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Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation by Frances Anne Kemble

Part 3 out of 5

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on the utter impossibility of finding a trustworthy nurse anywhere in the
South, to whom your children could be safely confided for a day or even an
hour; as usual too, the causes of this unworthiness or incapacity for a
confidential servant's occupation were ignored, and the fact laid to the
natural defects of the negro race. I am sick and weary of this cruel and
ignorant folly. This afternoon I went out to refresh myself with a row on
the broad Altamaha and the conversation of my slave Jack, which is, I
assure you, by no means devoid of interest of various kinds, pathetic and
humorous. I do not know that Jack's scientific information is the most
valuable in the world, and I sometimes marvel with perhaps unjust
incredulity at the facts in natural history which he imparts to me; for
instance, to-day he told me as we rowed past certain mud islands, very
like children's mud puddings on a rather larger scale than usual, that
they were inaccessible, and that it would be quite impossible to land on
one of them even for the shortest time. Not understanding why people who
did not mind being up to their knees in mud should not land there if they
pleased, I demurred to his assertion, when he followed it up by assuring
me that there were what he called sand-sinks under the mud, and that
whatever was placed on the surface would not only sink through the mud,
but also into a mysterious quicksand of unknown depth and extent below it.
This may be true, but sounds very strange, although I remember that the
frequent occurrence of large patches of quicksand was found to be one of
the principal impediments in the way of the canal speculators at
Brunswick. I did not, however, hear that these sinks, as Jack called them,
were found below a thick stratum of heavy mud.

In remonstrating with him upon the want of decent cleanliness generally
among the people, and citing to him one among the many evils resulting
from it, the intolerable quantity of fleas in all the houses, he met me
full with another fact in natural history which, if it be fact and not
fiction, certainly gave him the best of the argument: he declared, with
the utmost vehemence, that the sand of the pine woods on the mainland
across the river literally swarmed with fleas--that in the uninhabited
places the sand itself was full of them, and that so far from being a
result of human habitation, they were found in less numbers round the
negro huts on the mainland than in the lonely woods around them.

The ploughing is at length fairly inaugurated, and there is a regular
jubilee among the negroes thereat. After discoursing fluently on the
improvements likely to result from the measure, Jack wound up by saying he
had been afraid it would not be tried on account of the greater scarcity,
and consequently greater value, of horses over men in these parts--a
modest and slave-like conclusion.

* * * * *

Dearest E----. I walked up to-day, _February 14th_, to see that land of
promise the ploughed field: it did not look to me anything like as heavy
soil as the cold wet sour stiff clay I have seen turned up in some of the
swampy fields round Lenox; and as for the cypress roots which were urged
as so serious an impediment, they are not much more frequent, and
certainly not as resisting, as the granite knees and elbows that stick out
through the scanty covering of the said clay, which mother earth allows
herself as sole garment for her old bones in many a Berkshire patch of
corn. After my survey, as I walked home, I came upon a gang of lusty
women, as the phrase is here for women in the family-way; they were
engaged in burning stubble, and I was nearly choked while receiving the
multitudinous complaints and compliments with which they overwhelmed me.
After leaving them, I wandered along the river side on the dyke homeward,
rejoicing in the buds and green things putting forth their tender shoots
on every spray, in the early bees and even the less amiable wasps busy in
the sunshine with flowers--(weeds I suppose they should be called),
already opening their sweet temptations to them, and giving the earth a
spring aspect, such as it does not wear with you in Massachusetts till
late in May.

In the afternoon I took my accustomed row: there had been a tremendous ebb
tide, the consequence of which was to lay bare portions of the banks which
I had not seen before. The cypress roots form a most extraordinary mass of
intertwined wood-work, so closely matted and joined together, that the
separate roots, in spite of their individual peculiarities, appeared only
like divisions of a continuous body; they presented the appearance in
several places of jagged pieces of splintered rock, with their huge teeth
pointing downward into the water. Their decay is so slow that the
protection they afford the soft spongy banks against the action of the
water, is likely to be prolonged until the gathering and deposit of
successive layers of alluvium will remove them from the margin of which
they are now most useful supports. On my return home, I was met by a child
(as she seemed to me) carrying a baby, in whose behalf she begged me for
some clothes. On making some enquiry, I was amazed to find that the child
was her own: she said she was married and fourteen years old, she looked
much younger even than that, poor creature. Her mother, who came up while
I was talking to her, said she did not herself know the girl's age;--how
horridly brutish it all did seem, to be sure.

The spring is already here with her hands full of flowers. I do not know
who planted some straggling pyrus japonica near the house, but it is
blessing my eyes with a hundred little flame-like buds, which will
presently burst into a blaze; there are clumps of narcissus roots sending
up sheaves of ivory blossoms, and I actually found a monthly rose in bloom
on the sunny side of one of the dykes; what a delight they are in the
slovenly desolation of this abode of mine! what a garden one might have on
the banks of these dykes, with the least amount of trouble and care!

In the afternoon I rowed over to Darien, and there procuring the most
miserable vehicle calling itself a carriage that I had ever seen (the
dirtiest and shabbiest London hackney-coach were a chariot of splendour
and ease to it), we drove some distance into the sandy wilderness that
surrounds the little town, to pay a visit to some of the resident gentry
who had called upon us. The road was a deep wearisome sandy track,
stretching wearisomely into the wearisome pine forest--a species of
wilderness more oppressive a thousand times to the senses and imagination
than any extent of monotonous prairie, barren steppe, or boundless desert
can be; for the horizon there at least invites and detains the eye,
suggesting beyond its limit possible change; the lights and shadows and
enchanting colours of the sky afford some variety in their movement and
change, and the reflections of their tints; while in this hideous and
apparently boundless pine barren, you are deprived alike of horizon before
you and heaven above you: nor sun nor star appears through the thick
covert, which, in the shabby dinginess of its dark blue-green expanse,
looks like a gigantic cotton umbrella stretched immeasurably over you. It
is true that over that sandy soil a dark green cotton umbrella is a very
welcome protection from the sun, and when the wind makes music in the tall
pine-tops and refreshment in the air beneath them. The comparison may seem
ungrateful enough: to-day, however, there was neither sound above nor
motion below, and the heat was perfectly stifling, as we ploughed our way
through the resinous-smelling sand solitudes.

From time to time a thicket of exquisite evergreen shrubs broke the
monotonous lines of the countless pine shafts rising round us, and still
more welcome were the golden garlands of the exquisite wild jasmine,
hanging, drooping, trailing, clinging, climbing through the dreary forest,
joining to the warm aromatic smell of the fir trees a delicious fragrance
as of acres of heliotrope in bloom. I wonder if this delightful creature
is very difficult of cultivation out of its natural region; I never
remember to have seen it, at least not in blossom, in any collection of
plants in the Northern States or in Europe, where it certainly deserves an
honourable place for its grace, beauty, and fragrance.

On our drive we passed occasionally a tattered man or woman, whose yellow
mud complexion, straight features, and singularly sinister countenance
bespoke an entirely different race from the negro population in the midst
of which they lived. These are the so-called pine-landers of Georgia, I
suppose the most degraded race of human beings claiming an Anglo-Saxon
origin that can be found on the face of the earth,--filthy, lazy,
ignorant, brutal, proud, penniless savages, without one of the nobler
attributes which have been found occasionally allied to the vices of
savage nature. They own no slaves, for they are almost without exception
abjectly poor; they will not work, for that, as they conceive, would
reduce them to an equality with the abhorred negroes; they squat, and
steal, and starve, on the outskirts of this lowest of all civilised
societies, and their countenances bear witness to the squalor of their
condition and the utter degradation of their natures. To the crime of
slavery, though they have no profitable part or lot in it, they are
fiercely accessory, because it is the barrier that divides the black and
white races, at the foot of which they lie wallowing in unspeakable
degradation, but immensely proud of the base freedom which still separates
them from the lash-driven tillers of the soil.[3]

[Footnote 3: Of such is the white family so wonderfully described in Mrs.
Stowe's 'Dred'--whose only slave brings up the orphaned children of his
masters with such exquisitely grotesque and pathetic tenderness. From such
the conscription which has fed the Southern army in the deplorable civil
conflict now raging in America has drawn its rank and file. Better 'food
for powder' the world could scarcely supply. Fierce and idle, with hardly
one of the necessities or amenities that belong to civilised existence,
they are hardy endurers of hardship, and reckless to a savage degree of
the value of life, whether their own or others. The soldier's pay,
received or promised, exceeds in amount per month anything they ever
earned before per year, and the war they wage is one that enlists all
their proud and ferocious instincts. It is against the Yankees--the
northern sons of free soil, free toil and intelligence, the hated
abolitionists whose success would sweep away slavery and reduce the
southern white men to work--no wonder they are ready to fight to the death
against this detestable alternative, especially as they look to victory as
the certain promotion of the refuse of the 'poor white' population of the
South, of which they are one and all members, to the coveted dignity of

The house at which our call was paid was set down in the midst of the Pine
Barren with half-obliterated roads and paths round it, suggesting that it
might be visited and was inhabited. It was large and not unhandsome,
though curiously dilapidated considering that people were actually living
in it; certain remnants of carving on the cornices and paint on the panels
bore witness to some former stage of existence less neglected and
deteriorated than the present. The old lady mistress of this most forlorn
abode amiably enquired if so much exercise did not fatigue me; at first I
thought she imagined I must have walked through the pine forest all the
way from Darien, but she explained that she considered the drive quite an
effort; and it is by no means uncommon to hear people in America talk of
being dragged over bad roads in uneasy carriages as exercise, showing how
very little they know the meaning of the word, and how completely they
identify it with the idea of mere painful fatigue, instead of pleasurable

Returning home, my reflections ran much on the possible future destiny of
these vast tracts of sandy soil. It seems to me that the ground capable of
supporting the evergreen growth, the luxuriant gardenia bushes, the bay
myrtle, the beautiful magnolia grandiflora, and the powerful and gnarled
live oaks, that find their sustenance in this earth and under this same
sky as the fir trees, must be convertible into a prosperous habitation for
other valuable vegetable growth that would add immensely to the wealth of
the Southern States. The orange thrives and bears profusely along this
part of the sea-board of Georgia; and I cannot conceive that the olive,
the mulberry, and the vine might not be acclimated and successfully and
profitably cultivated throughout the whole of this region, the swampy
lower lands alone remaining as rice plantations. The produce of these
already exceeds in value that of the once gold-growing cotton-fields, and
I cannot help believing that silk and wine and oil may, and will,
hereafter, become, with the present solitary cotton crop, joint possessors
of all this now but half-reclaimed wilderness. The soil all round Sorrento
is very nearly as light and dry and sandy as this, and vineyards and olive
orchards and cocooneries are part of the agricultural wealth there. Our
neighbour Mr. C---- has successfully cultivated the date-palm in his
garden on the edge of the sea, at St. Simon's, and certainly the ilex,
orange, and myrtle abounding here suggest natural affinities between the
Italian soil and climate and this.

I must tell you something funny which occurred yesterday at dinner, which
will give you some idea of the strange mode in which we live. We have now
not unfrequently had mutton at table, the flavour of which is quite
excellent, as indeed it well may be, for it is raised under all the
conditions of the famous _Pre sale_ that the French gourmands especially
prize, and which are reproduced on our side of the channel in the peculiar
qualities of our best South Down. The mutton we have here grazes on the
short sweet grass at St. Simon's within sea-salt influence, and is some of
the very best I have ever tasted, but it is invariably brought to table in
lumps or chunks of no particular shape or size, and in which it is utterly
impossible to recognise any part of the quadruped creature sheep with
which my eyes have hitherto become acquainted. Eat it, one may and does
thankfully; name it, one could not by any possibility. Having submitted to
this for some time, I at length enquired why a decent usual Christian
joint of mutton--leg, shoulder, or saddle--was never brought to table: the
reply was that the _carpenter_ always cut up the meat, and that he did not
know how to do it otherwise than by dividing it into so many thick square
pieces, and proceeding to chop it up on that principle; and the
consequence of this is that _four lumps_ or _chunks_ are all that a whole
sheep ever furnishes to our table by this artistic and economical process.

This morning I have been to the hospital to see a poor woman who has just
enriched Mr. ---- by _borning_ him another slave. The poor little
piccaninny, as they called it, was not one bit uglier than white babies
under similarly novel circumstances, except in one particular, that it had
a head of hair like a trunk, in spite of which I had all the pains in the
world in persuading its mother not to put a cap upon it. I bribed her
finally, by the promise of a pair of socks instead, with which I undertook
to endow her child, and, moreover, actually prevailed upon her to forego
the usual swaddling and swathing process, and let her poor baby be dressed
at its first entrance into life as I assured her both mine had been.

On leaving the hospital I visited the huts all along the street,
confiscating sundry refractory baby caps among shrieks and outcries,
partly of laughter and partly of real ignorant alarm for the consequence.
I think if this infatuation for hot head-dresses continues, I shall make
shaving the children's heads the only condition upon which they shall be
allowed to wear caps.

