Clotelle; or The Colored Heroine
William Wells Brown
Part 3 out of 3
and been compelled to submit to the most degrading and humiliating insults;
and now that the woman upon whom his heart doted, and without whom
life was a burden, had been taken away forever, he felt it a duty
to hate all mankind.
If there is one thing more than another calculated to make one hate and
detest American slavery, it is to witness the meetings between fugitives
and their friends in Canada. Jerome had beheld some of these scenes.
The wife who, after years of separation, had escaped from her
prison-house and followed her husband had told her story to him.
He had seen the newly-arrived wife rush into the arms of the husband,
whose dark face she had not looked upon for long, weary years.
Some told of how a sister had been ill-used by the overseer; others of a
husband's being whipped to death for having attempted to protect his wife.
He had sat in the little log-hut, by the fireside, and heard tales that
caused his heart to bleed; and his bosom swelled with just indignation
when he though that there was no remedy for such atrocious acts.
It was with such feelings that he informed his employer that he should
leave him at the expiration of a month.
In vain did Mr. Streeter try to persuade Jerome to remain with him; and late
in the month of February, the latter found himself on board a small vessel
loaded with pine-lumber, descending the St. Lawrence, bound for Liverpool.
The bark, though an old one, was, nevertheless, considered seaworthy,
and the fugitive was working his way out. As the vessel left the river
and gained the open sea, the black man appeared to rejoice at the prospect
of leaving a country in which his right to manhood had been denied him,
and his happiness destroyed.
The wind was proudly swelling the white sails, and the little
craft plunging into the foaming waves, with the land fast
receding in the distance, when Jerome mounted a pile
of lumber to take a last farewell of his native land.
With tears glistening in his eyes, and with quivering lips,
he turned his gaze toward the shores that were fast fading
in the dim distance, and said,--
"Though forced from my native land by the tyrants of the South,
I hope I shall some day be able to return. With all her faults,
I love my country still."
A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
THE rain was falling on the dirty pavements of Liverpool as Jerome left
the vessel after her arrival. Passing the custom-house, he took a cab,
and proceeded to Brown's Hotel, Clayton Square.
Finding no employment in Liverpool, Jerome determined to go into
the interior and seek for work. He, therefore, called for his bill,
and made ready for his departure. Although but four days at
the Albion, he found the hotel charges larger than he expected;
but a stranger generally counts on being "fleeced" in travelling
through the Old World, and especially in Great Britain.
After paying his bill, he was about leaving the room, when one
of the servants presented himself with a low bow, and said,--
"Something for the waiter, sir?"
"I thought I had paid my bill," replied the man, somewhat surprised
at this polite dun.
"I am the waiter, sir, and gets only what strangers see fit to give me."
Taking from his pocket his nearly empty purse, Jerome handed
the man a half-crown; but he had hardly restored it to his pocket,
before his eye fell on another man in the waiting costume.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Whatever your honor sees fit to give me, sir. I am the tother waiter."
The purse was again taken from the pocket, and another half-crown handed out.
Stepping out into the hall, he saw standing there a good-looking woman,
in a white apron, who made a very pretty courtesy.
"What's your business?" he inquired.
"I am the chambermaid, sir, and looks after the gentlemen's beds."
Out came the purse again, and was relieved of another half-crown;
whereupon another girl, with a fascinating smile, took the place
of the one who had just received her fee.
"What do you want?" demanded the now half-angry Jerome.
"Please, sir, I am the tother chambermaid."
Finding it easier to give shillings than half-crowns, Jerome handed
the woman a shilling, and again restored his purse to his pocket,
glad that another woman was not to be seen.
Scarcely had he commenced congratulating himself, however, before three men
made their appearance, one after another.
"What have *you* done for me?" he asked of the first.
"I am the boots, sir."
The purse came out once more, and a shilling was deposited
in the servant's hand.
"What do I owe you?" he inquired of the second.
"I took your honor's letter to the post, yesterday, sir."
Another shilling left the purse.
"In the name of the Lord, what am I indebted to you for?" demanded Jerome,
now entirely out of patience, turning to the last of the trio.
"I told yer vership vot time it vas, this morning."
"Well!" exclaimed the indignant man, "ask here who o'clock it is,
and you have got to pay for it."
He paid this last demand with a sixpence, regretting that he had not commenced
with sixpences instead of half-crowns.
Having cleared off all demands in the house, he started
for the railway station; but had scarcely reached the street,
before he was accosted by an old man with a broom in his hand,
who, with an exceedingly low bow, said,--
"I is here, yer lordship."
"I did not send for you; what is your business?" demanded Jerome.
"I is the man what opened your lordship's cab-door, when your lordship
came to the house on Monday last, and I know your honor won't allow
a poor man to starve."
Putting a sixpence in the old man's hand, Jerome once more started
for the depot. Having obtained letters of introduction to persons
in Manchester, he found no difficulty in getting a situation in a
large manufacturing house there. Although the salary was small,
yet the situation was a much better one than he had hoped to obtain.
His compensation as out-door clerk enabled him to employ a man to teach
him at night, and, by continued study and attention to business,
he was soon promoted.
After three years in his new home, Jerome was placed in a still higher
position, where his salary amounted to fifteen hundred dollars a year.
The drinking, smoking, and other expensive habits, which the clerks
usually indulged in, he carefully avoided.
Being fond of poetry, he turned his attention to literature.
Johnson's "Lives of the Poets," the writings of Dryden, Addison, Pope,
Clarendon, and other authors of celebrity, he read with attention.
The knowledge which he thus picked up during his leisure hours gave
him a great advantage over the other clerks, and caused his employers
to respect him far more than any other in their establishment.
So eager was he to improve the time that he determined to see how much
he could read during the unemployed time of night and morning,
and his success was beyond his expectations.
BROKEN down in health, after ten years of close confinement in his situation,
Jerome resolved to give it up, and thereby release himself from an employment
which seemed calculated to send him to a premature grave.
It was on a beautiful morning in summer that he started
for Scotland, having made up his mind to travel for his health.
After visiting Edinburgh and Glasgow, he concluded to spend
a few days in the old town of Perth, with a friend whose
acquaintance he had made in Manchester. During the second
day of his stay in Perth, while crossing the main street,
Jerome saw a pony-chaise coming toward him with great speed.
A lady, who appeared to be the only occupant of the vehicle,
was using her utmost strength to stop the frightened horses.
The footman, in his fright, had leaped from behind the carriage,
and was following with the crowd. With that self-forgetfulness
which was one of his chief characteristics, Jerome threw himself
before the horses to stop them; and, seizing the high-spirited
animals by the bit, as they dashed by him, he was dragged
several rods before their speed was checked, which was not
accomplished until one of the horses had fallen to the ground,
with the heroic man struggling beneath him.
All present were satisfied that this daring act alone had saved the
lady's life, for the chaise must inevitably have been dashed in pieces,
had the horses not been thus suddenly checked in their mad career.
On the morning following this perilous adventure, Col. G--
called at Jerome's temporary residence, and, after expressing
his admiration for his noble daring, and thanking him for having
saved his daughter's life, invited him to visit him at his
country residence. This invitation was promptly accepted
in the spirit in which it was given; and three days after,
Jerome found himself at the princely residence of the father
of the lady for whose safety he had risked his own life.
