I slept uninterruptedly that night, and, on awaking in the morning, I
was surprised to find it ten minutes past five. Hurrying on my clothes,
I went to Miss Nancy’s apartment, and was much surprised to find her
sitting in her easy chair, her toilette made. Looking up from the Bible,
which lay open on the stand before her, she said,
“I have stolen a march, Ann, and have risen before you.”
“Yes, ma’m,” replied I, in a mortified tone, “I am ten minutes behind
the time; I am very sorry, and hope you will excuse me.”
“No apologies, now; I hope you do not take me for a cruel, exacting
task-mistress, who requires every inch of your time.”
“No, indeed, I do not, for I know you to be the kindest mistress and
best friend in the world.”
“And now, Ann, I will read some from the Lamentations of Jeremiah; and
we will unite in family prayer.”
At the ringing of the little bell Biddy quickly appeared, and we seated
ourselves near Miss Nancy, and listened to her beautiful voice as it
broke forth in the plaintive eloquence of the holy prophet!
“Let us pray,” she said, fervently, extending her thin, white hands
upward, and we all sank upon our knees. She prayed for grace to rest on
the household; for its extension over the world; that it might visit the
dark land of the South; that the blood of Christ might soften the hearts
of slave-holders. She asked, in a special manner, for power to carry out
her good intentions; prayed that the blessing of God might be given to
me, in a particular manner, to enable me to meet the trials of life, and
invoked benedictions upon Biddy.
When we rose, both Biddy and I were weeping; and as we left her, Biddy
broke forth in all her Irish enthusiasm, “The Lord love her heart! but
she is sanctified! I never heard a prettier _prayer said in the
* * * * *
Miss Nancy’s health improved a great deal. She began to walk of evenings
through the yard, and a little in the city. I always attended her. Of
mornings we rode in a carriage that she hired for the occasion, and of
evenings Henry came, and always brought with him his banjo.
One evening he and Louise came round to sit with me, and after we had
been out upon the portico listening to Henry’s songs, Miss Nancy bade me
go to the sideboard and get some cake and wine. Placing it on the table
in the dining-room, I invited them, in Miss Nancy’s name, to come in and
partake of it. After proposing the health of my kind Mistress, to which
we all drank, Biddy joining in, Louise pledged a glass to the speedy
ransom of Henry. Just then Miss Nancy entered, saying:
“My good Henry, when you buy yourself, and find a home in the North,
write us word where you have established yourself, and I will
immediately make out Ann’s free papers, and remove thither; but I cannot
think of losing my good nurse. So, for her’s, your’s and my own
convenience, I will take up my residence wherever you may settle. Stop
now, Ann, no thanks; I know all about your gratitude, for I was a
pleased, though unintentional listener to a conversation between
yourself and Henry, in which I found out how deep is your attachment to
Hers, then, was the sigh which had so alarmed me! It was all explained.
I had no words to express my overflowing heart. My whole soul seemed
melted. Henry’s eyes were filled with grateful tears. He sank upon his
knees and kissed the hem of Miss Nancy’s dress.
“No, no, my brave-hearted man, do not kneel to me. I am but the humble
instrument under Heaven; and, oh, how often have I prayed for such an
opportunity as this to do good, and dispense happiness.”
And so saying she glided out of the room.
“Well,” exclaimed Biddy, “she is more than a saint, she is an angel,”
and she wiped the tears from her honest eyes.
“I have known her for some time,” said Louise, “and never saw her do, or
heard of her doing a wrong action. She is very different from her
brother. Does he come here often, Ann?”
“Not often; about once a fortnight.”
“He is too much taken up with business; hasn’t a thought outside of his
counting-room. He doesn’t share in any of her philanthropic ideas.”
“She hasn’t her equal on earth,” added Henry. “Mr. Moodwell is a good
man, though not good enough to be _her_ brother.”
Thus passed away the evening, until the near approach of ten o’clock
warned them to leave.
I was too happy for sleep. Many a wakeful night had I passed from
unhappiness, but now I was sleepless from joy.
* * * * * * *
The next morning, after Miss Nancy had breakfasted, I asked her what I
should read to her.
“Nothing this morning, Ann. I had rather you would talk with me. Let us
arrange for the future; but first tell me how much money does Henry lack
to buy himself?”
“About one hundred dollars.”
“I think I can help him to make that up.”
“You have already done enough, dear Miss Nancy. We could not ask more of
“No, but I am anxious to do all I can for you, my good girl. You are
losing the greenest part of your lives. I feel that it is wrong for you
to remain thus.”
Seeing that I was in an unusually calm mood, she asked me to tell her
the story of my life, or at least the main incidents. I entered upon the
narrative with the same fidelity that I have observed in writing these
memoirs. At many points and scenes I observed her weeping bitterly.
Fearing that the excitement might prove too great for her strength, I
several times urged her to let me stop; but she begged me to go on
without heeding her, for she was deeply interested.
