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Uncle Tom's Cabin

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CHAPTER XXXI.
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:

“Stand up.”

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 his property.

“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 to expect.”

“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 uneasiness.

“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 many such.”

“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 he died.”

“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 in years!

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.

CHAPTER XXXII.
Dark Places

“The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.”


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, boys,—come!”

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—“[2]

[2] 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!
High—e—oh! high—e—oh!”

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 her mother.

“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 and discomfort.

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 after them.

“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 telled ye?”

“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 innumerable feet.

“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 threateningly.

“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 seek Him”?

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, thy Saviour.”

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.

CHAPTER XXXIII.
Cassy

“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.”—ECCL. 4:1

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,—glad 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 of us!”

“I’d be glad to see her down for a flogging, I’ll bound!” said another.

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 woman 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 the woman.

“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 own skin!”

“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!” said Sambo.

“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 stuck 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 a board.

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 do it,—never!”

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.

CHAPTER XXXIV.
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.—ECCL. 4:1.

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 there accumulated.

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 somewhat relieved.

“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 for me.”

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 ejaculation.

“If we only could keep up to that ar’!” said Tom;—“it seemed to come so natural to him, and we have to fight so hard for ’t! O Lord, help us! O blessed Lord Jesus, do help us!”

“Missis,” said Tom, after a while, “I can see that, some how, you’re quite ’bove me in everything; but there’s one thing Missis might learn even from poor Tom. Ye said the Lord took sides against us, because he lets us be ’bused and knocked round; but ye see what come on his own Son,—the blessed Lord of Glory,—wan’t he allays poor? and have we, any on us, yet come so low as he come? The Lord han’t forgot us,—I’m sartin’ o’ that ar’. If we suffer with him, we shall also reign, Scripture says; but, if we deny Him, he also will deny us. Didn’t they all suffer?—the Lord and all his? It tells how they was stoned and sawn asunder, and wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, and was destitute, afflicted, tormented. Sufferin’ an’t no reason to make us think the Lord’s turned agin us; but jest the contrary, if only we hold on to him, and doesn’t give up to sin.”

“But why does he put us where we can’t help but sin?” said the woman.

“I think we can help it,” said Tom.

“You’ll see,” said Cassy; “what’ll you do? Tomorrow they’ll be at you again. I know ’em; I’ve seen all their doings; I can’t bear to think of all they’ll bring you to;—and they’ll make you give out, at last!”

“Lord Jesus!” said Tom, “you will take care of my soul? O Lord, do!—don’t let me give out!”

“O dear!” said Cassy; “I’ve heard all this crying and praying before; and yet, they’ve been broken down, and brought under. There’s Emmeline, she’s trying to hold on, and you’re trying,—but what use? You must give up, or be killed by inches.”

“Well, then, I will die!” said Tom. “Spin it out as long as they can, they can’t help my dying, some time!—and, after that, they can’t do no more. I’m clar, I’m set! I know the Lord’ll help me, and bring me through.”

The woman did not answer; she sat with her black eyes intently fixed on the floor.

“May be it’s the way,” she murmured to herself; “but those that have given up, there’s no hope for them!—none! We live in filth, and grow loathsome, till we loathe ourselves! And we long to die, and we don’t dare to kill ourselves!—No hope! no hope! no hope?—this girl now,—just as old as I was!