On Sunday morning I went over to Darien to church. Our people's church was
closed, the minister having gone to officiate elsewhere. With laudable
liberality I walked into the opposite church of a different, not to say
opposite sect: here I heard a sermon, the opening of which will,
probably, edify you as it did me, viz., that if a man was _just in all his
dealings_ he was apt to think he did all that could be required of
him,--and no wide mistake either one might suppose. But is it not
wonderful how such words can be spoken here, with the most absolute
unconsciousness of their tremendous bearing upon the existence of every
slaveholder who hears them? Certainly the use that is second nature has
made the awful injustice in the daily practice of which these people live,
a thing of which they are as little aware as you or I of the atmospheric
air that we inhale each time we breathe. The bulk of the congregation in
this church was white. The negroes are, of course, not allowed to mix with
their masters in the house of God, and there is no special place set apart
for them. Occasionally one or two are to be seen in the corners of the
singing gallery, but any more open pollution by them of their owners'
church could not be tolerated. Mr. ----'s people have petitioned very
vehemently that he would build a church for them on the island. I doubt,
however, his allowing them such a luxury as a place of worship all to
themselves. Such a privilege might not be well thought of by the
neighbouring planters; indeed, it is almost what one might call a
whity-brown idea, dangerous, demoralising, inflammatory, incendiary. I
should not wonder if I should be suspected of being the chief corner-stone
of it, and yet I am not: it is an old hope and entreaty of these poor
people, which am afraid they are not destined to see fulfilled.

* * * * *

Dearest E----. Passing the rice-mill this morning in my walk, I went in to
look at the machinery, the large steam mortars which shell the rice, and
which work under the intelligent and reliable supervision of Engineer Ned.
I was much surprised, in the course of conversation with him this morning,
to find how much older a man he was than he appeared. Indeed his youthful
appearance had hitherto puzzled me much in accounting for his very
superior intelligence and the important duties confided to him. He is,
however, a man upwards of forty years old, although he looks ten years
younger. He attributed his own uncommonly youthful appearance to the fact
of his never having done what he called field work, or been exposed, as
the common gang negroes are, to the hardships of their all but brutish
existence. He said his former master had brought him up very kindly, and
he had learnt to tend the engines, and had never been put to any other
work, but he said this was not the case with his poor wife. He wished she
was as well off as he was, but she had to work in the rice-fields and was
'most broke in two' with labour and exposure and hard work while with
child, and hard work just directly after child-bearing; he said she could
hardly crawl, and he urged me very much to speak a kind word for her to
massa. She was almost all the time in hospital, and he thought she could
not live long.

Now, E----, here is another instance of the horrible injustice of this
system of slavery. In my country or in yours, a man endowed with
sufficient knowledge and capacity to be an engineer would, of course, be
in the receipt of considerable wages; his wife would, together with
himself, reap the advantages of his ability, and share the well-being his
labour earned; he would be able to procure for her comfort in sickness or
in health, and beyond the necessary household work, which the wives of
most artisans are inured to, she would have no labour to encounter; in
case of sickness even these would be alleviated by the assistance of some
stout girl of all work, or kindly neighbour, and the tidy parlour or snug
bed-room would be her retreat if unequal to the daily duties of her own
kitchen. Think of such a lot compared with that of the head engineer of
Mr. ----'s plantation, whose sole wages are his coarse food and raiment
and miserable hovel, and whose wife, covered with one filthy garment of
ragged texture and dingy colour, bare-footed and bare-headed, is daily
driven a-field to labour with aching pain-racked joints, under the lash of
a driver, or lies languishing on the earthen floor of the dismal
plantation hospital in a condition of utter physical destitution and
degradation such as the most miserable dwelling of the poorest inhabitant
of your free Northern villages never beheld the like of. Think of the
rows of tidy tiny houses in the long suburbs of Boston and Philadelphia,
inhabited by artisans of just the same grade as this poor Ned, with their
white doors and steps, their hydrants of inexhaustible fresh flowing
water, the innumerable appliances for decent comfort of their cheerful
rooms, the gay wardrobe of the wife, her cotton prints for daily use, her
silk for Sunday church-going; the careful comfort of the children's
clothing, the books and newspapers in the little parlour, the daily
district school, the weekly parish church: imagine if you can--but you are
happy that you cannot--the contrast between such an existence and that of
the best mechanic on a Southern plantation.

Did you ever read (but I am sure you never did, and no more did I), an
epic poem on fresh-water fish? Well, such a one was once written, I have
forgotten by whom, but assuredly the heroine of it ought to have been the
Altamaha shad--a delicate creature, so superior to the animal you
northerners devour with greedy thankfulness when the spring sends back
their finny drove to your colder waters, that one would not suppose these
were of the same family, instead of being, as they really are, precisely
the same fish. Certainly the mud of the Altamaha must have some most
peculiar virtues; and, by the by, I have never anywhere tasted such
delicious tea as that which we make with this same turbid stream, the
water of which duly filtered, of course, has some peculiar softness which
affects the tea (and it is the same we always use) in a most curious and
agreeable manner.

On my return to the house I found a terrible disturbance in consequence of
the disappearance from under cook John's safe keeping, of a ham Mr. -----
had committed to his charge. There was no doubt whatever that the
unfortunate culinary slave had made away in some inscrutable manner with
the joint intended for our table: the very lies he told about it were so
curiously shallow, child-like, and transparent, that while they confirmed
the fact of his theft quite as much if not more than an absolute
confession would have done, they provoked at once my pity and my
irrepressible mirth to a most painful degree. Mr. ---- was in a state of
towering anger and indignation, and besides a flogging sentenced the
unhappy cook to degradation from his high and dignified position (and,
alas! all its sweets of comparatively easy labour and good living from the
remains of our table) to the hard toil, coarse scanty fare, and despised
position of a common field hand. I suppose some punishment was inevitably
necessary in such a plain case of deliberate theft as this, but,
nevertheless, my whole soul revolts at the injustice of visiting upon
these poor wretches a moral darkness which all possible means are taken to
increase and perpetuate.

In speaking of this and the whole circumstance of John's trespass to
Mr. ---- in the evening, I observed that the ignorance of these poor
people ought to screen them from punishment. He replied, that they knew
well enough what was right and wrong. I asked how they could be expected
to know it? He replied, by the means of Cooper London, and the religious
instruction he gave them. So that, after all, the appeal is to be made
against themselves to that moral and religious instruction which is
withheld from them, and which, if they obtain it at all, is the result of
their own unaided and unencouraged exertion. The more I hear, and see,
and learn, and ponder the whole of this system of slavery, the more
impossible I find it to conceive how its practisers and upholders are to
justify their deeds before the tribunal of their own conscience or God's
law. It is too dreadful to have those whom we love accomplices to this
wickedness; it is too intolerable to find myself an involuntary
accomplice to it.

I had a conversation the next morning with Abraham, cook John's brother,
upon the subject of his brother's theft; and only think of the _slave_
saying that 'this action had brought disgrace upon the family.' Does not
that sound very like the very best sort of free pride, the pride of
character, the honourable pride of honesty, integrity, and fidelity? But
this was not all, for this same Abraham, a clever carpenter and much
valued _hand_ on the estate, went on, in answer to my questions, to tell
me such a story that I declare to you I felt as if I could have howled
with helpless indignation and grief when he departed and went to resume
his work. His grandfather had been an old slave in Darien, extremely
clever as a carpenter, and so highly valued for his skill and good
character that his master allowed him to purchase his liberty by money
which he earned by working for himself at odd times, when his task work
was over. I asked Abraham what sum his grandfather paid for his freedom:
he said he did not know, but he supposed a large one, because of his being
a 'skilled carpenter,' and so a peculiarly valuable chattel. I presume,
from what I remember Major M---- and Dr. H---- saying on the subject of
the market value of negroes in Charleston and Savannah, that such a man in
the prime of life would have been worth from 1,500 to 2,000 dollars.
However, whatever the man paid for his ransom, by his grandson's account,
fourteen years after he became free, when he died, he had again amassed
money to the amount of 700 dollars, which he left among his wife and
children, the former being a slave on Major ----'s estate, where the
latter remained by virtue of that fact slaves also. So this man not only
bought his own freedom at a cost of _at least_ 1,000 dollars, but left a
little fortune of 700 more at his death: and then we are told of the
universal idleness, thriftlessness, incorrigible sloth, and brutish
incapacity of this inferior race of creatures, whose only fitting and
Heaven-appointed condition is that of beasts of burthen to the whites. I
do not believe the whole low white population of the state of Georgia
could furnish such an instance of energy, industry, and thrift, as the
amassing of this laborious little fortune by this poor slave, who left,
nevertheless, his children and grandchildren to the lot from which he had
so heroically ransomed himself: and yet the white men with whom I live and
talk tell me, day after day, that there is neither cruelty nor injustice
in this accursed system.

About half-past five I went to walk on the dykes, and met a gang of the
field-hands going to the tide-mill, as the water served them for working
then. I believe I have told you that besides the great steam mill there is
this, which is dependent on the rise and fall of the tide in the river,
and where the people are therefore obliged to work by day or night at
whatever time the water serves to impel the wheel. They greeted me with
their usual profusion of exclamations, petitions, and benedictions, and I
parted from them to come and oversee my slave Jack, for whom I had bought
a spade, and to whom I had entrusted the task of turning up some ground
for me, in which I wanted to establish some of the Narcissus and other
flowers I had remarked about the ground and the house. Jack, however, was
a worse digger than Adam could have been when first he turned his hand to
it, after his expulsion from Paradise. I think I could have managed a
spade with infinitely more efficiency, or rather less incapacity, than he
displayed. Upon my expressing my amazement at his performance, he said
the people here never used spades, but performed all their agricultural
operations with the hoe. Their soil must be very light and their
agriculture very superficial, I should think. However, I was obliged to
terminate Jack's spooning process and abandon, for the present, my hopes
of a flower-bed created by his industry, being called into the house to
receive the return visit of old Mrs. S----. As usual, the appearance,
health, vigour, and good management of the children were the theme of
wondering admiration; as usual, my possession of a white nurse the theme
of envious congratulation; as usual, I had to hear the habitual senseless
complaints of the inefficiency of coloured nurses. If you are half as
tired of the sameness and stupidity of the conversation of my southern
female neighbours as I am, I pity you; but not as much as I pity them for
the stupid sameness of their most vapid existence, which would deaden any
amount of intelligence, obliterate any amount of instruction, and render
torpid and stagnant any amount of natural energy and vivacity. I would
rather die--rather a thousand times--than live the lives of these Georgia
planters' wives and daughters.

Mrs. S---- had brought me some of the delicious wild jasmine that festoons
her dreary pine-wood drive, and most grateful I was for the presence of
the sweet wild nosegay in my highly unornamental residence. When my
visitors had left me, I took the refreshment of a row over to Darien; and
as we had the tide against us coming back, the process was not so
refreshing for the rowers. The evening was so extremely beautiful, and the
rising of the moon so exquisite, that instead of retreating to the house
when I reached the island, I got into the Dolphin, my special canoe, and
made Jack paddle me down the great river to meet the Lily, which was
coming back from St. Simon's with Mr. ---- who has been preparing all
things for our advent thither.

My letter has been interrupted, dear E----, by the breaking up of our
residence on the rice plantation, and our arrival at St. Simon's, whence I
now address you. We came down yesterday afternoon, and I was thankful
enough of the fifteen miles' row to rest in, from the labour of
leave-taking, with which the whole morning was taken up, and which,
combined with packing and preparing all our own personalities and those of
the children, was no sinecure. At every moment one or other of the poor
people rushed in upon me to bid me good-bye; many of their farewells were
grotesque enough, some were pathetic, and all of them made me very sad.
Poor people! how little I have done, how little I can do for them. I had a
long talk with that interesting and excellent man, Cooper London, who made
an earnest petition that I would send him from the North a lot of Bibles
and Prayer Books; certainly the science of reading must be much more
common among the negroes than I supposed, or London must look to a
marvellously increased spread of the same hereafter. There is, however,
considerable reticence upon this point, or else the poor slaves must
consider the mere possession of the holy books as good for salvation and
as effectual for spiritual assistance to those who cannot as to those who
can comprehend them. Since the news of our departure has spread, I have
had repeated eager entreaties for presents of Bibles and Prayer Books, and
to my demurrer of 'But you can't read; can you?' have generally received
for answer a reluctant acknowledgement of ignorance, which, however, did
not always convince me of the fact. In my farewell conversation with
London I found it impossible to get him to tell me how he had learned to
read: the penalties for teaching them are very severe, heavy fines,
increasing in amount for the first and second offence, and imprisonment
for the third.[4] Such a man as London is certainly aware that to teach
the slaves to read is an illegal act, and he may have been unwilling to
betray whoever had been his preceptor even to my knowledge; at any rate, I
got no answers from him but 'Well, missis, me learn; well, missis, me
try,' and finally, 'Well, missis, me 'spose Heaven help me;' to which I
could only reply, that I knew Heaven was helpful, but very hardly to the
tune of teaching folks their letters. I got no satisfaction. Old Jacob,
the father of Abraham, cook John, and poor Psyche's husband, took a most
solemn and sad leave of me, saying he did not expect ever to see me again.
I could not exactly tell why, because, though he is aged and infirm, the
fifteen miles between the rice plantation and St. Simon's do not appear so
insuperable a barrier between the inhabitants of the two places, which I
represented to him as a suggestion of consolation.

