CLOTELLE: A TALE OF THE SOUTHERN STATES
by William Wells Brown
THE SLAVE’S SOCIAL CIRCLE.
WITH the growing population in the Southern States, the increase of mulattoes has been very great. Society does not frown upon the man who sits with his half-white child upon his knee whilst the mother stands, a slave, behind his chair. In nearly all the cities and towns of the Slave States, the real negro, or clear black, does not amount to more than one in four of the slave population. This fact is of itself the best evidence of the degraded and immoral condition of the relation of master and slave. Throughout the Southern States, there is a class of slaves who, in most of the towns, are permitted to hire their time from their owners, and who are always expected to pay a high price. This class is the mulatto women, distinguished for their fascinating beauty. The handsomest of these usually pay the greatest amount for their time. Many of these women are the favorites of men of property and standing, who furnish them with the means of compensating their owners, and not a few are dressed in the most extravagant manner.
When we take into consideration the fact that no safeguard is thrown around virtue, and no inducement held out to slave-women to be pure and chaste, we will not be surprised when told that immorality and vice pervade the cities and towns of the South to an extent unknown in the Northern States. Indeed, many of the slave-women have no higher aspiration than that of becoming the finely-dressed mistress of some white man. At negro balls and parties, this class of women usually make the most splendid appearance, and are eagerly sought after in the dance, or to entertain in the drawing-room or at the table.
A few years ago, among the many slave-women in Richmond, Virginia, who hired their time of their masters, was Agnes, a mulatto owned by John Graves, Esq., and who might be heard boasting that she was the daughter of an American Senator. Although nearly forty years of age at the time of which we write, Agnes was still exceedingly handsome. More than half white, with long black hair and deep blue eyes, no one felt like disputing with her when she urged her claim to her relationship with the Anglo-Saxon.
In her younger days, Agnes had been a housekeeper for a young slaveholder, and in sustaining this relation had become the mother of two daughters. After being cast aside by this young man, the slave-woman betook herself to the business of a laundress, and was considered to be the most tasteful woman in Richmond at her vocation.
Isabella and Marion, the two daughters of Agnes, resided with their mother, and gave her what aid they could in her business. The mother, however, was very choice of her daughters, and would allow them to perform no labor that would militate against their lady-like appearance. Agnes early resolved to bring up her daughters as ladies, as she termed it.
As the girls grew older, the mother had to pay a stipulated price for them per month. Her notoriety as a laundress of the first class enabled her to put an extra charge upon the linen that passed through her hands; and although she imposed little or no work upon her daughters, she was enabled to live in comparative luxury and have her daughters dressed to attract attention, especially at the negro balls and parties.
Although the term “negro ball” is applied to these gatherings, yet a large portion of the men who attend them are whites. Negro balls and parties in the Southern States, especially in the cities and towns, are usually made up of quadroon women, a few negro men, and any number of white gentlemen. These are gatherings of the most democratic character. Bankers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, and their clerks and students, all take part in these social assemblies upon terms of perfect equality. The father and son not unfrequently meet and dance alike at a negro ball.
It was at one of these parties that Henry Linwood, the son of a wealthy and retired gentleman of Richmond, was first introduced to Isabella, the oldest daughter of Agnes. The young man had just returned from Harvard College, where he had spent the previous five years. Isabella was in her eighteenth year, and was admitted by all who knew her to be the handsomest girl, colored or white, in the city. On this occasion, she was attired in a sky-blue silk dress, with deep black lace flounces, and bertha of the same. On her well-moulded arms she wore massive gold bracelets, while her rich black hair was arranged at the back in broad basket plaits, ornamented with pearls, and the front in the French style (a la Imperatrice), which suited her classic face to perfection.
Marion was scarcely less richly dressed than her sister.
Henry Linwood paid great attention to Isabella which was looked upon with gratification by her mother, and became a matter of general conversation with all present. Of course, the young man escorted the beautiful quadroon home that evening, and became the favorite visitor at the house of Agnes. It was on a beautiful moonlight night in the month of August when all who reside in tropical climates are eagerly grasping for a breath of fresh air, that Henry Linwood was in the garden which surrounded Agnes’ cottage, with the young quadroon by his side. He drew from his pocket a newspaper wet from the press, and read the following advertisement:–
NOTICE.–Seventy-nine negroes will be offered for sale on Monday, September 10, at 12 o’clock, being the entire stock of the late John Graves in an excellent condition, and all warranted against the common vices. Among them are several mechanics, able-bodied field-hands, plough-boys, and women with children, some of them very prolific, affording a rare opportunity for any one who wishes to raise a strong and healthy lot of servants for their own use. Also several mulatto girls of rare personal qualities,–two of these very superior.
Among the above slaves advertised for sale were Agnes and her two daughters. Ere young Linwood left the quadroon that evening, he promised her that he would become her purchaser, and make her free and her own mistress.
Mr. Graves had long been considered not only an excellent and upright citizen of the first standing among the whites, but even the slaves regarded him as one of the kindest of masters. Having inherited his slaves with the rest of his property, he became possessed of them without any consultation or wish of his own. He would neither buy nor sell slaves, and was exceedingly careful, in letting them out, that they did not find oppressive and tyrannical masters. No slave speculator ever dared to cross the threshold of this planter of the Old Dominion. He was a constant attendant upon religious worship, and was noted for his general benevolence. The American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, and the cause of Foreign Missions, found in him a liberal friend. He was always anxious that his slaves should appear well on the Sabbath, and have an opportunity of hearing the word of God.
THE NEGRO SALE.
As might have been expected, the day of sale brought an usually large number together to compete for the property to be sold. Farmers, who make a business of raising slaves for the market, were there, and slave-traders, who make a business of buying human beings in the slave-raising States and taking them to the far South, were also in attendance. Men and women, too, who wished to purchase for their own use, had found their way to the slave sale.
In the midst of the throne. was one who felt a deeper interest in the result of the sale than any other of the bystanders. This was young Linwood. True to his promise, he was there with a blank bank-check in his pocket, awaiting with impatience to enter the list as a bidder for the beautiful slave.
It was indeed a heart-rending scene to witness the lamentations of these slaves, all of whom had grown up together on the old homestead of Mr. Graves, and who had been treated with great kindness by that gentleman, during his life. Now they were to be separated, and form new relations and companions. Such is the precarious condition of the slave. Even when with a good master, there is no certainty of his happiness in the future.
The less valuable slaves were first placed upon the auction-block, one after another, and sold to the highest bidder. Husbands and wives were separated with a degree of indifference that is unknown in any other relation in life. Brothers and sisters were tom from each other, and mothers saw their children for the last time on earth.
It was late in the day, and when the greatest number of persons were thought to be present, when Agnes and her daughters were brought out to the place of sale. The mother was first put upon the auction-block, and sold to a noted negro trader named Jennings. Marion was next ordered to ascend the stand, which she did with a trembling step, and was sold for $1200.
All eyes were now turned on Isabella, as she was led forward by the auctioneer. The appearance of the handsome quadroon caused a deep sensation among the crowd. There she stood, with a skin as fair as most white women, her features as beautifully regular as any of her sex of pure Anglo-Saxon blood, her long black hair done up in the neatest manner, her form tall and graceful, and her whole appearance indicating one superior to her condition.
The auctioneer commenced by saying that Miss Isabella was fit to deck the drawing-room of the finest mansion in Virginia.
“How much, gentlemen, for this real Albino!–fit fancy-girl for any one! She enjoys good health, and has a sweet temper. How much do you say? “
“Five hundred dollars.”
“Only five hundred for such a girl as this? Gentlemen, she is worth a deal more than that sum. You certainly do not know the value of the article you are bidding on. Here, gentlemen, I hold in my hand a paper certifying that she has a good moral character.”
“Ah, gentlemen, that is something like. This paper also states that she is very intelligent.”
“She was first sprinkled, then immersed, and is now warranted to be a devoted Christian, and perfectly trustworthy.”
“Nine hundred dollars.”
“Nine hundred and fifty.”
Here the bidding came to a dead stand. The auctioneer stopped, looked around, and began in a rough manner to relate some anecdote connected with the sale of slaves, which he said had come under his own observation.
At this juncture the scene was indeed a most striking one. The laughing, joking, swearing, smoking, spitting, and talking, kept up a continual hum and confusion among the crowd, while the slave-girl stood with tearful eyes, looking alternately at her mother and sister and toward the young man whom she hoped would become her purchaser.
“The chastity of this girl,” now continued the auctioneer, “is pure. She has never been from under her mother’s care. She is virtuous, and as gentle as a dove.”
The bids here took a fresh start, and went on until $1800 was reached. The auctioneer once more resorted to his jokes, and concluded by assuring the company that Isabella was not only pious, but that she could make an excellent prayer.
“Nineteen hundred dollars.”
This was the last bid, and the quadroon girl was struck off, and became the property of Henry Linwood.
This was a Virginia slave-auction, at which the bones, sinews, blood, and nerves of a young girl of eighteen were sold for $500; her moral character for $200; her superior intellect for $100; the benefits supposed to accrue from her having been sprinkled and immersed, together with a warranty of her devoted Christianity, for $300; her ability to make a good prayer for $200; and her chastity for $700 more. This, too, in a city thronged with churches, whose tall spires look like so many signals pointing to. heaven, but whose ministers preach that slavery a God-ordained institution!
