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Uncle Tom's Cabin

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CHAPTER XXXVI.
Emmeline and Cassy

Cassy entered the room, and found Emmeline sitting, pale with fear, in the furthest corner of it. As she came in, the girl started up nervously; but, on seeing who it was, rushed forward, and catching her arm, said, “O Cassy, is it you? I’m so glad you’ve come! I was afraid it was—. O, you don’t know what a horrid noise there has been, down stairs, all this evening!”

“I ought to know,” said Cassy, dryly. “I’ve heard it often enough.”

“O Cassy! do tell me,—couldn’t we get away from this place? I don’t care where,—into the swamp among the snakes,—anywhere! Couldn’t we get somewhere away from here?”

“Nowhere, but into our graves,” said Cassy.

“Did you ever try?”

“I’ve seen enough of trying and what comes of it,” said Cassy.

“I’d be willing to live in the swamps, and gnaw the bark from trees. I an’t afraid of snakes! I’d rather have one near me than him,” said Emmeline, eagerly.

“There have been a good many here of your opinion,” said Cassy; “but you couldn’t stay in the swamps,—you’d be tracked by the dogs, and brought back, and then—then—”

“What would he do?” said the girl, looking, with breathless interest, into her face.

“What wouldn’t he do, you’d better ask,” said Cassy. “He’s learned his trade well, among the pirates in the West Indies. You wouldn’t sleep much, if I should tell you things I’ve seen,—things that he tells of, sometimes, for good jokes. I’ve heard screams here that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for weeks and weeks. There’s a place way out down by the quarters, where you can see a black, blasted tree, and the ground all covered with black ashes. Ask anyone what was done there, and see if they will dare to tell you.”

“O! what do you mean?”

“I won’t tell you. I hate to think of it. And I tell you, the Lord only knows what we may see tomorrow, if that poor fellow holds out as he’s begun.”

“Horrid!” said Emmeline, every drop of blood receding from her cheeks. “O, Cassy, do tell me what I shall do!”

“What I’ve done. Do the best you can,—do what you must,—and make it up in hating and cursing.”

“He wanted to make me drink some of his hateful brandy,” said Emmeline; “and I hate it so—”

“You’d better drink,” said Cassy. “I hated it, too; and now I can’t live without it. One must have something;—things don’t look so dreadful, when you take that.”

“Mother used to tell me never to touch any such thing,” said Emmeline.

“Mother told you!” said Cassy, with a thrilling and bitter emphasis on the word mother. “What use is it for mothers to say anything? You are all to be bought and paid for, and your souls belong to whoever gets you. That’s the way it goes. I say, drink brandy; drink all you can, and it’ll make things come easier.”

“O, Cassy! do pity me!”

“Pity you!—don’t I? Haven’t I a daughter,—Lord knows where she is, and whose she is, now,—going the way her mother went, before her, I suppose, and that her children must go, after her! There’s no end to the curse—forever!”

“I wish I’d never been born!” said Emmeline, wringing her hands.

“That’s an old wish with me,” said Cassy. “I’ve got used to wishing that. I’d die, if I dared to,” she said, looking out into the darkness, with that still, fixed despair which was the habitual expression of her face when at rest.

“It would be wicked to kill one’s self,” said Emmeline.

“I don’t know why,—no wickeder than things we live and do, day after day. But the sisters told me things, when I was in the convent, that make me afraid to die. If it would only be the end of us, why, then—”

Emmeline turned away, and hid her face in her hands.

While this conversation was passing in the chamber, Legree, overcome with his carouse, had sunk to sleep in the room below. Legree was not an habitual drunkard. His coarse, strong nature craved, and could endure, a continual stimulation, that would have utterly wrecked and crazed a finer one. But a deep, underlying spirit of cautiousness prevented his often yielding to appetite in such measure as to lose control of himself.

This night, however, in his feverish efforts to banish from his mind those fearful elements of woe and remorse which woke within him, he had indulged more than common; so that, when he had discharged his sable attendants, he fell heavily on a settle in the room, and was sound asleep.

O! how dares the bad soul to enter the shadowy world of sleep?—that land whose dim outlines lie so fearfully near to the mystic scene of retribution! Legree dreamed. In his heavy and feverish sleep, a veiled form stood beside him, and laid a cold, soft hand upon him. He thought he knew who it was; and shuddered, with creeping horror, though the face was veiled. Then he thought he felt that hair twining round his fingers; and then, that it slid smoothly round his neck, and tightened and tightened, and he could not draw his breath; and then he thought voices whispered to him,—whispers that chilled him with horror. Then it seemed to him he was on the edge of a frightful abyss, holding on and struggling in mortal fear, while dark hands stretched up, and were pulling him over; and Cassy came behind him laughing, and pushed him. And then rose up that solemn veiled figure, and drew aside the veil. It was his mother; and she turned away from him, and he fell down, down, down, amid a confused noise of shrieks, and groans, and shouts of demon laughter,—and Legree awoke.

Calmly the rosy hue of dawn was stealing into the room. The morning star stood, with its solemn, holy eye of light, looking down on the man of sin, from out the brightening sky. O, with what freshness, what solemnity and beauty, is each new day born; as if to say to insensate man, “Behold! thou hast one more chance! Strive for immortal glory!” There is no speech nor language where this voice is not heard; but the bold, bad man heard it not. He woke with an oath and a curse. What to him was the gold and purple, the daily miracle of morning! What to him the sanctity of the star which the Son of God has hallowed as his own emblem? Brute-like, he saw without perceiving; and, stumbling forward, poured out a tumbler of brandy, and drank half of it.

“I’ve had a h—l of a night!” he said to Cassy, who just then entered from an opposite door.

“You’ll get plenty of the same sort, by and by,” said she, dryly.

“What do you mean, you minx?”

“You’ll find out, one of these days,” returned Cassy, in the same tone. “Now Simon, I’ve one piece of advice to give you.”

“The devil, you have!”

“My advice is,” said Cassy, steadily, as she began adjusting some things about the room, “that you let Tom alone.”

“What business is ’t of yours?”

“What? To be sure, I don’t know what it should be. If you want to pay twelve hundred for a fellow, and use him right up in the press of the season, just to serve your own spite, it’s no business of mine, I’ve done what I could for him.”

“You have? What business have you meddling in my matters?”

“None, to be sure. I’ve saved you some thousands of dollars, at different times, by taking care of your hands,—that’s all the thanks I get. If your crop comes shorter into market than any of theirs, you won’t lose your bet, I suppose? Tompkins won’t lord it over you, I suppose,—and you’ll pay down your money like a lady, won’t you? I think I see you doing it!”

Legree, like many other planters, had but one form of ambition,—to have in the heaviest crop of the season,—and he had several bets on this very present season pending in the next town. Cassy, therefore, with woman’s tact, touched the only string that could be made to vibrate.

“Well, I’ll let him off at what he’s got,” said Legree; “but he shall beg my pardon, and promise better fashions.”

“That he won’t do,” said Cassy.

“Won’t,—eh?”

“No, he won’t,” said Cassy.

“I’d like to know why, Mistress,” said Legree, in the extreme of scorn.

“Because he’s done right, and he knows it, and won’t say he’s done wrong.”

“Who a cuss cares what he knows? The nigger shall say what I please, or—”

“Or, you’ll lose your bet on the cotton crop, by keeping him out of the field, just at this very press.”

“But he will give up,—course, he will; don’t I know what niggers is? He’ll beg like a dog, this morning.”

“He won’t, Simon; you don’t know this kind. You may kill him by inches,—you won’t get the first word of confession out of him.”

“We’ll see,—where is he?” said Legree, going out.

