Part 3 out of 12
At this instant, Dinah looked in to say that the woman was
awake, and wanted to see Missis.
Mr. and Mrs. Bird went into the kitchen, followed by the two
eldest boys, the smaller fry having, by this time, been safely
disposed of in bed.
The woman was now sitting up on the settle, by the fire.
She was looking steadily into the blaze, with a calm, heart-broken
expression, very different from her former agitated wildness.
"Did you want me?" said Mrs. Bird, in gentle tones. "I hope you
feel better now, poor woman!"
A long-drawn, shivering sigh was the only answer; but she
lifted her dark eyes, and fixed them on her with such a forlorn
and imploring expression, that the tears came into the little
"You needn't be afraid of anything; we are friends here, poor woman!
Tell me where you came from, and what you want," said she.
"I came from Kentucky," said the woman.
"When?" said Mr. Bird, taking up the interogatory.
"How did you come?"
"I crossed on the ice."
"Crossed on the ice!" said every one present.
"Yes," said the woman, slowly, "I did. God helping me, I
crossed on the ice; for they were behind me--right behind--and
there was no other way!"
"Law, Missis," said Cudjoe, "the ice is all in broken-up
blocks, a swinging and a tetering up and down in the water!"
"I know it was--I know it!" said she, wildly; "but I did it!
I wouldn't have thought I could,--I didn't think I should get
over, but I didn't care! I could but die, if I didn't. The Lord
helped me; nobody knows how much the Lord can help 'em, till they
try," said the woman, with a flashing eye.
"Were you a slave?" said Mr. Bird.
"Yes, sir; I belonged to a man in Kentucky."
"Was he unkind to you?"
"No, sir; he was a good master."
"And was your mistress unkind to you?"
"No, sir--no! my mistress was always good to me."
"What could induce you to leave a good home, then, and run
away, and go through such dangers?"
The woman looked up at Mrs. Bird, with a keen, scrutinizing
glance, and it did not escape her that she was dressed in deep
"Ma'am," she said, suddenly, "have you ever lost a child?"
The question was unexpected, and it was thrust on a new wound;
for it was only a month since a darling child of the family
had been laid in the grave.
Mr. Bird turned around and walked to the window, and Mrs.
Bird burst into tears; but, recovering her voice, she said,
"Why do you ask that? I have lost a little one."
"Then you will feel for me. I have lost two, one after
another,--left 'em buried there when I came away; and I had only
this one left. I never slept a night without him; he was all I had.
He was my comfort and pride, day and night; and, ma'am, they
were going to take him away from me,--to _sell_ him,--sell him down
south, ma'am, to go all alone,--a baby that had never been away
from his mother in his life! I couldn't stand it, ma'am. I knew
I never should be good for anything, if they did; and when I knew
the papers the papers were signed, and he was sold, I took him and
came off in the night; and they chased me,--the man that bought
him, and some of Mas'r's folks,--and they were coming down right
behind me, and I heard 'em. I jumped right on to the ice; and how
I got across, I don't know,--but, first I knew, a man was helping
me up the bank."
The woman did not sob nor weep. She had gone to a place
where tears are dry; but every one around her was, in some way
characteristic of themselves, showing signs of hearty sympathy.
The two little boys, after a desperate rummaging in their pockets,
in search of those pocket-handkerchiefs which mothers know are
never to be found there, had thrown themselves disconsolately
into the skirts of their mother's gown, where they were sobbing,
and wiping their eyes and noses, to their hearts' content;--Mrs.
Bird had her face fairly hidden in her pocket-handkerchief; and
old Dinah, with tears streaming down her black, honest face, was
ejaculating, "Lord have mercy on us!" with all the fervor of a
camp-meeting;--while old Cudjoe, rubbing his eyes very hard with
his cuffs, and making a most uncommon variety of wry faces,
occasionally responded in the same key, with great fervor. Our
senator was a statesman, and of course could not be expected to
cry, like other mortals; and so he turned his back to the company,
and looked out of the window, and seemed particularly busy in
clearing his throat and wiping his spectacle-glasses, occasionally
blowing his nose in a manner that was calculated to excite suspicion,
had any one been in a state to observe critically.
"How came you to tell me you had a kind master?" he suddenly
exclaimed, gulping down very resolutely some kind of rising in his
throat, and turning suddenly round upon the woman.
"Because he _was_ a kind master; I'll say that of him, any
way;--and my mistress was kind; but they couldn't help themselves.
They were owing money; and there was some way, I can't tell how,
that a man had a hold on them, and they were obliged to give him
his will. I listened, and heard him telling mistress that, and
she begging and pleading for me,--and he told her he couldn't
help himself, and that the papers were all drawn;--and then
it was I took him and left my home, and came away. I knew 't
was no use of my trying to live, if they did it; for 't 'pears like
this child is all I have."
"Have you no husband?"
"Yes, but he belongs to another man. His master is real hard
to him, and won't let him come to see me, hardly ever; and
he's grown harder and harder upon us, and he threatens to sell him
down south;--it's like I'll never see _him_ again!"
The quiet tone in which the woman pronounced these words might
have led a superficial observer to think that she was entirely
apathetic; but there was a calm, settled depth of anguish in her
large, dark eye, that spoke of something far otherwise.
"And where do you mean to go, my poor woman?" said Mrs. Bird.
"To Canada, if I only knew where that was. Is it very far off,
is Canada?" said she, looking up, with a simple, confiding air,
to Mrs. Bird's face.
"Poor thing!" said Mrs. Bird, involuntarily.
"Is 't a very great way off, think?" said the woman, earnestly.
"Much further than you think, poor child!" said Mrs. Bird;
"but we will try to think what can be done for you. Here, Dinah,
make her up a bed in your own room, close by the kitchen, and I'll
think what to do for her in the morning. Meanwhile, never fear,
poor woman; put your trust in God; he will protect you."
Mrs. Bird and her husband reentered the parlor. She sat down
in her little rocking-chair before the fire, swaying thoughtfully
to and fro. Mr. Bird strode up and down the room, grumbling to
himself, "Pish! pshaw! confounded awkward business!" At length,
striding up to his wife, he said,
"I say, wife, she'll have to get away from here, this very night.
That fellow will be down on the scent bright and early tomorrow
morning: if 't was only the woman, she could lie quiet till it was
over; but that little chap can't be kept still by a troop of horse
and foot, I'll warrant me; he'll bring it all out, popping his head
out of some window or door. A pretty kettle of fish it would be
for me, too, to be caught with them both here, just now! No; they'll
have to be got off tonight."
"Tonight! How is it possible?--where to?"
"Well, I know pretty well where to," said the senator, beginning
to put on his boots, with a reflective air; and, stopping when
his leg was half in, he embraced his knee with both hands,
and seemed to go off in deep meditation.
"It's a confounded awkward, ugly business," said he, at last,
beginning to tug at his boot-straps again, "and that's a fact!"
After one boot was fairly on, the senator sat with the other
in his hand, profoundly studying the figure of the carpet. "It
will have to be done, though, for aught I see,--hang it all!" and
he drew the other boot anxiously on, and looked out of the window.
Now, little Mrs. Bird was a discreet woman,--a woman who
never in her life said, "I told you so!" and, on the present
occasion, though pretty well aware of the shape her husband's
meditations were taking, she very prudently forbore to meddle with
them, only sat very quietly in her chair, and looked quite ready
to hear her liege lord's intentions, when he should think proper
to utter them.
"You see," he said, "there's my old client, Van Trompe, has come
over from Kentucky, and set all his slaves free; and he has
bought a place seven miles up the creek, here, back in the
woods, where nobody goes, unless they go on purpose; and it's a
place that isn't found in a hurry. There she'd be safe enough;
but the plague of the thing is, nobody could drive a carriage there
tonight, but _me_."
"Why not? Cudjoe is an excellent driver."
"Ay, ay, but here it is. The creek has to be crossed twice;
and the second crossing is quite dangerous, unless one knows it as
I do. I have crossed it a hundred times on horseback, and know
exactly the turns to take. And so, you see, there's no help for it.
Cudjoe must put in the horses, as quietly as may be, about
twelve o'clock, and I'll take her over; and then, to give color to
the matter, he must carry me on to the next tavern to take the
stage for Columbus, that comes by about three or four, and so it
will look as if I had had the carriage only for that. I shall get
into business bright and early in the morning. But I'm thinking
I shall feel rather cheap there, after all that's been said and
done; but, hang it, I can't help it!"
"Your heart is better than your head, in this case, John,"
said the wife, laying her little white hand on his. "Could I ever
have loved you, had I not known you better than you know yourself?"
And the little woman looked so handsome, with the tears sparkling
in her eyes, that the senator thought he must be a decidedly clever
fellow, to get such a pretty creature into such a passionate
admiration of him; and so, what could he do but walk off soberly,
to see about the carriage. At the door, however, he stopped a
moment, and then coming back, he said, with some hesitation.
"Mary, I don't know how you'd feel about it, but there's that
drawer full of things--of--of--poor little Henry's." So saying,
he turned quickly on his heel, and shut the door after him.
His wife opened the little bed-room door adjoining her room and,
taking the candle, set it down on the top of a bureau there;
then from a small recess she took a key, and put it thoughtfully
in the lock of a drawer, and made a sudden pause, while two boys,
who, boy like, had followed close on her heels, stood looking, with
silent, significant glances, at their mother. And oh! mother that
reads this, has there never been in your house a drawer, or a closet,
the opening of which has been to you like the opening again of a
little grave? Ah! happy mother that you are, if it has not been so.
Mrs. Bird slowly opened the drawer. There were little coats
of many a form and pattern, piles of aprons, and rows of small
stockings; and even a pair of little shoes, worn and rubbed
at the toes, were peeping from the folds of a paper. There was a
toy horse and wagon, a top, a ball,--memorials gathered with many
a tear and many a heart-break! She sat down by the drawer, and,
leaning her head on her hands over it, wept till the tears fell
through her fingers into the drawer; then suddenly raising her
head, she began, with nervous haste, selecting the plainest and
most substantial articles, and gathering them into a bundle.
"Mamma," said one of the boys, gently touching her arm,
"you going to give away _those_ things?"