The slaves were speedily separated, and taken along by their respective masters. Jennings, the slave-speculator, who had purchased Agnes and her daughter Marion, with several of the other slaves, took them to the county prison, where he usually kept his human cattle after purchasing them, previous to starting for the New Orleans market.
Linwood had already provided a place for Isabella, to which she was taken. The most trying moment for her was when she took leave of her mother and sister. The “Good-by” of the slave is unlike that of any other class in the community. It is indeed a farewell forever. With tears streaming down their cheeks, they embraced and commanded each other to God, who is no respecter of persons, and before whom master and slave must one day appear.
THE SLAVE SPECULATOR.
DICK Jennings the slave-speculator, was one of the few Northern men, who go to the South and throw aside their honest mode of obtaining a living and resort to trading in human beings. A more repulsive looking person could scarcely be found in any community of bad looking men. Tall, lean and lank, with high cheek-bones, face much pitted with the small-pox, gray eyes with red eyebrows, and sandy whiskers, he indeed stood alone without mate or fellow in looks. Jennings prided himself upon what he called his goodness of heart and was always speaking of his humanity. As many of the slaves whom he intended taking to the New Orleans market had been raised in Richmond, and had relations there, he determined to leave the city early in the morning, so as not to witness any of the scenes so common the departure of a slave-gang to the far South. In this, he was most successful; for not even Isabella, who had called at the prison several times to see her mother and sister, was aware of the time that they were to leave.
The slave-trader started at early dawn, and was beyond the confines of the city long before the citizens were out of their beds. As a slave regards a life on the sugar, cotton, or rice plantation as even worse than death, they are ever on the watch for an opportunity to escape. The trader, aware of this, secures his victims in chains before he sets out on his journey. On this occasion, Jennings had the men chained in pairs, while the women were allowed to go unfastened, but were closely watched.
After a march of eight days, the company arrived on the banks of the Ohio River, where they took a steamer for the place of their destination. Jennings had already advertised in the New Orleans papers, that he would be there with a prime lot of able-bodied slaves, men and women, fit for field-service, with a few extra ones calculated for house servants,–all between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five years; but like most men who make a business of speculating in human beings, he often bought many who were far advanced in years, and would try to pass them off for five or six years younger than they were. Few persons can arrive at anything approaching the real age of the negro, by mere observation, unless they are well acquainted with the race. Therefore, the slave-trader frequently carried out the deception with perfect impunity.
After the steamer had left the wharf and was fairly out on the bosom of the broad Mississippi, the speculator called his servant Pompey to him; and instructed him as to getting the negroes ready for market. Among the forty slaves that the trader had on this occasion, were some whose appearance indicated that they had seen some years and had gone through considerable service. Their gray hair and whiskers at once pronounced them to be above the ages set down in the trader’s advertisement. Pompey had long been with Jennings, and understood his business well, and if he did not take delight in the discharge of his duty, he did it at least with a degree of alacrity, so that he might receive the approbation of his master.
Pomp, as he was usually called by the trader, was of real negro blood, and would often say, when alluding to himself, “Dis nigger am no counterfeit, he is de ginuine artikle. Dis chile is none of your haf-and-haf, dere is no bogus about him.”
Pompey was of low stature, round face, and, like most of his race, had a set of teeth, which, for whiteness and beauty, could not be surpassed; his eyes were large, lips thick, and hair short and woolly. Pompey had been with Jennings so long, and had seen so much of buying and selling of his fellow-creatures, that he appeared perfectly indifferent to the heart-rending scenes which daily occurred in his presence. Such is the force of habit:–
“Vice is a monster of such frightful mien, That to be hated, needs but to be seen; But seen too oft, familiar with Its face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
It was on the second day of the steamer’s voyage, that Pompey selected five of the oldest slaves, took them into a room by themselves, and commenced preparing them for the market.
“Now,” said he, addressing himself to the company, “I is de chap dat is to get you ready for de Orleans market, so dat you will bring marser a good price. How old is you?” addressing himself to a man not less than forty.
“If I live to see next sweet-potato-digging time, I shall be either forty or forty-five, I don’t know which.”
“Dat may be,” replied Pompey; “but now you is only thirty years old,–dat’s what marser says you is to be.”
“I know I is more den dat,” responded the man.
“I can’t help nuffin’ about dat,” returned Pompey; “but when you get into de market and any one ax you how old you is, and you tell um you is forty or forty-five, marser will tie you up and cut you all to pieces. But if you tell urn dat you is only thirty, den he won’t. Now remember dat you is thirty years old and no more.”
“Well den, I guess I will only be thirty when dey ax me.”
“What’s your name?” said Pompey, addressing himself to another.
“Oh! Uncle Jim, is it?”
“Den you must have all them gray whiskers shaved off, and all dem gray hairs plucked out of your head.” This was all said by Pompey in a manner which showed that he know what he was about.
“How old is you?” asked Pompey of a tall, strong-looking man. “What’s your name?”
“I am twenty-nine years old, and my name is Tobias, but they calls me Toby.”
“Well, Toby, or Mr. Tobias, if dat will suit you better, you are now twenty-three years old; dat’s all,–do you understand dat?”
“Yes,” replied Toby.
Pompey now gave them all to understand how old they were to be when asked by persons who were likely to purchase, and then went and reported to his master that the old boys were all right.
“Be sure,” said Jennings, “that the niggers don’t forget what you have taught them, for our luck this time in the market depends upon their appearance. If any of them have so many gray hairs that you cannot pluck them out, take the blacking and brush, and go at them.”
AT eight o’clock, on the evening of the third day of the passage, the lights of another steamer were soon in the distance, and apparently coming up very fast. This was the signal for a general commotion on board the Patriot, and everything indicated that a steamboat-race was at hand. Nothing can exceed the excitement attendant upon the racing of steamers on the Mississippi.
By the time the boats had reached Memphis they were side by side, and each exerting itself to get in advance of the other. The night was clear, the moon shining brightly, and the boats so near to each other that the passengers were within speaking distance. On board the Patriot the firemen were using oil, lard, butter, and even bacon, with woody for the purpose of raising the steam to its highest pitch. The blaze mingled with the black smoke that issued from the pipes of the other boat, which showed that she also was burning something more combustible than wood.
The firemen of both boats, who were slaves, were singing songs such as can only be heard on board a Southern steamer. The boats now came abreast of each other, and nearer and nearer, until they were locked so that men could pass from one to the other. The wildest excitement prevailed among the men employed on the steamers, in which the passengers freely participated.
The Patriot now stopped to take in passengers, but still no steam was permitted to escape. On the starting of the boat again, cold water was forced into the boilers by the feed-pumps, and, as might have been expected. one of the boilers exploded with terrific force, carrying away the boiler-deck and tearing to pieces much of the machinery. One dense fog of steam filled every part of the vessel, while shrieks, groans, and cries were heard on every side. Men were running hither and thither looking for their wives, and women wore flying about in the wildest confusion seeking for their husbands. Dismay appeared on every countenance.
The saloons and cabins soon looked more like hospitals than anything else; but by this time the Patriot had drifted to the shore, and the other steamer had come alongside to render assistance to the disabled boat. The killed and wounded (nineteen in number) were put on shore, and the Patriot, taken in tow by the Washington, was once more on her journey.
It was half-past twelve, and the passengers, instead of retiring to their berths, once more assembled at the gambling-tables. The practice of gambling on the western waters has long been a source of annoyance to the more moral persons who travel on our great rivers. Thousands of dollars often change owners during a passage from St. Louis or Louisville to New Orleans, on a Mississippi steamer. Many men are completely ruined on such occasions, and duels are often the consequence.
“Go call my boy, steward,” said Mr. Jones, as he took his cards one by one from the table.
In a few minutes a fine-looking, bright-eyed mulatto boy, apparently about sixteen years of age, was standing by his master’s side at the table.
“I am broke, all but my boy,” said Jones, as he ran his fingers through his cards; “but he is worth a thousand dollars, and I will bet the half of him.”
“I will call you,” said Thompson, as he laid five hundred dollars at the feet of the boy, who was standing, on the table, and at the same time throwing down his cards before his adversary.
“You have beaten me,” said Jones; and a roar of laughter followed from the other gentleman as poor Joe stepped down from the table.
“Well, I suppose I owe you half the nigger,” said Thompson, as he took hold of Joe and began examining his limbs.
“Yes,” replied Jones, “he is half yours. Let me have five hundred dollars, and I will give you a bill of sale of the boy.”
“Go back to your bed,” said Thompson to his chattel, “and remember that you now belong to me.”
The poor slave wiped the tears from his eyes, as, in obedience, he turned to leave the table.
“My father gave me that boy,” said Jones, as he took the money, “and I hope, Mr. Thompson, that you will allow me to redeem him.”
“Most certainly, Sir,” replied Thompson. “Whenever you hand over the cool thousand the negro is yours.”
Next morning, as the passengers were assembling in the cabin and on deck and while the slaves were running about waiting on or looking for their masters, poor Joe was seen entering his new master’s stateroom, boots in hand.
“Who do you belong to?” inquired a gentleman of an old negro, who passed along leading a fine Newfoundland dog which he had been feeding.
