Our World, or, The Slaveholders Daughter
F. Colburn Adams
Part 4 out of 12
unmoved, probably contemplating the goodness of a forgiving God.
What magic simplicity lies concealed in his nature; and yet it is
his trade, sanctioned by the law of a generous state. Let us bless
the land that has given us power to discover the depths to which
human nature can reduce itself, and what man can make himself when
human flesh and blood become mere things of traffic.
"That gal's name is Ellen. I wish I knew all that has turned up at
Marston's," remarks the Elder.
"Ellen!" ejaculates the lady, looking at her more intently, placing
her left hand under her chin. "Not Ellen Juvarna?"
"Yes, good missus-the lady has distributed her nourishment among the
sick-that's my name," she says, raising her eyes with a look of
melancholy that tells the tale of her troubles. Again her feelings
subside into quiet; she seems in meditation. "I knowed you once,
good missus, but you don't know me now, I'm changed so!" she
whispers, the good lady holding her hand, as a tear courses down her
cheek-"I'm changed so!" she whispers, shaking her head.
A FATHER TRIES TO BE A FATHER.
WE have conducted the reader through scenes perhaps unnecessary to
our narration, nevertheless associated with and appertaining to the
object of our work. And, in this sense, the reader cannot fail to
draw from them lessons developing the corrupting influences of a
body politic that gives one man power to sell another. They go to
prove how soon a man may forget himself,--how soon he may become a
demon in the practice of abominations, how soon he can reconcile
himself to things that outrage the most sacred ties of our social
being. And, too, consoling himself with the usages of society,
making it right, gives himself up to the most barbarous practices.
When we left Marston in a former chapter, he had become sensible of
the wrong he so long assisted to inflict upon innocent and
defenceless persons; and, stung with remorse made painful by the
weight of misfortune, had avowed his object of saving his children.
Yet, strange as it may seem, so inured were his feelings to those
arbitrary customs which slave-owners are educated to view as
privileges guaranteed in the rights of a peculiar institution-the
rights of property in the being slave-that, although conscious of
his duty toward the children, no sooner had the mother of Nicholas
been attacked with cholera, than he sold her to the Elder Pemberton
Praiseworthy, in whose infirmary we have just left her. The Elder,
since his discharge from parochial life,--from ministering the
gospel, has transferred his mission to that of being the partner in
a firm, the ostensible business of which is purchasing the sick, the
living, and the dying.
Do not blush, reader; you know not how elastic dealing in human kind
makes man's feelings. Gold is the beacon-light of avarice; for it
man will climb over a catacomb of the dead. In this instance the
very man-Marston-who, touched by misfortune, began to cherish a
father's natural feelings, could see nothing but property in the
mother, though he knew that mother to be born free. Perhaps it was
not without some compunction of feelings-perhaps it was done to
soften the separation at that moment so necessary to the
preservation of the children. But we must leave this phase of the
picture, and turn to another.
Graspum had diligently watched Marston's affairs, and through the
cunning and perseverance of Romescos, carefully noted every movement
on the plantation. Each death from cholera was reported,--the change
in Marston's feelings observed and provided against,--every stage of
the crop carefully watched. Graspum, however, had secured himself in
the real estate, and gave little heed to the epidemic that was
carrying off the negro property. Finally, to pass over several
stages in the decline of Marston's affairs, the ravages of the
disease continued until but forty-three negroes, old and young,
were left on the old homestead. The culminating point had arrived.
He was in the grasp of Graspum, and nothing could save him from
utter ruin. It had lately been proved that the Rovero family,
instead of being rich, were extremely poor, their plantation having
long been under a mortgage, the holder of which was threatening
With Marston, an amount of promiscuous debts had accumulated so far
beyond his expectation that he was without means of discharging
them. His affairs became more and more confused, while the amount of
his liabilities remained a perfect obscurity to the community.
Rumour began to disseminate his troubles, suspicion summoned her
charges, and town-talk left little unadded; while those of his
creditors who had been least suspicious of his wealth and honour
became the most importunate applicants for their claims. At length,
driven by the pressure of the times, he calls Clotilda to him, and
tells her that he is resolved to send Annette and Nicholas into the
city, where they will remain in the care of a coloured woman, until
an opportunity offers of sending them to the north. He is fond of
Clotilda,--tells her of the excitement concerning his business
affairs, and impresses her with the necessity of preserving
calmness; it is requisite to the evasion of any ulterior consequence
that may be brought upon him. Every-thing hangs upon a thread-a
political thread, a lawful thread-a thread that holds the fate of
thirty, forty, or fifty human beings-that separates them from that
verge of uncertainty upon which a straw may turn the weal or woe of
their lives. "When I get them comfortably cared for, Clotilda, I
will send for you. Nicholas's mother has gone, but you shall be a
mother to them both," he says, looking upon her seriously, as if
contemplating the trouble before him in the attempt to rescue his
"You will not send Annette away without me?" she inquires, quickly,
falling on her knees at his side, and reiterating, "Don't send
Annette away without me,--don't, mas'r!"
"The separation will only be for a few days. Annette shall be
educated-I care not for the laws of our free land against it-and
together you shall go where your parentage will not shame you,--where
you may ornament society," he replies, as Clotilda's face lights up
with satisfaction. With such an assurance-she does not comprehend
the tenour of his troubles-her freedom seems at hand: it excites her
to joy. Marston retires and she takes his seat, writes a note to
Maxwell, who is then in the city, relating what has transpired, and
concluding with a request that he will call and see her.
A few days passed, and the two children were sent into the city and
placed in the charge of a free woman, with instructions to keep them
secreted for several weeks. This movement being discovered by
Romescos, was the first signal for an onset of creditors. Graspum,
always first to secure himself, in this instance compelled Marston
to succumb to his demands by threatening to disclose the crime
Lorenzo had committed. Forcing him to fulfil the obligation in the
bond, he took formal possession of the plantation. This increased
the suspicion of fraud; there was a mystery somewhere,--nobody could
solve it. Marston, even his former friends declared, was a swindler.
He could not be honestly indebted in so large an amount to Graspum;
nor could he be so connected with such persons without something
being wrong somewhere. Friends began to insinuate that they had been
misled; and not a few among those who had enjoyed his hospitality
were first inclined to scandalise his integrity. Graspum had
foreseen all this, and, with Romescos, who had purloined the bill of
sale, was prepared to do any amount of swearing. Marston is a victim
of circumstances; his proud spirit prompts him to preserve from
disgrace the name of his family, and thus he the more easily yielded
to the demands of the betrayer. Hence, Graspum, secure in his
ill-gotten booty, leaves his victim to struggle with those who come
A few weeks pass over, and the equity of Graspum's claim is
questioned: his character for honour being doubted, gives rise to
much comment. The whole thing is denounced-proclaimed a concerted
movement to defraud the rightful creditors. And yet, knowing the
supremacy of money over law in a slave state, Graspum's power, the
revenge his followers inflict, and their desperate character, not
one dare come forward to test the validity of the debt. They know
and fear the fierce penalty: they are forced to fall back,--to seize
his person, his property, his personal effects.
In this dilemma, Marston repairs to the city, attempts to make an
arrangement with his creditors, singularly fails; he can effect
nothing. Wherever he goes his salutation meets a cold, measured
response; whisper marks him a swindler. The knife stabs deep into
the already festered wound. Misfortune bears heavily upon a
sensitive mind; but accusation of wrong, when struggling under
trials, stabs deepest into the heart, and bears its victim suffering
to the very depths of despair.
To add to this combination of misfortunes, on his return to the
plantation he found it deserted,--a sheriff's keeper guarding his
personal effects, his few remaining negroes seized upon and marched
into the city for the satisfaction of his debts. Clotilda has been
seized upon, manacled, driven to the city, committed to prison.
Another creditor has found out the hiding-place of the children;
directs the sheriff, who seizes upon them, like property of their
kind, and drags them to prison. Oh, that prison walls were made for
torturing the innocent!
Marston is left poor upon the world; Ellen Juvarna is in the hands
of a resurrectionist; Nicholas-a bright boy he has grown-is within
the dark confines of a prison cell, along with Clotilda and Annette.
Melancholy broods over the plantation now. The act of justice,--the
right which Marston saw through wrong, and which he had intended to
carry out,--is now beyond his power. Stripped of those comforts he
had enjoyed, his offspring carried off as trophies of
avarice,--perhaps for sale to some ruffian who would set a price upon
their beauty,--he sits down, sick at heart, and weeps a child's
tears. The mansion, so long the scene of pleasure and hospitality,
is like a deserted barrack;-still, gloomy, cold, in the absence of
familiar faces. No servant comes to call him master,--Dandy and Enoch
are gone; and those familiar words, so significant of affection
between master and slave, "Glad to see ye home, mas'r," no longer
sounded in his ears. Even his overseer has become alarmed, and like
the rest levied for arrears of wages.
There is nothing for Marston but to give up all,--to leave the home
of his childhood, his manhood, his happier days. He is suddenly
reminded that there is virtue in fortitude; and, as he gazes round
the room, the relics of happier days redouble his conviction of the
evil he has brought upon himself by straying from the paths of
rectitude. Indeed, so sudden was his fall from distinction, that the
scene around him seemed like a dream, from which he had just awoke
to question its precipitancy. "A sheriff is here now, and I am a
mere being of sufferance," he says, casting a moody glance around
the room, as if contemplating the dark prospect before him. A few
moments' pause, and he rises, walks to the window, looks out upon
the serene scene spread out before the mansion. There is the river,
on which he has spent so many pleasant hours, calmly winding its way
through deep green foliage mellowed by the moonlight. Its beauties
only remind him of the past. He walks away,--struggles to forget, to
look above his trials. He goes to the old side-board that has so
long given forth its cheer; that, too, is locked! "Locked to me!" he
says, attempting to open its doors. A sheriff's lock hangs upon
them. Accustomed to every indulgence, each check indicated a doubt
of his honour, wounding his feelings. The smaller the restraint the
deeper did it pierce his heart. While in this desponding mood,
vainly endeavouring to gain resolution to carry him through, a
gentle rap is heard at the door. Who can it be at this hour? he
questions to himself. No servant is near him; servants have all been
led into captivity for the satisfaction of debts. He approaches the
door and opens it himself, looking cautiously into the corridor.
There, crouched in a niche, alternately presenting fear and
joy,--fear lest he be seen by the enemy, and joy to see his
master,--is a dark figure with the familiar face of Daddy Bob,--Bob of
the old plantation. The old, faithful servant puts out his wrinkled
hand nervously, saying, "Oh, good mas'r!" He has looked up to
Marston with the same love that an affectionate child does to a kind
parent; he has enjoyed mas'r's warm welcome, nurtured his
confidence, had his say in directing the affairs of the plantation,
and watched the frailties that threatened it.
"Why, Daddy Bob! Can it be you?" Marston says, modulating his voice,
as a change comes over his feelings.
"Dis is me, mas'r; it is me," again says the old man. He is wet with
the night dew, but his heart is warm and affectionate. Marston
seizes his hand as if to return the old man's gratitude, and leads
him into the room, smiling. "Sit down, Bob, sit down!" he says,
handing him a chair. The old servant stands at the chair
hesitatingly, doubting his position. "Fear nothing, Bob; sit down.
You are my best friend," Marston continues. Bob takes a seat, lays
his cap quietly upon the floor, smiles to see old mas'r, but don't
feel just right because there's something wrong: he draws the laps
of his jacket together, covers the remnant of a shirt. "Mas'r, what
be da' gwine to do wid de old plantation? Tings, Bob reckon, b'nt
gwine straight," he speaks, looking at Marston shyly. The old slave
knew his master's heart, and had waited for him to unfold its
beatings; but the kind heart of the master yielded to the burden
that was upon it, and never more so than when moved by the strong
attachment evinced by the old man. There was mutual sympathy
pourtrayed in the tenderest emotions. The one was full of grief,
and, if touched by the word of a friend, would overflow; the other
was susceptible of kindness, knew something had befallen his master,
and was ready to present the best proofs of his attachment.
