Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Part 9 out of 12
indignant heart; but, with habitual prudence and self-control, she
mastered herself, and, crushing the paper firmly in her hand, she
merely said to Rosa,
"Sit down, child, while I go to your mistress."
"Shameful! monstrous! outrageous!" she said to herself, as
she was crossing the parlor.
She found Marie sitting up in her easy-chair, with Mammy
standing by her, combing her hair; Jane sat on the ground before
her, busy in chafing her feet.
"How do you find yourself, today?" said Miss Ophelia.
A deep sigh, and a closing of the eyes, was the only reply, for
a moment; and then Marie answered, "O, I don't know, Cousin;
I suppose I'm as well as I ever shall be!" and Marie wiped her eyes
with a cambric handkerchief, bordered with an inch deep of black.
"I came," said Miss Ophelia, with a short, dry cough, such as
commonly introduces a difficult subject,--"I came to speak with
you about poor Rosa."
Marie's eyes were open wide enough now, and a flush rose
to her sallow cheeks, as she answered, sharply,
"Well, what about her?"
"She is very sorry for her fault."
"She is, is she? She'll be sorrier, before I've done with her!
I've endured that child's impudence long enough; and now I'll
bring her down,--I'll make her lie in the dust!"
"But could not you punish her some other way,--some way
that would be less shameful?"
"I mean to shame her; that's just what I want. She has all
her life presumed on her delicacy, and her good looks, and her
lady-like airs, till she forgets who she is;--and I'll give her
one lesson that will bring her down, I fancy!"
"But, Cousin, consider that, if you destroy delicacy and
a sense of shame in a young girl, you deprave her very fast."
"Delicacy!" said Marie, with a scornful laugh,--"a fine word
for such as she! I'll teach her, with all her airs, that she's
no better than the raggedest black wench that walks the streets!
She'll take no more airs with me!"
"You will answer to God for such cruelty!" said Miss Ophelia,
"Cruelty,--I'd like to know what the cruelty is! I wrote orders
for only fifteen lashes, and told him to put them on lightly.
I'm sure there's no cruelty there!"
"No cruelty!" said Miss Ophelia. "I'm sure any girl might
rather be killed outright!"
"It might seem so to anybody with your feeling; but all these
creatures get used to it; it's the only way they can be kept
in order. Once let them feel that they are to take any airs about
delicacy, and all that, and they'll run all over you, just as my
servants always have. I've begun now to bring them under; and I'll
have them all to know that I'll send one out to be whipped, as soon
as another, if they don't mind themselves!" said Marie, looking
around her decidedly.
Jane hung her head and cowered at this, for she felt as if it
was particularly directed to her. Miss Ophelia sat for a moment,
as if she had swallowed some explosive mixture, and were ready
to burst. Then, recollecting the utter uselessness of contention
with such a nature, she shut her lips resolutely, gathered herself
up, and walked out of the room.
It was hard to go back and tell Rosa that she could do nothing
for her; and, shortly after, one of the man-servants came to say
that her mistress had ordered him to take Rosa with him to the
whipping-house, whither she was hurried, in spite of her tears
A few days after, Tom was standing musing by the balconies,
when he was joined by Adolph, who, since the death of his master,
had been entirely crest-fallen and disconsolate. Adolph knew that
he had always been an object of dislike to Marie; but while his
master lived he had paid but little attention to it. Now that he
was gone, he had moved about in daily dread and trembling, not
knowing what might befall him next. Marie had held several
consultations with her lawyer; after communicating with St. Clare's
brother, it was determined to sell the place, and all the servants,
except her own personal property, and these she intended to take
with her, and go back to her father's plantation.
"Do ye know, Tom, that we've all got to be sold?" said
Adolph, and go back to her father's plantation.
"How did you hear that?" said Tom.
"I hid myself behind the curtains when Missis was talking with
the lawyer. In a few days we shall be sent off to auction, Tom."
"The Lord's will be done!" said Tom, folding his arms and
"We'll never get another such a master, said Adolph,
apprehensively; "but I'd rather be sold than take my chance
Tom turned away; his heart was full. The hope of liberty, the
thought of distant wife and children, rose up before his patient
soul, as to the mariner shipwrecked almost in port rises the vision
of the church-spire and loving roofs of his native village, seen
over the top of some black wave only for one last farewell. He drew
his arms tightly over his bosom, and choked back the bitter tears,
and tried to pray. The poor old soul had such a singular,
unaccountable prejudice in favor of liberty, that it was a hard
wrench for him; and the more he said, "Thy will be done," the worse
He sought Miss Ophelia, who, ever since Eva's death, had
treated him with marked and respectful kindness.
"Miss Feely," he said, "Mas'r St. Clare promised me my freedom.
He told me that he had begun to take it out for me; and now,
perhaps, if Miss Feely would be good enough to speak bout it
to Missis, she would feel like goin' on with it, was it as Mas'r
St. Clare's wish."
"I'll speak for you, Tom, and do my best," said Miss Ophelia;
"but, if it depends on Mrs. St. Clare, I can't hope much for
you;--nevertheless, I will try."
This incident occurred a few days after that of Rosa, while
Miss Ophelia was busied in preparations to return north.
Seriously reflecting within herself, she considered that perhaps
she had shown too hasty a warmth of language in her former
interview with Marie; and she resolved that she would now endeavor
to moderate her zeal, and to be as conciliatory as possible. So
the good soul gathered herself up, and, taking her knitting, resolved
to go into Marie's room, be as agreeable as possible, and negotiate
Tom's case with all the diplomatic skill of which she was mistress.
She found Marie reclining at length upon a lounge, supporting
herself on one elbow by pillows, while Jane, who had been out
shopping, was displaying before her certain samples of thin black
"That will do," said Marie, selecting one; "only I'm not
sure about its being properly mourning."
"Laws, Missis," said Jane, volubly, "Mrs. General Derbennon
wore just this very thing, after the General died, last summer; it
makes up lovely!"
"What do you think?" said Marie to Miss Ophelia.
"It's a matter of custom, I suppose," said Miss Ophelia.
"You can judge about it better than I."
"The fact is," said Marie, "that I haven't a dress in the world
that I can wear; and, as I am going to break up the establishment,
and go off, next week, I must decide upon something."
"Are you going so soon?"
"Yes. St. Clare's brother has written, and he and the lawyer
think that the servants and furniture had better be put up
at auction, and the place left with our lawyer."
"There's one thing I wanted to speak with you about," said
Miss Ophelia. "Augustine promised Tom his liberty, and began the
legal forms necessary to it. I hope you will use your influence
to have it perfected."
"Indeed, I shall do no such thing!" said Marie, sharply. "Tom is
one of the most valuable servants on the place,--it couldn't be
afforded, any way. Besides, what does he want of liberty? He's a
great deal better off as he is."
"But he does desire it, very earnestly, and his master
promised it," said Miss Ophelia.
"I dare say he does want it," said Marie; "they all want it,
just because they are a discontented set,--always wanting what
they haven't got. Now, I'm principled against emancipating, in
any case. Keep a negro under the care of a master, and he does
well enough, and is respectable; but set them free, and they get
lazy, and won't work, and take to drinking, and go all down to
be mean, worthless fellows, I've seen it tried, hundreds of times.
It's no favor to set them free."
"But Tom is so steady, industrious, and pious."
"O, you needn't tell me! I've see a hundred like him.
He'll do very well, as long as he's taken care of,--that's all."
"But, then, consider," said Miss Ophelia, "when you set
him up for sale, the chances of his getting a bad master."
"O, that's all humbug!" said Marie; "it isn't one time in
a hundred that a good fellow gets a bad master; most masters are
good, for all the talk that is made. I've lived and grown up here,
in the South, and I never yet was acquainted with a master that
didn't treat his servants well,--quite as well as is worth while.
I don't feel any fears on that head."
"Well," said Miss Ophelia, energetically, "I know it was
one of the last wishes of your husband that Tom should have his
liberty; it was one of the promises that he made to dear little
Eva on her death-bed, and I should not think you would feel at
liberty to disregard it."
Marie had her face covered with her handkerchief at this appeal,
and began sobbing and using her smelting-bottle, with great
"Everybody goes against me!" she said. "Everybody is so
inconsiderate! I shouldn't have expected that _you_ would bring up
all these remembrances of my troubles to me,--it's so inconsiderate!
But nobody ever does consider,--my trials are so peculiar! It's so
hard, that when I had only one daughter, she should have been
taken!--and when I had a husband that just exactly suited me,--and
I'm so hard to be suited!--he should be taken! And you seem to have
so little feeling for me, and keep bringing it up to me so
carelessly,--when you know how it overcomes me! I suppose you mean
well; but it is very inconsiderate,--very!" And Marie sobbed,
and gasped for breath, and called Mammy to open the window, and to
bring her the camphor-bottle, and to bathe her head, and unhook
her dress. And, in the general confusion that ensued, Miss Ophelia
made her escape to her apartment.
She saw, at once, that it would do no good to say anything more;
for Marie had an indefinite capacity for hysteric fits; and,
after this, whenever her husband's or Eva's wishes with regard to
the servants were alluded to, she always found it convenient to
set one in operation. Miss Ophelia, therefore, did the next best
thing she could for Tom,--she wrote a letter to Mrs. Shelby for
him, stating his troubles, and urging them to send to his relief.
The next day, Tom and Adolph, and some half a dozen other servants,
were marched down to a slave-warehouse, to await the convenience
of the trader, who was going to make up a lot for auction.
