The winter was now drawing to a close. The heavy, dreary winter, that
had hung like an incubus upon my hours, was fast drawing to an end. Many
a little, tuneful bird came chirping with the sunny days of the waning
February. Already the sunbeam had begun to give us a hint of the
spring-warmth; the ice had melted away, and the moistened roofs of the
houses began to smoke with the drying breath of the sun, and little
green pods were noticeable upon the dried branches of the forest trees.
It was on such a day, when the eye begins to look round upon Nature, and
almost expects to solve the wondrous phenomenon of vegetation, that I
was engaged arranging Miss Jane’s wardrobe. I had just done up some
laces for her, and finished off a nice silk morning-dress. She was
making extensive preparations for a visit to the city of L. The
protracted rigors of the winter and her own fancied ill-health had
induced her to postpone the trip until the opening of spring.
It was decided that I should accompany her as lady’s maid; and the fact
is, I was desirous of any change from the wearying monotony of my life.
Young master had been absent during the whole winter. Frequent letters
from Dr. Mandy (who had accompanied him) informed the family of his
slowly-improving health; yet the doctor stated in each communication
that he was not strong enough to write a letter himself. This alarmed
me, for I knew that he must be excessively weak, if he denied himself
the gratification of writing to his family. Miss Bradly came to the
house but seldom; and then only to inquire the news from young master.
Her principles upon the slavery question had become pretty well known in
the neighborhood; so her residence there was not the most pleasant.
Inuendoes, of a most insulting character, had been thrown out, highly
prejudicial to her situation. Foul slanders were in busy circulation
about her, and she began to be a taboed person. So I was not surprised
to hear her tell Miss Jane that she thought of returning to the North
early in the spring. I had never held any private conversation with her
since that memorable one; for now that her principles were known, she
was too much marked for a slave to be allowed to speak with her alone.
Her sorrowful face struck me with pity. I knew her to be one of that
time-serving kind, by whom the loss of caste and social position is
regarded as the most fell disaster.
As I turned the key of Miss Jane’s wardrobe, she came into the room,
with an unusually excited manner, exclaiming,
“Ann, where is your Miss Tildy?”
Upon my answering that I did not know, she bade me go and seek her
instantly, and say that she wished to speak with her. As I left the
room, I observed Miss Jane draw a letter from the folds of her dress.
This was hint enough. My mother-wit told me the rest.
Finding Miss Tildy with a book, in a quiet corner of the parlor, I
delivered Miss Jane’s message, and withdrew. The contents of Miss Jane’s
letter soon became known; for it was, to her, of such an exciting
nature, that it could not be held in secresy. The letter was from Mr.
Summerville, and announced that he would pay her a visit in the course
of a few days.
And, for the next “few days,” the whole house was in a perfect
consternation. All hands were at work. Carpets were taken up, shaken,
and put down again with the “clean side” up. Paint was scoured, windows
were washed; the spare bedroom was re-arranged, and adjusted in style;
the French couch was overspread with Miss Tildy’s silk quilt, that had
taken the prize at the Agricultural Fair; and fresh bouquets were
collected from the green-house, and placed upon the mantel. Everything
looked very nice about the house, and in the kitchen all sorts of
culinary preparations had gone on. Cakes, cookies, and confections had
been made in abundance. As Amy expressed it, in her quaintly comical
way, “Christmas is comin’ again.” It was the first and only time since
the departure of “the children,” that I had heard her indulge in any of
her old drollery.
At length the “day” arrived, and with it came Mr. Summerville. Whilst he
remained with us, everything went off in the way that Miss Jane desired.
There were fine dinners, with plenty of wine, roast turkey, curry
powder, desserts, &c. The silver and best china had been brought out,
and Mr. Peterkin behaved himself as well as he could. He even consented
to use a silver fork, which, considering his prejudice against the
article, was quite a concession for him to make.
Time sped on (as it always will do), and brought the end of the week,
and with it, the end of Mr. Summerville’s visit. I thought, from a
certain softening of Miss Jane’s eye, and from the length of the parting
interview, that “_matters_” had been arranged between her and Mr.
Summerville. After the last adieu had been given, and Miss Jane had
rubbed her eyes enough with her fine pocket-handkerchief (or, perhaps,
in this case, it would be well to employ the suggestion of a modern
author, and say her “lachrymal,”) I say, after all was over, and Mr.