The house was surrounded by fine trees, and a sweet little
stream ran murmuring at the foot, while beds of flowers
on every hand shed their odors on the summer air.
It was, indeed, a pleasant place to spend the warm weather,
and the colonel and his family gave Jerome a most cordial welcome.
Miss G. showed especial attention to the stranger.
He had not intended remaining longer than the following day:
but the family insisted on his taking part in a fox-hunt
that was to come off on the morning of the third day.
Wishing to witness a scene as interesting as the chase usually
proves to be, he decided to remain.
Fifteen persons, five of whom were ladies, were on the ground
at the appointed hour. Miss G. was, of course, one of the party.
In vain Jerome endeavored to excuse himself from joining in the chase.
His plea of ill-health was only met by smiles from the young ladies,
and the reply that a ride would effect a cure.
Dressed in a scarlet coat and high boots, with the low,
round cap worn in the chase, Jerome mounted a high-spirited
horse, whip in hand, and made himself one of the party.
In America, riding is a necessity; in England, it is a pleasure.
Young men and women attend riding-school in our fatherland,
and consider that they are studying a science. Jerome was no rider.
He had not been on horseback for more than ten years,
and as soon as he mounted, every one saw that he was a novice,
and a smile was on the countenance of each member of the company.
The blowing of the horn, and assembling of the hounds, and finally the release
of the fox from his close prison, were the signals for the chase to commence.
The first half-mile the little animal took his course over a beautiful field
where there was neither hedge nor ditch. Thus far the chase was enjoyed
by all, even by the American rider, who was better fitted to witness the scene
than to take part in it.
We left Jerome in our last reluctantly engaged in the chase;
and though the first mile or so of the pursuit, which was over
smooth meadow-land, had had an exhilarating effect upon his mind,
and tended somewhat to relieve him of the embarrassment consequent upon
his position, he nevertheless still felt that he was far from being
in his proper element. Besides, the fox had now made for a dense
forest which lay before, and he saw difficulties in that direction
which to him appeared insurmountable.
Away went the huntsmen, over stone walls, high fences, and deep ditches.
Jerome saw the ladies even leading the gentlemen, but this could
not inspire him. They cleared the fences, four and five feet high
with perfect ease, showing they were quite at home in the saddle.
But alas for the poor American! As his fine steed came up to
the first fence, and was about to make the leap, Jerome pulled at
the bridle, and cried at the top of his voice, "Whoa! whoa! whoa!"
the horse at the same time capering about, and appearing determined
to keep up with the other animals.
Away dashed the huntsmen, following the hounds, and all
were soon lost to the view of their colored companion.
Jerome rode up and down the field looking for a gate or bars,
that he might get through without risking his neck.
Finding, however, that all hope of again catching up with the party
was out of the question, he determined to return to the house,
under a plea of sudden illness, and back he accordingly went.
"I hope no accident has happened to your honor," said the groom,
as he met our hero at the gate.
"A slight dizziness," was the answer.
One of the servants, without being ordered, went at once for
the family physician. Ashamed to own that his return was owing
to his inability to ride, Jerome resolved to feign sickness.
The doctor came, felt his pulse, examined his tongue,
and pronounced him a sick man. He immediately ordered a tepid bath,
and sent for a couple of leeches.
Seeing things taking such a serious turn, the American began
to regret the part he was playing; for there was no fun
in being rubbed and leeched when one was in perfect health.
He had gone too far to recede, however, and so submitted
quietly to the directions of the doctor; and, after following
the injunctions given by that learned Esculapius, was put to bed.
Shortly after, the sound of the horns and the yelp of the hounds announced
that the poor fox had taken the back track, and was repassing near the house.
Even the pleasure of witnessing the beautiful sight from the window was denied
our hero; for the physician had ordered that he must be kept in perfect quiet.
The chase was at last over, and the huntsmen all in, sympathizing with their
lost companion. After nine days of sweating, blistering, and leeching,
Jerome left his bed convalescent, but much reduced in flesh and strength.
This was his first and last attempt to follow the fox and hounds.
During his fortnight's stay at Colonel G.', Jerome spent most of his time
in the magnificent library. Claude did not watch with more interest every
color of the skies, the trees, the grass, and the water, to learn from nature,
than did this son of a despised race search books to obtain that knowledge
which his early life as a slave had denied him.
THE MYSTERIOUS MEETING
AFTER more than a fortnight spent in the highlands of Scotland,
Jerome passed hastily through London on his way to the continent.
It was toward sunset, on a warm day in October, shortly after
his arrival in France, that, after strolling some distance from
the Hotel de Leon, in the old and picturesque town of Dunkirk,
he entered a burial-ground--such places being always favorite
walks with him--and wandered around among the silent dead.
All nature around was hushed in silence, and seemed to partake
of the general melancholy that hung over the quiet resting-place
of the departed. Even the birds seemed imbued with the spirit
of the place, for they were silent, either flying noiselessly
over the graves, or jumping about in the tall grass.
After tracing the various inscriptions that told the characters
and conditions of the deceased, and viewing the mounds
beneath which the dust of mortality slumbered, he arrived
at a secluded spot near where an aged weeping willow bowed
its thick foliage to the ground, as though anxious to hide
from the scrutinizing gaze of curiosity the grave beneath it.
Jerome seated himself on a marble tombstone, and commenced
reading from a book which he had carried under his arm.
It was now twilight, and he had read but a few minutes when
he observed a lady, attired in deep black, and leading a boy,
apparently some five or six years old, coming up one of the beautiful,
winding paths. As the lady's veil was drawn closely over
her face, he felt somewhat at liberty to eye her more closely.
While thus engaged, the lady gave a slight scream,
and seemed suddenly to have fallen into a fainting condition.
Jerome sprang from his seat, and caught her in time to save
her from falling to the ground.
At this moment an elderly gentleman, also dressed in black,
was seen approaching with a hurried step, which seemed
to indicate that he was in some way connected with the lady.
The old man came up, and in rather a confused manner inquired
what had happened, and Jerome explained matters as well
as he was able to do so. After taking up the vinaigrette,
which had fallen from her hand, and holding the bottle
a short time to her face, the lady began to revive.
During all this time, the veil had still partly covered
the face of the fair one, so that Jerome had scarcely seen it.
When she had so far recovered as to be able to look around her,
she raised herself slightly, and again screamed and swooned.
The old man now feeling satisfied that Jerome's dark
complexion was the immediate cause of the catastrophe,
said in a somewhat petulant tone,--
"I will be glad, sir, if you will leave us alone."
The little boy at this juncture set up a loud cry, and amid
the general confusion, Jerome left the ground and returned
to his hotel.
While seated at the window of his room looking out upon the crowded street,
with every now and then the strange scene in the graveyard vividly before him,
Jerome suddenly thought of the book he had been reading, and, remembering that
he had left it on the tombstone, where he dropped it when called to the
lady's assistance, he determined to return for it at once.
After a walk of some twenty minutes, he found himself again in
the burial-ground and on the spot where he had been an hour before.