“In the waste-room of the gin-house,” said Cassy.

Legree, though he talked so stoutly to Cassy, still sallied forth from the house with a degree of misgiving which was not common with him. His dreams of the past night, mingled with Cassy’s prudential suggestions, considerably affected his mind. He resolved that nobody should be witness of his encounter with Tom; and determined, if he could not subdue him by bullying, to defer his vengeance, to be wreaked in a more convenient season.

The solemn light of dawn—the angelic glory of the morning-star—had looked in through the rude window of the shed where Tom was lying; and, as if descending on that star-beam, came the solemn words, “I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” The mysterious warnings and intimations of Cassy, so far from discouraging his soul, in the end had roused it as with a heavenly call. He did not know but that the day of his death was dawning in the sky; and his heart throbbed with solemn throes of joy and desire, as he thought that the wondrous all, of which he had often pondered,—the great white throne, with its ever radiant rainbow; the white-robed multitude, with voices as many waters; the crowns, the palms, the harps,—might all break upon his vision before that sun should set again. And, therefore, without shuddering or trembling, he heard the voice of his persecutor, as he drew near.

“Well, my boy,” said Legree, with a contemptuous kick, “how do you find yourself? Didn’t I tell yer I could larn yer a thing or two? How do yer like it—eh? How did yer whaling agree with yer, Tom? An’t quite so crank as ye was last night. Ye couldn’t treat a poor sinner, now, to a bit of sermon, could ye,—eh?”

Tom answered nothing.

“Get up, you beast!” said Legree, kicking him again.

This was a difficult matter for one so bruised and faint; and, as Tom made efforts to do so, Legree laughed brutally.

“What makes ye so spry, this morning, Tom? Cotched cold, may be, last night.”

Tom by this time had gained his feet, and was confronting his master with a steady, unmoved front.

“The devil, you can!” said Legree, looking him over. “I believe you haven’t got enough yet. Now, Tom, get right down on yer knees and beg my pardon, for yer shines last night.”

Tom did not move.

“Down, you dog!” said Legree, striking him with his riding-whip.

“Mas’r Legree,” said Tom, “I can’t do it. I did only what I thought was right. I shall do just so again, if ever the time comes. I never will do a cruel thing, come what may.”

“Yes, but ye don’t know what may come, Master Tom. Ye think what you’ve got is something. I tell you ’tan’t anything,—nothing ’t all. How would ye like to be tied to a tree, and have a slow fire lit up around ye;—wouldn’t that be pleasant,—eh, Tom?”

“Mas’r,” said Tom, “I know ye can do dreadful things; but,”—he stretched himself upward and clasped his hands,—“but, after ye’ve killed the body, there an’t no more ye can do. And O, there’s all ETERNITY to come, after that!”

ETERNITY,—the word thrilled through the black man’s soul with light and power, as he spoke; it thrilled through the sinner’s soul, too, like the bite of a scorpion. Legree gnashed on him with his teeth, but rage kept him silent; and Tom, like a man disenthralled, spoke, in a clear and cheerful voice,

“Mas’r Legree, as ye bought me, I’ll be a true and faithful servant to ye. I’ll give ye all the work of my hands, all my time, all my strength; but my soul I won’t give up to mortal man. I will hold on to the Lord, and put his commands before all,—die or live; you may be sure on ’t. Mas’r Legree, I ain’t a grain afeard to die. I’d as soon die as not. Ye may whip me, starve me, burn me,—it’ll only send me sooner where I want to go.”

“I’ll make ye give out, though, ’fore I’ve done!” said Legree, in a rage.

“I shall have help,” said Tom; “you’ll never do it.”

“Who the devil’s going to help you?” said Legree, scornfully.

“The Lord Almighty,” said Tom.

“D—n you!” said Legree, as with one blow of his fist he felled Tom to the earth.

A cold soft hand fell on Legree’s at this moment. He turned,—it was Cassy’s; but the cold soft touch recalled his dream of the night before, and, flashing through the chambers of his brain, came all the fearful images of the night-watches, with a portion of the horror that accompanied them.

“Will you be a fool?” said Cassy, in French. “Let him go! Let me alone to get him fit to be in the field again. Isn’t it just as I told you?”

They say the alligator, the rhinoceros, though enclosed in bullet-proof mail, have each a spot where they are vulnerable; and fierce, reckless, unbelieving reprobates, have commonly this point in superstitious dread.

Legree turned away, determined to let the point go for the time.

“Well, have it your own way,” he said, doggedly, to Cassy.

“Hark, ye!” he said to Tom; “I won’t deal with ye now, because the business is pressing, and I want all my hands; but I never forget. I’ll score it against ye, and sometime I’ll have my pay out o’ yer old black hide,—mind ye!”

Legree turned, and went out.

“There you go,” said Cassy, looking darkly after him; “your reckoning’s to come, yet!—My poor fellow, how are you?”

“The Lord God hath sent his angel, and shut the lion’s mouth, for this time,” said Tom.

“For this time, to be sure,” said Cassy; “but now you’ve got his ill will upon you, to follow you day in, day out, hanging like a dog on your throat,—sucking your blood, bleeding away your life, drop by drop. I know the man.”

CHAPTER XXXVII.
Liberty

“No matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery, the moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the God sink together in the dust, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation.”—Curran.

A while we must leave Tom in the hands of his persecutors, while we turn to pursue the fortunes of George and his wife, whom we left in friendly hands, in a farmhouse on the road-side.

Tom Loker we left groaning and touzling in a most immaculately clean Quaker bed, under the motherly supervision of Aunt Dorcas, who found him to the full as tractable a patient as a sick bison.

Imagine a tall, dignified, spiritual woman, whose clear muslin cap shades waves of silvery hair, parted on a broad, clear forehead, which overarches thoughtful gray eyes. A snowy handkerchief of lisse crape is folded neatly across her bosom; her glossy brown silk dress rustles peacefully, as she glides up and down the chamber.

“The devil!” says Tom Loker, giving a great throw to the bedclothes.

“I must request thee, Thomas, not to use such language,” says Aunt Dorcas, as she quietly rearranged the bed.

“Well, I won’t, granny, if I can help it,” says Tom; “but it is enough to make a fellow swear,—so cursedly hot!”

Dorcas removed a comforter from the bed, straightened the clothes again, and tucked them in till Tom looked something like a chrysalis; remarking, as she did so,

“I wish, friend, thee would leave off cursing and swearing, and think upon thy ways.”

“What the devil,” said Tom, “should I think of them for? Last thing ever I want to think of—hang it all!” And Tom flounced over, untucking and disarranging everything, in a manner frightful to behold.

“That fellow and gal are here, I s’pose,” said he, sullenly, after a pause.

“They are so,” said Dorcas.

“They’d better be off up to the lake,” said Tom; “the quicker the better.”

“Probably they will do so,” said Aunt Dorcas, knitting peacefully.

“And hark ye,” said Tom; “we’ve got correspondents in Sandusky, that watch the boats for us. I don’t care if I tell, now. I hope they will get away, just to spite Marks,—the cursed puppy!—d—n him!”

“Thomas!” said Dorcas.

“I tell you, granny, if you bottle a fellow up too tight, I shall split,” said Tom. “But about the gal,—tell ’em to dress her up some way, so’s to alter her. Her description’s out in Sandusky.”

“We will attend to that matter,” said Dorcas, with characteristic composure.