Summerville’s interesting form was fairly lost in the distance, Miss
Tildy proposed that they should settle down to their usual manner of
living. Accordingly, the silver was all rubbed brightly by Amy, whose
business it was, then handed over to Miss Tildy to be locked up in the
For a few weeks matters went on with their usual dullness. Master was
still smoking his cob-pipe, kicking negroes, and blaspheming; and Miss
Jane making up little articles for the approaching visit to the city.
She and Miss Tildy sat a great deal in their own room, talking and
speculating upon the coming joys. Passing in and out, I frequently
caught fragments of conversation that let me into many of their
secrets. Thus I learned that Miss Jane’s chief object in visiting the
city was to purchase a bridal trousseau, that Mr. Summerville “had
proposed,” and, of course, been accepted. He lived in the city; so it
was decided that, after the celebration of the nuptial rite, Miss Tildy
should accompany the bride to her new home, and remain with her for
Sundry little lace caps were manufactured; handkerchiefs embroidered;
dresses made and altered; collars cut, and an immence deal of
“transfering” was done by the sisters Peterkin.
We, of the “colored population,” were stinted even more than formerly;
for they deemed it expedient to economize, in order to be the better
able to meet the pecuniary exigencies of the marriage. Thus time wore
along, heavily enough for the slaves; but doubtless delightful to the
white family. The enjoyment of pleasure, like all other prerogatives,
they considered as exclusively their own.
Time, in its rugged course, had brought no change to Amy. If her heart
had learned to bear its bereavement better, or had grown more tender in
its anxious waiting, we knew it not from her word or manner. The same
settled, rocky look, the same abstracted air, marked her deportment.
Never once had I heard her laugh, or seen her weep. She still avoided
conversation, and was assiduous in the discharge of her domestic duties.
If she did a piece of work well, and was praised for it, she received
the praise with the same indifferent air; or if, as was most frequently
the case, she was harshly chided and severely punished, ’twas all the
same. No tone or word could move those rigid features.
One evening Miss Bradly came over to see the young ladies, and inquire
the latest news from young master. Miss Jane gave orders that the table
should be set with great care, and all the silver displayed. They had
long since lost their olden familiarity, and, out of respect to the
present coldness that existed between them, they (the Misses Peterkin)
desired to show off “before the discredited school-mistress.” I heard
Miss Bradly ask Mr. Peterkin when he heard from young master.
“I’ve just got a letter from Dr. Mandy. They ar’ still in New Orleans;
but expected to start for home in ’bout three days. The doctor gives me
very little cause for hope; says Johnny is mighty weak, and had a pretty
tough cough. He says the night-sweats can’t be broke; and the boy is
very weak, not able to set up an hour at a time. This is very
discouragin’, Miss Emily. Sometimes it ‘pears like ‘twould kill me, too,
my heart is so sot ‘pon that boy;” and here Mr. Peterkin began to smoke
with great violence, a sure sign that he was laboring under intense
“He is a very noble youth,” said Miss Bradly, with a quivering voice and
a moist eye; “I am deeply attached to him, and the thought of his death
is one fraught with pain to me. I hope Doctor Mandy is deceived in the
prognostics he deems so bad. Johnny’s life is a bright example, and one
that is needed.”
“Yes, you think it will aid the Abolition cause; but not in this region,
I can assure you,” said Miss Tildy, as she tossed her head knowingly.
“I’d like to know where Johnny learned all the Anti-slavery cant. Do you
know, Miss Emily, that your incendiary principles lost you caste in this
neighborhood, where you once stood as a model?”
Miss Tildy had touched Miss Bradly in her vulnerable point. “Caste” was
a thing that she valued above reputation, and reckoned more desirable
than honor. Had it not been for a certain goodness of heart, from which
she could not escape (though she had often tried) she would have
renounced her Anti-slavery sentiments and never again avowed them; but
young master’s words had power to rescue her almost shipwrecked
principles, and then, whilst smarting under the lash of his rebuke, she
attempted, like many an astute politician, to “run on both sides of the
question;” but this was an equivocal position that the “out and out”
Kentuckians were not going to allow. She had to be, in their distinct
phraseology, “one thing or the other;” and, accordingly, aided by young
master and her sense of justice, she avowed herself “the other.” And,
of course, with this avowal, came the loss of cherished friends. In
troops they fell away from her. Their averted looks and distant nods
nearly drove her mad. If young master had been by to encourage and
sustain her with gracious words, she could have better borne it; but,
single-handed and alone, she could not battle against adversity. And now
this speech of Miss Tildy’s was very untimely. She winced under it, yet
dared not reply. What a contemptible character, to the brave mind, seems
one lacking moral courage!