"My dear boys," she said, softly and earnestly, "if our dear,
loving little Henry looks down from heaven, he would be glad
to have us do this. I could not find it in my heart to give them
away to any common person--to anybody that was happy; but I give
them to a mother more heart-broken and sorrowful than I am; and I
hope God will send his blessings with them!"
There are in this world blessed souls, whose sorrows all
spring up into joys for others; whose earthly hopes, laid in the
grave with many tears, are the seed from which spring healing
flowers and balm for the desolate and the distressed. Among such
was the delicate woman who sits there by the lamp, dropping slow
tears, while she prepares the memorials of her own lost one for
the outcast wanderer.
After a while, Mrs. Bird opened a wardrobe, and, taking from
thence a plain, serviceable dress or two, she sat down busily
to her work-table, and, with needle, scissors, and thimble, at
hand, quietly commenced the "letting down" process which her husband
had recommended, and continued busily at it till the old clock in
the corner struck twelve, and she heard the low rattling of wheels
at the door.
"Mary," said her husband, coming in, with his overcoat in
his hand, "you must wake her up now; we must be off."
Mrs. Bird hastily deposited the various articles she had
collected in a small plain trunk, and locking it, desired her
husband to see it in the carriage, and then proceeded to call
the woman. Soon, arrayed in a cloak, bonnet, and shawl, that had
belonged to her benefactress, she appeared at the door with her
child in her arms. Mr. Bird hurried her into the carriage, and
Mrs. Bird pressed on after her to the carriage steps. Eliza leaned
out of the carriage, and put out her hand,--a hand as soft and
beautiful as was given in return. She fixed her large, dark eyes,
full of earnest meaning, on Mrs. Bird's face, and seemed going to
speak. Her lips moved,--she tried once or twice, but there was no
sound,--and pointing upward, with a look never to be forgotten,
she fell back in the seat, and covered her face. The door was
shut, and the carriage drove on.
What a situation, now, for a patriotic senator, that had been
all the week before spurring up the legislature of his native
state to pass more stringent resolutions against escaping fugitives,
their harborers and abettors!
Our good senator in his native state had not been exceeded
by any of his brethren at Washington, in the sort of eloquence
which has won for them immortal renown! How sublimely he had sat
with his hands in his pockets, and scouted all sentimental weakness
of those who would put the welfare of a few miserable fugitives
before great state interests!
He was as bold as a lion about it, and "mightily convinced"
not only himself, but everybody that heard him;--but then his idea
of a fugitive was only an idea of the letters that spell the
word,--or at the most, the image of a little newspaper picture of
a man with a stick and bundle with "Ran away from the subscriber"
under it. The magic of the real presence of distress,--the
imploring human eye, the frail, trembling human hand, the
despairing appeal of helpless agony,--these he had never tried.
He had never thought that a fugitive might be a hapless mother,
a defenceless child,--like that one which was now wearing his
^^^^^^^^^^^ - ?
lost boy's little well-known cap; and so, as our poor senator
was not stone or steel,--as he was a man, and a downright
noble-hearted one, too,--he was, as everybody must see, in a sad
case for his patriotism. And you need not exult over him, good
brother of the Southern States; for we have some inklings that
many of you, under similar circumstances, would not do much better.
We have reason to know, in Kentucky, as in Mississippi, are noble
and generous hearts, to whom never was tale of suffering told in vain.
Ah, good brother! is it fair for you to expect of us services which
your own brave, honorable heart would not allow you to render,
were you in our place?
Be that as it may, if our good senator was a political sinner,
he was in a fair way to expiate it by his night's penance.
There had been a long continuous period of rainy weather, and the
soft, rich earth of Ohio, as every one knows, is admirably suited
to the manufacture of mud--and the road was an Ohio railroad of
the good old times.
"And pray, what sort of a road may that be?" says some eastern
traveller, who has been accustomed to connect no ideas with
a railroad, but those of smoothness or speed.
Know, then, innocent eastern friend, that in benighted regions
of the west, where the mud is of unfathomable and sublime depth,
roads are made of round rough logs, arranged transversely side
by side, and coated over in their pristine freshness with earth,
turf, and whatsoever may come to hand, and then the rejoicing
native calleth it a road, and straightway essayeth to ride thereupon.
In process of time, the rains wash off all the turf and grass
aforesaid, move the logs hither and thither, in picturesque positions,
up, down and crosswise, with divers chasms and ruts of black mud
Over such a road as this our senator went stumbling along,
making moral reflections as continuously as under the circumstances
could be expected,--the carriage proceeding along much as
follows,--bump! bump! bump! slush! down in the mud!--the senator,
woman and child, reversing their positions so suddenly as to come,
without any very accurate adjustment, against the windows of the
down-hill side. Carriage sticks fast, while Cudjoe on the outside
is heard making a great muster among the horses. After various
ineffectual pullings and twitchings, just as the senator is losing
all patience, the carriage suddenly rights itself with a bounce,--two
front wheels go down into another abyss, and senator, woman, and
child, all tumble promiscuously on to the front seat,--senator's
hat is jammed over his eyes and nose quite unceremoniously, and he
considers himself fairly extinguished;--child cries, and Cudjoe on
the outside delivers animated addresses to the horses, who are
kicking, and floundering, and straining under repeated cracks of
the whip. Carriage springs up, with another bounce,--down go the
hind wheels,--senator, woman, and child, fly over on to the back
seat, his elbows encountering her bonnet, and both her feet being
jammed into his hat, which flies off in the concussion. After a
few moments the "slough" is passed, and the horses stop, panting;--the
senator finds his hat, the woman straightens her bonnet and hushes
her child, and they brace themselves for what is yet to come.
For a while only the continuous bump! bump! intermingled,
just by way of variety, with divers side plunges and compound
shakes; and they begin to flatter themselves that they are not so
badly off, after all. At last, with a square plunge, which puts
all on to their feet and then down into their seats with
incredible quickness, the carriage stops,--and, after much
outside commotion, Cudjoe appears at the door.
"Please, sir, it's powerful bad spot, this' yer. I don't
know how we's to get clar out. I'm a thinkin' we'll have to be a
The senator despairingly steps out, picking gingerly for some
firm foothold; down goes one foot an immeasurable depth,--he
tries to pull it up, loses his balance, and tumbles over into the
mud, and is fished out, in a very despairing condition, by Cudjoe.
But we forbear, out of sympathy to our readers' bones.
Western travellers, who have beguiled the midnight hour in the
interesting process of pulling down rail fences, to pry their
carriages out of mud holes, will have a respectful and mournful
sympathy with our unfortunate hero. We beg them to drop a silent
tear, and pass on.
It was full late in the night when the carriage emerged,
dripping and bespattered, out of the creek, and stood at the door
of a large farmhouse.
It took no inconsiderable perseverance to arouse the inmates;
but at last the respectable proprietor appeared, and undid the door.
He was a great, tall, bristling Orson of a fellow, full six feet
and some inches in his stockings, and arrayed in a red flannel
hunting-shirt. A very heavy mat of sandy hair, in a decidedly
tousled condition, and a beard of some days' growth, gave the worthy
man an appearance, to say the least, not particularly prepossessing.
He stood for a few minutes holding the candle aloft, and blinking
on our travellers with a dismal and mystified expression that was
truly ludicrous. It cost some effort of our senator to induce him
to comprehend the case fully; and while he is doing his best at
that, we shall give him a little introduction to our readers.
Honest old John Van Trompe was once quite a considerable land-owner
and slave-owner in the State of Kentucky. Having "nothing of the
bear about him but the skin," and being gifted by nature with
a great, honest, just heart, quite equal to his gigantic frame,
he had been for some years witnessing with repressed uneasiness
the workings of a system equally bad for oppressor and oppressed.
At last, one day, John's great heart had swelled altogether too
big to wear his bonds any longer; so he just took his pocket-book
out of his desk, and went over into Ohio, and bought a quarter of
a township of good, rich land, made out free papers for all his
people,--men, women, and children,--packed them up in wagons, and
sent them off to settle down; and then honest John turned his face
up the creek, and sat quietly down on a snug, retired farm, to
enjoy his conscience and his reflections.
"Are you the man that will shelter a poor woman and child
from slave-catchers?" said the senator, explicitly.
"I rather think I am," said honest John, with some considerable emphasis.
"I thought so,"' said the senator.
"If there's anybody comes," said the good man, stretching his tall,
muscular form upward, "why here I'm ready for him: and I've got
seven sons, each six foot high, and they'll be ready for 'em.
Give our respects to 'em," said John; "tell 'em it's no matter
how soon they call,--make no kinder difference to us," said John,
running his fingers through the shock of hair that thatched his
head, and bursting out into a great laugh.
Weary, jaded, and spiritless, Eliza dragged herself up to
the door, with her child lying in a heavy sleep on her arm.
The rough man held the candle to her face, and uttering a kind of
compassionate grunt, opened the door of a small bed-room adjoining
to the large kitchen where they were standing, and motioned her
to go in. He took down a candle, and lighting it, set it upon
the table, and then addressed himself to Eliza.
"Now, I say, gal, you needn't be a bit afeard, let who will
come here. I'm up to all that sort o' thing," said he, pointing
to two or three goodly rifles over the mantel-piece; "and most
people that know me know that 't wouldn't be healthy to try to get
anybody out o' my house when I'm agin it. So _now_ you jist go to
sleep now, as quiet as if yer mother was a rockin' ye," said he,
as he shut the door.
"Why, this is an uncommon handsome un," he said to the senator.
"Ah, well; handsome uns has the greatest cause to run, sometimes,
if they has any kind o' feelin, such as decent women should.
I know all about that."
The senator, in a few words, briefly explained Eliza's history.
"O! ou! aw! now, I want to know?" said the good man, pitifully;
"sho! now sho! That's natur now, poor crittur! hunted down
now like a deer,--hunted down, jest for havin' natural feelin's,
and doin' what no kind o' mother could help a doin'! I tell ye
what, these yer things make me come the nighest to swearin', now,
o' most anything," said honest John, as he wiped his eyes with the
back of a great, freckled, yellow hand. "I tell yer what, stranger,
it was years and years before I'd jine the church, 'cause the
ministers round in our parts used to preach that the Bible went in
for these ere cuttings up,--and I couldn't be up to 'em with their
Greek and Hebrew, and so I took up agin 'em, Bible and all. I never
jined the church till I found a minister that was up to 'em all
in Greek and all that, and he said right the contrary; and then
I took right hold, and jined the church,--I did now, fact," said
John, who had been all this time uncorking some very frisky bottled
cider, which at this juncture he presented.