“You see me now,” she said, speaking to Tom very rapidly; “see what I am! Well, I was brought up in luxury; the first I remember is, playing about, when I was a child, in splendid parlors,—when I was kept dressed up like a doll, and company and visitors used to praise me. There was a garden opening from the saloon windows; and there I used to play hide-and-go-seek, under the orange-trees, with my brothers and sisters. I went to a convent, and there I learned music, French and embroidery, and what not; and when I was fourteen, I came out to my father’s funeral. He died very suddenly, and when the property came to be settled, they found that there was scarcely enough to cover the debts; and when the creditors took an inventory of the property, I was set down in it. My mother was a slave woman, and my father had always meant to set me free; but he had not done it, and so I was set down in the list. I’d always known who I was, but never thought much about it. Nobody ever expects that a strong, healthy man is going to die. My father was a well man only four hours before he died;—it was one of the first cholera cases in New Orleans. The day after the funeral, my father’s wife took her children, and went up to her father’s plantation. I thought they treated me strangely, but didn’t know. There was a young lawyer who they left to settle the business; and he came every day, and was about the house, and spoke very politely to me. He brought with him, one day, a young man, whom I thought the handsomest I had ever seen. I shall never forget that evening. I walked with him in the garden. I was lonesome and full of sorrow, and he was so kind and gentle to me; and he told me that he had seen me before I went to the convent, and that he had loved me a great while, and that he would be my friend and protector;—in short, though he didn’t tell me, he had paid two thousand dollars for me, and I was his property,—I became his willingly, for I loved him. Loved!” said the woman, stopping. “O, how I did love that man! How I love him now,—and always shall, while I breathe! He was so beautiful, so high, so noble! He put me into a beautiful house, with servants, horses, and carriages, and furniture, and dresses. Everything that money could buy, he gave me; but I didn’t set any value on all that,—I only cared for him. I loved him better than my God and my own soul, and, if I tried, I couldn’t do any other way from what he wanted me to.

“I wanted only one thing—I did want him to marry me. I thought, if he loved me as he said he did, and if I was what he seemed to think I was, he would be willing to marry me and set me free. But he convinced me that it would be impossible; and he told me that, if we were only faithful to each other, it was marriage before God. If that is true, wasn’t I that man’s wife? Wasn’t I faithful? For seven years, didn’t I study every look and motion, and only live and breathe to please him? He had the yellow fever, and for twenty days and nights I watched with him. I alone,—and gave him all his medicine, and did everything for him; and then he called me his good angel, and said I’d saved his life. We had two beautiful children. The first was a boy, and we called him Henry. He was the image of his father,—he had such beautiful eyes, such a forehead, and his hair hung all in curls around it; and he had all his father’s spirit, and his talent, too. Little Elise, he said, looked like me. He used to tell me that I was the most beautiful woman in Louisiana, he was so proud of me and the children. He used to love to have me dress them up, and take them and me about in an open carriage, and hear the remarks that people would make on us; and he used to fill my ears constantly with the fine things that were said in praise of me and the children. O, those were happy days! I thought I was as happy as any one could be; but then there came evil times. He had a cousin come to New Orleans, who was his particular friend,—he thought all the world of him;—but, from the first time I saw him, I couldn’t tell why, I dreaded him; for I felt sure he was going to bring misery on us. He got Henry to going out with him, and often he would not come home nights till two or three o’clock. I did not dare say a word; for Henry was so high spirited, I was afraid to. He got him to the gaming-houses; and he was one of the sort that, when he once got a going there, there was no holding back. And then he introduced him to another lady, and I saw soon that his heart was gone from me. He never told me, but I saw it,—I knew it, day after day,—I felt my heart breaking, but I could not say a word! At this, the wretch offered to buy me and the children of Henry, to clear off his gambling debts, which stood in the way of his marrying as he wished;—and he sold us. He told me, one day, that he had business in the country, and should be gone two or three weeks. He spoke kinder than usual, and said he should come back; but it didn’t deceive me. I knew that the time had come; I was just like one turned into stone; I couldn’t speak, nor shed a tear. He kissed me and kissed the children, a good many times, and went out. I saw him get on his horse, and I watched him till he was quite out of sight; and then I fell down, and fainted.

“Then he came, the cursed wretch! he came to take possession. He told me that he had bought me and my children; and showed me the papers. I cursed him before God, and told him I’d die sooner than live with him.”

“‘Just as you please,’ said he; ‘but, if you don’t behave reasonably, I’ll sell both the children, where you shall never see them again.’ He told me that he always had meant to have me, from the first time he saw me; and that he had drawn Henry on, and got him in debt, on purpose to make him willing to sell me. That he got him in love with another woman; and that I might know, after all that, that he should not give up for a few airs and tears, and things of that sort.