As we at this place take leave of Tom Loker, we may as well say, that, having lain three weeks at the Quaker dwelling, sick with a rheumatic fever, which set in, in company with his other afflictions, Tom arose from his bed a somewhat sadder and wiser man; and, in place of slave-catching, betook himself to life in one of the new settlements, where his talents developed themselves more happily in trapping bears, wolves, and other inhabitants of the forest, in which he made himself quite a name in the land. Tom always spoke reverently of the Quakers. “Nice people,” he would say; “wanted to convert me, but couldn’t come it, exactly. But, tell ye what, stranger, they do fix up a sick fellow first rate,—no mistake. Make jist the tallest kind o’ broth and knicknacks.”

As Tom had informed them that their party would be looked for in Sandusky, it was thought prudent to divide them. Jim, with his old mother, was forwarded separately; and a night or two after, George and Eliza, with their child, were driven privately into Sandusky, and lodged beneath a hospital roof, preparatory to taking their last passage on the lake.

Their night was now far spent, and the morning star of liberty rose fair before them!—electric word! What is it? Is there anything more in it than a name—a rhetorical flourish? Why, men and women of America, does your heart’s blood thrill at that word, for which your fathers bled, and your braver mothers were willing that their noblest and best should die?

Is there anything in it glorious and dear for a nation, that is not also glorious and dear for a man? What is freedom to a nation, but freedom to the individuals in it? What is freedom to that young man, who sits there, with his arms folded over his broad chest, the tint of African blood in his cheek, its dark fires in his eyes,—what is freedom to George Harris? To your fathers, freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To him, it is the right of a man to be a man, and not a brute; the right to call the wife of his bosom his wife, and to protect her from lawless violence; the right to protect and educate his child; the right to have a home of his own, a religion of his own, a character of his own, unsubject to the will of another. All these thoughts were rolling and seething in George’s breast, as he was pensively leaning his head on his hand, watching his wife, as she was adapting to her slender and pretty form the articles of man’s attire, in which it was deemed safest she should make her escape.

“Now for it,” said she, as she stood before the glass, and shook down her silky abundance of black curly hair. “I say, George, it’s almost a pity, isn’t it,” she said, as she held up some of it, playfully,—“pity it’s all got to come off?”

George smiled sadly, and made no answer.

Eliza turned to the glass, and the scissors glittered as one long lock after another was detached from her head.

“There, now, that’ll do,” she said, taking up a hair-brush; “now for a few fancy touches.”

“There, an’t I a pretty young fellow?” she said, turning around to her husband, laughing and blushing at the same time.

“You always will be pretty, do what you will,” said George.

“What does make you so sober?” said Eliza, kneeling on one knee, and laying her hand on his. “We are only within twenty-four hours of Canada, they say. Only a day and a night on the lake, and then—oh, then!—”

“O, Eliza!” said George, drawing her towards him; “that is it! Now my fate is all narrowing down to a point. To come so near, to be almost in sight, and then lose all. I should never live under it, Eliza.”

“Don’t fear,” said his wife, hopefully. “The good Lord would not have brought us so far, if he didn’t mean to carry us through. I seem to feel him with us, George.”

“You are a blessed woman, Eliza!” said George, clasping her with a convulsive grasp. “But,—oh, tell me! can this great mercy be for us? Will these years and years of misery come to an end?—shall we be free?

“I am sure of it, George,” said Eliza, looking upward, while tears of hope and enthusiasm shone on her long, dark lashes. “I feel it in me, that God is going to bring us out of bondage, this very day.”

“I will believe you, Eliza,” said George, rising suddenly up, “I will believe,—come let’s be off. Well, indeed,” said he, holding her off at arm’s length, and looking admiringly at her, “you are a pretty little fellow. That crop of little, short curls, is quite becoming. Put on your cap. So—a little to one side. I never saw you look quite so pretty. But, it’s almost time for the carriage;—I wonder if Mrs. Smyth has got Harry rigged?”

The door opened, and a respectable, middle-aged woman entered, leading little Harry, dressed in girl’s clothes.

“What a pretty girl he makes,” said Eliza, turning him round. “We call him Harriet, you see;—don’t the name come nicely?”

The child stood gravely regarding his mother in her new and strange attire, observing a profound silence, and occasionally drawing deep sighs, and peeping at her from under his dark curls.

“Does Harry know mamma?” said Eliza, stretching her hands toward him.

The child clung shyly to the woman.

“Come Eliza, why do you try to coax him, when you know that he has got to be kept away from you?”

“I know it’s foolish,” said Eliza; “yet, I can’t bear to have him turn away from me. But come,—where’s my cloak? Here,—how is it men put on cloaks, George?”

“You must wear it so,” said her husband, throwing it over his shoulders.

“So, then,” said Eliza, imitating the motion,—“and I must stamp, and take long steps, and try to look saucy.”

“Don’t exert yourself,” said George. “There is, now and then, a modest young man; and I think it would be easier for you to act that character.”

“And these gloves! mercy upon us!” said Eliza; “why, my hands are lost in them.”

“I advise you to keep them on pretty strictly,” said George. “Your slender paw might bring us all out. Now, Mrs. Smyth, you are to go under our charge, and be our aunty,—you mind.”

“I’ve heard,” said Mrs. Smyth, “that there have been men down, warning all the packet captains against a man and woman, with a little boy.”

“They have!” said George. “Well, if we see any such people, we can tell them.”

A hack now drove to the door, and the friendly family who had received the fugitives crowded around them with farewell greetings.

The disguises the party had assumed were in accordance with the hints of Tom Loker. Mrs. Smyth, a respectable woman from the settlement in Canada, whither they were fleeing, being fortunately about crossing the lake to return thither, had consented to appear as the aunt of little Harry; and, in order to attach him to her, he had been allowed to remain, the two last days, under her sole charge; and an extra amount of petting, jointed to an indefinite amount of seed-cakes and candy, had cemented a very close attachment on the part of the young gentleman.

The hack drove to the wharf. The two young men, as they appeared, walked up the plank into the boat, Eliza gallantly giving her arm to Mrs. Smyth, and George attending to their baggage.

George was standing at the captain’s office, settling for his party, when he overheard two men talking by his side.

“I’ve watched every one that came on board,” said one, “and I know they’re not on this boat.”

The voice was that of the clerk of the boat. The speaker whom he addressed was our sometime friend Marks, who, with that valuable perseverance which characterized him, had come on to Sandusky, seeking whom he might devour.

“You would scarcely know the woman from a white one,” said Marks. “The man is a very light mulatto; he has a brand in one of his hands.”

The hand with which George was taking the tickets and change trembled a little; but he turned coolly around, fixed an unconcerned glance on the face of the speaker, and walked leisurely toward another part of the boat, where Eliza stood waiting for him.

Mrs. Smyth, with little Harry, sought the seclusion of the ladies’ cabin, where the dark beauty of the supposed little girl drew many flattering comments from the passengers.

George had the satisfaction, as the bell rang out its farewell peal, to see Marks walk down the plank to the shore; and drew a long sigh of relief, when the boat had put a returnless distance between them.

It was a superb day. The blue waves of Lake Erie danced, rippling and sparkling, in the sun-light. A fresh breeze blew from the shore, and the lordly boat ploughed her way right gallantly onward.

O, what an untold world there is in one human heart! Who thought, as George walked calmly up and down the deck of the steamer, with his shy companion at his side, of all that was burning in his bosom? The mighty good that seemed approaching seemed too good, too fair, even to be a reality; and he felt a jealous dread, every moment of the day, that something would rise to snatch it from him.

But the boat swept on. Hours fleeted, and, at last, clear and full rose the blessed English shores; shores charmed by a mighty spell,—with one touch to dissolve every incantation of slavery, no matter in what language pronounced, or by what national power confirmed.