"Ye'd better jest put up here, now, till daylight," said he,
heartily, "and I'll call up the old woman, and have a bed
got ready for you in no time."
"Thank you, my good friend," said the senator, "I must be
along, to take the night stage for Columbus."
"Ah! well, then, if you must, I'll go a piece with you, and
show you a cross road that will take you there better than the
road you came on. That road's mighty bad."
John equipped himself, and, with a lantern in hand, was soon
seen guiding the senator's carriage towards a road that ran
down in a hollow, back of his dwelling. When they parted, the
senator put into his hand a ten-dollar bill.
"It's for her," he said, briefly.
"Ay, ay," said John, with equal conciseness.
They shook hands, and parted.
The Property Is Carried Off
The February morning looked gray and drizzling through the
window of Uncle Tom's cabin. It looked on downcast faces, the
images of mournful hearts. The little table stood out before the
fire, covered with an ironing-cloth; a coarse but clean shirt or
two, fresh from the iron, hung on the back of a chair by the fire,
and Aunt Chloe had another spread out before her on the table.
Carefully she rubbed and ironed every fold and every hem, with the
most scrupulous exactness, every now and then raising her hand to
her face to wipe off the tears that were coursing down her cheeks.
Tom sat by, with his Testament open on his knee, and his head
leaning upon his hand;--but neither spoke. It was yet early,
and the children lay all asleep together in their little rude
Tom, who had, to the full, the gentle, domestic heart,
which woe for them! has been a peculiar characteristic of his
unhappy race, got up and walked silently to look at his children.
"It's the last time," he said.
Aunt Chloe did not answer, only rubbed away over and over
on the coarse shirt, already as smooth as hands could make it; and
finally setting her iron suddenly down with a despairing plunge,
she sat down to the table, and "lifted up her voice and wept."
"S'pose we must be resigned; but oh Lord! how ken I? If I know'd
anything whar you 's goin', or how they'd sarve you! Missis says
she'll try and 'deem ye, in a year or two; but Lor! nobody
never comes up that goes down thar! They kills 'em! I've hearn 'em
tell how dey works 'em up on dem ar plantations."
"There'll be the same God there, Chloe, that there is here."
"Well," said Aunt Chloe, "s'pose dere will; but de Lord lets
drefful things happen, sometimes. I don't seem to get no
comfort dat way."
"I'm in the Lord's hands," said Tom; "nothin' can go no furder
than he lets it;--and thar's _one_ thing I can thank him for.
It's _me_ that's sold and going down, and not you nur the chil'en.
Here you're safe;--what comes will come only on me; and the Lord,
he'll help me,--I know he will."
Ah, brave, manly heart,--smothering thine own sorrow, to
comfort thy beloved ones! Tom spoke with a thick utterance, and
with a bitter choking in his throat,--but he spoke brave and strong.
"Let's think on our marcies!" he added, tremulously, as if
he was quite sure he needed to think on them very hard indeed.
"Marcies!" said Aunt Chloe; "don't see no marcy in 't!
'tan't right! tan't right it should be so! Mas'r never ought ter
left it so that ye _could_ be took for his debts. Ye've arnt him
all he gets for ye, twice over. He owed ye yer freedom, and ought
ter gin 't to yer years ago. Mebbe he can't help himself now, but
I feel it's wrong. Nothing can't beat that ar out o' me. Sich a
faithful crittur as ye've been,--and allers sot his business 'fore
yer own every way,--and reckoned on him more than yer own wife and
chil'en! Them as sells heart's love and heart's blood, to get out
thar scrapes, de Lord'll be up to 'em!"
"Chloe! now, if ye love me, ye won't talk so, when perhaps
jest the last time we'll ever have together! And I'll tell ye,
Chloe, it goes agin me to hear one word agin Mas'r. Wan't he put
in my arms a baby?--it's natur I should think a heap of him.
And he couldn't be spected to think so much of poor Tom. Mas'rs is
used to havin' all these yer things done for 'em, and nat'lly they
don't think so much on 't. They can't be spected to, no way.
Set him 'longside of other Mas'rs--who's had the treatment and livin'
I've had? And he never would have let this yer come on me, if he
could have seed it aforehand. I know he wouldn't."
"Wal, any way, thar's wrong about it _somewhar_," said Aunt
Chloe, in whom a stubborn sense of justice was a predominant trait;
"I can't jest make out whar 't is, but thar's wrong somewhar, I'm
_clar_ o' that."
"Yer ought ter look up to the Lord above--he's above
all--thar don't a sparrow fall without him."
"It don't seem to comfort me, but I spect it orter," said Aunt Chloe.
"But dar's no use talkin'; I'll jes wet up de corn-cake, and get ye
one good breakfast, 'cause nobody knows when you'll get another."
In order to appreciate the sufferings of the negroes sold
south, it must be remembered that all the instinctive affections
of that race are peculiarly strong. Their local attachments are
very abiding. They are not naturally daring and enterprising, but
home-loving and affectionate. Add to this all the terrors with
which ignorance invests the unknown, and add to this, again, that
selling to the south is set before the negro from childhood as the
last severity of punishment. The threat that terrifies more than
whipping or torture of any kind is the threat of being sent down
river. We have ourselves heard this feeling expressed by them,
and seen the unaffected horror with which they will sit in their
gossipping hours, and tell frightful stories of that "down river,"
which to them is
_"That undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns."_
 A slightly inaccurate quotation from _Hamlet_, Act III,
scene I, lines 369-370.
A missionary figure among the fugitives in Canada told us that
many of the fugitives confessed themselves to have escaped
from comparatively kind masters, and that they were induced to
brave the perils of escape, in almost every case, by the desperate
horror with which they regarded being sold south,--a doom which
was hanging either over themselves or their husbands, their wives
or children. This nerves the African, naturally patient, timid
and unenterprising, with heroic courage, and leads him to suffer
hunger, cold, pain, the perils of the wilderness, and the more
dread penalties of recapture.
The simple morning meal now smoked on the table, for Mrs. Shelby
had excused Aunt Chloe's attendance at the great house that
morning. The poor soul had expended all her little energies on
this farewell feast,--had killed and dressed her choicest chicken,
and prepared her corn-cake with scrupulous exactness, just to her
husband's taste, and brought out certain mysterious jars on the
mantel-piece, some preserves that were never produced except on
"Lor, Pete," said Mose, triumphantly, "han't we got a buster
of a breakfast!" at the same time catching at a fragment of the
Aunt Chloe gave him a sudden box on the ear. "Thar now! crowing
over the last breakfast yer poor daddy's gwine to have to home!"
"O, Chloe!" said Tom, gently.
"Wal, I can't help it," said Aunt Chloe, hiding her face
in her apron; "I 's so tossed about it, it makes me act ugly."
The boys stood quite still, looking first at their father and
then at their mother, while the baby, climbing up her clothes,
began an imperious, commanding cry.
"Thar!" said Aunt Chloe, wiping her eyes and taking up the baby;
"now I's done, I hope,--now do eat something. This yer's my
nicest chicken. Thar, boys, ye shall have some, poor critturs!
Yer mammy's been cross to yer."
The boys needed no second invitation, and went in with great
zeal for the eatables; and it was well they did so, as
otherwise there would have been very little performed to any
purpose by the party.
"Now," said Aunt Chloe, bustling about after breakfast, "I must
put up yer clothes. Jest like as not, he'll take 'em all away.
I know thar ways--mean as dirt, they is! Wal, now, yer flannels
for rhumatis is in this corner; so be careful, 'cause there
won't nobody make ye no more. Then here's yer old shirts,
and these yer is new ones. I toed off these yer stockings last
night, and put de ball in 'em to mend with. But Lor! who'll ever
mend for ye?" and Aunt Chloe, again overcome, laid her head on the
box side, and sobbed. "To think on 't! no crittur to do for ye,
sick or well! I don't railly think I ought ter be good now!"
The boys, having eaten everything there was on the
breakfast-table, began now to take some thought of the case; and,
seeing their mother crying, and their father looking very sad,
began to whimper and put their hands to their eyes. Uncle Tom had
the baby on his knee, and was letting her enjoy herself to the
utmost extent, scratching his face and pulling his hair, and
occasionally breaking out into clamorous explosions of delight,
evidently arising out of her own internal reflections.
"Ay, crow away, poor crittur!" said Aunt Chloe; ye'll have
to come to it, too! ye'll live to see yer husband sold, or mebbe
be sold yerself; and these yer boys, they's to be sold, I s'pose,
too, jest like as not, when dey gets good for somethin'; an't no
use in niggers havin' nothin'!"
Here one of the boys called out, "Thar's Missis a-comin' in!"
"She can't do no good; what's she coming for?" said Aunt Chloe.
Mrs. Shelby entered. Aunt Chloe set a chair for her in a
manner decidedly gruff and crusty. She did not seem to notice
either the action or the manner. She looked pale and anxious.
"Tom," she said, "I come to--" and stopping suddenly, and
regarding the silent group, she sat down in the chair, and, covering
her face with her handkerchief, began to sob.
"Lor, now, Missis, don't--don't!" said Aunt Chloe, bursting
out in her turn; and for a few moments they all wept in company.
And in those tears they all shed together, the high and the lowly,
melted away all the heart-burnings and anger of the oppressed. O,
ye who visit the distressed, do ye know that everything your money
can buy, given with a cold, averted face, is not worth one honest
tear shed in real sympathy?
"My good fellow," said Mrs. Shelby, "I can't give you anything
to do you any good. If I give you money, it will only be taken
from you. But I tell you solemnly, and before God, that I will
keep trace of you, and bring you back as soon as I can command
the money;--and, till then, trust in God!"
Here the boys called out that Mas'r Haley was coming, and then
an unceremonious kick pushed open the door. Haley stood there
in very ill humor, having ridden hard the night before, and being
not at all pacified by his ill success in recapturing his prey.