“I gave up, for my hands were tied. He had my children;—whenever I resisted his will anywhere, he would talk about selling them, and he made me as submissive as he desired. O, what a life it was! to live with my heart breaking, every day,—to keep on, on, on, loving, when it was only misery; and to be bound, body and soul, to one I hated. I used to love to read to Henry, to play to him, to waltz with him, and sing to him; but everything I did for this one was a perfect drag,—yet I was afraid to refuse anything. He was very imperious, and harsh to the children. Elise was a timid little thing; but Henry was bold and high-spirited, like his father, and he had never been brought under, in the least, by any one. He was always finding fault, and quarrelling with him; and I used to live in daily fear and dread. I tried to make the child respectful;—I tried to keep them apart, for I held on to those children like death; but it did no good. He sold both those children. He took me to ride, one day, and when I came home, they were nowhere to be found! He told me he had sold them; he showed me the money, the price of their blood. Then it seemed as if all good forsook me. I raved and cursed,—cursed God and man; and, for a while, I believe, he really was afraid of me. But he didn’t give up so. He told me that my children were sold, but whether I ever saw their faces again, depended on him; and that, if I wasn’t quiet, they should smart for it. Well, you can do anything with a woman, when you’ve got her children. He made me submit; he made me be peaceable; he flattered me with hopes that, perhaps, he would buy them back; and so things went on, a week or two. One day, I was out walking, and passed by the calaboose; I saw a crowd about the gate, and heard a child’s voice,—and suddenly my Henry broke away from two or three men who were holding him, and ran, screaming, and caught my dress. They came up to him, swearing dreadfully; and one man, whose face I shall never forget, told him that he wouldn’t get away so; that he was going with him into the calaboose, and he’d get a lesson there he’d never forget. I tried to beg and plead,—they only laughed; the poor boy screamed and looked into my face, and held on to me, until, in tearing him off, they tore the skirt of my dress half away; and they carried him in, screaming ’Mother! mother! mother!’ There was one man stood there seemed to pity me. I offered him all the money I had, if he’d only interfere. He shook his head, and said that the boy had been impudent and disobedient, ever since he bought him; that he was going to break him in, once for all. I turned and ran; and every step of the way, I thought that I heard him scream. I got into the house; ran, all out of breath, to the parlor, where I found Butler. I told him, and begged him to go and interfere. He only laughed, and told me the boy had got his deserts. He’d got to be broken in,—the sooner the better; ’what did I expect?’ he asked.

“It seemed to me something in my head snapped, at that moment. I felt dizzy and furious. I remember seeing a great sharp bowie-knife on the table; I remember something about catching it, and flying upon him; and then all grew dark, and I didn’t know any more,—not for days and days.

“When I came to myself, I was in a nice room,—but not mine. An old black woman tended me; and a doctor came to see me, and there was a great deal of care taken of me. After a while, I found that he had gone away, and left me at this house to be sold; and that’s why they took such pains with me.