When I came to the account of my meeting with Mr. Trueman, she bent
eagerly forward, and asked if it was Justinian Trueman, of Boston. Upon
my answering in the affirmative, she exclaimed:
“How like him! The same noble, generous, disinterested spirit!”
“Do you know him, Miss Nancy?”
“Oh yes, child, he is one of our prominent Northern men, a very able
lawyer; every one in the State of Massachusetts knows him by reputation,
but I have a personal acquaintance also.”
Just as I was about to ask her something of Mr. Trueman’s history, Biddy
came running in, exclaiming:
“Oh, dear me! Miss Nancy! what do you think? They say that Mr. Barkoff,
the green grocer, has let his wife whip a colored woman to death.”
“Oh, it can’t be true,” cried Miss Nancy, as she started up from her
chair. “It is, I trust, some slanderous piece of gossip.”
“Oh, the Lord love your saintly heart, but I do believe ’tis true, for,
as I went down the street to market, I heard some awful screaming in
there, and I asked a girl, standing on the pavement, what it meant; and
she said Mrs. Barkoff was whipping a colored woman; then, when I came
back there was a crowd of children and colored people round the back
gate, and one of them told me the woman was dead, and that she died
“Oh, God, how fearful is this!” exclaimed Miss Nancy, as the big tears
rolled down her pale cheeks. “Give me, oh, sweet Jesus, the power to
pray as Thou didst, to the Eternal Father, ‘to forgive them, for they
know not what they do!'”
“Come, Ann,” continued the impetuous Biddy, “you go with me, and we’ll
try to find out all about it. We will go to see the woman.”
“I cannot leave Miss Nancy.”
“Yes, go with her, Ann; but don’t allow her to say anything imprudent.
Poor Biddy has such a good, philanthropic heart, that she forgets the
patient spirit which Christianity inculcates.”
With a strange kind of awe, I followed Biddy through the streets,
scarcely heeding her impassioned garrulity. The blood seemed freezing in
my veins, and my teeth chattered as though it had been the depth of
winter. As we drew near the place, I knew the house by the crowd that
had gathered around the back and side gates.
“Let us enter here,” said Biddy, as she placed her hand upon the heavy
plank gate at the back of the lot.
“Stop, Biddy, stop,” I gasped out, as I held on to the gate for support,
“I feel that I shall suffocate. Give me one moment to get my breath.”
“Oh, Ann, you are only frightened,” and she led me into the yard, where
we found about a dozen persons, mostly colored.
“Where is the woman that’s been kilt?” inquired Biddy, of a mulatto
“She ain’t quite dead. Pity she isn’t out of her misery, poor soul,”
said the mulatto girl.
“But where is she?” demanded Biddy.
“Oh, in thar, the first room in the basement,” and, half-led by Biddy, I
passed in through a mean, damp, musty basement. The noxious atmosphere
almost stifled us. Turning to the left as directed, we entered a low,
comfortless room, with brick walls and floor. Upon a pile of straw, in
this wretched place, lay a bleeding, torn, mangled body, with scarcely
life in it. Two colored women were bathing the wounds and wrapping
greased cloths round the body. I listened to her pitiful groans, until I
thought my forbearance would fail me.
“Poor soul!” said one of the colored women, “she has had a mighty bad
convulsion. I wish she could die and be sot free from misery.”
“Whar is de white folks?” asked another.
“Oh, dey is skeered, an’ done run off an’ hid up stairs.”
“Who done it?”
“Why, Miss Barkoff; she put Aunt Kaisy to clean de harth, an’ you see,
de poor ole critter had a broken arm. De white folks broke it once when
dey was beatin’ of her, and so she couldn’t work fast. Well den, too,
she’d been right sick for long time. You see she was right sickly like,
an’ when Miss Barkoff come back–she’d only bin gone a little while–an’
see’d dat de harth wasn’t done, she fell to beatin’ of de poor ole sick
critter, an’ den bekase she cried an’ hollered, she tuck her into de
coal-house, gagged her mouth, tied her hands an’ feet, an’ fell to
beatin’ of her, an’ she beat her till she got tired, den ole Barkoff
beat her till he got satisfied. Den some colored person seed him, an’
tole him dat he better stop, for Aunt Kaisy was most gone.”
“Yes, ’twas me,” said the other woman, “I was passin’ ‘long at de back
of de lot, an’ I hearn a mighty quare noise, so I jist looked through
the crack, an’ there I seed him a beatin’ of her, an’ I hollered to him
to stop, for de Lor’ sake, or she would die right dar. Den he got
skeered an’ run off in de house.”
The narration was here interrupted by a fearful groan from the sufferer.
One of the women very gently turned her over, with her face full toward
Oh, God have mercy on me! In those worn, bruised anguish-marked
features, in the glance of that failing, filmy eye, I recognized my
long-lost mother! With one loud shriek I fell down beside her! After
years of bitter separation, thus to meet! Oh that the recollection had
faded from my mind, but no, that awful sight is ever before my eyes! I
see her, even now, as there she lay bleeding to death! Oh that I had
been spared the knowledge of it!
