Whilst the hours thus rosily slided away, and I dreamed amid the verdure
of existence, the syren charmed me wisely, indeed, with her beautiful
promises. Poor, simple-hearted, trusting slaves! We could not see upon
what a rocking bridge our feet were resting, how slippery and
unsubstantial was the flowery declivity whereon we stood. There we
reposed in the gentle light of a happy trance; we saw not the clouds,
dark and tempest-charged, that were rising rapidly to hide the stars
from our view.
One Sunday afternoon, Henry having finished his work much earlier than
usual, and done some little act whereby the good will of his temporary
master (the keeper of the hotel) was propitiated, and Miss Jane and Mr.
Summerville having gone out, I willingly consented to his proposal to
take a walk. We accordingly wandered off to a beautiful wood, just
without the city limits, a very popular resort with the negroes and
poorer classes, though it was the only pretty green woodland near the
city. Yet, because the “common people and negroes” (a Kentucky phrase)
went there, it was voted vulgar, and avoided by the rich and refined.
One blessing was thus given to the poor!
Henry and I sought a retired part of the grove, and, seating ourselves
on an old, moss-grown log, we talked with as much hope, and indulged in
as rosy dreams, as happier and lordlier lovers. For three bright hours
we remained idly rambling through the flower-realm of imagination; but,
as the long shadows began to fall among the leaves, we prepared to
That night when I assisted Miss Jane in getting ready for bed, I
observed that she was unusually gloomy and petulant. I could do nothing
to please her; she boxed my ears repeatedly; stuck pins in me, called me
“detestable nigger,” &c. Even the presence of Louise failed to restrain
her, and I knew that something awful had happened.
For two or three days this cloud that hung about her deepened and
darkened, until she absolutely became unendurable. I often found her
eyes red and swollen, as though she had spent the entire night in
Mr. Summerville was gloomy and morose, never saying much, and always
speaking harshly to his wife.
At length the explosion came. One morning he said to me, “gather up your
clothes, Ann, and come with me; I have sold you.”
Though I was stricken as by a thunderbolt, I dared not express my
surprise, or even ask who had bought me. All that I ventured to say was,
“Master William, I have a trunk.”
“Well, shoulder it yourself. I’m not going to pay for having it taken.”
Though my heart was wrung I said nothing, and, lifting up my trunk,
beneath the weight of which I nearly sank, I followed Master William out
of the house.
“Good-bye, Miss Jane,” I said.
“Good-bye, and be a good girl,” she replied, kindly, and my heart almost
softened toward her; for in that moment I felt as if deserted by every
“Come on, Ann, come on,” urged Master William; and I mechanically
In the cross-hall I met Louise, who exclaimed, “Why, Ann, where are you
“I don’t know, Louise, I’m sold.”
“Sold! Who’s bought you?”
“I don’t know–Master William didn’t tell me.”
“Who’s bought her, Mr. Summerville?”
“The man to whom I sold her,” he answered, with a laugh.
“But who is he?” persisted Louise, without noticing the joke.
“Well, Atkins, a negro-trader down here, on Second street.”
“Good gracious!” she cried out; then, turning to me, said, “does Henry
“I have not seen him.” She darted off from us, and we walked on. I hoped
that she would not see Henry, for I could not bear to meet him. It would
dispossess me of the little forced composure that I had; but, alas! for
the fulfilment of my hopes! in the lower hall, with a countenance full
of terror, he stood.
“What are you going to do with Ann, Mr. Summerville?” he inquired.
“I have sold her to Atkins, and am now taking her to the pen.”
Alas! though his life, his blood, his soul cried out against it, he
dared not offer any objection or entreaty; but oh, that hopeless look of
brokenness of heart! I see it now, and “it comes over me like the raven
o’er the infected house.”
“I’ll take your trunk round for you, Ann, to-night. It is too heavy for
you,” and so saying, he kindly removed it from my shoulder. This little
act of kindness was the added drop to the already full glass, and my
heart overflowed. I wept heartily. His tender, “don’t cry, Ann,” only
made me weep the more; and when I looked up and saw his own eyes full of
tears, and his lip quivering with the unspoken pang, I felt (for the
slave at least) how wretched a possession is life!
Master William cut short this parting interview, by saying,
“Never mind that trunk, Henry, Ann can carry it very well.”
And, as I was about to re-shoulder it, Henry said,
“No, Ann, you mustn’t carry it. I’ll do it for you to-night, when my
work is over. She is a woman, Mr. Summerville, and it’s heavy for her;
but it will not be anything for me.”
“Well, if you have a mind to, you may do it; but I haven’t any time to
parley now, come on.”
Henry pressed my hand affectionately, and I saw the tears roll in a
stream down his bronzed cheeks. I did not trust myself to speak; I
merely returned the pressure of his hand, and silently followed Master
Through the streets, up one and across another, we went, until suddenly
we stopped in front of a two-story brick house with an iron fence in
front. Covering a small portion of the front view of the main building,
an office had been erected, a plain, uncarpeted room, from the door of
which projected a sheet-iron sign, advertising to the passers-by,
“negroes bought and sold here.” We walked into this room, and upon the
table found a small bell, which Mr. Summerville rang. In answer to this,
a neatly-dressed negro boy appeared. To Master William’s interrogatory,
“Is Mr. Atkins in?” he answered, most obsequiously, that he was, and
instantly withdrew. In a few moments the door opened, and a heavy man
about five feet ten inches entered. He was of a most forbidding
appearance; a tan-colored complexion, with very black hair and whiskers,
and mean, watery, milky, diseased-looking eyes. He limped as he walked,
one leg being shorter than the other, and carried a huge stick to assist
“Good morning, Mr. Atkins.”