“I didn’t mean to get well, and hoped I shouldn’t; but, in spite of me the fever went off and I grew healthy, and finally got up. Then, they made me dress up, every day; and gentlemen used to come in and stand and smoke their cigars, and look at me, and ask questions, and debate my price. I was so gloomy and silent, that none of them wanted me. They threatened to whip me, if I wasn’t gayer, and didn’t take some pains to make myself agreeable. At length, one day, came a gentleman named Stuart. He seemed to have some feeling for me; he saw that something dreadful was on my heart, and he came to see me alone, a great many times, and finally persuaded me to tell him. He bought me, at last, and promised to do all he could to find and buy back my children. He went to the hotel where my Henry was; they told him he had been sold to a planter up on Pearl River; that was the last that I ever heard. Then he found where my daughter was; an old woman was keeping her. He offered an immense sum for her, but they would not sell her. Butler found out that it was for me he wanted her; and he sent me word that I should never have her. Captain Stuart was very kind to me; he had a splendid plantation, and took me to it. In the course of a year, I had a son born. O, that child!—how I loved it! How just like my poor Henry the little thing looked! But I had made up my mind,—yes, I had. I would never again let a child live to grow up! I took the little fellow in my arms, when he was two weeks old, and kissed him, and cried over him; and then I gave him laudanum, and held him close to my bosom, while he slept to death. How I mourned and cried over it! and who ever dreamed that it was anything but a mistake, that had made me give it the laudanum? but it’s one of the few things that I’m glad of, now. I am not sorry, to this day; he, at least, is out of pain. What better than death could I give him, poor child! After a while, the cholera came, and Captain Stuart died; everybody died that wanted to live,—and I,—I, though I went down to death’s door,—I lived! Then I was sold, and passed from hand to hand, till I grew faded and wrinkled, and I had a fever; and then this wretch bought me, and brought me here,—and here I am!”

The woman stopped. She had hurried on through her story, with a wild, passionate utterance; sometimes seeming to address it to Tom, and sometimes speaking as in a soliloquy. So vehement and overpowering was the force with which she spoke, that, for a season, Tom was beguiled even from the pain of his wounds, and, raising himself on one elbow, watched her as she paced restlessly up and down, her long black hair swaying heavily about her, as she moved.

“You tell me,” she said, after a pause, “that there is a God,—a God that looks down and sees all these things. May be it’s so. The sisters in the convent used to tell me of a day of judgment, when everything is coming to light;—won’t there be vengeance, then!

“They think it’s nothing, what we suffer,—nothing, what our children suffer! It’s all a small matter; yet I’ve walked the streets when it seemed as if I had misery enough in my one heart to sink the city. I’ve wished the houses would fall on me, or the stones sink under me. Yes! and, in the judgment day, I will stand up before God, a witness against those that have ruined me and my children, body and soul!

“When I was a girl, I thought I was religious; I used to love God and prayer. Now, I’m a lost soul, pursued by devils that torment me day and night; they keep pushing me on and on—and I’ll do it, too, some of these days!” she said, clenching her hand, while an insane light glanced in her heavy black eyes. “I’ll send him where he belongs,—a short way, too,—one of these nights, if they burn me alive for it!” A wild, long laugh rang through the deserted room, and ended in a hysteric sob; she threw herself on the floor, in convulsive sobbing and struggles.

In a few moments, the frenzy fit seemed to pass off; she rose slowly, and seemed to collect herself.

“Can I do anything more for you, my poor fellow?” she said, approaching where Tom lay; “shall I give you some more water?”

There was a graceful and compassionate sweetness in her voice and manner, as she said this, that formed a strange contrast with the former wildness.

Tom drank the water, and looked earnestly and pitifully into her face.

“O, Missis, I wish you’d go to him that can give you living waters!”

“Go to him! Where is he? Who is he?” said Cassy.

“Him that you read of to me,—the Lord.”

“I used to see the picture of him, over the altar, when I was a girl,” said Cassy, her dark eyes fixing themselves in an expression of mournful reverie; “but, he isn’t here! there’s nothing here, but sin and long, long, long despair! O!” She laid her hand on her breast and drew in her breath, as if to lift a heavy weight.

Tom looked as if he would speak again; but she cut him short, with a decided gesture.

“Don’t talk, my poor fellow. Try to sleep, if you can.” And, placing water in his reach, and making whatever little arrangements for his comforts she could, Cassy left the shed.

CHAPTER XXXV.
The Tokens

“And slight, withal, may be the things that bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
Aside forever; it may be a sound,
A flower, the wind, the ocean, which shall wound,—
Striking the electric chain wherewith we’re darkly bound.”

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Can. 4.

