Clotelle; or The Colored Heroine
William Wells Brown
Part 2 out of 3
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, they must have been convinced that a
mother's sorrow can be conceived by none but a mother's heart.
The warbling of birds in the green bowers of bliss, which she
occasionally heard, brought no tidings of gladness to her.
Their joy fell cold upon her heart, and seemed like bitter mockery.
They reminded her of her own cottage, where, with her beloved child,
she had spent so many happy days.
The speculator had kept close watch over his valuable piece of property,
for fear that it might damage itself. This, however, there was no danger of,
for Isabella still hoped and believed that Henry would come to her rescue.
She could not bring herself to believe that he would allow her to be sent
away without at least seeing her, and the trader did all he could to keep
this idea alive in her.
While Isabella, with a weary heart, was passing sleepless nights
thinking only of her daughter and Henry, the latter was seeking relief
in that insidious enemy of the human race, the intoxicating cup.
His wife did all in her power to make his life a pleasant and a happy one,
for Gertrude was devotedly attached to him; but a weary heart gets
no gladness out of sunshine. The secret remorse that rankled in his
bosom caused him to see all the world blood-shot. He had not visited
his mother-in-law since the evening he had given her liberty to use her
own discretion as to how Isabella and her child should be disposed of.
He feared even to go near the house, for he did not wish to see his child.
Gertrude felt this every time he declined accompanying her to her mother's.
Possessed of a tender and confiding heart, entirely unlike her mother,
she sympathized deeply with her husband. She well knew that all young
men in the South, to a greater or less extent, became enamored of
the slave-women, and she fancied that his case was only one of the many,
and if he had now forsaken all others for her she did not wish to be punished;
but she dared not let her mother know that such were her feelings.
Again and again had she noticed the great resemblance between Clotelle
and Henry, and she wished the child in better hands than those of
her cruel mother.
At last Gertrude determined to mention the matter to her husband.
Consequently, the next morning, when they were seated on the back piazza,
and the sun was pouring its splendid rays upon everything around,
changing the red tints on the lofty hills in the distance into
streaks of purest gold, and nature seeming by her smiles to favor
the object, she said,--
"What, dear Henry, do you intend to do with Clotelle?" A paleness
that overspread his countenance, the tears that trickled down his cheeks,
the deep emotion that was visible in his face, and the trembling
of his voice, showed at once that she had touched a tender chord.
Without a single word, he buried his face in his handkerchief,
and burst into tears.
This made Gertrude still more unhappy, for she feared that he had
misunderstood her; and she immediately expressed her regret
that she had mentioned the subject. Becoming satisfied from this
that his wife sympathized with him in his unhappy situation,
Henry told her of the agony that filled his soul, and Gertrude
agreed to intercede for him with her mother for the removal
of the child to a boarding-school in one of the Free States.
In the afternoon, when Henry returned from his office, his wife met him
with tearful eyes, and informed him that her mother was filled with rage
at the mention of the removal of Clotelle from her premises.
In the mean time, the slave-trader, Jennings, had started for
the South with his gang of human cattle, of whom Isabella was one.
Most quadroon women who are taken to the South are either sold to gentlemen
for their own use or disposed of as house-servants or waiting-maids.
Fortunately for Isabella, she was sold for the latter purpose.
Jennings found a purchaser for her in the person of Mr. James French.
Mrs. French was a severe mistress. All who lived with her,
though well-dressed, were scantily fed and over-worked. Isabella
found her new situation far different from her Virginia
cottage-life. She had frequently heard Vicksburg spoken
of as a cruel place for slaves, and now she was in a position
to test the truthfulness of the assertion.
A few weeks after her arrival, Mrs. French began to show to Isabella that she
was anything but a pleasant and agreeable mistress. What social virtues
are possible in a society of which injustice is a primary characteristic,--
in a society which is divided into two classes, masters and slaves?
Every married woman at the South looks upon her husband as unfaithful,
and regards every negro woman as a rival.
Isabella had been with her new mistress but a short time
when she was ordered to cut off her long and beautiful hair.
The negro is naturally fond of dress and outward display.
He who has short woolly hair combs and oils it to death;
he who has long hair would sooner have his teeth drawn than
to part with it. But, however painful it was to Isabella,
she was soon seen with her hair cut short, and the sleeves of her
dress altered to fit tight to her arms. Even with her hair short
and with her ill-looking dress, Isabella was still handsome.
Her life had been a secluded one, and though now twenty-eight
years of age, her beauty had only assumed a quieter tone.
The other servants only laughed at Isabella's misfortune
in losing her beautiful hair.
"Miss 'Bell needn't strut so big; she got short nappy har's well's I,"
said Nell, with a broad grin that showed her teeth.
"She tink she white when she cum here, wid dat long har
ob hers," replied Mill.
"Yes," continued Nell, "missus make her take down her wool,
so she no put it up to-day."
The fairness of Isabella's complexion was regarded with envy
by the servants as well as by the mistress herself.
This is one of the hard features of slavery. To-day a woman
is mistress of her own cottage; tomorrow she is sold to one
who aims to make her life as intolerable as possible.
And let it be remembered that the house-servant has the best
situation a slave can occupy.
But the degradation and harsh treatment Isabella experienced in her new
home was nothing compared to the grief she underwent at being separated
from her dear child. Taken from her with scarcely a moment's warning,
she knew not what had become of her.
This deep and heartfelt grief of Isabella was soon perceived
by her owners, and fearing that her refusal to take proper food
would cause her death, they resolved to sell her. Mr. French found
no difficulty in securing a purchaser for the quadroon woman,
for such are usually the most marketable kind of property.
Isabella was sold at private sale to a young man for a housekeeper;
but even he had missed his aim.
Mr. Gordon, the new master, was a man of pleasure. He was the owner of a
large sugar plantation, which he had left under the charge of an overseer,
and was now giving himself up to the pleasures of a city life.
At first Mr. Gordon sought to win Isabella's favor by flattery and presents,
knowing that whatever he gave her he could take from her again.
The poor innocent creature dreaded every moment lest the scene should change.
At every interview with Gordon she stoutly maintained that she had
left a husband in Virginia, and could never think of taking another.
In this she considered that she was truthful, for she had ever regarded
Henry as her husband. The gold watch and chain and other glittering
presents which Gordon gave to her were all kept unused.
In the same house with Isabella was a man-servant who had from time
to time hired himself from his master. His name was William.
He could feel for Isabella, for he, like her, had been separated from
near and dear relatives, and he often tried to console the poor woman.
One day Isabella observed to him that her hair was growing out again.
"Yes," replied William; "you look a good deal like a man
with your short hair."
"Oh," rejoined she, "I have often been told that I would make a better
looking man than woman, and if I had the money I might avail myself
of it to big farewell to this place."
In a moment afterwards, Isabella feared that she had said too much,
and laughingly observed, "I am always talking some nonsense;
you must not heed me."
William was a tall, full-blooded African, whose countenance beamed
with intelligence. Being a mechanic, he had by industry earned more money
than he had paid to his owner for his time, and this he had laid aside,
with the hope that he might some day get enough to purchase his freedom.
He had in his chest about a hundred and fifty dollars. His was a heart
that felt for others, and he had again and again wiped the tears from
his eyes while listening to Isabella's story.
"If she can get free with a little money, why not give her what I have?"
thought he, and then resolved to do it.
An hour after, he entered the quadroon's room, and, laying the money
in her lap, said,--
"There, Miss Isabella, you said just now that if you
had the means you would leave this place. There is money
enough to take you to England, where you will be free.
You are much fairer than many of the white women of the South,
and can easily pass for a free white woman."
At first Isabella thought it was a plan by which the negro wished
to try her fidelity to her owner; but she was soon convinced,
by his earnest manner and the deep feeling he manifested,
that he was entirely sincere.
"I will take the money," said she, "only on one condition,
and that is that I effect your escape, as well as my own."
"How can that be done?" he inquired, eagerly.
"I will assume the disguise of a gentleman, and you that of a servant,
and we will thus take passage in a steamer to Cincinnati, and from
thence to Canada."
With full confidence in Isabella's judgment, William consented
at once to the proposition. The clothes were purchased;
everything was arranged, and the next night, while Mr. Gordon
was on one of his sprees, Isabella, under the assumed name
of Mr. Smith, with William in attendance as a servant,
took passage for Cincinnati in the steamer Heroine.
With a pair of green glasses over her eyes, in addition to her
other disguise, Isabella made quite a gentlemanly appearance.
To avoid conversation, however, she kept closely to her state-room,
under the plea of illness.
Meanwhile, William was playing his part well with the servants.
He was loudly talking of his master's wealth, and nothing on the boat
appeared so good as in his master's fine mansion.
"I don't like dese steamboats, no how," said he; "I hope when massa
goes on anoder journey, he take de carriage and de hosses."
After a nine-days' passage, the Heroine landed at Cincinnati,
and Mr. Smith and his servant walked on shore.
"William, you are now a free man, and can go on to Canada," said Isabella;
"I shall go to Virginia, in search of my daughter."
This sudden announcement fell heavily upon William's ears,
and with tears he besought her not to jeopardize her liberty
in such a manner; but Isabella had made up her mind to rescue
her child if possible.
Taking a boat for Wheeling, Isabella was soon on her way to her
native State. Several months had elapsed since she left Richmond,
and all her thoughts were centred on the fate of her dear Clotelle.
It was with a palpitating heart that this injured woman entered
the stage-coach at Wheeling and set out for Richmond.
IT was late in the evening when the coach arrived at Richmond, and Isabella
once more alighted in her native city. She had intended to seek lodgings
somewhere in the outskirts of the town, but the lateness of the hour
compelled her to stop at one of the principal hotels for the night.
She had scarcely entered the inn before she recognized among
the numerous black servants one to whom she was well known, and her
only hope was that her disguise would keep her from being discovered.
The imperturbable calm and entire forgetfulness of self which induced
Isabella to visit a place from which she could scarcely hope to escape,
to attempt the rescue of a beloved child, demonstrate that over-willingness
of woman to carry out the promptings of the finer feelings of the heart.