[Footnote 4: These laws have been greatly increased in stringency and
severity since these letters were written, and _death_ has not been
reckoned too heavy a penalty for those who should venture to offer these
unfortunate people the fruit of that forbidden tree of knowledge, their
access to which has appeared to their owners the crowning danger of their
own precarious existence among their terrible dependents.]

I have worked my fingers nearly off with making, for the last day or two,
innumerable rolls of coarse little baby clothes, layettes for the use of
small new-born slaves; M---- diligently cutting and shaping, and I as
diligently stitching. We leave a good supply for the hospitals, and for
the individual clients besides who have besieged me ever since my
departure became imminent.

Our voyage from the rice to the cotton plantation was performed in the
Lily, which looked like a soldier's baggage wagon and an emigrant
transport combined. Our crew consisted of eight men. Forward in the bow
were miscellaneous live stock, pots, pans, household furniture, kitchen
utensils, and an indescribable variety of heterogeneous necessaries.
Enthroned upon beds, bedding, tables, and other chattels, sat that poor
pretty chattel Psyche, with her small chattel children. Midships sat the
two tiny free women, and myself, and in the stern Mr. ---- steering. And
'all in the blue unclouded weather' we rowed down the huge stream, the men
keeping time and tune to their oars with extemporaneous chaunts of adieu
to the rice island and its denizens. Among other poetical and musical
comments on our departure recurred the assertion, as a sort of burthen,
that we were 'parted in body, but not in mind,' from those we left behind.
Having relieved one set of sentiments by this reflection, they very wisely
betook themselves to the consideration of the blessings that remained to
them, and performed a spirited chaunt in honour of Psyche and our bouncing
black housemaid, Mary.

At the end of a fifteen miles' row we entered one among a perfect
labyrinth of arms or branches, into which the broad river ravels like a
fringe as it reaches the sea, a dismal navigation along a dismal tract,
called 'Five Pound,' through a narrow cut or channel of water divided from
the main stream. The conch was sounded, as at our arrival at the rice
island, and we made our descent on the famous long staple cotton island of
St. Simon's, where we presently took up our abode in what had all the
appearance of an old half-decayed rattling farm-house.

This morning, Sunday, I peeped round its immediate neighbourhood, and saw,
to my inexpressible delight, within hail, some noble-looking evergreen
oaks, and close to the house itself a tiny would-be garden, a plot of
ground with one or two peach-trees in full blossom, tufts of silver
narcissus and jonquils, a quantity of violets and an exquisite myrtle
bush; wherefore I said my prayers with especial gratitude.

* * * * *

Dearest E----. The fame of my peculiar requisitions has, I find, preceded
me here, for the babies that have been presented to my admiring notice
have all been without caps; also, however, without socks to their opposite
little wretched extremities, but that does not signify quite so much. The
people, too, that I saw yesterday were remarkably clean and tidy; to be
sure, it was Sunday. The whole day, till quite late in the afternoon, the
house was surrounded by a crowd of our poor dependents, waiting to catch a
glimpse of Mr. ----, myself, or the children; and until, from sheer
weariness, I was obliged to shut the doors, an incessant stream poured in
and out, whose various modes of salutation, greeting, and welcome were
more grotesque and pathetic at the same time than anything you can
imagine. In the afternoon I walked with ---- to see a new house in process
of erection, which, when it is finished, is to be the overseer's abode and
our residence during any future visits we may pay to the estate. I was
horrified at the dismal site selected, and the hideous house erected on
it. It is true that the central position is the principal consideration in
the overseer's location, but both position and building seemed to me to
witness to an inveterate love of ugliness, or at any rate a deadness to
every desire of beauty, nothing short of horrible; and for my own part, I
think it is intolerable to have to leave the point where the waters meet,
and where a few fine picturesque old trees are scattered about, to come to
this place even for the very short time I am ever likely to spend here.

In every direction our view, as we returned, was bounded by thickets of
the most beautiful and various evergreen growth, which beckoned my
inexperience most irresistibly. ---- said, to my unutterable horror, that
they were perfectly infested with rattlesnakes, and I must on no account
go 'beating about the bush' in these latitudes, as the game I should be
likely to start would be anything but agreeable to me. We saw quantities
of wild plum-trees all silvery with blossoms, and in lovely companionship
and contrast with them a beautiful shrub covered with delicate pink bloom
like flowering peach-trees. After that life in the rice-swamp, where the
Altamaha kept looking over the dyke at me all the time as I sat in the
house writing or working, it is pleasant to be on _terra firma_ again, and
to know that the river is at the conventional, not to say natural, depth
below its banks, and under my feet instead of over my head. The two
plantations are of diametrically opposite dispositions--that is all swamp,
and this all sand; or to speak more accurately, that is all swamp, and
all of this that is not swamp, is sand.

On our way home we met a most extraordinary creature of the negro kind,
who, coming towards us, halted, and caused us to halt straight in the
middle of the path, when bending himself down till his hands almost
touched the ground, he exclaimed to Mr. ----, 'Massa ----, your most
obedient;' and then, with a kick and a flourish altogether indescribable,
he drew to the side of the path to let us pass, which we did perfectly
shouting with laughter, which broke out again every time we looked at each
other and stopped to take breath--so sudden, grotesque, uncouth, and yet
dexterous a gambado never came into the brain or out of the limbs of
anything but a 'niggar.'

I observed, among the numerous groups that we passed or met, a much larger
proportion of mulattoes than at the rice-island; upon asking Mr. ---- why
this was so, he said that there no white person could land without his or
the overseer's permission, whereas on St. Simon's, which is a large island
containing several plantations belonging to different owners, of course
the number of whites, both residing on and visiting the place, was much
greater, and the opportunity for intercourse between the blacks and whites
much more frequent. While we were still on this subject, a horrid-looking
filthy woman met us with a little child in her arms, a very light mulatto,
whose extraordinary resemblance to Driver Bran (one of the officials, who
had been duly presented to me on my arrival, and who was himself a
mulatto) struck me directly. I pointed it out to Mr. ----, who merely
answered, 'Very likely his child.' 'And,' said I, 'did you never remark
that Driver Bran is the exact image of Mr. K----?' 'Very likely his
brother,' was the reply: all which rather unpleasant state of
relationships seemed accepted as such a complete matter of course, that I
felt rather uncomfortable, and said no more about who was like who, but
came to certain conclusions in my own mind as to a young lad who had been
among our morning visitors, and whose extremely light colour and straight
handsome features and striking resemblance to Mr. K----, had suggested
suspicions of a rather unpleasant nature to me, and whose
sole-acknowledged parent was a very black negress of the name of Minda. I
have no doubt at all, now, that he is another son of Mr. K----, Mr. ----'s
paragon overseer.

As we drew near the house again we were gradually joined by such a
numerous escort of Mr. ----'s slaves that it was almost with difficulty we
could walk along the path. They buzzed, and hummed, and swarmed round us
like flies, and the heat and dust consequent upon this friendly
companionship were a most unpleasant addition to the labour of walking in
the sandy soil through which we were ploughing. I was not sorry when we
entered the house and left our bodyguard outside. In the evening I looked
over the plan of the delightful residence I had visited in the morning,
and could not help suggesting to Mr. ---- the advantage to be gained in
point of picturesqueness by merely turning the house round. It is but a
wooden frame one after all, and your folks 'down east' would think no more
of inviting it to face about than if it was built of cards; but the fact
is, here nothing signifies except the cotton crop, and whether one's nose
is in a swamp and one's eyes in a sand-heap, is of no consequence whatever
either to oneself (if oneself was not I) or anyone else.

I find here an immense proportion of old people; the work and the climate
of the rice plantation require the strongest of the able-bodied men and
women of the estate. The cotton crop is no longer by any means as
paramount in value as it used to be, and the climate, soil, and labour of
St. Simon's are better adapted to old, young, and feeble cultivators,
than the swamp fields of the rice-island. I wonder if I ever told you of
the enormous decrease in value of this same famous sea-island long staple
cotton. When Major ----, Mr. ----'s grandfather, first sent the produce
of this plantation where we now are to England, it was of so fine a
quality that it used to be quoted by itself in the Liverpool cotton
market, and was then worth half a guinea a pound; it is now not worth a
shilling a pound. This was told me by the gentleman in Liverpool who has
been factor for this estate for thirty years. Such a decrease as this in
the value of one's crop and the steady increase at the same time of a
slave population, now numbering between 700 and 800 bodies to clothe and
house,--mouths to feed, while the land is being exhausted by the careless
and wasteful nature of the agriculture itself, suggests a pretty serious
prospect of declining prosperity; and, indeed, unless these Georgia
cotton planters can command more land or lay abundant capital (which they
have not, being almost all of them over head and ears in debt) upon that
which has already spent its virgin vigour, it is a very obvious thing
that they must all very soon be eaten up by their own property. The rice
plantations are a great thing to fall back upon under these
circumstances, and the rice crop is now quite as valuable, if not more
so, than the cotton one on Mr. ----'s estates, once so famous and
prosperous through the latter.

I find any number of all but superannuated men and women here, whose
tales of the former grandeur of the estate and family are like things one
reads of in novels. One old woman who crawled to see me, and could hardly
lift her poor bowed head high enough to look in my face, had been in
Major ----'s establishment in Philadelphia, and told with infinite pride
of having waited upon his daughters and grand-daughters, Mr. ----'s
sisters. Yet here she is, flung by like an old rag, crippled with age and
disease, living, or rather dying by slow degrees in a miserable hovel,
such as no decent household servant would at the North, I suppose, ever
set their foot in. The poor old creature complained bitterly to me of all
her ailments and all her wants. I can do little, alas! for either. I had
a visit from another tottering old crone called Dorcas, who all but went
on her knees as she wrung and kissed my hands; with her came my friend
Molly, the grandmother of the poor runaway girl, Louisa, whose story I
wrote you some little time ago. I had to hear it all over again, it being
the newest event evidently in Molly's life; and it ended as before with
the highly reasonable proposition: 'Me say, missis, what for massa's
niggar run away? Snake eat em up, or dey starve to def in a swamp.
Massa's niggars dey don't nebbar run away.' If I was 'massa's niggars,' I
'spose' I shouldn't run away either, with only those alternatives, but
when I look at these wretches and at the sea that rolls round this
island, and think how near the English West Indies and freedom are, it
gives me a pretty severe twinge at the heart.

* * * * *

Dearest E----. I am afraid my letters must be becoming very wearisome to
you, for if, as the copy-book runs, 'variety is charming,' they certainly
cannot be so, unless monotony is also charming, a thing not impossible to
some minds, but of which the copy-book makes no mention. But what will
you? as the French say; my days are no more different from one another
than peas in a dish, or sands on the shore: 'tis a pleasant enough life to
live, for one who, like myself, has a passion for dulness, but it affords
small matter for epistolary correspondence. I suppose it is the surfeit of
excitement that I had in my youth that has made a life of quiet monotony
so extremely agreeable to me; it is like stillness after loud noise,
twilight after glare, rest after labour. There is enough strangeness too
in everything that surrounds me here to interest and excite me agreeably
and sufficiently, and I should like the wild savage loneliness of the far
away existence extremely, if it were not for the one small item of 'the

I had a curious visit this morning from half a dozen of the women, among
whom were Driver Morris's wife and Venus (a hideous old goddess she was,
to be sure), Driver Bran's mother. They came especially to see the
children, who are always eagerly asked for, and hugely admired by their
sooty dependents. These poor women went into ecstasies over the little
white piccaninnies, and were loud and profuse in their expressions of
gratitude to massa ---- for getting married and having children, a matter
of thankfulness which, though it always makes me laugh very much, is a
most serious one to them; for the continuance of the family keeps the
estate and slaves from the hammer, and the poor wretches, besides seeing
in every new child born to their owners a security against their own
banishment from the only home they know, and separation from all ties of
kindred and habit, and dispersion to distant plantations, not unnaturally
look for a milder rule from masters who are the children of their fathers'
masters. The relation of owner and slave may be expected to lose some of
its harsher features, and, no doubt, in some instances, does so, when it
is on each side the inheritance of successive generations. And so ----'s
slaves laud, and applaud, and thank, and bless him for having married, and
endowed their children with two little future mistresses. One of these
women, a Diana by name, went down on her knees and uttered in a loud voice
a sort of extemporaneous prayer of thanksgiving at our advent, in which
the sacred and the profane were most ludicrously mingled; her 'tanks to de
good Lord God Almighty that missus had come, what give de poor niggar
sugar and flannel,' and dat 'massa ----, him hab brought de missis and de
two little misses down among de people,' were really too grotesque; and
yet certainly more sincere acts of thanksgiving are not often uttered
among the solemn and decorous ones that are offered up to heaven for
'benefits received.'