“Good morning, sir.”
“Here is the girl we were speaking of yesterday.”
“Well,” replied the other, as he removed a lighted cigar from his mouth,
“she is likely enough. Take off yer bonnet, girl, let me look at yer
eyes. They are good; open your mouth–no decayed teeth–all sound; hold
up your ‘coat, legs are good, some marks on ’em–now the back–pretty
much and badly scarred. Well, what’s the damage?”
“Seven hundred, cash down. You can recommend her as a first-rate house
and lady’s maid.”
“What’s your name, girl?”
“Ann,” I replied.
“Ann, go within,” he added, pointing to the door through which he had
I turned to Mr. Summerville, saying,
“Good-bye, Master William. I wish you well.”
“Good-bye, Ann,” and he extended his hand to me; “I hope Mr. Atkins will
get you a good home.”
Dropping a courtesy and a tear, I passed through the door designated by
Mr. Atkins, and stood within the pen. Here I was met by the mulatto who
had answered the bell.
“Has you bin bought, Miss?”
“Yes, Mr. Atkins just bought me.”
“Why did your Masser sell you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, that’s what the most of ’em says. It ‘pears so quare ter me for a
Masser to sell good sarvants; but I guess you’ll soon git a home; fur
you is ’bout the likeliest yaller gal I ever seed. Now, thim rale black
‘uns hardly ever goes off here. We has to send ’em down river, or let
’em go at a mighty low price.”
“How often do you have sales?”
“Oh, we don’t have ’em at all. That’s we don’t have public ‘uns. We
sells ’em privately like; but we buys up more; and when we gits a large
number, we ships ’em down de river.”
Wishing to cut short his garrulity, I asked him to show me the room
where I was to stay.
“In here, wid de rest of ’em,” he said, as he opened the door of a large
shed-room, where I found some ten or twelve negroes, women and men,
ranged round on stools and chairs, all neatly dressed, some of them
looking very happy, others with down-cast, sorrow-stricken countenances.
One bright, gold-colored man, with long, silky black hair, and raven
eyes, full of subdued power, stood leaning his elbow against the mantel.
His melancholy face and pensive attitude struck a responsive feeling,
and I turned with a sisterly sentiment toward him.
I have always been of a taciturn disposition, shunning company; but this
man impressed me so favorably, he seemed the very counterpart of myself,
that I forgot my usual reserve, and, after a few moments’ investigation
of my companions, the faces of most of whom were unpleasant to me, I
approached him and inquired–
“Have you been long here?”
“Only a few days,” he answered, as he lifted his mournful eyes towards
mine, and I could see from their misty light, that they were dimmed by
“Are you sold?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” and he shuddered terribly.
I did not venture to say more; but stood looking at him, when, suddenly
he turned to me, saying,
“I know that you are sold.”
“Yes,” I replied, with that strong sort of courage that characterized
“You take it calmly,” he said; “have you no friends?”
“You do not talk like one familiar with slavery, to speak of a slave’s
“True, true; but I have–oh, God!–a wife and children, and from them I
was cruelly torn, and–and–and I saw my poor wife knocked flat upon the
floor, and because I had the manhood to say that it was wrong, they tied
me up and slashed me. All this is right, because my skin is darker than
What a fearful groan he gave, as he struck his breast violently.
“The bitterness of all this I too have tasted, and my only wonder is,
that I can live on. My heart will not break.”
“Mine has long since broken; but this body will not die. My poor
children! I would that they were dead with their poor slave-mother.”
“Why did your master sell you?”
“Because he wanted _to buy a piano for his daughter_,” and his lip
To gratify the taste of _his_ child, that white man had separated a
father from his children, had recklessly sundered the holiest ties, and
broken the most solemn and loving domestic attachments; and to such
heathenism the public gave its hearty approval, because his complexion
was a shade or so darker than Caucasians. Oh, Church of Christ! where is
thy warning voice? Is not this a matter, upon the injustice of which thy
great voice should pronounce a malison?
“My name is Charles, what is yours?”
“Well, Ann,” he resumed, “I like your face; you are the only one I’ve
seen in this pen that I was willing to talk with. You have just come.
Tell me why were you sold?”
In a few concise words I told him my story. He seemed touched with
“Poor girl!” he murmured, “like all the rest of our tribe, you have
tasted of trouble.”
I talked with him all the morning, and we both, I think, learned what a
relief it is to unclose the burdened heart to a congenial, listening
When we were summoned out to our dinner, I found a very bountiful and
pretty good meal served up. It is the policy of the trader to feed the
slaves well; for, as Mr. Atkins said, “the fat, oily, smooth, cheerful
ones, always sold the best;” and, as this business is purely a
speculation, they do everything, even humane things, for the furtherance
of their mercenary designs. I had not much appetite, neither had
Charles, as was remarked by some of the coarser and more abject of our
companions; and I was pained to observe their numerous significant winks
and blinks. One of them, the old gray mouse of the company, an ancient
“Uncle Ned,” who had taken it pretty roughly all his days, and who being
of the lower order of Epicureans, was, perhaps, happier at the pen than
he had ever been. And this fellow, looking at me and Charley, said,
“They’s in lub;” ha! ha! ha! went round the circle. I noticed Charley’s
brows knitting severely. I read his thoughts. I knew that he was
thinking of his poor wife and of his fatherless children, and inwardly
swearing unfaltering devotion to them.
Persuasively I said to him, “Don’t mind them. They are scarcely
“I know it, I know it,” he bitterly replied, “but I little thought I
should ever come to this. Sold to a negro-trader, and locked up in a pen
with such a set! I’ve always had pride; tried to behave myself well, and
to make money for my master, and now to be sold to a trader, away from
my wife and children!” He shook his head and burst into tears. I felt
that I had no words to console him, and I ventured to offer none.