"And how did you get here, my old faithful?" inquires Marston,
drawing nearer to him.
"Well, mas'r, ye see, t'ant just so wid nigger what don' know how
tings is! But, Bob up t' dese tings. I sees Buckra, what look as if
he hab no rights on dis plantation, grab'n up all de folks. And
Lor,' mas'r, old Bob could'nt leave mas'r no how. An, den, when da'
begins to chain de folks up-da' chain up old Rachel, mas'r!-Old Bob
feel so de plantation war'nt no-whare; and him time t'be gwine. Da'h
an't gwine t' cotch old Bob, and carry 'm way from mas'r, so I jist
cum possum ober dem-stows away yander, down close in de old corn
"And you eluded the sheriff to take care of me, did you, Daddy?"
interrupts Marston, and again takes the old man's hand.
"Oh, mas'r, Bob ain't white, but 'is feeling get so fo' h mas'r, he
can't speak 'em," the old slave replies, pearls glistening in his
eyes. "My feelings feel so, I can't speak 'em!" And with a brother's
fondness he shakes his master's hand.
We must beg the reader's indulgence here for the purpose of making a
few remarks upon the negro's power of observation. From the many
strange disquisitions that have been put forward on the mental
qualities of the man of colour-more particularly the African-few can
be selected which have not had for their object his
disqualification. His power of observation has been much
undervalued; but it has been chiefly by those who judge him by a
superficial scale, or from a selfish motive. In the position of mere
property, he is, of necessity, compelled to yield all claims to
mental elevation. And yet, forced to degradation, there are few
negroes on the plantation, or in the spheres of labour, who do not
note the rise and fall of their master's fortunes, study the nature
and prospects of the crop, make enquiries about the market, concoct
the best economy in managing lands, and consult among themselves as
to what would promote the interests of the whole. So far is this
carried out, that in many districts a rivalry for the largest amount
of crop on a given space is carried on among the slaves, who not
unfrequently "chafe" each other upon the superior wealth and talent
of their masters. It is a well-known fact, that John C. Calhoun's
slaves, in addition to being extremely fond of him, were proud and
boastful of his talent.
Daddy Bob is an exemplification. The faithful old slave had become
sensible of something wrong on the plantation: he saw the sheriff
seizing upon the families, secreted himself in the corn crib, and
fled to the woods when they were out of sight. Here, sheltered by
the myrtle, he remained until midnight, intently watching the
mansion for signs of old mas'r. Suddenly a light glimmers from the
window; the old slave's feelings bound with joy; he feels it an
invitation for him to return, and, leaving his hiding-place,
approaches the house stealthily, and descries his master at the
window. Confidence returns, his joy is complete, his hopes have not
misled him. Hungry and wet, he has found his way back to master,
whose face at the window gladdens his heart,--carries him beyond the
bounds of caution. Hence the cordial greeting between the old slave
and his indulgent master. We hear the oft-expressed words-"Master! I
love ye, I do!" Marston gets a candle, lights the old man to a bed
in the attic, bids him good night, and retires.
IN WHICH THE EXTREMES ARE PRESENTED.
WHILE the gloomy prospect we have just presented hovered over
Marston's plantation, proceedings of no minor importance, and having
reference to this particular case, are going on in and about the
city. Maxwell, moved by Clotilda's implorings, had promised to gain
her freedom for her; but he knew the penalty, feared the result of a
failure, and had hesitated to make the attempt. The consequences
were upon him, he saw the want of prompt action, and regretted that
the time for carrying his resolution into effect had passed. The
result harassed him; he saw this daughter of misfortune, on her
bended knees, breathing a prayer to Omnipotence for the deliverance
of her child; he remembered her appeal to him, imploring him to
deliver her from the grasp of slavery, from that licentiousness
which the female slave is compelled to bear. He saw her confiding in
him as a deliverer,--the sight haunted him unto madness! Her child!
her child! Yes, that offspring in which her hopes were centered! For
it she pleaded and pleaded; for it she offered to sacrifice her own
happiness; for it she invoked the all-protecting hand. That child,
doomed to a life of chattel misery; to serve the lusts of modern
barbarism in a country where freedom and civilization sound praises
from ocean to ocean; to be obscured in the darkness and cruelty of
an institution in which justice is scoffed, where distress has no
listeners, and the trap-keepers of men's souls scorn to make honest
recompense while human flesh and blood are weighed in the scale of
dollars and cents! He trembles before the sad picture; remonstrances
and entreaties from him will be in vain; nor can he seize them and
carry them off. His life might be forfeited in the attempt, even
were they without prison walls. No! it is almost hopeless. In the
narrow confines of a securely grated cell, where thoughts and
anxieties waste the soul in disappointment, and where hopes only
come and go to spread time with grief, he could only see her and her
child as they suffered. The spectacle had no charm; and those who
carried them into captivity for the satisfaction of paltry debts
could not be made to divest themselves of the self in nature. Cries
and sobs were nothing,--such were poor stock for "niggers" to have;
pains and anxieties were at a discount, chivalry proclaimed its
rule, and nothing was thought well of that lessened the market value
of body and soul. Among great, generous, hospitable, and chivalrous
men, such things could only be weighed in the common scale of trade.
Again, Maxwell remembered that Marston had unfolded his troubles to
him, and being a mere stranger the confidence warranted mutual
reciprocity. If it were merely an act dictated by the impulse of his
feelings at that moment, the secret was now laid broadly open. He
was father of the children, and, sensible of their critical
situation, the sting was goading him to their rescue. The question
was-would he interpose and declare them as such? Ah, he forgot it
was not the father's assertion,--it was the law. The crime of being
property was inherited from the mother. Acknowledging them his
children would neither satisfy law nor the creditors. What
honourable-we except the modernly chivalrous-man would see his
children jostled by the ruffian trader? What man, with feelings less
sensitive than iron, would see his child sold to the man-vender for
purposes so impious that heaven and earth frowned upon them? And yet
the scene was no uncommon one; slavery affords the medium, and men,
laying their hearts aside, make it serve their pockets. Those whom
it would insult to call less than gentlemen have covered their
scruples with the law, while consigning their own offspring to the
hand of an auctioneer. Man property is subvervient material,--woman
is even more; for where her virtue forms its tissues, and can be
sold, the issue is indeed deplorable. Again, where vice is made a
pleasure, and the offspring of it become a burden on our hands,
slavery affords the most convenient medium of getting rid of the
incumbrance. They sell it, perhaps profitably, and console
themselves with the happy recollection of what a great thing it is
to live in a free country, where one may get rid of such things
profitably. It may save our shame in the eyes of man, but God sees
all,--records the wrong!
Thus Maxwell contemplated the prospects before him. At length he
resolved to visit Marston upon his plantation, impress him with the
necessity of asserting their freedom, in order to save them from
being sold with the effects of the estate.
He visits Marston's mansion,--finds the picture sadly changed; his
generous friend, who has entertained him so hospitably, sits in a
little ante-chamber, pensively, as if something of importance has
absorbed his attention. No well-dressed servants welcome him with
their smiles and grimaces; no Franconia greets him with her
vivacity, her pleasing conversation, her frankness and fondness for
the old servants. No table is decked out with the viands of the
season-Marston's viands have turned into troubles,--loneliness reigns
throughout. It is night, and nothing but the dull sound of the
keeper's tread breaks the silence. His (Maxwell's) mission is a
delicate one. It may be construed as intrusive, he thinks. But its
importance outweighs the doubt, and, though he approaches with
caution, is received with that embrace of friendship which a
gentleman can claim as his own when he feels the justice of the
mission of him who approaches, even though its tenor be painful.
Maxwell hesitated for a few moments, looked silently upon the scene.
Trouble had already left its prints of sadness upon Marston's
countenance; the past, full of happy associations, floated in his
mind; the future--ah! that was--. Happily, at that moment, he had
been contemplating the means by which he could save Clotilda and the
children. He rises, approaches Maxwell, hands him a chair, listens
to his proposal. "If I can assist you, we will save them," concludes
"That," he replies, doubtingly, "my good friend, has engaged my
thoughts by night and day--has made me most uneasy. Misfortune likes
sympathy; your words are as soothing as praiseworthy. I will defend
my children if every creditor call me swindler. I will destroy the
infernal bill of sale,--I will crush the hell-born paper that gives
life to deeds so bloody,--I will free them from the shame!" Thus, his
feelings excited to the uttermost, he rises from his seat,
approaches a cupboard, draws forth the small trunk we have before
described, unlocks it. "That fatal document is here, I put it here,
I will destroy it now; I will save them through its destruction.
There shall be no evidence of Clotilda's mother being a slave, oh
no!" he mutters rapidly, running his fingers over packages, papers,
and documents. Again he glances vacantly over the whole file,
examining paper after paper, carefully. He looks in vain. It is not
there; there is no document so fatal. Sharper men have taken better
care of it. "It is not here!" he whispers, his countenance becoming
pallid and death-like. "Not here!"-and they will swear to suit their
purposes. Oaths are only worth what they bring in the market, among
slave dealers. But, who can have taken it?" he continues, looking
wildly at Maxwell. Consternation is pictured on his countenance; he
feels there is intrigue at work, and that the want of that paper
will prove fatal to his resolution. A man in trouble always confides
in others, sometimes those whom he would scarce have trusted before.
He throws the paper aside, takes a seat at Maxwell's side, grasps
him by the hand, saying, "My friend! save them! save them! save
them! Use what stratagem you please; make it the experiment of your
life. Consummate it, and a penitent's prayer will bless you! I see
the impending catastrophe-"
"We may do without it; be quiet. Let your feelings calm. I have
consulted Franconia on the same subject. Woman can do much if she
will; and she has promised me she will. My knowledge of her womanly
nature tells me she will be true to Clotilda!" Maxwell speaks
assuringly, and his words seem as balm to a wounded spirit.
The bill of sale was among the things intended for a more profitable
use. Marston has satisfied Graspum's claim; but he knew that slavery
deadened the sensibilities of men. Yet, could it have so deadened
Graspum's feeling that he would have been found in a plot against
him? No! he could not believe it. He would not look for foul play
from that quarter. It might have been mislaid-if lost, all the
better. A second thought, and he begins to quiet himself with the
belief that it had become extinct; that, there not being evidence to
prove them property, his word would be sufficient to procure their
release. Somewhat relieved of the force of parental anxiety-we can
call it by no other name-the troubled planter, with his troubles
inherited, promises Maxwell, who has postponed his departure that he
may aid in saving Clotilda and her child, that he will proceed
direct to the sheriff's office, give notice of their freedom to that
functionary, and forbid the sale. Upon this resolution they part for
the night, and on the following morning, Marston, sick at heart,
leaves for the city, hoping to make arrangements with his attorney,
who will serve notice of freedom with all the expense and legality
The reader will excuse us for passing over many things of minor
importance which take place during the progress of arrangements
between Marston and the attorney, Mr. Dyson--commonly called Thomas
Dyson, Esq., wonderfully clever in the practice of slave law--and
proceeding to where we find the notice formally served. The document
forbids the sale of certain persons, physically and mentally
described, according to the nicest rules of law and tenour of trade;
and is, with the dignity of legal proceedings, served on the
honourable sheriff. We give a portion of it, for those who are not
informed on such curious matters: it runs thus:--"'The girl
Clotilda-aged 27 years; her child Annette-aged 7 years, and a
remarkable boy, Nicholas, 6 years old, all negroes, levied upon at
the suit of--, to satisfy a fi fa issued from the--, and set forth
to be the property of Hugh Marston of--, &c. &c.;'" as set forth in
the writ of attachment. Thus runs the curious law, based on
privilege, not principle.