“When I went to sleep las’ night,” replied the slave, “I ‘longed to Massa Carr; but he bin gamblin’ all night an’ I don’t know who I ‘longs to dis mornin’.”
Such is the uncertainty of a slave’s life. He goes to bed at night the pampered servant of his young master, with whom he has played in childhood, and who would not see his slave abused under any consideration, and gets up in the morning the property of a man whom he has never before seen.
To behold five or six tables in the saloon of a steamer, with half a dozen men playing cards at each, with money, pistols, and bowie-knives spread in splendid confusion before them, is an ordinary thing on the Mississippi River.
THE YOUNG MOTHER.
On the fourth morning, the Patriot landed at Grand Gulf, a beautiful town on the left bank of the Mississippi. Among the numerous passengers who came on board at Rodney was another slave-trader, with nine human chattels which he was conveying to the Southern market. The passengers, both ladies and gentlemen, were startled at seeing among the new lot of slaves a woman so white as not to be distinguishable from the other white women on board. She had in her arms a child so white that no one would suppose a drop of African blood flowed through its blue veins.
No one could behold that mother with her helpless babe, without feeling that God would punish the oppressor. There she sat, with an expressive and intellectual forehead, and a countenance full of dignity and heroism, her dark golden locks rolled back from her almost snow-white forehead and floating over her swelling bosom. The tears that stood in her mild blue eyes showed that she was brooding over sorrows and wrongs that filled her bleeding heart.
The hearts of the passers-by grew softer, while gazing upon that young mother as she pressed sweet kisses on the sad, smiling lips of the infant that lay in her lap. The small, dimpled hands of the innocent creature were slyly hid in the warm bosom on which the little one nestled. The blood of some proud Southerner, no doubt, flowed through the veins of that child.
When the boat arrived at Natches, a rather good-looking, genteel-appearing man came on board to purchase a servant. This individual introduced himself to Jennings as the Rev. James Wilson. The slave-trader conducted the preacher to the deck-cabin, where he kept his slaves, and the man of God, after having some questions answered, selected Agnes as the one best suited to his service.
It seemed as if poor Marion’s heart would break when she found that she was to be separated from her mother. The preacher, however, appeared to be but little moved by their sorrow, and took his newly-purchased victim on shore. Agnes begged him to buy her daughter, but he refused, on the ground that he had no use for her.
During the remainder of the passage, Marion wept bitterly.
After a ran of a few hours, the boat stopped at Baton Rouge, where an additional number of passengers were taken on board, among whom were a number of persons who had been attending the races at that place. Gambling and drinking were now the order of the day.
The next morning, at ten o’clock, the boat arrived at New Orleans where the passengers went to their hotels and homes, and the negroes to the slave-pens.
Lizzie, the white slave-mother, of whom we have already spoken, created as much of a sensation by the fairness of her complexion and the alabaster whiteness of her child, when being conveyed on shore at New Orleans, as she had done when brought on board at Grand Gulf. Every one that saw her felt that slavery in the Southern States was not confined to the negro. Many had been taught to think that slavery was a benefit rather than an injury, and those who were not opposed to the institution before, now felt that if whites were to become its victims, it was time at least that some security should be thrown around the Anglo-Saxon to gave him from this servile and degraded position.
NOT far from Canal Street, in the city of New Orleans, stands a large two-story, flat building, surrounded by a stone wall some twelve feet high, the top of which is covered with bits of glass, and so constructed as to prevent even the possibility of any one’s passing over it without sustaining great injury. Many of the rooms in this building resemble the cells of a prison, and in a small apartment near the “office” are to be seen any number of iron collars, hobbles, handcuffs, thumbscrews, cowhides, chains, gags, and yokes.
A back-yard, enclosed by a high wall, looks something like the playground attached to one of our large New England schools, in which are rows of benches and swings. Attached to the back premises is a good-sized kitchen, where, at the time of which we write, two old negresses were at work, stewing, boiling, and baking, and occasionally wiping the perspiration from their furrowed and swarthy brows.
The slave-trader, Jennings, on his arrival at New Orleans, took up his quarters here with his gang of human cattle, and the morning after, at 10 o’clock, they were exhibited for sale. First of all came the beautiful Marion, whose pale countenance and dejected look told how many sad hours she had passed since parting with her mother at Natchez. There, too, was a poor woman who had been separated from her husband; and another woman, whose looks and manners were expressive of deep anguish, sat by her side. There was “Uncle Jeems,” with his whiskers off, his face shaven clean, and the gray hairs plucked out ready to be sold for ten years younger than he was. Toby was also there, with his face shaven and greased, ready for inspection.
The examination commenced, and was carried on in such a manner as to shock the feelings of anyone not entirely devoid of the milk of human kindness.
“What are you wiping your eyes for?” inquired a fat, red-faced man, with a white hat set on one side of his head and a cigar in his mouth, of a woman who sat on one of the benches.
“Because I left my man behind.”
“Oh, if I buy you, I will furnish you with a better man than you left. I’ve got lots of young bucks on my farm.”
“I don’t want and never will have another man,” replied the woman.
“What’s your name?” asked a man in a straw hat of a tall negro who stood with his arms folded across his breast, leaning against the wall.
“My name is Aaron, sar.”
“How old are you?”
“Where were you raised?”
“In ole Virginny, sar.”
“How many men have owned you?”
“Do you enjoy good health?”
“How long did you live with your first owner?”
“Did you ever run away?”
“Did you ever strike your master?”
“Were you ever whipped much?”
“No, sar; I s’pose I didn’t deserve it, sar.”
“How long did you live with your second master?”
“Ten years, sar.”
“Have you a good appetite?”
“Can you eat your allowance?”
“Yes, sar,–when I can get it.”
“Where were you employed in Virginia?”
“I worked de tobacker fiel’.”
“In the tobacco field, eh?”
“How old did you say you was?”
“Twenty-five, sar, nex’ sweet-‘tater-diggin’ time.”
“I am a cotton-planter, and if I buy you, you will have to work in the cotton-field. My men pick one hundred and fifty pounds a day, and the women one hundred and forty pounds; and those who fail to perform their task receive five stripes for each pound that is wanting. Now, do you think you could keep up with the rest of the hands?”
“I’ don’t know sar but I ‘specs I’d have to.”
“How long did you live with your third master?”
“Three years, sar.”
“Why, that makes you thirty-three. I thought you told me you were only twenty-five?”
Aaron now looked first at the planter, then at the trader, and seemed perfectly bewildered. He had forgotten the lesson given him by Pompey relative to his age; and the planter’s circuitous questions–doubtless to find out the slave’s real age–had thrown the negro off his guard.
“I must see your back, so as to know how much you have been whipped, before I think of buying.”
Pompey, who had been standing by during the examination, thought that his services were now required, and, stepping forth with a degree of officiousness, said to Aaron,–
“Don’t you hear de gemman tell you he wants to ‘zamin you. Cum, unharness yo’seff, ole boy, and don’t be standin’ dar.”
Aaron was soon examined, and pronounced “sound;” yet the conflicting statement about his age was not satisfactory.
Fortunately for Marion, she was spared the pain of undergoing such an examination. Mr. Cardney, a teller in one of the banks, had just been married, and wanted a maid-servant for his wife, and, passing through the market in the early part of the day, was pleased with the young slave’s appearance, and his dwelling the quadroon found a much better home than often falls to the lot of a slave sold in the New Orleans market.
THE SLAVE-HOLDING PARSON.
THE Rev. James Wilson was a native of the State of Connecticut where he was educated for the ministry in the Methodist persuasion. His father was a strict follower of John Wesley, and spared no pains in his son’s education, with the hope that he would one day be as renowned as the leader of his sect. James had scarcely finished his education at New Haven, when he was invited by an uncle, then on a visit to his father, to spend a few months at Natchez in Mississippi. Young Wilson accepted his uncle’s invitation, and accompanied him to the South. Few Young men, and especially clergymen, going fresh from college to the South, but are looked upon as geniuses in a small way, and who are not invited to all the parties in the neighborhood. Mr. Wilson was not an exception to this rule. The society into which he was thrown, on his arrival at Natchez, was too brilliant for him not to be captivated by it, and, as might have been expected, he succeeded in captivating a plantation with seventy slaves if not the heart of the lady to whom it belonged.
Added to this, he became a popular preacher, and had a large congregation with a snug salary. Like other planters, Mr. Wilson confided the care of his farm to Ned Huckelby, an overseer of high reputation in his way.
The Poplar Farm, as it was. called, was situated in a beautiful valley, nine miles from Natchez, and near the Mississippi River. The once unshorn face of nature had given way, and the farm now blossomed with a splendid harvest. The neat cottage stood in a grove, where Lombardy poplars lift their tops almost to prop the skies, where the willow, locust and horse-chestnut trees spread forth their branches, and flowers never ceased to blossom.
This was the parson’s country residence, where the family spent only two months during the year. His town residence was a fine villa, seated on the brow of a hill at the edge of the city.
It was in the kitchen of this house that Agnes found her new home. Mr. Wilson was every inch a democrat, and early resolved that “his people,” as he called his slaves should be well-fed and not over-worked, and therefore laid down the law and gospel to the overseer as well as to the slaves. “It is my wish,” said he to Mr. Carlingham, an old school-fellow who was spending a few days with him,–“It is my wish that a new system be adopted on the plantations in this State. I believe that the sons of Ham should have the gospel, and I intend that mine shall have it. The gospel is calculated to make mankind better and none should be without it.”