There was the same mark upon the brow, and, I suppose, more by that
than the remembered features, was I enabled to identify her.
My frantic screams soon drew a crowd of persons to the room.
My mother, my dear, suffering mother, unclosed her eyes, and, by that
peculiar mesmerism belonging to all mothers, she knew it was her child
whose arms were around her.
“Ann, is it you?” she asked feebly.
“Yes, mother, it is I; but, oh, how do I find you!”
“Never mind me, child, I feel that I shall soon be at peace! ‘Tis for
you that I am anxious. Have you a good home?”
“Yes; oh, that you had had such!”
“Thank God for that. You are a woman now, I think; but I am growing
blind, or it is getting dark so fast that I cannot see you. Here, here,
hold me Ann, child, hold me close to you, I am going through the floor,
sinking, sinking down. Catch me, catch me, hold me! It is dark; I can’t
see you, where, where are you?”
“Here, mother, here, I am close to you.”
“Where, child, I can’t see you; here catch me;” and, suddenly springing
up as if to grasp something, she fell back upon the straw—-_a corpse_!
After such a separation, this was our meeting–and parting! I had hoped
that life’s bitterest drop had been tasted, but this was as “vinegar
When I became conscious that the last spark of life was extinct in that
beloved body, I gave myself up to the most delirious grief. As I looked
upon that horrid, ghastly, mangled form, and thought it was my mother,
who had been butchered by the whites, my very blood was turned to gall,
and in this chaos of mind I lost the faculty of reason.
* * * * * * * *
When my consciousness returned I was lying on a bed in my room, the
blinds of which were closed, and Miss Nancy was seated beside me,
rubbing my hands with camphor. As I opened my eyes, they met her kind
glance fixed earnestly upon me.
“You are better, Ann,” she said, in a low, gentle voice. I was too
languid to reply; but closed my eyes again, with a faint smile. When I
once more opened them I was alone, and through one shutter that had
blown open, a bright ray of sunlight stole, and revealed to me the care
and taste with which my room had been arranged. Fresh flowers in neat
little vases adorned the mantel; and the cage, containing Miss Nancy’s
favorite canary, had been removed to my room. The music of this
delightful songster broke gratefully upon my slowly awakening faculties.
I rose from the bed, and seated myself in the large arm-chair. Passing
my hand across my eyes, I attempted to recall the painful incidents of
the last few days; and as that wretched death-bed rose upon my memory,
the scalding tears rushed to my eyes, and I wept long, long, as though
my head were turned to waters!
Miss Nancy entered, and finding me in tears she said nothing; but turned
and left the room. Shortly after, Biddy appeared with some nourishment,
“Laws, Ann, but you have been dreadfully sick. You had fever, and talked
out of your head. Henry was here every evening. He said that once afore,
when you took the fevers, you was out of your head, just the same way.
He brought you flowers; there they are in the vase,” and she handed me
two beautiful bouquets.
In this pleasant way she talked on until I had satisfied the cravings of
an empty stomach with the niceties she had brought me.
That evening Henry came, and remained with me about half an hour. Miss
Nancy warned him that it was not well to excite me much. So with
considerable reluctance he shortened his visit.
When I began to gain strength Miss Nancy took me out in a carriage of
evenings; and had it not been for the melancholy recollections that hung
like a pall around my heart, life would have been beautiful to me. As we
drove slowly through the brightly-lighted streets, and looked in at the
gaudy and flaunting windows, where the gayest and most elegant articles
of merchandise were exhibited, I remarked to Miss Nancy, with a sigh,
“Life might be made a very gay and cheerful thing–almost a pleasure,
were it not for the wickedness of men.”
“Ah, yes, it might, indeed,” she replied, and the big tears rested upon
One evening when we had returned from a drive, I noticed that she ate
very little supper, and her hand trembled violently.
“You are sick, Miss Nancy,” I said.
“Yes, Ann, I feel strangely,” she replied.
“To-morrow you must go for my brother, and I will have a lawyer to draw
up my will. It would be dreadful if I were to die suddenly without
making a provision for you; then the bonds of slavery would be riveted
upon you, for by law you would pass into my brother’s possession.”
“Don’t trouble yourself about it now, dear Miss Nancy,” I said; “your
life is more precious than my liberty.”
“Not so, my good girl. The dawn of your life was dark, I hope that the
close may be bright. The beginning of mine was full of flowers; the
close will be serene, I trust; but ah, I’ve outlived many a blessed hope
that was a very rainbow in my dreaming years.”
I had always thought Miss Nancy’s early life had been filled with
trouble; else why and whence her strange, subdued, melancholy nature!
How much I would have given had she told me her history; yet I would not
add to her sadness by asking her to tell me of it.