The Slave Warehouse
A slave warehouse! Perhaps some of my readers conjure up horrible
visions of such a place. They fancy some foul, obscure den, some
horrible _Tartarus "informis, ingens, cui lumen ademptum."_
But no, innocent friend; in these days men have learned the art of
sinning expertly and genteelly, so as not to shock the eyes and
senses of respectable society. Human property is high in the
market; and is, therefore, well fed, well cleaned, tended, and
looked after, that it may come to sale sleek, and strong, and
shining. A slave-warehouse in New Orleans is a house externally
not much unlike many others, kept with neatness; and where every
day you may see arranged, under a sort of shed along the outside,
rows of men and women, who stand there as a sign of the property
Then you shall be courteously entreated to call and examine,
and shall find an abundance of husbands, wives, brothers, sisters,
fathers, mothers, and young children, to be "sold separately, or
in lots to suit the convenience of the purchaser;" and that soul
immortal, once bought with blood and anguish by the Son of God,
when the earth shook, and the rocks rent, and the graves were
opened, can be sold, leased, mortgaged, exchanged for groceries or
dry goods, to suit the phases of trade, or the fancy of the purchaser.
It was a day or two after the conversation between Marie and Miss
Ophelia, that Tom, Adolph, and about half a dozen others of the
St. Clare estate, were turned over to the loving kindness of Mr.
Skeggs, the keeper of a depot on ---- street, to await the auction,
Tom had with him quite a sizable trunk full of clothing, as
had most others of them. They were ushered, for the night, into
a long room, where many other men, of all ages, sizes, and shades
of complexion, were assembled, and from which roars of laughter
and unthinking merriment were proceeding.
"Ah, ha! that's right. Go it, boys,--go it!" said Mr. Skeggs,
the keeper. "My people are always so merry! Sambo, I see!"
he said, speaking approvingly to a burly negro who was performing
tricks of low buffoonery, which occasioned the shouts which Tom
As might be imagined, Tom was in no humor to join these
proceedings; and, therefore, setting his trunk as far as possible
from the noisy group, he sat down on it, and leaned his face
against the wall.
The dealers in the human article make scrupulous and systematic
efforts to promote noisy mirth among them, as a means of
drowning reflection, and rendering them insensible to their
condition. The whole object of the training to which the negro is
put, from the time he is sold in the northern market till he arrives
south, is systematically directed towards making him callous,
unthinking, and brutal. The slave-dealer collects his gang in
Virginia or Kentucky, and drives them to some convenient, healthy
place,--often a watering place,--to be fattened. Here they are
fed full daily; and, because some incline to pine, a fiddle is kept
commonly going among them, and they are made to dance daily; and
he who refuses to be merry--in whose soul thoughts of wife, or
child, or home, are too strong for him to be gay--is marked as
sullen and dangerous, and subjected to all the evils which the ill
will of an utterly irresponsible and hardened man can inflict
upon him. Briskness, alertness, and cheerfulness of appearance,
especially before observers, are constantly enforced upon them,
both by the hope of thereby getting a good master, and the fear of
all that the driver may bring upon them if they prove unsalable.
"What dat ar nigger doin here?" said Sambo, coming up to Tom,
after Mr. Skeggs had left the room. Sambo was a full black,
of great size, very lively, voluble, and full of trick and grimace.
"What you doin here?" said Sambo, coming up to Tom, and
poking him facetiously in the side. "Meditatin', eh?"
"I am to be sold at the auction, tomorrow!" said Tom, quietly.
"Sold at auction,--haw! haw! boys, an't this yer fun? I wish't
I was gwine that ar way!--tell ye, wouldn't I make em laugh?
But how is it,--dis yer whole lot gwine tomorrow?" said Sambo,
laying his hand freely on Adolph's shoulder.
"Please to let me alone!" said Adolph, fiercely, straightening
himself up, with extreme disgust.
"Law, now, boys! dis yer's one o' yer white niggers,--kind
o' cream color, ye know, scented!" said he, coming up to Adolph
and snuffing. "O Lor! he'd do for a tobaccer-shop; they could keep
him to scent snuff! Lor, he'd keep a whole shope agwine,--he would!"
"I say, keep off, can't you?" said Adolph, enraged.
"Lor, now, how touchy we is,--we white niggers! Look at
us now!" and Sambo gave a ludicrous imitation of Adolph's manner;
"here's de airs and graces. We's been in a good family, I specs."
"Yes," said Adolph; "I had a master that could have bought
you all for old truck!"
"Laws, now, only think," said Sambo, "the gentlemens that
"I belonged to the St. Clare family," said Adolph, proudly.
"Lor, you did! Be hanged if they ar'n't lucky to get shet of ye.
Spects they's gwine to trade ye off with a lot o' cracked
tea-pots and sich like!" said Sambo, with a provoking grin.
Adolph, enraged at this taunt, flew furiously at his adversary,
swearing and striking on every side of him. The rest laughed
and shouted, and the uproar brought the keeper to the door.
"What now, boys? Order,--order!" he said, coming in and
flourishing a large whip.
All fled in different directions, except Sambo, who,
presuming on the favor which the keeper had to him as a licensed
wag, stood his ground, ducking his head with a facetious grin,
whenever the master made a dive at him.
"Lor, Mas'r, 'tan't us,--we 's reglar stiddy,--it's these
yer new hands; they 's real aggravatin',--kinder pickin' at us,
The keeper, at this, turned upon Tom and Adolph, and
distributing a few kicks and cuffs without much inquiry, and
leaving general orders for all to be good boys and go to sleep,
left the apartment.
While this scene was going on in the men's sleeping-room,
the reader may be curious to take a peep at the corresponding
apartment allotted to the women. Stretched out in various attitudes
over the floor, he may see numberless sleeping forms of every shade
of complexion, from the purest ebony to white, and of all years,
from childhood to old age, lying now asleep. Here is a fine bright
girl, of ten years, whose mother was sold out yesterday, and who
tonight cried herself to sleep when nobody was looking at her.
Here, a worn old negress, whose thin arms and callous fingers tell
of hard toil, waiting to be sold tomorrow, as a cast-off article,
for what can be got for her; and some forty or fifty others, with
heads variously enveloped in blankets or articles of clothing, lie
stretched around them. But, in a corner, sitting apart from the
rest, are two females of a more interesting appearance than common.
One of these is a respectably-dressed mulatto woman between forty
and fifty, with soft eyes and a gentle and pleasing physiognomy.
She has on her head a high-raised turban, made of a gay red Madras
handkerchief, of the first quality, her dress is neatly fitted,
and of good material, showing that she has been provided for with
a careful hand. By her side, and nestling closely to her, is a
young girl of fifteen,--her daughter. She is a quadroon, as may
be seen from her fairer complexion, though her likeness to her
mother is quite discernible. She has the same soft, dark eye, with
longer lashes, and her curling hair is of a luxuriant brown. She
also is dressed with great neatness, and her white, delicate hands
betray very little acquaintance with servile toil. These two are
to be sold tomorrow, in the same lot with the St. Clare servants;
and the gentleman to whom they belong, and to whom the money for
their sale is to be transmitted, is a member of a Christian church
in New York, who will receive the money, and go thereafter to the
sacrament of his Lord and theirs, and think no more of it.
These two, whom we shall call Susan and Emmeline, had been the
personal attendants of an amiable and pious lady of New Orleans,
by whom they had been carefully and piously instructed and trained.
They had been taught to read and write, diligently instructed in
the truths of religion, and their lot had been as happy an one as
in their condition it was possible to be. But the only son of
their protectress had the management of her property; and, by
carelessness and extravagance involved it to a large amount, and
at last failed. One of the largest creditors was the respectable
firm of B. & Co., in New York. B. & Co. wrote to their lawyer in
New Orleans, who attached the real estate (these two articles and
a lot of plantation hands formed the most valuable part of it),
and wrote word to that effect to New York. Brother B., being, as
we have said, a Christian man, and a resident in a free State, felt
some uneasiness on the subject. He didn't like trading in slaves
and souls of men,--of course, he didn't; but, then, there were thirty
thousand dollars in the case, and that was rather too much money
to be lost for a principle; and so, after much considering, and
asking advice from those that he knew would advise to suit him,
Brother B. wrote to his lawyer to dispose of the business in the
way that seemed to him the most suitable, and remit the proceeds.
The day after the letter arrived in New Orleans, Susan and
Emmeline were attached, and sent to the depot to await a general
auction on the following morning; and as they glimmer faintly upon
us in the moonlight which steals through the grated window, we may
listen to their conversation. Both are weeping, but each quietly,
that the other may not hear.
"Mother, just lay your head on my lap, and see if you can't
sleep a little," says the girl, trying to appear calm.
"I haven't any heart to sleep, Em; I can't; it's the last
night we may be together!"
"O, mother, don't say so! perhaps we shall get sold
"If 't was anybody's else case, I should say so, too, Em,"
said the woman; "but I'm so feard of losin' you that I don't see
anything but the danger."
"Why, mother, the man said we were both likely, and would
Susan remembered the man's looks and words. With a deadly
sickness at her heart, she remembered how he had looked at Emmeline's
hands, and lifted up her curly hair, and pronounced her a first-rate
article. Susan had been trained as a Christian, brought up in the
daily reading of the Bible, and had the same horror of her child's
being sold to a life of shame that any other Christian mother might
have; but she had no hope,--no protection.
"Mother, I think we might do first rate, if you could get a place
as cook, and I as chambermaid or seamstress, in some family.
I dare say we shall. Let's both look as bright and lively
as we can, and tell all we can do, and perhaps we shall," said
"I want you to brush your hair all back straight, tomorrow,"
"What for, mother? I don't look near so well, that way."
"Yes, but you'll sell better so."
"I don't see why!" said the child.
"Respectable families would be more apt to buy you, if they
saw you looked plain and decent, as if you wasn't trying to
look handsome. I know their ways better 'n you do," said Susan.
"Well, mother, then I will."