“I want to see Johnny once again, and then I shall leave for the North,”
said Miss Bradly, in a pitiful tone.
“See Naples and die, eh?” laughed Miss Tildy.
“Always and ever ready with your fun,” replied Miss Bradly.
At first her wiry turnings, her open and shameless sycophancy, and now
her cringing and fawning upon the Peterkins, caused me to lose all
respect for her. In the hour of her trouble, when deserted by those whom
she had loved as friends, when her pecuniary prospects were blighted, I
felt deeply for her, and even forgave the falsehood; but now when I saw
her shrink from the taunt and invective of Miss Tildy, and then minister
to her vanity, I felt that she was too little even for contempt. At tea,
that evening, whilst serving the table, I was surprised to observe Miss
Jane’s face very red with anger, and her manner exceedingly irascible. I
began to wonder if I had done anything to exasperate her; but could
think of no offence of which I had been guilty. I knew from the way in
which she conversed with all at the table, that none of them were
offenders. I was the more surprised at her anger, as she had been, for
the last week, in such an excellent humor, getting herself ready for the
visit to the city. Oh, how I dreaded to see Miss Bradly leave, for then,
I knew the storm would break in all its fury!
I was standing in the kitchen, alone, trying to think what could have
offended Miss Jane, when Amy came up to me, saying,
“Oh, Ann, two silver forks is lost, an’ Miss Tildy done ‘cuse me of
stealin’ ’em, an’ I declar ‘fore heaven, I gib ebery one of ’em to Miss
Tildy de mornin’ Misser Summerbille lef, an’ now she done told Miss Jane
dat I told a lie, and that I stole ’em. Lor’ knows what dey is gwine to
do ‘long wid me; but I don’t kere much, so dey kills me soon and sets me
out my misery at once.”
“When did they miss the forks?”
“Wy, to-night, when I went to set de table, I found dat two of ’em
wasn’t dar; so I axed Miss Tildy whar dey was, an’ she said she didn’t
know. Den I axed Miss Jane; she say, ‘ax Miss Tildy.’ Den when I told
Miss Tildy dat, she got mad; struck me a lick right cross my face. Den I
told her bout de time Mr. Summerbille lef, when I give ’em to her. She
say, ‘you’s a liar, an’ hab stole ’em.’ Den I begun to declar I hadn’t,
and she call Miss Jane, and say to her dat she knowed I hab stole ’em,
and Miss Jane got mad; kicked me, pulled my har till I screamed; den I
‘spose she did ‘ant want Miss Bradly to hear me; so she stopped, but
swar she’d beat me to death if I didn’t get ’em fur her right off. Now,
Ann, I doesn’t know whar dey is, if I was to be kilt for it.”
She drew the back of her hand across her eyes, and I saw that it was
moist. I was glad of this, for her silent endurance was more horrible to
look upon than this physical softness.
“Oh, God!” I exclaimed, “I would that young master were here.”
“What fur, Ann?”
“He might intercede and prevent them from using you so cruelly.”
“I doesn’t wish he was har; for I lubs young Masser, an’ he is good; if
he was to see me a sufferin’ it wud stress him, an’ make his complaint
worse; an’ he couldn’t do no good; for dey will beat me, no matter who
begs. Ob, it does seem so strange that black people was eber made. I is
glad dat de chillen isn’t har; for de sight ob dem cryin’ round de
‘post,’ wud nearly kill me. I can bar anythin’ fur myself, but not fur
’em. Oh, I hopes dey is dead.”
And here she heaved a dreadful groan. This was the first time I had
heard her allude to them, and I felt a choking rush in my throat.
“Don’t cry, Ann, take kere ob yourself. It ‘pears like my time has come.