I managed, by aid of conversation with Charley, to pass the day
tolerably. There may be those of my readers who will ask how this could
be. But let them remember that I had never been the pampered pet, the
child of indulgence; but that I was born to the ignominious heritage of
American slavery. My feelings had been daily, almost hourly, outraged.
This evil had not fallen on me as the _first_ misfortune, but as one of
a series of linked troubles “long drawn out.” So I was comparatively
fitted for endurance, though by no means stoical; for a certain
constitutional softness of temperament rendered me always susceptible of
anguish to a very high degree. At length evening drew on–the beautiful
twilight that was written down so pleasantly in my memory; the time that
had always heralded my re-union with Henry. Now, instead of a sweet
starlight or moonlight stroll, I must betake myself to a narrow,
“cribbed, cabined, and confined” apartment, through which no truant ray
or beam could force an entrance! How my soul sickened over the
recollections of lovelier hours! Whilst I moodily sat in one corner of
the room, hugging to my soul the thought of him from whom I was now
forever parted, a sound broke on my ear, a sound–a music-sound, that
made my nerves thrill and my blood tingle; ’twas the sound of Henry’s
voice. I heard him ask–
“Where is she? let me speak to her but a single word;” and how that
mellow voice trembled with the burden of painful emotion! Eagerly I
sprang forward; reserve and maidenly coyness all forgotten. My only wish
was to lay my weary head upon that brave, protecting breast–weep, ay,
and die there! “Oh, for a swift death,” I frantically cried, as I felt
his arms about me, while my head was pillowed just above his warm and
loving heart. I felt its manly pulsations as with a soft lullaby they
seemed hushing me to the deep, eternal sleep, which I so ardently
craved! Better, a thousand times, for death to part us, than the white
man’s cruelty! So we both thought. I read his secret wish in the
hopeless, vacant, but still so agonized look, that he bent upon me. For
one moment, the other slaves huddled together in blank amazement. This
was to them “a show,” as “uncle Ned” subsequently styled it.
“I’ve brought your trunk, Ann; Mr. Atkins ordered me to leave it
without; though you’ll get it.”
“Thank you, Henry; it is of small account to me now: yet there are in it
some few of your gifts that I shall always value.”
“Oh, Ann, don’t, pray don’t talk so mournfully! Is there no hope? Can’t
you be sold somewhere in the city? I have got about fifty dollars now in
money. I’d stop buying myself, and buy you; make my instalments in
fifties or hundreds, as I could raise it; but I spoke to a lawyer about
it, and he read the law to me, showing that I, as a slave, couldn’t be
allowed to hold property; and there is no white man in whom I have
sufficient confidence, or who would be willing to accommodate me in this
way. Mine is a deplorable case; but I’m going to see what can be done.
I’ll look about among the citizens, to see if some of them will not buy
you; for I cannot be separated from you. It will kill me; it will, it
“Oh, don’t, Henry, don’t! for myself I can stand much; but when I think
He caught me passionately to his breast; and, in that embrace, he seemed
to say, “_They shall not part us!_”
He seated himself on a low stool beside me, with one of my hands clasped
in his, and thus, with his tender eyes bent upon me, such is the
illusion of love, I forgot the terror by which I was surrounded, and
yielded myself to a fascination as absorbing as that which encircled me
in the grove on that memorable Sunday evening.
“Why, Henry, is this you?” and a strong hand was laid upon his
shoulder. Looking up, I beheld Charley.
“And is this you, Charles Allen?” asked the other.
“_Yes, this is me._ I dare say you scarcely expected to find me here,
where I never thought I should be.”
At this I was reminded of the significant ejaculation that Ophelia makes
in her madness, “Lord, we know what we are, but we know not what we may
“I am sold, Henry,” continued Charles, “sold away from my poor wife and
children;” his voice faltered and the big tears rolled down his cheeks.
“I see from your manner toward Ann, that she is or was expected to be
“Yes, she was pledged to be.”
“_Yes, and is_,” I added with fervor. At this, Henry only pressed my
“Yet,” pursued Charles, “she is taken from you.”
“_She is_,” was the brief and bitter reply.
“Now, Henry Graham, are we men? and do we submit to these things?”
“Alas!” and the words came through Henry’s set teeth, “we are _not_ men;
we are only chattels, property, merchandise, _slaves_.”
“But is it right for us to be so? I feel the high and lordly instincts
of manhood within me. Must I conquer them? Must I stifle the eloquent
cry of Nature in my breast? Shall I see my wife and children left behind
to the mercy of a hard master, and willingly desert them simply because
another man says that, in exchange for this sacrifice of happiness and
hope, _his daughter_ shall play upon Chickering’s finest piano?”
Heavens! can I ever forget the princely air with which he uttered these
words! His swarthy cheek glowed with a beautiful crimson, and his rich
eye fairly blazed with the fire of a seven-times heated soul, whilst the
thin lip curled and the fine nostril dilated, and the whole form towered
supremely in the majesty of erect and perfect manhood!
“Hush, Charley, hush,” I urged, “this is no place for the expression of
such sentiments, just and noble as they may be.”
Again Henry pressed my hand.
“It may be imprudent, Ann, but I am reckless now. They have done the
worst they can do. I defy the sharpest dagger-point. My breast is open
to a thousand spears. They can do no more. But how can you, Henry, thus
supinely sit by and see yourself robbed of your life’s treasure? I
cannot understand it. Are you lacking in manliness, in courage? Are you
a coward, a _slave_ indeed?”
“Do not listen to him; leave now, Henry, dear, dear Henry,” I implored,
as I observed the singular expression of his face. “Go now, dearest,
without saying another word; for my sake go. You will not refuse me?”