True to woman's nature, she had risked her own liberty for another's.
She remained in the hotel during the night, and the next morning,
under the plea of illness, took her breakfast alone.
That day the fugitive slave paid a visit to the suburbs of the town, and
once more beheld the cottage in which she had spent so many happy hours.
It was winter, and the clematis and passion-flower were not there;
but there were the same walks her feet had so often pressed,
and the same trees which had so often shaded her as she passed
through the garden at the back of the house. Old remembrances
rushed upon her memory and caused her to shed tears freely.
Isabella was now in her native town, and near her daughter;
but how could she communicate with her? how could she see her?
To have made herself known would have been a suicidal act;
betrayal would have followed, and she arrested. Three days passed away,
and still she remained in the hotel at which she had first put up,
and yet she got no tidings of her child.
Unfortunately for Isabella, a disturbance had just broken
out among the slave population in the State of Virginia,
and all strangers were treated with suspicion.
The insurrection to which we now refer was headed by a full-blooded negro,
who had been born and brought up a slave. He had heard the crack of the
driver's whip, and seen the warm blood streaming from the negro's body.
He had witnessed the separation of parents from children, and was
made aware, by too many proofs, that the slave could expect no justice
from the hands of the slave-owner. The name of this man was Nat Turner.
He was a preacher amongst the negroes, distinguished for his eloquence,
respected by the whites, loved and venerated by the negroes.
On the discovery of the plan for the outbreak, Turner fled to the swamps,
followed by those who had joined in the insurrection.
Here the revolted negroes numbered some hundreds, and for a
time bade defiance to their oppressors. The Dismal Swamps
cover many thousand acres of wild land, and a dense forest,
with wild animals and insects such as are unknown in any
other part of Virginia. Here runaway negroes usually seek
a hiding-place, and some have been known to reside here for years.
The revolters were joined by one of these. He was a large,
tall, full-blooded negro, with a stern and savage countenance;
the marks on his face showed that he was from one of the barbarous
tribes in Africa, and claimed that country as his native land.
His only covering was a girdle around his loins, made of
skins of wild beasts which he had killed. His only token
of authority among those that he led was a pair of epaulettes,
made of the tail of a fox, and tied to his shoulder by a cord.
Brought from the coast of Africa, when only fifteen years of age,
to the island of Cuba, he was smuggled from thence into Virginia.
He had been two years in the swamps, and considered it
his future home. He had met a negro woman, who was also
a runaway, and, after the fashion of his native land, had gone
through the process of oiling her, as the marriage ceremony.
They had built a cave on a rising mound in the swamp,
and this was their home. This man's name was Picquilo.
His only weapon was a sword made from a scythe which he had
stolen from a neighboring plantation. His dress, his character,
his manners, and his mode of fighting were all in keeping with
the early training he had received in the land of his birth.
He moved about with the activity of a cat, and neither the thickness
of the trees nor the depth of the water could stop him.
He was a bold, turbulent spirit; and, from motives of revenge,
he imbrued his hands in the blood of all the whites he could meet.
Hunger, thirst, and loss of sleep, he seemed made to endure,
as if by peculiarity of constitution. His air was fierce,
his step oblique, his look sanguinary.
Such was the character of one of the negroes in the Southampton Insurrection.
All negroes were arrested who were found beyond their master's threshold,
and all white strangers were looked upon with suspicion.
Such was the position in which Isabella found affairs
when she returned to Virginia in search of her child.
Had not the slave-owners been watchful of strangers,
owing to the outbreak, the fugitive could not have escaped
the vigilance of the police; for advertisements announcing
her escape, and offering a large reward for her arrest,
had been received in the city previous to her arrival,
and officers were therefore on the lookout for her.
It was on the third day after her arrival in Richmond, as the quadroon
was seated in her room at the hotel, still in the disguise of a gentleman,
that two of the city officers entered the apartment and informed her that they
were authorized to examine all strangers, to assure the authorities that they
were not in league with the revolted negroes.
With trembling heart the fugitive handed the key of her trunk
to the officers. To their surprise they found nothing but female
apparel in the trunk, which raised their curiosity, and caused
a further investigation that resulted in the arrest of Isabella
as a fugitive slave. She was immediately conveyed to prison,
there to await the orders of her master.
For many days, uncheered by the voice of kindness, alone, hopeless, desolate,
she waited for the time to arrive when the chains should be placed on
her limbs, and she returned to her inhuman and unfeeling owner.
The arrest of the fugitive was announced in all the newspapers,
but created little or no sensation. The inhabitants were too much
engaged in putting down the revolt among the slaves; and, although all
the odds were against the insurgents, the whites found it no easy matter,
with all their caution. Every day brought news of fresh outbreaks.
Without scruple and without pity, the whites massacred all blacks found beyond
the limits of their owners' plantations. The negroes, in return, set fire
to houses, and put to death those who attempted to escape from the flames.
Thus carnage was added to carnage, and the blood of the whites flowed
to avenge the blood of the blacks.
These were the ravages of slavery. No graves were dug for
the negroes, but their bodies became food for dogs and vultures;
and their bones, partly calcined by the sun, remained scattered about,
as if to mark the mournful fury of servitude and lust of power.
When the slaves were subdued, except a few in the swamps,
bloodhounds were employed to hunt out the remaining revolters.
DEATH IS FREEDOM
ON receiving intelligence of the arrest of Isabella, Mr. Gordon
authorized the sheriff to sell her to the highest bidder.
She was, therefore, sold; the purchaser being the noted
negro-trader, Hope H. Slater, who at once placed her in prison.
Here the fugitive saw none but slaves like herself, brought in
and taken out to be placed in ships, and sent away to some part
of the country to which she herself would soon be compelled to go.
She had seen or heard nothing of her daughter while in Richmond,
and all hopes of seeing her had now fled.
At the dusk of the evening previous to the day when she was to
be sent off, as the old prison was being closed for the night,
Isabella suddenly dated past the keeper, and ran for her life.
It was not a great distance from the prison to the long bridge
which passes from the lower part of the city across the Potomac
to the extensive forests and woodlands of the celebrated
Arlington Heights, then occupied by that distinguished
relative and descendant of the immortal Washington, Mr. Geo.
W. Custis. Thither the poor fugitive directed her flight.
So unexpected was her escape that she had gained several rods
the start before the keeper had secured the other prisoners,
and rallied his assistants to aid in the pursuit.
It was at an hour, and in a part of the city where horses
could not easily be obtained for the chase; no bloodhounds
were at hand to run down the flying woman, and for once it
seemed as if there was to be a fair trial of speed and endurance
between the slave and the slave-catchers.
The keeper and his force raised the hue-and-cry on her path
as they followed close behind; but so rapid was the flight
along the wide avenue that the astonished citizens, as they
poured forth from their dwellings to learn the cause of alarm,
were only able to comprehend the nature of the case in time
to fall in with the motley throng in pursuit, or raise an anxious
prayer to heaven as they refused to join in the chase (as many
a one did that night) that the panting fugitive might escape,
and the merciless soul-dealer for once be disappointed of his prey.
And now, with the speed of an arrow, having passed the avenue,
with the distance between her and her pursuers constantly
increasing, this poor, hunted female gained the "Long Bridge,"
as it is called, where interruption seemed improbably.
Already her heart began to beat high with the hope of success.
She had only to pass three-quarters of a mile across the bridge,
when she could bury herself in a vast forest, just as the time
when the curtain of night would close around her, and protect
her from the pursuit of her enemies.
But God, by his providence, had otherwise determined.
He had ordained that an appalling tragedy should be enacted
that night within plain sight of the President's house,
and the Capitol of the Union, which would be an evidence
wherever it should be known of the unconquerable love of liberty
which the human heart may inherit, as well as a fresh admonition
to the slave-dealer of the cruelty and enormity of his crimes.
Just as the pursuers passed the high draw, soon after entering upon
the bridge, they beheld three men slowly approaching from the Virginia side.
They immediately called to them to arrest the fugitive, proclaiming her
a runaway slave. True to their Virginia instincts, as she came near,
they formed a line across the narrow bridge to intercept her.
Seeing the escape was impossible in that quarter, she stopped suddenly,
and turned upon her pursuers.
On came the profane and ribald crew faster than ever, already exulting
in her capture, and threatening punishment for her flight.
For a moment she looked wildly and anxiously around to see
if there was no hope of escape. On either hand, far down below,
rolled the deep, foaming waters of the Potomac, and before and behind
were the rapidly approaching steps and noisy voices of her pursuers.
Seeing how vain would be any further effort to escape, her resolution
was instantly taken. She clasped her hands convulsively together,
raised her tearful and imploring eyes toward heaven, and begged
for the mercy and compassion there which was unjustly denied her
on earth; then, exclaiming, "Henry, Clotelle, I die for thee!"
with a single bound, vaulted over the railing of the bridge,
and sank forever beneath the angry and foaming waters of the river!
Such was the life, and such the death, of a woman whose virtues
and goodness of heart would have done honor to one in a higher
station of life, and who, had she been born in any other land
but that of slavery, would have been respected and beloved.
What would have been her feelings if she could have known
that the child for whose rescue she had sacrificed herself
would one day be free, honored, and loved in another land?
THE curtain rises seven years after the death of Isabella.
During that interval, Henry, finding that nothing could induce
his mother-in-law to relinquish her hold on poor little Clotelle,
and not liking to contend with one on whom a future fortune depended,
gradually lost all interest in the child, and left her to her fate.
Although Mrs. Miller treated Clotelle with a degree of harshness
scarcely equalled, when applied to one so tender in years,
still the child grew every day more beautiful, and her hair,
though kept closely cut, seemed to have improved in its soft,
silk-like appearance. Now twelve years of age, and more than
usually well-developed, her harsh old mistress began to view
her with a jealous eye.
Henry and Gertrude had just returned from Washington,
where the husband had been on his duties as a member of Congress,
and where he had remained during the preceding three years
without returning home. It was on a beautiful evening,
just at twilight, while seated at his parlor window,
that Henry saw a young woman pass by and go into the kitchen.
Not aware of ever having seen the person before, he made
an errand into the cook's department to see who the girl was.