I don’t feel ‘feard, an’ dis is de fust time I’se eber bin able to speak
’bout de chillen. If eber you sees ’em, (I niver will), tell ’em dat I
niver did forget ’em; dat night an’ day my mind was sot on ’em, an’
please, Ann, gib ’em dis.”
Here she took from her neck a string that held her mother’s gift, and
the coin young master had given her, suspended to it. She looked at it
long and wistfully, then, slowly pressing it to her lips, she said in a
low, plaintive voice that went to my heart, “Poor Mammy.”
I then took it from her, and hid it in my pocket. A cold horror stole
over me. I had not the power to gainsay her; for an instinctive idea
that something terrible was going to occur, chained my lips.
“Ann, I thanks you for all your kindness to me. I hopes you may hab a
better time den I has hab. I feel, Ann, as if I niver should come down
from dat post alive.
“Trust in God, Amy.”
She shook her head despairingly.
“He will save you.”
“No, God don’t kare for black folks.”
“What did young master tell you about that? Did he not say God loved all
His creatures alike?”
“Yes, but black folks aint God’s critters.”
“Yes, they are, just as much as white people.”
“No dey aint.”
“Oh, Amy, I wish I could make you understand how it is.”
“You kant make me belieb dat ar’ way, no how you can fix it. God don’t
kare what a comes ob niggers; an’ I is glad he don’t, kase when I dies,
I’ll jist lay down and rot like de worms, and dere wont be no white
folks to ‘buse me.”
“No, there will be no white folks to abuse you in heaven; but God and
His angels will love you, if you will do well and try to get there.”
“I don’t want to go ther, for God is one of the white people, and, in
course, he’d beat de niggers.”
Oh, was not this fearful, fearful ignorance? Through the solid rock of
her obtusity, I could, with no argument of mine, make an aperture for a
ray of heavenly light to penetrate. Do Christians, who send off
missionaries, realize that heathendom exists in their very midst; aye,
almost at their own hearthstone? Let them enlighten those that dwell in
the bonds of night on their own borders; then shall their efforts in
distant lands be blest. Numberless instances, such as the one I have
recorded, exist in the slave States. The masters who instruct their
slaves in religion, could be numbered; and I will venture to assert
that, if the census were taken in the State of Kentucky, the number
would not exceed twenty. Here and there you will find an instance of a
mistress who will, perhaps, on a Sunday evening, talk to a female slave
about the propriety of behaving herself; but the gist of the argument,
the hinge upon which it turns, is–“obey your master and mistress;” upon
this one precept hang all the law and the prophets.
That night, after my house duties were discharged, I went to the cabin,
where I found Amy lying on her face, weeping bitterly. I lifted her up,
and tried to console her; but she exclaimed, with more energy than I had
ever heard her,
“Ann, every ting seems so dark to me. I kan’t see past to-morrow. I has
bin thinkin’ of Aunt Polly; I keeps seein’ her, no matter what way I
“You are frightened,” I ventured to say.
“No, I isn’t, but I feels curus.”
“Let me teach you to pray.”
“Will it do me any good?”
“Yes, if you put faith in God.”
“Believe that God is strong and willing to save you; that is faith.”
“Who is God? I never seed him.”
“No, but He sees you.”
“Whar is He?” and she looked fearfully around the room, in which the
scanty fire threw a feeble glare.
“Everywhere. He is everywhere,” I answered.
“Is He in dis room?” she asked in terror, and drew near me.
“Yes, He is here.”
“Oh lor! He may tell Masser on me.”
This ignorance may, to the careless reader, seem laughable; but, to me,
it was most horrible, and I could not repress my tears. Here was the
force of education. Master was to her the strongest thing or person in
existence. Of course she could not understand a higher power than that
which had governed her life. There are hundreds as ignorant; but no
missionaries come to enlighten them!
“Oh, don’t speak that way; you know God made you.”
“Yes, but dat was to please Masser. He made me fur to be a slave.”
Now, how would the religious slave-holder answer that?