“No, I will not, dear Ann; but there is a fire raging in my veins.”
“Yes, and Charley is the incendiary. Go, I beg you.”
With a long, fond kiss, he left me, and it was well he did, for in a
moment more Mr. Atkins came to give the order for retiring.
I found a very comfortable mattress and covering, on the floor of a
good, neatly-carpeted room, which was occupied by five other women. One
of them, a gay girl of about fifteen, a full-blooded African, made her
pallet close to mine. I had observed her during the day as a garrulous,
racketty sort of baggage, that seemed contented with her situation. She
was extremely neat in her dress; and her ebony skin had a rich, oily,
shiny look, resembling the perfect polish of Nebraska blacking on an
exquisite’s boot. Partly from their own superiority, but chiefly from
contrast with her complexion, shone white as mountain snow, a regular
row of ivory teeth. Her large flabby ears were adorned by huge
wagon-wheel rings of pinch-beck, and a cumbersome strand of imitation
coral beads adorned her inky throat, whilst her dress was of the
gaudiest colors, plaided in large bars. Thus decked out, she made quite
a figure in the assemblage.
“Is yer name Ann?” she unceremoniously asked.
“Yes,” was my laconic reply.
“Mine is Lucy; but they calls me Luce fur short.”
No answer being made, she garrulously went on:
“Was that yer husband what comed to see you this evenin’?”
“Well, he’s too young-lookin’ fur yer father. Mought he be yer uncle?”
“Laws, then he mus’ be yer sweetheart!” and she chuckled with mirth.
I made no answer.
“Why don’t you talk, Ann?”
“I don’t feel like it.”
“You don’t? well, that’s quare.”
Still I made no comment. Nothing daunted, she went on:
“Is yer gwine down the river with the next lot?”
“I don’t know;” but this time I accompanied my reply with a sigh.
“What you grunt fur?”
I could not, though so much distressed, resist a laugh at this singular
“Don’t yer want to go South? I does. They say it’s right nice down dar.
Plenty of oranges. When Masser fust sold me, I was mightily ‘stressed;
den Missis, she told me dat dar was a sight of oranges down dar, and dat
we didn’t work any on Sundays, and we was ‘lowed to marry; so I got
mightily in de notion of gwine. You see Masser Jones never ‘lowed his
black folks to marry. I wanted to marry four, five men, and he wouldn’t
let me. Den we had to work all day Sundays; never had any time to make
anyting for ourselves; and I does love oranges! I never had more an’ a
quarter of one in my life.”
Thus she wandered on until she fell off to sleep; but the leaden-winged
cherub visited me not that night. My eye-lids refused to close over the
parched and tear-stained orbs. I dully moved from side to side, changed
and altered my position fifty times, yet there was no repose for me.
“Not poppy nor mandragora
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Could then medicine me to that sweet sleep
Which I owed yesterday.”
I saw the dull gray streak of the morning beam, as coldly it played
through the gratings of my room. There, scattered in dismal confusion
over the floor, lay the poor human beings, for whose lives, health and
happiness, save as conducing to the pecuniary advantage of the
trafficker, no thought or care was taken. I rose hastily and adjusted my
dress, for I had not removed it during the night. The noise of my rising
aroused several of the others, and simultaneously they sprang to their
feet, apprehensive that they had slept past the prescribed hour for
rising. Finding that their alarm was groundless, and that they were by
the clock an hour too early, they grumbled a good deal at what they
thought my unnecessary awaking. I would have given much to win to my
heart the easy indifference as to fate, which many of them wore like a
loose glove; but there I was vulnerable at every pore, and wounded at
each. What a curse to a slave’s life is a sensitive nature!
That day closed as had the preceding, save that at evening Henry did not
come as before. I wandered out in the yard, which was surrounded by a
high brick-wall, covered at the top with sharp iron spikes, to prevent
the escape of slaves. Through this barricaded ground I was allowed to
take a little promenade. There was not a shrub or green blade of grass
to enliven me; but my eyes lingered not upon the earth. They were turned
up to the full moon, shining so round and goldenly from the purple
heaven, and, scattered sparsely through the fields of azure, were a few
stars, looking brighter and larger from their scarcity.
“Will my death-hour ever come?” I asked myself despairingly. “Have I
not tasted of the worst of life? Is not the poisoned cup drained to its
I fancied that I heard a voice answer, as from the clouds,
“No, there are a few bitterer drops that must yet be drunk. Press the
goblet still closer to your lips.”
I shuddered coldly as the last tones of the imagined voice died away
upon the soft night air.
“Is that,” I cried, “a prophet warning? Comes it to me now that I may
gird my soul for the approaching warfare? Let me, then, put on my helmet
and buckler, and, like a life-tired soldier, rush headlong into the
thickest of the fight, praying that the first bullet may prove a friend
and drink my blood!”
Yet I shrank, like the weakest and most fearful of my race, when the
distant cotton-fields rose upon my mental view! There, beneath the heat
of a “hot and copper sky,” I saw myself wearily tugging at my assigned
task; yet my fear was not for the physical trouble that awaited me. Had
Henry been going, “down the river” would have had no terror for me; but
I was to part from joy, from love, from life itself! Oh, why, why have
we–poor bondsmen and bondswomen–these fine and delicate sensibilities?
Why do we love? Why are we not all coarse and hard, mere human beasts of
burden, with no higher mental or moral conception, than obedience to the
will or caprice of our owners?