He, however, met her in the hall, as she was about going out.
"Whom did you wish to see?" he inquired.
"Miss Gertrude," was the reply.
"What did you want to see her for?" he again asked.
"My mistress told me to give her and Master Henry her compliments,
and ask them to come over and spend the evening."
"Who is your mistress?" he eagerly inquired.
"Mrs. Miller, sir," responded the girl.
"And what's your name?" asked Henry, with a trembling voice.
"Clotelle, sir," was the reply.
The astonished father stood completely amazed, looking at
the now womanly form of her who, in his happier days,
he had taken on his knee with so much fondness and alacrity.
It was then that he saw his own and Isabella's features
combined in the beautiful face that he was then beholding.
It was then that he was carried back to the days when with
a woman's devotion, poor Isabella hung about his neck
and told him how lonely were the hours in his absence.
He could stand it no longer. Tears rushed to his eyes,
and turning upon his heel, he went back to his own room.
It was then that Isabella was revenged; and she no doubt
looked smilingly down from her home in the spirit-land on
the scene below.
On Gertrude's return from her shopping tour, she found
Henry in a melancholy mood, and soon learned its cause.
As Gertrude had borne him no children, it was but natural,
that he should now feel his love centering in Clotelle,
and he now intimated to his wife his determination to remove
his daughter from the hands of his mother-in-law.
When this news reached Mrs. Miller, through her daughter, she became furious
with rage, and calling Clotelle into her room, stripped her shoulders bare
and flogged her in the presence of Gertrude.
It was nearly a week after the poor girl had been so severely whipped
and for no cause whatever, that her father learned on the circumstance
through one of the servants. With a degree of boldness unusual for him,
he immediately went to his mother-in-law and demanded his child.
But it was too late,--she was gone. To what place she had been sent
no one could tell, and Mrs. Miller refused to give any information
whatever relative to the girl.
It was then that Linwood felt deepest the evil of the institution
under which he was living; for he knew that his daughter would
be exposed to all the vices prevalent in that part of the country
where marriage is not recognized in connection with that class.
A SLAVE-HUNTING PARSON
IT was a delightful evening after a cloudless day, with the setting sun
reflecting his golden rays on the surrounding hills which were covered
with a beautiful greensward, and the luxuriant verdure that forms
the constant garb of the tropics, that the steamer Columbia ran
into the dock at Natchez, and began unloading the cargo, taking in
passengers and making ready to proceed on her voyage to New Orleans.
The plank connecting the boat with the shore had scarcely been secured
in its place, when a good-looking man about fifty years of age,
with a white neck-tie, and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses on,
was seen hurrying on board the vessel. Just at that moment could
be seen a stout man with his face fitted with the small-pox, making
his way up to the above-mentioned gentleman.
"How do you do, my dear sir? this is Mr. Wilson, I believe,"
said the short man, at the same time taking from his mouth a large
chew of tobacco, and throwing it down on the ship's deck.
"You have the advantage of me, sir," replied the tall man.
"Why, don't you know me? My name is Jennings; I sold you a splendid negro
woman some years ago."
"Yes, yes," answered the Natchez man. "I remember you now,
for the woman died in a few months, and I never got the worth
of my money out of her."
"I could not help that," returned the slave-trader; "she was as sound
as a roach when I sold her to you."
"Oh, yes," replied the parson, "I know she was; but now I want a young girl,
fit for house use,--one that will do to wait on a lady."
"I am your man," said Jennings, "just follow me," continued he,
"and I will show you the fairest little critter you ever saw."
And the two passed to the stern of the boat to where the trader had
between fifty and sixty slaves, the greater portion being women.
"There," said Jennings, as a beautiful young woman shrunk back with modesty.
"There, sir, is the very gal that was made for you. If she had been made
to your order, she could not have suited you better."
"Indeed, sir, is not that young woman white?" inquired the parson.
"Oh, no, sir; she is no whiter than you see!"
"But is she a slave?" asked the preacher.
"Yes," said the trader, "I bought her in Richmond, and she comes
from an excellent family. She was raised by Squire Miller, and her
mistress was one of the most pious ladies in that city, I may say;
she was the salt of the earth, as the ministers say."
"But she resembles in some respect Agnes, the woman I bought from you,"
said Mr. Wilson. As he said the name of Agnes, the young woman started
as if she had been struck. Her pulse seemed to quicken, but her face
alternately flushed and turned pale, and tears trembled upon her eyelids.
It was a name she had heard her mother mention, and it brought to her
memory those days,--those happy days, when she was so loved and caressed.
This young woman was Clotelle, the granddaughter of Agnes.
The preacher, on learning the fact, purchased her, and took her home,
feeling that his daughter Georgiana would prize her very highly.
Clotelle found in Georgiana more a sister than a mistress, who,
unknown to her father, taught the slave-girl how to read, and did much
toward improving and refining Clotelle's manners, for her own sake.
Like her mother fond of flowers, the "Virginia Maid," as she was
sometimes called, spent many of her leisure hours in the garden.
Beside the flowers which sprang up from the fertility of soil unplanted
and unattended, there was the heliotrope, sweet-pea, and cup-rose,
transplanted from the island of Cuba. In her new home Clotelle found
herself saluted on all sides by the fragrance of the magnolia.
When she went with her young mistress to the Poplar Farm, as she
sometimes did, nature's wild luxuriance greeted her, wherever she
cast her eyes.
The rustling citron, lime, and orange, shady mango with its fruits
of gold, and the palmetto's umbrageous beauty, all welcomed the child
of sorrow. When at the farm, Huckelby, the overseer, kept his eye
on Clotelle if within sight of her, for he knew she was a slave,
and no doubt hoped that she might some day fall into his hands.
But she shrank from his looks as she would have done from the charm
of the rattlesnake. The negro-driver always tried to insinuate himself
into the good opinion of Georgiana and the company that she brought.
Knowing that Miss Wilson at heart hated slavery, he was ever trying
to show that the slaves under his charge were happy and contented.
One day, when Georgiana and some of her Connecticut friends were there,
the overseer called all the slaves up to the "great house," and set
some of the young ones to dancing. After awhile whiskey was brought
in and a dram given to each slave, in return for which they were
expected to give a toast, or sing a short piece of his own composition;
when it came to Jack's turn he said,--
"The big bee flies high, the little bee makes the honey:
the black folks make the cotton, and the white folks
gets the money."
Of course, the overseer was not at all elated with the sentiment
contained in Jack's toast. Mr. Wilson had lately purchased a young
man to assist about the house and to act as coachman. This slave,
whose name was Jerome, was of pure African origin, was perfectly black,
very fine-looking, tall, slim, and erect as any one could possibly be.
His features were not bad, lips thin, nose prominent, hands and feet small.
His brilliant black eyes lighted up his whole countenance.
His hair, which was nearly straight, hung in curls upon his lofty brow.
George Combe or Fowler would have selected his head for a model.
He was brave and daring, strong in person, fiery in spirit,
yet kind and true in his affections, earnest in his doctrines.
Clotelle had been at the parson's but a few weeks when it was
observed that a mutual feeling had grown up between her and Jerome.
As time rolled on, they became more and more attached to each other.
After satisfying herself that these two really loved, Georgiana advised
their marriage. But Jerome contemplated his escape at some future day,
and therefore feared that if married it might militate against it.
He hoped, also, to be able to get Clotelle away too, and it was this hope
that kept him from trying to escape by himself. Dante did not more love
his Beatrice, Swift his Stella, Waller his Saccharissa, Goldsmith his
Jessamy bride, or Burns his Mary, than did Jerome his Clotelle.
Unknown to her father, Miss Wilson could permit these two slaves to enjoy
more privileges than any of the other servants. The young mistress
taught Clotelle, and the latter imparted her instructions to her lover,
until both could read so as to be well understood. Jerome felt
his superiority, and always declared that no master should ever flog him.
Aware of his high spirit and determination, Clotelle was in constant
fear lest some difficulty might arise between her lover and his master.
One day Mr. Wilson, being somewhat out of temper and
irritated at what he was pleased to call Jerome's insolence,
ordered him to follow him to the barn to be flogged.
The young slave obeyed his master, but those who saw him
at the moment felt that he would not submit to be whipped.
"No, sir," replied Jerome, as his master told him to take off his coat:
"I will serve you, Master Wilson, I will labor for you day and night,
if you demand it, but I will not be whipped."
This was too much for a white man to stand from a negro, and the
preacher seized his slave by the throat, intending to choke him.
But for once he found his match. Jerome knocked him down,
and then escaped through the back-yard to the street,
and from thence to the woods.
Recovering somewhat from the effect of his fall, the parson
regained his feet and started in pursuit of the fugitive.
Finding, however, that the slave was beyond his reach, he at once
resolved to put the dogs on his track. Tabor, the negro-catcher,
was sent for, and in less than an hour, eight or ten men, including
the parson, were in the woods with hounds, trying the trails.
These dogs will attack a negro at their master's bidding;
and cling to him as the bull-dog will cling to a beast.
Many are the speculations as to whether the negro will be
secured alive or dead, when these dogs once get on his track.
Whenever there is to be a negro hunt, there is no lack
of participants. Many go to enjoy the fun which it is said
they derive from these scenes.
The company had been in the woods but a short time ere they
go on the track of two fugitives, once of whom was Jerome.
The slaves immediately bent their steps toward the swamp,
with the hope that the dogs, when put upon their scent would
be unable to follow them through the water.
The slaves then took a straight course for the Baton Rouge
and Bayou Sara road, about four miles distant. Nearer and nearer
the whimpering pack pressed; their delusion begins to dispel.
All at once the truth flashes upon the minds of the fugitives
like a glare of light,--'tis Tabor with his dogs!
The scent becomes warmer and warmer, and what was at first an irregular
cry now deepens into one ceaseless roar, as the relentless pack presses
on after its human prey.
They at last reach the river, and in the negroes plunge, followed by
the catch-dog. Jerome is caught and is once more in the hands
of his master, while the other poor fellow finds a watery grave.
They return, and the preacher sends his slave to jail.