The next morning I went for Mr. Moodwell, who, at Miss Nancy’s instance,
summoned a notary. The will was drawn up and witnessed by two competent
After this she began to improve rapidly. Her strength of body and
cheerfulness returned. About this time my peace of mind began to be
restored. Of my poor mother I never spoke, after hearing the particulars
that followed her death. She was hurriedly buried, without psalm or
sermon. No notice was taken by the citizens of her murder–why should
there be? She was but a poor slave, grown old and gray in the service of
the white man; and if her master chose to whip her to death, who had a
right to gainsay him? She was his property to have and to hold; to use
or to kill, as he thought best!
Give us no more Fourth of July celebrations; the rather let us have a
Miss Nancy, in her kind, persuasive manner, soon lured my thoughts away
from such gloomy contemplations. She sought to point out the pleasant,
easy pathway of wisdom and religion, and I thank her now for the good
lessons she then taught me! Beneath such influence I gradually grew
reconciled to my troubles. Miss Nancy fervently prayed that they might
be sanctified to my eternal good; and so may they!
Louise came often to see me, and I found her then as now, the kindest
and most willing friend; everything that she could do to please me she
did. She brought me many gifts of books, flowers, fruits, &c. I may have
been petulant and selfish in my grief; but those generous friends bore
patiently with me.
Pleasant walks I used to take with Henry of evenings, and he was then
so full of hope, for he had almost realized the sum of money that his
master required of him.
“Master will be down early in September,” he said, as we strolled along
one evening in August, “and I think by borrowing a little from Miss
Nancy, I shall be able to pay down all that I owe him, and then,
dearest, I shall be free–free! only think of it! Of _me_ being a free
man, master of _myself_! and when we go to the North we will be married,
and both of us will live with Miss Nancy, and guard her declining days.”
Happy tears were shining in his bright eyes, like dew-pearls; but, with
a strong, manly hand he dashed them away, and I clung the fonder to that
arm, that I hoped would soon be able to protect me.
“There is one foolish little matter, dearest, that I will mention, more
to excite your merriment, than fear,” said Henry with an odd smile.
“What is it?”
“Well, promise me not to care about it; only let it give you a good
“Yes, I promise.”
“Well,” and he paused for a moment, “there is a girl living near the
G—- House. She belongs to Mr. Bodley, and has taken a foolish fancy to
me; has actually made advances, even more than advances, actual offers
of love! She says she used to know you, and, on one occasion, attempted
to speak discreditably of you; though I quickly gave her to understand
that I would not listen to it. Why do you tremble so, Ann?”
And truly I trembled so violently, that if it had not been for the
support that his arm afforded me, I should have fallen to the ground.
“What is her name?” I asked.
“Melinda, and says she once belonged to Mr. Peterkin.”
“Yes, she did. We used to call her Lindy.”
I then told him what an evil spirit she had been in my path; and
ventured to utter a suspicion that her work of harm was yet unfinished,
that she meant me further injury.
“I know her now, dearest. You have unmasked her, and, with me, she can
have no possible power.”
I seemed to be satisfied, though in reality I was not, for apprehension
of an indefinable something troubled me sorely. The next day Miss Nancy
observed my troubled abstraction, and inquired the cause, with so much
earnestness, that I could not withhold my confidence, and gave her a
“And you think she will do you an injury?”
“I fear so.”
“But have you not forestalled that by telling Henry who she is, and how
she has acted toward you?”
“Yes, ma’m, and have been assured by him that she can do me no harm; but
the dread remains.”
“Oh, you are in a weak, nervous state; I am astonished at Henry for
telling you such a thing at this time.”
“He thought, ma’m, that it would amuse me, as a fine joke; and so I
supposed I should have enjoyed it.”
She did all she could to divert my thoughts, made Henry bring his banjo,
and play for me of evenings; bought pleasant romances for me to read;
ordered a carriage for a daily ride; purchased me many pretty articles
of apparel; but, most of all, I appreciated her kind and cheerful talk,
in which she strove to beguile me from everything gloomy or sad.
Once she sent me down to spend the day with Louise at the G—- House.
There was quite a crowd at the hotel. Southerners, who had come up to
pass their summer at the watering-places in Kentucky, had stopped here,
and, finding comfortable lodgment, preferred it to the springs; then
there were many others travelling to the North and East _via_ L—-, who
were stopping there. This increased Henry’s duties, so that I saw him
but seldom during the day. Once or twice he came to Louise’s room, and
told me that he was unusually busy; but that he had earned four dollars
that day, from different persons, in small change, and that he would be
able to make his final payment the next month.
All this was very encouraging, and I was in unusually fine spirits. As
Louise and I sat talking in the afternoon, she remarked–
“Well, Ann, early next month Henry will make his last payment; and we
have concluded to go North the latter part of the same month. When will
Miss Nancy be ready to go?”
“Oh, she can make her arrangements to start at the same time. I will
speak to her about it this evening.”