Night closed over this second weary day. And thus passed on many days
and nights. I did some plain sewing by way of employment, and at the
command of a mulatto woman, who was the kept mistress of Atkins, and
therefore placed in authority over us. Many of the women were hired out
to residents of the city on trial, and if they were found to be
agreeable and good servants, perhaps they were purchased. Before sending
them out, Mr. Atkins always called them to him, and, shaking his cane
over their heads, said,
“Now, you d—-d hussy, or rascal (as they chanced to be male or female)
if you behave yourselves well, you’ll find a good home; but you dare to
get sick or misbehave, and be sent back to me, and I’ll thrash you in an
inch of your cursed life.”
With this demoniacal threat ringing in their ears, it is not likely that
the poor wretches started off with any intention of bad conduct.
We constantly received accessions to our number, but never acquisitions,
for the poor, ill-fed, ill-kept wretches that came in there, “sold (as
Atkins said) for a mere song,” were desolate and revolting to see.
Charley found one or two old books, that he seemed to read and re-read;
indifferent novels, perhaps, that served, at least, to keep down the
ravening tortures of thought. I lent him my Testament, and he read a
great deal in it. He said that he had one, but had left it with his
wife. He was a member of the Methodist Church; had gone on Sunday
afternoons to a school that had been established for the benefit of
colored people, and thus, unknown to his master, had acquired the first
principles of a good education. He could read and write, and was in
possession of the rudiments of arithmetic. He told me that his wife had
not had the opportunities he had, and therefore she was more deficient,
but he added, “she had a great thirst for knowledge, such as I have
never seen excelled, and rarely equalled. I have known her, after the
close of her daily labors, devote the better portion of the night to
study. I gave her all the instruction I could, and she was beginning to
read with considerable accuracy; but all that is over, past and gone
now.” And again he ground his teeth fiercely, and a wild, lurid light
gathered in his eye.
This man almost made me oblivious of my own grief, in sympathy for his.
I did all I could by “moral suasion,” as the politicians say, to soften
his resentment. I bade him turn his thoughts toward that religion which
he had espoused.
“I have no religion for this,” he would bitterly say.
And in truth, I fear me much if the heroism of saints would hold out on
such occasions. There, fastened to that impassioned husband’s heart,
playing with its dearest chords, was the fang-like hand of the white
man! Oh, slow tortures! in comparison to which that of Prometheus was
very pleasure. There is no Tartarus like that of wounded, agonized
domestic love! Far away from him, in a lonely cabin, he beheld his
stricken wife and all his “pretty chickens” pining and unprotected.
Slowly, after a few days, he relapsed into that stony sort of despair
that denies itself the gratification of speech. The change was very
painfully visible to me, and I tried, by every artifice, to arouse him;
but I had no power to wake him.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak,
Whispers the o’erfraught heart, and bids it break.”
And soon learning this, I left him, a remorseless prey to that “rooted
sorrow” of the brain.
* * * * * * *
One day, as we all sat in the shed-room, engaged at our various
occupations, we were roused by a noise of violent weeping, and something
like a rude scuffle just without the door, when suddenly Atkins entered,
dragging after him, with his hand close about his throat, a poor negro
man, aged and worn, with a head white as cotton.
“Oh, please, Masser, jist let me go back, an’ tell de ole ‘ooman
farewell, an’ I won’t ax for any more.”
“No, you old rascal, you wants to run away. If you say another word
about the old voman, I’ll beat the life out of you.”
“Oh lor’, oh lor’, de poor ole ‘ooman an’ de boys; oh my ole heart will
bust!” and, sobbing like a child, the old man sank down upon the floor,
in the most abandoned grief.
“Here, boys, some of you git the fiddle and play, an’ I warrant that old
fool will be dancin’ in a minnit,” said Atkins in his unfeeling way.
Of course this speech met with the most signal applause from “de boys”
I watched the expression of Charles’ face. It was frightful. He sat in
one corner, as usual, with an open book in his hand. From it he raised
his eyes, and, whilst the scene between Atkins and the old negro was
going on, they flashed with an expression that I could not fathom. His
brows knit, and his lip curled, yet he spoke no word.
When Atkins withdrew, the old man lay there, still weeping and sobbing
piteously. I went up to him, kindly saying,
“What is the matter, old uncle?”
The sound of a kind voice aroused him, and looking up through his
streaming tears, he said,
“Oh, chile, I’s got a poor ole ‘ooman dat lives ’bout half mile in de
country. Masser fotch me in town to-day, an’ say he was agwine to hire
me fur a few weeks. Wal, I beliebed him, bekase Masser has bin hard run
fur money, an’ I was willin’ to hope him ‘long, so I consented to be
hired in town fur little while, and den go out an’ see de ole ‘ooman an’
de boys Saturday nights. Wal, de fust thing I knowed when I got to town
I was sold to a trader. Masser wouldn’t tell me hisself; but, when I got
here, de gemman what I thought I was hired to, tole me dat Masser Atkins
had bought me; an’ I wanted to go back an’ ask Masser, but he laughed
an’ say ‘twant no use, Masser done gone out home. Oh, lor’! ‘peared like
dere was nobody to trus’ to den. I begged to go an’ say good-bye; but
dey ‘fused me dat, an’ Masser Atkins ‘gan to swear, an’ he struck me
‘cross de head. Oh, I didn’t tink Masser wud do me so in my ole age!”
I ask you, reader, if for a sorrow like this there was any word of
comfort? I thought not, and did not dare try to offer any.
“Will scenes like these ever cease?” I fretfully asked, as I turned to
“Never!” was the bitter answer.
This old man talked constantly of his little woolly-headed boys. When
telling of their sportive gambols, he would smile, even whilst the tears
were flowing down his cheeks.
He often had a crowd of slaves around him listening to his talk of
“wife and children,” but I seldom made one of the number, for it
saddened me too much. I knew that he was telling of joys that could
never come to him again.