The pensive moon was already up, and its soft light was sleeping
on the little pond at the back of the grounds, while the stars seemed
smiling at their own sparkling rays gleaming up from the beautiful
sheet of water.
Jerome searched in vain for his book; it was nowhere to be found.
Nothing, save the bouquet that the lady had dropped, and which
lay half-buried in the grass, from having been trodden upon,
indicated that any one had been there that evening.
The stillness of death reigned over the place; even the little birds,
that had before been twittering and flying about, had retired
for the night.
Taking up the bunch of flowers, Jerome returned to his hotel. "What can
this mean?" he would ask himself; "and why should they take my book?"
These questions he put to himself again and again during his walk.
His sleep was broken more than once that night, and he welcomed the early
dawn as it made its appearance.
THE HAPPY MEETING
AFTER passing a sleepless night, and hearing the clock strike six, Jerome took
from his table a book, and thus endeavored to pass away the hours before
breakfast-time. While thus engaged, a servant entered and handed him a note.
Hastily tearing it open, Jerome read as follows:--
"SIR,--I owe you an apology for the abrupt manner in which I addressed
you last evening, and the inconvenience to which you were subjected
by some of my household. If you will honor us with your presence to-day
at four o'clock, I will be most happy to give you due satisfaction.
My servant will be waiting with the carriage at half-past three.
I am, sir, yours, &c., J. DEVENANT
JEROME FLETCHER, Esq.
Who this gentleman was, and how he had found out his name
and the hotel at which he was stopping, were alike mysteries
to Jerome. And this note seemed to his puzzled brain like
a challenge. "Satisfaction?" He had not asked for satisfaction.
However, he resolved to accept the invitation, and, if need be,
meet the worst. At any rate, this most mysterious and complicated
affair would be explained.
The clock on a neighboring church had scarcely finished striking three
when a servant announced to Jerome that a carriage had called for him.
In a few minutes, he was seated in a sumptuous barouche, drawn by a pair
of beautiful iron-grays, and rolling over a splendid gravel road
entirely shaded by trees, which appeared to have been the accumulated
growth of many centuries. The carriage soon stopped at a low villa,
which was completely embowered in trees.
Jerome alighted, and was shown into a superb room, with the walls
finely decorated with splendid tapestry, and the ceilings
exquisitely frescoed. The walls were hung with fine specimens
from the hands of the great Italian masters, and one by a
German artist, representing a beautiful monkish legend connected
with the "Holy Catharine," an illustrious lady of Alexandria.
High-backed chairs stood around the room, rich curtains
of crimson damask hung in folds on either side of the window,
and a beautiful, rick, Turkey carpet covered the floor.
In the centre of the room stood a table covered with books,
in the midst of which was a vase of fresh flowers, loading the
atmosphere with their odors. A faint light, together with the quiet
of the hour, gave beauty beyond description to the whole scene.
A half-open door showed a fine marble floor to an adjoining room,
with pictures, statues, and antiquated sofas, and flower-pots
filled with rare plants of every kind and description.
Jerome had scarcely run his eyes over the beauties of the room when the
elderly gentleman whom he had met on the previous evening made his appearance,
followed by the little boy, and introduced himself as Mr. Devenant.
A moment more and a lady, a beautiful brunette, dressed in black,
with long black curls hanging over her shoulders, entered the room.
Her dark, bright eyes flashed as she caught the first sight of Jerome.
The gentleman immediately arose on the entrance of the lady, and Mr. Devenant
was in the act of introducing the stranger when he observed that Jerome
had sunk back upon the sofa, in a faint voice exclaiming,--
"It is she!"
After this, all was dark and dreary. How long he remained in this condition,
it was for others to tell. The lady knelt by his side and wept;
and when he came to, he found himself stretched upon the sofa with
his boots off and his head resting upon a pillow. By his side sat
the old man, with the smelling-bottle in one hand and a glass of water
in the other, while the little boy stood at the foot of the sofa.
As soon as Jerome had so far recovered as to be able to speak, he said,--
"Where am I, and what does all this mean?"
"Wait awhile," replied the old man, "and I will tell you all."
After the lapse of some ten minutes, Jerome arose from the sofa,
adjusted his apparel, and said,--
"I am now ready to hear anything you have to say."
"You were born in America?" said the old man.
"I was," he replied.
"And you knew a girl named Clotelle," continued the old man.
"Yes, and I loved her as I can love none other."
"The lady whom you met so mysteriously last evening was she,"
said Mr. Devenant.
Jerome was silent, but the fountain of mingled grief and joy
stole out from beneath his eyelashes, and glistened like pearls
upon his ebony cheeks.
At this juncture, the lady again entered the room.
With an enthusiasm that can be better imagined than described,
Jerome sprang from the sofa, and they rushed into each other's arms,
to the great surprise of the old gentleman and little Antoine,
and to the amusement of the servants who had crept up, one by
one and were hid behind the doors or loitering in the hall.
When they had given vent to their feelings and sufficiently
recovered their presence of mind, they resumed their seats.
"How did you find out my name and address?" inquired Jerome.
"After you had left the grave-yard," replied Clotelle,
"our little boy said, 'Oh, mamma! if there ain't a book!'
I opened the book, and saw your name written in it, and also found
a card of the Hotel de Leon. Papa wished to leave the book,
and said it was only a fancy of mine that I had ever seen
you before; but I was perfectly convinced that you were my
own dear Jerome."
As she uttered the last words, tears--the sweet bright tears that love
alone can bring forth--bedewed her cheeks.
"Are you married?" now inquired Clotelle, with a palpitating
heart and trembling voice.
"No, I am not, and never have been," was Jerome's reply.
"Then, thank God!" she exclaimed, in broken accents.
It was then that hope gleamed up amid the crushed and broken flowers
of her heart, and a bright flash darted forth like a sunbeam.
"Are you single now?" asked Jerome.
"Yes, I am," was the answer.
"Then you will be mine after all?" said he with a smile.
Her dark, rich hair had partly come down, and hung still
more loosely over her shoulders than when she first appeared;
and her eyes, now full of animation and vivacity,
and her sweet, harmonious, and well-modulated voice,
together with her modesty, self-possession, and engaging
manners, made Clotelle appear lovely beyond description.
Although past the age when men ought to think of matrimony,
yet the scene before Mr. Devenant brought vividly to his mind
the time when he was young and had a loving bosom companion living,
and tears were wiped from the old man's eyes. A new world
seemed to unfold itself before the eyes of the happy lovers,
and they were completely absorbed in contemplating the future.
Furnished by nature with a disposition to study, and a memory
so retentive that all who knew her were surprised at the ease
with which she acquired her education and general information,
Clotelle might now be termed a most accomplished lady.
After her marriage with young Devenant, they proceeded to India,
where the husband's regiment was stationed. Soomn after
their arrival, however, a battle was fought with the natives,
in which several officers fell, among whom was Captain Devenant.
The father of the young captain being there at the time,
took his daughter-in-law and brought her back to France,
where they took up their abode at the old homestead.
Old Mr. Devenant was possessed of a large fortune, all of which
he intended for his daughter-in-law and her only child.
