it turns, is–“obey your master and mistress;” upon
this one precept hang all the law and the prophets.

That night, after my house duties were discharged, I went to the cabin,
where I found Amy lying on her face, weeping bitterly. I lifted her up,
and tried to console her; but she exclaimed, with more energy than I had
ever heard her,

“Ann, every ting seems so dark to me. I kan’t see past to-morrow. I has
bin thinkin’ of Aunt Polly; I keeps seein’ her, no matter what way I
turns.”

“You are frightened,” I ventured to say.

“No, I isn’t, but I feels curus.”

“Let me teach you to pray.”

“Will it do me any good?”

“Yes, if you put faith in God.”

“What’s faith?”

“Believe that God is strong and willing to save you; that is faith.”

“Who is God? I never seed him.”

“No, but He sees you.”

“Whar is He?” and she looked fearfully around the room, in which the
scanty fire threw a feeble glare.

“Everywhere. He is everywhere,” I answered.

“Is He in dis room?” she asked in terror, and drew near me.

“Yes, He is here.”

“Oh lor! He may tell Masser on me.”

This ignorance may, to the careless reader, seem laughable; but, to me,
it was most horrible, and I could not repress my tears. Here was the
force of education. Master was to her the strongest thing or person in
existence. Of course she could not understand a higher power than that
which had governed her life. There are hundreds as ignorant; but no
missionaries come to enlighten them!

“Oh, don’t speak that way; you know God made you.”

“Yes, but dat was to please Masser. He made me fur to be a slave.”

Now, how would the religious slave-holder answer that?

I strove, but with no success, to make her understand that over her
soul, her temporal master had no control; but her ignorance could not
see a difference between the body and soul. Whoever owned the former,
she thought, was entitled to the latter. Finding I could make no
impression upon her mind, I lay down and tried to sleep; but rest was an
alien to me. I dreaded the breaking of the morn. Poor Amy slept, and I
was glad that she did. Her overtaxed body yielded itself up to the most
profound rest. In the morning, when I saw her sleeping so soundly on the
pallet, I disliked to arouse her. I felt, as I fancied a human jailer
must feel, whose business it is to awaken a criminal on the morning of
his execution; yet I had it to do, for, if she had been tardy at her
work, it would have enraged her tyrants the more, and been worse for
her.

Rubbing her eyes, she sat upright on the pallet and murmured,

“Dis is de day. I’s to be led to de post, and maybe kilt.”

I dared not comfort her, and only bade her to make haste and attend to
her work.

At breakfast, Miss Jane shook her head at Amy, saying,

“I’ll settle accounts with you, presently.”

I wondered if that tremulous form, that stood eyeing her in affright,
did not soften her; but no, the “shaking culprit,” as she styled Amy,
was the very creature upon whom she desired to deal swift justice.

Pitiable was the sight in the kitchen, where Jake and Dan, great stout
fellows, were making their breakfasts off of scraps of meat, old bones
and corn-bread, whilst the aroma of coffee, broiled chicken, and
egg-cakes was wafted to them from the house-table.

“I wish’t I had somepin’ more to eat,” said Dan.

“You’s never satisfy,” replied Sally, the cook; “you gits jist as much
as de balance, yit you makes de most complaints.”

“No I doesn’t.”

“Yes, you does; don’t he, Jake?”

“Why, to be sartain he does,” said Jake, who of late had agreed to live
with Sally as a wife. Of course no matrimonial rite was allowed, for Mr.
Peterkin was consistent enough to say, that, as the law did not
recognize the validity of negro marriages, he saw no use of the
tomfoolery of a preacher in the case; and this is all reasonable enough.

“You allers takes Sal’s part,” said Dan, “now sense she has got to be
your wife; you and her is allers colloged together agin’ de rest ov us.”

“Wal, haint I right for to ‘tect my ole ‘oman?”

“Now, ha, ha!” cried Nace, as he entered, “de idee ob yer ‘tectin’ a
wife! I jist wisht Masser sell yer apart, den whar is yer ‘tection ob
one anoder?”

“Oh, dat am very different. Den I’d jist git me anoder ole ‘oman, an’
she’d git her anoder ole man.”

“Sure an’ I would,” was Sally’s reply; “hain’t I done had five old men
already, an’ den if Jake be sole, I’de git somebody else.”

“White folks don’t do dat ar’ way,” interposed Dan, as he picked away at
a bone.

“In course dey don’t. Why should dey?” put in Nace. “Ain’t dey our
Massers, and habn’t dey dar own way in ebery ting?”

“I wisht I’d bin born white,” added Dan.

“Ya, ya, dat is funny!”

“Do de free colored folks live like de whites?” asked Sally.