On one of these occasions, when uncle Peter, as he was called, was deep
in the merits of his conversation, I was sitting in the corner of the
room sewing, when Luce came running breathlessly up to me, with a bunch
of beautiful flowers in her hand.
“Oh, Ann,” she exclaimed, “dat likely-lookin’ yallow man, dat cum to see
you, an’ fotch yer trunk de fust night yer comed here, was passin’ by,
an’ I was stanin’ at de gate; an’ he axed me to han’ dis to you.”
And she gave me the bouquet, which I took, breathing a thousand
blessings upon the head of my devoted Henry.
I had often wondered why Louise had never been to see me. She knew very
well where I was, and access to me was easy. But I was not long kept in
suspense, for, on that very night she came, bringing with her a few
sweetmeats, which I distributed among those of my companions who felt
more inclined to eat them than I did.
“I have wondered, Louise, why you did not come sooner.”
“Well, the fact is, Ann, I’ve been busy trying to find you a home. I
couldn’t bear to come without bringing you good news. Henry and I have
worked hard. All of our leisure moments have been devoted to it. We have
scoured this city over, but with no success; and, hearing yesterday that
Mr. Atkins would start down the river to-morrow, with all of you, I
could defer coming no longer. Poor Henry is too much distressed to come!
He says he’ll not sleep this night, but will ransack the city till he
finds somebody able and willing to rescue you.”
“How does he look?” I asked.
“Six years older than when you saw him last. He takes this very hard;
has lost his appetite, and can’t sleep at night.”
I said nothing; but my heart was full, full to overflowing. I longed to
be alone, to fall with my face on the earth and weep. The presence of
Louise restrained me, for I always shrank from exposing my feelings.
“Are we going to-morrow?” I inquired.
“Yes, Mr. Atkins told me so this evening. Did you not know of it?”
“No, indeed; am I among the lot?”
After a moment’s hesitation she replied,
“Yes, he told me that you were, and, on account of your beauty, he
expected you would bring a good price in the Southern market. Oh
heavens, Ann, this is too dreadful to repeat; yet you will have to know
“Oh yes, yes;” and I could no longer restrain myself; I fell, weeping,
in her arms.
She could not remain long with me, for Mr. Atkins closed up the
establishment at half-past nine. Bidding me an affectionate farewell,
and assuring me that she would, with Henry, do all that could be done
for my relief, she left me.
A most wretched, phantom-peopled night was that! Ten thousand horrors
haunted me! Of course I slept none; but imagination seemed turned to a
fiend, and tortured me in divers ways.
On the next day, after breakfast, Mr. Atkins came in, saying,
“Well, niggers, git yourselves ready. You must all start down the river
to-day, at ten o’clock. A good boat is going out. Huddle up your clothes
as quick as possible–no fuss, now.”
When he left, there was lamentation among some; silent mourning with
others; joy for a few.
Shall I ever forget the despairing look of Charley? How passionately he
compressed his lips! I went up to him, and, laying my hand on his arm,
“Let us be strong to meet the trouble that is sent us!”
He looked at me, but made no reply. I thought there was the wildness of
insanity in his glance, and turned away.
It was now eight o’clock, and I had not heard from Henry or Louise.
Alas! my heart misgave me. I had been buoyed up for some time by the
flatteries and delusions of Hope! but now I felt that I had nothing to
sustain me; the last plank had sunk!
I did not pretend to “get myself ready,” as Mr. Atkins had directed; the
fact is, I was ready. The few articles of wearing apparel that I called
mine were all in my trunk, with some little presents that Henry had made
me, such as a brooch, earrings, &c. These were safely locked, and the
key hung round my neck. But the others were busy “getting ready.” I was
standing near the door, anxiously hoping to see either Henry or Louise,
when an old negro woman, thinly clad, without any bonnet on her head,
and with a basket in her hand, came up to me, saying,
“Please mam, is my ole man in here? De massa out here say I may speak
‘long wid him, and say farwell;” and she wiped her eyes with the corner
of an old torn check apron.
I was much touched, and asked her the name of her old man.
“Oh, yes, he is within,” and I stepped aside to let her pass through the
She went hobbling along, making her passage through the crowd, and I
followed after. In a few moments Pete saw her.
“Oh dear! oh dear!” he cried out, “Judy is come;” and running up to her,
he embraced her most affectionately.
“Yes,” she said, “I begged Masser to let me come and see you. It was
long time before he told me dat you was sole to a trader and gwine down
de ribber. Oh, Lord! it ‘pears like I ken never git usin to it! Dars no
way for me ever to hear from you. You kan’t write, neither ken I. Oh,
what shill we do?”
“I doesn’t know, Judy, we’s in de hands ob de Lord. We mus’ trus’ to
Him. Maybe He’ll save us. Keep on prayin’, Judy.”
The old man’s voice grew very feeble, as he asked,
“An de chillen, de boys, how is dey?”
“Oh, dey is well. Sammy wanted to come long ‘wid me; but it was too fur
for him to walk. Joe gib me dis, and say, take it to daddy from me.”
She looked in her basket, and drew out a little painted cedar whistle.
The tears rolled down the old man’s cheeks as he took it, and, looking
at it, he shook his head mournfully,
“Poor boy, dis is what I give him fur a Christmas gift, an’ he sot a
great store to it. Only played wid it of Sundays and holidays. No, take
it back to him, an’ tell him to play wid it, and never forget his poor
ole daddy dat’s sole ‘way down de ribber!”
Here he fairly broke down, and, bursting into tears, wept aloud.
“Oh, God hab bin marciful to me in lettin’ me see you, Judy, once agin!
an’ I am an ongrateful sinner not to bar up better.”
Judy was weeping violently.