The document served on the sheriff, Marston resolved to remain a few
days in the city and watch its effect. The sheriff, who is seldom
supposed to evince sympathy in his duties, conforms with the
ordinary routine of law in nigger cases; and, in his turn, gives
notice to the plaintiff, who is required to enter security for the
purpose of testing the point of freedom. Freedom here is a slender
commodity; it can be sworn away for a small compensation. Mr.
Anthony Romescos has peculiar talent that way, and his services are
always in the market. The point, however, has not resolved itself
into that peculiar position where it must be either a matter of
compromise, or a question for the court and jury to decide.
If Marston, now sensible of his position as father of the children,
will yield them a sacrifice to the man trader, it is in his power;
the creditors will make it their profit. Who, then, can solve the
perplexity for him? The custom of society, pointing the finger of
shame, denies him the right to acknowledge them his children.
Society has established the licentious wrong,--the law protects it,
custom enforces it. He can only proceed by declaring the mother to
be a free woman, and leaving the producing proof to convict her of
being slave property to the plaintiff. In doing this, his judgment
wars with his softer feelings. Custom--though it has nothing to give
him-is goading him with its advice; it tells him to abandon the
unfashionable, unpolite scheme. Natural laws have given birth to
natural feelings--natural affections are stronger than bad laws. They
burn with our nature,--they warm the gentle, inspire the noble, and
awake the daring that lies unmoved until it be called into action
for the rescue of those for whom our affections have taken life.
Things had arrived at that particular point where law-lovers-we mean
lawyers-look on with happy consciences and pleasing expectations;
that is, they had arrived at that certain hinge of slave law the
turn of which sends men, women, and children, into the vortex of
slavery, where their hopes are for ever crushed. One day Marston had
strong hopes of saving them; but his hopes vanished on the next. The
fair creature, by him made a wretch, seemed before him, on her
bended knees, clasping his hand while imploring him to save her
child. The very thought would have doubly nerved him to action; and
yet, what mattered such action against the force of slavery
injustice? All his exertions, all his pleadings, all his
protestations, in a land where liberty boasts its greatness, would
sink to nothing under the power he had placed in their possession
for his overthrow.
With this fatal scene before him, this indecision, he walked the
streets, resolving and re-resolving, weighing and re-weighing the
consequences, hoping without a chance for hope. He would be a father
as he has been a kind master; but the law says, no! no! Society
forbids right, the law crushes justice,--the justice of heaven!
Marston is like one driven from his home, from the scene of his
happy childhood, upon which he can now only look back to make the
present more painful. He has fallen from the full flow of pleasure
and wealth to the low ebb of poverty clothed in suspicion; he is
homeless, and fast becoming friendless. A few days after, as he
takes his morning walk, he is pointed to the painful fact, made
known through certain legal documents, posted at certain corners of
streets, that his "negro property" is advertised for sale by the
sheriff. He fears his legal notice has done little legal good,
except to the legal gentlemen who receive the costs. He retires to a
saloon, finds the morning paper, commences glancing over its legal
columns. The waiter is surprised to see him at that hour, is
ignorant of the war of trouble that is waging within him, knows him
only as a great man, a rice planter of wealth in negroes, treats him
with becoming civility, and enquires, with a polite bow, what he
will be served with. He wants nothing that will supply the physical
man. He has supped on trouble,--the following, painful as it is, will
serve him for breakfast; it meets his eye as he traces down the
"According to former notice, will be sold on the first Tuesday in
September next, between the usual hours of sale, before the Court
House door, in this city, the following property-to wit!
"Three yoke of prime oxen, and four carts.
"Seven horses; two of celebrated breed.
"Twenty-two mules, together with sundry other effects as per
previous schedule, which will be produced at the sale, when the
property will be pointed out. The said being levied on as the
property of Hugh Marston, of--District, and sold to satisfy a fi
fa issued from the Superior Court, W. W. C--.
"Also the following gang of negroes, many of whom have been
accustomed to the cultivation of cotton and rice. Said negroes are
very prime and orderly, having been well trained and fed, in
addition to enjoying the benefit of Christian teaching through a
Sunday-school worship on the plantation.
"Dandy, and Enock (yellow), prime house servants.
"Choate, and Cato, aged 29 and 32, coachman and blacksmith.
"Harry, a prime fellow of remarkable sagacity, said to be very
pious, and has been very valuable as a preacher.
"Seventeen prime field hands, ranging from 17 to 63 years old,
together with sundry children, set forth in the schedule.
"Peggy, aged 23 years, an excellent cook, house servant-can do
almost any work, is faithful and strictly honest.
"Rachel, one of the very best wenches in the County; has had charge
of the Manor for several years, is very motherly and well disposed,
and fully capable of taking charge of a plantation."
The description of the negro property continues until it reaches the
last and most touching point, which Marston reads with tears
coursing down his cheeks. But, it is only trade, and it is
refreshing to see how much talent the auctionee-himself a
distinguished politician,--exhibits in displaying his bill. It is
that which has worked itself so deep into Marston's feelings.
"Clotilda, a white negro, and her child Annette; together with
Nicholas--a bright boy," remarkably intelligent-six years old. "These
last," adds the list, "have been well brought up, with great care,
and are extremely promising and pleasant when speaking. The woman
has superior looks, is sometimes called beautiful, has finely
developed features, and is considered to be the handsomest bright
woman in the county."
We acknowledge the italics to be ours. The list, displaying great
competency in the trade of human beings, concludes with warranting
them sound and healthy, informing all those in want of such property
of the wonderful opportunity of purchasing, and offering to
guarantee its qualities. The above being "levied on to satisfy three
fi fas," &c. &c.
Poor Clotilda! her beauty has betrayed her: her mother was made a
slave, and she has inherited the sin which the enlightened of the
western world say shall be handed down from generation to generation
until time itself has an end. She is within the damp walls of a
narrow cell; the cold stones give forth their moisture to chill her
bleeding heart; the rust of oppression cuts into her very soul. The
warm sunlight of heaven, once so cheering, has now turned black and
cold to her. She sits in that cold confine, filled with sorrow,
hope, and expectation, awaiting her doom, like a culprit who
measures the chances of escape between him and the gallows. She
thinks of Marston. "He was a kind friend to me-he was a good
master," she says, little thinking that at that very moment he sits
in the saloon reading that southern death-warrant which dooms so
many to a life of woe. In it fathers were not mentioned-Marston's
feelings were spared that pain; mothers' tears, too, were omitted,
lest the sensitiveness of the fashionable world should be touched.
Pained, and sick at heart-stung by remorse at finding himself
without power to relieve Clotilda-he rises from his seat, and makes
arrangement to return to his plantation.
A SCENE OF MANY LIGHTS.
WE must leave Marston wending his way for the old plantation, and
pass to another phase of this complicated affair. In doing this, we
must leave the reader to draw from his own imagination much that
must have transpired previous to the present incidents.
The Rovero family-old and distinguished-had struggled against the
misfortunes brought upon them by their son Lorenzo. Deeply involved,
they had allowed their difficulties to go on till they had found
themselves living by the favour of courtesy and indulgence. Lorenzo
and Franconia were only children; and since the departure of the
former the latter had been the idol of their indulgence. She was, as
we have before said, delicate, sensitive, endowed with generous
impulses, and admired for her gentleness, grace, and vivacity. To
these she added firmness, and, when once resolved upon any object,
could not be moved from her purpose. Nor was she-as is the popular
fallacy of the South-susceptible to the influence of wealth. Her
love and tenderness soared above it; she prized wealth less than
moral worth. But she could not appease the pride of her parents with
her feelings. They, labouring under the influence of their reduced
fortunes, had favoured and insisted upon the advances of the very
wealthy Colonel M'Carstrow, a rice-planter, who had a few years
before inherited a large estate. The colonel is a sturdy specimen of
the Southern gentleman, which combines a singular mixture of
qualities, some of which are represented by a love of good living,
good drinking, good horse-racing, good gambling, and fast company.
He lives on the fat of the land, because the fat of the land was
made for him to enjoy. He has no particular objection to anybody in
the world, providing they believe in slavery, and live according to
his notions of a gentleman. His soul's delight is faro, which he
would not exchange for all the religion in the world; he has strong
doubts about the good of religion, which, he says, should be boxed
up with modern morality.
Laying these things aside, however, he is anything but what would
have been properly selected as a partner for Franconia; and, while
she is only eighteen, he has turned the corner of his forty-third
year. In a word, his manners are unmodelled, his feelings coarse,
his associations of the worst kind; nor is he adapted to make the
happiness of domestic life lasting. He is one of those persons so
often met with, whose affections-if they may be supposed to have
any-are held in a sort of compromise between an incitement to love,
and their natural inclination to revel in voluptuous pleasures. The
two being antagonistic at times, the latter is sure to be the
stronger, and not unfrequently carries its victim into dissolute
extremes. Riches, however, will always weigh heavy in the scale;
their possession sways,--the charm of gold is precious and powerful.
And, too, the colonel had another attraction-very much esteemed
among slave-dealers and owners--he had a military title, though no
one knew how he came by it.
Franconia must be the affianced bride of the supposed wealthy
Colonel M'Carstrow; so say her parents, who feel they are being
crushed out by misfortune. It is their desire; and, however
repulsive it may be to Franconia's feelings, she must accept the
man: she must forget his years, his habits, his associations, for
the wealth he can bring to the relief of the family.
To add ‚clat to the event, it is arranged that the nuptial ceremony
shall take place in the spacious old mansion of General P--, in the
city. General P--is a distant relation of the Rovero family. His
mansion is one of those noble old edifices, met here and there in
the South--especially in South Carolina-which strongly mark the
grandeur of their ancient occupants. It is a massive pile of marble,
of mixed style of Grecian and Doric architecture, with three stories
divided by projecting trellised arbours, and ornamented with fluted
columns surmounted with ingeniously-worked and sculptured capitals,
set off with grotesque figures. The front is ornamented with tablets
of bas-relief, variegated and chaste. These are bordered with
scroll-work, chases of flowers, graces, and historical designs.
Around the lower story, palisades and curvatures project here and
there between the divisions, forming bowers shaded by vines and
sweet-scented blossoms. These are diffusing their fragrance through
the spacious halls and corridors beneath. The stately old pile wears
a romantic appearance; but it has grown brown with decay, and stands
in dumb testimony of that taste and feeling which prevailed among
its British founders. The garden in which it stands, once rich with
the choicest flowers of every clime, now presents an area overgrown
with rank weeds, decaying hedges, dilapidated walks, and sickly
shrubbery. The hand that once nurtured this pretty scene of buds and
blossoms with so much care has passed away. Dull inertness now hangs
its lifeless festoons over the whole, from the vaulted hall to the
iron railing enclosing the whole.
The day for consummating the nuptial ceremony has arrived; many
years have passed since the old mansion witnessed such a scene. The
gay, wealthy, and intelligent of the little fashionable world will
be here. The spell of loneliness in which the old walls have so long
slept will be broken. Sparkling jewels, bland smiles, the rich
decorations of former years, are to again enhance the scene.
Exhausted nature is to shake off its monotony, to be enlivened with
the happiness of a seemingly happy assemblage. A lovely bride is to
be showered with smiles, congratulations, tokens of love. Southern
gallantry will doff its cares, put on its smiling face. Whatever may
smoulder beneath, pleasure and gaiety will adorn the surface.