I strove, but with no success, to make her understand that over her
soul, her temporal master had no control; but her ignorance could not
see a difference between the body and soul. Whoever owned the former,
she thought, was entitled to the latter. Finding I could make no
impression upon her mind, I lay down and tried to sleep; but rest was an
alien to me. I dreaded the breaking of the morn. Poor Amy slept, and I
was glad that she did. Her overtaxed body yielded itself up to the most
profound rest. In the morning, when I saw her sleeping so soundly on the
pallet, I disliked to arouse her. I felt, as I fancied a human jailer
must feel, whose business it is to awaken a criminal on the morning of
his execution; yet I had it to do, for, if she had been tardy at her
work, it would have enraged her tyrants the more, and been worse for
Rubbing her eyes, she sat upright on the pallet and murmured,
“Dis is de day. I’s to be led to de post, and maybe kilt.”
I dared not comfort her, and only bade her to make haste and attend to
At breakfast, Miss Jane shook her head at Amy, saying,
“I’ll settle accounts with you, presently.”
I wondered if that tremulous form, that stood eyeing her in affright,
did not soften her; but no, the “shaking culprit,” as she styled Amy,
was the very creature upon whom she desired to deal swift justice.
Pitiable was the sight in the kitchen, where Jake and Dan, great stout
fellows, were making their breakfasts off of scraps of meat, old bones
and corn-bread, whilst the aroma of coffee, broiled chicken, and
egg-cakes was wafted to them from the house-table.
“I wish’t I had somepin’ more to eat,” said Dan.
“You’s never satisfy,” replied Sally, the cook; “you gits jist as much
as de balance, yit you makes de most complaints.”
“No I doesn’t.”
“Yes, you does; don’t he, Jake?”
“Why, to be sartain he does,” said Jake, who of late had agreed to live
with Sally as a wife. Of course no matrimonial rite was allowed, for Mr.
Peterkin was consistent enough to say, that, as the law did not
recognize the validity of negro marriages, he saw no use of the
tomfoolery of a preacher in the case; and this is all reasonable enough.
“You allers takes Sal’s part,” said Dan, “now sense she has got to be
your wife; you and her is allers colloged together agin’ de rest ov us.”
“Wal, haint I right for to ‘tect my ole ‘oman?”
“Now, ha, ha!” cried Nace, as he entered, “de idee ob yer ‘tectin’ a
wife! I jist wisht Masser sell yer apart, den whar is yer ‘tection ob
“Oh, dat am very different. Den I’d jist git me anoder ole ‘oman, an’
she’d git her anoder ole man.”
“Sure an’ I would,” was Sally’s reply; “hain’t I done had five old men
already, an’ den if Jake be sole, I’de git somebody else.”
“White folks don’t do dat ar’ way,” interposed Dan, as he picked away at
“In course dey don’t. Why should dey?” put in Nace. “Ain’t dey our
Massers, and habn’t dey dar own way in ebery ting?”
“I wisht I’d bin born white,” added Dan.
“Ya, ya, dat is funny!”
“Do de free colored folks live like de whites?” asked Sally.
“Why, laws, yes; once when I went with Masser to L.,” Nace began, “at de
tavern whar we put up, dar was a free collored man what waited on de
table, and anoder one what kipt barber-shop in de tavern. Wal, dey was
drest as nice as white men. Dar dey had dar standin’ collar, and nice
cravat, and dar broadcloth, and dar white handkersher; and de barber, he
had some wool growin’ on his upper lip jist like de quality men. Ya, ya,
but I sed dis am funny; so when I ‘gin to talk jist as dough dey was
niggers same as I is, dey straighten ’emselves up and tell me dat I was
a speakin’ to a gemman. Wal, says I, haint your faces black as mine?
Niggers aint gemmen, says I, for I thought I’d take dar airs down; but
den, dey spunk up and say dey was not niggers, but colored pussons, and
dey call one anoder Mr. Wal, I t’ought it was quare enoff; and more an’
dat, white folks speak ‘spectable to ’em, jist same as dey war white.
Whole lot ob white gemmans come in de barber-shop to be shaved; and den
dey’d pay de barber, and maybe like as not, set down and talk ‘long wid
There is no telling how long the garrulous Nace would have continued the
narration of what he saw in L–, had he not been suddenly interrupted
by the entrance of Miss Tildy, inquiring for Amy.
Instantly all of them assumed that cheerful, smiling, sycophantic
manner, which is well known to all who have ever looked in at the
kitchen of a slaveholder. Amy stood out from the group to answer Miss
Tildy’s summons. I shall never forget the expression of subdued misery
that was limned upon her face.