"And, Emmeline, if we shouldn't ever see each other again,
after tomorrow,--if I'm sold way up on a plantation somewhere, and
you somewhere else,--always remember how you've been brought up,
and all Missis has told you; take your Bible with you, and your
hymn-book; and if you're faithful to the Lord, he'll be faithful
So speaks the poor soul, in sore discouragement; for she
knows that tomorrow any man, however vile and brutal, however
godless and merciless, if he only has money to pay for her, may
become owner of her daughter, body and soul; and then, how is the
child to be faithful? She thinks of all this, as she holds her
daughter in her arms, and wishes that she were not handsome and
attractive. It seems almost an aggravation to her to remember how
purely and piously, how much above the ordinary lot, she has been
brought up. But she has no resort but to _pray_; and many such
prayers to God have gone up from those same trim, neatly-arranged,
respectable slave-prisons,--prayers which God has not forgotten,
as a coming day shall show; for it is written, "Who causeth one of
these little ones to offend, it were better for him that a millstone
were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths
of the sea."
The soft, earnest, quiet moonbeam looks in fixedly, marking
the bars of the grated windows on the prostrate, sleeping forms.
The mother and daughter are singing together a wild and melancholy
dirge, common as a funeral hymn among the slaves:
"O, where is weeping Mary?
O, where is weeping Mary?
'Rived in the goodly land.
She is dead and gone to Heaven;
She is dead and gone to Heaven;
'Rived in the goodly land."
These words, sung by voices of a peculiar and melancholy
sweetness, in an air which seemed like the sighing of earthy despair
after heavenly hope, floated through the dark prison rooms with a
pathetic cadence, as verse after verse was breathed out:
"O, where are Paul and Silas?
O, where are Paul and Silas?
Gone to the goodly land.
They are dead and gone to Heaven;
They are dead and gone to Heaven;
'Rived in the goodly land."
Sing on poor souls! The night is short, and the morning
will part you forever!
But now it is morning, and everybody is astir; and the worthy
Mr. Skeggs is busy and bright, for a lot of goods is to be
fitted out for auction. There is a brisk lookout on the toilet;
injunctions passed around to every one to put on their best face
and be spry; and now all are arranged in a circle for a last review,
before they are marched up to the Bourse.
Mr. Skeggs, with his palmetto on and his cigar in his mouth,
walks around to put farewell touches on his wares.
"How's this?" he said, stepping in front of Susan and Emmeline.
"Where's your curls, gal?"
The girl looked timidly at her mother, who, with the smooth
adroitness common among her class, answers,
"I was telling her, last night, to put up her hair smooth
and neat, and not havin' it flying about in curls; looks more
"Bother!" said the man, peremptorily, turning to the girl;
"you go right along, and curl yourself real smart!" He added,
giving a crack to a rattan he held in his hand, "And be back in
quick time, too!"
"You go and help her," he added, to the mother. "Them curls
may make a hundred dollars difference in the sale of her."
Beneath a splendid dome were men of all nations, moving to and
fro, over the marble pave. On every side of the circular area
were little tribunes, or stations, for the use of speakers and
auctioneers. Two of these, on opposite sides of the area, were
now occupied by brilliant and talented gentlemen, enthusiastically
forcing up, in English and French commingled, the bids of connoisseurs
in their various wares. A third one, on the other side, still
unoccupied, was surrounded by a group, waiting the moment of sale
to begin. And here we may recognize the St. Clare servants,--Tom,
Adolph, and others; and there, too, Susan and Emmeline, awaiting
their turn with anxious and dejected faces. Various spectators,
intending to purchase, or not intending, examining, and commenting
on their various points and faces with the same freedom that a set
of jockeys discuss the merits of a horse.
"Hulloa, Alf! what brings you here?" said a young exquisite,
slapping the shoulder of a sprucely-dressed young man, who was
examining Adolph through an eye-glass.
"Well! I was wanting a valet, and I heard that St. Clare's
lot was going. I thought I'd just look at his--"
"Catch me ever buying any of St. Clare's people! Spoilt niggers,
every one. Impudent as the devil!" said the other.
"Never fear that!" said the first. "If I get 'em, I'll soon
have their airs out of them; they'll soon find that they've
another kind of master to deal with than Monsieur St. Clare.
'Pon my word, I'll buy that fellow. I like the shape of him."
"You'll find it'll take all you've got to keep him. He's
"Yes, but my lord will find that he _can't_ be extravagant
with _me_. Just let him be sent to the calaboose a few times, and
thoroughly dressed down! I'll tell you if it don't bring him to a
sense of his ways! O, I'll reform him, up hill and down,--you'll
see. I buy him, that's flat!"
Tom had been standing wistfully examining the multitude of
faces thronging around him, for one whom he would wish to call
master. And if you should ever be under the necessity, sir, of
selecting, out of two hundred men, one who was to become your
absolute owner and disposer, you would, perhaps, realize, just as
Tom did, how few there were that you would feel at all comfortable
in being made over to. Tom saw abundance of men,--great, burly,
gruff men; little, chirping, dried men; long-favored, lank, hard
men; and every variety of stubbed-looking, commonplace men, who
pick up their fellow-men as one picks up chips, putting them into
the fire or a basket with equal unconcern, according to their
convenience; but he saw no St. Clare.
A little before the sale commenced, a short, broad, muscular man,
in a checked shirt considerably open at the bosom, and pantaloons
much the worse for dirt and wear, elbowed his way through the crowd,
like one who is going actively into a business; and, coming up to
the group, began to examine them systematically. From the moment
that Tom saw him approaching, he felt an immediate and revolting
horror at him, that increased as he came near. He was evidently,
though short, of gigantic strength. His round, bullet head, large,
light-gray eyes, with their shaggy, sandy eyebrows, and stiff,
wiry, sun-burned hair, were rather unprepossessing items, it is to
be confessed; his large, coarse mouth was distended with tobacco,
the juice of which, from time to time, he ejected from him with
great decision and explosive force; his hands were immensely large,
hairy, sun-burned, freckled, and very dirty, and garnished with
long nails, in a very foul condition. This man proceeded to a very
free personal examination of the lot. He seized Tom by the jaw,
and pulled open his mouth to inspect his teeth; made him strip up
his sleeve, to show his muscle; turned him round, made him jump
and spring, to show his paces.
"Where was you raised?" he added, briefly, to these investigations.
"In Kintuck, Mas'r," said Tom, looking about, as if for deliverance.
"What have you done?"
"Had care of Mas'r's farm," said Tom.
"Likely story!" said the other, shortly, as he passed on.
He paused a moment before Dolph; then spitting a discharge of
tobacco-juice on his well-blacked boots, and giving a contemptuous
umph, he walked on. Again he stopped before Susan and Emmeline.
He put out his heavy, dirty hand, and drew the girl towards him;
passed it over her neck and bust, felt her arms, looked at her
teeth, and then pushed her back against her mother, whose patient
face showed the suffering she had been going through at every motion
of the hideous stranger.
The girl was frightened, and began to cry.
"Stop that, you minx!" said the salesman; "no whimpering
here,--the sale is going to begin." And accordingly the sale begun.
Adolph was knocked off, at a good sum, to the young gentlemen
who had previously stated his intention of buying him; and the
other servants of the St. Clare lot went to various bidders.
"Now, up with you, boy! d'ye hear?" said the auctioneer to Tom.
Tom stepped upon the block, gave a few anxious looks round;
all seemed mingled in a common, indistinct noise,--the clatter of
the salesman crying off his qualifications in French and English,
the quick fire of French and English bids; and almost in a moment
came the final thump of the hammer, and the clear ring on the last
syllable of the word _"dollars,"_ as the auctioneer announced his
price, and Tom was made over.--He had a master!
He was pushed from the block;--the short, bullet-headed man
seizing him roughly by the shoulder, pushed him to one side,
saying, in a harsh voice, "Stand there, _you!_"
Tom hardly realized anything; but still the bidding went
on,--ratting, clattering, now French, now English. Down goes the
hammer again,--Susan is sold! She goes down from the block, stops,
looks wistfully back,--her daughter stretches her hands towards her.
She looks with agony in the face of the man who has bought
her,--a respectable middle-aged man, of benevolent countenance.
"O, Mas'r, please do buy my daughter!"
"I'd like to, but I'm afraid I can't afford it!" said the
gentleman, looking, with painful interest, as the young girl mounted
the block, and looked around her with a frightened and timid glance.
The blood flushes painfully in her otherwise colorless cheek,
her eye has a feverish fire, and her mother groans to see
that she looks more beautiful than she ever saw her before.
The auctioneer sees his advantage, and expatiates volubly in
mingled French and English, and bids rise in rapid succession.
"I'll do anything in reason," said the benevolent-looking
gentleman, pressing in and joining with the bids. In a few moments
they have run beyond his purse. He is silent; the auctioneer grows
warmer; but bids gradually drop off. It lies now between an
aristocratic old citizen and our bullet-headed acquaintance.
The citizen bids for a few turns, contemptuously measuring his
opponent; but the bullet-head has the advantage over him, both in
obstinacy and concealed length of purse, and the controversy lasts
but a moment; the hammer falls,--he has got the girl, body and soul,
unless God help her!
Her master is Mr. Legree, who owns a cotton plantation on the
Red river. She is pushed along into the same lot with Tom and
two other men, and goes off, weeping as she goes.
The benevolent gentleman is sorry; but, then, the thing happens
every day! One sees girls and mothers crying, at these sales,
_always!_ it can't be helped, &c.; and he walks off, with his
acquisition, in another direction.
Two days after, the lawyer of the Christian firm of B. & Co.,
New York, send on their money to them. On the reverse of that
draft, so obtained, let them write these words of the great Paymaster,
to whom they shall make up their account in a future day: _"When
he maketh inquisition for blood, he forgetteth not the cry of the
The Middle Passage
"Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look
upon iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously,
and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is
more righteous than he?" --HAB. 1: 13.