And then, as we sat planning about a point of location, a shadow
darkened the door. I looked up–and, after a long separation, despite
both natural and artificial changes, I recognized _Lindy_! I let my
sewing fall from my hands and gazed upon her with as much horror as if
she had been an apparition! Louise spoke kindly to her, and asked her to
“Why, how d’ye do, Ann? I hearn you was livin’ in de city, and intended
to come an’ see you.”
I stammered out something, and she seated herself near me, and began to
revive old recollections.
“They are not pleasant, Lindy, and I would rather they should be
“Laws, I’s got a very good home now; but I ‘tends to marry some man that
will buy me, and set me free! Now, I’s got my eye sot on Henry.”
I trembled violently, but did not trust myself to speak. Louise,
however, in a quick tone, replied:
“He is engaged, and soon to be married to Ann.”
“Laws! I doesn’t b’lieve it; Ann shan’t take him from me.”
Though this was said playfully, it was easy for me to detect, beneath
the seeming levity, a strong determination, on her part, to do her very
_worst_. No wonder that I trembled before her, when I remembered how
powerful an enemy she had been in former times.
With a few other remarks she left, and Louise observed:
“That Lindy is a queer girl. With all her ignorance and ugliness, she
excites my dread when I am in her presence–a dread of a supposed and
envenomed power, such as the black cat possesses.”
“Such has ever been the feeling, Louise, that she has excited in me.
She has done me harm heretofore; and do you know, I think she means me
ill now. I have uttered this suspicion to Henry and Miss Nancy, but they
both laughed it to scorn–saying _she_ was powerless to injure _me_; but
still my fear remains, and, when I think of her, I grow sick at heart.”
Upon my return home that evening I told Miss Nancy of the meeting with
Lindy, and of the conversation, but she attached no importance to it.
No one living beneath the vine and fig-tree of Miss Nancy’s planting,
and sharing the calm blessedness of her smiles, could be long unhappy!
Her life, as well as words, was a proof that human nature is not all
depraved. In thinking over the rare combination of virtues that her
character set forth, I have marvelled what must have been her childhood.
Certainly she could never have possessed the usual waywardness of
children. Her youth must have been an exception to the general rule. I
cannot conceive her with the pettishness and proneness to quarrel, which
we naturally expect in children. I love to think of her as a quiet
little Miss, discarding the doll and play-house, turning quietly away
from the frolicsome kitten–seeking the leafy shade of the New England
forests–peering with a curious, thoughtful eye into the woodland
dingle–or straining her gaze far up into the blue arch of heaven–or
questioning, with a child’s idle speculation, the whence and the whither
of the mysterious wind. ‘Tis thus I have pictured her childhood! She was
a strange, gifted, unusual woman;–who, then, can suppose that her
infancy and youth were ordinary?
To this day her memory is gratefully cherished by hundreds. Many little
pauper children have felt the kindness of her charity; and those who are
now independent remember the time when her bounty rescued them from
want, and “they rise up to call her blessed!”
Often have I gone with her upon visits and errands of charity. Through
many a dirty alley have those dainty feet threaded a dangerous way; and
up many a dizzy, dismal flight of ricketty steps have I seen them
ascend, and never heard a petulant word, or saw a haughty look upon her
face! She never went upon missions of charity in a carriage, or, if she
was too weak to walk all the way, she discharged the vehicle before she
got in sight of the hovel. “Let us not be ostentatious,” she would say,
when I interposed an objection to her taking so long a walk. “Besides,”
she added, “let us give no offence to these suffering poor ones. Let
them think we come as sisters to relieve them; not as Dives, flinging to
Lazarus the crumbs of our bounty!”
Beautiful Christian soul! baptized with the fire of the Holy Ghost,
endowed with the same saintly spirit that rendered lovely the life of
her whom the Saviour called Mother! thou art with the Blessed now! After
a life of earnest, godly piety, thou hast gone to receive thine
inheritance above, and wear the Amaranthine Crown! for thou didst obey
the Saviour’s sternest mandate–sold thy possessions, and gave all to
I have paused much before writing this chapter. I have taken up my pen
and laid it down an hundred times, with the task unfulfilled–the duty
unaccomplished. A nervous sensation, a chill of the heart, have
restrained my pen–yet the record must be made.
I have that to tell, from which both body and soul shrink. Upon me a
fearful office has been laid! I would that others, with colder blood and
less personal interest, could make this disclosure; but it belongs to my
history; nay, is the very nucleus from which all my reflections upon the
institution of slavery have sprung. Reader, did you ever have a wound–a
deep, almost a mortal wound–whereby your life was threatened, which,
after years of nursing and skilful surgical treatment, had healed, and
was then again rudely torn open? This is my situation. I am going to
tear open, with a rude hand, a deep wound, that time and kind friends
have not availed to cure. But like little, timid children, hurrying
through a dark passage, fearing to look behind them, I shall hasten
rapidly over this part of my life, never pausing to comment upon the
terrible facts I am recording. “I have placed my hand to the
ploughshare, and will not turn back.”