“Oh, if dey would but buy me! I wants to go long wid you.”
“No, no, Judy, you must stay long wid de chillen, an’ take kere ob ’em.
Besides, you is not strong enough to do de work dey would want you to
do. No, I had better go by myself,” and he wiped his eyes with his old
“I wish,” he added, “dat I had some little present to send de boys,”
and, fumbling away in his pocket, he at length drew out two shining
brass buttons that he had picked up in the yard.
“Give dis to ’em; say it was all thar ole daddy had to send ’em; but,
maybe, some time I’ll have some money; and if I meet any friends down de
ribber, I’ll send it to ’em, and git a letter writ back to let you and
’em know whar I is sold.”
Judy opened her basket, and handed him a small bundle.
“Here, Pete, is a couple of shirts and a par of trowsers I fetched you,
and here’s a good par of woollen socks to keep you warm in de winter;
and dis is one of Masser’s ole woollen undershirts dat Missis sent you.
You know how you allers suffers in cold wedder wid de rheumatiz.”
“Tell Missis thankee,” and his voice was choking in his throat.
There was many a tearful eye among the company, looking at this little
scene. But, suddenly it was broken up by the appearance of Mr. Atkins.
“Well, ole woman,” he began, addressing Uncle Pete’s wife, “it is time
you was agoin’. You has staid long enough. Thar’s no use in makin’ a
fuss. Pete belongs to me, an’ I am agoin’ to sell him to the highest
bidder I can find down the river.”
“Oh, Masser, won’t you please buy me?” asked Judy.
“No, you old fool.”
“Oh, hush Judy, pray hush,” put in Pete; “humor her a little Masser
Atkins, she will go in a minnit. Now do go, honey,” he added, addressing
Judy, who stood a moment, irresolutely, regarding her old husband; then
screaming out, “Oh no, no, I can’t leave you!” fell down at his feet
“Oh, Lord Jesus, hab marcy!” groaned Pete, as he bent over his partner’s
“Take her out, instantly,” exclaimed Atkins, as one of the men dragged
the body out.
“Please be kereful, don’t hurt her,” implored Pete.
“Behave yourself, and don’t go near her,” said Atkins to him, “or I’ll
have both you an’ her flogged. I am not goin’ to have these fusses in my
All this time Charley’s face was frightful. As Atkins passed along he
looked toward Charley, and I thought he quailed before him. That regal
face of the mulatto man was well calculated to awe such a sinister and
small soul as Atkins.
“Yes, yes, Charles, that proud spirit of yourn will git pretty well
broken down in the cotton fields,” he murmured, just loud enough to be
heard. Charles made no answer, though I observed that his cheek fairly
* * * * * *
When we were all bonneted, trunks corded down, and bundles tied up,
waiting, in the shed-room, for the order to get in the omnibus, Uncle
Pete suddenly spied the basket which Judy, in her insensibility, had
left. Picking it up, I saw the tears glitter in his eyes when the two
bright buttons rolled out on the floor.
“These puttys,” he muttered to himself, “was fur de boys. Poor fellows!
Now dey won’t have any keepsake from dar daddy; and den here’s de little
cedar whistle; oh, I wish I could send it out to ’em.” Looking round the
room he saw Kitty, the mulatto woman, of whom I have before spoken as
the mistress of Atkins.
“Oh, please, Kitty, will you have dis basket, dis whistle, and dese
putty buttons, sent out to Mr. John Jones’, to my ole ‘ooman Judy?’
“Yes,” answered the woman, “I will.”
“Thankee mam, and you’ll very much oblige me.”
“Come ‘long with you all. The omnibus is ready,” cried out Atkins, and
we all took up the line of march for the door, each pausing to say
good-bye to Kitty, and yet none caring much for her, as she had not been
agreeable to us.
“Going down the river, really,” I said to myself.
“Wait a minnit,” said Atkins, and calling to a sort of foreman, who did
his roughest work, he bade him handcuff us.
How fiercely-proud looked the face of Charles, as they fastened the
manacles on his wrists.
I made no complaint, nor offered resistance. My heart was maddened. I
almost blamed Louise, and chided Henry for not forcing my deliverance. I
could have broken the handcuffs, so strongly was I possessed by an
“Git in the ‘bus,” said the foreman, as he riveted on the last handcuff.
Just as I had taken my seat in the omnibus, Henry came frantically
rushing up. The great beads of perspiration stood upon his brow; and his
thick, hard breathing, was frightful. Sinking down upon the ground, all
he could say was,
I rose and stood erect in the omnibus, looking at him, but dared not
move one step toward him.
“What is the matter with that nigger?” inquired Atkins, pointing toward
Henry. Then addressing the driver, he bade him drive down to the wharf.
“Stop! stop!” exclaimed Henry; “in Heaven’s name stop, Mr. Atkins,
here’s a gentleman coming to buy Ann. Wait a moment.”
Just then a tall, grave-looking man, apparently past forty, walked up.
“Who the d—-l is that?” gruffly asked Mr. Atkins.
“It is Mr. Moodwell,” Henry replied. “He has come to buy Ann.”
“Who said that I wanted to sell her?”
“You would let her go for a fair price, wouldn’t you?”
“No, but I would part with her for a first-rate one.”
Just then, as hope began to relume my soul, Mr. Moodwell approached
“I wish to buy a yellow girl of you.”
“A girl by the name of Ann. Where is she?”
“Don’t you know her by sight?”
“Certainly not, for I have never seen her.”
“You don’t want to buy without first seeing her?”
“I take her upon strong recommendation.”