I find the people here much more inclined to talk than those on the
rice-island; they have less to do and more leisure, and bestow it very
liberally on me; moreover, the poor old women, of whom there are so many
turned out to grass here, and of whom I have spoken to you before,
though they are past work, are by no means past gossip, and the stories
they have to tell of the former government of the estate under old Massa
K---- are certainly pretty tremendous illustrations of the merits of
slavery as a moral institution. This man, the father of the late owner,
Mr. R---- K----, was Major ----'s agent in the management of this
property; and a more cruel and unscrupulous one as regards the slaves
themselves, whatever he may have been in his dealings with the master, I
should think it would be difficult to find, even among the cruel and
unscrupulous class to which he belonged.

In a conversation with old 'House Molly,' as she is called, to distinguish
her from all other Mollies on the estate, she having had the honour of
being a servant in Major ----'s house for many years, I asked her if the
relation between men and women who are what they call married, i.e., who
have agreed to live together as man and wife (the only species of marriage
formerly allowed on the estate, I believe now London may read the Marriage
Service to them), was considered binding by the people themselves and by
the overseer. She said 'not much, formerly,' and that the people couldn't
be expected to have much regard to such an engagement, utterly ignored as
it was by Mr. K----, whose invariable rule, if he heard of any
disagreement between a man and woman calling themselves married, was
immediately to bestow them in 'marriage' on other parties, whether they
chose it or not, by which summary process the slightest 'incompatibility
of temper' received the relief of a divorce more rapid and easy than even
Germany could afford, and the estate lost nothing by any prolongation of
celibacy on either side. Of course, the misery consequent upon such
arbitrary destruction of voluntary and imposition of involuntary ties was
nothing to Mr. K----.

I was very sorry to hear to-day, that Mr. O----, the overseer at the
rice-island, of whom I have made mention to you more than once in my
letters, had had one of the men flogged very severely for getting his wife
baptised. I was quite unable, from the account I received, to understand
what his objection had been to the poor man's desire to make his wife at
least a formal Christian; but it does seem dreadful that such an act
should be so visited. I almost wish I was back again at the rice-island;
for though this is every way the pleasanter residence, I hear so much more
that is intolerable of the treatment of the slaves from those I find here,
that my life is really made wretched by it. There is not a single natural
right that is not taken away from these unfortunate people, and the worst
of all is, that their condition does not appear to me, upon further
observation of it, to be susceptible of even partial alleviation as long
as the fundamental evil, the slavery itself, remains.

My letter was interrupted as usual by clamours for my presence at the
door, and petitions for sugar, rice, and baby clothes, from a group of
women who had done their tasks at three o'clock in the afternoon, and had
come to say, 'Ha do missis?' (How do you do?), and beg something on their
way to their huts. Observing one among them whose hand was badly maimed,
one finger being reduced to a mere stump, she told me it was in
consequence of the bite of a rattlesnake, which had attacked and bitten
her child, and then struck her as she endeavoured to kill it; her little
boy had died, but one of the drivers cut off her finger, and so she had
escaped with the loss of that member only. It is yet too early in the
season for me to make acquaintance with these delightful animals; but the
accounts the negroes give of their abundance is full of agreeable promise
for the future. It seems singular, considering how very common they are,
that there are not more frequent instances of the slaves being bitten by
them; to be sure, they seem to me to have a holy horror of ever setting
their feet near either tree or bush, or anywhere but on the open road, and
the fields where they labour; and of course the snakes are not so frequent
in open and frequented places, as in their proper coverts. The Red Indians
are said to use successfully some vegetable cure for the bite, I believe
the leaves of the slippery ash or elm; the only infallible remedy,
however, is suction, but of this the ignorant negroes are so afraid, that
they never can be induced to have recourse to it, being of course
immovably persuaded that the poison which is so fatal to the blood, must
be equally so to the stomach. They tell me that the cattle wandering into
the brakes and bushes are often bitten to death by these deadly creatures;
the pigs, whose fat it seems does not accept the venom into its tissues
with the same effect, escape unhurt for the most part--so much for the
anti-venomous virtue of adipose matter--a consolatory consideration for
such of us as are inclined to take on flesh more than we think graceful.

_Monday morning, 25th._--This letter has been long on the stocks, dear
E----. I have been busy all day, and tired, and lazy in the evening
latterly, and, moreover, feel as if such very dull matter was hardly worth
sending all the way off to where you are happy to be. However, that is
nonsense; I know well enough that you are glad to hear from me, be it what
it will, and so I resume my chronicle. Some of my evenings have been spent
in reading Mr. Clay's anti-abolition speech, and making notes on it, which
I will show you when we meet. What a cruel pity and what a cruel shame it
is that such a man should either know no better or do no better for his
country than he is doing now!

Yesterday I for the first time bethought me of the riding privileges of
which Jack used to make such magnificent mention when he was fishing with
me at the rice-island; and desiring to visit the remoter parts of the
plantation and the other end of the island, I enquired into the resources
of the stable. I was told I could have a mare with foal; but I declined
adding my weight to what the poor beast already carried, and my only
choice then was between one who had just foaled, or a fine stallion used
as a plough horse on the plantation. I determined for the latter, and
shall probably be handsomely shaken whenever I take my rides abroad.

_Tuesday, the 26th._--My dearest E----. I write to you to-day in great
depression and distress. I have had a most painful conversation with
Mr. ----, who has declined receiving any of the people's petitions
through me. Whether he is wearied with the number of these prayers and
supplications which he would escape but for me, as they probably would
not venture to come so incessantly to him, and I of course feel bound to
bring every one confided to me to him; or whether he has been annoyed at
the number of pitiful and horrible stories of misery and oppression under
the former rule of Mr. K----, which have come to my knowledge since I
have been here, and the grief and indignation caused, but which cannot by
any means always be done away with, though their expression may be
silenced by his angry exclamations of 'Why do you listen to such stuff?'
or 'Why do you believe such trash; don't you know the niggers are all
d----d liars?' &c. I do not know; but he desired me this morning to bring
him no more complaints or requests of any sort, as the people had
hitherto had no such advocate, and had done very well without, and I was
only kept in an incessant state of excitement with all the falsehoods
they 'found they could make me believe.' How well they have done without
my advocacy, the conditions which I see with my own eyes even more than
their pitiful petitions demonstrate; it is indeed true, that the
sufferings of those who come to me for redress, and still more the
injustice done to the great majority who cannot, have filled my heart
with bitterness and indignation that have overflowed my lips, till, I
suppose, ---- is weary of hearing what he has never heard before, the
voice of passionate expostulation, and importunate pleading against
wrongs that he will not even acknowledge, and for creatures whose common
humanity with his own I half think he does not believe;--but I must
return to the North, for my condition would be almost worse than
theirs--condemned to hear and see so much wretchedness, not only without
the means of alleviating it, but without permission even to represent it
for alleviation--this is no place for me, since I was not born among
slaves, and cannot bear to live among them.

Perhaps after all what he says is true: when I am gone they will fall back
into the desperate uncomplaining habit of suffering, from which my coming
among them, willing to hear and ready to help, has tempted them; he says
that bringing their complaints to me, and the sight of my credulous
commiseration, only tend to make them discontented and idle, and brings
renewed chastisement upon them; and that so, instead of really befriending
them, I am only preparing more suffering for them whenever I leave the
place, and they can no more cry to me for help. And so I see nothing for
it but to go and leave them to their fate; perhaps, too, he is afraid of
the mere contagion of freedom which breathes from the very existence of
those who are free; my way of speaking to the people, of treating them, of
living with them, the appeals I make to their sense of truth, of duty, of
self-respect, the infinite compassion and the human consideration I feel
for them,--all this of course makes my intercourse with them dangerously
suggestive of relations far different from anything they have ever known,
and as Mr. O---- once almost hinted to me, my existence among slaves was
an element of danger to the 'institution.' If I should go away, the human
sympathy that I have felt for them will certainly never come near them

I was too unhappy to write any more, my dear friend, and you have been
spared the rest of my paroxysm, which hereabouts culminated in the blessed
refuge of abundant tears. God will provide. He has not forgotten, nor will
He forsake these His poor children; and if I may no longer minister to
them, they yet are in His hand, who cares for them more and better than I

Towards the afternoon yesterday, I rowed up the river to the rice-island,
by way of refreshment to my spirits, and came back to-day, Wednesday the
27th, through rather a severe storm. Before going to bed last night I
finished Mr. Clay's speech, and ground my teeth over it. Before starting
this morning I received from head-man Frank a lesson on the various
qualities of the various sorts of rice, and should be (at any rate till I
forget all he told me, which I 'feel in my bones' will be soon) a
competent judge and expert saleswoman. The dead white speck, which shows
itself sometimes in rice as it does in teeth, is in the former, as in the
latter, a sign of decay; the finest quality of rice is what may be called
flinty, clear and unclouded, and a pretty clean sparkling-looking thing it

I will tell you something curious and pleasant about my row back. The wind
was so high and the river so rough when I left the rice-island, that just
as I was about to get into the boat I thought it might not be amiss to
carry my life-preserver with me, and ran back to the house to fetch it.
Having taken that much care for my life, I jumped into the boat, and we
pushed off. The fifteen miles' row with a furious wind, and part of the
time the tide against us, and the huge broad turbid river broken into a
foaming sea of angry waves, was a pretty severe task for the men. They
pulled with a will, however, but I had to forego the usual accompaniment
of their voices, for the labour was tremendous, especially towards the end
of our voyage, where, of course, the nearness of the sea increased the
roughness of the water terribly. The men were in great spirits, however
(there were eight of them rowing, and one behind was steering); one of
them said something which elicited an exclamation of general assent, and I
asked what it was; the steerer said they were pleased because there was
not another planter's lady in all Georgia who would have gone through the
storm all alone with them in a boat; i.e. without the protecting presence
of a white man. 'Why,' said I, 'my good fellows, if the boat capsized, or
anything happened, I am sure I should have nine chances for my life
instead of one;' at this there was one shout of 'So you would, missis!
true for dat, missis,' and in great mutual good-humour we reached the
landing at Hampton Point.

As I walked home I pondered over this compliment of Mr. ----'s slaves to
me, and did not feel quite sure that the very absence of the fear which
haunts the southern women in their intercourse with these people and
prevents them from trusting themselves ever with them out of reach of
white companionship and supervision was not one of the circumstances which
makes my intercourse with them unsafe and undesirable. The idea of
apprehending any mischief from them never yet crossed my brain; and in the
perfect confidence with which I go amongst them, they must perceive a
curious difference between me and my lady neighbours in these parts; all
have expressed unbounded astonishment at my doing so.

The spring is fast coming on; and we shall, I suppose, soon leave
Georgia. How new and sad a chapter of my life this winter here has been!

* * * * *

Dear E----. I cannot give way to the bitter impatience I feel at my
present position, and come back to the north without leaving my babies;
and though I suppose their stay will not in any case be much prolonged in
these regions of swamp and slavery, I must, for their sakes, remain where
they are, and learn this dreary lesson of human suffering to the end. The
record, it seems to me, must be utterly wearisome to you, as the instances
themselves I suppose in a given time (thanks to that dreadful reconciler
to all that is evil--habit) would become to me.

This morning I had a visit from two of the women, Charlotte and Judy, who
came to me for help and advice for a complaint, which it really seems to
me every other woman on the estate is cursed with, and which is a direct
result of the conditions of their existence; the practice of sending women
to labour in the fields in the third week after their confinement is a
specific for causing this infirmity, and I know no specific for curing it
under these circumstances. As soon as these poor things had departed with
such comfort as I could give them, and the bandages they especially begged
for, three other sable graces introduced themselves, Edie, Louisa, and
Diana; the former told me she had had a family of seven children, but had
lost them all through 'ill luck,' as she denominated the ignorance and ill
treatment which were answerable for the loss of these, as of so many other
poor little creatures their fellows. Having dismissed her and Diana with
the sugar and rice they came to beg, I detained Louisa, whom I had never
seen but in the presence of her old grandmother, whose version of the poor
child's escape to, and hiding in the woods, I had a desire to compare with
the heroine's own story. She told it very simply, and it was most
pathetic. She had not finished her task one day, when she said she felt
ill, and unable to do so, and had been severely flogged by Driver Bran, in
whose 'gang' she then was. The next day, in spite of this encouragement to
labour, she had again been unable to complete her appointed work; and Bran
having told her that he'd tie her up and flog her if she did not get it
done, she had left the field and run into the swamp. 'Tie you up, Louisa!'
said I, 'what is that?' She then described to me that they were fastened
up by their wrists to a beam or a branch of a tree, their feet barely
touching the ground, so as to allow them no purchase for resistance or
evasion of the lash, their clothes turned over their heads, and their
backs scored with a leather thong, either by the driver himself, or if he
pleases to inflict their punishment by deputy, any of the men he may
choose to summon to the office; it might be father, brother, husband, or
lover, if the overseer so ordered it. I turned sick, and my blood curdled
listening to these details from the slender young slip of a lassie, with
her poor piteous face and murmuring pleading voice. 'Oh,' said I, 'Louisa;
but the rattlesnakes, the dreadful rattlesnakes in the swamps; were you
not afraid of those horrible creatures?' 'Oh, missis,' said the poor
child, 'me no tink of dem, me forget all 'bout dem for de fretting.' 'Why
did you come home at last?' 'Oh, missis, me starve with hunger, me most
dead with hunger before me come back.' 'And were you flogged, Louisa?'
said I, with a shudder at what the answer might be. 'No, missis, me go to
hospital; me almost dead and sick so long, 'spec Driver Bran him forgot
'bout de flogging.' I am getting perfectly savage over all these doings,
E----, and really think I should consider my own throat and those of my
children well cut, if some night the people were to take it into their
heads to clear off scores in that fashion.