“Why, laws, yes; once when I went with Masser to L.,” Nace began, “at de
tavern whar we put up, dar was a free collored man what waited on de
table, and anoder one what kipt barber-shop in de tavern. Wal, dey was
drest as nice as white men. Dar dey had dar standin’ collar, and nice
cravat, and dar broadcloth, and dar white handkersher; and de barber, he
had some wool growin’ on his upper lip jist like de quality men. Ya, ya,
but I sed dis am funny; so when I ‘gin to talk jist as dough dey was
niggers same as I is, dey straighten ’emselves up and tell me dat I was
a speakin’ to a gemman. Wal, says I, haint your faces black as mine?
Niggers aint gemmen, says I, for I thought I’d take dar airs down; but
den, dey spunk up and say dey was not niggers, but colored pussons, and
dey call one anoder Mr. Wal, I t’ought it was quare enoff; and more an’
dat, white folks speak ‘spectable to ’em, jist same as dey war white.
Whole lot ob white gemmans come in de barber-shop to be shaved; and den
dey’d pay de barber, and maybe like as not, set down and talk ‘long wid
him.”

There is no telling how long the garrulous Nace would have continued the
narration of what he saw in L–, had he not been suddenly interrupted
by the entrance of Miss Tildy, inquiring for Amy.

Instantly all of them assumed that cheerful, smiling, sycophantic
manner, which is well known to all who have ever looked in at the
kitchen of a slaveholder. Amy stood out from the group to answer Miss
Tildy’s summons. I shall never forget the expression of subdued misery
that was limned upon her face.

“Come in the house and account for the loss of those forks,” said Miss
Tildy, in the most peremptory manner.

Amy made no reply to this; but followed the lady into the house. There
she was court-marshalled, and of course, found guilty of a high
misdemeanor.

“Wal,” said Mr. Peterkin, “we’ll see if the ‘post’ can’t draw from you
whar you’ve put ’em. Come with me.”

With a face the picture of despair, she followed.

Upon reaching the post, she was fastened to it by the wrist and ankle
fetters; and Mr. Peterkin, foaming with rage, dipped his cowhide in the
strongest brine that could be made, and drawing it up with a flourish,
let it descend upon her uncovered back with a lacerating stroke.
Heavens! what a shriek she gave! Another blow, another and a deeper
stripe, and cry after cry came from the hapless victim!

“Whar is the forks?” thundered Mr. Peterkin, “tell me, or I’ll have the
worth out of yer cussed hide.”

“Indeed, indeed, Masser, I doesn’t know.”

“You are a liar,” and another and a severer blow.

“Whar is they?”

“I give ’em to Miss Jane, Masser, indeed I did.”

“Take that, you liar,” and again he struck her, and thus he continued
until he had to stop from exhaustion. There she stood, partially naked,
bleeding at every wound, yet none of us dared go near and offer her even
a glass of cold water.

“Has she told where they are?” asked Miss Tildy.

“No, she says she give ’em to you.”

“Well, she tells an infamous lie; and I hope you will beat her until
pain forces her to acknowledge what she has done with them.”

“Oh, I’ll git it out of her yet, and by blood, too.”

“Yes, father, Amy needs a good whipping,” said Miss Jane, “for she has
been sulky ever since we took her in the house. Two or three times I’ve
thought of asking you to have her taken to the post.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed that she’s give herself a good many ars. It does me
rale good to take ’em out of her.”

“Yes, father, you are a real negro-breaker. They don’t dare behave badly
where you are.”

This, Mr. Peterkin regarded as high praise; for, whenever he related the
good qualities of a favorite friend, he invariably mentioned that he was
a “tight master;” so he smiled at his daughter’s compliment.

“Yes,” said Miss Tildy, “whenever father approaches, the darkies should
set up the tune, ‘See the conquering hero comes.'”

“Good, first-rate, Tildy,” replied Miss Jane.

“‘Till is a wit.”

“Yes, you are both high-larn’t gals, a-head of yer pappy.”

“Oh, father, please don’t speak in that way.”

“It was the fashion when I was edicated.”

“Just listen,” they both exclaimed.

“Jake,” called out Mr. Peterkin, whose wrath was getting excited by the
criticisms of his daughters, “go and bring Amy here.”

In a few moments Jake returned, accompanied by Amy. The blood was oozing
through the body and sleeves of the frock that she had hastily thrown
on.

“Whar’s the spoons?” thundered out Mr. Peterkin.

“I give ’em to Miss Tildy.”

“You are a liar,” said Miss Tildy, as she dashed up to her, and struck
her a severe blow on the temple with a heated poker. Amy dared not parry
the blow; but, as she received it, she fell fainting to the floor. Mr.
Peterkin ordered Jake to take her out of their presence.

She was taken to the cabin and left lying on the floor. When I went in
to see her, a horrid spectacle met my view! There she lay stretched upon
the floor, blood oozing from her whole body. I washed it off nicely and
greased her wounds, as poor Aunt Polly had once done for me; but these
attentions had to be rendered in a very secret manner. It would have
been called treason, and punished as such, if I had been discovered.