George and his wife stood arm in arm, as the boat neared the small town of Amherstberg, in Canada. His breath grew thick and short; a mist gathered before his eyes; he silently pressed the little hand that lay trembling on his arm. The bell rang; the boat stopped. Scarcely seeing what he did, he looked out his baggage, and gathered his little party. The little company were landed on the shore. They stood still till the boat had cleared; and then, with tears and embracings, the husband and wife, with their wondering child in their arms, knelt down and lifted up their hearts to God!

“’T was something like the burst from death to life;
    From the grave’s cerements to the robes of heaven;
From sin’s dominion, and from passion’s strife,
    To the pure freedom of a soul forgiven;
    Where all the bonds of death and hell are riven,
And mortal puts on immortality,
When Mercy’s hand hath turned the golden key,
And Mercy’s voice hath said, Rejoice, thy soul is free.”

The little party were soon guided, by Mrs. Smyth, to the hospitable abode of a good missionary, whom Christian charity has placed here as a shepherd to the outcast and wandering, who are constantly finding an asylum on this shore.

Who can speak the blessedness of that first day of freedom? Is not the sense of liberty a higher and a finer one than any of the five? To move, speak and breathe,—go out and come in unwatched, and free from danger! Who can speak the blessings of that rest which comes down on the free man’s pillow, under laws which insure to him the rights that God has given to man? How fair and precious to that mother was that sleeping child’s face, endeared by the memory of a thousand dangers! How impossible was it to sleep, in the exuberant possession of such blessedness! And yet, these two had not one acre of ground,—not a roof that they could call their own,—they had spent their all, to the last dollar. They had nothing more than the birds of the air, or the flowers of the field,—yet they could not sleep for joy. “O, ye who take freedom from man, with what words shall ye answer it to God?”

CHAPTER XXXVIII.
The Victory

“Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory.”

Have not many of us, in the weary way of life, felt, in some hours, how far easier it were to die than to live?

The martyr, when faced even by a death of bodily anguish and horror, finds in the very terror of his doom a strong stimulant and tonic. There is a vivid excitement, a thrill and fervor, which may carry through any crisis of suffering that is the birth-hour of eternal glory and rest.

But to live,—to wear on, day after day, of mean, bitter, low, harassing servitude, every nerve dampened and depressed, every power of feeling gradually smothered,—this long and wasting heart-martyrdom, this slow, daily bleeding away of the inward life, drop by drop, hour after hour,—this is the true searching test of what there may be in man or woman.

When Tom stood face to face with his persecutor, and heard his threats, and thought in his very soul that his hour was come, his heart swelled bravely in him, and he thought he could bear torture and fire, bear anything, with the vision of Jesus and heaven but just a step beyond; but, when he was gone, and the present excitement passed off, came back the pain of his bruised and weary limbs,—came back the sense of his utterly degraded, hopeless, forlorn estate; and the day passed wearily enough.

Long before his wounds were healed, Legree insisted that he should be put to the regular field-work; and then came day after day of pain and weariness, aggravated by every kind of injustice and indignity that the ill-will of a mean and malicious mind could devise. Whoever, in our circumstances, has made trial of pain, even with all the alleviations which, for us, usually attend it, must know the irritation that comes with it. Tom no longer wondered at the habitual surliness of his associates; nay, he found the placid, sunny temper, which had been the habitude of his life, broken in on, and sorely strained, by the inroads of the same thing. He had flattered himself on leisure to read his Bible; but there was no such thing as leisure there. In the height of the season, Legree did not hesitate to press all his hands through, Sundays and week-days alike. Why shouldn’t he?—he made more cotton by it, and gained his wager; and if it wore out a few more hands, he could buy better ones. At first, Tom used to read a verse or two of his Bible, by the flicker of the fire, after he had returned from his daily toil; but, after the cruel treatment he received, he used to come home so exhausted, that his head swam and his eyes failed when he tried to read; and he was fain to stretch himself down, with the others, in utter exhaustion.

Is it strange that the religious peace and trust, which had upborne him hitherto, should give way to tossings of soul and despondent darkness? The gloomiest problem of this mysterious life was constantly before his eyes,—souls crushed and ruined, evil triumphant, and God silent. It was weeks and months that Tom wrestled, in his own soul, in darkness and sorrow. He thought of Miss Ophelia’s letter to his Kentucky friends, and would pray earnestly that God would send him deliverance. And then he would watch, day after day, in the vague hope of seeing somebody sent to redeem him; and, when nobody came, he would crush back to his soul bitter thoughts,—that it was vain to serve God, that God had forgotten him. He sometimes saw Cassy; and sometimes, when summoned to the house, caught a glimpse of the dejected form of Emmeline, but held very little communion with either; in fact, there was no time for him to commune with anybody.

One evening, he was sitting, in utter dejection and prostration, by a few decaying brands, where his coarse supper was baking. He put a few bits of brushwood on the fire, and strove to raise the light, and then drew his worn Bible from his pocket. There were all the marked passages, which had thrilled his soul so often,—words of patriarchs and seers, poets and sages, who from early time had spoken courage to man,—voices from the great cloud of witnesses who ever surround us in the race of life. Had the word lost its power, or could the failing eye and weary sense no longer answer to the touch of that mighty inspiration? Heavily sighing, he put it in his pocket. A coarse laugh roused him; he looked up,—Legree was standing opposite to him.

“Well, old boy,” he said, “you find your religion don’t work, it seems! I thought I should get that through your wool, at last!”

The cruel taunt was more than hunger and cold and nakedness. Tom was silent.

“You were a fool,” said Legree; “for I meant to do well by you, when I bought you. You might have been better off than Sambo, or Quimbo either, and had easy times; and, instead of getting cut up and thrashed, every day or two, ye might have had liberty to lord it round, and cut up the other niggers; and ye might have had, now and then, a good warming of whiskey punch. Come, Tom, don’t you think you’d better be reasonable?—heave that ar old pack of trash in the fire, and join my church!”

“The Lord forbid!” said Tom, fervently.

“You see the Lord an’t going to help you; if he had been, he wouldn’t have let me get you! This yer religion is all a mess of lying trumpery, Tom. I know all about it. Ye’d better hold to me; I’m somebody, and can do something!”

“No, Mas’r,” said Tom; “I’ll hold on. The Lord may help me, or not help; but I’ll hold to him, and believe him to the last!”

“The more fool you!” said Legree, spitting scornfully at him, and spurning him with his foot. “Never mind; I’ll chase you down, yet, and bring you under,—you’ll see!” and Legree turned away.

When a heavy weight presses the soul to the lowest level at which endurance is possible, there is an instant and desperate effort of every physical and moral nerve to throw off the weight; and hence the heaviest anguish often precedes a return tide of joy and courage. So was it now with Tom. The atheistic taunts of his cruel master sunk his before dejected soul to the lowest ebb; and, though the hand of faith still held to the eternal rock, it was a numb, despairing grasp. Tom sat, like one stunned, at the fire. Suddenly everything around him seemed to fade, and a vision rose before him of one crowned with thorns, buffeted and bleeding. Tom gazed, in awe and wonder, at the majestic patience of the face; the deep, pathetic eyes thrilled him to his inmost heart; his soul woke, as, with floods of emotion, he stretched out his hands and fell upon his knees,—when, gradually, the vision changed: the sharp thorns became rays of glory; and, in splendor inconceivable, he saw that same face bending compassionately towards him, and a voice said, “He that overcometh shall sit down with me on my throne, even as I also overcome, and am set down with my Father on his throne.”