Although Clotelle had married young Devenant, she had not
forgotten her first love, and her father-in-law now willingly
gave his consent to her marriage with Jerome. Jerome felt
that to possess the woman of his love, even at that late hour,
was compensation enough for the years that he had been separated
from her, and Clotelle wanted no better evidence of his love
for her than the fact of his having remained so long unmarried.
It was indeed a rare instance of devotion and constancy in a man,
and the young widow gratefully appreciated it.
It was late in the evening when Jerome led his intended bride
to the window, and the magnificent moonlight illuminated
the countenance of the lovely Clotelle, while inward sunshine,
emanating from a mind at ease, and her own virtuous thoughts,
gave brightness to her eyes and made her appear a very angel.
This was the first evening that Jerome had been in her company
since the night when, to effect his escape from prison,
she disguised herself in male attire. How different the scene now.
Free instead of slaves, wealthy instead of poor, and on
the eve of an event that seemed likely to result in a life
of happiness to both.
THE HAPPY DAY
IT was a bright day in the latter part of October that Jerome and Clotelle
set out for the church, where the marriage ceremony was to be performed.
The clear, bracing air added buoyancy to every movement, and the sun
poured its brilliant rays through the deeply-stained windows, as the happy
couple entered the sanctuary, followed by old Mr. Devenant, whose form,
bowed down with age, attracted almost as much attention from the assembly
as did the couple more particularly interested.
As the ceremonies were finished and the priest pronounced the benediction
on the newly-married pair, Clotelle whispered in the ear of Jerome,--
"'No power in death shall tear our names apart,
As none in life could rend thee from my heart.'"
A smile beamed on every face as the wedding-party left the church
and entered their carriage. What a happy day, after ten years'
separation, when, both hearts having been blighted for a time,
they are brought together by the hand of a beneficent and kind Providence,
and united in holy wedlock.
Everything being arranged for a wedding tour extending up
the Rhine, the party set out the same day for Antwerp.
There are many rivers of greater length and width than the Rhine.
Our Mississippi would swallow up half a dozen Rhines.
The Hudson is grander, the Tiber, the Po, and the Mincio
more classic; the Thames and Seine bear upon their waters
greater amounts of wealth and commerce; the Nile and the
Euphrates have a greater antiquity; but for a combination
of interesting historical incidents and natural scenery,
the Rhine surpasses them all. Nature has so ordained it
that those who travel in the valley of the Rhine shall see
the river, for there never will be a railroad upon its banks.
So mountainous is the land that it would have to be one series
of tunnels. Every three or four miles from the time you enter
this glorious river, hills, dales, castles, and crags present
themselves as the steamer glides onward.
Their first resting-place for any length of time was at Coblentz, at the mouth
of the "Blue Moselle," the most interesting place on the river. From Coblentz
they went to Brussels, where they had the greatest attention paid them.
Besides being provided with letters of introduction, Jerome's complexion
secured for him more deference than is usually awarded to travellers.
Having letters of introduction to M. Deceptiax, the great lace manufacturer,
that gentleman received them with distinguished honors, and gave them
a splendid at which the of the city were assembled.
The sumptuously-furnished mansion was lavishly decorated for the occasion,
and every preparation made that could add to the novelty or interest
of the event.
Jerome, with his beautiful bride, next visited Cologne,
the largest and wealthiest city on the banks of the Rhine.
The Cathedral of Cologne is the most splendid structure
of the kind in Europe, and Jerome and Clotelle viewed
with interest the beautiful arches and columns of this
stupendous building, which strikes with awe the beholder,
as he gazes at its unequalled splendor, surrounded, as it is,
by villas, cottages, and palace-like mansions, with the enchanting
Rhine winding through the vine-covered hills.
After strolling over miles and miles of classic ground,
and visiting castles, whose legends and traditions have given them
an enduring fame, our delighted travellers started for Geneva,
bidding the picturesque banks of the Rhine a regretful farewell.
Being much interested in literature, and aware that Geneva was noted
for having been the city of refuge to the victims of religious and
political persecution, Jerome arranged to stay here for some days.
He was provided with a letter of introduction to M. de Stee,
who had been a fellow-soldier of Mr. Devenant in the East India wars,
and they were invited to make his house their home during their sojourn.
On the side of a noble mountain, whose base is kissed by the waves
of Lake Geneva, and whose slopes are decked with verdure to
the utmost peak of its rocky crown, is situated the delightful
country-residence of this wealthy, retired French officer.
A winding road, with frequent climbs and brakes, leads from the valley
to this enchanting spot, the air and scenery of which cannot be
surpassed in the world.
CLOTELLE MEETS HER FATHER.
THE clouds that had skirted the sky during the day broke at last,
and the rain fell in torrents, as Jerome and Clotelle retired for
the night, in the little town of Ferney, on the borders of Lake Leman.
The peals of thunder, and flashes of vivid lightening, which seemed
to leap from mountain to mountain and from crag to crag,
reverberating among the surrounding hills, foretold a heavy storm.
"I would we were back at Geneva," said Clotelle, as she heard groans issuing
from an adjoining room. The sounds, at first faint, grew louder and louder,
plainly indicating that some person was suffering extreme pain.
"I did not like this hotel, much, when we came in," said Jerome,
relighting the lamp, which had been accidentally extinguished.
"Nor I," returned Clotelle.
The shrieks increased, and an occasional "she's dead!"
"I killed her!" "No, she is not dead!" and such-like expressions,
would be heard from the person, who seemed to be deranged.
The thunder grew louder, and the flashes of lightening more vivid,
while the noise from the sick-room seemed to increase.
As Jerome opened the door, to learn, if possible, the cause
of the cries and groans, he could distinguish the words,
"She's dead! yes, she's dead! but I did not kill her.
She was my child! my own daughter. I loved her, and yet I
did not protect her."
"Whoever he is," said Jerome, "he's crack-brained;
some robber, probably, from the mountains."
The storm continued to rage, and the loud peals of thunder and
sharp flashes of lightening, together with the shrieks and moans
of the maniac in the adjoining room, made the night a fearful one.
The long hours wore slowly away, but neither Jerome nor his wife
could sleep, and they arose at an early hour in the morning,
ordered breakfast, and resolved to return to Geneva.
"I am sorry, sir, that you were so much disturbed by the sick man
last night," said the landlord, as he handed Jerome his bill.
"I should be glad if he would get able to go away, or die,
for he's a deal of trouble to me. Several persons have left
my house on his account."
"Where is he from?" inquired Jerome. "He's from the United States,
and has been here a week to-day, and has been crazy ever since."
"Has he no friends with him?" asked the guest.
"No, he is alone," was the reply.
Jerome related to his wife what he had learned from the landlord,
respecting the sick man, and the intelligence impressed her so strongly,
that she requested him to make further inquiries concerning the stranger.
He therefore consulted the book in which guests usually register
their names, and, to his great surprise, found that the American's
name was Henry Linwood, and that he was from Richmond, Va.
It was with feelings of trepidation that Clotelle heard these particulars
from the lips of her husband.
"We must see this poor man, whoever he is," said she, as Jerome
finished the sentence.
The landlord was glad to hear that his guests felt some interest
in the sick man, and promised that the invalid's room should be got
ready for their reception.