The sitting-room of Legree’s establishment was a large, long room, with a wide, ample fireplace. It had once been hung with a showy and expensive paper, which now hung mouldering, torn and discolored, from the damp walls. The place had that peculiar sickening, unwholesome smell, compounded of mingled damp, dirt and decay, which one often notices in close old houses. The wall-paper was defaced, in spots, by slops of beer and wine; or garnished with chalk memorandums, and long sums footed up, as if somebody had been practising arithmetic there. In the fireplace stood a brazier full of burning charcoal; for, though the weather was not cold, the evenings always seemed damp and chilly in that great room; and Legree, moreover, wanted a place to light his cigars, and heat his water for punch. The ruddy glare of the charcoal displayed the confused and unpromising aspect of the room,—saddles, bridles, several sorts of harness, riding-whips, overcoats, and various articles of clothing, scattered up and down the room in confused variety; and the dogs, of whom we have before spoken, had encamped themselves among them, to suit their own taste and convenience.

Legree was just mixing himself a tumbler of punch, pouring his hot water from a cracked and broken-nosed pitcher, grumbling, as he did so,

“Plague on that Sambo, to kick up this yer row between me and the new hands! The fellow won’t be fit to work for a week, now,—right in the press of the season!”

“Yes, just like you,” said a voice, behind his chair. It was the woman Cassy, who had stolen upon his soliloquy.

“Hah! you she-devil! you’ve come back, have you?”

“Yes, I have,” she said, coolly; “come to have my own way, too!”

“You lie, you jade! I’ll be up to my word. Either behave yourself, or stay down to the quarters, and fare and work with the rest.”

“I’d rather, ten thousand times,” said the woman, “live in the dirtiest hole at the quarters, than be under your hoof!”

“But you are under my hoof, for all that,” said he, turning upon her, with a savage grin; “that’s one comfort. So, sit down here on my knee, my dear, and hear to reason,” said he, laying hold on her wrist.

“Simon Legree, take care!” said the woman, with a sharp flash of her eye, a glance so wild and insane in its light as to be almost appalling. “You’re afraid of me, Simon,” she said, deliberately; “and you’ve reason to be! But be careful, for I’ve got the devil in me!”

The last words she whispered in a hissing tone, close to his ear.

“Get out! I believe, to my soul, you have!” said Legree, pushing her from him, and looking uncomfortably at her. “After all, Cassy,” he said, “why can’t you be friends with me, as you used to?”

“Used to!” said she, bitterly. She stopped short,—a word of choking feelings, rising in her heart, kept her silent.

Cassy had always kept over Legree the kind of influence that a strong, impassioned woman can ever keep over the most brutal man; but, of late, she had grown more and more irritable and restless, under the hideous yoke of her servitude, and her irritability, at times, broke out into raving insanity; and this liability made her a sort of object of dread to Legree, who had that superstitious horror of insane persons which is common to coarse and uninstructed minds. When Legree brought Emmeline to the house, all the smouldering embers of womanly feeling flashed up in the worn heart of Cassy, and she took part with the girl; and a fierce quarrel ensued between her and Legree. Legree, in a fury, swore she should be put to field service, if she would not be peaceable. Cassy, with proud scorn, declared she would go to the field. And she worked there one day, as we have described, to show how perfectly she scorned the threat.

Legree was secretly uneasy, all day; for Cassy had an influence over him from which he could not free himself. When she presented her basket at the scales, he had hoped for some concession, and addressed her in a sort of half conciliatory, half scornful tone; and she had answered with the bitterest contempt.

The outrageous treatment of poor Tom had roused her still more; and she had followed Legree to the house, with no particular intention, but to upbraid him for his brutality.

“I wish, Cassy,” said Legree, “you’d behave yourself decently.”

“You talk about behaving decently! And what have you been doing?—you, who haven’t even sense enough to keep from spoiling one of your best hands, right in the most pressing season, just for your devilish temper!”

“I was a fool, it’s a fact, to let any such brangle come up,” said Legree; “but, when the boy set up his will, he had to be broke in.”

“I reckon you won’t break him in!”