Franconia sits in her spacious chamber. She is arrayed in flowing
n‚glig‚; a pensive smile invades her countenance; she supports her
head on her left hand, the jewels on her tiny fingers sparkling
though her hair. Everything round her bears evidence of comfort and
luxury; the gentle breeze, as it sweeps through the window to fan
her blushing cheek, is impregnated with sweetest odours. She
contemplates the meeting of him who is to be the partner of her
life; can she reconcile it? Nay, there is something forcing itself
against her will. Her bridesmaids,--young, gay, and
accomplished,--gather around her. The fierce conflict raging in her
bosom discloses itself; the attempt to cheer her up, under the
impression that it arises from want of vigour to buoy up her
sensitive system, fails. Again she seems labouring under excitement.
"Franconia!" exclaims one, taking her by the hand, "is not the time
"Time always approaches," she speaks: her mind has been wandering,
picturing the gloomy spectacle that presents itself in Clotilda's
cell. She moves her right hand slowly across her brow, casts an
enquiring glance around the room, then at those beside her, and
changes her position in the chair. "The time to have your toilet
prepared-the servants await you," is the reply. Franconia gathers
strength, sits erect in her chair, seems to have just resolved upon
something. A servant hastens into her presence bearing a
delicately-enveloped note. She breaks the seal, reads it and
re-reads it, holds it carelessly in her hand for a minute, then puts
it in her bosom. There is something important in the contents,
something she must keep secret. It is from Maxwell. Her friend
evinced some surprise, while waiting a reply as she read the letter.
"No! not yet," she says, rising from her chair and sallying across
the room. "That which is forced upon me-ah! I cannot love him. To me
there is no loving wealth. Money may shelter; but it never moves
hearts to love truly. How I have struggled against it!" Again she
resumes her chair, weeps. Her tears gush from the parent
fountain-woman's heart. "My noble uncle in trouble, my dear brother
gone; yes! to where, and for what, I dare not think; and yet it has
preyed upon me through the struggle of pride against love. My father
may soon follow; but I am to be consigned to the arms of one whom it
would be folly to say I respect."
Her friend, Miss Alice Latel, reminds her that it were well not to
let such melancholy wanderings trouble her. She suggests that the
colonel, being rich, will fill the place of father as well as
husband; that she will be surrounded by the pleasures which wealth
only can bring, and in this world what more can be desired?
"Such fathers seldom make affectionate husbands; nor do I want the
father without the husband; his wealth would not make me respect
him." Franconia becomes excited, giving rapid utterance to her
language. "Can I suppress my melancholy-can I enjoy such pleasure,
and my dear Clotilda in a prison, looking through those galling
gratings? Can I be happy when the anguish of despair pierces deep
into her heart? No! oh, no! Never, while I think of her, can I
summon resolution to put on a bridal robe. Nay! I will not put them
on without her. I will not dissemble joy while she sinks in her
"Can you mean that-at this hour?" enquires Miss Alice, looking upon
her with anxiety pictured in her face. One gives the other a look of
surprise. Miss Alice must needs call older counsel.
"Yes!" replies Franconia, more calm; "even at this hour! It is never
too late to serve our sisters. Could I smile-could I seem happy, and
so many things to contemplate? We cannot disguise them now; we
cannot smother scandal with a silken mantle. Clotilda must be with
me. Negro as she is by law, she is no less dear to me. Nor can I
yield to those feelings so prominent in southern breasts,--I cannot
disclaim her rights, leave her the mere chattel subject of brute
force, and then ask forgiveness of heaven!" This declaration, made
in a positive tone, at once disclosed her resolution. We need not
tell the reader with what surprise it took the household; nor, when
she as suddenly went into a violent paroxysm of hysterics, the alarm
The quiet of the mansion has changed for uproar and confusion.
Servants are running here and there, getting in each other's way,
blocking the passages, and making the confusion more intense.
Colonel M'Carstrow is sent for, reaches the mansion in great
consternation, expects to find Franconia a corpse, for the negro
messenger told him such a crooked story, and seemed so frightened,
that he can't make anything straight of it-except that there is
something very alarming.
She has been carried to one of the ante-chambers, reclines on a
couch of softest tapestry, a physician at one side, and Alice,
bathing her temples with aromatic liquid, on the other. She presents
a ravishing picture of delicacy, modesty, and simplicity,--of all
that is calmly beautiful in woman. "I can scarcely account for it;
but, she's coming to," says the man of medicine, looking on
mechanically. Her white bosom swells gently, like a newly-waked
zephyr playing among virgin leaves; while her eyes, like melancholy
stars, glimmer with the lustre of her soul. "Ah me!" she sighs,
raising her hand over her head and resting it upon the cushion, as
her auburn hair floats, calm and beautiful, down her pearly
The colonel touches her hand; and, as if it had been too rudely, she
draws it to her side, then places it upon her bosom. Again raising
her eyes till they meet his, she blushes. It is the blush of
innocence, that brightens beneath the spirit of calm resolution. She
extends her hand again, slowly, and accepts his. "You will gratify
me-will you not?" she mutters, attempting to gain a recumbent
position. They raise her as she intimates a desire; she seems
"Whatever your wish may be, you have but to intimate it," replies
the colonel, kissing her hand.
"Then, I want Clotilda. Go, bring her to me; she only can wait on
me; and I am fond of her. With her I shall be well soon; she will
dress me. Uncle will be happy, and we shall all be happy."
"But," the colonel interrupts, suddenly, "where is she to be found?"
"In the prison. You'll find her there!" There is little time to
lose,--a carriage is ordered, the colonel drives to the prison, and
there finds the object of Franconia's trouble. She, the two children
at her side, sits in a cell seven by five feet; the strong grasp of
slave power fears itself, its tyranny glares forth in the emaciated
appearance of its female victim. The cell is lighted through a small
aperture in the door, which hangs with heavy bolts and bars, as if
torturing the innocent served the power of injustice. The
prison-keeper led the way through a narrow passage between stone
walls. His tap on the door startles her; she moves from her
position, where she had been seated on a coarse blanket. It is all
they (the hospitable southern world, with its generous laws) can
afford her; she makes it a bed for three. A people less boastful of
hospitality may give her more. She holds a prayer-book in her hand,
and motions to the children as they crouch at her feet.
"Come, girl! somebody's here to see you," says the keeper, looking
in at the aperture, as the sickly stench escapes from the dark
Nervously, the poor victim approaches, lays her trembling hand on
the grating, gives a doubting glance at the stranger, seems
surprised, anxious to know the purport of his mission.
"Am I wanted?" she enquires eagerly, as if fearing some rude dealer
has come-perhaps to examine her person, that he may be the better
able to judge of her market value.
Notwithstanding the coldness of M'Carstrow's nature, his feelings
are moved by the womanly appearance of the wench, as he calls her,
when addressing the warden. There is something in the means by which
so fair a creature is reduced to merchandise he cannot altogether
reconcile. Were it not for what habit and education can do, it would
be repulsive to nature in its crudest state. But it is according to
law, that inhuman law which is tolerated in a free country.
"I want you to go with me, and you will see your young missis," says
M'Carstrow, shrugging his shoulders. He is half inclined to let his
better feelings give way to sympathy. But custom and commerce forbid
it; they carry off the spoil, just as the sagacious pumpkin
philosopher of England admits slavery a great evil, while delivering
an essay for the purpose of ridiculing emancipation.
M'Carstrow soon changes his feelings,--addresses himself to business.
"Are you in here for sale?" he enquires, attempting to whistle an
air, and preserve an unaffected appearance.
The question touches a tender chord of her feelings; her bosom
swells with emotions of grief; he has wounded that sensitive chord
upon which the knowledge of her degradation hangs. She draws a
handkerchief from her pocket, wipes the tear that glistens in her
eye, clasps Annette in her arms-while Nicholas, frightened, hangs by
the skirts of her dress,--buries her face in her bosom, retires a few
steps, and again seats herself on the blanket.
"The question is pending. If I'm right about it-and I believe I'm
generally so on such cases-it comes on before the next session, fall
term," says the gaoler, turning to M'Carstrow with a look of
wonderful importance. The gaoler, who, with his keys, lets loose the
anxieties of men, continues his learned remarks. "Notice has been
served how she's free. But that kind o' twisting things to make
slave property free never amounts to much, especially when a man
gets where they say Marston is! Anthony Romescos has been quizzing
about, and it don't take much to make such things property when he's
round." The man of keys again looks very wise, runs his hand deep
into the pocket of his coat, and says something about this being a
"How much do you reckon her worth, my friend?" enquires M'Carstrow,
exchanging a significant glance.
"Well, now you've got me. It's a point of judgment, you see. The
article's rather questionable-been spoiled. There's a doubt about
such property when you put it up, except a gentleman wants it; and
then, I reckon, it'll bring a smart price. There's this to be
considered, I reckon, though they haven't set a price on her yet,
she's excellent good looking; and the young un's a perfect cherry.
It'll bring a big heap one of these days."
"We won't mind that, just now, gaoler," M'Carstrow says, very
complacently; "you'll let me have her tonight, and I'll return her
safe in the morning."
"No, no," interposes Clotilda, mistaking M'Carstrow's object. She
crouches down on the blanket, as if shrinking from a deadly assault:
"let me remain, even in my cell." She draws the children to her
"Don't mistake me, my girl: I am a friend. I want you for Franconia
Rovero. She is fond of you, you know."
"Franconia!" she exclaims with joy, starting to her feet at the
sound of the name. "I do know her, dear Franconia! I know her, I
love her, she loves me-I wish she was my mother. But she is to be
the angel of my freedom-" Here she suddenly stopped, as if she had
"We must lose no time," M'Carstrow says, informing her that
Franconia is that night to be his bride, and cannot be happy without
"Bride! and cannot prepare without me," mutters the woman, seeming
to doubt the reality of his statement. A thought flashes in her
mind: "Franconia has not forgotten me; I will go and be Franconia's
friend." And with a child-like simplicity she takes Annette by the
hand, as if they were inseparable. "Can't Nicholas go, too?" she
"You must leave the child," is the cool reply. M'Carstrow attempts
to draw the heavy bolt that fastens the door.
"Not so fast, if you please," the warden speaks. "I cannot permit
her to leave without an order from the sheriff." He puts his hand
against the door.
"She will surely be returned in the morning; I'm good for a hundred
such pieces of property."
"Can't help that," interrupts the gaoler, coolly.
"But, there's my honour!"
"An article gaolers better not deal in. It may be very good
commodity in some kinds of business-don't pay in ours; and then,
when this kind of property is in question, it won't do to show a
favour beyond the rule."
M'Carstrow is in a sad dilemma. He must relieve himself through a
problem of law, which, at this late hour, brings matters to a
singular point. He believes Franconia suffers from a nervous
affection, as the doctors call it, and has fixed her mind upon the
only object of relief. He had made no preparation for such a
critical event; but there is no postponing the ceremony,--no
depriving her of the indulgence. Not a moment is to be lost: he sets
off, post-haste, for the sheriff's office. That functionary is well
known for his crude method of executing business; to ask a favour of
him would be like asking the sea to give up its dead. He is cold,
methodical, unmoveable; very much opposed to anything having the
appearance of an innovation upon his square rules of business.
M'Carstrow finds him in just the mood to interpose all the frigid
peculiarities of his incomprehensible nature. The colonel has known
him by reputation; he knows him now through a different medium.
After listening to M'Carstrow's request, and comporting himself with
all imaginable dignity, he runs his fingers through his hair, looks
at M'Carstrow vacantly, and well nigh rouses his temper. M'Carstrow
feels, as southern gentlemen are wont to feel, that his position and
title are enough to ensure courtesy and a quick response. The man of
writs and summonses feels quite sure that the pomp of his office is
sufficient to offset all other distinctions.