The clock in the hall was just striking ten, as Jerome passed
through and entered the sick man's chamber. Stretched upon
a mattress, with both hands tightly bound to the bedstead,
the friendless stranger was indeed a pitiful sight.
His dark, dishevelled hair prematurely gray, his long,
unshaven beard, and the wildness of the eyes which glanced upon
them as they opened the door and entered, caused the faint
hope which had so suddenly risen in Clotelle's heart, to sink,
and she felt that this man could claim no kindred with her.
Certainly, he bore no resemblance to the man whom she had
called her father, and who had fondly dandled her on his knee
in those happy days of childhood.
"Help!" cried the poor man, as Jerome and his wife walked into the room.
His eyes glared, and shriek after shriek broke forth from his parched
and fevered lips.
"No, I did not kill my daughter!--I did not! she is not dead!
Yes, she is dead! but I did not kill her--poor girl!
Look! that is she! No, it cannot be! she cannot come here!
it cannot be my poor Clotelle."
At the sound of her own name, coming from the maniac's lips,
Clotelle gasped for breath, and her husband saw that she had
grown deadly pale. It seemed evident to him that the man was
either guilty of some terrible act, or imagined himself to be.
His eyeballs rolled in their sockets, and his features showed
that he was undergoing "the tortures of that inward hell,"
which seemed to set his whole brain on fire. After recovering
her self-possession and strength, Clotelle approached the bedside,
and laid her soft hand upon the stranger's hot and fevered brow.
One long, loud shriek rang out on the air, and a piercing cry,
"It is she!--Yes, it is she! I see, I see! Ah! no, it is not my daughter!
She would not come to me if she could!" broke forth from him.
"I am your daughter," said Clotelle, as she pressed her handkerchief
to her face, and sobbed aloud.
Like balls of fire, the poor man's eyes rolled and glared upon the company,
while large drops of perspiration ran down his pale and emaciated face.
Strange as the scene appeared, all present saw that it was
indeed a meeting between a father and his long-lost daughter.
Jerome now ordered all present to leave the room, except the nurse,
and every effort was at once made to quiet the sufferer.
When calm, a joyous smile would illuminate the sick man's face,
and a strange light beam in his eyes, as he seemed to realize
that she who stood before him was indeed his child.
For two long days and nights did Clotelle watch at the bedside
of her father before he could speak to her intelligently.
Sometimes, in his insane fits, he would rave in the most frightful manner,
and then, in a few moments, would be as easily governed as a child.
At last, however, after a long and apparently refreshing sleep,
he awoke suddenly to a full consciousness that it was indeed his
daughter who was watching so patiently by his side.
The presence of his long absent child had a soothing effect
upon Mr. Linwood, and he now recovered rapidly from the sad
and almost hopeless condition in which she had found him.
When able to converse, without danger of a relapse, he told Clotelle
of his fruitless efforts to obtain a clew to her whereabouts
after old Mrs. Miller had sold her to the slave-trader. In
answer to his daughter's inquiries about his family affairs
up to the time that he left America, he said,--
"I blamed my wife for your being sold and sent away,
for I thought she and her mother were acting in collusion;
But I afterwards found that I had blamed her wrongfully.
Poor woman! she knew that I loved your mother, and feeling
herself forsaken, she grew melancholy and died in a decline
three years ago."
Here both father and daughter wept at the thought of other days.
When they had recovered their composure, Mr. Linwood went on again:
"Old Mrs. Miller," said he, "after the death of Gertrude, aware that she
had contributed much toward her unhappiness, took to the free use of
intoxicating drinks, and became the most brutal creature that ever lived.
She whipped her slaves without the slightest provocation, and seemed
to take delight in inventing new tortures with which to punish them.
One night last winter, after having flogged one of her slaves nearly
to death, she returned to her room, and by some means the bedding
took fire, and the house was in flames before any one was awakened.
There was no one in the building at the time but the old woman and
the slaves, and although the latter might have saved their mistress,
they made no attempt to do so. Thus, after a frightful career
of many years, this hard-hearted woman died a most miserable death,
unlamented by a single person."
Clotelle wiped the tears from her eyes, as her father finished
this story, for, although Mrs. Miller had been her greatest enemy,
she regretted to learn that her end had been such a sad one.
"My peace of mind destroyed," resumed the father, "and broken down in health,
my physician advised me to travel, with the hope of recruiting myself,
and I sailed from New York two months ago."
Being brought up in America, and having all the prejudice against color
which characterizes his white fellow-countrymen, Mr. Linwood very much
regretted that his daughter, although herself tinctured with African blood,
should have married a black man, and he did not fail to express to her
his dislike of her husband's complexion.
"I married him," said Clotelle, "because I loved him.
Why should the white man be esteemed as better than the black?
I find no difference in men on account of their complexion.
One of the cardinal principles of Christianity and freedom
is the equality and brotherhood of man."
Every day Mr. Linwood became more and more familiar with Jerome,
and eventually they were on the most intimate terms.
Fifteen days from the time that Clotelle was introduced
into her father's room, they left Ferney for Geneva.
Many were the excursions Clotelle made under the shadows
of Mont Blanc, and with her husband and father for companions;
she was now in the enjoyment of pleasures hitherto unknown.
THE FATHER'S RESOLVE
AWARE that her father was still a slave-owner, Clotelle determined
to use all her persuasive power to induce him to set them free,
and in this effort she found a substantial supporter in her husband.
"I have always treated my slaves well," said Mr. Linwood to Jerome,
as the latter expressed his abhorrence of the system; "and my neighbors,
too, are generally good men; for slavery in Virginia is not like slavery
in the other States," continued the proud son of the Old Dominion.
"Their right to be free, Mr. Linwood," said Jerome, "is taken from them,
and they have no security for their comfort, but the humanity and
generosity of men, who have been trained to regard them not as brethren,
but as mere property. Humanity and generosity are, at best, but poor
guaranties for the protection of those who cannot assert their rights,
and over whom law throws no protection."
It was with pleasure that Clotelle obtained from her father a promise
that he would liberate all his slaves on his return to Richmond.
In a beautiful little villa, situated in a pleasant spot,
fringed with hoary rocks and thick dark woods, within sight
of the deep blue waters of Lake Leman, Mr. Linwood, his daughter,
and her husband, took up their residence for a short time.
For more than three weeks, this little party spent their time in
visiting the birth-place of Rousseau, and the former abodes of Byron,
Gibbon, Voltaire, De Stael, Shelley, and other literary characters.
We can scarcely contemplate a visit to a more historic and interesting
place than Geneva and its vicinity. Here, Calvin, that great luminary
in the Church, lived and ruled for years; here, Voltaire, the mighty genius,
who laid the foundation of the French Revolution, and who boasted,
"When I shake my wig, I powder the whole republic," governed in the higher
walks of life.
Fame is generally the recompense, not of the living, but of the dead,--
not always do they reap and gather in the harvest who sow the seed;
the flame of its altar is too often kindled from the ashes of the great.
A distinguished critic has beautifully said, "The sound which the stream
of high thought, carried down to future ages, makes, as it flows--
deep, distant, murmuring ever more, like the waters of the mighty ocean."
No reputation can be called great that will no endure this test.