“Won’t I?” said Legree, rising, passionately. “I’d like to know if I won’t? He’ll be the first nigger that ever came it round me! I’ll break every bone in his body, but he shall give up!”

Just then the door opened, and Sambo entered. He came forward, bowing, and holding out something in a paper.

“What’s that, you dog?” said Legree.

“It’s a witch thing, Mas’r!”

“A what?”

“Something that niggers gets from witches. Keeps ’em from feelin’ when they ’s flogged. He had it tied round his neck, with a black string.”

Legree, like most godless and cruel men, was superstitious. He took the paper, and opened it uneasily.

There dropped out of it a silver dollar, and a long, shining curl of fair hair,—hair which, like a living thing, twined itself round Legree’s fingers.

“Damnation!” he screamed, in sudden passion, stamping on the floor, and pulling furiously at the hair, as if it burned him. “Where did this come from? Take it off!—burn it up!—burn it up!” he screamed, tearing it off, and throwing it into the charcoal. “What did you bring it to me for?”

Sambo stood, with his heavy mouth wide open, and aghast with wonder; and Cassy, who was preparing to leave the apartment, stopped, and looked at him in perfect amazement.

“Don’t you bring me any more of your devilish things!” said he, shaking his fist at Sambo, who retreated hastily towards the door; and, picking up the silver dollar, he sent it smashing through the window-pane, out into the darkness.

Sambo was glad to make his escape. When he was gone, Legree seemed a little ashamed of his fit of alarm. He sat doggedly down in his chair, and began sullenly sipping his tumbler of punch.

Cassy prepared herself for going out, unobserved by him; and slipped away to minister to poor Tom, as we have already related.

And what was the matter with Legree? and what was there in a simple curl of fair hair to appall that brutal man, familiar with every form of cruelty? To answer this, we must carry the reader backward in his history. Hard and reprobate as the godless man seemed now, there had been a time when he had been rocked on the bosom of a mother,—cradled with prayers and pious hymns,—his now seared brow bedewed with the waters of holy baptism. In early childhood, a fair-haired woman had led him, at the sound of Sabbath bell, to worship and to pray. Far in New England that mother had trained her only son, with long, unwearied love, and patient prayers. Born of a hard-tempered sire, on whom that gentle woman had wasted a world of unvalued love, Legree had followed in the steps of his father. Boisterous, unruly, and tyrannical, he despised all her counsel, and would none of her reproof; and, at an early age, broke from her, to seek his fortunes at sea. He never came home but once, after; and then, his mother, with the yearning of a heart that must love something, and has nothing else to love, clung to him, and sought, with passionate prayers and entreaties, to win him from a life of sin, to his soul’s eternal good.

That was Legree’s day of grace; then good angels called him; then he was almost persuaded, and mercy held him by the hand. His heart inly relented,—there was a conflict,—but sin got the victory, and he set all the force of his rough nature against the conviction of his conscience. He drank and swore,—was wilder and more brutal than ever. And, one night, when his mother, in the last agony of her despair, knelt at his feet, he spurned her from him,—threw her senseless on the floor, and, with brutal curses, fled to his ship. The next Legree heard of his mother was, when, one night, as he was carousing among drunken companions, a letter was put into his hand. He opened it, and a lock of long, curling hair fell from it, and twined about his fingers. The letter told him his mother was dead, and that, dying, she blest and forgave him.

There is a dread, unhallowed necromancy of evil, that turns things sweetest and holiest to phantoms of horror and affright. That pale, loving mother,—her dying prayers, her forgiving love,—wrought in that demoniac heart of sin only as a damning sentence, bringing with it a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. Legree burned the hair, and burned the letter; and when he saw them hissing and crackling in the flame, inly shuddered as he thought of everlasting fires. He tried to drink, and revel, and swear away the memory; but often, in the deep night, whose solemn stillness arraigns the bad soul in forced communion with herself, he had seen that pale mother rising by his bedside, and felt the soft twining of that hair around his fingers, till the cold sweat would roll down his face, and he would spring from his bed in horror. Ye who have wondered to hear, in the same evangel, that God is love, and that God is a consuming fire, see ye not how, to the soul resolved in evil, perfect love is the most fearful torture, the seal and sentence of the direst despair?