THE TRUE HEROINE
IN vain did Georgiana try to console Clotelle, when the latter heard,
through one of the other slaves, that Mr. Wilson had started
with the dogs in pursuit of Jerome. The poor girl well knew
that he would be caught, and that severe punishment, if not death,
would be the result of his capture. It was therefore with a
heart filled with the deepest grief that the slave-girl heard
the footsteps of her master on his return from the chase.
The dogged and stern manner of the preacher forbade even
his daughter inquiring as to the success of his pursuit.
Georgiana secretly hoped that the fugitive had not bee caught;
she wished it for the sake of the slave, and more especially
for her maid-servant, whom she regarded more as a companion
than a menial. But the news of the capture of Jerome soon
spread through the parson's household, and found its way
to the ears of the weeping and heart-stricken Clotelle.
The reverend gentleman had not been home more than an hour ere
some of his parishioners called to know if they should not take
the negro from the prison and execute *Lynch law* upon him.
"No negro should be permitted to live after striking a white man;
let us take him and hang him at once," remarked an elderly-looking man,
whose gray hairs thinly covered the crown of his head.
"I think the deacon is right," said another of the company;
"if our slaves are allowed to set the will of their masters
at defiance, there will be no getting along with them,--
an insurrection will be the next thing we hear of."
"No, no," said the preacher; "I am willing to let the law take its course,
as it provides for the punishment of a slave with death if he strikes
his master. We had better let the court decide the question.
Moreover, as a Christian and God-fearing people, we ought to submit
to the dictates of justice. Should we take this man's life by force,
an Allwise Providence would hold us responsible for the act."
The company then quietly withdrew, showing that the preacher
had some influence with his people.
"This," said Mr. Wilson, when left alone with his daughter,--
"this, my dear Georgiana, is the result of your kindness
to the negroes. You have spoiled every one about the house.
I can't whip one of them, without being in danger of having
my life taken."
"I am sure, papa," replied the young lady,--"I am sure I never did any thing
intentionally to induce any of the servants to disobey your orders."
"No, my dear," said Mr. Wilson, "but you are too kind to them.
Now, there is Clotelle,--that girl is completely spoiled.
She walks about the house with as dignified an air as if she
was mistress of the premises. By and by you will be sorry
for this foolishness of yours."
"But," answered Georgiana, "Clotelle has a superior mind,
and God intended her to hold a higher position in life than
that of a servant."
"Yes, my dear, and it was your letting her know that she was
intended for a better station in society that is spoiling her.
Always keep a negro in ignorance of what you conceive to be
his abilities," returned the parson.
It was late on the Saturday afternoon, following the capture
of Jerome that, while Mr. Wilson was seated in his study preparing
his sermon for the next day, Georgiana entered the room and asked
in an excited tone if it were true that Jerome was to hanged on
the following Thursday.
The minister informed her that such was the decision of the court.
"Then," said she, "Clotelle will die of grief."
"What business has she to die of grief?" returned the father,
his eyes at the moment flashing fire.
"She has neither eaten nor slept since he was captured," replied Georgiana;
"and I am certain that she will not live through this."
"I cannot be disturbed now," said the parson; "I must get my sermon
ready for to-morrow. I expect to have some strangers to preach to,
and must, therefore, prepare a sermon that will do me credit."
While the man of God spoke, he seemed to say to himself,--
"With devotion's visage, and pious actions,
We do sugar over the devil himself."
Georgiana did all in her power to soothe the feelings
of Clotelle, and to induce her to put her trust in God.
Unknown to her father, she allowed the poor girl to go every
evening to the jail to see Jerome, and during these visits,
despite her own grief, Clotelle would try to comfort her
lover with the hope that justice would be meted out to him
in the spirit-land.
Thus the time passed on, and the day was fast approaching
when the slave was to die. Having heard that some secret
meeting had been held by the negroes, previous to the attempt
of Mr. Wilson to flog his slave, it occurred to a magistrate
that Jerome might know something of the intended revolt.
He accordingly visited the prison to see if he could learn
anything from him, but all to no purpose. Having given up all
hopes of escape, Jerome had resolved to die like a brave man.
When questioned as to whether he knew anything of a conspiracy
among the slaves against their masters, he replied,--
"Do you suppose that I would tell you if I did?"
"But if you know anything," remarked the magistrate, "and will tell us,
you may possibly have your life spared."
"Life," answered the doomed man, "is worth nought to a slave.
What right has a slave to himself, his wife, or his children?
We are kept in heathenish darkness, by laws especially enacted
to make our instruction a criminal offence; and our bones,
sinews, blood, and nerves are exposed in the market for sale.
"My liberty is of as much consequence to me as Mr. Wilson's is
to him. I am as sensitive to feeling as he. If I mistake not,
the day will come when the negro will learn that he can get
his freedom by fighting for it; and should that time arrive,
the whites will be sorry that they have hated us so shamefully.
I am free to say that, could I live my life over again,
I would use all the energies which God has given me to get
up an insurrection."
Every one present seemed startled and amazed at the intelligence
with which this descendant of Africa spoke.
"He's a very dangerous man," remarked one.
"Yes," said another, "he got some book-learning somewhere,
and that has spoiled him."
An effort was then made to learn from Jerome where he had learned to read,
but the black refused to give any information on the subject.
The sun was just going down behind the trees as Clotelle
entered the prison to see Jerome for the last time.
He was to die on the next day. Her face was bent upon her hands,
and the gushing tears were forcing their way through her fingers.
With beating heart and trembling hands, evincing the deepest emotion,
she threw her arms around her lover's neck and embraced him.
But, prompted by her heart's unchanging love, she had in her
own mind a plan by which she hoped to effect the escape
of him to whom she had pledged her heart and hand.
While the overcharged clouds which had hung over the city during
the day broke, and the rain fell in torrents, amid the most
terrific thunder and lightning, Clotelle revealed to Jerome
her plan for his escape.
"Dress yourself in my clothes," said she, "and you can easily
pass the jailer."
This Jerome at first declined doing. He did not wish to place
a confiding girl in a position where, in all probability,
she would have to suffer; but being assured by the young girl that
her life would not be in danger, he resolved to make the attempt.
Clotelle being very tall, it was not probably that the jailer would
discover any difference in them.
At this moment, she took from her pocket a bunch of keys and unfastened
the padlock, and freed him from the floor.
"Come, girl, it is time for you to go," said the jailer,
as Jerome was holding the almost fainting girl by the hand.
Being already attired in Clotelle's clothes, the disguised man
embraced the weeping girl, put his handkerchief to his face,
and passed out of the jail, without the keeper's knowing
that his prisoner was escaping in a disguise and under cover
of the night.
THE HERO OF MANY ADVENTURES
JEROME had scarcely passed the prison-gates, ere he reproached
himself for having taken such a step. There seemed to him no hope
of escape out of the State, and what was a few hours or days at most,
of life to him, when, by obtaining it, another had been sacrificed.
He was on the eve of returning, when he thought of the last words uttered
by Clotelle. "Be brave and determined, and you will still be free."
The words sounded like a charm in his ears and he went boldly forward.
Clotelle had provided a suit of men's clothes and had placed
them where her lover could get them, if he should succeed
in getting out.
Returning to Mr. Wilson's barn, the fugitive changed his apparel,
and again retraced his steps into the street. To reach the Free States
by travelling by night and lying by during the day, from a State so far south
as Mississippi, no one would think for a moment of attempting to escape.
To remain in the city would be a suicidal step. The deep sound of the escape
of steam from a boat, which was at that moment ascending the river,
broke upon the ears of the slave. "If that boat is going up the river,"
said he, "why not I conceal myself on board, and try to escape?"
He went at once to the steamboat landing, where the boat was just coming in.
"Bound for Louisville," said the captain, to one who was making inquiries.
As the passengers were rushing on board, Jerome followed them,
and proceeding to where some of the hands were stowing away bales of goods,
he took hold and aided them.
"Jump down into the hold, there, and help the men," said the mate
to the fugitive, supposing that, like many persons, he was
working his way up the river. Once in the hull among the boxes,
the slave concealed himself. Weary hours, and at last days,
passed without either water or food with the hidden slave.
More than once did he resolve to let his case be known; but the knowledge
that he would be sent back to Natchez kept him from doing so.
At last, with lips parched and fevered to a crisp, the poor man
crawled out into the freight-room, and began wandering about.
The hatches were on, and the room dark. There happened to be
on board a wedding party, and a box, containing some ofthe
bridal cake, with several bottles of port wine, was near Jerome.
He found the box, opened it, and helped himself. In eight days,
the boat tied up at the wharf at the place of her destination.
It was late at night; the boat's crew, with the single exception
of the man on watch, were on shore. The hatches were off,
and the fugitive quietly made his way on deck and jumped on shore.
The man saw the fugitive, but too late to seize him.
Still in a Slave State, Jerome was at a loss to know
how he should proceed. He had with him a few dollars,
enough to pay his way to Canada, if he could find a conveyance.
The fugitive procured such food as he wanted from one of the many
eating-houses, and then, following the direction of the North Star,
he passed out of the city, and took the road leading to Covington.
Keeping near the Ohio River, Jerome soon found an opportunity to
cross over into the State of Indiana. But liberty was a mere name
in the latter State, and the fugitive learned, from some colored
persons that he met, that it was not safe to travel by daylight.
While making his way one night, with nothing to cheer him
but the prospect of freedom in the future, he was pounced upon
by three men who were lying in wait for another fugitive,
an advertisement of whom they had received through the mail.
In vain did Jerome tell them that he was not a slave.
True, they had not caught the man they expected; but, if they could
make this slave tell from what place he had escaped, they knew
that a good price would be paid them for the negro's arrest.
Tortured by the slave-catchers, to make him reveal the name
of his master and the place from whence he had escaped,
Jerome gave them a fictitious name in Virginia, and said that his
master would give a large reward, and manifested a willingness
to return to his "old boss." By this misrepresentation,
the fugitive hoped to have another chance of getting away.
Allured with the prospect of a large sum of the needful,
the slave-catchers started back with their victim.