On the lower part of a small, mean boat, on the Red river,
Tom sat,--chains on his wrists, chains on his feet, and a weight
heavier than chains lay on his heart. All had faded from his
sky,--moon and star; all had passed by him, as the trees and banks
were now passing, to return no more. Kentucky home, with wife and
children, and indulgent owners; St. Clare home, with all its
refinements and splendors; the golden head of Eva, with its saint-like
eyes; the proud, gay, handsome, seemingly careless, yet ever-kind
St. Clare; hours of ease and indulgent leisure,--all gone! and in
place thereof, _what_ remains?
It is one of the bitterest apportionments of a lot of slavery,
that the negro, sympathetic and assimilative, after acquiring,
in a refined family, the tastes and feelings which form the
atmosphere of such a place, is not the less liable to become
the bond-slave of the coarsest and most brutal,--just as a chair
or table, which once decorated the superb saloon, comes, at last,
battered and defaced, to the barroom of some filthy tavern, or some
low haunt of vulgar debauchery. The great difference is, that the
table and chair cannot feel, and the _man_ can; for even a legal
enactment that he shall be "taken, reputed, adjudged in law, to be
a chattel personal," cannot blot out his soul, with its own private
little world of memories, hopes, loves, fears, and desires.
Mr. Simon Legree, Tom's master, had purchased slaves at one
place and another, in New Orleans, to the number of eight, and
driven them, handcuffed, in couples of two and two, down to the
good steamer Pirate, which lay at the levee, ready for a trip up
the Red river.
Having got them fairly on board, and the boat being off, he came
round, with that air of efficiency which ever characterized him,
to take a review of them. Stopping opposite to Tom, who had been
attired for sale in his best broadcloth suit, with well-starched
linen and shining boots, he briefly expressed himself as follows:
Tom stood up.
"Take off that stock!" and, as Tom, encumbered by his fetters,
proceeded to do it, he assisted him, by pulling it, with no
gentle hand, from his neck, and putting it in his pocket.
Legree now turned to Tom's trunk, which, previous to this, he
had been ransacking, and, taking from it a pair of old pantaloons
and dilapidated coat, which Tom had been wont to put on about his
stable-work, he said, liberating Tom's hands from the handcuffs,
and pointing to a recess in among the boxes,
"You go there, and put these on."
Tom obeyed, and in a few moments returned.
"Take off your boots," said Mr. Legree.
Tom did so.
"There," said the former, throwing him a pair of coarse, stout
shoes, such as were common among the slaves, "put these on."
In Tom's hurried exchange, he had not forgotten to transfer
his cherished Bible to his pocket. It was well he did so; for Mr.
Legree, having refitted Tom's handcuffs, proceeded deliberately to
investigate the contents of his pockets. He drew out a silk
handkerchief, and put it into his own pocket. Several little
trifles, which Tom had treasured, chiefly because they had amused
Eva, he looked upon with a contemptuous grunt, and tossed them over
his shoulder into the river.
Tom's Methodist hymn-book, which, in his hurry, he had
forgotten, he now held up and turned over.
Humph! pious, to be sure. So, what's yer name,--you belong
to the church, eh?"
"Yes, Mas'r," said Tom, firmly.
"Well, I'll soon have _that_ out of you. I have none o' yer
bawling, praying, singing niggers on my place; so remember.
Now, mind yourself," he said, with a stamp and a fierce glance
of his gray eye, directed at Tom, "_I'm_ your church now!
You understand,--you've got to be as _I_ say."
Something within the silent black man answered _No!_ and, as if
repeated by an invisible voice, came the words of an old prophetic
scroll, as Eva had often read them to him,--"Fear not! for I have
redeemed thee. I have called thee by name. Thou art MINE!"
But Simon Legree heard no voice. That voice is one he never
shall hear. He only glared for a moment on the downcast face
of Tom, and walked off. He took Tom's trunk, which contained a
very neat and abundant wardrobe, to the forecastle, where it was
soon surrounded by various hands of the boat. With much laughing,
at the expense of niggers who tried to be gentlemen, the articles
very readily were sold to one and another, and the empty trunk
finally put up at auction. It was a good joke, they all thought,
especially to see how Tom looked after his things, as they were
going this way and that; and then the auction of the trunk, that
was funnier than all, and occasioned abundant witticisms.
This little affair being over, Simon sauntered up again to
"Now, Tom, I've relieved you of any extra baggage, you see.
Take mighty good care of them clothes. It'll be long enough 'fore
you get more. I go in for making niggers careful; one suit has to
do for one year, on my place."
Simon next walked up to the place where Emmeline was sitting,
chained to another woman.
"Well, my dear," he said, chucking her under the chin,
"keep up your spirits."
The involuntary look of horror, fright and aversion, with which
the girl regarded him, did not escape his eye. He frowned fiercely.
"None o' your shines, gal! you's got to keep a pleasant face,
when I speak to ye,--d'ye hear? And you, you old yellow poco
moonshine!" he said, giving a shove to the mulatto woman to whom
Emmeline was chained, "don't you carry that sort of face! You's
got to look chipper, I tell ye!"
"I say, all on ye," he said retreating a pace or two back,
"look at me,--look at me,--look me right in the eye,--_straight_,
now!" said he, stamping his foot at every pause.
As by a fascination, every eye was now directed to the
glaring greenish-gray eye of Simon.
"Now," said he, doubling his great, heavy fist into something
resembling a blacksmith's hammer, "d'ye see this fist? Heft it!"
he said, bringing it down on Tom's hand. "Look at these yer bones!
Well, I tell ye this yer fist has got as hard as iron _knocking
down niggers_. I never see the nigger, yet, I couldn't bring down
with one crack," said he, bringing his fist down so near to the
face of Tom that he winked and drew back. "I don't keep none o'
yer cussed overseers; I does my own overseeing; and I tell you
things _is_ seen to. You's every one on ye got to toe the mark,
I tell ye; quick,--straight,--the moment I speak. That's the way
to keep in with me. Ye won't find no soft spot in me, nowhere.
So, now, mind yerselves; for I don't show no mercy!"
The women involuntarily drew in their breath, and the whole
gang sat with downcast, dejected faces. Meanwhile, Simon turned
on his heel, and marched up to the bar of the boat for a dram.
"That's the way I begin with my niggers," he said, to a
gentlemanly man, who had stood by him during his speech.
"It's my system to begin strong,--just let 'em know what
"Indeed!" said the stranger, looking upon him with the
curiosity of a naturalist studying some out-of-the-way specimen.
"Yes, indeed. I'm none o' yer gentlemen planters, with lily
fingers, to slop round and be cheated by some old cuss of an
overseer! Just feel of my knuckles, now; look at my fist.
Tell ye, sir, the flesh on 't has come jest like a stone,
practising on nigger--feel on it."
The stranger applied his fingers to the implement in
question, and simply said,
"'T is hard enough; and, I suppose," he added, "practice
has made your heart just like it."
"Why, yes, I may say so," said Simon, with a hearty laugh.
"I reckon there's as little soft in me as in any one going.
Tell you, nobody comes it over me! Niggers never gets round me,
neither with squalling nor soft soap,--that's a fact."
"You have a fine lot there."
"Real," said Simon. "There's that Tom, they telled me he was
suthin' uncommon. I paid a little high for him, tendin' him
for a driver and a managing chap; only get the notions out that
he's larnt by bein' treated as niggers never ought to be, he'll
do prime! The yellow woman I got took in on. I rayther think she's
sickly, but I shall put her through for what she's worth; she
may last a year or two. I don't go for savin' niggers. Use up,
and buy more, 's my way;-makes you less trouble, and I'm quite
sure it comes cheaper in the end;" and Simon sipped his glass.
"And how long do they generally last?" said the stranger.
"Well, donno; 'cordin' as their constitution is. Stout fellers
last six or seven years; trashy ones gets worked up in two
or three. I used to, when I fust begun, have considerable trouble
fussin' with 'em and trying to make 'em hold out,--doctorin' on
'em up when they's sick, and givin' on 'em clothes and blankets,
and what not, tryin' to keep 'em all sort o' decent and comfortable.
Law, 't wasn't no sort o' use; I lost money on 'em, and 't was
heaps o' trouble. Now, you see, I just put 'em straight through,
sick or well. When one nigger's dead, I buy another; and I find
it comes cheaper and easier, every way."
The stranger turned away, and seated himself beside a gentleman,
who had been listening to the conversation with repressed
"You must not take that fellow to be any specimen of Southern
planters," said he.
"I should hope not," said the young gentleman, with emphasis.
"He is a mean, low, brutal fellow!" said the other.
"And yet your laws allow him to hold any number of human
beings subject to his absolute will, without even a shadow of
protection; and, low as he is, you cannot say that there are not
"Well," said the other, "there are also many considerate
and humane men among planters."
"Granted," said the young man; "but, in my opinion, it is you
considerate, humane men, that are responsible for all the
brutality and outrage wrought by these wretches; because, if it
were not for your sanction and influence, the whole system could
not keep foothold for an hour. If there were no planters except
such as that one," said he, pointing with his finger to Legree,
who stood with his back to them, "the whole thing would go down like
a millstone. It is your respectability and humanity that licenses
and protects his brutality."
"You certainly have a high opinion of my good nature," said the
planter, smiling, "but I advise you not to talk quite so loud,
as there are people on board the boat who might not be quite so
tolerant to opinion as I am. You had better wait till I get up to
my plantation, and there you may abuse us all, quite at your leisure."
The young gentleman colored and smiled, and the two were soon
busy in a game of backgammon. Meanwhile, another conversation
was going on in the lower part of the boat, between Emmeline and
the mulatto woman with whom she was confined. As was natural, they
were exchanging with each other some particulars of their history.
"Who did you belong to?" said Emmeline.