"Whar' d'ye say the gal was,--in my gaol?" the sheriff inquires, with
solemn earnestness, and drawling his words measuredly, as if the
whole affair was quite within his line of business. The sheriff has
the opportunity of making a nice little thing of it; the object to
be released will serve the profits of the profession. "Gittin' that
gal out yander ain't an easy thing now, 'taint! It'll cost ye 'bout
twenty dollars, sartin," he adds, turning over the leaves of his big
book, and running his finger down a scale of names.
"I don't care if it costs a hundred! Give me an order for her
release!" M'Carstrow begins to understand Mr. Sheriff's composition,
and putting his hand into his pocket, draws forth a dwenty-dollar
gold piece, throws it upon the table. The effect is electric: it
smooths down the surface of Mr. Sheriff's nature,--brings out the
disposition to accommodate. The Sheriff's politeness now taxes
M'Carstrow's power to reciprocate.
"Now, ye see, my friend," says Mr. Sheriff, in a quaint tone,
"there's three fi fas on that critter. Hold a minute!" He must needs
take a better glance; he runs his fingers over the page again,
mutters to himself, and then breaks out into a half-musical,
half-undefinable humming. "It's a snarled-up affair, the whole on't.
T'll take a plaguy cunnin' lawyer to take the shine out." The
sheriff pushes the piece of coin nearer the inkstand, into the
centre of the table. "I feel all over like accommodatin' ye," he
deigns to say; "but then t'll be so pestky crooked gettin' the thing
straight." He hesitates before the wonderful difficulty,--he can't
see his way straight through it. "Three fi fas! I believe I'm
correct; there's one principal one, however."
"I pledge my honour for her return in the morning; and she shall be
all shined up with a new dress. Her presence is imperatively
necessary to-night," M'Carstrow remarks, becoming impatient.
"Two fi fas!-well, the first look looked like three. But, the
principal one out of the way,--no matter." Mr. Sheriff becomes more
and more enlightened on the unenlightened difficulties of the law.
He remarks, touching M'Carstrow on the arm, with great seriousness
of countenance, "I sees how the knot's tied. Ye know, my functions
are turned t' most everything; and it makes a body see through a
thing just as straight as--. Pest on't! Ye see, it's mighty likely
property,--don't strike such every day. That gal 'll bring a big tick
in the market-"
"Excuse me, my dear sir," M'Carstrow suddenly interrupts.
"Understand me, if you please. I want her for nothing that you
contemplate,--nothing, I pledge you my honour as a southern
"'Ah,--bless me! Well, but there's nothin' in that. I see! I see! I
see!" Mr. Sheriff brightens up, his very soul seems to expand with
legal tenacity. "Well, ye see, there's a question of property raised
about the gal, and her young 'un, too-nice young 'un 'tis; but it's
mighty easy tellin' whose it is. About the law matter, though, you
must get the consent of all the plaintiff's attorneys,--that's no
small job. Lawyers are devilish slippery, rough a feller amazingly,
once in a while; chance if ye don't have to get the critter valued
by a survey. Graspum, though's ollers on hand, is first best good at
that: can say her top price while ye'd say seven," says Mr. Sheriff,
maintaining his wise dignity, as he reminds M'Carstrow that his name
is Cur, commonly called Mr. Cur, sheriff of the county. It must not
be inferred that Mr. Cur has any of the canine qualities about him.
The hour for the ceremony is close at hand. M'Carstrow, satisfied
that rules of law are very arbitrary things in the hands of
officials-that such property is difficult to get out of the meshes
of legal technicality-that honour is neither marketable or
pledgeable in such cases, must move quickly: he seeks the very
conscientious attorneys, gets them together, pleads the necessity of
the case: a convention is arranged, Graspum will value the
property-as a weigher and gauger of human flesh. This done,
M'Carstrow signs a bond in the sum of fifteen hundred dollars,
making himself responsible for the property. The instrument contains
a provision, that should any unforeseen disaster befall it, the
question of property will remain subject to the decision of Court.
Upon these conditions, M'Carstrow procures an order for her release.
He is careful, however, that nothing herein set forth shall affect
the suit already instituted.
Love is an exhilarating medicine, moving and quickening the hearts
of old and young. M'Carstrow felt its influence sensibly, as he
hurried back to the prison-excited by the near approach of the
ceremony-with the all-important order. Bolts, bars, and malarious
walls, yield to it the pining captive whose presence will soothe
Clotilda was no less elated at the hope of changing her prison for
the presence of her young mistress; and yet, the previous summons
had nearly unnerved her. She lingers at the grating, waiting
M'Carstrow's return. Time seems to linger, until her feelings are
nearly overwhelmed in suspense. Again, there is a mystery in the
mission of the stranger; she almost doubts his sincerity. It may be
one of those plots, so often laid by slave-traders, to separate her
from her child,--perhaps to run her where all hope of regaining
freedom will be for ever lost. One after another did these things
recur to her mind, only to make the burden of her troubles more
Her child has eaten its crust, fallen into a deep sleep, and, its
little hands resting clasped on its bosom, lies calmly upon the
coarse blanket. She gazes upon it, as a mother only can gaze. There
is beauty in that sweet face; it is not valued for its loveliness,
its tenderness, its purity. How cursed that it is to be the prime
object of her disgrace! Thus contemplating, M'Carstrow appears at
the outer gate, is admitted into the prison, reaches the inner
grating, is received by the warden, who smiles generously. "I'm as
glad as anything! Hope you had a good time with his honour, Mr.
Cur?" he says, holding the big key in his hand, and leading the way
into the office. He takes his seat at a table, commences preparing
the big book. "Here is the entry," he says, with a smile of
satisfaction. "We'll soon straighten the thing now." Puts out his
hand for the order which M'Carstrow has been holding. "That's just
the little thing," he says, reading it word by word carefully, and
concluding with the remark that he has had a deal of trouble with
it. M'Carstrow places some pieces of silver in his hand; they turn
the man of keys into a subservient creature. He hastens to the cell,
M'Carstrow following,--draws the heavy bolts,--bids the prisoner come
forth. "Yes, come, girl; I've had a tough time to get you out of
that place: it holds its prey like lawyers' seals," rejoins
"Not without my child?" she inquires quickly. She stoops down and
kisses it. "My daughter,--my sweet child!" she mutters.
"Till to-morrow. You must leave her for to-night."
"If I must!" Again she kisses the child, adding, as she smoothed her
hand over Annette, and parted her hair, "Mother will return soon."
There was something so touching in the word mother, spoken while
leaning over a sleeping babe. Clotilda reaches the door, having kept
her eyes upon the child as she left her behind. A tremor comes over
her,--she reluctantly passes the threshold of the narrow arch; but
she breathes the fresh air of heaven,--feels as if her life had been
renewed. A mother's thoughts, a mother's anxieties, a mother's love,
veil her countenance. She turns to take a last look as the cold door
closes upon the dearest object of her life. How it grates upon its
hinges! her hopes seem for ever extinguished.
The law is thus far satisfied-the legal gentlemen are satisfied, the
warden is not the least generous; and Mr. Cur feels that, while the
job was a very nice one, he has not transcended one jot of his
importance. Such is highly gratifying to all parties. Clotilda is
hurried into a carriage, driven at a rapid rate, and soon arrives at
the mansion. Here she is ushered into a chamber, arrayed in a new
dress, and conducted into the presence of Franconia. The meeting may
be more easily imagined than described. Their congratulations were
warm, affectionate, touching. Clotilda kisses Franconia's hand again
and again; Franconia, in turn, lays her hand upon Clotilda's
shoulder, and, with a look of commiseration, sets her eyes intently
upon her, as if she detects in her countenance those features she
cannot disown. She requests to be left alone with Clotilda for a
short time. Her friends withdraw. She discloses the difficulties
into which the family have suddenly fallen, the plan of escape she
has arranged, the hopes she entertains of her regaining her freedom.
"Public opinion and the state of our difficulties prompted this
course,--I prefer it to any other: follow my directions,--Maxwell has
everything prepared, and to-night will carry you off upon the broad
blue ocean of liberty. Enjoy that liberty, Clotilda,--be a
woman,--follow the path God has strewn for your happiness; above all,
let freedom be rewarded with your virtue, your example," says
Franconia, as she again places her arm round Clotilda's neck.
"And leave my child, Franconia?" the other inquires, looking up
imploringly in Franconia's face.
"To me," is the quick response. "I will be her guardian, her mother.
Get you beyond the grasp of slavery-get beyond its contaminating
breath, and I will be Annette's mother. When you are safely there,
when you can breathe the free air of liberty, write me, and she
shall meet you. Leave her to me; think of her only in my care, and
in my trust she will be happy. Meet Maxwell-he is your friend-at the
centre corridor; he will be there as soon as the ceremony commences;
he will have a pass from me; he will be your guide!" She overcomes
Clotilda's doubts, reasons away her pleadings for her child, gives
her a letter and small miniature (they are to be kept until she
reaches her destination of freedom), and commences preparing for the
Night arrives, the old mansion brightens and resounds with the
bustle of preparation. Servants are moving about in great confusion.
Everything is in full dress; "yellow fellows," immersed in trim
black coats, nicely-cut pantaloons, white vests and gloves,
shirt-collars of extraordinary dimensions, and hair curiously
crimped, are standing at their places along the halls, ready for
reception. Another class, equally well dressed, are running to and
fro through the corridors in the despatch of business. Old mammas
have a new shine on their faces, their best "go to church" fixings
on their backs. Younger members of the same property species are
gaudily attired-some in silk, some in missus's slightly worn
cashmere. The colour of their faces grades from the purest ebony to
the palest olive. A curious philosophy may be drawn from the
mixture: it contrasts strangely with the flash and dazzle of their
fantastic dresses, their large circular ear-rings, their
curiously-tied bandanas, the large bow points of which lay crossed
on the tufts of their crimpy hair. The whole scene has an air of
bewitching strangeness. In another part of the mansion we find the
small figures of the estate, all agog, toddling and doddling, with
faces polished like black-balled shoes; they are as piquant and
interesting as their own admiration of the dress master has provided
them for the occasion.
The darkness increases as the night advances. The arbour leading
from the great gate to the vaulted hall in the base of the mansion
is hung with lanterns of grotesque patterns, emitting light and
shade as variegated as the hues of the rainbow. The trees and
shrubbery in the arena, hung with fantastic lanterns, enliven the
picture-make it grand and imposing. It presents a fairy-like
perspective, with spectre lights hung here and there, their mellow
glows reflecting softly upon the luxuriant foliage.