Stopping on the second night at an inn, on the banks of
the Ohio River, the kidnappers, in lieu of a suitable place
in which to confine their prize during the night, chained him
to the bed-post of their sleeping-chamber. The white men were
late in retiring to rest, after an evening spent in drinking.
At dead of night, when all was still, the slave arose
from the floor, upon which he had been lying, looked around
and saw that Morpheus had possession of his captors.
For once, thought he, the brandy bottle has done a noble work.
With palpitating heart and trembling limbs, he viewed his position.
The door was fast, but the warm weather had compelled them
to leave the window open. If he could but get his chains off,
he might escape through the window to the piazza.
The sleepers' clothes hung upon chairs by the bedside.
The slave thought of the padlock-key, examined the pockets,
and found it. The chains were soon off, and the negro stealthily
making his way to the window. He stopped, and said to himself,
"These men are villains; they are enemies to all who, like me,
are trying to be free. Then why not I teach them a lesson?"
He then dressed himself in the best suit, hung his own worn-out
and tattered garments on the same chair, and silently passed
through the window to the piazza, and let himself down by one
of the pillars, and started once more for the North.
Daylight came upon the fugitive before he had selected
a hiding-place for the day, and he was walking at a rapid rate,
in hopes of soon reaching some woodland or forest. The sun
had just begun to show itself, when the fugitive was astounded
at seeing behind him, in the distance, two men upon horseback.
Taking a road to the right, the slave saw before him a farmhouse,
and so near was he to it that he observed two men in front
of it looking at him. It was too late to turn back.
The kidnappers were behind him--strange men before him.
Those in the rear he knew to be enemies, while he had no idea
of what principles were the farmers. The latter also saw the white
men coming, and called to the fugitive to come that way.
The broad-brimmed hats that the farmers wore told the slave
that they were Quakers.
Jerome had seen some of these people passing up and down the river,
when employed on a steamer between Natchez and New Orleans,
and had heard that they disliked slavery. He, therefore,
hastened toward the drab-coated men, who, on his approach,
opened the barn-door, and told him to "run in."
When Jerome entered the barn, the two farmers closed the door,
remaining outside themselves, to confront the slave-catchers,
who now came up and demanded admission, feeling that they
had their prey secure.
"The can't enter my premises," said one of the Friends,
in rather a musical voice.
The negro-catchers urged their claim to the slave, and intimated that,
unless they were allowed to secure him, they would force their way in.
By this time, several other Quakers had gathered around the barn-door.
Unfortunately for the kidnappers, and most fortunately for the fugitive,
the Friends had just been holding a quarterly meeting in the neighborhood,
and a number of them had not yet returned to their homes.
After some talk, the men in drab promised to admit the hunters, provided they
procured an officer and a search-warrant from a justice of the peace.
One of the slave-catchers was left to see that the fugitive did
not get away, while the others went in pursuit of an officer.
In the mean time, the owner of the barn sent for a hammer and nails,
and began nailing up the barn-door.
After an hour in search of the man of the law, they returned with an officer
and a warrant. The Quaker demanded to see the paper, and, after looking
at it for some time, called to his son to go into the house for his glasses.
It was a long time before Aunt Ruth found the leather case, and when she did,
the glasses wanted wiping before they could be used. After comfortably
adjusting them on his nose, he read the warrant over leisurely.
"Come, Mr. Dugdale, we can't wait all day," said the officer.
"Well, will thee read it for me?" returned the Quaker.
The officer complied, and the man in drab said,--
"Yes, thee may go in, now. I am inclined to throw no obstacles in the way
of the execution of the law of the land."
On approaching the door, the men found some forty or fifty nails in it,
in the way of their progress.
"Lend me your hammer and a chisel, if you please, Mr. Dugdale,"
said the officer.
"Please read that paper over again, will thee?" asked the Quaker.
The officer once more read the warrant.
"I see nothing there which says I must furnish thee with tools to open
my door. If thee wants a hammer, thee must go elsewhere for it;
I tell thee plainly, thee can't have mine."
The implements for opening the door are at length obtained, and,
after another half-hour, the slave-catchers are in the barn.
Three hours is a long time for a slave to be in the hands of Quakers.
The hay is turned over, and the barn is visited in every part;
but still the runaway is not found. Uncle Joseph has a glow
upon his countenance; Ephraim shakes his head knowingly;
little Elijah is a perfect know-nothing, and, if you look
toward the house, you will see Aunt Ruth's smiling face,
ready to announce that breakfast is ready.
"The nigger is not in this barn," said the officer.
"I know he is not," quietly answered the Quaker.
"What were you nailing up your door for, then, as if you were afraid we
would enter?" inquired one of the kidnappers.
"I can do what I please with my own door, can't I," said the Quaker.
The secret was out; the fugitive had gone in at the front
door and out at the back; and the reading of the warrant,
nailing up of the door, and other preliminaries of the Quaker,
was to give the fugitive time and opportunity to escape.
It was now late in the morning, and the slave-catchers were a long way
from home, and the horses were jaded by the rapid manner in which they
had travelled. The Friends, in high glee, returned to the house
for breakfast; the man of the law, after taking his fee, went home,
and the kidnappers turned back, muttering, "Better luck next time."
NOW in her seventeenth year, Clotelle's personal appearance presented
a great contrast to the time when she lived with old Mrs. Miller.
Her tall and well-developed figure; her long, silky black hair,
falling in curls down her swan-like neck; her bright, black eyes
lighting up her olive-tinted face, and a set of teeth that a Tuscarora
might envy, she was a picture of tropical-ripened beauty. At times,
there was a heavenly smile upon her countenance, which would have warmed
the heart of an anchorite. Such was the personal appearance of the girl
who was now in prison by her own act to save the life of another.
Would she be hanged in his stead, or would she receive a different
kind of punishment? These questions Clotelle did not ask herself.
Open, frank, free, and generous to a fault, she always thought of others,
never of her own welfare.
The long stay of Clotelle caused some uneasiness to Miss Wilson;
yet she dared not tell her father, for he had forbidden
the slave-girl's going to the prison to see her lover.
While the clock on the church near by was striking eleven,
Georgiana called Sam, and sent him to the prison in
search of Clotelle.
"The girl went away from here at eight o'clock," was the jailer's
answer to the servant's inquiries.
The return of Sam without having found the girl saddened
the heart of the young mistress. "Sure, then," said she,
"the poor, heartbroken thing has made way with herself."
Still, she waited till morning before breaking the news of Clotelle's
absence to her father.
The jailer discovered, the next morning, to his utter astonishment,
that his prisoner was white instead of black, and his first impression
was that the change of complexion had taken place during the night,
through fear of death. But this conjecture was soon dissipated;
for the dark, glowing eyes, the sable curls upon the lofty brow,
and the mild, sweet voice that answered his questions, informed him
that the prisoner before him was another being.
On learning, in the morning, that Clotelle was in jail dressed in male attire,
Miss Wilson immediately sent clothes to her to make a change in her attire.
News of the heroic and daring act of the slave-girl spread through the city
with electric speed.
"I will sell every nigger on the place," said the parson,
at the breakfast-table,--"I will sell them all, and get a new lot,
and whip them every day."
Poor Georgiana wept for the safety of Clotelle, while she felt
glad that Jerome had escaped. In vain did they try to extort
from the girl the whereabouts of the man whose escape she
had effected. She was not aware that he had fled on a steamer,
and when questioned, she replied,--
"I don't know; and if I did I would not tell you.
I care not what you do with me, if Jerome but escapes."
The smile with which she uttered these words finely illustrated
the poet's meaning, when he says,--
"A fearful gift upon they heart is laid,
Woman--the power to suffer and to love."
Her sweet simplicity seemed to dare them to lay their rough hands
amid her trembling curls.
Three days did the heroic young woman remain in prison, to be
gazed at by an unfeeling crowd, drawn there out of curiosity.
The intelligence came to her at last that the court had decided
to spare her life, on condition that she should be whipped,
sold, and sent out of the State within twenty-four hours.
This order of the court she would have cared but little for,
had she not been sincerely attached to her young mistress.
"Do try and sell her to some one who will use her well,"
said Georgiana to her father, as he was about taking his hat
to leave the house.
"I shall not trouble myself to do any such thing,"
replied the hard-hearted parson. "I leave the finding of a
master for her with the slave-dealer."
Bathed in tears, Miss Wilson paced her room in the absence
of her father. For many months Georgiana had been in a decline,
and any little trouble would lay her on a sick bed for days.
She was, therefore, poorly able to bear the loss of this companion,
whom she so dearly loved.
Mr. Wilson had informed his daughter that Clotelle was to be flogged;
and when Felice came in and informed her mistress that the poor
girl had just received fifty lashes on her bare person,
the young lady fainted and fell on the floor. The servants placed
their mistress on the sofa, and went in pursuit of their master.
Little did the preacher think, on returning to his daughter,
that he should soon be bereft of her; yet such was to be his lot.
A blood-vessel had been ruptured, and the three physicians who were
called in told the father that he must prepare to lose his child.
That moral courage and calmness, which was her great characteristic,
did not forsake Georgiana in her hour of death. She had ever been kind
to the slaves under her charge, and they loved and respected her.
At her request, the servants were all brought into her room,
and took a last farewell of their mistress. Seldom, if ever,
was there witnessed a more touching scene than this.
There lay the young woman, pale and feeble, with death stamped upon
her countenance, surrounded by the sons and daughters of Africa,
some of whom had been separated from every earthly tie, and the most
of whose persons had been torn and gashed by the negro-whip. Some
were upon their knees at the bedside, others standing around,
and all weeping.
Death is a leveler; and neither age, sex, wealth, nor condition,
can avert when he is permitted to strike. The most beautiful
flowers must soon fade and droop and die. So, also, with man;
his days are as uncertain as the passing breeze. This hour
he glows in the blush of health and vigor, but the next, he may
be counted with the number no more known on earth. Oh, what a
silence pervaded the house when this young flower was gone!
In the midst of the buoyancy of youth, this cherished one had
dropped and died. Deep were the sounds of grief and mourning
heard in that stately dwelling when the stricken friends,
whose office it had been to nurse and soothe the weary sufferer,
beheld her pale and motionless in the sleep of death.