"Well, my Mas'r was Mr. Ellis,--lived on Levee-street.
P'raps you've seen the house."
"Was he good to you?" said Emmeline.
"Mostly, till he tuk sick. He's lain sick, off and on, more
than six months, and been orful oneasy. 'Pears like he warnt
willin' to have nobody rest, day or night; and got so curous, there
couldn't nobody suit him. 'Pears like he just grew crosser, every
day; kep me up nights till I got farly beat out, and couldn't keep
awake no longer; and cause I got to sleep, one night, Lors, he talk
so orful to me, and he tell me he'd sell me to just the hardest
master he could find; and he'd promised me my freedom, too, when
"Had you any friends?" said Emmeline.
"Yes, my husband,--he's a blacksmith. Mas'r gen'ly hired
him out. They took me off so quick, I didn't even have time to
see him; and I's got four children. O, dear me!" said the woman,
covering her face with her hands.
It is a natural impulse, in every one, when they hear a tale
of distress, to think of something to say by way of consolation.
Emmeline wanted to say something, but she could not think of anything
to say. What was there to be said? As by a common consent, they
both avoided, with fear and dread, all mention of the horrible man
who was now their master.
True, there is religious trust for even the darkest hour.
The mulatto woman was a member of the Methodist church, and had an
unenlightened but very sincere spirit of piety. Emmeline had been
educated much more intelligently,--taught to read and write, and
diligently instructed in the Bible, by the care of a faithful and
pious mistress; yet, would it not try the faith of the firmest
Christian, to find themselves abandoned, apparently, of God, in
the grasp of ruthless violence? How much more must it shake the
faith of Christ's poor little ones, weak in knowledge and tender
The boat moved on,--freighted with its weight of sorrow,--up the
red, muddy, turbid current, through the abrupt tortuous windings
of the Red river; and sad eyes gazed wearily on the steep red-clay
banks, as they glided by in dreary sameness. At last the boat
stopped at a small town, and Legree, with his party, disembarked.
"The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations
 Ps. 74:20.
Trailing wearily behind a rude wagon, and over a ruder road,
Tom and his associates faced onward.
In the wagon was seated Simon Legree and the two women, still
fettered together, were stowed away with some baggage in the
back part of it, and the whole company were seeking Legree's
plantation, which lay a good distance off.
It was a wild, forsaken road, now winding through dreary pine
barrens, where the wind whispered mournfully, and now over log
causeways, through long cypress swamps, the doleful trees rising
out of the slimy, spongy ground, hung with long wreaths of funeral
black moss, while ever and anon the loathsome form of the mocassin
snake might be seen sliding among broken stumps and shattered
branches that lay here and there, rotting in the water.
It is disconsolate enough, this riding, to the stranger, who,
with well-filled pocket and well-appointed horse, threads the
lonely way on some errand of business; but wilder, drearier,
to the man enthralled, whom every weary step bears further from
all that man loves and prays for.
So one should have thought, that witnessed the sunken and
dejected expression on those dark faces; the wistful, patient
weariness with which those sad eyes rested on object after object
that passed them in their sad journey.
Simon rode on, however, apparently well pleased, occasionally
pulling away at a flask of spirit, which he kept in his pocket.
"I say, _you!_" he said, as he turned back and caught a
glance at the dispirited faces behind him. "Strike up a song,
The men looked at each other, and the "_come_" was repeated,
with a smart crack of the whip which the driver carried in
his hands. Tom began a Methodist hymn.
"Jerusalem, my happy home,
Name ever dear to me!
When shall my sorrows have an end,
Thy joys when shall--"
 "_Jerusalem, my happy home_," anonymous hymn dating from
the latter part of the sixteenth century, sung to the tune of
"St. Stephen." Words derive from St. Augustine's _Meditations_.
"Shut up, you black cuss!" roared Legree; "did ye think I
wanted any o' yer infernal old Methodism? I say, tune up,
now, something real rowdy,--quick!"
One of the other men struck up one of those unmeaning songs,
common among the slaves.
"Mas'r see'd me cotch a coon,
High boys, high!
He laughed to split,--d'ye see the moon,
Ho! ho! ho! boys, ho!
Ho! yo! hi--e! oh!"_
The singer appeared to make up the song to his own pleasure,
generally hitting on rhyme, without much attempt at reason; and
the party took up the chorus, at intervals,
"Ho! ho! ho! boys, ho!
It was sung very boisterouly, and with a forced attempt at
merriment; but no wail of despair, no words of impassioned prayer,
could have had such a depth of woe in them as the wild notes of
the chorus. As if the poor, dumb heart, threatened,--prisoned,--took
refuge in that inarticulate sanctuary of music, and found there a
language in which to breathe its prayer to God! There was a prayer
in it, which Simon could not hear. He only heard the boys singing
noisily, and was well pleased; he was making them "keep up their spirits."
"Well, my little dear," said he, turning to Emmeline, and
laying his hand on her shoulder, "we're almost home!"
When Legree scolded and stormed, Emmeline was terrified; but
when he laid his hand on her, and spoke as he now did, she felt
as if she had rather he would strike her. The expression of his
eyes made her soul sick, and her flesh creep. Involuntarily she
clung closer to the mulatto woman by her side, as if she were
"You didn't ever wear ear-rings," he said, taking hold of
her small ear with his coarse fingers.
"No, Mas'r!" said Emmeline, trembling and looking down.
"Well, I'll give you a pair, when we get home, if you're
a good girl. You needn't be so frightened; I don't mean to make
you work very hard. You'll have fine times with me, and live like
a lady,--only be a good girl."
Legree had been drinking to that degree that he was inclining to
be very gracious; and it was about this time that the enclosures
of the plantation rose to view. The estate had formerly belonged
to a gentleman of opulence and taste, who had bestowed some
considerable attention to the adornment of his grounds. Having died
insolvent, it had been purchased, at a bargain, by Legree, who used
it, as he did everything else, merely as an implement for
money-making. The place had that ragged, forlorn appearance, which
is always produced by the evidence that the care of the former
owner has been left to go to utter decay.
What was once a smooth-shaven lawn before the house, dotted
here and there with ornamental shrubs, was now covered with frowsy
tangled grass, with horseposts set up, here and there, in it, where
the turf was stamped away, and the ground littered with broken
pails, cobs of corn, and other slovenly remains. Here and there,
a mildewed jessamine or honeysuckle hung raggedly from some ornamental
support, which had been pushed to one side by being used as a
horse-post. What once was a large garden was now all grown over
with weeds, through which, here and there, some solitary exotic
reared its forsaken head. What had been a conservatory had now no
window-shades, and on the mouldering shelves stood some dry, forsaken
flower-pots, with sticks in them, whose dried leaves showed they
had once been plants.
The wagon rolled up a weedy gravel walk, under a noble avenue
of China trees, whose graceful forms and ever-springing foliage
seemed to be the only things there that neglect could not daunt
or alter,--like noble spirits, so deeply rooted in goodness,
as to flourish and grow stronger amid discouragement and decay.
The house had been large and handsome. It was built in a manner
common at the South; a wide verandah of two stories running round
every part of the house, into which every outer door opened, the
lower tier being supported by brick pillars.
But the place looked desolate and uncomfortable; some windows
stopped up with boards, some with shattered panes, and shutters
hanging by a single hinge,--all telling of coarse neglect
Bits of board, straw, old decayed barrels and boxes, garnished
the ground in all directions; and three or four ferocious-looking
dogs, roused by the sound of the wagon-wheels, came tearing out,
and were with difficulty restrained from laying hold of Tom and
his companions, by the effort of the ragged servants who came
"Ye see what ye'd get!" said Legree, caressing the dogs
with grim satisfaction, and turning to Tom and his companions.
"Ye see what ye'd get, if ye try to run off. These yer dogs has
been raised to track niggers; and they'd jest as soon chaw one on
ye up as eat their supper. So, mind yerself! How now, Sambo!"
he said, to a ragged fellow, without any brim to his hat, who was
officious in his attentions. "How have things been going?"
Fust rate, Mas'r."
"Quimbo," said Legree to another, who was making zealous
demonstrations to attract his attention, "ye minded what I
"Guess I did, didn't I?"
These two colored men were the two principal hands on the
plantation. Legree had trained them in savageness and brutality
as systematically as he had his bull-dogs; and, by long practice
in hardness and cruelty, brought their whole nature to about the
same range of capacities. It is a common remark, and one that is
thought to militate strongly against the character of the race,
that the negro overseer is always more tyrannical and cruel than
the white one. This is simply saying that the negro mind has been
more crushed and debased than the white. It is no more true of
this race than of every oppressed race, the world over. The slave
is always a tyrant, if he can get a chance to be one.
Legree, like some potentates we read of in history, governed
his plantation by a sort of resolution of forces. Sambo and Quimbo
cordially hated each other; the plantation hands, one and all,
cordially hated them; and, by playing off one against another, he
was pretty sure, through one or the other of the three parties, to
get informed of whatever was on foot in the place.
Nobody can live entirely without social intercourse; and
Legree encouraged his two black satellites to a kind of coarse
familiarity with him,--a familiarity, however, at any moment liable
to get one or the other of them into trouble; for, on the slightest
provocation, one of them always stood ready, at a nod, to be a
minister of his vengeance on the other.
As they stood there now by Legree, they seemed an apt illustration
of the fact that brutal men are lower even than animals.
Their coarse, dark, heavy features; their great eyes, rolling
enviously on each other; their barbarous, guttural, half-brute
intonation; their dilapidated garments fluttering in the wind,--were
all in admirable keeping with the vile and unwholesome character
of everything about the place.
"Here, you Sambo," said Legree, "take these yer boys down to
the quarters; and here's a gal I've got for _you_," said he, as
he separated the mulatto woman from Emmeline, and pushed her towards
him;--"I promised to bring you one, you know."