The distinguished men who had lived in Geneva transfused their spirit,
by their writings, into the spirit of other lovers of literature and
everything that treated of great authors. Jerome and Clotelle lingered
long in and about the haunts of Geneva and Lake Leman.
An autumn sun sent down her bright rays, and bathed every object
in her glorious light, as Clotelle, accompanied by her husband
and father set out one fine morning on her return home to France.
Throughout the whole route, Mr. Linwood saw by the deference paid to Jerome,
whose black complexion excited astonishment in those who met him,
that there was no hatred to the man in Europe, on account of his color;
that what is called prejudice against color is the offspring of
the institution of slavery; and he felt ashamed of his own countrymen,
when he thought of the complexion as distinctions, made in the United States,
and resolved to dedicate the remainder of his life to the eradication
of this unrepublican and unchristian feeling from the land of his birth,
on his return home.
After a stay of four weeks at Dunkirk, the home of the Fletchers, Mr. Linwood
set out for America, with the full determination of freeing his slaves,
and settling them in one of the Northern States, and then to return to France
to end his days in the society of his beloved daughter.
THE RETURN HOME
THE first gun fired at the American Flag, on the 12th
of April, 1861, at Fort Sumter, reverberated all over Europe,
and was hailed with joy by the crowned heads of the Old World,
who hated republican institutions, and who thought they saw, in this
act of treason, the downfall of the great American experiment.
Most citizens, however, of the United States, who were then
sojourning abroad, hastened home to take part in the struggle,--
some to side with the rebels, others to take their stand
with the friends of liberty. Among the latter, none came with
swifter steps or more zeal than Jerome and Clotelle Fletcher.
They arrived in New Orleans a week after the capture of that city
by the expedition under the command of Major-Gen. B. F. Butler.
But how changed was society since Clotelle had last set
feet in the Crescent City! Twenty-two years had passed;
her own chequered life had been through many shifting scenes;
her old acquaintances in New Orleans had all disappeared;
and with the exception of the black faces which she
beheld at every turn, and which in her younger days were
her associates, she felt herself in the midst of strangers;
and these were arrayed against each other in mortal combat.
Possessed with ample means, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher set about
the work of assisting those whom the rebellion had placed
in a state of starvation and sickness.
With a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness,
and a tear for every sufferer, no matter of what color or sect,
Clotelle was soon known as the "Angel of Mercy."
The "General Order No. 63," issued on the 22nd of August, 1862,
by Gen. Butler, recognizing, and calling into the service of the Federal
Government, the battalion of colored men known as the "Native Guard,"
at once gave full scope to Jerome's military enthusiasm; and he made
haste to enlist in the organization.
The "Native Guard" did good service in New Orleans and vicinity,
till ordered to take part in the siege of Port Hudson,
where they appeared under the name of the "First Louisiana,"
and under the immediate command of Lieut.-Col. Bassett.
The heroic attack of this regiment, made on the 27th
of May, 1863, its unsurpassed "charge," its great loss,
and its severe endurance on the field of battle, are incidents
which have passed into history. The noble daring of the First
Louisiana gained for the black soldiers in our army the praise
of all Americans who value Republican institutions.
There was, however, one scene, the closing one in the first
day's attack on Port Hudson, which, while it reflects undying
credit upon the bravery of the negro, pays but a sorry tribute
to the humanity of the white general who brought the scene
into existence. The field was strewn with the dead, the dying,
and the wounded; and as the jaded regiments were leaving
the ground, after their unsuccessful attack, it was found
that Capt. Payne, of the Third Louisiana, had been killed;
and his body, which was easily distinguished by the uniform,
was still on the battle-field. The colonel of the regiment,
pointing to where the body lay, asked, "Are there four men
here who will fetch the body of Capt. Payne from the field?"
Four men stepped out, and at once started. But, as the body lay
directly under the range of the rebel batteries, they were all
swept down by the grape, canister, and shell which were let loose
by the enemy. The question was again repeated, "Are there four
men who will go for the body?" The required number came forth,
and started upon a run; but, ere they could reach the spot,
they were cut down. "Are there four more who will try?"
The third call was answered in the affirmative, and the men started
upon the double-quick. They, however, fell before getting as far
as the preceding four. Twelve men had been killed in the effort
to obtain the body of the brave Payne, but to no purpose.
Humanity forbade another trial, and yet it was made.
"Are there four more men in the regiment who will volunteer
to go for Capt. Payne's body?" shouted the officer.
Four men sprang forward, as if fearful that they would miss
the opportunity of these last: one was Jerome Fletcher, the hero
of our story. They started upon the run; and, strange to tell,
all of them reached the body, and had nearly borne it from
the field, when two of the number were cut down. Of these,
one was Jerome. His head was entirely torn off by a shell.
The body of the deceased officer having been rescued, an end
was put t the human sacrifice.
THE ANGEL OF MERCY
The sad intelligence of Jerome's death was brought to Clotelle
while she was giving her personal attention to the sick and
wounded that filled the hospitals of New Orleans. For a time she
withdrew from the gaze of mankind, and gave herself up to grief.
Few unions had been productive of more harmonious feelings than hers.
And this blow, so unexpected and at a time when she was experiencing
such a degree of excitement caused by the rebellion, made her,
indeed, feel the affliction severely.
But the newspaper accounts of the intense suffering of the Union prisoners
in the rebel States aroused her, and caused her to leave her retirement.
In the month of October, 1863, Clotelle resolved to visit Andersonville,
Ga., for the purpose of alleviating the hardships of our sick and
imprisoned soldiers, and at once put her resolution into effect by going
immediately to that place. After crossing the lines, she passed as a
rebel lady, to enable her the more successfully to carry out her object.
On her arrival at Andersonville, Clotelle took up her abode with a
private family, of Union proclivities, and commenced her work of mercy.
She first visited the hospitals, the buildings of which were merest
excuses for hospitals.
It was the beginning of November; and, even in that southern latitude,
the cold made these miserable abodes uncomfortable nights and mornings.
The dirty, unventilated rooms, with nothing but straw upon the cold,
damp floor, for beds, upon which lay the ragged, emaciated Union prisoners,
worn down to skin and bone with disease and starvation, with their
sunken eyes and wild looks, made them appear hideous in the extreme.
The repulsive scenes, that showed the suffering, neglect, and cruelty
which these poor creatures had experienced, made her heart sink within her.
Having paid considerable attention to hospital life in Europe,
and so recently from amongst the sick at New Orleans,
Clotelle's experience, suggestions, and liberal expenditure
of money, would have added greatly to the comfort of these
helpless men, if the rebel authorities had been so disposed.
But their hatred to Union prisoners was so apparent, that the
interest which this angel of humanity took in the condition
of the rebel sick could not shield her from the indignation of
the secession officials for her good feeling for the Union men.
However, with a determination to do all in her power for the needy,
she labored in season and out.
The brutal treatment and daily murders committed upon our soldiers
in the Andersonville prisons caused Clotelle to secretly aid
prisoners in their escape. In the latter work, she brought
to her assistance the services of a negro man named Pete.