Who can imagine the feeling with which poor Clotelle received
the intelligence of her kind friend's death? The deep gashes
of the cruel whip had prostrated the lovely form of the quadroon,
and she lay upon her bed of straw in the dark cell. The speculator
had brought her, but had postponed her removal till she should recover.
Her benefactress was dead, and--
"Hope withering fled, and mercy sighed farewell."
"Is Jerome safe?" she would ask herself continually.
If her lover could have but known of the sufferings of that sweet
flower,- -that polyanthus over which he had so often been
in his dreams,--he would then have learned that she was worthy
of his love.
It was more than a fortnight before the slave-trader could take his prize
to more comfortable quarters. Like Alcibiades, who defaced the images
of the gods and expected to be pardoned on the ground of eccentricity,
so men who abuse God's image hope to escape the vengeance of his wrath
under the plea that the law sanctions their atrocious deeds.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT AND WHAT FOLLOWED
IT was a beautiful Sunday in September, with a cloudless sky,
and the rays of the sun parching the already thirsty earth,
that Clotelle stood at an upper window in Slater's slave-pen
in New Orleans, gasping for a breath of fresh air.
The bells of thirty churches were calling the people to
the different places of worship. Crowds were seen wending
their way to the houses of God; one followed by a negro boy
carrying his master's Bible; another followed by her maid-servant
holding the mistress' fan; a third supporting an umbrella
over his master's head to shield him from the burning sun.
Baptists immersed, Presbyterians sprinkled, Methodists shouted,
and Episcopalians read their prayers, while ministers
of the various sects preached that Christ died for all.
The chiming of the bells seemed to mock the sighs and deep groans
of the forty human beings then incarcerated in the slave-pen.
These imprisoned children of God were many of them Methodists,
some Baptists, and others claiming to believe in the faith
of the Presbyterians and Episcopalians.
Oh, with what anxiety did these creatures await the close of that Sabbath,
and the dawn of another day, that should deliver them from those dismal
and close cells. Slowly the day passed away, and once more the evening
breeze found its way through the barred windows of the prison that contained
these injured sons and daughters of America.
The clock on the calaboose had just struck nine on Monday morning,
when hundreds of persons were seen threading the gates and doors
of the negro-pen. It was the same gang that had the day previous been
stepping to the tune and keeping time with the musical church bells.
Their Bibles were not with them, their prayer-books were left at home,
and even their long and solemn faces had been laid aside for the week.
They had come to the man-market to make their purchases.
Methodists were in search of their brethren. Baptists were
looking for those that had been immersed, while Presbyterians
were willing to buy fellow-Christians, whether sprinkled or not.
The crowd was soon gazing at and feasting their eyes upon the lovely
features of Clotelle.
"She is handsomer," muttered one to himself, "than the lady
that sat in the pew next to me yesterday."
"I would that my daughter was half so pretty," thinks a second.
Groups are seen talking in every part of the vast building,
and the topic on 'Change, is the "beautiful quadroon."
By and by, a tall young man with a foreign face, the curling
mustache protruding from under a finely-chiseled nose,
and having the air of a gentleman, passes by.
His dark hazel eye is fastened on the maid, and he stops
for a moment; the stranger walks away, but soon returns--
he looks, he sees the young woman wipe away the silent tear
that steals down her alabaster cheek; he feels ashamed that
he should gaze so unmanly on the blushing face of the woman.
As he turns upon his heel he takes out his white handkerchief
and wipes his eyes. It may be that he has lost a sister,
a mother, or some dear one to whom he was betrothed.
Again he comes, and the quadroon hides her face.
She has heard that foreigners make bad masters, and she shuns
his piercing gaze. Again he goes away and then returns.
He takes a last look and then walks hurriedly off.
The day wears away, but long before the time of closing the sale the tall
young man once more enters the slave-pen. He looks in every direction
for the beautiful slave, but she is not there--she has been sold!
He goes to the trader and inquires, but he is too late, and he therefore
returns to his hotel.
Having entered a military school in Paris when quite young,
and soon after been sent with the French army to India,
Antoine Devenant had never dabbled in matters of love.
He viewed all women from the same stand-point--respected them
for their virtues, and often spoke of the goodness of heart
of the sex, but never dreamed of taking to himself a wife.
The unequalled beauty of Clotelle had dazzled his eyes,
and every look that she gave was a dagger that went to his heart.
He felt a shortness of breath, his heart palpitated, his head
grew dizzy, and his limbs trembled; but he knew not its cause.
This was the first stage of "love at first sight."
He who bows to the shrine of beauty when beckoned by this
mysterious agent seldom regrets it. Devenant reproached
himself for not having made inquiries concerning the girl
before he left the market in the morning. His stay in
the city was to be short, and the yellow fever was raging,
which caused him to feel like making a still earlier departure.
The disease appeared in a form unusually severe and repulsive.
It seized its victims from amongst the most healthy of the citizens.
The disorder began in the brain by oppressive pain accompanied
or followed by fever. Fiery veins streaked the eye,
the face was inflamed and dyed of a dark dull red color;
the ears from time to time rang painfully. Now mucous secretions
surcharged the tongue and took away the power of speech;
now the sick one spoke, but in speaking had foresight of death.
When the violence of the disease approached the heart, the gums
were blackened. The sleep broken, troubled by convulsions,
or by frightful visions, was worse than the waking hours;
and when the reason sank under a delirium which had its seat
in the brain, repose utterly forsook the patient's couch.
The progress of the fever within was marked by yellowish spots,
which spread over the surface of the body. If then,
a happy crisis came not, all hope was gone. Soon the breath
infected the air with a fetid odor, the lips were glazed,
despair painted itself in the eyes, and sobs, with long
intervals of silence, formed the only language. From each side
of the mouth, spread foam tinged with black and burnt blood.
Blue streaks mingled with the yellow all over the frame.
All remedies were useless. This was the yellow fever.
The disorder spread alarm and confusion throughout the city.
On an average more than four hundred died daily.
In the midst of disorder and confusion, death heaped victims
on victims. Friend followed friend in quick succession.
The sick were avoided from the fear of contagion,
and for the same reason the dead were left unburied.
Nearly two thousand dead bodies lay uncovered in the burial-ground,
with only here and there a little lime thrown over them,
to prevent the air becoming infected. The negro, whose home
is in a hot climate, was not proof against the disease.
Many plantations had to suspend their work for want of slaves
to take the places of those who had been taken off by the fever.
MEETING OF THE COUSINS
THE clock in the hall had scarcely finished striking three when
Mr. Taylor entered his own dwelling, a fine residence in Camp Street,
New Orleans, followed by the slave-girl whom he had just purchased
at the negro-pen. Clotelle looked around wildly as she passed
through the hall into the presence of her new mistress.
Mrs. Taylor was much pleased with her servant's appearance,
and congratulated her husband on his judicious choice.
"But," said Mrs. Taylor, after Clotelle had gone into the kitchen,
"how much she looks like Miss Jane Morton."
"Indeed," replied the husband, "I thought, the moment I saw
her that she looked like the Mortons."
"I am sure I never saw two faces more alike in my life,
than that girl's and Jane Morton's," continued Mrs. Taylor.
Dr. Morton, the purchaser of Marion, the youngest daughter
of Agnes, and sister to Isabella, had resided in Camp Street,
near the Taylors, for more than eight years, and the families
were on very intimate terms, and visited each other frequently.
Every one spoke of Clotelle's close resemblance to the Mortons,
and especially to the eldest daughter. Indeed, two sisters
could hardly have been more alike. The large, dark eyes, black,
silk-like hair, tall, graceful figure, and mould of the face,
were the same.
The morning following Clotelle's arrival in her new home,
Mrs. Taylor was conversing in a low tone with her husband,
and both with their eyes following Clotelle as she passed
through the room.
"She is far above the station of a slave," remarked the lady.
"I saw her, last night, when removing some books, open on and stand
over it a moment as if she was reading; and she is as white as I am.
I am almost sorry you bought her."
At this juncture the front door-bell rang, and Clotelle hurried
through the room to answer it.
"Miss Morton," said the servant as she returned to the mistress' room.
"Ask her to walk in," responded the mistress.
"Now, my dear," said Mrs. Taylor to her husband, "just look and see
if you do not notice a marked resemblance between the countenances
of Jane and Clotelle."
Miss Morton entered the room just as Mrs. Taylor ceased speaking.
"Have you heard that the Jamisons are down with the fever?"
inquired the young lady, after asking about the health
of the Taylors.
"No, I had not; I was in hopes it would not get into our street,"
replied Mrs. Taylor.
All this while Mr. and Mrs. Taylor were keenly scrutinizing
their visitor and Clotelle and even the two young women seemed to be conscious
that they were in some way the objects of more than usual attention.
Miss Morton had scarcely departed before Mrs. Taylor began
questioning Clotelle concerning her early childhood, and became
more than ever satisfied that the slave-girl was in some way
connected with the Mortons.
Every hour brought fresh news of the ravages of the fever,
and the Taylors commenced preparing to leave town.
As Mr. Taylor could not go at once, it was determined that his wife
should leave without him, accompanied by her new maid-servant.
Just as Mrs. Taylor and Clotelle were stepping into the carriage,
they were informed that Dr. Morton was down with the epidemic.
It was a beautiful day, with a fine breeze for the time of year,
that Mrs. Taylor and her servant found themselves in the cabin of the splendid
new steamer "Walk-in-the-Water," bound from New Orleans to Mobile.
Every berth in the boat was occupied by persons fleeing from the fearful
contagion that was carrying off its hundreds daily.
Late in the day, as Clotelle was standing at one of the windows
of the ladies' saloon, she was astonished to see near her,
and with eyes fixed intently upon her, the tall young stranger
whom she had observed in the slave-market a few days before.
She turned hastily away, but the heated cabin and the want
of fresh air soon drove her again to the window.
The young gentleman again appeared, and coming to the end
of the saloon, spoke to the slave-girl in broken English.