The woman gave a start, and drawing back, said, suddenly,
"O, Mas'r! I left my old man in New Orleans."
"What of that, you--; won't you want one here? None o' your
words,--go long!" said Legree, raising his whip.
"Come, mistress," he said to Emmeline, "you go in here with me."
A dark, wild face was seen, for a moment, to glance at the
window of the house; and, as Legree opened the door, a female voice
said something, in a quick, imperative tone. Tom, who was looking,
with anxious interest, after Emmeline, as she went in, noticed
this, and heard Legree answer, angrily, "You may hold your tongue!
I'll do as I please, for all you!"
Tom heard no more; for he was soon following Sambo to the quarters.
The quarters was a little sort of street of rude shanties,
in a row, in a part of the plantation, far off from the house.
They had a forlorn, brutal, forsaken air. Tom's heart sunk when
he saw them. He had been comforting himself with the thought of
a cottage, rude, indeed, but one which he might make neat and quiet,
and where he might have a shelf for his Bible, and a place to be
alone out of his laboring hours. He looked into several; they were
mere rude shells, destitute of any species of furniture, except a
heap of straw, foul with dirt, spread confusedly over the floor,
which was merely the bare ground, trodden hard by the tramping of
"Which of these will be mine?" said he, to Sambo, submissively.
"Dunno; ken turn in here, I spose," said Sambo; "spects thar's
room for another thar; thar's a pretty smart heap o' niggers
to each on 'em, now; sure, I dunno what I 's to do with more."
It was late in the evening when the weary occupants of the
shanties came flocking home,--men and women, in soiled and tattered
garments, surly and uncomfortable, and in no mood to look pleasantly
on new-comers. The small village was alive with no inviting sounds;
hoarse, guttural voices contending at the hand-mills where their
morsel of hard corn was yet to be ground into meal, to fit it for
the cake that was to constitute their only supper. From the earliest
dawn of the day, they had been in the fields, pressed to work
under the driving lash of the overseers; for it was now in the very
heat and hurry of the season, and no means was left untried to
press every one up to the top of their capabilities. "True," says
the negligent lounger; "picking cotton isn't hard work." Isn't it?
And it isn't much inconvenience, either, to have one drop of water
fall on your head; yet the worst torture of the inquisition is
produced by drop after drop, drop after drop, falling moment after
moment, with monotonous succession, on the same spot; and work, in
itself not hard, becomes so, by being pressed, hour after hour,
with unvarying, unrelenting sameness, with not even the consciousness
of free-will to take from its tediousness. Tom looked in vain
among the gang, as they poured along, for companionable faces.
He saw only sullen, scowling, imbruted men, and feeble, discouraged
women, or women that were not women,--the strong pushing away the
weak,--the gross, unrestricted animal selfishness of human beings,
of whom nothing good was expected and desired; and who, treated in
every way like brutes, had sunk as nearly to their level as it was
possible for human beings to do. To a late hour in the night the
sound of the grinding was protracted; for the mills were few in
number compared with the grinders, and the weary and feeble ones
were driven back by the strong, and came on last in their turn.
"Ho yo!" said Sambo, coming to the mulatto woman, and
throwing down a bag of corn before her; "what a cuss yo name?"
"Lucy," said the woman.
"Wal, Lucy, yo my woman now. Yo grind dis yer corn, and
get _my_ supper baked, ye har?"
"I an't your woman, and I won't be!" said the woman, with
the sharp, sudden courage of despair; "you go long!"
"I'll kick yo, then!" said Sambo, raising his foot
"Ye may kill me, if ye choose,--the sooner the better!
Wish't I was dead!" said she.
"I say, Sambo, you go to spilin' the hands, I'll tell Mas'r
o' you," said Quimbo, who was busy at the mill, from which he had
viciously driven two or three tired women, who were waiting to
grind their corn.
"And, I'll tell him ye won't let the women come to the mills,
yo old nigger!" said Sambo. "Yo jes keep to yo own row."
Tom was hungry with his day's journey, and almost faint
for want of food.
"Thar, yo!" said Quimbo, throwing down a coarse bag, which
contained a peck of corn; "thar, nigger, grab, take car on 't,--yo
won't get no more, _dis_ yer week."
Tom waited till a late hour, to get a place at the mills; and
then, moved by the utter weariness of two women, whom he saw
trying to grind their corn there, he ground for them, put together
the decaying brands of the fire, where many had baked cakes before
them, and then went about getting his own supper. It was a new
kind of work there,--a deed of charity, small as it was; but it
woke an answering touch in their hearts,--an expression of womanly
kindness came over their hard faces; they mixed his cake for him,
and tended its baking; and Tom sat down by the light of the fire,
and drew out his Bible,--for he had need for comfort.
"What's that?" said one of the woman.
"A Bible," said Tom.
"Good Lord! han't seen un since I was in Kentuck."
"Was you raised in Kentuck?" said Tom, with interest.
"Yes, and well raised, too; never 'spected to come to dis
yer!" said the woman, sighing.
"What's dat ar book, any way?" said the other woman.
"Why, the Bible."
"Laws a me! what's dat?" said the woman.
"Do tell! you never hearn on 't?" said the other woman.
"I used to har Missis a readin' on 't, sometimes, in Kentuck; but,
laws o' me! we don't har nothin' here but crackin' and swarin'."
"Read a piece, anyways!" said the first woman, curiously,
seeing Tom attentively poring over it.
Tom read,-- "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest."
"Them's good words, enough," said the woman; "who says 'em?"
"The Lord," said Tom.
"I jest wish I know'd whar to find Him," said the woman.
"I would go; 'pears like I never should get rested again. My flesh
is fairly sore, and I tremble all over, every day, and Sambo's
allers a jawin' at me, 'cause I doesn't pick faster; and nights
it's most midnight 'fore I can get my supper; and den 'pears like
I don't turn over and shut my eyes, 'fore I hear de horn blow to
get up, and at it agin in de mornin'. If I knew whar de Lor was,
I'd tell him."
"He's here, he's everywhere," said Tom.
"Lor, you an't gwine to make me believe dat ar! I know de
Lord an't here," said the woman; "'tan't no use talking, though.
I's jest gwine to camp down, and sleep while I ken."
The women went off to their cabins, and Tom sat alone, by
the smouldering fire, that flickered up redly in his face.
The silver, fair-browed moon rose in the purple sky, and
looked down, calm and silent, as God looks on the scene of misery
and oppression,--looked calmly on the lone black man, as he sat,
with his arms folded, and his Bible on his knee.
"Is God HERE?" Ah, how is it possible for the untaught heart
to keep its faith, unswerving, in the face of dire misrule,
and palpable, unrebuked injustice? In that simple heart waged
a fierce conflict; the crushing sense of wrong, the foreshadowing,
of a whole life of future misery, the wreck of all past hopes,
mournfully tossing in the soul's sight, like dead corpses of
wife, and child, and friend, rising from the dark wave, and
surging in the face of the half-drowned mariner! Ah, was it easy
_here_ to believe and hold fast the great password of Christian
faith, that "God IS, and is the REWARDER of them that diligently
Tom rose, disconsolate, and stumbled into the cabin that had
been allotted to him. The floor was already strewn with weary
sleepers, and the foul air of the place almost repelled him; but
the heavy night-dews were chill, and his limbs weary, and, wrapping
about him a tattered blanket, which formed his only bed-clothing,
he stretched himself in the straw and fell asleep.
In dreams, a gentle voice came over his ear; he was sitting
on the mossy seat in the garden by Lake Pontchartrain, and Eva,
with her serious eyes bent downward, was reading to him from the
Bible; and he heard her read.
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee,
and the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest
through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame
kindle upon thee; for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel,
Gradually the words seemed to melt and fade, as in a divine
music; the child raised her deep eyes, and fixed them lovingly on
him, and rays of warmth and comfort seemed to go from them to his
heart; and, as if wafted on the music, she seemed to rise on shining
wings, from which flakes and spangles of gold fell off like stars,
and she was gone.
Tom woke. Was it a dream? Let it pass for one. But who
shall say that that sweet young spirit, which in life so
yearned to comfort and console the distressed, was forbidden
of God to assume this ministry after death?
It is a beautiful belief,
That ever round our head
Are hovering, on angel wings,
The spirits of the dead.
"And behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they
had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was
power, but they had no comforter."
It took but a short time to familiarize Tom with all that was to
be hoped or feared in his new way of life. He was an expert and
efficient workman in whatever he undertook; and was, both from
habit and principle, prompt and faithful. Quiet and peaceable in
his disposition, he hoped, by unremitting diligence, to avert from
himself at least a portion of the evils of his condition. He saw
enough of abuse and misery to make him sick and weary; but he
determined to toil on, with religious patience, committing himself
to Him that judgeth righteously, not without hope that some way of
escape might yet be opened to him.
Legree took a silent note of Tom's availability. He rated
him as a first-class hand; and yet he felt a secret dislike to
him,--the native antipathy of bad to good. He saw, plainly, that
when, as was often the case, his violence and brutality fell on
the helpless, Tom took notice of it; for, so subtle is the atmosphere
of opinion, that it will make itself felt, without words; and the
opinion even of a slave may annoy a master. Tom in various ways
manifested a tenderness of feeling, a commiseration for his
fellow-sufferers, strange and new to them, which was watched with
a jealous eye by Legree. He had purchased Tom with a view of
eventually making him a sort of overseer, with whom he might,
at times, intrust his affairs, in short absences; and, in his view,
the first, second, and third requisite for that place, was _hardness_.
Legree made up his mind, that, as Tom was not hard to his hand,
he would harden him forthwith; and some few weeks after Tom had
been on the place, he determined to commence the process.