"Come," said he, "ye nigger, ye'r ready? Servant, ma'am!"
said he, taking off his hat, as he saw Mrs. Shelby.
Aunt Chloe shut and corded the box, and, getting up, looked
gruffly on the trader, her tears seeming suddenly turned
to sparks of fire.
Tom rose up meekly, to follow his new master, and raised
up his heavy box on his shoulder. His wife took the baby in her
arms to go with him to the wagon, and the children, still crying,
trailed on behind.
Mrs. Shelby, walking up to the trader, detained him for a
few moments, talking with him in an earnest manner; and while she
was thus talking, the whole family party proceeded to a wagon, that
stood ready harnessed at the door. A crowd of all the old and
young hands on the place stood gathered around it, to bid farewell
to their old associate. Tom had been looked up to, both as a head
servant and a Christian teacher, by all the place, and there was
much honest sympathy and grief about him, particularly among the women.
"Why, Chloe, you bar it better 'n we do!" said one of the women,
who had been weeping freely, noticing the gloomy calmness
with which Aunt Chloe stood by the wagon.
"I's done _my_ tears!" she said, looking grimly at the trader,
who was coming up. "I does not feel to cry 'fore dat ar
old limb, no how!"
"Get in!" said Haley to Tom, as he strode through the crowd
of servants, who looked at him with lowering brows.
Tom got in, and Haley, drawing out from under the wagon
seat a heavy pair of shackles, made them fast around each ankle.
A smothered groan of indignation ran through the whole
circle, and Mrs. Shelby spoke from the verandah,--"Mr.
Haley, I assure you that precaution is entirely unnecessary."
"Don' know, ma'am; I've lost one five hundred dollars from
this yer place, and I can't afford to run no more risks."
"What else could she spect on him?" said Aunt Chloe,
indignantly, while the two boys, who now seemed to comprehend at
once their father's destiny, clung to her gown, sobbing and
"I'm sorry," said Tom, "that Mas'r George happened to be away."
George had gone to spend two or three days with a companion
on a neighboring estate, and having departed early in the morning,
before Tom's misfortune had been made public, had left without
hearing of it.
"Give my love to Mas'r George," he said, earnestly.
Haley whipped up the horse, and, with a steady, mournful
look, fixed to the last on the old place, Tom was whirled away.
Mr. Shelby at this time was not at home. He had sold Tom
under the spur of a driving necessity, to get out of the power of
a man whom he dreaded,--and his first feeling, after the consummation
of the bargain, had been that of relief. But his wife's expostulations
awoke his half-slumbering regrets; and Tom's manly disinterestedness
increased the unpleasantness of his feelings. It was in vain that
he said to himself that he had a _right_ to do it,--that everybody
did it,--and that some did it without even the excuse of necessity;--he
could not satisfy his own feelings; and that he might not witness
the unpleasant scenes of the consummation, he had gone on a short
business tour up the country, hoping that all would be over before
Tom and Haley rattled on along the dusty road, whirling
past every old familiar spot, until the bounds of the estate were
fairly passed, and they found themselves out on the open pike.
After they had ridden about a mile, Haley suddenly drew up at the
door of a blacksmith's shop, when, taking out with him a pair of
handcuffs, he stepped into the shop, to have a little alteration
"These yer 's a little too small for his build," said Haley,
showing the fetters, and pointing out to Tom.
"Lor! now, if thar an't Shelby's Tom. He han't sold him,
now?" said the smith.
"Yes, he has," said Haley.
"Now, ye don't! well, reely," said the smith, "who'd a
thought it! Why, ye needn't go to fetterin' him up this yer way.
He's the faithfullest, best crittur--"
"Yes, yes," said Haley; "but your good fellers are just
the critturs to want ter run off. Them stupid ones, as doesn't
care whar they go, and shifless, drunken ones, as don't care for
nothin', they'll stick by, and like as not be rather pleased to be
toted round; but these yer prime fellers, they hates it like sin.
No way but to fetter 'em; got legs,--they'll use 'em,--no mistake."
"Well," said the smith, feeling among his tools, "them
plantations down thar, stranger, an't jest the place a Kentuck
nigger wants to go to; they dies thar tol'able fast, don't they?"
"Wal, yes, tol'able fast, ther dying is; what with the
'climating and one thing and another, they dies so as to keep the
market up pretty brisk," said Haley.
"Wal, now, a feller can't help thinkin' it's a mighty pity
to have a nice, quiet, likely feller, as good un as Tom is, go down
to be fairly ground up on one of them ar sugar plantations."
"Wal, he's got a fa'r chance. I promised to do well by him.
I'll get him in house-servant in some good old family, and
then, if he stands the fever and 'climating, he'll have a berth
good as any nigger ought ter ask for."
"He leaves his wife and chil'en up here, s'pose?"
"Yes; but he'll get another thar. Lord, thar's women enough
everywhar," said Haley.
Tom was sitting very mournfully on the outside of the shop
while this conversation was going on. Suddenly he heard the quick,
short click of a horse's hoof behind him; and, before he could
fairly awake from his surprise, young Master George sprang into
the wagon, threw his arms tumultuously round his neck, and was
sobbing and scolding with energy.
"I declare, it's real mean! I don't care what they say, any
of 'em! It's a nasty, mean shame! If I was a man, they shouldn't
do it,--they should not, _so_!" said George, with a kind of
"O! Mas'r George! this does me good!" said Tom. "I couldn't
bar to go off without seein' ye! It does me real good, ye can't
tell!" Here Tom made some movement of his feet, and George's eye
fell on the fetters.
"What a shame!" he exclaimed, lifting his hands. "I'll knock
that old fellow down--I will!"
"No you won't, Mas'r George; and you must not talk so loud.
It won't help me any, to anger him."
"Well, I won't, then, for your sake; but only to think of
it--isn't it a shame? They never sent for me, nor sent me any word,
and, if it hadn't been for Tom Lincon, I shouldn't have heard it.
I tell you, I blew 'em up well, all of 'em, at home!"
"That ar wasn't right, I'm 'feard, Mas'r George."
"Can't help it! I say it's a shame! Look here, Uncle Tom,"
said he, turning his back to the shop, and speaking in a mysterious
tone, _"I've brought you my dollar!"_
"O! I couldn't think o' takin' on 't, Mas'r George, no ways
in the world!" said Tom, quite moved.
"But you _shall_ take it!" said George; "look here--I told
Aunt Chloe I'd do it, and she advised me just to make a hole in
it, and put a string through, so you could hang it round your neck,
and keep it out of sight; else this mean scamp would take it away.
I tell ye, Tom, I want to blow him up! it would do me good!"
"No, don't Mas'r George, for it won't do _me_ any good."
"Well, I won't, for your sake," said George, busily tying
his dollar round Tom's neck; "but there, now, button your coat
tight over it, and keep it, and remember, every time you see it,
that I'll come down after you, and bring you back. Aunt Chloe and
I have been talking about it. I told her not to fear; I'll see to
it, and I'll tease father's life out, if he don't do it."
"O! Mas'r George, ye mustn't talk so 'bout yer father!"
"Lor, Uncle Tom, I don't mean anything bad."
"And now, Mas'r George," said Tom, "ye must be a good boy;
'member how many hearts is sot on ye. Al'ays keep close to
yer mother. Don't be gettin' into any of them foolish ways boys
has of gettin' too big to mind their mothers. Tell ye what, Mas'r
George, the Lord gives good many things twice over; but he don't
give ye a mother but once. Ye'll never see sich another woman,
Mas'r George, if ye live to be a hundred years old. So, now, you
hold on to her, and grow up, and be a comfort to her, thar's my
own good boy,--you will now, won't ye?"
"Yes, I will, Uncle Tom," said George seriously.
"And be careful of yer speaking, Mas'r George. Young boys,
when they comes to your age, is wilful, sometimes-- it is natur
they should be. But real gentlemen, such as I hopes you'll be,
never lets fall on words that isn't 'spectful to thar parents.
Ye an't 'fended, Mas'r George?"
"No, indeed, Uncle Tom; you always did give me good advice."
"I's older, ye know," said Tom, stroking the boy's fine,
curly head with his large, strong hand, but speaking in a voice as
tender as a woman's, "and I sees all that's bound up in you.
O, Mas'r George, you has everything,--l'arnin', privileges, readin',
writin',--and you'll grow up to be a great, learned, good man and
all the people on the place and your mother and father'll be so
proud on ye! Be a good Mas'r, like yer father; and be a Christian,
like yer mother. 'Member yer Creator in the days o' yer youth,
"I'll be _real_ good, Uncle Tom, I tell you," said George.
"I'm going to be a _first-rater_; and don't you be discouraged.
I'll have you back to the place, yet. As I told Aunt Chloe this
morning, I'll build our house all over, and you shall have a room
for a parlor with a carpet on it, when I'm a man. O, you'll have
good times yet!"
Haley now came to the door, with the handcuffs in his hands.
"Look here, now, Mister," said George, with an air of great
superiority, as he got out, "I shall let father and mother know
how you treat Uncle Tom!"
"You're welcome," said the trader.
"I should think you'd be ashamed to spend all your life
buying men and women, and chaining them, like cattle! I should
think you'd feel mean!" said George.
"So long as your grand folks wants to buy men and women, I'm as
good as they is," said Haley; "'tan't any meaner sellin' on
'em, that 't is buyin'!"
"I'll never do either, when I'm a man," said George; "I'm
ashamed, this day, that I'm a Kentuckian. I always was proud of
it before;" and George sat very straight on his horse, and looked
round with an air, as if he expected the state would be impressed
with his opinion.
"Well, good-by, Uncle Tom; keep a stiff upper lip," said George.
"Good-by, Mas'r George," said Tom, looking fondly and
admiringly at him. "God Almighty bless you! Ah! Kentucky han't
got many like you!" he said, in the fulness of his heart, as the
frank, boyish face was lost to his view. Away he went, and Tom
looked, till the clatter of his horse's heels died away, the last
sound or sight of his home. But over his heart there seemed to be
a warm spot, where those young hands had placed that precious dollar.
Tom put up his hand, and held it close to his heart.