This confirmed her in her previous opinion that he was a foreigner,
and she rejoiced that she had not fallen into his hands.
"I want to talk with you," said the stranger.
"What do you want with me?" she inquired. "I am your friend," he answered.
"I saw you in the slave-market last week, and regretted that I did not speak
to you then. I returned in the evening, but you was gone."
Clotelle looked indignantly at the stranger, and was about leaving
the window again when the quivering of his lips and the trembling
of his voice struck her attention and caused her to remain.
"I intended to buy you and make you free and happy, but I
was too late," continued he.
"Why do you wish to make me free?" inquired the girl.
"Because I once had an only and lovely sister, who died three years
ago in France, and you are so much like her that had I not known
of her death I should certainly have taken you for her."
"However much I may resemble your sister, you are aware that I
am not she; why, then, take so much interest in one whom you
have never seen before and may never see again?"
"The love," said he, "which I had for my sister is transferred to you."
Clotelle had all along suspected that the man was a knave,
and this profession of love at once confirmed her in that belief.
She therefore immediately turned away and left him.
Hours elapsed. Twilight was just "letting down her curtain and pinning it
with a star," as the slave-girl seated herself on a sofa by the window,
and began meditating upon her eventful history, meanwhile watching the white
waves as they seemed to sport with each other in the wake of the noble vessel,
with the rising moon reflecting its silver rays upon the splendid scene,
when the foreigner once more appeared near the window. Although agitated
for fear her mistress would see her talking to a stranger, and be angry,
Clotelle still thought she saw something in the countenance of the young man
that told her he was sincere, and she did not wish to hurt his feelings.
"Why persist in your wish to talk with me?" she said, as he again
advanced and spoke to her.
"I wish to purchase you and make you happy," returned he.
"But I am not for sale now," she replied. "My present mistress
will not sell me, and if you wished to do so ever so much
you could not."
"Then," said he, "if I cannot buy you, when the steamer reaches Mobile,
fly with me, and you shall be free."
"I cannot do it," said Clotelle; and she was just leaving
the stranger when he took from his pocket a piece of paper
and thrust it into her hand.
After returning to her room, she unfolded the paper, and found,
to her utter astonishment that it contained a one hundred dollar note
on the Bank of the United States. The first impulse of the girl
was to return the paper and its contents immediately to the giver,
but examining the paper more closely, she saw in faint pencil-marks,
"Remember this is from one who loves you." Another thought was to give
it to her mistress, and she returned to the saloon for that purpose;
but on finding Mrs. Taylor engaged in conversation with some ladies,
she did not deem it proper to interrupt her.
Again, therefore, Clotelle seated herself by the window,
and again the stranger presented himself. She immediately
took the paper from her pocket, and handed it to him;
but he declined taking it, saying,--
"No, keep it; it may be of some service to you when I am far away."
"Would that I could understand you," said the slave.
"Believe that I am sincere, and then you will understand me,"
returned the young man. "Would you rather be a slave than be free?"
inquired he, with tears that glistened in the rays of the moon.
"No," said she, "I want my freedom, but I must live a virtuous life."
"Then, if you would be free and happy, go with me. We shall be in Mobile
in two hours, and when the passengers are going on shore, you take my arm.
Have your face covered with a veil, and you will not be observed.
We will take passage immediately for France; you can pass as my sister,
and I pledge you my honor that I will marry you as soon as we
arrive in France."
This solemn promise, coupled with what had previously been said,
gave Clotelle confidence in the man, and she instantly determined to go
with him. "But then," thought she, "what if I should be detected?
I would be forever ruined, for I would be sold, and in all probability
have to end my days on a cotton, rice, or sugar plantation."
However, the thought of freedom in the future outweighed this danger,
and her resolve was taken.
Dressing herself in some of her best clothes, and placing her veiled
bonnet where she could get it without the knowledge of her mistress,
Clotelle awaited with a heart filled with the deepest emotions and
anxiety the moment when she was to take a step which seemed so rash,
and which would either make or ruin her forever.
The ships which Mobile for Europe lie about thirty miles down the bay,
and passengers are taken down from the city in small vessels.
The "Walk-in-the-Water" had just made her lines fast, and the
passengers were hurrying on shore, when a tall gentleman with a lady
at his side descended the stage-plank, and stepped on the wharf.
This was Antoine Devenant and Clotelle.
THE LAW AND ITS VICTIM
THE death of Dr. Morton, on the third day of his illness,
came like a shock upon his wife and daughters.
The corpse had scarcely been committed to its mother earth
before new and unforeseen difficulties appeared to them.
By the laws of the Slave States, the children follow
the condition of their mother. If the mother is free,
the children are free; if a slave, the children are slaves.
Being unacquainted with the Southern code, and no one
presuming that Marion had any negro blood in her veins,
Dr. Morton had not given the subject a single thought.
The woman whom he loved and regarded as his wife was,
after all, nothing more than a slave by the laws of the State.
What would have been his feelings had he known that at his death
his wife and children would be considered as his property?
Yet such was the case. Like most men of means at that time,
Dr. Morton was deeply engaged in speculation, and though
generally considered wealthy, was very much involved in
his business affairs.
After the disease with which Dr. Morton had so suddenly died
had to some extent subsided, Mr. James Morton, a brother
of the deceased, went to New Orleans to settle up the estate.
On his arrival there, he was pleased with and felt proud
of his nieces, and invited them to return with him to Vermont,
little dreaming that his brother had married a slave,
and that his widow and daughters would be claimed as such.
The girls themselves had never heard that their mother had been
a slave, and therefore knew nothing of the danger hanging
over their heads.
An inventory of the property of the deceased was made out by Mr. Morton,
and placed in the hands of the creditors. These preliminaries
being arranged, the ladies, with their relative, concluded to leave
the city and reside for a few days on the banks of Lake Ponchartrain,
where they could enjoy a fresh air that the city did not afford.
As they were about taking the cars, however, an officer arrested
the whole party--the ladies as slaves, and the gentleman upon the charge
of attempting to conceal the property of his deceased brother.
Mr. Morton was overwhelmed with horror at the idea of his nieces being
claimed as slaves, and asked for time, that he might save them from
such a fate. He even offered to mortgage his little farm in Vermont
for the amount which young slave-women of their ages would fetch.
But the creditors pleaded that they were an "extra article,"
and would sell for more than common slaves, and must therefore
be sold at auction.
The uncle was therefore compelled to give them up to the officers of the law,
and they were separated from him. Jane, the oldest of the girls, as we
have before mentioned, was very handsome, bearing a close resemblance
to her cousin Clotelle. Alreka, though not as handsome as her sister,
was nevertheless a beautiful girl, and both had all the accomplishments
that wealth and station could procure.
Though only in her fifteen year, Alreka had become strongly attached
to Volney Lapie, a young Frenchman, a student in her father's office.
This attachment was reciprocated, although the poverty of the young man
and the extreme youth of the girl had caused their feelings to be kept
from the young lady's parents.
The day of sale came, and Mr. Morton attended, with the hope
that either the magnanimity of the creditors or his own little farm
in Vermont might save his nieces from the fate that awaited them.
His hope, however, was in vain. The feelings of all present
seemed to be lost in the general wish to become the possessor
of the young ladies, who stood trembling, blushing, and weeping
as the numerous throng gazed at them, or as the intended purchaser
examined the graceful proportions of their fair and beautiful frames.
Neither the presence of the uncle nor young Lapie could at all
lessen the gross language of the officers, or stay the rude hands
of those who wishes to examine the property thus offered for sale.
After a fierce contest between the bidders, the girls were sold,
one for two thousand three hundred, and the other for two thousand
three hundred and fifty dollars. Had these girls been bought
for servants only, they would in all probability have brought
not more than nine hundred or a thousand dollars each. Here were
two beautiful young girls, accustomed to the fondest indulgence,
surrounded by all the refinements of life, and with the timidity
and gentleness which such a life would naturally produce,
bartered away like cattle in the markets of Smithfield or New York.
The mother, who was also to have been sold, happily followed her husband
to the grave, and was spared the pangs of a broken heart.
The purchaser of the young ladies left the market in triumph,
and the uncle, with a heavy heart, started for his New England home,
with no earthly prospect of ever beholding his nieces again.
The seizure of the young ladies as slaves was the result
of the administrator's having found among Dr. Morton's papers
the bill-of-sale of Marion which he had taken when he purchased her.
He had doubtless intended to liberate her when he married her,
but had neglected from time to time to have the proper papers made out.
Sad was the result of this negligence.
ON once gaining the wharf, Devenant and Clotelle found
no difficulty in securing an immediate passage to France.
The fine packet-ship Utica lay down the bay, and only
awaited the return of the lighter that night to complete
her cargo and list of passengers, ere she departed.
The young Frenchman therefore took his prize on board,
and started for the ship.
Daylight was just making its appearance the next morning when
the Utica weighed anchor and turned her prow toward the sea.
In the course of three hours, the vessel, with outspread sails,
was rapidly flying from land. Everything appeared to be auspicious.
The skies were beautifully clear, and the sea calm, with a sun
that dazzled the whole scene. But clouds soon began to chase
each other through the heavens, and the sea became rough.
It was then that Clotelle felt that there was hoped of escaping.
She had hitherto kept in the cabin, but now she expressed a wish
to come on deck. The hanging clouds were narrowing the horizon
to a span, and gloomily mingling with the rising surges.
The old and grave-looking seamen shook their weather-wise
heads as if foretelling a storm.
As Clotelle came on deck, she strained her eyes in vain to catch
a farewell view of her native land. With a smile on her countenance,
but with her eyes filled with tears, she said,--
"Farewell, farewell to the land of my birth, and welcome, welcome, ye dark
blue waves. I care not where I go, so it is
'Where a tyrant never trod,
Where a slave was never known,
But where nature worships God,
If in the wilderness alone.'"
Devenant stood by her side, seeming proud of his future wife,
with his face in a glow at his success, while over his noble brow
clustering locks of glossy black hair were hanging in careless ringlets.
His finely-cut, classic features wore the aspect of one possessed
with a large and noble heart.