I had scarcely got her cleansed, and her wounds dressed, before she was
sent for again.

“Now,” said Miss Tildy, “if you will tell me what you did with the
forks, I will excuse you; but, if you dare to say you don’t know, I’ll
beat you to death with this,” and she held up a bunch of briery
switches, that she had tied together. Now only imagine briars digging
and scraping that already lacerated flesh, and you will not blame the
equivocation to which the poor wretch was driven.

“Where are they?” asked Miss Jane, and her face was frightful as the
Medusa’s.

“I hid ’em under a barrel out in the back yard.”

“Well, go and get them.”

“Stay,” said Miss Jane, “I’ll go with you, and see if they are there.”

Accordingly she went off with her, but they were not there.

“Now, where are they, _liar_?” she asked.

“Oh, Miss Jane, I put ’em here; but I ‘spect somebody’s done stole ’em.”

“No, you never put them there,” said Miss Tildy. “Now tell me where they
are, or I’ll give you this with a vengeance,” and she shook the briers.

“I put ’em in my box in the cabin.”

And thither they went to look for them. Not finding them there, the
tortured girl then named some other place, but with as little success
they looked elsewhere.

“Now,” said Miss Tildy, “I have done all that the most humane or just
could demand; and I find that nothing but a touch of this can get the
truth from you, so come with me.” She took her to the “lock-up,” and
secured the door within. Such screams as issued thence, I pray heaven I
may never hear again. It seemed as if a fury’s strength endowed Miss
Tildy’s arm.

When she came out she was pale from fatigue.

“I’ve beaten that girl till I’ve no strength in me, and she has less
life in her; yet she will not say what she did with the forks.”

“I’ll go in and see if I can’t get it out of her,” said Miss Jane.

“Wait awhile, Jane, maybe she will, after a little reflection, agree to
tell the truth about it.”

“Never,” said Miss Jane, “a nigger will never tell the truth till it is
beat out of her.” So saying she took the key from Miss Tildy, and bade
me follow her. I had rather she had told me to hang myself.

When she unlocked the door, I dared not look in. My eyes were riveted to
the ground until I heard Miss Jane say:

“Get up, you hussy.”

There, lying on the ground, more like a heap of clotted gore than a
human being, I beheld the miserable Amy.

“Why don’t she get up?” inquired Miss Jane. I did not reply. Taking the
cowhide, she gave her a severe lick, and the wretch cried out, “Oh,
Lord!”

“The Lord won’t hear a liar,” said Miss Jane.

“Oh, what will ‘come of me?”

“_Death_, if you don’t confess what you did with the forks.”

“Oh God, hab mercy! Miss Jane, please don’t beat me any more. My poor
back is so sore. It aches and smarts dreadful,” and she lifted up her
face, which was one mass of raw flesh; and wiping or trying to wipe the
blood away from her eyes with a piece of her sleeve that had been cut
from her body, she besought Miss Jane to have mercy on her; but the
spirit of her father was too strongly inherited for Jane Peterkin to
know aught of human pity.

“Where are the forks?”

“Oh, law! oh, law!” Amy cried out, “I swar I doesn’t know anything ’bout
’em.”

Such blows as followed I have not the heart to describe; for they
descended upon flesh already horribly mangled.

The poor girl looked up to me, crying out:

“Oh, Ann, beg for me.”

“Miss Jane,” I ventured to say; but the tigress turned and struck me
such a blow across the face, that I was blinded for full five minutes.

“There, take that! you impudent hussy. Do you dare to ask me not to
punish a thief?”

I made no reply, but withdrew from her presence to cleanse my face from
the blood that was flowing from the wound.

As I bathed my face and bound it up, I wondered if acts such as these
had ever been reported to those clergymen, who so stoutly maintain that
slavery is just, right, _and almost_ available unto salvation. I cannot
think that they do understand it in all its direful wrongs. They look
upon the institution, doubtless, as one of domestic servitude, where a
strong attachment exists between the slave and his owner; but, alas! all
that is generally fabulous, worse than fictitious. I can fearlessly
assert that I never knew a single case, where this sort of feeling was
cherished. The very nature of slavery precludes the existence of such a
feeling. Read the legal definition of it as contained in the statute
books of Kentucky and Virginia, and how, I ask you, can there be, on the
slave’s part, a love for his owner? Oh, no, that is the strangest
resort, the fag-end of argument; that most transparent fiction. Love,
indeed! The slave-master love his slave! Did Cain love Abel? Did Herod
love those innocents, whom, by a bloody edict, he consigned to death? In
the same category of lovers will we place the slave-owner.

When Miss Jane had beaten Amy until _she_ was satisfied, she came, with
a face blazing, like Mars, from the “lock-up.”