How long Tom lay there, he knew not. When he came to himself, the fire was gone out, his clothes were wet with the chill and drenching dews; but the dread soul-crisis was past, and, in the joy that filled him, he no longer felt hunger, cold, degradation, disappointment, wretchedness. From his deepest soul, he that hour loosed and parted from every hope in life that now is, and offered his own will an unquestioning sacrifice to the Infinite. Tom looked up to the silent, ever-living stars,—types of the angelic hosts who ever look down on man; and the solitude of the night rung with the triumphant words of a hymn, which he had sung often in happier days, but never with such feeling as now:

“The earth shall be dissolved like snow,
    The sun shall cease to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
    Shall be forever mine.

“And when this mortal life shall fail,
    And flesh and sense shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
    A life of joy and peace.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
    Bright shining like the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
    Than when we first begun.”

Those who have been familiar with the religious histories of the slave population know that relations like what we have narrated are very common among them. We have heard some from their own lips, of a very touching and affecting character. The psychologist tells us of a state, in which the affections and images of the mind become so dominant and overpowering, that they press into their service the outward imagining. Who shall measure what an all-pervading Spirit may do with these capabilities of our mortality, or the ways in which He may encourage the desponding souls of the desolate? If the poor forgotten slave believes that Jesus hath appeared and spoken to him, who shall contradict him? Did He not say that his mission, in all ages, was to bind up the broken-hearted, and set at liberty them that are bruised?

When the dim gray of dawn woke the slumberers to go forth to the field, there was among those tattered and shivering wretches one who walked with an exultant tread; for firmer than the ground he trod on was his strong faith in Almighty, eternal love. Ah, Legree, try all your forces now! Utmost agony, woe, degradation, want, and loss of all things, shall only hasten on the process by which he shall be made a king and a priest unto God!

From this time, an inviolable sphere of peace encompassed the lowly heart of the oppressed one,—an ever-present Saviour hallowed it as a temple. Past now the bleeding of earthly regrets; past its fluctuations of hope, and fear, and desire; the human will, bent, and bleeding, and struggling long, was now entirely merged in the Divine. So short now seemed the remaining voyage of life,—so near, so vivid, seemed eternal blessedness,—that life’s uttermost woes fell from him unharming.

All noticed the change in his appearance. Cheerfulness and alertness seemed to return to him, and a quietness which no insult or injury could ruffle seemed to possess him.

“What the devil’s got into Tom?” Legree said to Sambo. “A while ago he was all down in the mouth, and now he’s peart as a cricket.”

“Dunno, Mas’r; gwine to run off, mebbe.”

“Like to see him try that,” said Legree, with a savage grin, “wouldn’t we, Sambo?”

“Guess we would! Haw! haw! ho!” said the sooty gnome, laughing obsequiously. “Lord, de fun! To see him stickin’ in de mud,—chasin’ and tarin’ through de bushes, dogs a holdin’ on to him! Lord, I laughed fit to split, dat ar time we cotched Molly. I thought they’d a had her all stripped up afore I could get ’em off. She car’s de marks o’ dat ar spree yet.”

“I reckon she will, to her grave,” said Legree. “But now, Sambo, you look sharp. If the nigger’s got anything of this sort going, trip him up.”

“Mas’r, let me lone for dat,” said Sambo, “I’ll tree de coon. Ho, ho, ho!”

This was spoken as Legree was getting on his horse, to go to the neighboring town. That night, as he was returning, he thought he would turn his horse and ride round the quarters, and see if all was safe.

It was a superb moonlight night, and the shadows of the graceful China trees lay minutely pencilled on the turf below, and there was that transparent stillness in the air which it seems almost unholy to disturb. Legree was a little distance from the quarters, when he heard the voice of some one singing. It was not a usual sound there, and he paused to listen. A musical tenor voice sang,

“When I can read my title clear
    To mansions in the skies,
I’ll bid farewell to every fear,
    And wipe my weeping eyes

“Should earth against my soul engage,
    And hellish darts be hurled,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage,
    And face a frowning world.

“Let cares like a wild deluge come,
    And storms of sorrow fall,
May I but safely reach my home,
    My God, my Heaven, my All.”[2]

[2] “On My Journey Home,” hymn by Isaac Watts, found in many of the southern country songbooks of the ante bellum period.

“So ho!” said Legree to himself, “he thinks so, does he? How I hate these cursed Methodist hymns! Here, you nigger,” said he, coming suddenly out upon Tom, and raising his riding-whip, “how dare you be gettin’ up this yer row, when you ought to be in bed? Shut yer old black gash, and get along in with you!”

“Yes, Mas’r,” said Tom, with ready cheerfulness, as he rose to go in.

Legree was provoked beyond measure by Tom’s evident happiness; and riding up to him, belabored him over his head and shoulders.

“There, you dog,” he said, “see if you’ll feel so comfortable, after that!”

But the blows fell now only on the outer man, and not, as before, on the heart. Tom stood perfectly submissive; and yet Legree could not hide from himself that his power over his bond thrall was somehow gone. And, as Tom disappeared in his cabin, and he wheeled his horse suddenly round, there passed through his mind one of those vivid flashes that often send the lightning of conscience across the dark and wicked soul. He understood full well that it was GOD who was standing between him and his victim, and he blasphemed him. That submissive and silent man, whom taunts, nor threats, nor stripes, nor cruelties, could disturb, roused a voice within him, such as of old his Master roused in the demoniac soul, saying, “What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?—art thou come to torment us before the time?”

Tom’s whole soul overflowed with compassion and sympathy for the poor wretches by whom he was surrounded. To him it seemed as if his life-sorrows were now over, and as if, out of that strange treasury of peace and joy, with which he had been endowed from above, he longed to pour out something for the relief of their woes. It is true, opportunities were scanty; but, on the way to the fields, and back again, and during the hours of labor, chances fell in his way of extending a helping-hand to the weary, the disheartened and discouraged. The poor, worn-down, brutalized creatures, at first, could scarce comprehend this; but, when it was continued week after week, and month after month, it began to awaken long-silent chords in their benumbed hearts. Gradually and imperceptibly the strange, silent, patient man, who was ready to bear every one’s burden, and sought help from none,—who stood aside for all, and came last, and took least, yet was foremost to share his little all with any who needed,—the man who, in cold nights, would give up his tattered blanket to add to the comfort of some woman who shivered with sickness, and who filled the baskets of the weaker ones in the field, at the terrible risk of coming short in his own measure,—and who, though pursued with unrelenting cruelty by their common tyrant, never joined in uttering a word of reviling or cursing,—this man, at last, began to have a strange power over them; and, when the more pressing season was past, and they were allowed again their Sundays for their own use, many would gather together to hear from him of Jesus. They would gladly have met to hear, and pray, and sing, in some place, together; but Legree would not permit it, and more than once broke up such attempts, with oaths and brutal execrations,—so that the blessed news had to circulate from individual to individual. Yet who can speak the simple joy with which some of those poor outcasts, to whom life was a joyless journey to a dark unknown, heard of a compassionate Redeemer and a heavenly home? It is the statement of missionaries, that, of all races of the earth, none have received the Gospel with such eager docility as the African. The principle of reliance and unquestioning faith, which is its foundation, is more a native element in this race than any other; and it has often been found among them, that a stray seed of truth, borne on some breeze of accident into hearts the most ignorant, has sprung up into fruit, whose abundance has shamed that of higher and more skilful culture.

The poor mulatto woman, whose simple faith had been well-nigh crushed and overwhelmed, by the avalanche of cruelty and wrong which had fallen upon her, felt her soul raised up by the hymns and passages of Holy Writ, which this lowly missionary breathed into her ear in intervals, as they were going to and returning from work; and even the half-crazed and wandering mind of Cassy was soothed and calmed by his simple and unobtrusive influences.