"Now, I tell ye what, Tom," said Haley, as he came up to
the wagon, and threw in the handcuffs, "I mean to start fa'r
with ye, as I gen'ally do with my niggers; and I'll tell ye now,
to begin with, you treat me fa'r, and I'll treat you fa'r;
I an't never hard on my niggers. Calculates to do the best for
'em I can. Now, ye see, you'd better jest settle down comfortable,
and not be tryin' no tricks; because nigger's tricks of all sorts
I'm up to, and it's no use. If niggers is quiet, and don't try to
get off, they has good times with me; and if they don't, why, it's
thar fault, and not mine."
Tom assured Haley that he had no present intentions of
running off. In fact, the exhortation seemed rather a superfluous
one to a man with a great pair of iron fetters on his feet.
But Mr. Haley had got in the habit of commencing his relations with
his stock with little exhortations of this nature, calculated, as
he deemed, to inspire cheerfulness and confidence, and prevent the
necessity of any unpleasant scenes.
And here, for the present, we take our leave of Tom, to
pursue the fortunes of other characters in our story.
In Which Property Gets into an Improper State of Mind
It was late in a drizzly afternoon that a traveler alighted at the
door of a small country hotel, in the village of N----, in Kentucky.
In the barroom he found assembled quite a miscellaneous company,
whom stress of weather had driven to harbor, and the place presented
the usual scenery of such reunions. Great, tall, raw-boned
Kentuckians, attired in hunting-shirts, and trailing their loose
joints over a vast extent of territory, with the easy lounge peculiar
to the race,--rifles stacked away in the corner, shot-pouches,
game-bags, hunting-dogs, and little negroes, all rolled together
in the corners,--were the characteristic features in the picture.
At each end of the fireplace sat a long-legged gentleman, with his
chair tipped back, his hat on his head, and the heels of his muddy
boots reposing sublimely on the mantel-piece,--a position, we will
inform our readers, decidedly favorable to the turn of reflection
incident to western taverns, where travellers exhibit a decided
^^^^^^^ -?must be authors spelling?
preference for this particular mode of elevating their understandings.
Mine host, who stood behind the bar, like most of his country men,
was great of stature, good-natured and loose-jointed, with an
enormous shock of hair on his head, and a great tall hat
on the top of that.
In fact, everybody in the room bore on his head this
characteristic emblem of man's sovereignty; whether it
were felt hat, palm-leaf, greasy beaver, or fine new chapeau, there
it reposed with true republican independence. In truth, it appeared
to be the characteristic mark of every individual. Some wore them
tipped rakishly to one side--these were your men of humor, jolly,
free-and-easy dogs; some had them jammed independently down over
their noses--these were your hard characters, thorough men, who,
when they wore their hats, _wanted_ to wear them, and to wear them
just as they had a mind to; there were those who had them set far
over back--wide-awake men, who wanted a clear prospect; while
careless men, who did not know, or care, how their hats sat, had
them shaking about in all directions. The various hats, in fact,
were quite a Shakespearean study.
Divers negroes, in very free-and-easy pantaloons, and with no
redundancy in the shirt line, were scuttling about, hither and
thither, without bringing to pass any very particular results,
except expressing a generic willingness to turn over everything
in creation generally for the benefit of Mas'r and his guests.
Add to this picture a jolly, crackling, rollicking fire, going
rejoicingly up a great wide chimney,--the outer door and every
window being set wide open, and the calico window-curtain flopping
and snapping in a good stiff breeze of damp raw air,--and you have
an idea of the jollities of a Kentucky tavern.
Your Kentuckian of the present day is a good illustration of the
doctrine of transmitted instincts and pecularities. His fathers
were mighty hunters,--men who lived in the woods, and slept under
the free, open heavens, with the stars to hold their candles; and
their descendant to this day always acts as if the house were his
camp,--wears his hat at all hours, tumbles himself about, and
puts his heels on the tops of chairs or mantelpieces, just as his
father rolled on the green sward, and put his upon trees and
logs,--keeps all the windows and doors open, winter and summer,
that he may get air enough for his great lungs,--calls everybody
"stranger," with nonchalant bonhommie, and is altogether the
frankest, easiest, most jovial creature living.
Into such an assembly of the free and easy our traveller entered.
He was a short, thick-set man, carefully dressed, with a round,
good-natured countenance, and something rather fussy and
particular in his appearance. He was very careful of his valise
and umbrella, bringing them in with his own hands, and resisting,
pertinaciously, all offers from the various servants to relieve
him of them. He looked round the barroom with rather an anxious
air, and, retreating with his valuables to the warmest corner,
disposed them under his chair, sat down, and looked rather
apprehensively up at the worthy whose heels illustrated the end of
the mantel-piece, who was spitting from right to left, with a
courage and energy rather alarming to gentlemen of weak nerves and
"I say, stranger, how are ye?" said the aforesaid gentleman,
firing an honorary salute of tobacco-juice in the direction of the
"Well, I reckon," was the reply of the other, as he dodged,
with some alarm, the threatening honor.
"Any news?" said the respondent, taking out a strip of
tobacco and a large hunting-knife from his pocket.
"Not that I know of," said the man.
"Chaw?" said the first speaker, handing the old gentleman
a bit of his tobacco, with a decidedly brotherly air.
"No, thank ye--it don't agree with me," said the little
man, edging off.
"Don't, eh?" said the other, easily, and stowing away the
morsel in his own mouth, in order to keep up the supply of
tobacco-juice, for the general benefit of society.
The old gentleman uniformly gave a little start whenever
his long-sided brother fired in his direction; and this being
observed by his companion, he very good-naturedly turned his
artillery to another quarter, and proceeded to storm one of
the fire-irons with a degree of military talent fully sufficient
to take a city.
"What's that?" said the old gentleman, observing some of
the company formed in a group around a large handbill.
"Nigger advertised!" said one of the company, briefly.
Mr. Wilson, for that was the old gentleman's name, rose up,
and, after carefully adjusting his valise and umbrella, proceeded
deliberately to take out his spectacles and fix them on his nose;
and, this operation being performed, read as follows:
"Ran away from the subscriber, my mulatto boy, George.
Said George six feet in height, a very light mulatto, brown
curly hair; is very intelligent, speaks handsomely, can read
and write, will probably try to pass for a white man, is
deeply scarred on his back and shoulders, has been branded
in his right hand with the letter H.
"I will give four hundred dollars for him alive, and
the same sum for satisfactory proof that he has been killed."_
The old gentleman read this advertisement from end to end
in a low voice, as if he were studying it.
The long-legged veteran, who had been besieging the fire-iron,
as before related, now took down his cumbrous length, and rearing
aloft his tall form, walked up to the advertisement and very
deliberately spit a full discharge of tobacco-juice on it.
"There's my mind upon that!" said he, briefly, and sat down again.
"Why, now, stranger, what's that for?" said mine host.
"I'd do it all the same to the writer of that ar paper, if he was
here," said the long man, coolly resuming his old employment of
cutting tobacco. "Any man that owns a boy like that, and can't
find any better way o' treating on him, _deserves_ to lose him.
Such papers as these is a shame to Kentucky; that's my mind right
out, if anybody wants to know!"
"Well, now, that's a fact," said mine host, as he made an
entry in his book.
"I've got a gang of boys, sir," said the long man, resuming his
attack on the fire-irons, "and I jest tells 'em--`Boys,' says
I,--`_run_ now! dig! put! jest when ye want to! I never shall come
to look after you!' That's the way I keep mine. Let 'em know they
are free to run any time, and it jest breaks up their wanting to.
More 'n all, I've got free papers for 'em all recorded, in case I
gets keeled up any o' these times, and they know it; and I tell
ye, stranger, there an't a fellow in our parts gets more out of
his niggers than I do. Why, my boys have been to Cincinnati, with
five hundred dollars' worth of colts, and brought me back the money,
all straight, time and agin. It stands to reason they should.
Treat 'em like dogs, and you'll have dogs' works and dogs' actions.
Treat 'em like men, and you'll have men's works." And the honest
drover, in his warmth, endorsed this moral sentiment by firing a
perfect _feu de joi_ at the fireplace.
"I think you're altogether right, friend," said Mr. Wilson; "and
this boy described here _is_ a fine fellow--no mistake about that.
He worked for me some half-dozen years in my bagging factory,
and he was my best hand, sir. He is an ingenious fellow, too: he
invented a machine for the cleaning of hemp--a really valuable
affair; it's gone into use in several factories. His master holds
the patent of it."
"I'll warrant ye," said the drover, "holds it and makes money
out of it, and then turns round and brands the boy in his
right hand. If I had a fair chance, I'd mark him, I reckon so that
he'd carry it _one_ while."
"These yer knowin' boys is allers aggravatin' and sarcy,"
said a coarse-looking fellow, from the other side of the room;
"that's why they gets cut up and marked so. If they behaved
themselves, they wouldn't."
"That is to say, the Lord made 'em men, and it's a hard
squeeze gettin 'em down into beasts," said the drover, dryly.
"Bright niggers isn't no kind of 'vantage to their masters,"
continued the other, well entrenched, in a coarse, unconscious
obtuseness, from the contempt of his opponent; "what's the use o'
talents and them things, if you can't get the use on 'em yourself?
Why, all the use they make on 't is to get round you. I've had
one or two of these fellers, and I jest sold 'em down river. I knew
I'd got to lose 'em, first or last, if I didn't."
"Better send orders up to the Lord, to make you a set, and
leave out their souls entirely," said the drover.
Here the conversation was interrupted by the approach of a small
one-horse buggy to the inn. It had a genteel appearance, and
a well-dressed, gentlemanly man sat on the seat, with a colored
The whole party examined the new comer with the interest with
which a set of loafers in a rainy day usually examine every
newcomer. He was very tall, with a dark, Spanish complexion, fine,
expressive black eyes, and close-curling hair, also of a glossy
blackness. His well-formed aquiline nose, straight thin lips, and
the admirable contour of his finely-formed limbs, impressed the
whole company instantly with the idea of something uncommon.
He walked easily in among the company, and with a nod indicated
to his waiter where to place his trunk, bowed to the company, and,
with his hat in his hand, walked up leisurely to the bar, and gave
in his name as Henry Butter, Oaklands, Shelby County. Turning, with
an indifferent air, he sauntered up to the advertisement, and
read it over.