“What say you,” said Carlingham, “about the right of man to his liberty?”
“Now, Carlingham, you have begun to harp again about men’s rights. I really wish that you could see this matter as I do.”‘
“I regret that I cannot see eye to eye with you,” said Carlingham. “I am a disciple of Rousseau, and have for years made the rights of. man my study, and I must confess to you that I see no difference between white and black, as it regards liberty.”
“Now, my dear Carlingham, would you really have the negroes enjoy the same rights as ourselves?”
“I would most certainly. Look at our great Declaration of Independence! look even at the Constitution of our own Connecticut and see what is said in these about liberty.”
“I regard all this talk about rights as mere humbug. The Bible is older than the Declaration of Independence, and there I take my stand.”
A long discussion followed, in which both gentlemen put forth their peculiar ideas with much warmth of feeling.
During this conversation, there was another person in the room, seated by the window, who, although at work, embroidering a fine collar, paid minute attention to what was said. This was Georgiana, the only daughter of the parson, who had but just returned from Connecticut, where she had finished her education. She had had the opportunity of contrasting the spirit of Christianity and liberty in New England with that of slavery in her native State, and had learned to feel deeply for the injured negro. Georgiana was in her nineteenth year, and had been much benefited by her residence of five years at the North. Her form was tall and graceful, her features regular and well-defined, and her complexion was illuminated by the freshness of youth, beauty, and health.
The daughter differed from both the father and visitor upon the subject which they had been discussing; and as soon as an opportunity offered, she gave it as her opinion that the Bible was both the bulwark of Christianity and of liberty. With a smile she said,–
“Of course, papa will overlook my difference with him, for although I am a native of the South, I am by education and sympathy a Northerner.” Mr. Wilson laughed, appearing rather pleased than otherwise at the manner in which his daughter had expressed herself. From this Georgiana took courage and continued,–
‘”Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ This single passage of Scripture should cause us to have respect for the rights of the slave. True Christian love is of an enlarged and disinterested nature. It loves all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, without regard to color or condition.”
“Georgiana, my dear, you are an abolitionist,–your talk is fanaticism!” said Mr. Wilson, in rather a sharp tone; but the subdued look of the girl and the presence of Carlingham caused him to soften his language.
Mr. Wilson having lost his wife by consumption, and Georgiana being his only child, he loved her too dearly to say more, even if he felt disposed. A silence followed this exhortation from the young Christian, but her remarks had done a noble work. The father’s heart was touched, and the sceptic, for the first time, was viewing Christianity in its true light.
A NIGHT IN THE PARSON’S KITCHEN.
BESIDES Agnes, whom Mr. Wilson had purchased from the slave-trader, Jennings, he kept a number of house-servants. The chief one of these was Sam, who must be regarded as second only to the parson himself. If a dinner-party was in contemplation, or any company was to be invited, after all the arrangements had been talked over by the minister and his daughter. Sam was sure to be consulted on, the subject by “Miss Georgy,” as Miss Wilson was called by all the servants. If furniture, crockery, or anything was to be purchased, Sam felt that he had been slighted if his opinion was not asked. As to the marketing, he did it all. He sat at the head of the servants’ table in the kitchen, and was master of the ceremonies. A single look from him was enough to silence any conversation or noise among the servants in the kitchen or in any other part of the premises.
There is in the Southern States a great amount of prejudice in regard to color, even among the negroes themselves. The nearer the negro or mulatto approaches to the white, the more he seems to feel his superiority over those of a darker hue. This is no doubt the result of the prejudice that exists on the part of the whites against both the mulattoes and the blacks.
Sam was originally from Kentucky, and through the instrumentality of one of his young masters, whom he had to take to school, he had learned to read so as to be well understood, and, owing to that fact, was considered a prodigy, not only among his own master’s slaves, but also among those of the town who knew him. Sam had a great wish to follow in the footsteps of his master and be a poet, and was therefore often heard singing doggerels of his own composition.
But there was one drawback to Sam, and that was his color. He was one of the blackest of his race. This he evidently regarded as a great misfortune; but he endeavored to make up for it in dress. Mr. Wilson kept his house servants well dressed, and as for Sam, he was seldom seen except in a ruffled shirt. Indeed, the washerwoman feared him more than any one else in the house.
Agnes had been inaugurated chief of the kitchen department, and had a general supervision of the household affairs. Alfred, the coachman, Peter, and Hetty made up the remainder of the house-servants. Besides these, Mr. Wilson owned eight slaves who were masons. These worked in the city. Being mechanics, they were let out to greater advantage than to keep them on the farm.
Every Sunday evening, Mr. Wilson’s servants, including the bricklayers, assembled in the kitchen, where the events of the week were fully discussed and commented upon. It was on a Sunday evening, in the month of June, that there was a party at Mr. Wilson’s house, and, according to custom in the Southern States, the ladies had their maidservants with them. Tea had been served in “the house,” and the servants, including the strangers, had taken their seats at the table in the kitchen. Sam, being a “single gentleman,” was unusually attentive to the ladies on this occasion. He seldom let a day pass without spending an hour or two in combing and brushing his “har.” He had an idea that fresh butter was better for his hair than any other kind of grease, and therefore on churning days half a pound of butter had always to be taken out before it was salted. When he wished to appear to great advantage, he would grease his face to make it “shiny.” Therefore, on the evening of the party, when all the servants were at the table, Sam cut a big figure. There he sat, with his wool well combed and buttered, face nicely greased, and his ruffles extending five or six inches from his bosom. The parson in his drawing-room did not make a more imposing appearance than did his servant on this occasion.
“I is bin had my fortune tole last Sunday night,” said Sam, while helping one of the girls.
“Indeed!” cried half a dozen voices.
“Yes,” continued he; “Aunt Winny tole me I’s to hab de prettiest yallah gal in de town, and dat I’s to be free!”
All eyes were immediately turned toward Sally Johnson, who was seated near Sam.
“I ‘specs I see somebody blush at dat remark,” said Alfred.
“Pass dem pancakes an’ ‘lasses up dis way, Mr. Alf, and none ob your sinuwashuns here,” rejoined Sam.
“Dat reminds me,” said-Agnes, “dat Dorcas Simpson is gwine to git married.”
“Who to, I want to know?” inquired Peter.
“To one of Mr. Darby’s field-hands,” answered Agnes.
“I should tink dat gal wouldn’t frow herseff away in dat ar way,” said Sally; “She’s good lookin’ ‘nough to git a house-servant, and not hab to put up wid a field-nigger.”
“Yes,” said Sam, “dat’s a werry unsensible remark ob yourn, Miss Sally. I admires your judgment werry much, I ‘sures you. Dar’s plenty ob susceptible an’ well-dressed house-serbants dat a gal ob her looks can git widout takin’ up wid dem common darkies.”
The evening’s entertainment concluded by Sam relating a little of his own experience while with his first master, in old Kentucky. This master was a doctor, and. had a large practice among his neighbors, doctoring both masters and slaves. When Sam was about fifteen years old, his master set him to grinding up ointment and making pills. As the young student grew older and became more practised in his profession, his services were of more importance to the doctor. The physician having a good business, and a large number of his patients being slaves,–the most of whom had to call on the doctor when ill,–he put Sam to bleeding, pulling teeth, and administering medicine to the slaves. Sam soon acquired the name among the slaves of the “Black Doctor.” With this appellation he was delighted; and no regular physician could have put on more airs than did the black doctor when his services were required. In bleeding, he must have more bandages, and would rub and smack the arm more than the doctor would have thought of.
Sam was once seen taking out a tooth for one of his patients, and nothing appeared more amusing. He got the poor fellow down on his back, and then getting astride of his chest, he applied the turnkeys and pulled away for dear life. Unfortunately, he had got hold of the wrong tooth, and the poor man screamed as loud as he could; but it was to no purpose, for Sam had him fast, and after a pretty severe tussle out came the sound grinder. The young doctor now saw his mistake, but consoled himself with the thought that as the wrong tooth was out of the way, there was more room to get at the right one.
Bleeding and a dose of calomel were always considered indispensable by the “old boss,” and as a matter of course, Sam followed in his footsteps.
On one occasion the old doctor was ill himself, so as to be unable to attend to his patients. A slave, with pass in hand, called to receive medical advice, and the master told Sam to examine him and see what he wanted. This delighted him beyond measure, for although he had been acting his part in the way of giving out medicine as the master ordered it, he had never been called upon by the latter to examine a patient, and this seemed to convince him after all that he was no sham doctor. As might have been expected, he cut a rare figure in his first examination. Placing himself directly opposite his patient, and folding his arms across his breast, looking very knowingly, he began,–
“What’s de matter wid you?”
“I is sick.”
“Where is you sick?”
“Here,” replied the man, putting his hand upon his stomach.
“Put out your tongue,” continued the doctor.
The man ran out his tongue at full length.
“Let me feel your pulse;” at the same time taking his patient’s hand in his, and placing his fingers upon his pulse, he said,–
“Ah! your case is a bad one; ef I don’t do something for you, and dat pretty quick, you’ll be a gone coons and dat’s sartin.”
