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
“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
“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
I attempted to relate the conversation that had occurred, wherein Miss
Jane thought I had been impudent, when she suddenly sprang up,
“Do you allow a negro to give testimony against your own wife?”
“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
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
“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.”
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
The ladies from the adjoining rooms rushed in to her assistance, and
were soon busy chafing her hands, rubbing her feet, and bathing her
“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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
“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
“I suppose your fare is miserable?”
“Oh, worse than miserable.”
Fanny drew near me, and without the least timidity, stretched forth her
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
“I have had my experience too,” she answered, “and a dark one has it
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
“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
“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
“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
“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!