"Jim," he said to his man, "seems to me we met a boy something
like this, up at Beman's, didn't we?"
"Yes, Mas'r, said Jim, "only I an't sure about the hand."
"Well, I didn't look, of course," said the stranger with a
careless yawn. Then walking up to the landlord, he desired him
to furnish him with a private apartment, as he had some writing to
The landlord was all obsequious, and a relay of about seven
negroes, old and young, male and female, little and big, were soon
whizzing about, like a covey of partridges, bustling, hurrying,
treading on each other's toes, and tumbling over each other, in
their zeal to get Mas'r's room ready, while he seated himself easily
on a chair in the middle of the room, and entered into conversation
with the man who sat next to him.
The manufacturer, Mr. Wilson, from the time of the entrance
of the stranger, had regarded him with an air of disturbed and
uneasy curiosity. He seemed to himself to have met and been
acquainted with him somewhere, but he could not recollect.
Every few moments, when the man spoke, or moved, or smiled, he
would start and fix his eyes on him, and then suddenly withdraw
them, as the bright, dark eyes met his with such unconcerned coolness.
At last, a sudden recollection seemed to flash upon him, for he stared
at the stranger with such an air of blank amazement and alarm, that
he walked up to him.
"Mr. Wilson, I think," said he, in a tone of recognition, and
extending his hand. "I beg your pardon, I didn't recollect
you before. I see you remember me,--Mr. Butler, of Oaklands,
"Ye--yes--yes, sir," said Mr. Wilson, like one speaking in
Just then a negro boy entered, and announced that Mas'r's
room was ready.
"Jim, see to the trunks," said the gentleman, negligently;
then addressing himself to Mr. Wilson, he added--"I should
like to have a few moments' conversation with you on business,
in my room, if you please."
Mr. Wilson followed him, as one who walks in his sleep; and
they proceeded to a large upper chamber, where a new-made fire
was crackling, and various servants flying about, putting finishing
touches to the arrangements.
When all was done, and the servants departed, the young man
deliberately locked the door, and putting the key in his pocket,
faced about, and folding his arms on his bosom, looked Mr. Wilson
full in the face.
"George!" said Mr. Wilson.
"Yes, George," said the young man.
"I couldn't have thought it!"
"I am pretty well disguised, I fancy," said the young man,
with a smile. "A little walnut bark has made my yellow skin a
genteel brown, and I've dyed my hair black; so you see I don't
answer to the advertisement at all."
"O, George! but this is a dangerous game you are playing.
I could not have advised you to it."
"I can do it on my own responsibility," said George, with
the same proud smile.
We remark, _en passant_, that George was, by his father's side,
of white descent. His mother was one of those unfortunates
of her race, marked out by personal beauty to be the slave of the
passions of her possessor, and the mother of children who may never
know a father. From one of the proudest families in Kentucky he
had inherited a set of fine European features, and a high, indomitable
spirit. From his mother he had received only a slight mulatto
tinge, amply compensated by its accompanying rich, dark eye.
A slight change in the tint of the skin and the color of his hair
had metamorphosed him into the Spanish-looking fellow he then
appeared; and as gracefulness of movement and gentlemanly manners
had always been perfectly natural to him, he found no difficulty
in playing the bold part he had adopted--that of a gentleman
travelling with his domestic.
Mr. Wilson, a good-natured but extremely fidgety and cautious
old gentleman, ambled up and down the room, appearing, as John
Bunyan hath it, "much tumbled up and down in his mind," and divided
between his wish to help George, and a certain confused notion of
maintaining law and order: so, as he shambled about, he delivered
himself as follows:
"Well, George, I s'pose you're running away--leaving your
lawful master, George--(I don't wonder at it)--at the same time,
I'm sorry, George,--yes, decidedly--I think I must say that,
George--it's my duty to tell you so."
"Why are you sorry, sir?" said George, calmly.
"Why, to see you, as it were, setting yourself in opposition
to the laws of your country."
"_My_ country!" said George, with a strong and bitter emphasis;
"what country have I, but the grave,--and I wish to God
that I was laid there!"
"Why, George, no--no--it won't do; this way of talking is
wicked--unscriptural. George, you've got a hard master--in fact,
he is--well he conducts himself reprehensibly--I can't pretend to
defend him. But you know how the angel commanded Hagar to return
to her mistress, and submit herself under the hand; and the
apostle sent back Onesimus to his master."
 Gen. 16. The angel bade the pregnant Hagar return to
her mistress Sarai, even though Sarai had dealt harshly with her.
 Phil. 1:10. Onesimus went back to his master to become
no longer a servant but a "brother beloved."
"Don't quote Bible at me that way, Mr. Wilson," said George,
with a flashing eye, "don't! for my wife is a Christian, and I mean
to be, if ever I get to where I can; but to quote Bible to a fellow
in my circumstances, is enough to make him give it up altogether.
I appeal to God Almighty;--I'm willing to go with the case to
Him, and ask Him if I do wrong to seek my freedom."
"These feelings are quite natural, George," said the
good-natured man, blowing his nose. "Yes, they're natural, but it
is my duty not to encourage 'em in you. Yes, my boy, I'm sorry
for you, now; it's a bad case--very bad; but the apostle says, `Let
everyone abide in the condition in which he is called.' We must
all submit to the indications of Providence, George,--don't you see?"
George stood with his head drawn back, his arms folded tightly
over his broad breast, and a bitter smile curling his lips.
"I wonder, Mr. Wilson, if the Indians should come and take you
a prisoner away from your wife and children, and want to keep
you all your life hoeing corn for them, if you'd think it your duty
to abide in the condition in which you were called. I rather think
that you'd think the first stray horse you could find an indication
of Providence--shouldn't you?"
The little old gentleman stared with both eyes at this
illustration of the case; but, though not much of a reasoner, he
had the sense in which some logicians on this particular subject
do not excel,--that of saying nothing, where nothing could be said.
So, as he stood carefully stroking his umbrella, and folding and
patting down all the creases in it, he proceeded on with his
exhortations in a general way.
"You see, George, you know, now, I always have stood your friend;
and whatever I've said, I've said for your good. Now, here,
it seems to me, you're running an awful risk. You can't hope
to carry it out. If you're taken, it will be worse with you than
ever; they'll only abuse you, and half kill you, and sell you down
"Mr. Wilson, I know all this," said George. "I _do_ run a risk,
but--" he threw open his overcoat, and showed two pistols and
a bowie-knife. "There!" he said, "I'm ready for 'em! Down south
I never _will_ go.
No! if it comes to that, I can earn myself at least six feet of
free soil,--the first and last I shall ever own in Kentucky!"
"Why, George, this state of mind is awful; it's getting really
desperate George. I'm concerned. Going to break the laws
of your country!"
"My country again! Mr. Wilson, _you_ have a country; but what
country have _I_, or any one like me, born of slave mothers?
What laws are there for us? We don't make them,--we don't consent
to them,--we have nothing to do with them; all they do for us is
to crush us, and keep us down. Haven't I heard your Fourth-of-July
speeches? Don't you tell us all, once a year, that governments
derive their just power from the consent of the governed? Can't a
fellow _think_, that hears such things? Can't he put this and that
together, and see what it comes to?"
Mr. Wilson's mind was one of those that may not unaptly be
represented by a bale of cotton,--downy, soft, benevolently fuzzy
and confused. He really pitied George with all his heart, and had
a sort of dim and cloudy perception of the style of feeling that
agitated him; but he deemed it his duty to go on talking _good_ to
him, with infinite pertinacity.
"George, this is bad. I must tell you, you know, as a friend,
you'd better not be meddling with such notions; they are bad,
George, very bad, for boys in your condition,--very;" and Mr.
Wilson sat down to a table, and began nervously chewing the handle
of his umbrella.
"See here, now, Mr. Wilson," said George, coming up and sitting
himself determinately down in front of him; "look at me, now.
Don't I sit before you, every way, just as much a man as you are?
Look at my face,--look at my hands,--look at my body," and the
young man drew himself up proudly; "why am I _not_ a man, as
much as anybody? Well, Mr. Wilson, hear what I can tell you.
I had a father--one of your Kentucky gentlemen--who didn't think
enough of me to keep me from being sold with his dogs and horses,
to satisfy the estate, when he died. I saw my mother put up at
sheriff's sale, with her seven children. They were sold before her
eyes, one by one, all to different masters; and I was the youngest.
She came and kneeled down before old Mas'r, and begged him to buy
her with me, that she might have at least one child with her; and
he kicked her away with his heavy boot. I saw him do it; and the
last that I heard was her moans and screams, when I was tied to
his horse's neck, to be carried off to his place."
"My master traded with one of the men, and bought my oldest sister.
She was a pious, good girl,--a member of the Baptist church,--and
as handsome as my poor mother had been. She was well brought up,
and had good manners. At first, I was glad she was bought,
for I had one friend near me. I was soon sorry for it. Sir, I
have stood at the door and heard her whipped, when it seemed as
if every blow cut into my naked heart, and I couldn't do anything
to help her; and she was whipped, sir, for wanting to live a decent
Christian life, such as your laws give no slave girl a right to
live; and at last I saw her chained with a trader's gang, to be
sent to market in Orleans,--sent there for nothing else but that,--and
that's the last I know of her. Well, I grew up,--long years and
years,--no father, no mother, no sister, not a living soul that
cared for me more than a dog; nothing but whipping, scolding,
starving. Why, sir, I've been so hungry that I have been glad to
take the bones they threw to their dogs; and yet, when I was a
little fellow, and laid awake whole nights and cried, it wasn't
the hunger, it wasn't the whipping, I cried for. No, sir, it was
for _my mother_ and _my sisters_,--it was because I hadn't a friend
to love me on earth. I never knew what peace or comfort was. I never
had a kind word spoken to me till I came to work in your factory.
Mr. Wilson, you treated me well; you encouraged me to do well,
and to learn to read and write, and to try to make something of
myself; and God knows how grateful I am for it. Then, sir,
I found my wife; you've seen her,--you know how beautiful she is.