At this the man appeared frightened, and inquired what was the matter with him, in answer to which Sam said,
“I done told dat your case is a bad one, and dat’s enuff.”
On Sam’s returning to his master’s bedside, the latter said,
“Well, Sam, what do you think is the matter with him?”
“His stomach is out ob order, sar,” he replied.
“What do you think had better be done for him?”
“I tink I’d better bleed him and gib him a dose ob calomel,” returned Sam.
So, to the latter’s gratification, the master let him have his own way.
On one occasion, when making pills and ointment, Sam made a great mistake. He got the preparations for both mixed together, so that he could not legitimately make either. But fearing that if he threw the stuff away, his master would flog him, and being afraid to inform his superior of the mistake, he resolved to make the whole batch of pill and ointment stuff into pills. He well knew that the powder over the pills would hide the inside, and the fact that most persons shut their eyes when taking such medicine led the young doctor to feel that all would be right in the end. Therefore Sam made his pills, boxed them up, put on the labels, and placed them in a conspicuous position on one of the shelves.
Sam felt a degree of anxiety about his pills, however. It was a strange mixture, and he was not certain whether it would kill or cure; but he was willing that it should be tried. At last the young doctor had his vanity gratified. Col. Tallen, one of Dr. Saxondale’s patients, drove up one morning, and Sam as usual ran out to the gate to hold the colonel’s horse.
“Call your master,” said the colonel; “I will not get out.”
The doctor was soon beside the carriage, and inquired about the health of his patient. After a little consultation, the doctor returned to his office, took down a box of Sam’s new pills, and returned to the carriage.
“Take two of these every morning and night,” said the doctor, “and if you don’t feel relieved, double the dose.”
“Good gracious,” exclaimed Sam in an undertone, when he heard his master tell the colonel how to take the pills.
It was several days before Sam could learn the result of his new medicine. One afternoon, about a fortnight after the colonel’s visit Sam saw his master’s patient riding up to the gate on horseback. The doctor happened to be in the yard, and met the colonel and said,–
“How are you now?”
“I am entirely recovered,” replied the patient. “Those pills of yours put me on my feet the next day.”
“I knew they would,” rejoined the doctor.
Sam was near enough to hear the conversation, and was delighted beyond description. The negro immediately ran into the kitchen, amongst his companions, and commenced dancing.
“What de matter wid you?” inquired the cook.
“I is de greatest doctor in dis country,” replied Sam. “Ef you ever get sick, call on me. No matter what ails you, I is de man dat can cure you in no time. If you do hab de backache, de rheumaties, de headache, de coller morbus, fits, er any ting else, Sam is de gentleman dat can put you on your feet wid his pills.”
For a long time after, Sam did little else than boast of his skill as a doctor.
We have said that the black doctor was full of wit and good sense. Indeed, in that respect, he had scarcely an equal in the neighborhood. Although his master resided some little distance out of the city, Sam was always the first man in all the negro balls and parties in town. When his master could give him a pass, he went, and when he did not give him one, he would steal away after his master had retired, and run the risk of being taken up by the night-watch. Of course, the master never knew anything of the absence of the servant at night without permission. As the negroes at these parties tried to excel each other in the way of dress, Sam was often at a loss to make that appearance that his heart desired, but his ready wit ever helped him in this. When his master had retired to bed at night, it was the duty of Sam to put out the lights, and take out with him his master’s clothes and boots, and leave them in the office until morning, and then black the boots, brush the clothes, and return them to his master’s room.
Having resolved to attend a dress-ball one night, without his master’s permission, and being perplexed for suitable garments, Sam determined to take his master’s. So, dressing himself in the doctor’s clothes even to his boots and hat, off the negro started for the city. Being well acquainted with the usual walk of the patrols he found no difficulty in keeping out of their way. As might have been expected, Sam was the great gun with the ladies that night.
The next morning, Sam was back home long before his master’s time for rising, and the clothes were put in their accustomed place. For a long time Sam had no difficulty in attiring himself for parties; but the old proverb that “It is a long lane that has no turning,” was verified in the negro’s case. One stormy night, when the rain was descending in torrents, the doctor heard a rap at his door. It was customary with him, when called up at night to visit a patient, to ring for Sam. But this time, the servant was nowhere to be found. The doctor struck a light and looked for clothes; they too, were gone.–It was twelve o’clock, and the doctor’s clothes, hat, boots, and even his watch, were nowhere to be found. Here was a pretty dilemma for a doctor to be in. It was some time before the physician could fit himself out so as to mike the visit. At last, however, he started with one of the farm-horses, for Sam had taken the doctor’s best saddle-horse. The doctor felt sure that the, negro had robbed him, and was on his way to Canada; but in this he was mistaken. Sam had gone to the city to attend a ball, and had decked himself out in his master’s best suit. The physician returned before morning, and again retired to bed but with little hope of sleep, for his thoughts were with his servant and horse. At six o’clock, in walked Sam with his master’s clothes, and the boots neatly blacked. The watch was placed on the shelf, and the hat in its place. Sam had not met any of the servants, and was therefore entirely ignorant of what had occurred during his absence.
“What have you been about, sir, and where was you last night when I was called?” said the doctor.
“I don’t know, sir. I ‘spose I was asleep,” replied Sam.
But the doctor was not to be so easily satisfied, after having been put to so much trouble in hunting up another suit without the aid of Sam. After breakfast, Sam was taken into the barn, tied up, and severely flogged with the cat, which brought from him the truth concerning his absence the previous night. This forever put an end to his fine appearance at the negro parties. Had not the doctor been one of the most indulgent of masters, he would not have escaped with merely a severe whipping.
As a matter of course, Sam had to relate to his companions that evening in Mr. Wilson’s kitchen all his adventures as a physician while with his old master.
THE MAN OF HONOR.
AUGUSTINE CARDINAY, the purchaser of Marion, was from the Green Mountains of Vermont, and his feelings were opposed to the holding of slaves; but his young wife persuaded him in into the idea that it was no worse to own a slave than to hire one and pay the money to another. Hence it was that he had been induced to purchase Marion.
Adolphus Morton, a young physician from the same State, and who had just commenced the practice of his profession in New Orleans, was boarding with Cardinay when Marion was brought home. The young physician had been in New Orleans but a very few weeks, and had seen but little of slavery. In his own mountain-home, he had been taught that the slaves of the Southern States were negroes, and if not from the coast of Africa, the descendants of those who had been imported. He was unprepared to behold with composure a beautiful white girl of sixteen in the degraded position of a chattel slave.
The blood chilled in his young heart as he heard Cardinay tell how, by bantering with the trader, he had bought her two hundred dollars less than he first asked. His very looks showed that she had the deepest sympathies of his heart.
Marion had been brought up by her mother to look after the domestic concerns of her cottage in Virginia, and well knew how to perform the duties imposed upon her. Mrs. Cardinay was much pleased with her new servant, and often mentioned her good qualities in the presence of Mr. Morton.
After eight months acquaintance with Marion, Morton’s sympathies ripened into love, which was most cordially reciprocated by the friendless and injured child of sorrow. There was but one course which the young man could honorably pursue, and that was to purchase Marion and make her his lawful wife; and this he did immediately, for he found Mr. and Mrs. Cardinay willing to second his liberal intentions.
The young man, after purchasing Marion from Cardinay, and marrying her, took lodgings in another part of the city. A private teacher was called in, and the young wife was taught some of those accomplishments so necessary for one taking a high position in good society.
Dr. Morton soon obtained a large and influential practice in his profession, and with it increased in wealth; but with all his wealth he never owned a slave. Probably the fact that he had raised his wife from that condition kept the hydra-headed system continually before him. To the credit of Marion be it said, she used every means to obtain the freedom of her mother, who had been sold to Parson Wilson, at Natchez. Her efforts, however, had come too late; for Agnes had died of a fever before the arrival of Dr. Morton’s agent.
Marion found in Adolphus Morton a kind and affectionate husband; and his wish to purchase her mother, although unsuccessful, had doubly endeared him to her. Ere a year had elapsed from the time of their marriage, Mrs. Morton presented her husband with a lovely daughter, who seemed to knit their hearts still closer together. This child they named Jane; and before the expiration of the second year, they were blessed with another daughter, whom they named Adrika.
These children grew up to the ages of ten and eleven, and were then sent to the North to finish their education, and receive that refinement which young ladies cannot obtain in the Slave States.
THE QUADROON’S HOME
A few miles out of Richmond is a pleasant place, with here and there a beautiful cottage surrounded by trees so as scarcely to be seen. Among these was one far retired from the public roads, and almost hidden among the trees. This was the spot that Henry Linwood had selected for Isabella, the eldest daughter of Agnes. The young man hired the house, furnished it, and placed his mistress there, and for many months no one in his father’s family knew where he spent his leisure hours.
When Henry was not with her, Isabella employed herself in looking after her little garden and the flowers that grew in front of her cottage. The passion-flower peony, dahlia, laburnum, and other plant, so abundant in warm climates, under the tasteful hand of Isabella, lavished their beauty upon this retired spot, and miniature paradise.
Although Isabella had been assured by Henry that she should be free and that he would always consider her as his wife, she nevertheless felt that she ought to be married and acknowledged by him. But this was an impossibility under. the State laws, even had the young man been disposed to do what was right in the matter. Related as he was, however, to one of the first families in Virginia, he would not have dared to marry a woman of so low an origin, even had the laws been favorable.