Let me recall that fair and soft evening, in the early September, when
Henry and I, with hand clasped in hand, sat together upon the little
balcony. How sweet-scented was the gale that fanned our brows! The air
was soft and balmy, and the sweet serenity of the hour was broken only
by that ever-pleasant music of the gently-roaring falls! Fair and
queenly sailed the uprisen moon, through a cloudless sea of blue, whilst
a few faint stars, like fire-flies, seemed flitting round her.
Long we talked of the happiness that awaited us on the morrow. Henry had
arranged to meet his master, Mr. Graham, on that day, and make the final
“Dearest, I lack but fifty dollars of the amount,” he said, as he laid
his head confidingly on my shoulder.
“Ten of which I can give you.”
“And the remaining forty I will make up,” said Miss Nancy as she stepped
out of the door, and, placing a pocket-book in Henry’s hand, she added,
“there is the amount, take it and be happy.”
Whilst he was returning thanks, I went to get my contribution. Drawing
from my trunk the identical ten-dollar note that good Mr. Trueman had
given me, I hastened to present it to Henry, and make out the sum that
was to give us both so much joy.
“Here, Henry,” I exclaimed, as I rejoined them, “are ten dollars, which
kind Mr. Trueman gave me.”
Miss Nancy sighed deeply. I turned around, but she said with a smile:
“How different is your life now from what it was when that money was
“Yes, indeed,” I answered; “and, thanks, my noble benefactress, to you
“Let me,” she continued, without noticing my remark, “see that note.”
I immediately handed it to her. Could I be mistaken? No; she actually
pressed it to her lips! But then she was such a philanthropist, and she
loved the note because it was the means of bringing us happiness. She
handed it back to me with another sigh.
“When he gave it to me, he bade me receive it as his contribution toward
the savings I was about to lay up for the purchase of myself. Now what
joy it gives me to hand it to you, Henry.” He was weeping, and could not
trust his voice to answer.
“And Ann shall soon be free. Next week we will all start for the North,
and then, my good friends, your white days will commence,” said Miss
“Oh, Heaven bless you, dear saint,” cried Henry, whose utterance was
choked by tears. Miss Nancy and I both wept heartily; but mine were
happy tears, grateful as the fragrant April showers!
“Why this is equal to a camp-meeting,” exclaimed Louise, who had,
unperceived by us, entered the front-door, passed through the hall, and
now joined us upon the portico.
Upon hearing of Henry’s good fortune, she began to weep also.
“Will you not let me make one of the party for the North?” she inquired
of Miss Nancy.
“Certainly, we shall be glad to have you, Louise; but come, Henry, get
your banjo, and play us a pleasant tune.”
He obeyed with alacrity, and I never heard his voice sound so rich,
clear and ringing. How magnificent he looked, with the full radiance of
the moonlight streaming over his face and form! His long flossy black
hair was thrown gracefully back from his broad and noble brow; whilst
his dark flashing eye beamed with unspeakable joy, and the animation
that flooded his soul lent a thrill to his voice, and a majesty to his
frame, that I had never seen or heard before. Surely I was very proud
and happy as I looked on him then!
Before we parted, Miss Nancy invited him and Louise to join us in family
devotion. After reading a chapter in the Bible, and a short but eloquent
and impressive prayer, she besought Heaven to shed its most benign
blessings on us; and that our approaching good fortune might not make us
forget Him from whom every good and perfect gift emanated; and thus
closed that delightful evening!
After Henry had taken an affectionate farewell of me, and departed with
Louise, he, to my surprise, returned in a few moments, and finding the
house still open, called me out upon the balcony.
“Dearest, I could not resist a strange impulse that urged me to come
back and look upon you once again. How beautiful you are, my love!” he
said as he pushed the masses of hair away from my brow, and imprinted a
kiss thereon. He was so tardy in leaving, that I had to chide him two or
“I cannot leave you, darling.”
“But think,” I replied, “of the joy that awaits us on the morrow.”
At last, and at Miss Nancy’s request, he left, but turned every few
steps to look back at the house.
“How foolish Henry is to-night,” said Miss Nancy, as she withdrew her
head from the open window. “Success and love have made him foolishly
“Quite turned his brain,” I replied; “but he will soon be calm again.”
“Oh, yes, he will find that life is an earnest work, as well for the
freeman as the bondsman.”
I lay for a long time on my bed in a state of sleeplessness, and it was
past midnight when I fell asleep, and then, oh, what a terrible dream
came to torture me! I thought I had been stolen off by a kidnapper, and
confined for safe keeping in a charnel-house, an ancient receptacle for
the dead, and there, with blue lights burning round me, I lay amid the
dried bones and fleshless forms of those who had once been living
beings; and the vile and loathsome gases almost stifled me. By that dim
blue light I strove to find some door or means of egress from the
terrible place, and just as I had found the door and was about to fit a
rusty key into the lock, a long, lean body, decked out in shroud,
winding-sheet and cap, with hollow cheek and cadaverous face, and eyes
devoid of all speculation, suddenly seized me with its cold, skeleton
hand. Slowly the face assumed the expression of Lindy’s, then faded into
that of Mr. Peterkin’s. I attempted to break from it, but I was held
with a vice-like power. With a loud, frantic scream I broke from the
trammels of sleep. A cold, death-like sweat had broken out on my body.