One morning, when the hands were mustered for the field, Tom
noticed, with surprise, a new comer among them, whose appearance
excited his attention. It was a woman, tall and slenderly formed,
with remarkably delicate hands and feet, and dressed in neat and
respectable garments. By the appearance of her face, she might
have been between thirty-five and forty; and it was a face that,
once seen, could never be forgotten,--one of those that, at a glance,
seem to convey to us an idea of a wild, painful, and romantic history.
Her forehead was high, and her eyebrows marked with beautiful clearness.
Her straight, well-formed nose, her finely-cut mouth, and the
graceful contour of her head and neck, showed that she must once
have been beautiful; but her face was deeply wrinkled with lines
of pain, and of proud and bitter endurance. Her complexion was
sallow and unhealthy, her cheeks thin, her features sharp, and
her whole form emaciated. But her eye was the most remarkable
feature,--so large, so heavily black, overshadowed by long lashes
of equal darkness, and so wildly, mournfully despairing. There was
a fierce pride and defiance in every line of her face, in every
curve of the flexible lip, in every motion of her body; but in her
eye was a deep, settled night of anguish,--an expression so hopeless
and unchanging as to contrast fearfully with the scorn and pride
expressed by her whole demeanor.
Where she came from, or who she was, Tom did not know. The first
he did know, she was walking by his side, erect and proud, in the
dim gray of the dawn. To the gang, however, she was known; for
there was much looking and turning of heads, and a smothered yet
apparent exultation among the miserable, ragged, half-starved
creatures by whom she was surrounded.
"Got to come to it, at last,--grad of it!" said one.
"He! he! he!" said another; "you'll know how good it is, Misse!"
"We'll see her work!"
"Wonder if she'll get a cutting up, at night, like the rest
"I'd be glad to see her down for a flogging, I'll bound!"
The woman took no notice of these taunts, but walked on, with
the same expression of angry scorn, as if she heard nothing.
Tom had always lived among refined, and cultivated people, and he
felt intuitively, from her air and bearing, that she belonged to
that class; but how or why she could be fallen to those degrading
circumstances, he could not tell. The women neither looked at him
nor spoke to him, though, all the way to the field, she kept close
at his side.
Tom was soon busy at his work; but, as the woman was at no great
distance from him, he often glanced an eye to her, at her work.
He saw, at a glance, that a native adroitness and handiness made
the task to her an easier one than it proved to many. She picked
very fast and very clean, and with an air of scorn, as if she
despised both the work and the disgrace and humiliation of the
circumstances in which she was placed.
In the course of the day, Tom was working near the mulatto
woman who had been bought in the same lot with himself. She was
evidently in a condition of great suffering, and Tom often heard her
praying, as she wavered and trembled, and seemed about to fall down.
Tom silently as he came near to her, transferred several handfuls
of cotton from his own sack to hers.
"O, don't, don't!" said the woman, looking surprised; "it'll
get you into trouble."
Just then Sambo came up. He seemed to have a special spite
against this woman; and, flourishing his whip, said, in brutal,
guttural tones, "What dis yer, Luce,--foolin' a'" and, with the
word, kicking the woman with his heavy cowhide shoe, he struck Tom
across the face with his whip.
Tom silently resumed his task; but the woman, before at
the last point of exhaustion, fainted.
"I'll bring her to!" said the driver, with a brutal grin.
"I'll give her something better than camphire!" and, taking a pin
from his coat-sleeve, he buried it to the head in her flesh.
The woman groaned, and half rose. "Get up, you beast, and work,
will yer, or I'll show yer a trick more!"
The woman seemed stimulated, for a few moments, to an
unnatural strength, and worked with desperate eagerness.
"See that you keep to dat ar," said the man, "or yer'll
wish yer's dead tonight, I reckin!"
"That I do now!" Tom heard her say; and again he heard her
say, "O, Lord, how long! O, Lord, why don't you help us?"
At the risk of all that he might suffer, Tom came forward
again, and put all the cotton in his sack into the woman's.
"O, you mustn't! you donno what they'll do to ye!" said
"I can bar it!" said Tom, "better 'n you;" and he was at
his place again. It passed in a moment.
Suddenly, the stranger woman whom we have described, and who
had, in the course of her work, come near enough to hear Tom's
last words, raised her heavy black eyes, and fixed them, for a
second, on him; then, taking a quantity of cotton from her basket,
she placed it in his.
"You know nothing about this place," she said, "or you wouldn't
have done that. When you've been here a month, you'll be done
helping anybody; you'll find it hard enough to take care of your
"The Lord forbid, Missis!" said Tom, using instinctively to his
field companion the respectful form proper to the high bred
with whom he had lived.
"The Lord never visits these parts," said the woman, bitterly,
as she went nimbly forward with her work; and again the
scornful smile curled her lips.
But the action of the woman had been seen by the driver,
across the field; and, flourishing his whip, he came up to her.
"What! what!" he said to the woman, with an air of triumph,
"You a foolin'? Go along! yer under me now,--mind yourself, or
yer'll cotch it!"
A glance like sheet-lightning suddenly flashed from those
black eyes; and, facing about, with quivering lip and dilated
nostrils, she drew herself up, and fixed a glance, blazing with
rage and scorn, on the driver.
"Dog!" she said, "touch _me_, if you dare! I've power enough,
yet, to have you torn by the dogs, burnt alive, cut to inches!
I've only to say the word!"
"What de devil you here for, den?" said the man, evidently
cowed, and sullenly retreating a step or two. "Didn't mean no
harm, Misse Cassy!"
"Keep your distance, then!" said the woman. And, in truth, the
man seemed greatly inclined to attend to something at the other
end of the field, and started off in quick time.
The woman suddenly turned to her work, and labored with a
despatch that was perfectly astonishing to Tom. She seemed to
work by magic. Before the day was through, her basket was filled,
crowded down, and piled, and she had several times put largely
into Tom's. Long after dusk, the whole weary train, with their
baskets on their heads, defiled up to the building appropriated to the
storing and weighing the cotton. Legree was there, busily conversing
with the two drivers.
"Dat ar Tom's gwine to make a powerful deal o' trouble; kept
a puttin' into Lucy's basket.--One o' these yer dat will get
all der niggers to feelin' bused, if Masir don't watch him!"
"Hey-dey! The black cuss!" said Legree. "He'll have to
get a breakin' in, won't he, boys?"
Both negroes grinned a horrid grin, at this intimation.
"Ay, ay! Let Mas'r Legree alone, for breakin' in! De debil
heself couldn't beat Mas'r at dat!" said Quimbo.
"Wal, boys, the best way is to give him the flogging to do,
till he gets over his notions. Break him in!"
"Lord, Mas'r'll have hard work to get dat out o' him!"
"It'll have to come out of him, though!" said Legree, as
he rolled his tobacco in his mouth.
"Now, dar's Lucy,--de aggravatinest, ugliest wench on de
place!" pursued Sambo.
"Take care, Sam; I shall begin to think what's the reason
for your spite agin Lucy."
"Well, Mas'r knows she sot herself up agin Mas'r, and
wouldn't have me, when he telled her to."
"I'd a flogged her into 't," said Legree, spitting, only
there's such a press o' work, it don't seem wuth a while to upset
her jist now. She's slender; but these yer slender gals will bear
half killin' to get their own way!"
"Wal, Lucy was real aggravatin' and lazy, sulkin' round;
wouldn't do nothin,--and Tom he tuck up for her."
"He did, eh! Wal, then, Tom shall have the pleasure of
flogging her. It'll be a good practice for him, and he won't put
it on to the gal like you devils, neither."
"Ho, ho! haw! haw! haw!" laughed both the sooty wretches;
and the diabolical sounds seemed, in truth, a not unapt
expression of the fiendish character which Legree gave them.
"Wal, but, Mas'r, Tom and Misse Cassy, and dey among 'em,
filled Lucy's basket. I ruther guess der weight 's in it, Mas'r!"
"_I do the weighing!_" said Legree, emphatically.
Both the drivers again laughed their diabolical laugh.
"So!" he added, "Misse Cassy did her day's work."
"She picks like de debil and all his angels!"
"She's got 'em all in her, I believe!" said Legree; and,
growling a brutal oath, he proceeded to the weighing-room.
Slowly the weary, dispirited creatures, wound their way
into the room, and, with crouching reluctance, presented their
baskets to be weighed.
Legree noted on a slate, on the side of which was pasted
a list of names, the amount.
Tom's basket was weighed and approved; and he looked, with an
anxious glance, for the success of the woman he had befriended.
Tottering with weakness, she came forward, and delivered
her basket. It was of full weight, as Legree well perceived; but,
affecting anger, he said,
"What, you lazy beast! short again! stand aside, you'll
catch it, pretty soon!"
The woman gave a groan of utter despair, and sat down on
The person who had been called Misse Cassy now came forward, and,
with a haughty, negligent air, delivered her basket. As she delivered
it, Legree looked in her eyes with a sneering yet inquiring glance.
She fixed her black eyes steadily on him, her lips moved slightly,
and she said something in French. What it was, no one knew; but
Legree's face became perfectly demoniacal in its expression, as
she spoke; he half raised his hand, as if to strike,--a gesture
which she regarded with fierce disdain, as she turned and walked away.
"And now," said Legree, "come here, you Tom. You see, I
telled ye I didn't buy ye jest for the common work; I mean to
promote ye, and make a driver of ye; and tonight ye may jest as
well begin to get yer hand in. Now, ye jest take this yer gal and
flog her; ye've seen enough on't to know how."
I beg Mas'r's pardon," said Tom; "hopes Mas'r won't set me
at that. It's what I an't used to,--never did,--and can't do,
no way possible."
"Ye'll larn a pretty smart chance of things ye never did know,
before I've done with ye!" said Legree, taking up a cowhide,
and striking Tom a heavy blow cross the cheek, and following up
the infliction by a shower of blows.