Entering the vaulted hall, its floor of antique tiles; frescoed
walls with well-executed mythological designs, jetting lights
flickering and dazzling through its arches, we find ourselves amidst
splendour unsurpassed in our land. At the termination of the great
hall a massive flight of spiral steps, of Egyptian marble, ascends
to the fourth story, forming a balcony at each, where ottomans are
placed, and from which a fine view of the curvature presents itself,
from whence those who have ascended may descry those ascending. On
the second story is a corridor, with moulded juttings and fretwork
overhead; these are hung with festoons of jasmines and other
delicate flowers, extending its whole length, and lighted by
globular lamps, the prismatic ornaments of which shed their soft
glows on the fixtures beneath. They invest it with the appearance of
a bower decorated with buds and blossoms. From this, on the right, a
spacious arched door, surmounted by a semi-circle of stained glass
containing devices of the Muses and other allegorical figures, leads
into an immense parlour, having a centre arch hung with heavy folds
of maroon coloured velvet overspread with lace. Look where you will,
the picture of former wealth and taste presents itself. Around the
walls hang costly paintings, by celebrated Italian masters; some are
portraits of the sovereigns of England, from that of Elizabeth to
George the Third. Brilliant lights jet forth from massive
chandeliers and girandoles, lighting up the long line of chaste
furniture beneath. The floor is spread with softest Turkey carpet;
groups of figures in marble, skilfully executed, form a curiously
arranged fire-place; Britannia's crest surmounting the whole. At
each end of the room stand chastely designed pieces of statuary of
heroes and heroines of past ages. Lounges, ottomans, reclines, and
couches, elaborately carved and upholstered, stand here and there in
all their antiqueness and grandeur. Pier-glasses, massive tables
inlaid with mosaic and pearl, are arranged along the sides, and
overhung with flowing tapestry that falls carelessly from the large
Doric windows. Over these windows are massive cornices, richly
designed and gilded. Quiet grandeur pervades the whole; even the
fairy-like dais that has been raised for the nuptial ceremony rests
upon four pieces of statuary, and is covered with crimson velvet set
with sparkling crystals. And while this spectacle presents but the
vanity of our nature, grand but not lasting, the sweet breath of
summer is wafting its balmy odours to refresh and give life to its
The gay cortŠge begins to assemble; the halls fill with guests; the
beauty, grace, and intelligence of this little fashionable world,
arrayed in its very best, will be here with its best face. Sparkling
diamonds and other precious stones, dazzling, will enhance the
gorgeous display. And yet, how much of folly's littleness does it
all present! All this costly drapery-all this show of worldly
voluptuousness-all this tempest of gaiety, is but the product of
pain and sorrow. The cheek that blushes in the gay circle, that fair
form born to revel in luxury, would not blush nor shrink to see a
naked wretch driven with the lash. Yea! we have said it was the
product of pain and sorrow; it is the force of oppression wringing
from ignorance and degradation the very dregs of its life. Men say,
what of that?-do we not live in a great good land of liberty?
The young affianced,--dressed in a flowing skirt of white satin, with
richly embroidered train; a neat bodice of the same material, with
incisions of lace tipped with brilliants; sleeves tapering into neat
rufflets of lace clasped upon the wrist with diamond bracelets, a
stomacher of chastely worked lace with brilliants in the centre,
relieved by two rows of small unpolished pearls,--is ushered into the
parlour, followed by groomsmen and bridesmaids as chastely dressed.
There is a striking contrast between the youth and delicacy of
Franconia, blushing modestly and in her calmness suppressing that
inert repugnance working in her mind, and the brusqueness of
M'Carstrow, who assumes the free and easy dash, hoping thereby to
lessen his years in the picture of himself. Clotilda, for the last
time, has arranged Franconia's hair, which lies in simple braids
across her polished brows, and folds upon the back, where it is
secured and set off with a garland of wild flowers. The hand that
laid it there, that arranged it so neatly, will never arrange it
again. As a last token of affection for her young mistress, Clotilda
has plucked a new-blown chiponique, white with crystal dew, and
surrounded it with tiny buds and orange blossoms: this, Franconia
holds in her left hand, the lace to which it is attached falling
like mist to the ground.
Thus arrayed, they appear at the altar: the good man of modest cloth
takes his place, the ceremony commences; and as it proceeds, and the
solemn words fall upon her ear, "Those whom God hath joined together
let no man put asunder," she raises her eyes upwards, with a look of
melancholy, as tears, like pearls, glisten in her soft expressive
eyes. Her heart is moved with deeper emotion than this display of
southern galaxy can produce. The combination of circumstances that
has brought her to the altar, the decline of fortune, perhaps
disgrace, worked upon her mind. It is that which has consigned her
to the arms of one she cannot love, whose feelings and associations
she never can respect. Was she to be the ransom?-was she to atone
for the loss of family fortune, family pride, family inconsistency?
kept forcing itself upon her. There was no gladness in it-no
happiness. And there was the captive, the victim of foul slavery-so
foul that hell yearns for its abettors-whose deliverance she prayed
for with her earnest soul. She knew the oppressor's grasp-she had,
with womanly pride, come forward to relieve the wronged, and she had
become sensible of the ties binding her to Clotilda. Unlike too many
of her sex, she did not suppress her natural affections; she could
not see only the slave in a disowned sister; she acknowledged the
relationship, and hastened to free her, to send her beyond slavery's
grasp, into the glad embrace of freedom.
The ceremony ends; the smiles and congratulations of friends, as
they gather round Franconia, shower upon her; she receives them
coldly, her heart has no love for them, it throbs with anxiety for
that slave whose liberty she has planned, and for whose safety she
invokes the all-protecting hand of heaven.
ANOTHER PHASE OF THE PICTURE.
WHILE the ceremony we have described in the foregoing chapter was
proceeding, Clotilda, yielding to the earnest request of Franconia,
dresses herself in garments she has provided, and awaits the
commencement of the scene. A little schooner from one of the Bahama
Islands lies moored in the harbour awaiting a fair wind to return.
We need scarcely tell the reader that a plan of escape had been
previously arranged between Franconia and Maxwell; but why she took
so earnest a part in carrying it out, we must reserve for another
Maxwell had sought the captain of this schooner, found him of a
generous disposition, ready to act in behalf of freedom. Having soon
gained his confidence, and enlisted his good services, it took no
great amount of persuasion to do this, his feelings having already
been aroused against slavery, the giant arms of which, stretched out
between fear and injustice, had interfered with his rights. He had
seen it grasp the bones and sinews of those who were born in
freedom-he had seen men laugh at his appeals for justice-he had seen
one of his free-born British seamen manacled and dragged to prison
at noonday, merely because his skin was slightly coloured; he had
been compelled to pay tribute to keep alive the oppressor's power,
to compensate the villainy rogues practise upon honest men.
"Yes!" says the captain, a sturdy son of the sea, in answer to
Maxwell; "bring her on board; and with a heart's best wishes, if I
don't land her free and safe in Old Bahama I'll never cross the gulf
stream again." And the mode of getting the boats ready was at once
The night was still and dark; picturesque illuminations in and
around the mansion glittered in contrast with the starry arch of
heaven; the soft south breeze fans to life the dark foliage that
clusters around-nature has clothed the scene with her beauties.
Clotilda-she has eagerly awaited the coming time-descends to the
balustrade in the rear of the mansion. Here she meets a band of
musicians; they have assembled to serenade, and wait the
benediction, a signal for which will be made from one of the
balconies. She fears they may recognise her, hesitates at the
entrance, paces backward and forward in the colonnade, and professes
to be awaiting some message from her mistress. Again scanning the
scene, she watches intently, keeping her eyes fixed in the direction
Franconia has suggested. "I was to meet Maxwell there!" works upon
her mind until she becomes nervous and agitated. "I was, and must
meet him there;" and she walks slowly back to the entrance, turns
and returns, watches until her soul has nearly sickened, at length
espies the joyous signal. Franconia did not deceive her. Oh, no! he
stands there in the glare of a lamp that hangs from a willow-tree.
She vaults over the path, grasps his hand with a sister's affection,
and simultaneously the soft swelling music of "Still so gently o'er
me stealing!" floats in the air, as dulcet and soul-stirring as ever
touched the fancy, or clothed with holy inspiration the still repose
of a southern landscape at midnight. But she is with Maxwell; they
have passed the serenaders,--liberty is the haven of her joy, it
gives her new hopes of the future. Those hopes dispel the regrets
that hover over her mind as she thinks of her child.
For several minutes they stand together, listening to the music, and
watching the familiar faces of old friends as they come upon the
balcony in the second story. Southern life had its pleasant
associations-none would attempt to deny them; but the evil brooded
in the uncertainty that hung over the fate of millions, now yielding
indulgence to make life pleasant, then sinking them for ever in the
cruelties of a tyrant's power. It is the crushing out of the mind's
force,--the subduing the mental and physical man to make the chattel
complete,--the shutting out of all the succinct virtues that nurture
freedom, that incite us to improve the endowments of nature, that
proves the rankling poison. And this poison spreads its baneful
influence in and around good men's better desires.
After watching in silence for a few moments, Clotilda gives vent to
her feelings. "I should like to see old Daddy Bob once more, I
should! And my poor Annette; she is celled to be sold, I'm afraid;
but I must yield to the kindness of Franconia. I have seen some
good times among the old folks on the plantation. And there's Aunt
Rachel,--a good creature after all,--and Harry. Well; I mustn't think
of these things; freedom is sweetest," she says. Maxwell suggests
that they move onward. The music dies away in the stillness, as they
turn from the scene to flee beyond the grasp of men who traffic in
human things called property,--not by a great constitution, but under
a constitution's freedom giving power. Would that a great and
glorious nation had not sold its freedom to the damning stain of
avarice! would that it had not perverted that holy word, for the
blessings of which generations have struggled in vain! would that it
had not substituted a freedom that mystifies a jurisprudence,--that
brings forth the strangest fruit of human passions,--that makes
prison walls and dreary cells death-beds of the innocent;-that
permits human beings to be born for the market, and judged by the
ripest wisdom! "Has God ordained such freedom lasting?" will force
itself upon us.-We must return to our humble adventurers.
The fugitives reached the back gate, leading into a narrow lane,
from whence they cross into the main street. Clotilda has none of
the African about her; the most observing guardsman would not stop
her for a slave. They pass along unmolested; the guardsmen, some
mounted and some walking at a slow pace, bow politely. No one
demands a pass. They arrive in safety at a point about two miles
from the city, where the captain and his boat await them. No time is
lost in embarking: the little bark rides at anchor in the stream;
the boat quietly glides to her; they are safely on board. A few
minutes more, and the little craft moves seaward under the pressure
of a gentle breeze. There is no tragic pursuit of slave-hunters, no
tramp of horses to terrify the bleeding victim, no howlings of
ravenous bloodhounds,--nothing that would seem to make the issue
freedom or death. No! all is as still as a midsummer night in the
same clime. The woman--this daughter of slavery's vices--cherishes a
love for freedom; the hope of gaining it, and improving those
endowments nature has bestowed upon her, freshens her spirits and
gives her life to look forward without desponding. Maxwell is her
friend; he has witnessed the blighting power of slavery-not alone in
its workings upon the black man, but upon the lineal offspring of
freemen-and has resolved to work against its mighty arm. With him it
is the spontaneous action of a generous heart sympathising for the
wrongs inflicted upon the weak, and loving to see right respected.
The fair Franconia, who has just been forced to accept the hand of a
mere charlatan, disclosed the secrets of her mind to him; it was she
who incited him to an act which might have sacrificed his freedom,
perhaps his life. But mankind is possessed of an innate feeling to
do good; and there is a charm added when the object to be served is
a fair creature about to be dragged into the miseries of slavery.
Even the rougher of our kind cannot resist it; and at times-we
except the servile opinion which slavery inflicts upon a people
through its profitable issues-prompts the ruffian to generous acts.
The little bark, bound for the haven of freedom, sailed onward over
the blue waters, and when daylight dawned had crossed the bar
separating the harbour from the ocean. Clotilda ascends to the deck,
sits on the companion-seat, and in a pensive mood watches the fading
hills where slavery stains the fair name of freedom,--where
oppression rears its dark monuments to for ever torture and disgrace
a harmless race. She looks intently upon them, as one by one they
fade in the obscure horizon, seeming to recall the many
associations, pleasant and painful, through which she has passed.
She turns from the contemplation to the deep blue sea, and the
unclouded arch of heaven, as they spread out before her: they are
God's own, man cannot pollute them; they are like a picture of glory
inspiring her with emotions she cannot suppress. As the last dim
sight of land is lost in the distance, she waves a handkerchief, as
if to bid it adieu for ever; then looking at Maxwell, who sits by
her side, she says, with a sigh, "I am beyond it! Free,--yes, free!