“Blast it!” said Legree to himself, as he sipped his liquor; “where did he get that? If it didn’t look just like—whoo! I thought I’d forgot that. Curse me, if I think there’s any such thing as forgetting anything, any how,—hang it! I’m lonesome! I mean to call Em. She hates me—the monkey! I don’t care,—I’ll make her come!”

Legree stepped out into a large entry, which went up stairs, by what had formerly been a superb winding staircase; but the passage-way was dirty and dreary, encumbered with boxes and unsightly litter. The stairs, uncarpeted, seemed winding up, in the gloom, to nobody knew where! The pale moonlight streamed through a shattered fanlight over the door; the air was unwholesome and chilly, like that of a vault.

Legree stopped at the foot of the stairs, and heard a voice singing. It seemed strange and ghostlike in that dreary old house, perhaps because of the already tremulous state of his nerves. Hark! what is it?

A wild, pathetic voice, chants a hymn common among the slaves:

“O there’ll be mourning, mourning, mourning,
O there’ll be mourning, at the judgment-seat of Christ!”

“Blast the girl!” said Legree. “I’ll choke her.—Em! Em!” he called, harshly; but only a mocking echo from the walls answered him. The sweet voice still sung on:

“Parents and children there shall part!
Parents and children there shall part!
    Shall part to meet no more!”

And clear and loud swelled through the empty halls the refrain,

“O there’ll be mourning, mourning, mourning,
O there’ll be mourning, at the judgment-seat of Christ!”

Legree stopped. He would have been ashamed to tell of it, but large drops of sweat stood on his forehead, his heart beat heavy and thick with fear; he even thought he saw something white rising and glimmering in the gloom before him, and shuddered to think what if the form of his dead mother should suddenly appear to him.

“I know one thing,” he said to himself, as he stumbled back in the sitting-room, and sat down; “I’ll let that fellow alone, after this! What did I want of his cussed paper? I b’lieve I am bewitched, sure enough! I’ve been shivering and sweating, ever since! Where did he get that hair? It couldn’t have been that! I burnt that up, I know I did! It would be a joke, if hair could rise from the dead!”

Ah, Legree! that golden tress was charmed; each hair had in it a spell of terror and remorse for thee, and was used by a mightier power to bind thy cruel hands from inflicting uttermost evil on the helpless!

“I say,” said Legree, stamping and whistling to the dogs, “wake up, some of you, and keep me company!” but the dogs only opened one eye at him, sleepily, and closed it again.

“I’ll have Sambo and Quimbo up here, to sing and dance one of their hell dances, and keep off these horrid notions,” said Legree; and, putting on his hat, he went on to the verandah, and blew a horn, with which he commonly summoned his two sable drivers.

Legree was often wont, when in a gracious humor, to get these two worthies into his sitting-room, and, after warming them up with whiskey, amuse himself by setting them to singing, dancing or fighting, as the humor took him.

It was between one and two o’clock at night, as Cassy was returning from her ministrations to poor Tom, that she heard the sound of wild shrieking, whooping, halloing, and singing, from the sitting-room, mingled with the barking of dogs, and other symptoms of general uproar.

She came up on the verandah steps, and looked in. Legree and both the drivers, in a state of furious intoxication, were singing, whooping, upsetting chairs, and making all manner of ludicrous and horrid grimaces at each other.

She rested her small, slender hand on the window-blind, and looked fixedly at them;—there was a world of anguish, scorn, and fierce bitterness, in her black eyes, as she did so. “Would it be a sin to rid the world of such a wretch?” she said to herself.

She turned hurriedly away, and, passing round to a back door, glided up stairs, and tapped at Emmeline’s door.