“Come in the house and account for the loss of those forks,” said Miss
Tildy, in the most peremptory manner.
Amy made no reply to this; but followed the lady into the house. There
she was court-marshalled, and of course, found guilty of a high
“Wal,” said Mr. Peterkin, “we’ll see if the ‘post’ can’t draw from you
whar you’ve put ’em. Come with me.”
With a face the picture of despair, she followed.
Upon reaching the post, she was fastened to it by the wrist and ankle
fetters; and Mr. Peterkin, foaming with rage, dipped his cowhide in the
strongest brine that could be made, and drawing it up with a flourish,
let it descend upon her uncovered back with a lacerating stroke.
Heavens! what a shriek she gave! Another blow, another and a deeper
stripe, and cry after cry came from the hapless victim!
“Whar is the forks?” thundered Mr. Peterkin, “tell me, or I’ll have the
worth out of yer cussed hide.”
“Indeed, indeed, Masser, I doesn’t know.”
“You are a liar,” and another and a severer blow.
“Whar is they?”
“I give ’em to Miss Jane, Masser, indeed I did.”
“Take that, you liar,” and again he struck her, and thus he continued
until he had to stop from exhaustion. There she stood, partially naked,
bleeding at every wound, yet none of us dared go near and offer her even
a glass of cold water.
“Has she told where they are?” asked Miss Tildy.
“No, she says she give ’em to you.”
“Well, she tells an infamous lie; and I hope you will beat her until
pain forces her to acknowledge what she has done with them.”
“Oh, I’ll git it out of her yet, and by blood, too.”
“Yes, father, Amy needs a good whipping,” said Miss Jane, “for she has
been sulky ever since we took her in the house. Two or three times I’ve
thought of asking you to have her taken to the post.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that she’s give herself a good many ars. It does me
rale good to take ’em out of her.”
“Yes, father, you are a real negro-breaker. They don’t dare behave badly
where you are.”
This, Mr. Peterkin regarded as high praise; for, whenever he related the
good qualities of a favorite friend, he invariably mentioned that he was
a “tight master;” so he smiled at his daughter’s compliment.
“Yes,” said Miss Tildy, “whenever father approaches, the darkies should
set up the tune, ‘See the conquering hero comes.'”
“Good, first-rate, Tildy,” replied Miss Jane.
“‘Till is a wit.”
“Yes, you are both high-larn’t gals, a-head of yer pappy.”
“Oh, father, please don’t speak in that way.”
“It was the fashion when I was edicated.”
“Just listen,” they both exclaimed.
“Jake,” called out Mr. Peterkin, whose wrath was getting excited by the
criticisms of his daughters, “go and bring Amy here.”
In a few moments Jake returned, accompanied by Amy. The blood was oozing
through the body and sleeves of the frock that she had hastily thrown
“Whar’s the spoons?” thundered out Mr. Peterkin.
“I give ’em to Miss Tildy.”
“You are a liar,” said Miss Tildy, as she dashed up to her, and struck
her a severe blow on the temple with a heated poker. Amy dared not parry
the blow; but, as she received it, she fell fainting to the floor. Mr.
Peterkin ordered Jake to take her out of their presence.
She was taken to the cabin and left lying on the floor. When I went in
to see her, a horrid spectacle met my view! There she lay stretched upon
the floor, blood oozing from her whole body. I washed it off nicely and
greased her wounds, as poor Aunt Polly had once done for me; but these
attentions had to be rendered in a very secret manner. It would have
been called treason, and punished as such, if I had been discovered.
I had scarcely got her cleansed, and her wounds dressed, before she was
sent for again.
“Now,” said Miss Tildy, “if you will tell me what you did with the
forks, I will excuse you; but, if you dare to say you don’t know, I’ll
beat you to death with this,” and she held up a bunch of briery
switches, that she had tied together. Now only imagine briars digging
and scraping that already lacerated flesh, and you will not blame the
equivocation to which the poor wretch was driven.
“Where are they?” asked Miss Jane, and her face was frightful as the
“I hid ’em under a barrel out in the back yard.”
“Well, go and get them.”
“Stay,” said Miss Jane, “I’ll go with you, and see if they are there.”
Accordingly she went off with her, but they were not there.