This individual was employed about the prison, and, having the entire
confidence of the commandant, was in a position to do much
good without being suspected. Pete was an original character,
of a jovial nature, and, when intending some serious adventure,
would appear very solemn, and usually singing a doleful ditty,
often the following, which was a favorite with him:--
"Come listen, all you darkies, come listen to my song:
It am about old Massa, who use me bery wrong.
In de cole, frosty mornin', it an't so bery nice,
Wid de water to de middle, to hoe among de rice;
When I neber hab forgotten
How I used to hoe de cotton,
How I used to hoe de cotton,
On de old Virginny shore;
But I'll neber hoe de cotton,
Oh! neber hoe de cotton
"If I feel de drefful hunger, he tink it am a vice,
And he gib me for my dinner a little broken rice,--
A little broken rice and a bery little fat,
And he grumble like de debbil if I eat too much of dat;
When I neber hab forgotten, etc.
"He tore me from my Dinah; I tought my heart would burst:
He made me lub anoder when my lub was wid de first;
He sole my picanninnies becase he got dar price,
And shut me in de marsh-field to hoe among de rice;
When I neber hab forgotten, etc.
"And all de day I hoe dar, in all de heat and rain;
And, as I hoe away dar, my heart go back again,--
Back to de little cabin dat stood among de corn,
And to de ole plantation where she and I war born!
Oh! I wish I had forgotten, etc.
"Den Dinah am beside me, de chil'ren on my knee,
And dough I am a slave dar, it 'pears to me I'm free,
Till I wake up from my dreaming, and wife and chil'ren gone,
I hoe away and weep dar, and weep dar all alone!
Oh! I wish I had forgotten, etc.
"But soon a day am comin', a day I long to see,
When dis darky in de cole ground, foreber will be free,
When wife and chil'ren wid me, I'll sing in Paradise,
How He, de blessed Jesus, hab bought me wid a price;
How de Lord hab not forgotten
How well I hoed de cotton,
How well I hoed de cotton
On de old Virginny shore;
Dar I'll neber hoe de cotton,
Oh! I'll neber hoe de cotton
When away from the whites, and among his own class, Pete could often
be heard in the following strains:--
"A storm am brewin' in de Souf,
A storm am brewin' now.
Oh! hearken den, and shut your mouf,
And I will tell you how:
And I will tell you how, ole boy,
De storm of fire will pour,
And make de darkies dance for joy,
As dey neber danced afore;
So shut your mouf as close as deafh,
And all you niggas hole your breafh,
And I will tell you how.
"De darkies at de Norf am ris,
And dey am comin' down--
Am comin' down, I know dey is,
To do de white folks brown!
Dey'll turn ole Massa out to grass,
And set de niggas free,
And when dat day am come to pass
We'll all be dar to see!
So shut your mouf as close as deafh,
And all you niggas hole your breafh,
And do de white folks brown!
"Den all de week will be as gay
As am de Chris'mas time;
We'll dance all night and all de day,
And make de banjo chime--
And make de banjo chime, I tink,
And pass de time away,
Wid 'nuf to eat and nuf to drink,
And not a bit to pay!
So shut your mouf as close as deafh,
And all you niggas hole your breafh,
And make de banjo chime."
How to escape from prison was ever the thoughts by day and
dreams by night of the incarcerated. Plans were concocted,
partly put into execution, and then proved failures.
Some of these caused increased suffering to the prisoners after
their discovery; for, where the real parties could not be found,
the whole were ill-treated as a punishment to the guilty.
Tunnelling was generally the mode for escape; and tunnelling
became the order of the day, or, rather, the work for the night.
In the latter part of November, 1863, the unusual gaiety
of the prisoners showed that some plan of exit from the prison
was soon to be exhibited.
THE GREAT TUNNEL AND THE MISTAKE
FOR several weeks, some ten or fifteen of the most
able-bodied of the prisoners had been nightly at work;
and the great tunnel, the ever projected by men
for their escape from prison, was thought to be finished,
with the exception of the tapping outside of the prison wall.
The digging of a tunnel is not an easy job, and, consequently,
is of slow progress. The Andersonville prisoners had to dig
ten feet down into the earth, after cutting through the floor,
and then went a distance of fifty feet to get beyond the wall.
The digging was done in the following way: As soon as the
operator was below the surface, and had a place large enough
to admit the body, he laid down upon his face, at full length,
and with his knife, spoon, piece of earthenware, or old iron,
dug away with all his energies, throwing the dirt behind him,
which was gathered up by a confederate, carried off, and hi.
This mode of operating was carried on night after night,
and the flooring replaced during the day, to prevent suspicion.
The want of fresh air in the tunnel, as it progressed to completion,
often drove the men from their work, and caused a delay,
which proved fatal to their successful escape.
The long-looked for day arrived. More than three hundred
had prepared to leave this hated abode, by the tunnel.
All they waited for was the tapping and the signal. The time came,
the place of egress was tapped, and the leader had scarcely put
his head out of the hole, ere he was fired upon by the sentinels,
which soon alarmed and drew the entire guard to the spot.
Great was the commotion throughout the prison, and all who were
caught in the tunnel were severely punished.
This failure seemed to depress the spirits of the men more than any
previous attempt. Heavy irons were placed upon the limbs of many of
the prisoners, and their lot was made otherwise harder by the keepers.
Clotelle, though often permitted to see the prisoners and contribute
to their wants, and, though knowing much of their designs, knew nothing
of the intended escape, and therefore was more bold in her intercessions
in their behalf when failure came upon them.
The cruelty which followed this mishap, induced Clotelle to interest herself
in another mode of escape for the men thus so heavily ironed.
Pete, the man of all work, whose sympathies were with the Union prisoners,
was easily gained over to a promise of securing the keys of the prison
and letting the men escape, especially when Clotelle offered him money
to enable him to make good his own way to the North.
The night of the exodus came. It was favored with darkness;
and it so happened that the officials were on a spree,
owing to the arrival of Confederate officers with news
of a rebel victory.
Before getting the keys, Pete supplied the sentinels
on duty with enough whiskey, which he had stolen
from the keepers' store-room, to make them all drunk.
At the chosen moment, the keys were obtained by Pete,
the doors and gates were opened, and ninety-three prisoners,
including the tunnel workers, whose irons were taken off,
made their escape, allowing the faithful negro to accompany them.
Nothing was known of the exit of the men till breakfast hour
on the next morning. On examination of the store-room, it
was found, that, in addition to the whiskey Pete had taken
a large supply of stores for the accommodation of the party.
Added to this, a good number of arms with ammunition had been
furnished the men by the African.
The rebels were not prepared to successfully pursue the fleeing
prisoners, although armed men were sent in different directions.
Nothing, however, was heard of them till they reached the Union lines.
Long suspected of too freely aiding Union prisoners, Clotelle was
now openly charged with a knowledge of the escape of these men,
and was compelled to leave Andersonville.
THE fiendish and heartless conduct of a large number of the people
of the South towards Union men during the war, and especially
the unlady-like demeanor of rebel women at New Orleans
and other points, is a matter that has passed into history.