Once more the beautiful Clotelle whispered in the ear of her lover,--
"Away, away, o'er land and sea,
America is now no home for me."
The winds increased with nightfall, and impenetrable gloom surrounded
the ship. The prospect was too uncheering, even to persons in love.
The attention which Devenant paid to Clotelle, although she had been
registered on the ship's passenger list as his sister, caused more
than one to look upon his as an agreeable travelling companion.
His tall, slender figure and fine countenance bespoke for him
at first sight one's confidence. That he was sincerely and deeply
enamored of Clotelle all could see.
The weather became still more squally. The wind rushed through the white,
foaming waves, and the ship groaned with its own wild and ungovernable
labors, while nothing could be seen but the wild waste of waters.
The scene was indeed one of fearful sublimity.
Day came and went without any abatement of the storm.
Despair was now on every countenance. Occasionally a vivid
flash of lightning would break forth and illuminate the black
and boiling surges that surrounded the vessel, which was now
scudding before the blast under bare poles.
After five days of most intensely stormy weather, the sea settled
down into a dead calm, and the passengers flocked on deck.
During the last three days of the storm, Clotelle had been
so unwell as to be unable to raise her head. Her pale face and
quivering lips and languid appearance made her look as if every
pulsation had ceased. Her magnificent large and soft eyes,
fringed with lashes as dark as night, gave her an angelic appearance.
The unreserved attention of Devenant, even when sea-sick himself,
did much to increase the little love that the at first distrustful
girl had placed in him. The heart must always have some object
on which to centre its affections, and Clotelle having lost all hope
of ever again seeing Jerome, it was but natural that she should
now transfer her love to one who was so greatly befriending her.
At first she respected Devenant for the love he manifested for her,
and for his apparent willingness to make any sacrifice for her welfare.
True, this was an adventure upon which she had risked her all,
and should her heart be foiled in this search for hidden treasures,
her affections would be shipwrecked forever. She felt under
great obligations to the man who had thus effected her escape,
and that noble act alone would entitle him to her love.
Each day became more pleasant as the noble ship sped onward amid the
rippled spray. The whistling of the breeze through the rigging was music
to the ear, and brought gladness to the heart of every one on board.
At last, the long suspense was broken by the appearance of land,
at which all hearts leaped for joy. It was a beautiful morning in October.
The sun had just risen, and sky and earth were still bathed in his soft,
rosy glow, when the Utica hauled into the dock at Bordeaux.
The splendid streets, beautiful bridges, glittering equipages,
and smiling countenances of the people, gave everything a happy appearance,
after a voyage of twenty-nine days on the deep, deep sea.
After getting their baggage cleared from the custom-house and going
to a hotel, Devenant made immediate arrangements for the marriage.
Clotelle, on arriving at the church where the ceremony was
to take place, was completely overwhelmed at the spectacle.
She had never beheld a scene so gorgeous as this. The magnificent
dresses of the priests and choristers, the deep and solemn voices,
the elevated crucifix, the burning tapers, the splendidly decorated altar,
the sweet-smelling incense, made the occasion truly an imposing one.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the loud and solemn peals of
the organ's swelling anthem were lost to all in the contemplation
of the interesting scene.
The happy couple set out at once for Dunkirk, the residence
of the bridegroom's parents. But their stay there was short,
for they had scarcely commenced visiting the numerous friends
of the husband ere orders came for him to proceed to India
to join that portion of the French army then stationed there.
In due course of time they left for India, passing through Paris and Lyons,
taking ship at Marseilles. In the metropolis of France, they spent a week,
where the husband took delight in introducing his wife to his brother officers
in the French army, and where the newly-married couple were introduced
to Louis Philippe, then King of France. In all of these positions,
Clotelle sustained herself in a most ladylike manner.
At Lyons, they visited the vast factories and other public works,
and all was pleasure with them. The voyage from Marseilles to
Calcutta was very pleasant, as the weather was exceedingly fine.
On arriving in India, Captain Devenant and lady were received
with honors--the former for his heroic bravery in more than
one battle, and the latter for her fascinating beauty and
pleasing manners, and the fact that she was connected with one
who was a general favorite with all who had his acquaintance.
This was indeed a great change for Clotelle. Six months had not
elapsed since her exposure in the slave-market of New Orleans.
This life is a stage, and we are indeed all actors.
THE HERO OF A NIGHT
MOUNTED on a fast horse, with the Quaker's son for a guide,
Jerome pressed forward while Uncle Joseph was detaining
the slave-catchers at the barn-door, through which the fugitive
had just escaped. When out of present danger, fearing that
suspicion might be aroused if he continued on the road in open day,
Jerome buried himself in a thick, dark forest until nightfall.
With a yearning heart, he saw the splendor of the setting sun
lingering on the hills, as if loath to fade away and be lost
in the more sombre hues of twilight, which, rising from the east,
was slowly stealing over the expanse of heaven, bearing silence
and repose, which should cover his flight from a neighborhood
to him so full of dangers.
Wearily and alone, with nothing but the hope of safety
before him to cheer him on his way, the poor fugitive urged
his tired and trembling limbs forward for several nights.
The new suit of clothes with which he had provided himself
when he made his escape from his captors, and the twenty
dollars which the young Quaker had slipped into his hand,
when bidding him "Fare thee well," would enable him to appear
genteelly as soon as he dared to travel by daylight, and would
thus facilitate his progress toward freedom.
It was late in the evening when the fugitive slave arrived at a small
town on the banks of Lake Erie, where he was to remain over night.
How strange were his feelings! While his heart throbbed for that freedom
and safety which Canada alone could furnish to the whip-scarred slave,
on the American continent, his thoughts were with Clotelle.
Was she still in prison, and if so, what would be her punishment
for aiding him to escape from prison? Would he ever behold her again?
These were the thoughts that followed him to his pillow, haunted him
in his dreams, and awakened him from his slumbers.
The alarm of fire aroused the inmates of the hotel in which Jerome had sought
shelter for the night from the deep sleep into which they had fallen.
The whole village was buried in slumber, and the building was half consumed
before the frightened inhabitants had reached the scene of the conflagration.
The wind was high, and the burning embers were wafted like so many
rockets through the sky. The whole town was lighted up, and the cries
of women and children in the streets made the scene a terrific one.
Jerome heard the alarm, and hastily dressing himself, he went forth
and hastened toward the burning building.
"There,--there in that room in the second story, is my child!"
exclaimed a woman, wringing her hands, and imploring some one to go
to the rescue of her little one.
The broad sheets of fire were flying in the direction of the chamber in
which the child was sleeping, and all hope of its being saved seemed gone.
Occasionally the wind would life the pall of smoke, and show that the work
of destruction was not yet complete. At last a long ladder was brought,
and one end placed under the window of the room. A moment more and
a bystander mounted the ladder and ascended in haste to the window.
The smoke met him as he raised the sash, and he cried out, "All is lost!"
and returned to the ground without entering the room.
Another sweep of the wind showed that the destroying element had
not yet made its final visit to that part of the doomed building.
The mother, seeing that all hope of again meeting her child in this
world was gone, wrung her hands and seemed inconsolable with grief.
At this juncture, a man was seen to mount the ladder,
and ascend with great rapidity. All eyes were instantly
turned to the figure of this unknown individual as it
disappeared in the cloud of smoke escaping from the window.
Those who a moment before had been removing furniture, as well
as the idlers who had congregated at the ringing of the bells,
assembled at the foot of the ladder, and awaited with breathless
silence the reappearance of the stranger, who, regardless of his
own safety, had thus risked his life to save another's. Three
cheers broke the stillness that had fallen on the company,
as the brave man was seen coming through the window and slowly
descending to the ground holding under one arm the inanimate
form of the child. Another cheer and then another,
made the welkin ring, as the stranger, with hair burned and
eyebrows closely singed, fainted at the foot of the ladder.
But the child was saved.
The stranger was Jerome. As soon as he revived, he shrunk from every eye,
as if he feared they would take from him the freedom which he had gone
through so much to obtain.
The next day, the fugitive took a vessel, and the following
morning found himself standing on the free soil of Canada.
As his foot pressed the shore, he threw himself upon his face,
kissed the earth, and exclaimed, "O God! I thank thee that I
am a free man."
THE history of the African race is God's illuminated clock,
set in the dark steeple of time. The negro has been made the hewer
of wood and the drawer of water for nearly all other nations.
The people of the United States, however, will have an account
to settle with God, owing to their treatment of the negro,
which will far surpass the rest of mankind.
Jerome, on reaching Canada, felt for the first time that
personal freedom which God intended that all who bore his image
should enjoy. That same forgetfulness of self which had
always characterized him now caused him to think of others.
The thoughts of dear ones in slavery were continually in his mind,
and above all others, Clotelle occupied his thoughts.
Now that he was free, he could better appreciate her condition
as a slave. Although Jerome met, on his arrival in Canada,
numbers who had escaped from the Southern States, he nevertheless
shrank from all society, particularly that of females.
The soft, silver-gray tints on the leaves of the trees,
with their snow-spotted trunks, and a biting air,
warned the new-born freeman that he was in another climate.
Jerome sought work, and soon found it; and arranged with his employer
that the latter should go to Natchez in search of Clotelle.
The good Scotchman, for whom the fugitive was laboring,
freely offered to go down and purchase the girl,
if she could be bought, and let Jerome pay him in work.
With such a prospect of future happiness in view,
this injured descendent of outraged and bleeding Africa went
daily to his toil with an energy hitherto unknown to him.
But oh, how vain are the hopes of man!
FAREWELL TO AMERICA
THREE months had elapsed, from the time the fugitive commenced work
for Mr. Streeter, when that gentleman returned from his Southern research,
and informed Jerome that Parson Wilson had sold Clotelle, and that she
had been sent to the New Orleans slave-market.
This intelligence fell with crushing weight upon the heart of Jerome,
and he now felt that the last chain which bound him to his native
land was severed. He therefore determined to leave America forever.
His nearest and dearest friends had often been flogged in his very presence,
and he had seen his mother sold to the negro-trader. An only sister had been
torn from him by the soul-driver; he had himself been sold and resold,
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