Here, in this secluded grove, unvisited by any other except her lover, Isabella lived for years. She had become the mother of a lovely daughter, which its father named Clotelle. The complexion of the child was still fairer than that of its mother. Indeed, she was not darker than other white children, and as she grew older she more and more resembled her father.
As time passed away, Henry became negligent of Isabella and his child, so much so, that days and even weeks passed without their seeing him, or knowing where he was. Becoming more acquainted with the world, and moving continually in the society of young women of his own station, the young man felt that Isabella was a burden to him, and having as some would say, “outgrown his love,” he longed to free himself of the responsibility; yet every time he saw the child, he felt that he owed it his fatherly care.
Henry had now entered into political life, and been elected to a seat in the legislature of his native State; and in his intercourse with his friends had become acquainted with Gertrude Miller, the daughter of a wealthy gentleman living near Richmond. Both Henry and Gertrude were very good-looking, and a mutual attachment sprang up between them.
Instead of finding fault with the unfrequent visits of Henry, Isabella always met him with a smile, and tried to make both him and herself believe that business was the cause of his negligence. When he was with her, she devoted every moment of her time to him, and never failed to speak of the growth and increasing intelligence of Clotelle.
The child had grown so large as to be able to follow its father on his departure out to the road. But the impression made on Henry’s feelings by the devoted woman and her child was momentary. His heart had grown hard, and his acts were guided by no fixed principle. Henry and Gertrude had been married nearly two years before Isabella knew anything of the event, and it was merely by accident that she became acquainted with the facts.
One beautiful afternoon, when Isabella and Clotelle were picking wild strawberries some two miles from their home, and near the road-side, they observed a one-horse chaise driving past. The mother turned her face from the carriage not wishing to be seen by strangers, little dreaming that the chaise contained Henry and his wife. The child, however, watched the chaise, and startled her mother by screaming out at the top of her voice, “Papa! papa!” and clapped her little hands for joy. The mother turned in haste to look at the strangers, and her eyes encountered those of Henry’s pale and dejected countenance. Gertrude’s eyes were on the child. The swiftness with which Henry drove by could not hide from his wife the striking resemblance of the child to himself. The young wife had heard the child exclaim “Papa! papa!” and she immediately saw by the quivering of his lips and the agitation depicted in his countenance, that all was not right.
“Who is that woman? and why did that child call you papa?” she inquired, with a trembling voice.
Henry was silent; he knew not what to say, and without another word passing between them, they drove home.
On reaching her room, Gertrude buried her face in her handkerchief and wept. She loved Henry, and when she had heard from the lips of her companions how their husbands had proved false, she felt that he was an exception, and fervently thanked God that she had been so blessed.
When Gertrude retired to her bed that night, the sad scene of the day followed her. The beauty of Isabella, with her flowing curls, and the look of the child, so much resembling the man whom she so dearly loved, could not be forgotten; and little Clotelle’s exclamation of “Papa! Papa” rang in her ears during the whole night.
The return of Henry at twelve o’clock did not increase her happiness. Feeling his guilt, he had absented himself from the house since his return from the ride.
TO-DAY A MISTRESS, TO-MORROW A SLAVE
THE night was dark, the rain, descended in torrents from the black and overhanging clouds, and the thunder, accompanied with vivid flashes of lightning, resounded fearfully, as Henry Linwood stepped from his chaise and entered Isabella’s cottage.
More than a fortnight had elapsed since the accidental. meeting, and Isabella was in doubt as to who the lady was that Henry was with in the carriage. Little, however, did she think that it was his wife. With a smile, Isabella met the young man as he entered her little dwelling. Clotelle had already gone to bed, but her father’s voice roused her from her sleep, and she was soon sitting on his knee.
The pale and agitated countenance of Henry betrayed his uneasiness, but Isabella’s mild and laughing allusion to the incident of their meeting him on the day of his pleasure-drive, and her saying, “I presume, dear Henry, that the lady was one of your relatives,” led him to believe that she was still in ignorance of his marriage. She was, in fact, ignorant who the lady was who accompanied the man she loved on that eventful day. He, aware of this, now acted more like himself, and passed the thing off as a joke. At heart, however, Isabella felt uneasy, and this uneasiness would at times show itself to the young man. At last, and with a great effort, she said,–
“Now, dear Henry, if I am in the way of your future happiness, say so, and I will release you from any promises that you have made me. I know there is no law by which I can hold you, and if there was, I would not resort to it. You are as dear to me as ever, and my thoughts shall always be devoted to you. It would be a great sacrifice for me to give you up to another, but if it be your desire, as great as the sacrifice is, I will make it. Send me and your child into a Free State if we are in your way.”
Again and again Linwood assured her that no woman possessed his love but her. Oh, what falsehood. and deceit man can put on when dealing with woman’s love!
The unabated storm kept Henry from returning home until after the clock had struck two, and as he drew near his residence he saw his wife standing at the window. Giving his horse in charge of the servant who was waiting, he entered the house, and found his wife in tears. Although he had never satisfied Gertrude as to who the quadroon woman and child were, he had kept her comparatively easy by his close attention to her, and by telling her that she was mistaken in regard to the child’s calling him “papa.” His absence that night, however, without any apparent cause, had again aroused the jealousy of Gertrude; but Henry told her that he had been caught in the rain while out, which prevented his sooner returning, and she, anxious to believe him, received the story as satisfactory.
Somewhat heated with brandy, and wearied with much loss of sleep, Linwood fell into a sound slumber as soon as he retired. Not so with Gertrude. That faithfulness which has ever distinguished her sex, and the anxiety with which she watched all his movements, kept the wife awake while the husband slept. His sleep, though apparently sound, was nevertheless uneasy. Again and again she heard him pronounce the name of Isabella, and more than once she heard him say, “I am not married; I will never marry while you live.” Then he would speak the name of Clotelle and say, “My dear child, how I love you!”
After a sleepless night, Gertrude arose from her couch, resolved that she would reveal the whole matter to her mother. Mrs. Miller was a woman of little or no feeling, proud, peevish, and passionate, thus making everybody miserable that came near her; and when she disliked any one, her hatred knew no bounds. This Gertrude knew; and had she not considered it her duty, she would have kept the secret locked in her own heart.
During the day, Mrs. Linwood visited her mother and told her all that had happened. The mother scolded the daughter for not having informed her sooner, and immediately determined to find out who the woman and child were that Gertrude had met on the day of her ride. Three days were spent by Mrs. Miller in this endeavor, but without success.
Four weeks had elapsed, and the storm of the old lady’s temper had somewhat subsided, when, one evening, as she was approaching her daughter’s residence, she saw Henry walking, in the direction of where the quadroon was supposed to reside. Feeling satisfied that the young man had not seen her, the old women at once resolved to follow him. Linwood’s boots squeaked so loudly that Mrs. Miller had no difficulty in following him without being herself observed.
After a walk of about two miles, the young man turned into a narrow and unfrequented road, and soon entered the cottage occupied by Isabella. It was a fine starlight night, and the moon was just rising when they got to their journey’s end. As usual, Isabella met Henry with a smile, and expressed her fears regarding his health.
Hours passed, and still old Mrs. Miller remained near the house, determined to know who lived there. When she undertook to ferret out anything, she bent her whole energies to it. As Michael Angelo, who subjected all things to his pursuit and the idea he had formed of it, painted the crucifixion by the side of a writhing slave and would have broken up the true cross for pencils, so Mrs. Miller would have entered the sepulchre, if she could have done it, in search of an object she wished to find.
The full moon had risen, and was pouring its beams upon surrounding objects as Henry stepped from Isabella’s door, and looking at his watch, said,–
“I must go, dear; it is now half-past ten.”
Had little Clotelle been awake, she too would have been at the door. As Henry walked to the gate, Isabella followed with her left hand locked in his. Again he looked at his watch, and said, “I must go.”
“It is more than a year since you staid all night,” murmured Isabella, as he folded her convulsively in his arms, and pressed upon her beautiful lips a parting kiss.
He was nearly out of sight when, with bitter sobs, the quadroon retraced her steps to the door of the cottage. Clotelle had in the mean time awoke, and now inquired of her mother how long her father had been gone. At that instant, a knock was heard at the door, and supposing that it was Henry returning for something he had forgotten, as he frequently did, Isabella flew to let him in. To her amazement, however, a strange woman stood in the door.
“Who are you that comes here at this late hour?” demanded the half-frightened Isabella.
Without making any reply, Mrs. Miller pushed the quadroon aside, and entered the house.
“What do you want here?” again demanded Isabella.
“I am in search of you,” thundered the maddened Mrs. Miller; but thinking that her object would be better served by seeming to be kind, she assumed a different tone of voice, and began talking in a pleasing manner.
In this way, she succeeded in finding out the connection existing between Linwood and Isabella, and after getting all she could out of the unsuspecting woman, she informed her that the man she so fondly loved had been married for more than two years. Seized with dizziness, the poor, heart-broken woman fainted and fell upon the floor. How long she remained there she could not tell; but when she returned to consciousness, the strange woman was gone, and her child was standing by her side. When she was so far recovered as to regain her feet, Isabella went to the door, and even into the yard, to see if the old woman was not somewhere about.