“Now, where are they, _liar_?” she asked.
“Oh, Miss Jane, I put ’em here; but I ‘spect somebody’s done stole ’em.”
“No, you never put them there,” said Miss Tildy. “Now tell me where they
are, or I’ll give you this with a vengeance,” and she shook the briers.
“I put ’em in my box in the cabin.”
And thither they went to look for them. Not finding them there, the
tortured girl then named some other place, but with as little success
they looked elsewhere.
“Now,” said Miss Tildy, “I have done all that the most humane or just
could demand; and I find that nothing but a touch of this can get the
truth from you, so come with me.” She took her to the “lock-up,” and
secured the door within. Such screams as issued thence, I pray heaven I
may never hear again. It seemed as if a fury’s strength endowed Miss
When she came out she was pale from fatigue.
“I’ve beaten that girl till I’ve no strength in me, and she has less
life in her; yet she will not say what she did with the forks.”
“I’ll go in and see if I can’t get it out of her,” said Miss Jane.
“Wait awhile, Jane, maybe she will, after a little reflection, agree to
tell the truth about it.”
“Never,” said Miss Jane, “a nigger will never tell the truth till it is
beat out of her.” So saying she took the key from Miss Tildy, and bade
me follow her. I had rather she had told me to hang myself.
When she unlocked the door, I dared not look in. My eyes were riveted to
the ground until I heard Miss Jane say:
“Get up, you hussy.”
There, lying on the ground, more like a heap of clotted gore than a
human being, I beheld the miserable Amy.
“Why don’t she get up?” inquired Miss Jane. I did not reply. Taking the
cowhide, she gave her a severe lick, and the wretch cried out, “Oh,
“The Lord won’t hear a liar,” said Miss Jane.
“Oh, what will ‘come of me?”
“_Death_, if you don’t confess what you did with the forks.”
“Oh God, hab mercy! Miss Jane, please don’t beat me any more. My poor
back is so sore. It aches and smarts dreadful,” and she lifted up her
face, which was one mass of raw flesh; and wiping or trying to wipe the
blood away from her eyes with a piece of her sleeve that had been cut
from her body, she besought Miss Jane to have mercy on her; but the
spirit of her father was too strongly inherited for Jane Peterkin to
know aught of human pity.
“Where are the forks?”
“Oh, law! oh, law!” Amy cried out, “I swar I doesn’t know anything ’bout
Such blows as followed I have not the heart to describe; for they
descended upon flesh already horribly mangled.
The poor girl looked up to me, crying out:
“Oh, Ann, beg for me.”
“Miss Jane,” I ventured to say; but the tigress turned and struck me
such a blow across the face, that I was blinded for full five minutes.
“There, take that! you impudent hussy. Do you dare to ask me not to
punish a thief?”
I made no reply, but withdrew from her presence to cleanse my face from
the blood that was flowing from the wound.
As I bathed my face and bound it up, I wondered if acts such as these
had ever been reported to those clergymen, who so stoutly maintain that
slavery is just, right, _and almost_ available unto salvation. I cannot
think that they do understand it in all its direful wrongs. They look
upon the institution, doubtless, as one of domestic servitude, where a
strong attachment exists between the slave and his owner; but, alas! all
that is generally fabulous, worse than fictitious. I can fearlessly
assert that I never knew a single case, where this sort of feeling was
cherished. The very nature of slavery precludes the existence of such a
feeling. Read the legal definition of it as contained in the statute
books of Kentucky and Virginia, and how, I ask you, can there be, on the
slave’s part, a love for his owner? Oh, no, that is the strangest
resort, the fag-end of argument; that most transparent fiction. Love,
indeed! The slave-master love his slave! Did Cain love Abel? Did Herod
love those innocents, whom, by a bloody edict, he consigned to death? In
the same category of lovers will we place the slave-owner.
When Miss Jane had beaten Amy until _she_ was satisfied, she came, with
a face blazing, like Mars, from the “lock-up.”
“Well, she confesses now, that she put the forks under the corner of a
log, near the poultry coop.”
“Its only another one of her lies,” replied Miss Tildy.
“Well, if it is, I’ll beat her until she tells the truth, or I’ll kill
So saying, she started off to examine the spot. I felt that this was but
another subterfuge, devised by the poor wretch to gain a few moments’
The examination proved, as I had anticipated, a failure.