Stung to madness and despair by the crushing agonies of a life, Cassy had often resolved in her soul an hour of retribution, when her hand should avenge on her oppressor all the injustice and cruelty to which she had been witness, or which she had in her own person suffered.

One night, after all in Tom’s cabin were sunk in sleep, he was suddenly aroused by seeing her face at the hole between the logs, that served for a window. She made a silent gesture for him to come out.

Tom came out the door. It was between one and two o’clock at night,—broad, calm, still moonlight. Tom remarked, as the light of the moon fell upon Cassy’s large, black eyes, that there was a wild and peculiar glare in them, unlike their wonted fixed despair.

“Come here, Father Tom,” she said, laying her small hand on his wrist, and drawing him forward with a force as if the hand were of steel; “come here,—I’ve news for you.”

“What, Misse Cassy?” said Tom, anxiously.

“Tom, wouldn’t you like your liberty?”

“I shall have it, Misse, in God’s time,” said Tom. “Ay, but you may have it tonight,” said Cassy, with a flash of sudden energy. “Come on.”

Tom hesitated.

“Come!” said she, in a whisper, fixing her black eyes on him. “Come along! He’s asleep—sound. I put enough into his brandy to keep him so. I wish I’d had more,—I shouldn’t have wanted you. But come, the back door is unlocked; there’s an axe there, I put it there,—his room door is open; I’ll show you the way. I’d a done it myself, only my arms are so weak. Come along!”

“Not for ten thousand worlds, Misse!” said Tom, firmly, stopping and holding her back, as she was pressing forward.

“But think of all these poor creatures,” said Cassy. “We might set them all free, and go somewhere in the swamps, and find an island, and live by ourselves; I’ve heard of its being done. Any life is better than this.”

“No!” said Tom, firmly. “No! good never comes of wickedness. I’d sooner chop my right hand off!”

“Then I shall do it,” said Cassy, turning.

“O, Misse Cassy!” said Tom, throwing himself before her, “for the dear Lord’s sake that died for ye, don’t sell your precious soul to the devil, that way! Nothing but evil will come of it. The Lord hasn’t called us to wrath. We must suffer, and wait his time.”

“Wait!” said Cassy. “Haven’t I waited?—waited till my head is dizzy and my heart sick? What has he made me suffer? What has he made hundreds of poor creatures suffer? Isn’t he wringing the life-blood out of you? I’m called on; they call me! His time’s come, and I’ll have his heart’s blood!”

“No, no, no!” said Tom, holding her small hands, which were clenched with spasmodic violence. “No, ye poor, lost soul, that ye mustn’t do. The dear, blessed Lord never shed no blood but his own, and that he poured out for us when we was enemies. Lord, help us to follow his steps, and love our enemies.”

“Love!” said Cassy, with a fierce glare; “love such enemies! It isn’t in flesh and blood.”

“No, Misse, it isn’t,” said Tom, looking up; “but He gives it to us, and that’s the victory. When we can love and pray over all and through all, the battle’s past, and the victory’s come,—glory be to God!” And, with streaming eyes and choking voice, the black man looked up to heaven.

And this, oh Africa! latest called of nations,—called to the crown of thorns, the scourge, the bloody sweat, the cross of agony,—this is to be thy victory; by this shalt thou reign with Christ when his kingdom shall come on earth.

The deep fervor of Tom’s feelings, the softness of his voice, his tears, fell like dew on the wild, unsettled spirit of the poor woman. A softness gathered over the lurid fires of her eye; she looked down, and Tom could feel the relaxing muscles of her hands, as she said,

“Didn’t I tell you that evil spirits followed me? O! Father Tom, I can’t pray,—I wish I could. I never have prayed since my children were sold! What you say must be right, I know it must; but when I try to pray, I can only hate and curse. I can’t pray!”

“Poor soul!” said Tom, compassionately. “Satan desires to have ye, and sift ye as wheat. I pray the Lord for ye. O! Misse Cassy, turn to the dear Lord Jesus. He came to bind up the broken-hearted, and comfort all that mourn.”

Cassy stood silent, while large, heavy tears dropped from her downcast eyes.

“Misse Cassy,” said Tom, in a hesitating tone, after surveying her in silence, “if ye only could get away from here,—if the thing was possible,—I’d ’vise ye and Emmeline to do it; that is, if ye could go without blood-guiltiness,—not otherwise.”

“Would you try it with us, Father Tom?”

“No,” said Tom; “time was when I would; but the Lord’s given me a work among these yer poor souls, and I’ll stay with ’em and bear my cross with ’em till the end. It’s different with you; it’s a snare to you,—it’s more’n you can stand,—and you’d better go, if you can.”

“I know no way but through the grave,” said Cassy. “There’s no beast or bird but can find a home some where; even the snakes and the alligators have their places to lie down and be quiet; but there’s no place for us. Down in the darkest swamps, their dogs will hunt us out, and find us. Everybody and everything is against us; even the very beasts side against us,—and where shall we go?”

Tom stood silent; at length he said,

“Him that saved Daniel in the den of lions,—that saved the children in the fiery furnace,—Him that walked on the sea, and bade the winds be still,—He’s alive yet; and I’ve faith to believe he can deliver you. Try it, and I’ll pray, with all my might, for you.”

By what strange law of mind is it that an idea long overlooked, and trodden under foot as a useless stone, suddenly sparkles out in new light, as a discovered diamond?

Cassy had often revolved, for hours, all possible or probable schemes of escape, and dismissed them all, as hopeless and impracticable; but at this moment there flashed through her mind a plan, so simple and feasible in all its details, as to awaken an instant hope.

“Father Tom, I’ll try it!” she said, suddenly.

“Amen!” said Tom; “the Lord help ye!”

CHAPTER XXXIX.
The Stratagem

“The way of the wicked is as darkness; he knoweth not at what he stumbleth.”

The garret of the house that Legree occupied, like most other garrets, was a great, desolate space, dusty, hung with cobwebs, and littered with cast-off lumber. The opulent family that had inhabited the house in the days of its splendor had imported a great deal of splendid furniture, some of which they had taken away with them, while some remained standing desolate in mouldering, unoccupied rooms, or stored away in this place. One or two immense packing-boxes, in which this furniture was brought, stood against the sides of the garret. There was a small window there, which let in, through its dingy, dusty panes, a scanty, uncertain light on the tall, high-backed chairs and dusty tables, that had once seen better days. Altogether, it was a weird and ghostly place; but, ghostly as it was, it wanted not in legends among the superstitious negroes, to increase its terrors. Some few years before, a negro woman, who had incurred Legree’s displeasure, was confined there for several weeks. What passed there, we do not say; the negroes used to whisper darkly to each other; but it was known that the body of the unfortunate creature was one day taken down from there, and buried; and, after that, it was said that oaths and cursings, and the sound of violent blows, used to ring through that old garret, and mingled with wailings and groans of despair. Once, when Legree chanced to overhear something of this kind, he flew into a violent passion, and swore that the next one that told stories about that garret should have an opportunity of knowing what was there, for he would chain them up there for a week. This hint was enough to repress talking, though, of course, it did not disturb the credit of the story in the least.

Gradually, the staircase that led to the garret, and even the passage-way to the staircase, were avoided by every one in the house, from every one fearing to speak of it, and the legend was gradually falling into desuetude. It had suddenly occurred to Cassy to make use of the superstitious excitability, which was so great in Legree, for the purpose of her liberation, and that of her fellow-sufferer.