“Well, she confesses now, that she put the forks under the corner of a
log, near the poultry coop.”

“Its only another one of her lies,” replied Miss Tildy.

“Well, if it is, I’ll beat her until she tells the truth, or I’ll kill
her.”

So saying, she started off to examine the spot. I felt that this was but
another subterfuge, devised by the poor wretch to gain a few moments’
respite.

The examination proved, as I had anticipated, a failure.

“What’s to be done?” inquired Miss Tildy.

“Leave her a few moments longer to herself, and then if the truth is not
obtained from her, kill her.” These words came hissing though her
clenched teeth.

“It won’t do to kill her,” said Miss Tildy.

“I don’t care much if I do.”

“We would be tried for murder.”

“Who would be our accusers? Who the witnesses? You forget that Jones is
not here to testify.”

“Ah, and so we are safe.”

“Oh, I never premeditate anything without counting the cost.”

“But then the loss of property!”

“I’d rather gratify my revenge than have five hundred dollars, which
would be her highest market value.”

Tell me, honest reader, was not she, at heart, a murderess? Did she not
plan and premeditate the deed? Who were her accusers? That God whose
first law she had outraged; that same God who asked Cain for his slain
brother.

“Now,” said Miss Jane, after she had given the poor creature only a few
moments relief, “now let me go and see what that wretch has to say about
the forks.”

“More lies,” added Miss Tildy.

“Then her fate is sealed,” said the human hyena.

Turning to me, she added, in the most authoritative manner,

“Come with me, and mind that you obey me; none of your impertinent
tears, or I’ll give you this.”

And she struck me a lick across the shoulders. I can assure you I felt
but little inclination to do anything whereby such a penalty might be
incurred. Taking the key of the “lock up” from her pocket, she ordered
me to open the door. With a trembling hand I obeyed. Slowly the old,
rusty-hinged door swung open, and oh, heavens! what a sight it revealed!
There, in the centre of the dismal room, suspended from a spoke, about
three feet from the ground, was the body of Amy! Driven by desperation,
goaded to frenzy, she had actually hung herself! Oh, God! that fearful
sight is burnt in on my brain, with a power that no wave of Lethe can
ever wash out! There, covered with clotted blood, bruised and mangled,
hung the wretched girl! There, a bleeding, broken monument of the white
man’s and white woman’s cruelty! God of my sires! is there for us no
redress? And Miss Jane–what did she do? Why, she screamed, and almost
swooned with fright! Ay, too late it was to rend the welkin with her
cries of distress. She had done the deed! Upon her head rested the sin
of that freshly-shed blood! She was the real murderess. Oh, frightful
shall be her nights! Peopled with racks, execution-blocks, and ghastly
gallows-poles, shall be her dreams! At the lone hour of midnight, a wan
and bloody corse shall glide around her bed-side, and shriek into her
trembling ear the horrid word “murderess!” Let me still remain in
bondage, call me still by the ignoble title of slave, but leave me the
unbought and priceless inheritance of a stainless conscience. I am free
of murder before God and man. Still riot in your wealth; still batten on
inhumanity, women of the white complexion, but of the black hearts! I
envy you not. Still let me rejoice in a darker face, but a snowy,
self-approving conscience.

Miss Jane’s screams brought Mr. Peterkin, Miss Tildy and the servants to
her side. There, in front of the open door of the lock-up, they stood,
gazing upon that revolting spectacle! No word was spoken. Each regarded
the others in awe. At length, Mr. Peterkin, whose heartlessness was
equal to any emergency, spoke to Jake:

“Cut down that body, and bury it instantly.”

With this, they all turned away from the tragical spot; but I, though
physically weak of nerve, still remained. That poor, bereaved girl had
been an object of interest to me; and I could not now leave her
distorted and lifeless body. Cold-hearted ones were around her; no
friendly eye looked upon her mangled corse, and I shuddered when I saw
Jake and Dan rudely handle the body upon which death had set its sacred
seal.

“One more unfortunate,
Weary of breath;
Rashly importunate,
Gone to her death.

* * * * *
Swift to be hurled,
Anywhere, anywhere,
Out of the world.”


This I felt had been her history! This should have been her epitaph;
but, alas for her, there would be reared no recording stone. All that
she had achieved in life was the few inches of ground wherein they laid
her, and the shovel full of dirt with which they covered her. Poor
thing! I was not allowed to dress the body for the grave. Hurriedly they
dug a hole and tossed her in. I was the only one who consecrated the
obsequies with funeral tears. A coarse joy and ribald jests rang from
the lips of the grave-diggers; but I was there to weep and water the
spot with tributary tears.

“Perishing gloomily,
Spurred by contumely,
Cold inhumanity,
Burning insanity,
Into her rest,
Cross her hands humbly,
As if praying dumbly,
Over her breast.”

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