When I found she loved me, when I married her, I scarcely could
believe I was alive, I was so happy; and, sir, she is as good
as she is beautiful. But now what? Why, now comes my master, takes
me right away from my work, and my friends, and all I like, and
grinds me down into the very dirt! And why? Because, he says, I
forgot who I was; he says, to teach me that I am only a nigger!
After all, and last of all, he comes between me and my wife, and
says I shall give her up, and live with another woman. And all
this your laws give him power to do, in spite of God or man.
Mr. Wilson, look at it! There isn't _one_ of all these things, that
have broken the hearts of my mother and my sister, and my wife and
myself, but your laws allow, and give every man power to do, in
Kentucky, and none can say to him nay! Do you call these the laws
of _my_ country? Sir, I haven't any country, anymore than I have
any father. But I'm going to have one. I don't want anything of
_your_ country, except to be let alone,--to go peaceably out of
it; and when I get to Canada, where the laws will own me and protect
me, _that_ shall be my country, and its laws I will obey. But if
any man tries to stop me, let him take care, for I am desperate.
I'll fight for my liberty to the last breath I breathe. You say
your fathers did it; if it was right for them, it is right for me!"
This speech, delivered partly while sitting at the table, and
partly walking up and down the room,--delivered with tears, and
flashing eyes, and despairing gestures,--was altogether too much
for the good-natured old body to whom it was addressed, who had
pulled out a great yellow silk pocket-handkerchief, and was
mopping up his face with great energy.
"Blast 'em all!" he suddenly broke out. "Haven't I always
said so--the infernal old cusses! I hope I an't swearing, now.
Well! go ahead, George, go ahead; but be careful, my boy; don't
shoot anybody, George, unless--well--you'd _better_ not shoot, I
reckon; at least, I wouldn't _hit_ anybody, you know. Where is
your wife, George?" he added, as he nervously rose, and began
walking the room.
"Gone, sir gone, with her child in her arms, the Lord only
knows where;--gone after the north star; and when we ever meet,
or whether we meet at all in this world, no creature can tell."
"Is it possible! astonishing! from such a kind family?"
"Kind families get in debt, and the laws of _our_ country
allow them to sell the child out of its mother's bosom to pay its
master's debts," said George, bitterly.
"Well, well," said the honest old man, fumbling in his pocket:
"I s'pose, perhaps, I an't following my judgment,--hang it,
I _won't_ follow my judgment!" he added, suddenly; "so here,
George," and, taking out a roll of bills from his pocket-book, he
offered them to George.
"No, my kind, good sir!" said George, "you've done a great
deal for me, and this might get you into trouble. I have money
enough, I hope, to take me as far as I need it."
"No; but you must, George. Money is a great help everywhere;--
can't have too much, if you get it honestly. Take it,--
_do_ take it, _now_,--do, my boy!"
"On condition, sir, that I may repay it at some future
time, I will," said George, taking up the money.
"And now, George, how long are you going to travel in this
way?--not long or far, I hope. It's well carried on, but too bold.
And this black fellow,--who is he?"
"A true fellow, who went to Canada more than a year ago.
He heard, after he got there, that his master was so angry at him
for going off that he had whipped his poor old mother; and he has
come all the way back to comfort her, and get a chance to get her away."
"Has he got her?"
"Not yet; he has been hanging about the place, and found no
chance yet. Meanwhile, he is going with me as far as Ohio, to
put me among friends that helped him, and then he will come back
"Dangerous, very dangerous!" said the old man.
George drew himself up, and smiled disdainfully.
The old gentleman eyed him from head to foot, with a sort
of innocent wonder.
"George, something has brought you out wonderfully. You hold
up your head, and speak and move like another man," said Mr. Wilson.
"Because I'm a _freeman_!" said George, proudly. "Yes, sir;
I've said Mas'r for the last time to any man. _I'm free!"_
"Take care! You are not sure,--you may be taken."
"All men are free and equal _in the grave_, if it comes to
that, Mr. Wilson," said George.
"I'm perfectly dumb-founded with your boldness!" said Mr.
Wilson,--"to come right here to the nearest tavern!"
"Mr. Wilson, it is _so_ bold, and this tavern is so near, that
they will never think of it; they will look for me on ahead, and
you yourself wouldn't know me. Jim's master don't live in this
county; he isn't known in these parts. Besides, he is given up;
nobody is looking after him, and nobody will take me up from the
advertisement, I think."
"But the mark in your hand?"
George drew off his glove, and showed a newly-healed scar
in his hand.
"That is a parting proof of Mr. Harris' regard," he said, scornfully.
"A fortnight ago, he took it into his head to give it to me,
because he said he believed I should try to get away one of
these days. Looks interesting, doesn't it?" he said, drawing his
glove on again.
"I declare, my very blood runs cold when I think of it,--your
condition and your risks!" said Mr. Wilson.
"Mine has run cold a good many years, Mr. Wilson; at present,
it's about up to the boiling point," said George.
"Well, my good sir," continued George, after a few moments'
silence, "I saw you knew me; I thought I'd just have this talk with
you, lest your surprised looks should bring me out. I leave early
tomorrow morning, before daylight; by tomorrow night I hope to
sleep safe in Ohio. I shall travel by daylight, stop at the best
hotels, go to the dinner-tables with the lords of the land.
So, good-by, sir; if you hear that I'm taken, you may know that
George stood up like a rock, and put out his hand with the
air of a prince. The friendly little old man shook it heartily,
and after a little shower of caution, he took his umbrella, and
fumbled his way out of the room.
George stood thoughtfully looking at the door, as the old
man closed it. A thought seemed to flash across his mind.
He hastily stepped to it, and opening it, said,
"Mr. Wilson, one word more."
The old gentleman entered again, and George, as before, locked
the door, and then stood for a few moments looking on the
floor, irresolutely. At last, raising his head with a sudden
effort--"Mr. Wilson, you have shown yourself a Christian in
your treatment of me,--I want to ask one last deed of Christian
kindness of you."
"Well, sir,--what you said was true. I _am_ running a
dreadful risk. There isn't, on earth, a living soul to care if I
die," he added, drawing his breath hard, and speaking with a great
effort,--"I shall be kicked out and buried like a dog, and nobody'll
think of it a day after,--_only my poor wife!_ Poor soul! she'll
mourn and grieve; and if you'd only contrive, Mr. Wilson, to send
this little pin to her. She gave it to me for a Christmas present,
poor child! Give it to her, and tell her I loved her to the last.
Will you? _Will_ you?" he added, earnestly.
"Yes, certainly--poor fellow!" said the old gentleman, taking
the pin, with watery eyes, and a melancholy quiver in his voice.
"Tell her one thing," said George; "it's my last wish, if
she _can_ get to Canada, to go there. No matter how kind her
mistress is,--no matter how much she loves her home; beg her not
to go back,--for slavery always ends in misery. Tell her to bring
up our boy a free man, and then he won't suffer as I have. Tell her
this, Mr. Wilson, will you?"
"Yes, George. I'll tell her; but I trust you won't die;
take heart,--you're a brave fellow. Trust in the Lord, George.
I wish in my heart you were safe through, though,--that's what I do."
"_Is_ there a God to trust in?" said George, in such a tone of
bitter despair as arrested the old gentleman's words. "O, I've
seen things all my life that have made me feel that there can't be
a God. You Christians don't know how these things look to us.
There's a God for you, but is there any for us?"
"O, now, don't--don't, my boy!" said the old man, almost
sobbing as he spoke; "don't feel so! There is--there is; clouds
and darkness are around about him, but righteousness and judgment
are the habitation of his throne. There's a _God_, George,--believe
it; trust in Him, and I'm sure He'll help you. Everything will be
set right,--if not in this life, in another."
The real piety and benevolence of the simple old man invested him
with a temporary dignity and authority, as he spoke. George stopped
his distracted walk up and down the room, stood thoughtfully
a moment, and then said, quietly,
"Thank you for saying that, my good friend; I'll _think of that_."
Select Incident of Lawful Trade
"In Ramah there was a voice heard,--weeping, and lamentation,
and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not
 Jer. 31:15.
Mr. Haley and Tom jogged onward in their wagon, each, for a time,
absorbed in his own reflections. Now, the reflections of two men
sitting side by side are a curious thing,--seated on the same seat,
having the same eyes, ears, hands and organs of all sorts, and
having pass before their eyes the same objects,--it is wonderful
what a variety we shall find in these same reflections!
As, for example, Mr. Haley: he thought first of Tom's length,
and breadth, and height, and what he would sell for, if he was
kept fat and in good case till he got him into market. He thought
of how he should make out his gang; he thought of the respective
market value of certain supposititious men and women and children
who were to compose it, and other kindred topics of the business;
then he thought of himself, and how humane he was, that whereas
other men chained their "niggers" hand and foot both, he only put
fetters on the feet, and left Tom the use of his hands, as long
as he behaved well; and he sighed to think how ungrateful human
nature was, so that there was even room to doubt whether Tom
appreciated his mercies. He had been taken in so by "niggers"
whom he had favored; but still he was astonished to consider
how good-natured he yet remained!
As to Tom, he was thinking over some words of an unfashionable
old book, which kept running through his head, again and again, as
follows: "We have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come;
wherefore God himself is not ashamed to be called our God; for he
hath prepared for us a city." These words of an ancient volume,
got up principally by "ignorant and unlearned men," have, through
all time, kept up, somehow, a strange sort of power over the minds
of poor, simple fellows, like Tom. They stir up the soul from its
depths, and rouse, as with trumpet call, courage, energy, and
enthusiasm, where before was only the blackness of despair.
Mr. Haley pulled out of his pocket sundry newspapers, and
began looking over their advertisements, with absorbed interest.
He was not a remarkably fluent reader, and was in the habit of
reading in a sort of recitative half-aloud, by way of calling in
his ears to verify the deductions of his eyes. In this tone he
slowly recited the following paragraph:
"EXECUTOR'S SALE,--NEGROES!--Agreeably to order of court,
will be sold, on Tuesday, February 20, before the Court-house
door, in the town of Washington, Kentucky, the following negroes:
Hagar, aged 60; John, aged 30; Ben, aged 21; Saul, aged 25;
Albert, aged 14. Sold for the benefit of the creditors and heirs
of the estate of Jesse Blutchford,
"This yer I must look at," said he to Tom, for want of
somebody else to talk to.