The Calibanish wonderment of all my visitors at the exceedingly coarse and
simple furniture and rustic means of comfort of my abode is very droll. I
have never inhabited any apartment so perfectly devoid of what we should
consider the common decencies of life; but to them my rude chintz-covered
sofa and common pine-wood table, with its green baize cloth, seem the
adornings of a palace; and often in the evening, when my bairns are
asleep, and M---- up-stairs keeping watch over them, and I sit writing
this daily history for your edification,--the door of the great barn-like
room is opened stealthily, and one after another, men and women come
trooping silently in, their naked feet falling all but inaudibly on the
bare boards as they betake themselves to the hearth, where they squat down
on their hams in a circle,--the bright blaze from the huge pine logs,
which is the only light of this half of the room, shining on their sooty
limbs and faces, and making them look like a ring of ebony idols
surrounding my domestic hearth. I have had as many as fourteen at a time
squatting silently there for nearly half an hour, watching me writing at
the other end of the room. The candles on my table give only light enough
for my own occupation, the fire light illuminates the rest of the
apartment; and you cannot imagine anything stranger than the effect of all
these glassy whites of eyes and grinning white teeth turned towards me,
and shining in the flickering light. I very often take no notice of them
at all, and they seem perfectly absorbed in contemplating me. My evening
dress probably excites their wonder and admiration no less than my rapid
and continuous writing, for which they have sometimes expressed
compassion, as if they thought it must be more laborious than hoeing;
sometimes at the end of my day's journal I look up and say suddenly,
'Well, what do you want?' when each black figure springs up at once, as if
moved by machinery, they all answer, 'Me come say ha do (how d'ye do),
missis;' and then they troop out as noiselessly as they entered, like a
procession of sable dreams, and I go off in search, if possible, of whiter

Two days ago I had a visit of great interest to me from several lads from
twelve to sixteen years old, who had come to beg me to give them work. To
make you understand this you must know, that wishing very much to cut some
walks and drives through the very picturesque patches of woodland not far
from the house, I announced, through Jack, my desire to give employment in
the wood-cutting line, to as many lads as chose, when their unpaid task
was done, to come and do some work for me, for which I engaged to pay
them. At the risk of producing a most dangerous process of reflection and
calculation in their brains, I have persisted in paying what I considered
wages to every slave that has been my servant; and these my labourers
must, of course, be free to work or no, as they like, and if they work for
me must be paid by me. The proposition met with unmingled approbation from
my 'gang;' but I think it might be considered dangerously suggestive of
the rightful relation between work and wages; in short, very involuntarily
no doubt, but, nevertheless, very effectually I am disseminating ideas
among Mr. ----'s dependents, the like of which have certainly never before
visited their wool-thatched brains.

_Friday, March 1._--Last night after writing so much to you I felt weary,
and went out into the air to refresh my spirit. The scene just beyond the
house was beautiful, the moonlight slept on the broad river which here is
almost the sea, and on the masses of foliage of the great southern oaks;
the golden stars of German poetry shone in the purple curtains of the
night, and the measured rush of the Atlantic unfurling its huge skirts
upon the white sands of the beach (the sweetest and most awful lullaby in
nature) resounded through the silent air.

I have not felt well, and have been much depressed for some days past. I
think I should die if I had to live here. This morning, in order not to
die yet, I thought I had better take a ride, and accordingly mounted the
horse which I told you was one of the equestrian alternatives offered me
here; but no sooner did he feel my weight, which, after all, is mere
levity and frivolity to him, than he thought proper to rebel, and find the
grasshopper a burthen, and rear and otherwise demonstrate his disgust. I
have not ridden for a long time now, but Montreal's opposition very
presently aroused the Amazon which is both natural and acquired in me, and
I made him comprehend that, though I object to slaves, I expect obedient
servants; which views of mine being imparted by a due administration of
both spur and whip, attended with a judicious combination of coaxing pats
on his great crested neck, and endearing commendations of his beauty,
produced the desired effect. Montreal accepted me as inevitable, and
carried me very wisely and well up the island to another of the slave
settlements on the plantation, called Jones's Creek.

On my way I passed some magnificent evergreen oaks,[5] and some thickets
of exquisite evergreen shrubs, and one or two beautiful sites for a
residence, which made me gnash my teeth when I thought of the one we have
chosen. To be sure, these charming spots, instead of being conveniently in
the middle of the plantation, are at an out of the way end of it, and so
hardly eligible for the one quality desired for the overseer's abode, viz.
being central.

[Footnote 5: The only ilex trees which I have seen comparable in size and
beauty with those of the sea-board of Georgia are some to be found in the
Roman Campagna, at Passerano, Lunghegna, Castel Fusano, and other of its
great princely farms, but especially in the magnificent woody wilderness
of Valerano.]

All the slaves' huts on St. Simon's are far less solid, comfortable, and
habitable than those at the rice-island. I do not know whether the
labourer's habitation bespeaks the alteration in the present relative
importance of the crops, but certainly the cultivators of the once
far-famed long staple sea-island cotton of St. Simon's are far more
miserably housed than the rice-raisers of the other plantation. These
ruinous shielings, that hardly keep out wind or weather, are deplorable
homes for young or aged people, and poor shelters for the hardworking men
and women who cultivate the fields in which they stand. Riding home I
passed some beautiful woodland with charming pink and white blossoming
peach and plum-trees, which seemed to belong to some orchard that had been
attempted, and afterwards delivered over to wildness. On enquiry I found
that no fruit worth eating was ever gathered from them. What a pity it
seems! for in this warm delicious winter climate any and every species of
fruit might be cultivated with little pains and to great perfection. As I
was cantering along the side of one of the cotton fields I suddenly heard
some inarticulate vehement cries, and saw what seemed to be a heap of
black limbs tumbling and leaping towards me, renewing the screams at
intervals as it approached. I stopped my horse, and the black ball bounded
almost into the road before me, and suddenly straightening itself up into
a haggard hag of a half-naked negress, exclaimed, with panting eager
breathlessness, 'Oh missis, missis! you no hear me cry, you no hear me
call. Oh missis! me call, me cry, and me run; make me a gown like dat. Do,
for massy's sake, only make me a gown like dat.' This modest request for a
riding habit in which to hoe the cotton fields served for an introduction
to sundry other petitions for rice and sugar and flannel, all which I
promised the petitioner, but not the 'gown like dat;' whereupon I rode
off, and she flung herself down in the middle of the road to get her wind
and rest.

The passion for dress is curiously strong in these people, and seems as
though it might be made an instrument in converting them, outwardly at any
rate, to something like civilisation; for though their own native taste
is decidedly both barbarous and ludicrous, it is astonishing how very soon
they mitigate it in imitation of their white models. The fine figures of
the mulatto women in Charleston and Savannah are frequently as elegantly
and tastefully dressed as those of any of their female superiors; and here
on St. Simon's, owing, I suppose, to the influence of the resident lady
proprietors of the various plantations, and the propensity to imitation in
their black dependents, the people that I see all seem to me much tidier,
cleaner, and less fantastically dressed than those on the rice plantation,
where no such influences reach them.

On my return from my ride I had a visit from Captain F----, the manager
of a neighbouring plantation, with whom I had a long conversation about
the present and past condition of the estate, the species of feudal
magnificence in which its original owner, Major ----, lived, the iron
rule of old overseer K---- which succeeded to it, and the subsequent
sovereignty of his son, Mr. R---- K----, the man for whom Mr. ----
entertains such a cordial esteem, and of whom every account I receive
from the negroes seems to me to indicate a merciless sternness of
disposition that may be a virtue in a slave-driver, but is hardly a
Christian grace. Captain F---- was one of our earliest visitors at the
rice plantation on our arrival, and I think I told you of his mentioning,
in speaking to me of the orange trees which formerly grew all round the
dykes there, that he had taken Basil Hall there once in their blossoming
season, and that he had said the sight was as well worth crossing the
Atlantic for as Niagara. To-day he referred to that again. He has resided
for a great many years on a plantation here, and is connected with our
neighbour, old Mr. C----, whose daughter, I believe, he married. He
interested me extremely by his description of the house Major ---- had
many years ago on a part of the island called St. Clair. As far as I can
understand there must have been an indefinite number of 'masters''
residences on this estate in the old Major's time; for what with the one
we are building, and the ruined remains of those not quite improved off
the face of the earth, and the tradition of those that have ceased to
exist, even as ruins, I make out no fewer than seven. How gladly would I
exchange all that remain and all that do not, for the smallest tenement
in your blessed Yankee mountain village!

Captain F---- told me that at St. Clair General Oglethorpe, the good and
brave English governor of the State of Georgia in its colonial days, had
his residence, and that among the magnificent live oaks which surround the
site of the former settlement, there was one especially venerable and
picturesque, which in his recollection always went by the name of General
Oglethorpe's Oak. If you remember the history of the colony under his
benevolent rule, you must recollect how absolutely he and his friend and
counsellor, Wesley, opposed the introduction of slavery in the colony. How
wrathfully the old soldier's spirit ought to haunt these cotton fields and
rice swamps of his old domain, with their population of wretched slaves! I
will ride to St. Clair and see his oak; if I should see him, he cannot
have much to say to me on the subject that I should not cry amen to.

_Saturday, March 2._--I have made a gain, no doubt, in one respect in
coming here, dear E----, for, not being afraid of a rearing stallion, I
can ride; but, on the other hand, my aquatic diversions are all likely, I
fear, to be much curtailed. Well may you, or any other Northern
Abolitionist, consider this a heaven-forsaken region,--why? I cannot even
get worms to fish with, and was solemnly assured by Jack this morning that
the whole 'point,' i.e. neighbourhood of the house, had been searched in
vain for these useful and agreeable animals. I must take to some more
sportsman-like species of bait; but in my total ignorance of even the kind
of fish that inhabit these waters, it is difficult for me to adapt my
temptations to their taste.

Yesterday evening I had a visit that made me very sorrowful--if anything
connected with these poor people can be called more especially sorrowful
than their whole condition; but Mr. ----'s declaration that he will
receive no more statements of grievances or petitions for redress through
me, makes me as desirous now of shunning the vain appeals of these
unfortunates as I used to be of receiving and listening to them. The
imploring cry, 'Oh missis!' that greets me whichever way I turn, makes me
long to stop my ears now; for what can I say or do any more for them? The
poor little favours--the rice, the sugar, the flannel--that they beg for
with such eagerness, and receive with such exuberant gratitude, I can, it
is true, supply, and words and looks of pity and counsel of patience and
such instruction in womanly habits of decency and cleanliness, as may
enable them to better, in some degree, their own hard lot; but to the
entreaty, 'Oh missis, you speak to massa for us! Oh missis, you beg massa
for us! Oh missis, you tell massa for we, he sure do as you say!'--I
cannot now answer as formerly, and I turn away choking and with eyes full
of tears from the poor creatures, not even daring to promise any more the
faithful transmission of their prayers.

The women who visited me yesterday evening were all in the family-way, and
came to entreat of me to have the sentence (what else can I call it?)
modified, which condemns them to resume their labour of hoeing in the
fields three weeks after their confinement. They knew, of course, that I
cannot interfere with their appointed labour, and therefore their sole
entreaty was that I would use my influence with Mr. ---- to obtain for
them a month's respite from labour in the field after child-bearing. Their
principal spokeswoman, a woman with a bright sweet face, called Mary, and
a very sweet voice, which is by no means an uncommon excellence among
them, appealed to my own experience; and while she spoke of my babies, and
my carefully tended, delicately nursed, and tenderly watched confinement
and convalescence, and implored me to have a kind of labour given to them
less exhausting during the month after their confinement, I held the table
before me so hard in order not to cry that I think my fingers ought to
have left a mark on it. At length I told them that Mr. ---- had forbidden
me to bring him any more complaints from them, for that he thought the
ease with which I received and believed their stories only tended to make
them discontented, and that, therefore, I feared I could not promise to
take their petitions to him; but that he would be coming down to 'the
point' soon, and that they had better come then some time when I was with
him, and say what they had just been saying to me: and with this, and
various small bounties, I was forced, with a heavy heart, to dismiss them,
and when they were gone, with many exclamations of, 'Oh yes, missis, you
will, you will speak to massa for we; God bless you, missis, we sure you
will!' I had my cry out for them, for myself, for us. All these women had
had large families, and _all_ of them had lost half their children, and
several of them had lost more. How I do ponder upon the strange fate which
has brought me here, from so far away, from surroundings so curiously
different--how my own people in that blessed England of my birth would
marvel if they could suddenly have a vision of me as I sit here, and how
sorry some of them would be for me!