“What’s to be done?” inquired Miss Tildy.
“Leave her a few moments longer to herself, and then if the truth is not
obtained from her, kill her.” These words came hissing though her
“It won’t do to kill her,” said Miss Tildy.
“I don’t care much if I do.”
“We would be tried for murder.”
“Who would be our accusers? Who the witnesses? You forget that Jones is
not here to testify.”
“Ah, and so we are safe.”
“Oh, I never premeditate anything without counting the cost.”
“But then the loss of property!”
“I’d rather gratify my revenge than have five hundred dollars, which
would be her highest market value.”
Tell me, honest reader, was not she, at heart, a murderess? Did she not
plan and premeditate the deed? Who were her accusers? That God whose
first law she had outraged; that same God who asked Cain for his slain
“Now,” said Miss Jane, after she had given the poor creature only a few
moments relief, “now let me go and see what that wretch has to say about
“More lies,” added Miss Tildy.
“Then her fate is sealed,” said the human hyena.
Turning to me, she added, in the most authoritative manner,
“Come with me, and mind that you obey me; none of your impertinent
tears, or I’ll give you this.”
And she struck me a lick across the shoulders. I can assure you I felt
but little inclination to do anything whereby such a penalty might be
incurred. Taking the key of the “lock up” from her pocket, she ordered
me to open the door. With a trembling hand I obeyed. Slowly the old,
rusty-hinged door swung open, and oh, heavens! what a sight it revealed!
There, in the centre of the dismal room, suspended from a spoke, about
three feet from the ground, was the body of Amy! Driven by desperation,
goaded to frenzy, she had actually hung herself! Oh, God! that fearful
sight is burnt in on my brain, with a power that no wave of Lethe can
ever wash out! There, covered with clotted blood, bruised and mangled,
hung the wretched girl! There, a bleeding, broken monument of the white
man’s and white woman’s cruelty! God of my sires! is there for us no
redress? And Miss Jane–what did she do? Why, she screamed, and almost
swooned with fright! Ay, too late it was to rend the welkin with her
cries of distress. She had done the deed! Upon her head rested the sin
of that freshly-shed blood! She was the real murderess. Oh, frightful
shall be her nights! Peopled with racks, execution-blocks, and ghastly
gallows-poles, shall be her dreams! At the lone hour of midnight, a wan
and bloody corse shall glide around her bed-side, and shriek into her
trembling ear the horrid word “murderess!” Let me still remain in
bondage, call me still by the ignoble title of slave, but leave me the
unbought and priceless inheritance of a stainless conscience. I am free
of murder before God and man. Still riot in your wealth; still batten on
inhumanity, women of the white complexion, but of the black hearts! I
envy you not. Still let me rejoice in a darker face, but a snowy,
Miss Jane’s screams brought Mr. Peterkin, Miss Tildy and the servants to
her side. There, in front of the open door of the lock-up, they stood,
gazing upon that revolting spectacle! No word was spoken. Each regarded
the others in awe. At length, Mr. Peterkin, whose heartlessness was
equal to any emergency, spoke to Jake:
“Cut down that body, and bury it instantly.”
With this, they all turned away from the tragical spot; but I, though
physically weak of nerve, still remained. That poor, bereaved girl had
been an object of interest to me; and I could not now leave her
distorted and lifeless body. Cold-hearted ones were around her; no
friendly eye looked upon her mangled corse, and I shuddered when I saw
Jake and Dan rudely handle the body upon which death had set its sacred
“One more unfortunate,
Weary of breath;
Gone to her death.
* * * * *
Swift to be hurled,
Out of the world.”
This I felt had been her history! This should have been her epitaph;
but, alas for her, there would be reared no recording stone. All that
she had achieved in life was the few inches of ground wherein they laid
her, and the shovel full of dirt with which they covered her. Poor
thing! I was not allowed to dress the body for the grave. Hurriedly they
dug a hole and tossed her in. I was the only one who consecrated the
obsequies with funeral tears. A coarse joy and ribald jests rang from
the lips of the grave-diggers; but I was there to weep and water the
spot with tributary tears.
Spurred by contumely,
Into her rest,
Cross her hands humbly,
As if praying dumbly,
Over her breast.”