"Ye see, I'm going to get up a prime gang to take down with ye,
Tom; it'll make it sociable and pleasant like,--good company will,
ye know. We must drive right to Washington first and foremost,
and then I'll clap you into jail, while I does the business."
Tom received this agreeable intelligence quite meekly; simply
wondering, in his own heart, how many of these doomed men had
wives and children, and whether they would feel as he did about
leaving them. It is to be confessed, too, that the naive, off-hand
information that he was to be thrown into jail by no means produced
an agreeable impression on a poor fellow who had always prided
himself on a strictly honest and upright course of life. Yes, Tom,
we must confess it, was rather proud of his honesty, poor fellow,--not
having very much else to be proud of;--if he had belonged to some
of the higher walks of society, he, perhaps, would never have been
reduced to such straits. However, the day wore on, and the evening
saw Haley and Tom comfortably accommodated in Washington,--the one
in a tavern, and the other in a jail.
About eleven o'clock the next day, a mixed throng was gathered
around the court-house steps,--smoking, chewing, spitting,
swearing, and conversing, according to their respective tastes and
turns,--waiting for the auction to commence. The men and women to
be sold sat in a group apart, talking in a low tone to each other.
The woman who had been advertised by the name of Hagar was a regular
African in feature and figure. She might have been sixty, but was
older than that by hard work and disease, was partially blind, and
somewhat crippled with rheumatism. By her side stood her only
remaining son, Albert, a bright-looking little fellow of fourteen
years. The boy was the only survivor of a large family, who had
been successively sold away from her to a southern market. The
mother held on to him with both her shaking hands, and eyed with
intense trepidation every one who walked up to examine him.
"Don't be feard, Aunt Hagar," said the oldest of the men,
"I spoke to Mas'r Thomas 'bout it, and he thought he might manage
to sell you in a lot both together."
"Dey needn't call me worn out yet," said she, lifting her
shaking hands. "I can cook yet, and scrub, and scour,--I'm wuth
a buying, if I do come cheap;--tell em dat ar,--you _tell_ em,"
she added, earnestly.
Haley here forced his way into the group, walked up to the
old man, pulled his mouth open and looked in, felt of his teeth,
made him stand and straighten himself, bend his back, and perform
various evolutions to show his muscles; and then passed on to the
next, and put him through the same trial. Walking up last to the
boy, he felt of his arms, straightened his hands, and looked at
his fingers, and made him jump, to show his agility.
"He an't gwine to be sold widout me!" said the old woman, with
passionate eagerness; "he and I goes in a lot together; I 's rail
strong yet, Mas'r and can do heaps o' work,--heaps on it, Mas'r."
"On plantation?" said Haley, with a contemptuous glance.
"Likely story!" and, as if satisfied with his examination, he walked
out and looked, and stood with his hands in his pocket, his cigar
in his mouth, and his hat cocked on one side, ready for action.
"What think of 'em?" said a man who had been following
Haley's examination, as if to make up his own mind from it.
"Wal," said Haley, spitting, "I shall put in, I think, for
the youngerly ones and the boy."
"They want to sell the boy and the old woman together,"
said the man.
"Find it a tight pull;--why, she's an old rack o' bones,--not
worth her salt."
"You wouldn't then?" said the man.
"Anybody 'd be a fool 't would. She's half blind, crooked
with rheumatis, and foolish to boot."
"Some buys up these yer old critturs, and ses there's a
sight more wear in 'em than a body 'd think," said the man,
"No go, 't all," said Haley; "wouldn't take her for a
present,--fact,--I've _seen_, now."
"Wal, 't is kinder pity, now, not to buy her with her son,--her
heart seems so sot on him,--s'pose they fling her in cheap."
"Them that's got money to spend that ar way, it's all well enough.
I shall bid off on that ar boy for a plantation-hand;--wouldn't be
bothered with her, no way, notif they'd give her to me," said Haley.
"She'll take on desp't," said the man.
"Nat'lly, she will," said the trader, coolly.
The conversation was here interrupted by a busy hum in the
audience; and the auctioneer, a short, bustling, important fellow,
elbowed his way into the crowd. The old woman drew in her breath,
and caught instinctively at her son.
"Keep close to yer mammy, Albert,--close,--dey'll put us
up togedder," she said.
"O, mammy, I'm feard they won't," said the boy.
"Dey must, child; I can't live, no ways, if they don't"
said the old creature, vehemently.
The stentorian tones of the auctioneer, calling out to clear
the way, now announced that the sale was about to commence.
A place was cleared, and the bidding began. The different men on
the list were soon knocked off at prices which showed a pretty
brisk demand in the market; two of them fell to Haley.
"Come, now, young un," said the auctioneer, giving the boy
a touch with his hammer, "be up and show your springs, now."
"Put us two up togedder, togedder,--do please, Mas'r," said
the old woman, holding fast to her boy.
"Be off," said the man, gruffly, pushing her hands away;
"you come last. Now, darkey, spring;" and, with the word,
he pushed the boy toward the block, while a deep, heavy groan
rose behind him. The boy paused, and looked back; but there
was no time to stay, and, dashing the tears from his large, bright
eyes, he was up in a moment.
His fine figure, alert limbs, and bright face, raised an
instant competition, and half a dozen bids simultaneously met the
ear of the auctioneer. Anxious, half-frightened, he looked from
side to side, as he heard the clatter of contending bids,--now
here, now there,--till the hammer fell. Haley had got him. He was
pushed from the block toward his new master, but stopped one
moment, and looked back, when his poor old mother, trembling in
every limb, held out her shaking hands toward him.
"Buy me too, Mas'r, for de dear Lord's sake!--buy me,--I
shall die if you don't!"
"You'll die if I do, that's the kink of it," said Haley,--"no!"
And he turned on his heel.
The bidding for the poor old creature was summary. The man who
had addressed Haley, and who seemed not destitute of compassion,
bought her for a trifle, and the spectators began to disperse.
The poor victims of the sale, who had been brought up in
one place together for years, gathered round the despairing old
mother, whose agony was pitiful to see.
"Couldn't dey leave me one? Mas'r allers said I should have
one,--he did," she repeated over and over, in heart-broken tones.
"Trust in the Lord, Aunt Hagar," said the oldest of the
"What good will it do?" said she, sobbing passionately.
"Mother, mother,--don't! don't!" said the boy. "They say
you 's got a good master."
"I don't care,--I don't care. O, Albert! oh, my boy! you
's my last baby. Lord, how ken I?"
"Come, take her off, can't some of ye?" said Haley, dryly;
"don't do no good for her to go on that ar way."
The old men of the company, partly by persuasion and partly
by force, loosed the poor creature's last despairing hold, and, as
they led her off to her new master's wagon, strove to comfort her.
"Now!" said Haley, pushing his three purchases together, and
producing a bundle of handcuffs, which he proceeded to put on
their wrists; and fastening each handcuff to a long chain, he drove
them before him to the jail.
A few days saw Haley, with his possessions, safely deposited
on one of the Ohio boats. It was the commencement of his gang, to
be augmented, as the boat moved on, by various other merchandise
of the same kind, which he, or his agent, had stored for him in
various points along shore.
The La Belle Riviere, as brave and beautiful a boat as ever
walked the waters of her namesake river, was floating gayly down
the stream, under a brilliant sky, the stripes and stars of free
America waving and fluttering over head; the guards crowded with
well-dressed ladies and gentlemen walking and enjoying the
delightful day. All was full of life, buoyant and rejoicing;--all
but Haley's gang, who were stored, with other freight, on the lower
deck, and who, somehow, did not seem to appreciate their various
privileges, as they sat in a knot, talking to each other in low tones.
"Boys," said Haley, coming up, briskly, "I hope you keep up good
heart, and are cheerful. Now, no sulks, ye see; keep stiff
upper lip, boys; do well by me, and I'll do well by you."
The boys addressed responded the invariable "Yes, Mas'r,"
for ages the watchword of poor Africa; but it's to be owned they
did not look particularly cheerful; they had their various little
prejudices in favor of wives, mothers, sisters, and children, seen
for the last time,--and though "they that wasted them required of
them mirth," it was not instantly forthcoming.
"I've got a wife," spoke out the article enumerated as "John,
aged thirty," and he laid his chained hand on Tom's knee,--"and
she don't know a word about this, poor girl!"
"Where does she live?" said Tom.
"In a tavern a piece down here," said John; "I wish, now,
I _could_ see her once more in this world," he added.
Poor John! It _was_ rather natural; and the tears that fell,
as he spoke, came as naturally as if he had been a white man.
Tom drew a long breath from a sore heart, and tried, in his poor
way, to comfort him.
And over head, in the cabin, sat fathers and mothers, husbands
and wives; and merry, dancing children moved round among them,
like so many little butterflies, and everything was going on
quite easy and comfortable.
"O, mamma," said a boy, who had just come up from below,
"there's a negro trader on board, and he's brought four or five
slaves down there."
"Poor creatures!" said the mother, in a tone between grief
"What's that?" said another lady.
"Some poor slaves below," said the mother.
"And they've got chains on," said the boy.
"What a shame to our country that such sights are to be
seen!" said another lady.
"O, there's a great deal to be said on both sides of the
subject," said a genteel woman, who sat at her state-room door
sewing, while her little girl and boy were playing round her.
"I've been south, and I must say I think the negroes are better
off than they would be to be free."
"In some respects, some of them are well off, I grant,"
said the lady to whose remark she had answered. "The most
dreadful part of slavery, to my mind, is its outrages on the
feelings and affections,--the separating of families, for example."
"That _is_ a bad thing, certainly," said the other lady,
holding up a baby's dress she had just completed, and looking
intently on its trimmings; "but then, I fancy, it don't occur often."
"O, it does," said the first lady, eagerly; "I've lived many years
in Kentucky and Virginia both, and I've seen enough to make any
one's heart sick. Suppose, ma'am, your two children, there,
should be taken from you, and sold?"
"We can't reason from our feelings to those of this class of
persons," said the other lady, sorting out some worsteds on her lap.
"Indeed, ma'am, you can know nothing of them, if you say so,"