In few places were the women more abusive to those of Union
proclivities than the female portion of the inhabitants
of Greenville, Alabama. While passing through this town,
on her return from Andersonville to New Orleans, Clotelle had
to encounter the fierce ill-treatment of these chivalrous
daughters of the South. There were, during the rebellion,
many brave and generous women, who, in the mountains and lowlands
of Alabama, gave aid to Federals,--soldiers and civilians,--
in their wanderings and escape from the cruelties of the traitors.
One of these patriotic women was arrested while on a visit
to Greenville for the purpose of procuring medicine and other
necessaries for sick Union men then hid away in the woods.
This large-hearted woman--Eunice Hastings--had her horse
taken from her, robbed of the goods she had purchased, and,
after experiencing almost death at the hands of the rebel women,
was released and turned out penniless, and without the means
of reaching her home in the country; when Clotelle,
who had just arrived at the dilapidated and poorly kept hotel,
met her, and, learning the particulars of her case,
offered assistance to the injured woman, which brought down
upon her own head the condemnation of the secesh population
of the place. However, Clotelle purchased a fine horse from
the landlord, gave it to Miss Hastings, who, after securing
some articles for which she had come to Greenville, left town
under cover of night, and escaped further molestation.
This act of kindness to a helpless sister at once stirred up
the vilest feelings of the people.
"The worst of slaves is he whom passion rules."
As has already been said, there was nothing in the appearance
of Clotelle to indicate that a drop of African blood coursed
through her veins, except, perhaps, the slight wave in the hair,
and the scarcely perceptible brunettish tinge upon the countenance.
She passed as a rebel lady; yet the inhabitants of Greenville could
not permit sympathy with, and aid to, a Union woman to pass unnoticed,
and therefore resolved on revenge.
"Revenge, at first though sweet, Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils."
Clotelle's person, trunks, and letters were all searched
with the hope and expectation of finding evidences of a spy.
Nothing of the kind being found, she was then rigorously
interrogated as to her sympathies with the two contending armies.
With no wish whatever to conceal her opinions, she openly avowed
that she was a Union woman. This was enough. After being persecuted
during the day, she was put in charge of a committee of rebel women
for the night, with a promise of more violent treatment on the morrow.
The loyalty of the negroes of the South, during the severest
hours of the rebellion, reflects the greatest possible credit
on the race. Through their assistance, hundreds of Union men
were enabled to make their escape from prisons, and thousands
kept from starvation when on their way to the Federal lines,
or while keeping out of the way of rebel recruiting gangs.
They seldom, if ever, hesitated to do the white Unionists a service,
at the risk even of life, and, under the most trying circumstances,
revealed a devotion and a spirit of self-sacrifice that were heroic.
No one ever made an appeal to them they did not answer.
They were degraded and ignorant, which was attributable to the cruel
laws and equally unchristian practices of the people of the South;
but their hearts were always open, and the slightest demand upon
their sympathies brought forth their tears. They never shunned
a man or woman who sought food or shelter on their way to freedom.
The goodness of heart and the guileless spirit of the blacks was not
better understood by any one than Clotelle; and she felt a secret
joy at seeing all the servants in the Greenville hotel negroes.
She saw from their very looks that she had their undivided sympathies.
One of the servants overheard the rebels in a conversation,
in which it was determined to send Clotelle to the county town,
for safe keeping in the jail, the following day; and this fact was
communicated to the unfortunate woman. The slave woman who gave
the information told her that she could escape if she desired.
Having already been robbed of every thing except the apparel upon her
person and some money she had concealed about her, she at once signified
to the black woman her wish to get out of the reach of her persecutors.
The old worn-out clock in the narrow dining hall had struck one;
a cold rain was patting upon the roof, and the women watchers,
one after another, had fallen asleep; and even the snuff-dippers, whose
dirty practice creates a nervousness that keeps them awake longer than
any other class, had yielded to the demands of Morpheus, when Aggy,
the colored servant, stealthily entered the room, beckoned to Clotelle,
and both left in silence.
Cautiously and softly the black woman led the way, followed by the "Angel
of Mercy," till, after passing down through the cellar with the water covering
the floor, they emerged into the back yard. Two horses had been provided.
Clotelle mounted one, and a black man the other; the latter leading
the way. Both dashed off at a rapid pace, through a drenching storm,
with such a pall-like darkness that they could not see each other.
After an hour's ride the negro halted, and informed Clotelle that he must
leave her, and return with the horses, but that she was with friends.
He then gave a whistle, and for a moment held his breath.
Just as the faithful black was about to repeat the signal, he heard
the response; and in a moment the lady alighted, and with dripping garments,
limbs chilled to numbness, followed her new guide to a place of concealment,
near the village of Taitsville.
"You is jes as wet as a drownded rat," said the mulatto woman,
who met Clotelle as she entered the negro's cabin.
"Yes," replied the latter, "this is a stormy night for one to be out."
"Yes mam, dese is hard times for eberybody dat 'bleves in de Union.
I 'spose deys cotched your husband, an' put him in de army, ain't dey?"
"No: my husband died at Port Hudson, fighting for the Union," said Clotelle.
"Oh, mam, dats de place whar de black people fight de rebels so, wasn't it?"
remarked Dinah, for such was her name.
"Yes, that was the place," replied the former.
"I see that your husband has lost one of his hands:
did he lose it in the war?"
"Oh no, missus," said Dinah. "When dey was taken all de men, black an white,
to put in de army, dey cotched my ole man too, and took him long wid 'em.
So you see, he said he'd die afore he'd shoot at de Yanks.
So you see, missus, Jimmy jes took and lay his left han' on a log, and chop
it off wid de hatchet. Den, you see, dey let him go, an' he come home.
You see, missus, my Jimmy is a free man: he was born free, an'
he bought me, an' pay fifteen hundred dollars for me."
It was true that Jim had purchased his wife; nor had he forgotten the fact,
as was shown a day or two after, while in conversation with her.
The woman, like many of her sex, was an inveterate scold, and Jim had but one
way to govern her tongue. "Shet your mouf, madam, an' hole your tongue,"
said Jim, after his wife had scolded and sputtered away for some minutes.
"Shet your mouf dis minit, I say: you shan't stan' dar, an' talk ter
me in dat way. I bought you, an' paid my money fer you, an" I ain't
a gwine ter let you sase me in dat way. Shet your mouf dis minit:
ef you don't I'll sell you; 'fore God I will. Shet up, I say, or I'll
sell you." This had the desired effect, and settled Dinah for the day.
After a week spent in this place of concealment, Jim conveyed
Clotelle to Leaksville, Mississippi, through the Federal lines,
and from thence she proceeded to New Orleans.
The Rebellion was now drawing to a close. The valley of the
Mississippi was in full possession of the Federal government.
Sherman was on his raid, and Grant was hemming in Lee.
Everywhere the condition of the freedmen attracted the attention
of the friends of humanity, and no one felt more keenly their
wants than Clotelle; and to their education and welfare she
resolved to devote the remainder of her life, and for this
purpose went to the State of Mississippi, and opened a school
for the freedmen; hired teachers, paying them out of her own purse.
In the summer of 1866, the Poplar Farm, on which she had once
lived as a slave, was confiscated and sold by Government
authority, and was purchased by Clotelle, upon which she
established a Freedmen's School, and where at this writing,--
now June, 1867,--resides the "Angel of Mercy."
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