The sleeping-room of Cassy was directly under the garret. One day, without consulting Legree, she suddenly took it upon her, with some considerable ostentation, to change all the furniture and appurtenances of the room to one at some considerable distance. The under-servants, who were called on to effect this movement, were running and bustling about with great zeal and confusion, when Legree returned from a ride.

“Hallo! you Cass!” said Legree, “what’s in the wind now?”

“Nothing; only I choose to have another room,” said Cassy, doggedly.

“And what for, pray?” said Legree.

“I choose to,” said Cassy.

“The devil you do! and what for?”

“I’d like to get some sleep, now and then.”

“Sleep! well, what hinders your sleeping?”

“I could tell, I suppose, if you want to hear,” said Cassy, dryly.

“Speak out, you minx!” said Legree.

“O! nothing. I suppose it wouldn’t disturb you! Only groans, and people scuffing, and rolling round on the garret floor, half the night, from twelve to morning!”

“People up garret!” said Legree, uneasily, but forcing a laugh; “who are they, Cassy?”

Cassy raised her sharp, black eyes, and looked in the face of Legree, with an expression that went through his bones, as she said, “To be sure, Simon, who are they? I’d like to have you tell me. You don’t know, I suppose!”

With an oath, Legree struck at her with his riding-whip; but she glided to one side, and passed through the door, and looking back, said, “If you’ll sleep in that room, you’ll know all about it. Perhaps you’d better try it!” and then immediately she shut and locked the door.

Legree blustered and swore, and threatened to break down the door; but apparently thought better of it, and walked uneasily into the sitting-room. Cassy perceived that her shaft had struck home; and, from that hour, with the most exquisite address, she never ceased to continue the train of influences she had begun.

In a knot-hole of the garret, that had opened, she had inserted the neck of an old bottle, in such a manner that when there was the least wind, most doleful and lugubrious wailing sounds proceeded from it, which, in a high wind, increased to a perfect shriek, such as to credulous and superstitious ears might easily seem to be that of horror and despair.

These sounds were, from time to time, heard by the servants, and revived in full force the memory of the old ghost legend. A superstitious creeping horror seemed to fill the house; and though no one dared to breathe it to Legree, he found himself encompassed by it, as by an atmosphere.

No one is so thoroughly superstitious as the godless man. The Christian is composed by the belief of a wise, all-ruling Father, whose presence fills the void unknown with light and order; but to the man who has dethroned God, the spirit-land is, indeed, in the words of the Hebrew poet, “a land of darkness and the shadow of death,” without any order, where the light is as darkness. Life and death to him are haunted grounds, filled with goblin forms of vague and shadowy dread.

Legree had had the slumbering moral elements in him roused by his encounters with Tom,—roused, only to be resisted by the determinate force of evil; but still there was a thrill and commotion of the dark, inner world, produced by every word, or prayer, or hymn, that reacted in superstitious dread.

The influence of Cassy over him was of a strange and singular kind. He was her owner, her tyrant and tormentor. She was, as he knew, wholly, and without any possibility of help or redress, in his hands; and yet so it is, that the most brutal man cannot live in constant association with a strong female influence, and not be greatly controlled by it. When he first bought her, she was, as she said, a woman delicately bred; and then he crushed her, without scruple, beneath the foot of his brutality. But, as time, and debasing influences, and despair, hardened womanhood within her, and waked the fires of fiercer passions, she had become in a measure his mistress, and he alternately tyrannized over and dreaded her.

This influence had become more harassing and decided, since partial insanity had given a strange, weird, unsettled cast to all her words and language.

A night or two after this, Legree was sitting in the old sitting-room, by the side of a flickering wood fire, that threw uncertain glances round the room. It was a stormy, windy night, such as raises whole squadrons of nondescript noises in rickety old houses. Windows were rattling, shutters flapping, and wind carousing, rumbling, and tumbling down the chimney, and, every once in a while, puffing out smoke and ashes, as if a legion of spirits were coming after them. Legree had been casting up accounts and reading newspapers for some hours, while Cassy sat in the corner; sullenly looking into the fire. Legree laid down his paper, and seeing an old book lying on the table, which he had noticed Cassy reading, the first part of the evening, took it up, and began to turn it over. It was one of those collections of stories of bloody murders, ghostly legends, and supernatural visitations, which, coarsely got up and illustrated, have a strange fascination for one who once begins to read them.

Legree poohed and pished, but read, turning page after page, till, finally, after reading some way, he threw down the book, with an oath.

“You don’t believe in ghosts, do you, Cass?” said he, taking the tongs and settling the fire. “I thought you’d more sense than to let noises scare you.”

“No matter what I believe,” said Cassy, sullenly.

“Fellows used to try to frighten me with their yarns at sea,” said Legree. “Never come it round me that way. I’m too tough for any such trash, tell ye.”

Cassy sat looking intensely at him in the shadow of the corner. There was that strange light in her eyes that always impressed Legree with uneasiness.

“Them noises was nothing but rats and the wind,” said Legree. “Rats will make a devil of a noise. I used to hear ’em sometimes down in the hold of the ship; and wind,—Lord’s sake! ye can make anything out o’ wind.”

Cassy knew Legree was uneasy under her eyes, and, therefore, she made no answer, but sat fixing them on him, with that strange, unearthly expression, as before.

“Come, speak out, woman,—don’t you think so?” said Legree.

“Can rats walk down stairs, and come walking through the entry, and open a door when you’ve locked it and set a chair against it?” said Cassy; “and come walk, walk, walking right up to your bed, and put out their hand, so?”

Cassy kept her glittering eyes fixed on Legree, as she spoke, and he stared at her like a man in the nightmare, till, when she finished by laying her hand, icy cold, on his, he sprung back, with an oath.

“Woman! what do you mean? Nobody did?”

“O, no,—of course not,—did I say they did?” said Cassy, with a smile of chilling derision.

“But—did—have you really seen?—Come, Cass, what is it, now,—speak out!”

“You may sleep there, yourself,” said Cassy, “if you want to know.”

“Did it come from the garret, Cassy?”

“It,—what?” said Cassy.

“Why, what you told of—”

“I didn’t tell you anything,” said Cassy, with dogged sullenness.

Legree walked up and down the room, uneasily.

“I’ll have this yer thing examined. I’ll look into it, this very night. I’ll take my pistols—”

“Do,” said Cassy; “sleep in that room. I’d like to see you doing it. Fire your pistols,—do!”

Legree stamped his foot, and swore violently.

“Don’t swear,” said Cassy; “nobody knows who may be hearing you. Hark! What was that?”

“What?” said Legree, starting.

A heavy old Dutch clock, that stood in the corner of the room, began, and slowly struck twelve.

For some reason or other, Legree neither spoke nor moved; a vague horror fell on him; while Cassy, with a keen, sneering glitter in her eyes, stood looking at him, counting the strokes.

“Twelve o’clock; well now we’ll see,” said she, turning, and opening the door into the passage-way, and standing as if listening.

“Hark! What’s that?” said she, raising her finger.

“It’s only the wind,” said Legree. “Don’t you hear how cursedly it blows?”

“Simon, come here,” said Cassy, in a whisper, laying her hand on his, and leading him to the foot of the stairs: “do you know what that is? Hark!”

A wild shriek came pealing down the stairway. It came from the garret. Legree’s knees knocked together; his face grew white with fear.

“Hadn’t you better get your pistols?” said Cassy, with a sneer that froze Legree’s blood. “It’s time this thing was looked into, you know. I’d like to have you go up now; they’re at it.”

“I won’t go!” said Legree, with an oath.

“Why not? There an’t any such thing as ghosts, you know! Come!” and Cassy flitted up the winding stairway, laughing, and looking back after him. “Come on.”