With a dogged, and I fancied disappointed air, Atkins bade me stand
forth. Right willingly I obeyed; and appearing before Mr. Moodwell, with
a smiling, hopeful face, I am not surprised that he was pleased with me,
and readily paid down the price of a thousand dollars that was demanded
by Atkins. When I saw the writings drawn up, and became aware that I had
passed out of the trader’s possession, and could remain near Henry, I
lifted my eyes to Heaven, breathing out an ardent act of adoration and
Quickly Henry stood beside me, and clasping my yielding hand within his
“You are safe, dear Ann.”
I had no words wherewith to express my thankfulness; but the happy tears
that glistened in my eyes, and the warm pressure of the hand that I
gave, assured him of the sincerity of my gratitude.
My trunk was very soon taken down from the top of the omnibus and
shouldered by Henry.
Looking up at my companions, I beheld the savagely-stern face of
Charles; and thinking of his troubles, I blamed myself for having given
up to selfish joy, when such agony was within my sight. I rushed up to
the side of the omnibus and extended my hand to him.
“God has taken care of you,” he said, with a groan, “but I am
“Don’t despair of His mercy, Charley.” More I could not say; for the
order was given them to start, and the heavy vehicle rolled away.
As I turned toward Henry he remarked the shadow upon my brow, and
tenderly inquired the cause.
“I am distressed for Charley.”
“Poor fellow! I would that I had the power to relieve him.”
“Come on, come on,” said Mr. Moodwell, and we followed him to the G—-
House, where I found Louise, anxiously waiting for me.
“You are safe, thank Heaven!” she exclaimed, and joyful tears were
rolling down her smooth cheeks.
The reaction of feeling was too powerful for me, and my health sank
under it. I was very ill for several weeks, with fever. Louise and Henry
nursed me faithfully. Mr. Moodwell had purchased me for a maiden sister
of his, who was then travelling in the Southern States, and I was left
at the G—- House until I should get well, at which time, if she should
not have returned, I was to be hired out until she came. I recollect
well when I first opened my eyes, after an illness of weeks. I was lying
on a nice bed in Louise’s room. As it was a cool evening in the early
October, there was a small comfort-diffusing fire burning in the grate;
and on a little stand, beside my bed, was a very pretty and fragrant
bouquet. Seated near me, with my hand in his, was the one being on earth
whom I best loved. He was singing in a low, musical tone, the touching
Ethiopian melody of “Old Folks at Home.” Slowly my eyes opened upon the
pleasant scene! Looking into his deep, witching eyes, I murmured low,
whilst my hand returned the pressure of his,
“Is it you, dear Henry?”
“It is I, my love; I have just got through with my work, and I came to
see you. Finding you asleep, I sat down beside you to hum a favorite
air; but I fear, that instead of calming, I have broken your slumber,
“No, dearest, I am glad to be aroused. I feel so much better than I have
felt for weeks. My head is free from fever, and except for the absence
of strength, am as well as I ever was.”
“Oh, it makes me really happy to hear you say so. I have been so uneasy
about you. The doctor was afraid of congestion of the brain. You cannot
know how I suffered in mind about you; but now your flesh feels cool and
pleasant, and your strength will, I trust, soon return.”
Just then Louise entered, bearing a cup of tea and a nice brown slice of
toast, and a delicate piece of chicken, on a neat little salver. At
sight of this dainty repast, my long-forgotten appetite returned, with a
most healthful vigor. But my kind nurse, who was glad to find me so
well, determined to keep me so, and would not allow me a hearty
indulgence of appetite.
In a few days I was able to sit up in an easy chair, and, at every
opportunity, Louise would amuse me with some piece of pleasant gossip,
in relation to the boarders, &c. And Henry, my good, kind, noble Henry,
spent all his spare change in buying oranges and pine-apples for me, and
in sending rare bouquets, luxuries in which I took especial delight.
Then, during the long, cheerful autumnal evenings, when a fire sparkled
in the grate, he would, after his work was done, bring his banjo and
play for me; whilst his rich, gushing voice warbled some old familiar
song. Its touching plaintiveness often brought the tears to my eyes.
Thus passed a few weeks pleasantly enough for me; but like all the other
rose-winged hours, they soon had a close.
My strength had been increasing rapidly, and Mr. Moodwell, the brother
and agent of my mistress, concluded that I was strong enough to be hired
out. Accordingly, he apprized me of his intention, saying,
“Ann, sister Nancy has written me word to hire you out until spring,
when she will return and take you home. I have selected a place for you,
in the capacity of house-servant. You must behave yourself well.”
I assured him that I would do my best; then asked the name of the family
to whom I was hired.
“To Josiah Smith, on Chestnut street, I have hired you. He has two
daughters and a young niece living with him, and wishes you to wait on
After apprizing Henry and Louise of my new home, _pro tem._, I
requested the former to bring my trunk out that night, which he readily
promised. Bidding them a kind and cheerful adieu, I followed Mr.
Moodwell out to Chestnut street.
This is one of the most retired and beautiful streets in the city of
L—-, and Mr. Josiah Smith’s residence the very handsomest among a
number of exceedingly elegant mansions.
Opening a bronze gate, we passed up a broad tesselated stone walk that
led to the house, which was built of pure white stone, and three stories
in height, with an observatory on the top, and the front ornamented with
a richly-wrought iron verandah. Reposing in front upon the sward, were
two couchant tigers of dark gray stone.
Passing through the verandah, we stopped at the mahogany door until Mr.
Moodwell pulled the silver bell-knob, which was speedily answered by a
neatly-dressed man-servant, who bade Mr. Moodwell walk in the parlor,
and requested me to wait without the door until he could find leisure to
attend to me.
I obeyed this direction, and amused myself examining what remained of a
very handsome flower-garden, until he returned, when conducting me
around, by a private entrance, he ushered me into the kitchen.