I am helped to bear all that is so very painful to me here by my constant
enjoyment of the strange wild scenery in the midst of which I live, and
which my resumption of my equestrian habits gives me almost daily
opportunity of observing. I rode to-day to some new cleared and ploughed
ground that was being prepared for the precious cotton crop. I crossed a
salt marsh upon a raised causeway that was perfectly alive with
land-crabs, whose desperately active endeavours to avoid my horse's hoofs
were so ludicrous that I literally laughed alone and aloud at them. The
sides of this road across the swamp were covered with a thick and close
embroidery of creeping moss or rather lichens of the most vivid green and
red: the latter made my horse's path look as if it was edged with an
exquisite pattern of coral; it was like a thing in a fairy tale, and
delighted me extremely.

I suppose, E----, one secret of my being able to suffer as acutely as I do
without being made either ill or absolutely miserable, is the childish
excitability of my temperament, and the sort of ecstacy which any
beautiful thing gives me. No day, almost no hour, passes without some
enjoyment of the sort this coral-bordered road gave me, which not only
charms my senses completely at the time, but returns again and again
before my memory, delighting my fancy, and stimulating my imagination. I
sometimes despise myself for what seems to me an inconceivable rapidity of
emotion, that almost makes me doubt whether anyone who feels so many
things can really be said to feel anything; but I generally recover from
this perplexity, by remembering whither invariably every impression of
beauty leads my thoughts, and console myself for my contemptible facility
of impression by the reflection that it is, upon the whole, a merciful
system of compensation by which my whole nature, tortured as it was last
night, can be absorbed this morning, in a perfectly pleasurable
contemplation of the capers of crabs and the colour of mosses as if
nothing else existed in creation. One thing, however, I think, is equally
certain, and that is, that I need never expect much sympathy; and perhaps
this special endowment will make me, to some degree, independent of it;
but I have no doubt that to follow me through half a day with any species
of lively participation in my feelings would be a severe breathless moral
calisthenic to most of my friends,--what Shakspeare calls 'sweating
labour.' As far as I have hitherto had opportunities of observing,
children and maniacs are the only creatures who would be capable of
sufficiently rapid transitions of thought and feeling to keep pace with

And so I rode through the crabs and the coral. There is one thing,
however, I beg to commend to your serious consideration as a trainer of
youth, and that is, the expediency of cultivating in all the young minds
you educate an equal love of the good, the beautiful, and the absurd
(not an easy task, for the latter is apt in its developement to
interfere a little with the two others): doing this, you command all the
resources of existence. The love of the good and beautiful of course you
are prepared to cultivate--that goes without saying, as the French say;
the love of the ludicrous will not appear to you as important, and yet
you will be wrong to undervalue it. In the first place, I might tell you
that it was almost like cherishing the love of one's
fellow-creatures--at which no doubt you shake your head reprovingly;
but, leaving aside the enormous provision for the exercise of this
natural faculty which we offer to each other, why should crabs scuttle
from under my horse's feet in such a way as to make me laugh again every
time I think of it, if there is not an inherent propriety in laughter,
as the only emotion which certain objects challenge--an emotion
wholesome for the soul and body of man? After all, _why_ are we
contrived to laugh at all, if laughter is not essentially befitting and
beneficial? and most people's lives are too lead-coloured to afford to
lose one sparkle on them, even the smallest twinkle of light gathered
from a flash of nonsense. Hereafter point out for the 'appreciative'
study of your pupils all that is absurd in themselves, others, and the
universe in general; 't is an element largely provided, of course, to
meet a corresponding and grateful capacity for its enjoyment.

After my crab and coral causeway I came to the most exquisite thickets of
evergreen shrubbery you can imagine. If I wanted to paint paradise I would
copy this undergrowth, passing through which I went on to the settlement
at St. Annie's, traversing another swamp on another raised causeway. The
thickets through which I next rode were perfectly draped with the
beautiful wild jasmine of these woods. Of all the parasitical plants I
ever saw, I do think it is the most exquisite in form and colour, and its
perfume is like the most delicate heliotrope.

I stopped for some time before a thicket of glittering evergreens, over
which hung, in every direction, streaming garlands of these fragrant
golden cups, fit for Oberon's banqueting service. These beautiful
shrubberies were resounding with the songs of mocking birds. I sat there
on my horse in a sort of dream of enchantment, looking, listening, and
inhaling the delicious atmosphere of those flowers; and suddenly my eyes
opened, as if I had been asleep, on some bright red bunches of spring
leaves on one of the winter-stripped trees, and I as suddenly thought of
the cold northern skies and earth, where the winter was still inflexibly
tyrannising over you all, and, in spite of the loveliness of all that was
present, and the harshness of all that I seemed to see at that moment, no
first tokens of the spring's return were ever more welcome to me than
those bright leaves that reminded me how soon I should leave this scene of
material beauty and moral degradation, where the beauty itself is of an
appropriate character to the human existence it surrounds: above all,
loveliness, brightness, and fragrance; but below! it gives one a sort of
melusina feeling of horror--all swamp and poisonous stagnation, which the
heat will presently make alive with venomous reptiles.

I rode on, and the next object that attracted my attention was a very
startling and by no means agreeable one--an enormous cypress tree which
had been burnt stood charred and blackened, and leaning towards the road
so as to threaten a speedy fall across it, and on one of the limbs of this
great charcoal giant hung a dead rattlesnake. If I tell you that it looked
to me at least six feet long you will say you only wonder I did not say
twelve; it was a hideous-looking creature, and some negroes I met soon
after told me they had found it in the swamp, and hung it dead on the
burning tree. Certainly the two together made a dreadful trophy, and a
curious contrast to the lovely bowers of bloom I had just been
contemplating with such delight.

This settlement at St. Annie's is the remotest on the whole plantation,
and I found there the wretchedest huts, and most miserably squalid,
filthy and forlorn creatures I had yet seen here--certainly the condition
of the slaves on this estate is infinitely more neglected and deplorable
than that on the rice plantation. Perhaps it may be that the extremely
unhealthy nature of the rice cultivation makes it absolutely necessary
that the physical condition of the labourers should be maintained at its
best to enable them to abide it; and yet it seems to me that even the
process of soaking the rice can hardly create a more dangerous miasma than
the poor creatures must inhale who live in the midst of these sweltering
swamps, half sea, half river slime. Perhaps it has something to do with
the fact that the climate on St. Simon's is generally considered
peculiarly mild and favourable, and so less protection of clothes and
shelter is thought necessary here for the poor residents; perhaps, too, it
may be because the cotton crop is now, I believe, hardly as valuable as
the rice crop, and the plantation here, which was once the chief source of
its owner's wealth, is becoming a secondary one, and so not worth so much
care or expense in repairing and constructing negro huts and feeding and
clothing the slaves. More pitiable objects than some of those I saw at the
St. Annie's settlement to-day I hope never to see: there was an old crone
called Hannah, a sister, as well as I could understand what she said, of
old house Molly, whose face and figure seamed with wrinkles and bowed and
twisted with age and infirmity really hardly retained the semblance of
those of a human creature, and as she crawled to me almost half her naked
body was exposed through the miserable tatters that she held on with one
hand, while the other eagerly clutched my hand, and her poor blear eyes
wandered all over me as if she was bewildered by the strange aspect of any
human being but those whose sight was familiar to her. One or two forlorn
creatures like herself, too old or too infirm to be compelled to work, and
the half-starved and more than half-naked children apparently left here
under their charge, were the only inmates I found in these wretched

I came home without stopping to look at anything, for I had no heart any
longer for what had so charmed me on my way to this place. Galloping along
the road after leaving the marshes, I scared an ox who was feeding
leisurely, and to my great dismay saw the foolish beast betake himself
with lumbering speed into the 'bush:' the slaves will have to hunt after
him, and perhaps will discover more rattlesnakes six or twelve feet long.

After reaching home I went to the house of the overseer to see his wife, a
tidy, decent, kind-hearted, little woman, who seems to me to do her duty
by the poor people she lives among, as well as her limited intelligence
and still more limited freedom allow. The house her husband lives in is
the former residence of Major ----, which was the great mansion of the
estate. It is now in a most ruinous and tottering condition, and they
inhabit but a few rooms in it; the others are gradually mouldering to
pieces, and the whole edifice will, I should think, hardly stand long
enough to be carried away by the river, which in its yearly inroads on the
bank on which it stands has already approached within a perilous proximity
to the old dilapidated planter's palace. Old Molly, of whom I have often
before spoken to you, who lived here in the days of the prosperity and
grandeur of 'Hampton,' still clings to the relics of her old master's
former magnificence and with a pride worthy of old Caleb of Ravenswood
showed me through the dismantled decaying rooms and over the remains of
the dairy, displaying a capacious fish-box or well, where, in the good old
days, the master's supply was kept in fresh salt water till required for
table. Her prideful lamentations over the departure of all this quondam
glory were ludicrous and pathetic; but while listening with some amusement
to the jumble of grotesque descriptions through which her impression of
the immeasurable grandeur and nobility of the house she served was the
predominant feature, I could not help contrasting the present state of the
estate with that which she described, and wondering why it should have
become, as it undoubtedly must have done, so infinitely less productive a
property than in the old Major's time.

Before closing this letter, I have a mind to transcribe to you the
entries for to-day recorded in a sort of daybook, where I put down very
succinctly the number of people who visit me, their petitions and
ailments, and also such special particulars concerning them as seem to me
worth recording. You will see how miserable the physical condition of many
of these poor creatures is; and their physical condition, it is insisted
by those who uphold this evil system, is the only part of it which is
prosperous, happy, and compares well with that of northern labourers.
Judge from the details I now send you; and never forget, while reading
them, that the people on this plantation are well off, and consider
themselves well off, in comparison with the slaves on some of the
neighbouring estates.

_Fanny_ has had six children, all dead but one. She came to beg to have
her work in the field lightened.

_Nanny_ has had three children, two of them are dead; she came to implore
that the rule of sending them into the field three weeks after their
confinement might be altered.

_Leah_, Caesar's wife, has had six children, three are dead.

_Sophy_, Lewis' wife, came to beg for some old linen; she is suffering
fearfully, has had ten children, five of them are dead. The principal
favour she asked was a piece of meat, which I gave her.

_Sally_, Scipio's wife, has had two miscarriages and three children born,
one of whom is dead. She came complaining of incessant pain and weakness
in her back. This woman was a mulatto daughter of a slave called Sophy, by
a white man of the name of Walker, who visited the plantation.

_Charlotte_, Renty's wife, had had two miscarriages, and was with child
again. She was almost crippled with rheumatism, and showed me a pair of
poor swollen knees that made my heart ache. I have promised her a pair of
flannel trowsers, which I must forthwith set about making.

_Sarah_, Stephen's wife,--this woman's case and history were, alike,
deplorable, she had had four miscarriages, had brought seven children into
the world, five of whom were dead, and was again with child. She
complained of dreadful pains in the back, and an internal tumour which
swells with the exertion of working in the fields; probably, I think, she
is ruptured. She told me she had once been mad and ran into the woods,
where she contrived to elude discovery for some time, but was at last
tracked and brought back, when she was tied up by the arms and heavy logs
fastened to her feet, and was severely flogged. After this she contrived
to escape again, and lived for some time skulking in the woods, and she
supposes mad, for when she was taken again she was entirely naked. She
subsequently recovered from this derangement, and seems now just like all
the other poor creatures who come to me for help and pity. I suppose her
constant child-bearing and hard labour in the fields at the same time may
have produced the temporary insanity.

_Sukey_, Bush's wife, only came to pay her respects. She had had four
miscarriages, had brought eleven children into the world, five of whom are

_Molly_, Quambo's wife, also only came to see me; hers was the best
account I have yet received; she had had nine children, and six of them
were still alive.

This is only the entry for to-day, in my diary, of the people's complaints
and visits. Can you conceive a more wretched picture than that which it
exhibits of the conditions under which these women live? Their cases are
in no respect singular, and though they come with pitiful entreaties that
I will help them with some alleviation of their pressing physical
distresses, it seems to me marvellous with what desperate patience (I
write it advisedly, patience of utter despair) they endure their
sorrow-laden existence. Even the poor wretch who told that miserable story
of insanity and lonely hiding in the swamps and scourging when she was
found, and of her renewed madness and flight, did so in a sort of low,
plaintive, monotonous murmur of misery, as if such sufferings were all 'in
the day's work.'

I ask these questions about their children because I think the number they
bear as compared with the number they rear a fair gauge of the effect of
the system on their own health and that of their offspring. There was
hardly one of these women, as you will see by the details I have noted of
their ailments, who might not have been a candidate for a bed in an
hospital, and they had come to me after working all day in the fields.