"There!" he said, as he stopped to rest; "now, will ye tell
me ye can't do it?"
"Yes, Mas'r," said Tom, putting up his hand, to wipe the blood,
that trickled down his face. "I'm willin' to work, night
and day, and work while there's life and breath in me; but this
yer thing I can't feel it right to do;--and, Mas'r, I _never_ shall
Tom had a remarkably smooth, soft voice, and a habitually
respectful manner, that had given Legree an idea that he would be
cowardly, and easily subdued. When he spoke these last words, a
thrill of amazement went through every one; the poor woman clasped
her hands, and said, "O Lord!" and every one involuntarily looked
at each other and drew in their breath, as if to prepare for the
storm that was about to burst.
Legree looked stupefied and confounded; but at last burst
forth,--"What! ye blasted black beast! tell _me_ ye don't
think it _right_ to do what I tell ye! What have any of you cussed
cattle to do with thinking what's right? I'll put a stop to it!
Why, what do ye think ye are? May be ye think ye'r a gentleman
master, Tom, to be a telling your master what's right, and what ain't!
So you pretend it's wrong to flog the gal!"
"I think so, Mas'r," said Tom; "the poor crittur's sick and feeble;
't would be downright cruel, and it's what I never will do, nor
begin to. Mas'r, if you mean to kill me, kill me; but, as to my
raising my hand agin any one here, I never shall,--I'll die first!"
Tom spoke in a mild voice, but with a decision that could not
be mistaken. Legree shook with anger; his greenish eyes glared
fiercely, and his very whiskers seemed to curl with passion; but,
like some ferocious beast, that plays with its victim before he
devours it, he kept back his strong impulse to proceed to immediate
violence, and broke out into bitter raillery.
"Well, here's a pious dog, at last, let down among us
sinners!--a saint, a gentleman, and no less, to talk to us sinners
about our sins! Powerful holy critter, he must be! Here, you rascal,
you make believe to be so pious,--didn't you never hear, out of yer
Bible, `Servants, obey yer masters'? An't I yer master? Didn't I
pay down twelve hundred dollars, cash, for all there is inside
yer old cussed black shell? An't yer mine, now, body and soul?" he
said, giving Tom a violent kick with his heavy boot; "tell me!"
In the very depth of physical suffering, bowed by brutal
oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through
Tom's soul. He suddenly stretched himself up, and, looking earnestly
to heaven, while the tears and blood that flowed down his face
mingled, he exclaimed,
"No! no! no! my soul an't yours, Mas'r! You haven't bought
it,--ye can't buy it! It's been bought and paid for, by one that
is able to keep it;--no matter, no matter, you can't harm me!"
"I can't!" said Legree, with a sneer; "we'll see,--we'll see!
Here, Sambo, Quimbo, give this dog such a breakin' in as he
won't get over, this month!"
The two gigantic negroes that now laid hold of Tom, with
fiendish exultation in their faces, might have formed no unapt
personification of powers of darkness. The poor woman screamed
with apprehension, and all rose, as by a general impulse, while
they dragged him unresisting from the place.
The Quadroon's Story
And behold the tears of such as are oppressed; and on the side
of their oppressors there was power. Wherefore I praised the
dead that are already dead more than the living that are yet alive.
It was late at night, and Tom lay groaning and bleeding alone, in
an old forsaken room of the gin-house, among pieces of broken
machinery, piles of damaged cotton, and other rubbish which had
The night was damp and close, and the thick air swarmed with
myriads of mosquitos, which increased the restless torture of his
wounds; whilst a burning thirst--a torture beyond all others--filled
up the uttermost measure of physical anguish.
"O, good Lord! _Do_ look down,--give me the victory!--give
me the victory over all!" prayed poor Tom, in his anguish.
A footstep entered the room, behind him, and the light of
a lantern flashed on his eyes.
"Who's there? O, for the Lord's massy, please give me some water!"
The woman Cassy--for it was she,--set down her lantern, and,
pouring water from a bottle, raised his head, and gave him drink.
Another and another cup were drained, with feverish eagerness.
"Drink all ye want," she said; "I knew how it would be. It isn't
the first time I've been out in the night, carrying water to
such as you."
"Thank you, Missis," said Tom, when he had done drinking.
"Don't call me Missis! I'm a miserable slave, like yourself,--a
lower one than you can ever be!" said she, bitterly; "but now,"
said she, going to the door, and dragging in a small pallaise, over
which she had spread linen cloths wet with cold water, "try, my
poor fellow, to roll yourself on to this."
Stiff with wounds and bruises, Tom was a long time in
accomplishing this movement; but, when done, he felt a sensible
relief from the cooling application to his wounds.
The woman, whom long practice with the victims of brutality had
made familiar with many healing arts, went on to make many
applications to Tom's wounds, by means of which he was soon
"Now," said the woman, when she had raised his head on a roll
of damaged cotton, which served for a pillow, "there's the
best I can do for you."
Tom thanked her; and the woman, sitting down on the floor, drew
up her knees, and embracing them with her arms, looked fixedly
before her, with a bitter and painful expression of countenance.
Her bonnet fell back, and long wavy streams of black hair fell
around her singular and melancholy-face.
"It's no use, my poor fellow!" she broke out, at last, "it's of
no use, this you've been trying to do. You were a brave
fellow,--you had the right on your side; but it's all in vain, and
out of the question, for you to struggle. You are in the devil's
hands;--he is the strongest, and you must give up!"
Give up! and, had not human weakness and physical agony whispered
that, before? Tom started; for the bitter woman, with her wild
eyes and melancholy voice, seemed to him an embodiment of the
temptation with which he had been wrestling.
"O Lord! O Lord!" he groaned, "how can I give up?"
"There's no use calling on the Lord,--he never hears," said
the woman, steadily; "there isn't any God, I believe; or, if there
is, he's taken sides against us. All goes against us, heaven
and earth. Everything is pushing us into hell. Why shouldn't we go?"
Tom closed his eyes, and shuddered at the dark, atheistic words.
"You see," said the woman, "_you_ don't know anything about
it--I do. I've been on this place five years, body and soul,
under this man's foot; and I hate him as I do the devil! Here you
are, on a lone plantation, ten miles from any other, in the swamps;
not a white person here, who could testify, if you were burned
alive,--if you were scalded, cut into inch-pieces, set up for the
dogs to tear, or hung up and whipped to death. There's no law
here, of God or man, that can do you, or any one of us, the least
good; and, this man! there's no earthly thing that he's too good
to do. I could make any one's hair rise, and their teeth chatter,
if I should only tell what I've seen and been knowing to, here,--and
it's no use resisting! Did I _want_ to live with him? Wasn't I a
woman delicately bred; and he,--God in heaven! what was he, and
is he? And yet, I've lived with him, these five years, and cursed
every moment of my life,--night and day! And now, he's got a new
one,--a young thing, only fifteen, and she brought up, she says, piously.
Her good mistress taught her to read the Bible; and she's brought
her Bible here--to hell with her!"--and the woman laughed a wild
and doleful laugh, that rung, with a strange, supernatural sound,
through the old ruined shed.
Tom folded his hands; all was darkness and horror.
"O Jesus! Lord Jesus! have you quite forgot us poor critturs?"
burst forth, at last;-- "help, Lord, I perish!"
The woman sternly continued:
"And what are these miserable low dogs you work with, that you
should suffer on their account? Every one of them would turn
against you, the first time they got a chance. They are all of
'em as low and cruel to each other as they can be; there's no use
in your suffering to keep from hurting them."
"Poor critturs!" said Tom,-- "what made 'em cruel?--and, if
I give out, I shall get used to 't, and grow, little by little,
just like 'em! No, no, Missis! I've lost everything,--wife, and
children, and home, and a kind Mas'r,--and he would have set me
free, if he'd only lived a week longer; I've lost everything in
_this_ world, and it's clean gone, forever,--and now I _can't_ lose
Heaven, too; no, I can't get to be wicked, besides all!"
"But it can't be that the Lord will lay sin to our account,"
said the woman; "he won't charge it to us, when we're forced to
it; he'll charge it to them that drove us to it."
"Yes," said Tom; "but that won't keep us from growing wicked.
If I get to be as hard-hearted as that ar' Sambo, and as wicked,
it won't make much odds to me how I come so; it's the bein'
so,--that ar's what I'm a dreadin'."
The woman fixed a wild and startled look on Tom, as if a new
thought had struck her; and then, heavily groaning, said,
"O God a' mercy! you speak the truth! O--O--O!"--and, with
groans, she fell on the floor, like one crushed and writhing under
the extremity of mental anguish.
There was a silence, a while, in which the breathing of both
parties could be heard, when Tom faintly said, "O, please, Missis!"
The woman suddenly rose up, with her face composed to its
usual stern, melancholy expression.
"Please, Missis, I saw 'em throw my coat in that ar' corner,
and in my coat-pocket is my Bible;--if Missis would please get it
Cassy went and got it. Tom opened, at once, to a heavily
marked passage, much worn, of the last scenes in the life of Him
by whose stripes we are healed.
"If Missis would only be so good as read that ar',--it's
better than water."
Cassy took the book, with a dry, proud air, and looked over
the passage. She then read aloud, in a soft voice, and with a
beauty of intonation that was peculiar, that touching account of
anguish and of glory. Often, as she read, her voice faltered, and
sometimes failed her altogether, when she would stop, with an air
of frigid composure, till she had mastered herself. When she came
to the touching words, "Father forgive them, for they know not what
they do," she threw down the book, and, burying her face in the heavy
masses of her hair, she sobbed aloud, with a convulsive violence.
Tom was weeping, also, and occasionally uttering a smothered
"If we only could keep up to that ar'!" said Tom;--"it seemed
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