My screaming had aroused Miss Nancy and Biddy. Both came rushing into my
After a few moments I told them of my dream.
“A bad attack of incubus,” remarked Miss Nancy, “but she is cold; rub
her well, Biddy.”
With a very good will the kind-hearted Irish girl obeyed her. I could
not, however, be prevailed upon to try to sleep again; and as it wanted
but an hour of the dawn, Biddy consented to remain up with me. We
dressed ourselves, and sitting down by the closed window, entered into a
very cheerful conversation. Biddy related many wild legends of the
“_ould country_,” in which I took great interest.
Gradually we saw the stars disappear, and the moon go down, and the pale
gray streaks of dawn in the eastern sky!
I threw up the windows, exclaiming: “Oh, Biddy, as the day dawns, I
begin to suffocate. I feel just as I did in the dream. Give me air,
quick.” More I could not utter, for I fell fainting in the arms of the
faithful girl. She dashed water in my face, chafed my hands and temples,
and consciousness soon returned.
“Why, happiness and good fortune do excite you strangely; but they say
there are some that it sarves just so.”
“Oh no, Biddy, I am not very well,–a little nervous. I will take some
When I joined Miss Nancy, she refused to let me assist her in dressing,
“No, Ann, you look ill. Don’t trouble yourself to do anything. Go lie
down and rest.”
I assured her repeatedly that I was perfectly well; but she only smiled,
and said in a commendatory tone,
“Good girl, good girl!”
All the morning I was fearfully nervous, starting at every little sound
or noise. At length Miss Nancy became seriously uneasy, and compelled me
to take a sedative.
As the day wore on, I began to grow calm. The sedative had taken
effect, and my nervousness was allayed.
I took my sewing in the afternoon, and seated myself in Miss Nancy’s
room. Seeing that I was calm, she began a pleasant conversation with me.
“Henry will be here to-night, Ann, a free man, the owner of himself, the
custodian of his own person, and you must put on your happiest and best
looks to greet him.”
“Ah, Miss Nancy, it seems like too much joy for me to realize. What if
some grim phantom dash down this sparkling cup; just as we are about to
press it to our eager and expectant lips? Such another disappointment I
could not endure.”
“You little goosey, you will mar half of life’s joys by these idle
“Yes, Miss Nancy,” put in Biddy. “Ann is just so narvous ever since that
ugly dream, that she hain’t no faith to-day in anything.”
“Have you baked a pretty cake, and got plenty of nice confections ready
to give Henry a celebration supper, good Biddy?” inquired Miss Nancy.
“Ah, yes, everything is ready, only just look how light and brown my
cake is,” and she brought a fine large cake from the pantry, the savory
odor of which would have tempted an anchorite.
“Then, too,” continued the provident Biddy, “the peaches are unusually
soft and sweet. I have pared and sugared them, and they are on the ice
now; oh, we’ll have a rale feast.”
“Thanks, thanks, good friends,” I said, in a voice choked with emotion.
“Only just see,” exclaimed Biddy, “here comes Louise, running as fast as
her legs will carry her; she’s come to be the first to tell you that
Henry is free.”
I rushed with Biddy to the door, and Miss Nancy followed. We were all
eager to hear the good news.
“Mercy, Louise, what’s the matter?” I cried, for her face terrified me.
She was pale as death; her eyes, black and wild, seemed starting from
their sockets, and around her mouth there was that ghastly, livid look,
that almost congealed my blood.
“Oh, God!” she cried in frenzy, “God have mercy on us all!” and reeled
against the wall.
“Speak, woman, speak, in heaven’s name,” I shouted aloud. “Henry! Henry!
Henry! has aught happened to him?”
“Oh, God!” she said, and her eyes flamed like a fury’s; “_he has cut his
throat_, and now lies weltering in his own blood.”
I did not scream, I did not speak. I shed no tears. I did not even close
my eyes. Every sense had turned to stone! For full five minutes I stood
looking in the face of Louise.
“Why don’t you speak, Ann! Cry, imprecate, do something, rather than
stand there with that stony gaze!” said Louise, as she caught me
frantically by the arm.
“Why did he kill himself?” I asked, in an unfaltering tone.
“He went, in high spirits, to make his last payment to his master, who
was at the hotel. ‘Here, master,’ he said, ‘is all that I owe you;
please make out the bill of sale, or my free papers.’ Mr. Graham took
the money, with a smile, counted it over twice, slowly placed it in his
pocket-book, and said, ‘Henry, you are my slave; I hired you to a good
place, where you were well treated; had time to make money for yourself.