As she stood there, the full moon cast its bright rays over her whole person, giving her an angelic appearance and imparting to her flowing hair a still more golden hue. Suddenly another change came over her features, and her full red lips trembled as with suppressed emotion. The muscles around her faultless mouth became convulsed, she gasped for breath, and exclaiming, “Is it possible that man can be so false!” again fainted.
Clotelle stood and bathed her mother’s temples with cold water until she once more revived.
Although the laws of Virginia forbid the education of slaves, Agnes had nevertheless employed an old free negro to teach her two daughters to read and write. After being separated from her mother and sister, Isabella turned her attention to the subject of Christianity, and received that consolation from the Bible which is never denied to the children of God. This was now her last hope, for her heart was torn with grief and filled with all the bitterness of disappointment.
The night passed away, but without sleep to poor Isabella. At the dawn of day, she tried to make herself believe that the whole of the past night was a dream, and determined to be satisfied with the explanation which Henry should give on his next visit.
When Henry returned home, he found his wife seated at the window, awaiting his approach. Secret grief was gnawing at her heart. Her sad, pale cheeks and swollen eyes showed too well that agony, far deeper than her speech portrayed, filled her heart. A dull and death-like silence prevailed on his entrance. His pale face and brow, dishevelled hair, and the feeling that he manifested on finding Gertrude still up, told Henry in plainer words than she could have used that his wife, was aware that her love had never been held sacred by him. The window-blinds were still unclosed, and the full-orbed moon shed her soft refulgence over the unrivalled scene, and gave it a silvery lustre which sweetly harmonized with the silence of the night. The clock’s iron tongue, in a neighboring belfry, proclaimed the hour of twelve, as the truant and unfaithful husband seated himself by the side of his devoted and loving wife, and inquired if she was not well.
“I am, dear Henry,” replied Gertrude; “but I fear you are not. If well in body, I fear you are not at peace in mind.”
“Why?” inquired he.
“Because,” she replied, “you are so pale and have such a wild look in your eyes.”
Again he protested his innocence, and vowed she was the only woman who had any claim upon his heart. To behold one thus playing upon the feelings of two lovely women is enough to make us feel that evil must at last bring its own punishment.
Henry and Gertrude had scarcely risen from the breakfast-table next morning ere old Mrs. Miller made her appearance. She immediately took her daughter aside, and informed her of her previous night’s experience, telling her how she had followed Henry to Isabella’s cottage, detailing the interview with the quadroon, and her late return home alone. The old woman urged her daughter to demand that the quadroon and her child be at once sold to the negro speculators and taken out of the State, or that Gertrude herself should separate from Henry.
“Assert your rights, my dear. Let no one share a heart that justly belongs to you,” said Mrs. Miller, with her eyes flashing fire. “Don’t sleep this night, my child, until that wench has been removed from that cottage; and as for the child, hand that over to me,–I saw at once that it was Henry’s.”
During these remarks, the old lady was walking up and down the room like a caged lioness. She had learned from Isabella that she had been purchased by Henry, and the innocence of the injured quadroon caused her to acknowledge that he was the father of her child. Few women could have taken such a matter in hand and carried it through with more determination and success than old Mrs. Miller. Completely inured in all the crimes and atrocities connected with the institution of slavery, she was also aware that, to a greater or less extent, the slave women shared with their mistress the affections of their master. This caused her to look with a suspicious eye on every good-looking negro woman that she saw.
While the old woman was thus lecturing her daughter upon her rights and duties, Henry, unaware of what was transpiring, had left the house and gone to his office. As soon as the old woman found that he was gone, she said,–
“I will venture anything that he is on his way to see that wench again. I’ll lay my life on it.”
The entrance, however, of little Marcus, or Mark, as he was familiarly called, asking for Massa Linwood’s blue bag, satisfied her that her son-in-law was at his office. Before the old lady returned home, it was agreed that Gertrude should come to her mother’s to tea that evening, and Henry with her, and that Mrs. Miller should there charge the young husband with inconstancy to her daughter, and demand the removal of Isabella.
With this understanding, the old woman retraced her steps to her own dwelling.
Had Mrs. Miller been of a different character and not surrounded by slavery, she could scarcely have been unhappy in such a home as hers. Just at the edge of the city, and sheltered by large poplar-trees was the old homestead in which she resided. There was a splendid orchard in the rear of the house, and the old weather-beaten sweep, with “the moss-covered bucket” at its end, swung majestically over the deep well. The garden was scarcely to be equalled. Its grounds were laid out in excellent taste, and rare exotics in the greenhouse made it still more lovely.
It was a sweet autumn evening, when the air breathed through the fragrant sheaves of grain, and the setting sun, with his golden kisses, burnished the rich clusters of purple grapes, that Henry and Gertrude were seen approaching the house on foot; it was nothing more than a pleasant walk. Oh, how Gertrude’s heart beat as she seated herself, on their arrival!
The beautiful parlor, surrounded on all sides with luxury and taste, with the sun creeping through the damask curtains, added a charm to the scene. It was in this room that Gertrude had been introduced to Henry, and the pleasant hours that she had spent there with him rushed unbidden on her memory. It was here that, in former days, her beautiful countenance had made her appearance as fascinating and as lovely as that of Cleopatra’s. Her sweet, musical voice might have been heard in every part of the house, occasionally thrilling you with an unexpected touch. How changed the scene! Her pale and wasted features could not be lighted up by any thoughts of the past, and she was sorrowful at heart.
As usual, the servants in the kitchen were in ecstasies at the announcement that “Miss Gerty,” as they called their young mistress, was in the house, for they loved her sincerely. Gertrude had saved them from many a flogging, by interceding for them, when her mother was in one of her uncontrollable passions. Dinah, the cook, always expected Miss Gerty to visit the kitchen as soon as she came, and was not a little displeased, on this occasion, at what she considered her young mistress’s neglect. Uncle Tony, too, looked regularly for Miss Gerty to visit the green house, and congratulate him on his superiority as a gardener.
When tea was over, Mrs. Miller dismissed the servants from the room, then told her son-in-law what she had witnessed the previous night, and demanded for her daughter that Isabella should be immediately sent out of the State, and to be sure that the thing would be done, she wanted him to give her the power to make such disposition of the woman and child as she should think best. Gertrude was Mrs. Miller’s only child, and Henry felt little like displeasing a family upon whose friendship he so much depended, and, no doubt, long wishing to free himself from Isabella, he at once yielded to the demands of his mother-in-law. Mr. Miller was a mere cipher about his premises. If any one came on business connected with the farm, he would invariably say, “Wait tin I see my wife,” and the wife’s opinion was sure to be law in every case. Bankrupt in character, and debauched in body and mind, with seven mulatto children who claimed him as their father, he was badly prepared to find fault with his son-in-law. It was settled that Mrs. Miller should use her own discretion in removing Isabella from her little cottage, and her future disposition. With this understanding Henry and Gertrude returned home. In the deep recesses of his heart the young man felt that he would like to see his child and its mother once more; but fearing the wrath of his mother-in-law, he did not dare to gratify his inclination. He had not the slightest idea of what would become of them; but he well knew that the old woman would have no mercy on them.
A HARD-HEARTED WOMAN.
With no one but her dear little Clotelle, Isabella passed her weary hours without partaking of either food or drink, hoping that Henry would soon return, and that the strange meeting with the old woman would be cleared up.
While seated in her neat little bedroom with her fevered face buried in her handkerchief, the child ran in and told its mother that a carriage had stopped in front of the house. With a palpitating heart she arose from her seat and went to the door, hoping that it was Henry; but, to her great consternation, the old lady who had paid her such an unceremonious visit on the evening that she had last seen Henry, stepped out of the carriage, accompanied by the slave-trader, Jennings.
Isabella had seen the trader when he purchased her mother and sister, and immediately recognized him. What could these persons want there? thought she. Without any parleying or word of explanation, the two entered the house, leaving the carriage in charge of a servant.
Clotelle ran to her mother, and clung to her dress as if frightened by the strangers.
“She’s a fine-looking wench,” said the speculator, as he seated himself, unasked, in the rocking-chair; “yet I don’t think she is worth the money you ask for her.”
“What do you want here?” inquired Isabella, with a quivering voice.
“None of your insolence to me,” bawled out the old woman, at the top of her voice; “if you do, I will give you what you deserve so much, my lady,–a good whipping.”
In an agony of grief, pale, trembling, and ready to sink to the floor, Isabella was only sustained by the hope that she would be able to save her child. At last, regaining her self-possession, she ordered them both to leave the house. Feeling herself insulted, the old woman seized the tongs that stood by the fire-place, and raised them to strike the quadroon down; but the slave-trader immediately jumped between the women, exclaiming,–
“I won’t buy her, Mrs. Miller, if you injure her.”
Poor little Clotelle screamed as she saw the strange woman raise the tongs at her mother. With the exception of old Aunt Nancy, a free colored woman, whom Isabella sometimes employed to work for her, the child had never before seen a strange face in her mother’s dwelling. Fearing that Isabella would offer some resistance, Mrs. Miller had ordered the overseer of her own farm to follow her; and, just as Jennings had stepped between the two women, Mull, the negro-driver, walked into the room.
“Seize that impudent hussy,” said Mrs. Miller to the overseer, “and tie her up this minute, that I may teach her a lesson she won’t forget in a hurry.”