* * * * *

Dearest E----. When I told you in my last letter of the encroachments
which the waters of the Altamaha are daily making on the bank at Hampton
Point and immediately in front of the imposing-looking old dwelling of the
former master, I had no idea how rapid this crumbling process has been of
late years; but to-day, standing there with Mrs. G----, whom I had gone to
consult about the assistance we might render to some of the poor creatures
whose cases I sent you in my last letter, she told me that within the
memory of many of the slaves now living on the plantation, a grove of
orange trees had spread its fragrance and beauty between the house and the
river. Not a vestige remains of them. The earth that bore them was
gradually undermined, slipped, and sank down into the devouring flood, and
when she saw the astonished incredulity of my look she led me to the
ragged and broken bank, and there, immediately below it and just covered
by the turbid waters of the in-rushing tide, were the heads of the poor
drowned orange trees, swaying like black twigs in the briny flood which
had not yet dislodged all of them from their hold upon the soil which had
gone down beneath the water wearing its garland of bridal blossom. As I
looked at those trees a wild wish rose in my heart that the river and the
sea would swallow up and melt in their salt waves the whole of this
accursed property of ours. I am afraid the horror of slavery with which I
came down to the south, the general theoretic abhorrence of an
Englishwoman for it, has gained, through the intensity it has acquired, a
morbid character of mere desire to be delivered from my own share in it. I
think so much of these wretches that I see, that I can hardly remember any
others, and my zeal for the general emancipation of the slave, has almost
narrowed itself to this most painful desire that I and mine were freed
from the responsibility of our share in this huge misery,--and so I
thought:--'Beat, beat, the crumbling banks and sliding shores, wild waves
of the Atlantic and the Altamaha! Sweep down and carry hence this evil
earth and these homes of tyranny, and roll above the soil of slavery, and
wash my soul and the souls of those I love clean from the blood of our
kind!' But I have no idea that Mr. ---- and his brother would cry amen to
any such prayer. Sometimes, as I stand and listen to the roll of the great
ocean surges on the further side of little St. Simon's Island, a small
green screen of tangled wilderness that interposes between this point and
the Atlantic, I think how near our West Indian islands and freedom are to
these unfortunate people, many of whom are expert and hardy boatmen, as
far as the mere mechanical management of a boat goes; but unless
Providence were compass and steersman too it avails nothing that they
should know how near their freedom might be found, nor have I any right to
tell them if they could find it, for the slaves are not mine, they are
Mr. ----'s.

The mulatto woman, Sally, accosted me again to-day, and begged that she
might be put to some other than field labour. Supposing she felt herself
unequal to it, I asked her some questions, but the principal reason she
urged for her promotion to some less laborious kind of work was, that
hoeing in the field was so hard to her on '_account of her colour_,' and
she therefore petitions to be allowed to learn a trade. I was much puzzled
at this reason for her petition, but was presently made to understand that
being a mulatto, she considered field labour a degradation; her white
bastardy appearing to her a title to consideration in my eyes. The
degradation of these people is very complete, for they have accepted the
contempt of their masters to that degree that they profess, and really
seem to feel it for themselves, and the faintest admixture of white blood
in their black veins appears at once, by common consent of their own race,
to raise them in the scale of humanity. I had not much sympathy for this
petition. The woman's father had been a white man who was employed for
some purpose on the estate. In speaking upon this subject to Mrs. G----,
she said that, as far as her observation went, the lower class of white
men in the south lived with coloured women precisely as they would at the
north with women of their own race; the outcry that one hears against
amalgamation appears therefore to be something educated and acquired,
rather than intuitive. I cannot perceive in observing my children, that
they exhibit the slightest repugnance or dislike to these swarthy
dependents of theirs, which they surely would do if, as is so often
pretended, there is an inherent, irreconcilable repulsion on the part of
the white towards the negro race. All the southern children that I have
seen seem to have a special fondness for these good-natured childish human
beings, whose mental condition is kin in its simplicity and proneness to
impulsive emotion to their own, and I can detect in them no trace of the
abhorrence and contempt for their dusky skins which all questions of
treating them with common justice is so apt to elicit from American men
and women.

To-day, for the first time since I left the Rice Island, I went out
fishing, but had no manner of luck. Jack rowed me up Jones's Creek, a
small stream which separates St. Simon's from the main, on the opposite
side from the great waters of the Altamaha. The day was very warm. It is
becoming almost too hot to remain here much longer, at least for me, who
dread and suffer from heat so much. The whole summer, however, is passed
by many members of the Georgia families on their estates by the sea. When
the heat is intense, the breeze from the ocean and the salt air, I
suppose, prevent it from being intolerable or hurtful. Our neighbour Mr.
C---- and his family reside entirely, the year round, on their plantations
here without apparently suffering in their health from the effects of the
climate. I suppose it is the intermediate region between the sea-board and
the mountains that becomes so pestilential when once the warm weather sets
in. I remember the Belgian minister, M. de ----, telling me that the
mountain country of Georgia was as beautiful as paradise, and that the
climate, as far as his experience went, was perfectly delicious. He was,
however, only there on an exploring expedition, and, of course, took the
most favourable season of the year for the purpose.

I have had several women with me this afternoon more or less disabled by
chronic rheumatism. Certainly, either their labour or the exposure it
entails must be very severe, for this climate is the last that ought to
engender rheumatism. This evening I had a visit from a bright young woman,
calling herself Minda, who came to beg for a little rice or sugar. I
enquired from which of the settlements she had come down, and found that
she has to walk three miles every day to and from her work. She made no
complaint whatever of this, and seemed to think her laborious tramp down
to the Point after her day of labour on the field well-rewarded by the
pittance of rice and sugar she obtained. Perhaps she consoled herself for
the exertion by the reflection which occurred to me while talking to her,
that many women who have borne children, and many women with child, go the
same distance to and from their task ground--that seems dreadful!

I have let my letter lie from a stress of small interruptions. Yesterday,
Sunday 3rd, old Auber, a stooping, halting hag, came to beg for flannel
and rice. As usual, of course, I asked various questions concerning her
condition, family, &c.; she told me she had never been married, but had
had five children, two of whom were dead. She complained of flooding, of
intolerable back-ache, and said that with all these ailments, she
considered herself quite recovered, having suffered horribly from an
abscess in her neck, which was now nearly well. I was surprised to hear of
her other complaints, for she seemed to me like quite an old woman; but
constant child-bearing, and the life of labour, exposure, and privation
which they lead, ages these poor creatures prematurely.

Dear E----, how I do defy you to guess the novel accomplishment I have
developed within the last two days; what do you say to my turning
butcher's boy, and cutting up the carcase of a sheep for the instruction
of our butcher and cook, and benefit of our table? You know, I have often
written you word, that we have mutton here--thanks to the short salt grass
on which it feeds--that compares with the best south down or _pre sale_;
but such is the barbarous ignorance of the cook, or rather the butcher who
furnishes our kitchen supplies, that I defy the most expert anatomist to
pronounce on any piece (joints they cannot be called) of mutton brought to
our table to what part of the animal sheep it originally belonged. I have
often complained bitterly of this, and in vain implored Abraham the cook
to send me some dish of mutton to which I might with safety apply the
familiar name of leg, shoulder, or haunch. These remonstrances and
expostulations have produced no result whatever, however, but an increase
of eccentricity in the _chunks_ of sheeps' flesh placed upon the table;
the squares, diamonds, cubes, and rhomboids of mutton have been more
ludicrously and hopelessly unlike anything we see in a Christian butcher's
shop, with every fresh endeavour Abraham has made to find out 'zackly wot
de missis do want;' so the day before yesterday, while I was painfully
dragging S---- through the early intellectual science of the alphabet and
first reading lesson, Abraham appeared at the door of the room brandishing
a very long thin knife, and with many bows, grins, and apologies for
disturbing me, begged that I would go and cut up a sheep for him. My first
impulse of course was to decline the very unusual task offered me with
mingled horror and amusement. Abraham, however, insisted and besought,
extolled the fineness of his sheep, declared his misery at being unable
to cut it as I wished, and his readiness to conform for the future to
whatever _patterns_ of mutton 'de missis would only please to give him.'
Upon reflection I thought I might very well contrive to indicate upon the
sheep the size and form of the different joints of civilised mutton, and
so for the future save much waste of good meat; and moreover the lesson
once taught would not require to be repeated, and I have ever held it
expedient to accept every opportunity of learning to do anything, no
matter how unusual, which presented itself to be done; and so I followed
Abraham to the kitchen, when, with a towel closely pinned over my silk
dress, and knife in hand, I stood for a minute or two meditating
profoundly before the rather unsightly object which Abraham had pronounced
'de beautifullest sheep de missis eber saw.' The sight and smell of raw
meat are especially odious to me, and I have often thought that if I had
had to be my own cook, I should inevitably become a vegetarian, probably,
indeed, return entirely to my green and salad days. Nathless, I screwed my
courage to the sticking point, and slowly and delicately traced out with
the point of my long carving-knife two shoulders, two legs, a saddle, and
a neck of mutton; not probably in the most thoroughly artistic and
butcherly style, but as nearly as my memory and the unassisted light of
nature would enable me; and having instructed Abraham in the various
boundaries, sizes, shapes and names of the several joints, I returned to
S---- and her belles-lettres, rather elated upon the whole at the
creditable mode in which I flattered myself I had accomplished my unusual
task, and the hope of once more seeing roast mutton of my acquaintance. I
will confess to you, dear E----, that the _neck_ was not a satisfactory
part of the performance, and I have spent some thoughts since in trying to
adjust in my own mind its proper shape and proportions.

As an accompaniment to 'de beautifullest mutton de missis ever see,' we
have just received from my neighbour Mr. C---- the most magnificent supply
of fresh vegetables, green peas, salad, &c. He has a garden and a
Scotchman's real love for horticulture, and I profit by them in this very
agreeable manner.

I have been interrupted by several visits, my dear E----, among other, one
from a poor creature called Judy, whose sad story and condition affected
me most painfully. She had been married, she said, some years ago to one
of the men called Temba, who however now has another wife, having left her
because she went mad. While out of her mind she escaped into the jungle,
and contrived to secrete herself there for some time, but was finally
tracked and caught, and brought back and punished by being made to sit,
day after day, for hours in the stocks--a severe punishment for a man, but
for a woman perfectly barbarous. She complained of chronic rheumatism, and
other terrible ailments, and said she suffered such intolerable pain while
labouring in the fields, that she had come to entreat me to have her work
lightened. She could hardly crawl, and cried bitterly all the time she
spoke to me.

She told me a miserable story of her former experience on the plantation
under Mr. K----'s overseership. It seems that Jem Valiant (an extremely
difficult subject, a mulatto lad, whose valour is sufficiently accounted
for now by the influence of the mutinous white blood) was her firstborn,
the son of Mr. K----, who forced her, flogged her severely for having
resisted him, and then sent her off, as a further punishment, to Five
Pound--a horrible swamp in a remote corner of the estate, to which the
slaves are sometimes banished for such offences as are not sufficiently
atoned for by the lash. The dismal loneliness of the place to these poor
people, who are as dependent as children upon companionship and sympathy,
makes this solitary exile a much-dreaded infliction; and this poor
creature said, that bad as the flogging was, she would sooner have taken
that again than the dreadful lonely days and nights she spent on the penal
swamp of Five Pound.

I make no comment on these terrible stories, my dear friend, and tell them
to you as nearly as possible in the perfectly plain unvarnished manner in
which they are told to me. I do not wish to add to, or perhaps I ought to
say take away from, the effect of such narrations by amplifying the simple
horror and misery of their bare details.

* * * * *

My dearest E----. I have had an uninterrupted stream of women and children
flowing in the whole morning to say, 'Ha de missis!' Among others, a poor
woman called Mile, who could hardly stand for pain and swelling in her
limbs; she had had fifteen children and two miscarriages, nine of her
children had died; for the last three years she had become almost a
cripple with chronic rheumatism, yet she is driven every day to work in
the field. She held my hands and stroked them in the most appealing way,
while she exclaimed, 'Oh my missis! my missis! me neber sleep till day for
de pain,' and with the day her labour must again be resumed. I gave her
flannel and sal volatile to rub her poor swelled limbs with; rest I could
not give her--rest from her labour and her pain--this mother of fifteen

Another of my visitors had a still more dismal story to tell; her name was
Die; she had had sixteen children, fourteen of whom were dead; she had had
four miscarriages, one had been caused by falling down with a very heavy
burthen on her head, and one from having her arms strained up to be
lashed. I asked her what she meant by having her arms tied up; she said
their hands were first tied together, sometimes by the wrists, and
sometimes, which was worse, by the thumbs, and they were then drawn up to
a tree or post, so as almost to swing them off the ground, and then their
clothes rolled round their waist, and a man with a cow-hide stands and
stripes them. I give you the woman's words; she did not speak of this as
of anything strange, unusual or especially horrid and abominable; and when
I said, 'Did they do that to you when you were with child?' she simply
replied, 'Yes, missis.' And to all this I listen--I, an English woman, the
wife of the man who owns these wretches, and I cannot say, 'That thing
shall not be done again; that cruel shame and villany shall never be known
here again.' I gave the woman meat and flannel, which were what she came
to ask for, and remained choking with indignation and grief long after
they had all left me to my most bitter thoughts.