But, have I not left a sufferer behind? There is my poor Annette, my
child; I will clasp her to my bosom,--I will love her more when I
meet her again. Good-bye, Franconia-dear Franconia! She will be a
mother to my little one; she will keep her word." Thus saying, she
casts a look upward, invokes heaven to be merciful to her
persecutors,--to protect her child,--to guard Franconia through life.
Tears stream down her cheeks as she waves her hand and retires to
PLEASANT DEALINGS WITH HUMAN PROPERTY.
WE must deal gently with our scenes; we must describe them without
exaggeration, and in rotation. While the scenes we have just
described were proceeding, another, of deeper import, and more
expressive of slavery's complicated combinations, was being enacted
in another part of the city.
A raffle of ordinary character had been announced in the morning
papers,--we say ordinary, because it came within the ordinary
specification of trade, and violated neither statute law nor
municipal ordinance,--and the raffler, esteemed a great character in
the city, was no less celebrated for his taste in catering for the
amusement of his patrons. On this occasion, purporting to be a very
great one, the inducements held out were no less an incentive of
gambling propensities than an aim to serve licentious purposes. In a
word, it offered "all young connoisseurs of beauty a chance to
procure one of the finest-developed young wenches,--fair, bright,
perfectly brought up, young, chaste, and of most amiable
disposition, for a trifling sum." This was all straight in the way
of trade, in a free country; nobody should blush at it (some
maidens, reading the notice, might feel modestly inclined to),
because nobody could gainsay it. This is prize No. 1, prime-as set
down in the schedule-and the amount per toss being only a trifle,
persons in want of such prizes are respectfully informed of the fact
that only a few chances remain, which will command a premium before
candle-light. Prize No. 2 is a superior pony, of well-known
breed-here the pedigree is set forth; which advantage had not been
accorded to the human animal, lest certain members of the same stock
should blush-raised with great care and attention, and exactly
suited for a gentleman's jant or a lady's saddle-nag. Prize No. 3 is
a superior setter dog, who has also been well brought up, is from
good stock, is kind to children, who play with him when they please.
He knows niggers, is good to watch them, has been known to catch
runaways, to tear their shins wonderfully. Indeed, according to the
setting forth of the sagacious animal, he would seem to understand
slave-law quite well, and to be ready and willing to lend his aid
with dogs of a different species to enforce its provisions. The only
fault the brute has, if fault it may be called, is that he does not
understand the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law,--a law
destined to be exceedingly troublesome among a free people. Did the
sagacity of the animal thus extend to the sovereign law of the land
of the brave and free, he would bring a large price at the north,
where men are made to do what dogs most delight in at the south.
The first prize, as set forth, is valued at seven hundred dollars:
the magnanimous gentleman who caters thus generously for his patrons
states the delicate prize to be worth fifty or a hundred dollars
more, and will, with a little more developing, be worth a great deal
more money. Hence, he hopes his patrons will duly appreciate
The second prize he considers generously low at two hundred dollars;
and the dog-the sagacious animal constituting the third prize-would
be a great bargain to anybody wanting such an animal, especially in
consideration of his propensity to catch negroes, at sixty dollars.
The trio of human and animal prizes produce no distinctive effect
upon the feelings of those who speculate in such property; with them
it is only a matter of gradation between dollars and cents.
But, to be more off-handed in this generous undertaking, and in
consideration of the deep-felt sensibility and hospitality which
must always protect southern character, the chances will be
restricted to two hundred, at five dollars per chance. Money must be
paid in before friends can consider themselves stock-holders. It is
to be a happy time, in a happy country, where all are boasted happy.
The first lucky dog will get the human prize; the next lucky dog
will get the pony; the third will make a dog of himself by only
winning a dog. The fun of the thing, however, will be the great
attraction; men of steady habits are reminded of this. Older
gentlemen, having very nice taste for colour, but no particular
scruples about religion, and who seldom think morals worth much to
niggers, "because they aint got sense to appreciate such things,"
are expected to be on hand. Those who know bright and fair niggers
were never made for anything under the sun but to gratify their own
desires, are expected to spread the good news, to set the young
aristocracy of the city all agog,--to start up a first-best
crowd,--have some tall drinking and first-rate amusement. Everybody
is expected to tell his friend, and his friend is expected to help
the generous man out with his generous scheme, and all are expected
to join in the "bender." Nobody must forget that the whole thing is
to come off at "Your House,"-an eating and drinking saloon, of great
capacity, kept by the very distinguished man, Mr. O'Brodereque.
Mr. O'Brodereque, who always pledges his word upon the honour of a
southern gentleman-frequently asserting his greatness in the
political world, and wondering who could account for his not finding
his way into Congress, where talent like his would be brought out
for the protection of our south-has made no end of money by selling
a monstrous deal of very bad liquor to customers of all
grades,--niggers excepted. And, although his hair is well mixed with
the grey of many years, he declares the guilt of selling liquor to
niggers is not on his shoulders. It is owing to this clean state of
his character, that he has been able to maintain his aristocratic
position. "Yes, indeed," said one of his patrons, who, having fallen
in arrears, found himself undergoing the very disagreeable process
of being politely kicked into the street, "money makes a man big in
the south: big in niggers, big in politics, big with everything but
the way I'm big,--with an empty pocket. I don't care, though; he's
going up by the process that I'm coming down. There's philosophy in
that." It could not be denied that Mr. O'Brodereque-commonly called
General O'Brodereque-was very much looked up to by great people and
Bacchanalians,--men who pay court to appease the wondrous discontent
of the belly, to the total neglect of the back. Not a few swore, by
all their importance, a greater man never lived. He is, indeed, all
that can be desired to please the simple pretensions of a
free-thinking and free-acting southern people, who, having elevated
him to the office of alderman, declare him exactly the man to
develope its functions. A few of the old school aristocracy, who
still retain the bad left them by their English ancestry, having
long since forgotten the good, do sneer now and then at Mr.
Brodereque's pretensions. But, like all great men who have a great
object to carry out, he affects to frown such things down,--to remind
the perpetrators of such aristocratic sneers what a spare few they
are. He asserts, and with more truth than poetry, that any gentleman
having the capacity to deluge the old aristocracy with doubtful
wine, line his pockets while draining theirs-all the time making
them feel satisfied he imports the choicest-and who can keep on a
cheerful face the while, can fill an alderman's chair to a nicety.
In addition to the above, Mr. O'Brodereque is one of those very
accommodating individuals who never fail to please their customers,
while inciting their vanity; and, at the same time, always secure a
good opinion for themselves. And, too, he was liberally inclined,
never refused tick, but always made it tell; by which well-devised
process, his patrons were continually becoming his humble servants,
ready to serve him at call.
Always civil, and even obsequious at first, ready to condescend and
accommodate, he is equally prompt when matters require that peculiar
turn which southerners frequently find themselves turned into,--no
more tick and a turn out of doors. At times, Mr. O'Brodereque's
customers have the very unenviable consolation of knowing that a
small document called a mortgage of their real and personal property
remains in his hands, which he will very soon find it necessary to
It is dark,--night has stolen upon us again,--the hour for the raffle
is at hand. The saloon, about a hundred and forty feet long by forty
wide, is brilliantly lighted for the occasion. The gas-lights throw
strange shadows upon the distemper painting with which the walls are
decorated. Hanging carelessly here and there are badly-daubed
paintings of battle scenes and heroic devices, alternated with
lithographic and badly-executed engravings of lustfully-exposed
females. Soon the saloon fills with a throng of variously-mixed
gentlemen. The gay, the grave, the old, and the young men of the
fashionable world, are present. Some affect the fast young man;
others seem mere speculators, attracted to the place for the purpose
of enjoying an hour, seeing the sight, and, it may be, taking a
throw for the "gal." The crowd presents a singular contrast of
beings. Some are dressed to the very extreme of fantastic fashion,
and would seem to have wasted their brains in devising colours for
their backs; others, aspiring to the seriously genteel, are
fashioned in very extravagant broadcloth; while a third group is
dressed in most niggardly attire, which sets very loosely. In
addition to this they wear very large black, white, and
grey-coloured felt hats, slouched over their heads; while their
nether garments, of red and brown linsey-woolsey, fit like
Falstaff's doublet on a whip stock. They seem proud of the grim
tufts of hair that, like the moss-grown clumps upon an old oak,
spread over their faces; and they move about in the grotesque crowd,
making their physiognomies increase its piquancy.
The saloon is one of those places at the south where great men,
small men, men of different spheres and occupations, men in
prominently defined positions, men in doubtful calls of life, and
men most disreputably employed, most do congregate. At one end of
the saloon is a large oyster counter, behind which stand two
coloured men, with sauces, savories, and other mixtures at hand,
ready to serve customers who prefer the delicacy in its raw state.
Men are partaking without noting numbers. Mr. O'Brodereque has boys
serving who take very good care of the numbers. Extending along one
side of the saloon is an elaborately carved mahogany counter, with
panels of French white and gilt mouldings. This is surmounted with a
marble slab, upon which stand well-filled decanters, vases, and
salvers. Behind this counter, genteelly-dressed and polite
attendants are serving customers who stand along its side in a line,
treating in true southern style. The calling for drinks is a problem
for nice ears to solve, so varied are the sounds, so strange the
names: style, quantity, and mixture seemed without limit, set on in
various colours to flow and flood the spirits of the jovial. On the
opposite side of the saloon are rows of seats and arm-chairs,
interspersed with small tables, from which the beverage can be
imbibed more at ease. On the second story is the great "eating
saloon," with its various apartments, its curtained boxes, its
prim-looking waiters, its pier-glass walls. There is every
accommodation for belly theologians, who may discuss the choicest
viands of the season.
The company are assembled,--the lower saloon is crowded; Mr.
O'Brodereque, with great dignity, mounts the stand,--a little table
standing at one end of the room. His face reddens, he gives several
delinquent coughs, looks round and smiles upon his motley patrons,
points a finger recognisingly at a wag in the corner, who has
addressed some remarks to him, puts his thumbs in the sleeve-holes
of his vest, throws back his coat-collar, puts himself in a defiant
attitude, and is ready to deliver himself of his speech.
"A political speech from the General! Gentlemen, hats off, and give
your attention to Mr. General O'Brodereque's remarks!" resounds from
several voices. Mr. O'Brodereque is somewhat overcome, his friends
compliment him so: he stands, hesitating, as if he had lost the
opening part of his speech, like a statue on a molasses-cask. At
length he speaks. "If it was a great political question, gentlemen,
I'd get the twist of the thing,--I'd pitch into it, big! These little
things always trouble public men more than the important intricacies
of government do. You see, they are not comesurate,--that's it!" says
Mr. Brodereque, looking wondrously wise the while. After bowing,
smiling, and acknowledging the compliments of his generous customers
with prodigious grace, he merely announces to his friends--with
eloquence that defies imitation, and turns rhetoric into a
discordant exposition of his own important self--that, not having
examined the constitution for more nor three Sundays, they must,
upon the honour of a gentleman, excuse his political speech. "But,
gents," he says, "you all know how I trys to please ye in the way of
raffles and such things, and how I throws in the belly and stomach
fixins. Now, brighten up, ye men of taste"--Mr. Brodereque laughs
satisfactorily as he surveys his crowd--"I'm going to do the thing
up brown for ye,--to give ye a chance for a bit of bright property
what ye don't get every day; can't scare up such property only once
in a while. It'll make ye old fellers wink, some"--Mr. O'Brodereque
winks at several aged gentlemen, whose grey hair is figurative in
the crowd--"think about being young again. And, my friends below
thirty-my young friends--ah, ye rascals! I thought I'd play the tune
on the right string!"--he laughs, and puts his finger to his mouth
quizzically--"I likes to suit ye, and please ye: own her up, now,--
"Hurrah! for Brod,--Brod's a trump!" again resounds from a dozen
They all agree to the remark that nobody can touch the great Mr.