As she spoke, the old woman’s eyes rolled, her lips quivered, and she looked like a very fury.
“I will have nothing to do with her, if you whip her, Mrs. Miller,” said the slave-trader. “Niggers ain’t worth half so much in the market with their backs newly scarred,” continued he, as the overseer commenced his preparations for executing Mrs. Miller’s orders.
Clotelle here took her father’s walking-stick, which was lying on the back of the sofa where he had left it, and, raising it, said,–
“If you bad people touch my mother, I will strike you.”
They looked at the child with astonishment; and her extreme youth, wonderful beauty, and uncommon courage, seemed for a moment to shake their purpose. The manner and language of this child were alike beyond her years, and under other circumstances would have gained for her the approbation of those present.
“Oh, Henry, Henry!” exclaimed Isabella, wringing her hands.
“You need not call on him, hussy; you will never see him again,” said Mrs. Miller.
“What! is he dead?” inquired the heart-stricken woman.
It was then that she forgot her own situation, thinking only of the man she loved. Never having been called to endure any kind of abusive treatment, Isabella was not fitted to sustain herself against the brutality of Mrs. Miller, much less the combined ferociousness of the old woman and the overseer too. Suffice it to say, that instead of whipping Isabella, Mrs. Miller transferred her to the negro-speculator, who took her immediately to his slave-pen. The unfeeling old woman would not permit Isabella to take more than a single change of her clothing, remarking to Jennings,–
“I sold you the wench, you know,–not her clothes.”
The injured, friendless, and unprotected Isabella fainted as she saw her child struggling to release herself from the arms of old Mrs. Miller, and as the wretch boxed the poor child’s ears.
After leaving directions as to how Isabella’s furniture and other effects should be disposed of, Mrs. Miller took Clotelle into her carriage and drove home. There was not even color enough about the child to make it appear that a single drop of African blood flowed through its blue veins.
Considerable sensation was created in the kitchen among the servants when the carriage drove up, and Clotelle entered the house.
“Jes’ like Massa Henry fur all de worl,” said Dinah, as she caught a glimpse of the child through the window.
“Wondah whose brat dat ar’ dat missis bringin’ home wid her?” said Jane, as she put the ice in the pitchers for dinner.” I warrant it’s some poor white nigger somebody bin givin’ her.”
The child was white. What should be done to make it look like other negroes, was the question which Mrs. Miller asked herself.
The callous-hearted old woman bit her nether lip, as she viewed that child, standing before her, with her long, dark ringlets clustering over her alabaster brow and neck.
“Take this little nigger and cut her hair close to her head,” said the mistress to Jane, as the latter answered the bell.
Clotelle screamed, as she felt the scissors going over her head, and saw those curls that her mother thought so much of falling upon the floor.
A roar of laughter burst from the servants, as Jane led the child through the kitchen, with the hair cut so short that the naked scalp could be plainly seen.
“Gins to look like nigger, now,” said Dinah, with her mouth upon a grin.
The mistress smiled, as the shorn child reentered the room; but there was something more needed. The child was white, and that was a great objection. However, she hit upon a plan to remedy this which seemed feasible. The day was excessively warm. Not a single cloud floated over the blue vault of heaven; not a breath of wind seemed moving, and the earth was parched by the broiling sun. Even the bees had stopped humming, and the butterflies had hid themselves under the broad leaves of the burdock. Without a morsel of dinner, the poor child was put in the garden, and set to weeding it, her arms, neck and head completely bare. Unaccustomed to toil, Clotelle wept as she exerted herself in pulling up the weeds. Old Dinah, the cook, was as unfeeling as her mistress, and she was pleased to see the child made to work in the hot sun.
“Dat white nigger ‘ll soon be black enuff if missis keeps her workin’ out dar,” she said, as she wiped the perspiration from her sooty brow.
Dinah was the mother of thirteen children, all of whom had been taken from her when young; and this, no doubt, did much to harden her feelings, and make her hate all white persons.
The burning sun poured its rays on the face of the friendless child until she sank down in the corner of the garden, and was actually broiled to sleep.
“Dat little nigger ain’t workin’ a bit, missus,” said Dinah to Mrs. Miller, as the latter entered the kitchen.
“She’s lying in the sun seasoning; she will work the better by and by,” replied the mistress.
“Dese white niggers always tink dey seff good as white folks,” said the cook.
“Yes; but we will teach them better, won’t we, Dinah?” rejoined Mrs. Miller.
“Yes, missus,” replied Dinah; “I don’t like dese merlatter niggers, no how. Dey always want to set dey seff up for sumfin’ big.” With this remark the old cook gave one of her coarse laughs, and continued: “Missis understands human nature, don’t she? Ah! ef she ain’t a whole team and de ole gray mare to boot, den Dinah don’t know nuffin’.”
Of course, the mistress was out of the kitchen before these last marks were made.
It was with the deepest humiliation that Henry learned from one of his own slaves the treatment which his child was receiving at the hands of his relentless mother-in-law.
The scorching sun had the desired effect; for in less than a fortnight, Clotelle could scarcely have been recognized as the same child. Often was she seen to weep, and heard to call on her mother.
Mrs. Miller, when at church on Sabbath, usually, on warm days, took Nancy, one of her servants, in her pew, and this girl had to fan her mistress during service. Unaccustomed to such a soft and pleasant seat, the servant would very soon become sleepy and begin to nod. Sometimes she would go fast asleep, which annoyed the mistress exceedingly. But Mrs. Miller had nimble fingers, and on them sharp nails, and, with an energetic pinch upon the bare arms of the poor girl, she would arouse the daughter of Africa from her pleasant dreams. But there was no one of Mrs. Miller’s servants who received as much punishment as old Uncle Tony.
Fond of her greenhouse, and often in the garden, she was ever at the gardener’s heels. Uncle Tony was very religious, and, whenever his mistress flogged him, he invariably gave her a religious exhortation. Although unable to read, he, nevertheless, had on his tongue’s end portions of Scripture which he could use at any moment. In one end of the greenhouse was Uncle Tony’s sleeping room, and those who happened in that vicinity, between nine and ten at night, could hear the old man offering up his thanksgiving to God for his protection during the day. Uncle Tony, however, took great pride, when he thought that any of the whites were within hearing, to dwell, in his prayer, on his own goodness and the unfitness of others to die. Often was he heard to say, “O Lord, thou knowest that the white folks are not Christians, but the black people are God’s own children.” But if Tony thought that his old mistress was within the sound of his voice, he launched out into deeper waters.
It was, therefore, on a sweet night, when the bright stars were looking out with a joyous sheen, that Mark and two of the other boys passed the greenhouse, and heard Uncle Tony in his devotions.
“Let’s have a little fun,” said the mischievous Marcus to his young companions. “I will make Uncle Tony believe that I am old mistress, and he’ll give us an extra touch in his prayer.” Mark immediately commenced talking in a strain of voice resembling, as well as he could, Mrs. Miller, and at once Tony was heard to say in a loud voice, “O Lord, thou knowest that the white people are not fit to die; but, as for old Tony, whenever the angel of the Lord comes, he’s ready.” At that moment, Mark tapped lightly on the door. “Who’s dar?” thundered old Tony. Mark made no reply. The old man commenced and went through with the same remarks addressed to the Lord, when Mark again knocked at the door. “Who dat dar?” asked Uncle Tony, with a somewhat agitated countenance and trembling voice. Still Mark would not reply. Again Tony took up the thread of his discourse, and said, “O Lord, thou knowest as well as I do that dese white folks are not prepared to die, but here is Old Tony, when de angel of de Lord comes, he’s ready to go to heaven.” Mark once more knocked at the door. “Who dat dar?” thundered Tony at the top of his voice.
“De angel of de Lord,” replied Mark, in a somewhat suppressed and sepulchral voice.
“What de angel of de Lord want here?” inquired Tony, as if much frightened.
“He’s come for poor old Tony, to take him out of the world” replied Mark, in the same strange voice.
“Dat nigger ain’t here; he die tree weeks ago,” responded Tony, in a still more agitated and frightened tone. Mark and his companions made the welkin ring with their shouts at the old man’s answer. Uncle Tony hearing them, and finding that he had been imposed upon, opened his door, came out with stick in hand, and said, “Is dat you, Mr. Mark? you imp, if I can get to you I’ll larn you how to come here wid your nonsense.”
Mark and his companions left the garden, feeling satisfied that Uncle Tony was not as ready to go with “de angel of de Lord” as he would have others believe.
While poor little Clotelle was being kicked about by Mrs. Miller, on account of her relationship to her son-in-law, Isabella was passing lonely hours in the county jail, the place to which Jennings had removed her for safe-keeping, after purchasing her from Mrs. Miller. Incarcerated in one of the iron-barred rooms of that dismal place, those dark, glowing eyes, lofty brow, and graceful form wilted down like a plucked rose under a noonday sun, while deep in her heart’s ambrosial cells was the most anguishing distress.
Vulgar curiosity is always in search of its victims, and Jennings’ boast that he had such a ladylike and beautiful woman in his possession brought numbers to the prison who begged of the jailer the privilege of seeing the slave-trader’s prize. Many who saw her were melted to tears at the pitiful sight, and were struck with admiration at her intelligence; and, when she spoke of her child,