I went out to try and walk off some of the weight of horror and depression
which I am beginning to feel daily more and more, surrounded by all this
misery and degradation that I can neither help nor hinder. The blessed
spring is coming very fast, the air is full of delicious wild wood
fragrances, and the wonderful songs of southern birds; the wood paths are
as tempting as paths into Paradise, but Jack is in such deadly terror
about the snakes, which are now beginning to glide about with a freedom
and frequency certainly not pleasing, that he will not follow me off the
open road, and twice to-day scared me back from charming wood paths I
ventured to explore with his exclamations of terrified warning.

I gathered some exquisite pink blossoms, of a sort of waxen texture, off a
small shrub which was strange to me, and for which Jack's only name was
dye-bush; but I could not ascertain from him whether any dyeing substance
was found in its leaves, bark, or blossoms.

I returned home along the river side, stopping to admire a line of noble
live oaks beginning, alas! to be smothered with the treacherous white moss
under whose pale trailing masses their verdure gradually succumbs, leaving
them, like huge hoary ghosts, perfect mountains of parasitical vegetation,
which, strangely enough, appears only to hang upon and swing from their
boughs without adhering to them. The mixture of these streams of
grey-white filaments with the dark foliage is extremely beautiful as long
as the leaves of the tree survive in sufficient masses to produce the rich
contrast of colour; but when the moss has literally conquered the whole
tree, and after stripping its huge limbs bare, clothed them with its own
wan masses, they always looked to me like so many gigantic Druid ghosts,
with flowing robes and beards, and locks all of one ghastly grey, and I
would not have broken a twig off them for the world, lest a sad voice,
like that which reproached Dante, should have moaned out of it to me,

Non hai tu spirto di pietade alcuno?

A beautiful mass of various woodland skirted the edge of the stream, and
mingled in its foliage every shade of green, from the pale stiff spikes
and fans of the dwarf palmetto to the dark canopy of the magnificent
ilex--bowers and brakes of the loveliest wildness, where one dare not
tread three steps for fear--what a tantalisation! it is like some wicked

* * * * *

Dearest E----. I have found growing along the edge of the dreary enclosure
where the slaves are buried such a lovely wild flower; it is a little like
the euphrasia or eye-bright of the English meadows; but grows quite close
to the turf, almost into it, and consists of clusters of tiny white
flowers that look as if they were made of the finest porcelain; I took up
a root of it yesterday, with a sort of vague idea that I could transplant
it to the north--though I cannot say that I should care to transplant
anything thither that could renew to me the associations of this
place--not even the delicious wild flowers, if I could.

The woods here are full of wild plum-trees, the delicate white blossoms of
which twinkle among the evergreen copses, and besides illuminating them
with a faint starlight, suggest to my mind a possible liqueur like kirsch,
which I should think could quite as well be extracted from wild plums as
wild cherries, and the trees are so numerous that there ought to be quite
a harvest from them. You may, and, doubtless, have seen palmetto plants in
northern green and hot houses, but you never saw palmetto roots; and what
curious things they are! huge, hard, yellowish-brown stems, as thick as my
arm, or thicker, extending and ramifying under the ground in masses that
seem hardly justified or accounted for by the elegant, light, spiky fans
of dusky green foliage with which they fill the under part of the woods
here. They look very tropical and picturesque, but both in shape and
colour suggest something metallic rather than vegetable, the bronze green
hue and lance-like form of their foliage has an arid hard character that
makes one think they could be manufactured quite as well as cultivated. At
first I was extremely delighted with the novelty of their appearance; but
now I feel thirsty when I look at them, and the same with their kinsfolk
the yuccas and their intimate friends, if not relations, the prickly
pears, with all of which once strange growth I have grown, contemptuously
familiar now.

Did it ever occur to you what a strange affinity there is between the
texture and colour of the wild vegetables of these sandy southern soils,
and the texture and colour of shells? The prickly pear, and especially the
round little cactus plants all covered with hairy spikes, are curiously
suggestive of a family of round spiked shells, with which you, as well as
myself, are, doubtless, familiar; and though the splendid flame colour of
some cactus blossoms never suggests any nature but that of flowers, I have
seen some of a peculiar shade of yellow pink, that resembles the mingled
tint on the inside of some elaborately coloured shell, and the pale white
and rose flowers of another kind have the colouring and almost texture of
shell, much rather than of any vegetable substance.

To-day I walked out without Jack, and in spite of the terror of snakes
with which he has contrived slightly to inoculate me, I did make a short
exploring journey into the woods. I wished to avoid a ploughed field, to
the edge of which my wanderings had brought me; but my dash into the
woodland, though unpunished by an encounter with snakes, brought me only
into a marsh as full of land-crabs as an ant-hill is of ants, and from
which I had to retreat ingloriously, finding my way home at last by the

I have had, as usual, a tribe of visitors and petitioners ever since I
came home. I will give you an account of those cases which had anything
beyond the average of interest in their details. One poor woman, named
Molly, came to beg that I would, if possible, get an extension of their
exemption from work after child-bearing. The close of her argument was
concise and forcible. 'Missis, we hab um piccaninny--tree weeks in de
ospital, and den right out upon the hoe again--_can we strong_ dat way,
missis? No!' And truly I do not see that they can. This poor creature had
had eight children and two miscarriages. All her children were dead but
one. Another of my visitors was a divinely named but not otherwise divine
Venus; it is a favourite name among these sable folk, but, of course, must
have been given originally in derision. The Aphrodite in question was a
dirt-coloured (convenient colour I should say for these parts) mulatto. I
could not understand how she came on this property, for she was the
daughter of a black woman and the overseer of an estate to which her
mother formerly belonged, and from which I suppose she was sold,
exchanged, or given, as the case may be, to the owners of this plantation.
She was terribly crippled with rheumatism, and came to beg for some
flannel. She had had eleven children, five of whom had died, and two
miscarriages. As she took her departure the vacant space she left on the
other side of my writing table was immediately filled by another black
figure with a bowed back and piteous face, one of the thousand 'Mollies'
on the estate, where the bewildering redundancy of their name is avoided
by adding that of their husband; so when the question, 'Well, who are
you?' was answered with the usual genuflexion, and 'I'se Molly, missis!'
I, of course, went on with 'whose Molly?' and she went on to refer herself
to the ownership (under Mr. ---- and heaven) of one Tony, but proceeded to
say that he was not her _real_ husband. This appeal to an element of
reality in the universally accepted fiction which passes here by the title
of marriage surprised me; and on asking her what she meant, she replied
that her real husband had been sold from the estate for repeated attempts
to run away; he had made his escape several times, and skulked starving in
the woods and morasses, but had always been tracked and brought back, and
flogged almost to death, and finally sold as an incorrigible runaway. What
a spirit of indomitable energy the wretched man must have had to have
tried so often that hideously hopeless attempt to fly! I do not write you
the poor woman's jargon, which was ludicrous; for I cannot write you the
sighs, and tears, and piteous looks, and gestures, that made it pathetic;
of course she did not know whither or to whom her _real_ husband had been
sold; but in the meantime Mr. K----, that merciful Providence of the
estate, had provided her with the above-named Tony, by whom she had had
nine children, six of whom were dead; she, too, had miscarried twice. She
came to ask me for some flannel for her legs, which are all swollen with
constant rheumatism, and to beg me to give her something to cure some bad
sores and ulcers, which seemed to me dreadful enough in their present
condition, but which she said break out afresh and are twice as bad every

I have let my letter lie since the day before yesterday, dear E----,
having had no leisure to finish it. Yesterday morning I rode out to St.
Clair's, where there used formerly to be another negro settlement and
another house of Major ----'s. I had been persuaded to try one of the
mares I had formerly told you of, and to be sure a more 'curst' quadruped,
and one more worthy of a Petruchio for a rider I did never back. Her
temper was furious, her gait intolerable, her mouth, the most obdurate
that ever tugged against bit and bridle. It is not wise anywhere--here it
is less wise than anywhere else in the world--to say 'Jamais de cette eau
je ne boirai;' but I _think_ I will never ride that delightful creature
Miss Kate again.

I wrote you of my having been to a part of the estate called St. Clair's,
where there was formerly another residence of Major ----'s; nothing
remains now of it but a ruined chimney of some of the offices, which is
standing yet in the middle of what has become a perfect wilderness. At the
best of times, with a large house, numerous household, and paths, and
drives of approach, and the usual external conditions of civilisation
about it, a residence here would have been the loneliest that can well be
imagined; now it is the shaggiest desert of beautiful wood that I ever
saw. The magnificent old oaks stand round the place in silent solemn
grandeur; and among them I had no difficulty in recognising, by the
description Captain F---- had given me of it, the crumbling shattered
relic of a tree called Oglethorpe's oak. That worthy valiant old governor
had a residence here himself in the early days of the colony; when, under
the influence of Wesley, he vainly made such strenuous efforts to keep
aloof from his infant province the sore curse of slavery.

I rode almost the whole way through a grove of perfect evergreen. I had
with me one of the men of the name of Hector, who has a good deal to do
with the horses, and so had volunteered to accompany me, being one of the
few negroes on the estate who can sit a horse. In the course of our
conversation, Hector divulged certain opinions relative to the comparative
gentility of driving in a carriage, and the vulgarity of walking; which
sent me into fits of laughing; at which he grinned sympathetically, and
opened his eyes very wide, but certainly without attaining the least
insight into what must have appeared to him my very unaccountable and
unreasonable merriment. Among various details of the condition of the
people on the several estates in the island, he told me that a great
number of the men on all the different plantations had _wives_ on the
neighbouring estates, as well as on that to which they properly belonged.
'Oh, but,' said I, 'Hector, you know that cannot be, a man has but one
lawful wife.' Hector knew this, he said, and yet seemed puzzled himself,
and rather puzzled me to account for the fact, that this extensive
practice of bigamy was perfectly well known to the masters and overseers,
and never in any way found fault with, or interfered with. Perhaps this
promiscuous mode of keeping up the slave population finds favour with the
owners of creatures who are valued in the market at so much per head. This
was a solution which occurred to me, but which I left my Trojan hero to
discover, by dint of the profound pondering into which he fell.

Not far from the house as I was cantering home, I met S----, and took her
up on the saddle before me, an operation which seemed to please her better
than the vicious horse I was riding, whose various demonstrations of
dislike to the arrangement afforded my small equestrian extreme delight
and triumph. My whole afternoon was spent in shifting my bed and bed-room
furniture from a room on the ground-floor to one above; in the course of
which operation, a brisk discussion took place between M---- and my boy
Jack, who was nailing on the vallence of the bed; and whom I suddenly
heard exclaim in answer to something she had said--'Well den, I do tink
so; and dat's the speech of a man, whether um bond or free.' A very
trifling incident, and insignificant speech; and yet it came back to my
ears very often afterward--'the speech of a _man_, whether bond or free.'
They might be made conscious--some of them are evidently conscious--of an
inherent element of manhood superior to the bitter accident of slavery;
and to which, even in their degraded condition, they might be made to
refer that vital self-respect which can survive all external pressure of
mere circumstance, and give their souls to that service of God, which is
perfect freedom, in spite of the ignoble and cruel bondage of their

My new apartment is what I should call decidedly airy; the window, unless
when styled by courtesy, shut, which means admitting of draught enough to
blow a candle out, must be wide open, being incapable of any intermediate
condition; the latch of the door, to speak the literal truth, does shut;
but it is the only part of it that does; that is, the latch and the
hinges; everywhere else its configuration is traced by a distinct line of
light and air. If what old Dr. Physic used to say be true, that a draught
which will not blow out a candle will blow out a man's life, (a Spanish
proverb originally I believe) my life is threatened with extinction in
almost every part of this new room of mine, wherein, moreover, I now
discover to my dismay, having transported every other article of bed-room
furniture to it, it is impossible to introduce the wardrobe for my
clothes. Well, our stay here is drawing to a close, and therefore these
small items of discomfort cannot afflict me much longer.

Among my visitors to-day was a poor woman named Oney, who told me her
husband had gone away from her now for four years; it seems he was the
property of Mr. K----, and when that gentleman went to slave-driving on
his own account, and ceased to be the overseer of this estate, he carried
her better half, who was his chattel, away with him, and she never expects
to see him again. After her departure I had a most curious visitor, a
young lad of the name of Renty, whose very decidedly mulatto tinge
accounted, I suppose, for the peculiar disinvoltura of his carriage and
manner; he was evidently in his own opinion a very superior creature; and
yet, as his conversation with me testified, he was conscious of some flaw
in the honour of his 'yellow' complexion. 'Who is your mother, Renty?'
said I (I give you our exact dialogue); 'Betty, head-man Frank's wife.' I
was rather dismayed at the promptness of this reply, and hesitated a
little at my next question, 'Who is your father?' My sprightly young
friend, however, answered, without an instant's pause, 'Mr. K----.' Here I
came to a halt, and, willing to suggest some doubt to the lad, because for
many peculiar reasons this statement seemed to me shocking, I said, 'What,
old Mr. K----?' 'No, massa R----.' 'Did your mother tell you so?' 'No,
missis, me ashamed to ask her; Mr. C----'s children told me so, and I
'spect they know it.' Renty, you see, did not take Falconbridge's view of

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