O'Brodereque in getting up a nice bit of fun, amusing young men with
more money than mind, and being in the favour of aristocratic
gentlemen who think nothing of staking a couple of prime niggers on
a point of faro.
Mr. O'Brodereque has been interrupted; he begs his friends will, for
a moment, cease their compliments and allow him to proceed.
"Gentlemen!" he continues, "the gal's what ye don't get every day;
and she's as choice as she's young; and she's as handsome as she's
young; and for this delicious young crittur throws are only five
dollars a piece." The sentimental southern gentleman has no
reference to the throes of anguish that are piercing the wounded
soul of the woman.
"A gentleman what ain't got a five-dollar bill in his pocket better
not show his winkers in this crowd. After that, gentlemen, there's a
slap-up pony, and one of the knowinest dogs outside of a
court-house. Now,--gents! if this ain't some tall doings,--some of a
raffle, just take my boots and I'll put it for Texas. A chance for a
nigger gal-a pony-a dog; who on 'arth wants more, gentlemen?" Mr.
O'Brodereque again throws back his coat, shrugs his shoulders, wipes
the perspiration from his brow, and is about to descend from the
table. No, he won't come down just yet. He has struck a vein; his
friends are getting up a favourable excitement.
"Bravo! bravo!-long may General Brodereque keep the hospitable Your
House! Who wouldn't give a vote for Brodereque at the next
election?" re-echoes through the room.
"One more remark, gentlemen." Mr. Brodereque again wipes the
perspiration from his forehead, and orders a glass of water, to
loosen his oratorical organs. He drinks the water, seems to increase
in his own greatness; his red face glows redder, he makes a
theatrical gesticulation with his right hand, crumples his hair into
curious points, and proceeds:--"The lucky man what gets the gal prize
is to treat the crowd!" This is seconded and carried by acclamation,
without a dissenting voice.
A murmuring noise, as of some one in trouble, is now heard at the
door: the crowd gives way: a beautiful mulatto girl, in a black silk
dress, with low waist and short sleeves, and morocco slippers on her
feet, is led in and placed upon the stand Mr. O'Brodereque has just
vacated. Her complexion is that of a swarthy Greek; her countenance
is moody and reflective; her feelings are stung with the poison of
her degraded position. This last step of her disgrace broods in the
melancholy of her face. Shame, pain, hope, and fear, combine to goad
her very soul. But it's all for a bit of fun, clearly legal; it's
all in accordance with society; misfortune is turned into a
plaything, that generous, good, and noble-hearted men may be amused.
Those who stand around her are extravagant with joy. After remaining
a few moments in silence, a mute victim of generous freedom, she
turns her head bashfully, covers her face with her hands. Her
feelings gush forth in a stream of tears; she cannot suppress them
There is a touching beauty in her face, made more effective by the
deplorable condition to which she is reduced. Again she looks
upward, and covers her face with her hands; her soul seems merged in
supplication to the God who rules all things aright. He is a
forgiving God! Can he thus direct man's injustice to man, while this
poor broken flower thus withers under the bane? Sad, melancholy,
doomed! there is no hope, no joy for her. She weeps over her
"Stop that whimperin!" says a ruffianly bystander, who orders a
coloured boy to let down her hair. He obeys the summons; it falls in
thick, black, undulating tresses over her neck and shoulders. A few
moments more, and she resumes a calm appearance, looks resolutely
upon her auditors, with indignation and contempt pictured in her
"She'll soon get over that!" ejaculates another bystander, as he
smooths the long beard on his haggard face. "Strip her down!" The
request is no sooner made, than Mr. O'Brodereque mounts the stand to
perform the feat. "Great country this, gentlemen!" he speaks, taking
her by the shoulders.
"All off! all off, general!" is the popular demand.
The sensitive nature of the innocent girl recoils; she cringes from
his touch; she shudders, and vainly attempts to resist. She must
yield; the demand is imperative. Her dress falls at Mr.
O'Brodereque's touch. She stands before the gazing crowd, exposed to
the very thighs, holding the loose folds of her dress in her hands.
There is no sympathy for those moistened eyes; oh, no! it is a
luscious feast-puritans have no part in the sin-for those who, in
our land of love and liberty, buy and sell poor human nature, and
make it food for serving hell.
Naked she stands for minutes; the assembled gentlemen have feasted
their eyes,--good men have played the part of their good natures.
General O'Brodereque, conscious of his dignity, orders her to be
taken down. The waiter performs the duty, and she is led out midst
the acclamations and plaudits of the crowd, who call for the raffle.
Mr. O'Brodereque hopes gentlemen are satisfied with what they have
seen, and will pledge his honour that the pony and dog are quite as
sound and healthy as the wench whose portions they have had a chance
to shy; and for which-the extra sight-they should pay an extra
treat. This, however, his generosity will not allow him to stand
upon; and, seeing how time is precious, and the weather warm, he
hopes his friends will excuse the presence of the animals, take his
word of honour in consideration of the sight of the wench.
"Now, gentlemen," he says, "the throws are soon to commence, and all
what ain't put down the tin better attend that ar' needful
As the general concludes this very significant invitation, Dan
Bengal, Anthony Romescos, and Nath Nimrod, enter together. Their
presence creates some little commotion, for Romescos is known to be
turbulent, and very uncertain when liquor flows freely, which is the
case at present.
"I say, general!-old hoss! I takes all the chances what's left,"
Romescos shouts at the top of his voice. His eyes glare with
anxiety,--his red, savage face, doubly sun-scorched, glows out as he
elbows his way through the crowd up to the desk, where sits a
corpulent clerk. "Beg your pardon, gentlemen: not so fast, if you
please!" he says, entering names in his ledger, receiving money,
"doing the polite of the establishment."
Romescos's coat and nether clothing are torn in several places, a
hunting-belt girdles his waist; a bowie-knife (Sheffield make)
protrudes from his breast-pocket, his hair hangs in jagged tufts
over the collar of his coat, which, with the rough moccasons on his
feet, give him an air of fierce desperaton and recklessness. His
presence is evidently viewed with suspicion; he is a curious object
which the crowd are willing to give ample space to.
"No, you don't take 'em all, neither!" says another, in a defiant
tone. The remaining "chances" are at once put up for sale; they
bring premiums, as one by one they are knocked down to the highest
bidders, some as much as fifty per cent. advance. Gentlemen are not
to know it, because Mr. O'Brodereque thinks his honour above
everything else; but the fact is, there is a collusion between
Romescos and the honourable Mr. O'Brodereque. The former is playing
his part to create a rivalry that will put dollars and cents into
the pocket of the latter.
"Well!" exclaims Romescos, with great indifference, as soon as the
sale had concluded, "I've got seven throws, all lucky ones. I'll
take any man's bet for two hundred dollars that I gets the gal
prize." Nobody seems inclined to accept the challenge. A table is
set in the centre of the saloon, the dice are brought on, amidst a
jargon of noise and confusion; to this is added drinking, smoking,
swearing, and all kinds of small betting.
The raffle commences; one by one the numbers are called. Romescos'
turn has come; all eyes are intently set upon him. He is celebrated
for tricks of his trade; he seldom repudiates the character, and
oftener prides in the name of a shrewd one, who can command a prize
for his sharp dealing. In a word, he has a peculiar faculty of
shielding the doubtful transactions of a class of men no less
dishonest, but more modest in point of reputation.
Romescos spreads himself wonderfully, throws his dice, and exults
over the result. He has turned up three sixes at the first and
second throws, and two sixes and five at the third.
"Beat that! who can?" he says. No one discovers that he has, by a
very dexterous movement, slipped a set of false dice into the box,
while O'Brodereque diverted attention at the moment by introducing
the pony into the saloon.
We will pass over many things that occurred, and inform the reader
that Romescos won the first prize-the woman. The dog and pony prizes
were carried off by legitimate winners. This specific part of the
scene over, a band of negro minstrels are introduced, who strike up
their happy glees, the music giving new life to the revelry. Such a
medley of drinking, gambling, and carousing followed, as defies
description. What a happy thing it is to be free; they feel this,--it
it is a happy feeling! The sport lasts till the small hours of
morning advance. Romescos is seen leaving the saloon very quietly.
"There!" says Mr. O'Brodereque exultingly, "he hasn't got so much of
a showing. That nigger gal ain't what she's cracked up to be!" and
he shakes his head knowingly, thrusts his hands deep into his
breeches pockets, smiles with an air of great consequence.
"Where did ye raise the critter? devil of a feller ye be,
Brodereque!" says a young sprig, giving his hat a particular set on
the side of his head, and adjusting his eye-glass anew. "Ye ain't
gin her a name, in all the showin'," he continues, drawlingly.
"That gal! She ain't worth so much, a'ter all. She's of Marston's
stock; Ellen Juvarna, I think they call her. She's only good for her
looks, in the animal way,--that's all!"
"Hav'n't told where ye got her, yet," interrupts the sprig; "none of
yer crossin' corners, general."
"Well, I started up that gal of Elder Pemberton Praiseworthy. She
takes it into her mind to get crazed now and then, and Marston had
to sell her; and the Elder bought her for a trifle, cured up her
thinkin'-trap, got her sound up for market, and I makes a strike
with the Elder, and gets her at a tall bargain." Mr. O'Brodereque
has lost none of his dignity, none of his honour, none of his hopes
of getting into Congress by the speculation.
It is poor Ellen Juvarna; she has been cured for the market. She
might have said, and with truth,--"You don't know me now, so
wonderful are they who deal with my rights in this our world of
A NOT UNCOMMON SCENE SLIGHTLY CHANGED.
ROMESCOS, having withdrawn from the saloon while the excitement
raged highest, may be seen, with several others, seated at a table
in the upper room. They are in earnest consultation,--evidently
devising some plan for carrying out a deep-laid plot.
"I have just called my friend, who will give us the particulars
about the constitutionality of the thing. Here he is. Mr. Scranton,
ye see, knows all about such intricacies; he is an editor! formerly
from the North," one of the party is particular to explain, as he
directs his conversation to Romescos. That gentleman of slave-cloth
only knows the part they call the rascality; he pays the gentlemen
of the learned law profession to shuffle him out of all the legal
intricacies that hang around his murderous deeds. He seems revolving
the thing over in his mind at the moment, makes no reply. The
gentleman turns to Mr. Scranton--the same methodical gentleman we
have described with the good Mrs. Rosebrook--hopes he will be good
enough to advise on the point in question. Mr. Scranton sits in all
the dignity of his serious philosophy, quite unmoved; his mind is
nearly distracted about all that is constitutionally right or
constitutionally wrong. He is bound to his own ways of thinking, and
would suffer martyrdom before his own conscientious scruples would
allow him to acknowledge a right superior to that constitution. As
for the humanity! that has nothing to do with the constitution,
nothing to do with the laws of the land, nothing to do with popular
government,--nothing to do with anything, and never should be taken
into consideration when the point at issue involved negro property.
The schedule of humanity would be a poor account at one's banker's.
Mr. Scranton begins to smooth his face, which seems to elongate like
a wet moon. "The question is, as I understand it, gentlemen, how far
the law will give you a right to convict and sell the woman in the
absence of papers and against the assertions of her owner, that she
is free? Now, gentlemen, in the absence of my law books, and without
the least scruple that I am legally right, for I'm seldom legally
wrong, having been many years secretary to a senator in Congress who
made it my particular duty to keep him posted on all points of the
constitution--he drawls out with the serious complacency of a London
beggar--I will just say that, whatever is legal must be just. Laws
are always founded in justice--that's logical, you see,--and I always
maintained it long 'afore I come south, long 'afore I knowed a thing
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