Now, according to law, you, as a slave, cannot have or hold property.
Everything, even to your knife, is your master’s. All of your earnings
come to me. So, in point of law, I was entitled to all the money that
you have paid me. Legally it was mine, not yours; so I did but receive
from you my own. Notwithstanding all this I was willing to let you have
yourself, and intended to act with you according to our first
arrangement; but upon coming here the other day, a servant girl of Mr.
Bodly’s, named Lindy, informed me that you were making preparations to
run off, and cheat me out of the last payment. She stated that you had
told her so; and you intended to start one night this week. I was so
enraged by it, that yesterday I sold you to a negro trader; and you
must start down the river to-morrow.'”
“‘Master, it is a lie of the girl’s; I never had any thought of running
off, or cheating you out of your money.’ Henry then told him of Lindy’s
“‘Yes, you have proved it was a lie, by coming and paying me: but
nothing can be done now; I have signed the papers, and you are the
property of Atkins. I have not the power to undo what I have done.’
“‘But, Master,’ pleaded Henry, ‘can’t you refund the money that I have
paid you, and let me buy myself from Mr. Atkins?’
“‘Refund the money, indeed! Who ever heard of such impertinence? Have I
not just shown that all that you made was by right of law mine? No; go
down the river, serve your time, work well, and may be in the course of
fifteen or twenty years you may be able to buy yourself.’
“‘Oh, master!’ cried out the weeping Henry, ‘pity me, please save me, do
“‘I can do nothing for you; go, get your trunk ready, here comes Mr.
Atkins for you.’
“Henry turned towards the hard trader, and with a face contracted with
pain, and eyes raining tears, begged for mercy.
“‘Go long you fool of a nigger! an’ git ready to go to the pen, without
this fuss, or I’ll have you tied with ropes, and taken.’
“Henry said no more; I had overheard all from an adjoining room. I tried
to avoid him; but he sought me out.
“‘Louise,’ he said, in a tone which I shall never forget.
“‘I have heard all,’ was my reply.
“‘Will you see Ann for me? Take her a word from me? Tell how it was,
Louise; break the news gently to her.’ Here he quite gave up, and,
sinking into a chair, sobbed and cried like a child.
“‘Be a friend to her, Louise; I know that she will need much kindness to
sustain her. Thank Miss Nancy for all her kindness; tell her that I
blest her before I went. Tell Ann to stay with her, and oh,
Louise’–here he wrung his hands in agony–‘tell Ann not to grieve for
me; but she mustn’t forget me. Poor, wretched outcast that I am, I have
loved her well! After awhile, when time has softened this blow, she must
try to love and be happy with—- No, no, I’ll not ask that; only bid
her not be wretched;–but give me pen and ink, I’ll write just one word
“I gave him the ink, pen and paper, and he wrote this.”
As Louise drew a soiled, blotted paper from her bosom, I eagerly
snatched it and read:
“Ann, dearest, Louise will tell you all. Our dream is broken forever! I
_am sold_; but I shall be a slave _no more_. Forgive me for what I am
going to do. Madness has driven me to it! I love you, even in death I
love you. Say farewell to Miss Nancy–I _am gone_!”
I read it over twice slowly. One scalding tear, large and round, fell
upon it! I know not where it came from, for my eyes were dry as a
The note dropped from my hands, almost unnoticed by me. Biddy picked it
up, and handed it to Miss Nancy, who read it and fainted. I moved about
mechanically; assisted in restoring Miss Nancy to consciousness; chafed
her hands and temples; and, when she came to, and burst into a flood of
tears, I soothed her and urged that she would not weep or distress
“I wonder that the earth don’t open and swallow them,” cried the weeping
“Hush, Biddy, hush!” I urged.
“They ought to be hung!”
“‘Vengeance is mine, and I will repay, saith the Lord,'” I replied.
“Oh, Ann, you are crazy!” she uttered.
And so, in truth, I was. That granite-like composure was a species of
insanity. I comprehended nothing that was going on around me. I was in a
sort of sleep-waking state, when I asked Louise if she thought they
would bury him decently; and gave her a bunch of flowers to place in the
And so my worst suspicion was realized! Through Lindy came my heaviest
blow of affliction! I fear that even now, after the lapse of years, I
have not the Christianity to ask, “Father, forgive her, for she knew not
what she did!” Lying beside me now, dear, sympathetic reader, is _that
note–his last brief words_. Before writing this chapter I read it over.
Old, soiled and worn it was, but by his trembling fingers those blotted
and irregular lines were penned; and to me they are precious, though
they awaken ten thousand bitter emotions! I look at the note but once a
year, and then on the fatal anniversary, which occurs to-day! I have
pressed it to my heart, and hearsed it away, not to be re-opened for
another year. This is the blackest chapter in my dark life, and you will
feel, with me, glad that it is about to close. I have nerved myself for
the duty of recording it, and, now that it is over, I sink down faint
and broken-hearted beside the accomplished task.