“I believe you are the devil!” said Legree. “Come back you hag,—come back, Cass! You shan’t go!”

But Cassy laughed wildly, and fled on. He heard her open the entry doors that led to the garret. A wild gust of wind swept down, extinguishing the candle he held in his hand, and with it the fearful, unearthly screams; they seemed to be shrieked in his very ear.

Legree fled frantically into the parlor, whither, in a few moments, he was followed by Cassy, pale, calm, cold as an avenging spirit, and with that same fearful light in her eye.

“I hope you are satisfied,” said she.

“Blast you, Cass!” said Legree.

“What for?” said Cassy. “I only went up and shut the doors. What’s the matter with that garret, Simon, do you suppose?” said she.

“None of your business!” said Legree.

“O, it an’t? Well,” said Cassy, “at any rate, I’m glad I don’t sleep under it.”

Anticipating the rising of the wind, that very evening, Cassy had been up and opened the garret window. Of course, the moment the doors were opened, the wind had drafted down, and extinguished the light.

This may serve as a specimen of the game that Cassy played with Legree, until he would sooner have put his head into a lion’s mouth than to have explored that garret. Meanwhile, in the night, when everybody else was asleep, Cassy slowly and carefully accumulated there a stock of provisions sufficient to afford subsistence for some time; she transferred, article by article, a greater part of her own and Emmeline’s wardrobe. All things being arranged, they only waited a fitting opportunity to put their plan in execution.

By cajoling Legree, and taking advantage of a good-natured interval, Cassy had got him to take her with him to the neighboring town, which was situated directly on the Red River. With a memory sharpened to almost preternatural clearness, she remarked every turn in the road, and formed a mental estimate of the time to be occupied in traversing it.

At the time when all was matured for action, our readers may, perhaps, like to look behind the scenes, and see the final coup d’├ętat.

It was now near evening, Legree had been absent, on a ride to a neighboring farm. For many days Cassy had been unusually gracious and accommodating in her humors; and Legree and she had been, apparently, on the best of terms. At present, we may behold her and Emmeline in the room of the latter, busy in sorting and arranging two small bundles.

“There, these will be large enough,” said Cassy. “Now put on your bonnet, and let’s start; it’s just about the right time.”

“Why, they can see us yet,” said Emmeline.

“I mean they shall,” said Cassy, coolly. “Don’t you know that they must have their chase after us, at any rate? The way of the thing is to be just this:—We will steal out of the back door, and run down by the quarters. Sambo or Quimbo will be sure to see us. They will give chase, and we will get into the swamp; then, they can’t follow us any further till they go up and give the alarm, and turn out the dogs, and so on; and, while they are blundering round, and tumbling over each other, as they always do, you and I will slip along to the creek, that runs back of the house, and wade along in it, till we get opposite the back door. That will put the dogs all at fault; for scent won’t lie in the water. Every one will run out of the house to look after us, and then we’ll whip in at the back door, and up into the garret, where I’ve got a nice bed made up in one of the great boxes. We must stay in that garret a good while, for, I tell you, he will raise heaven and earth after us. He’ll muster some of those old overseers on the other plantations, and have a great hunt; and they’ll go over every inch of ground in that swamp. He makes it his boast that nobody ever got away from him. So let him hunt at his leisure.”

“Cassy, how well you have planned it!” said Emmeline. “Who ever would have thought of it, but you?”

There was neither pleasure nor exultation in Cassy’s eyes,—only a despairing firmness.

“Come,” she said, reaching her hand to Emmeline.

The two fugitives glided noiselessly from the house, and flitted, through the gathering shadows of evening, along by the quarters. The crescent moon, set like a silver signet in the western sky, delayed a little the approach of night. As Cassy expected, when quite near the verge of the swamps that encircled the plantation, they heard a voice calling to them to stop. It was not Sambo, however, but Legree, who was pursuing them with violent execrations. At the sound, the feebler spirit of Emmeline gave way; and, laying hold of Cassy’s arm, she said, “O, Cassy, I’m going to faint!”

“If you do, I’ll kill you!” said Cassy, drawing a small, glittering stiletto, and flashing it before the eyes of the girl.

The diversion accomplished the purpose. Emmeline did not faint, and succeeded in plunging, with Cassy, into a part of the labyrinth of swamp, so deep and dark that it was perfectly hopeless for Legree to think of following them, without assistance.

“Well,” said he, chuckling brutally; “at any rate, they’ve got themselves into a trap now—the baggage! They’re safe enough. They shall sweat for it!”

“Hulloa, there! Sambo! Quimbo! All hands!” called Legree, coming to the quarters, when the men and women were just returning from work. “There’s two runaways in the swamps. I’ll give five dollars to any nigger as catches ’em. Turn out the dogs! Turn out Tiger, and Fury, and the rest!”

The sensation produced by this news was immediate. Many of the men sprang forward, officiously, to offer their services, either from the hope of the reward, or from that cringing subserviency which is one of the most baleful effects of slavery. Some ran one way, and some another. Some were for getting flambeaux of pine-knots. Some were uncoupling the dogs, whose hoarse, savage bay added not a little to the animation of the scene.

“Mas’r, shall we shoot ’em, if can’t cotch ’em?” said Sambo, to whom his master brought out a rifle.

“You may fire on Cass, if you like; it’s time she was gone to the devil, where she belongs; but the gal, not,” said Legree. “And now, boys, be spry and smart. Five dollars for him that gets ’em; and a glass of spirits to every one of you, anyhow.”

The whole band, with the glare of blazing torches, and whoop, and shout, and savage yell, of man and beast, proceeded down to the swamp, followed, at some distance, by every servant in the house. The establishment was, of a consequence, wholly deserted, when Cassy and Emmeline glided into it the back way. The whooping and shouts of their pursuers were still filling the air; and, looking from the sitting-room windows, Cassy and Emmeline could see the troop, with their flambeaux, just dispersing themselves along the edge of the swamp.

“See there!” said Emmeline, pointing to Cassy; “the hunt is begun! Look how those lights dance about! Hark! the dogs! Don’t you hear? If we were only there, our chances wouldn’t be worth a picayune. O, for pity’s sake, do let’s hide ourselves. Quick!”

“There’s no occasion for hurry,” said Cassy, coolly; “they are all out after the hunt,—that’s the amusement of the evening! We’ll go up stairs, by and by. Meanwhile,” said she, deliberately taking a key from the pocket of a coat that Legree had thrown down in his hurry, “meanwhile I shall take something to pay our passage.”

She unlocked the desk, took from it a roll of bills, which she counted over rapidly.

“O, don’t let’s do that!” said Emmeline.

“Don’t!” said Cassy; “why not? Would you have us starve in the swamps, or have that that will pay our way to the free states. Money will do anything, girl.” And, as she spoke, she put the money in her bosom.

“It would be stealing,” said Emmeline, in a distressed whisper.

“Stealing!” said Cassy, with a scornful laugh. “They who steal body and soul needn’t talk to us. Every one of these bills is stolen,—stolen from poor, starving, sweating creatures, who must go to the devil at last, for his profit. Let him talk about stealing! But come, we may as well go up garret; I’ve got a stock of candles there, and some books to pass away the time. You may be pretty sure they won’t come there to inquire after us. If they do, I’ll play ghost for them.”

When Emmeline reached the garret, she found an immense box, in which some heavy pieces of furniture had once been brought, turned on its side, so that the opening faced the wall, or rather the eaves. Cassy lit a small lamp, and creeping round under the eaves, they established themselves in it. It was spread with a couple of small mattresses and some pillows; a box near by was plentifully stored with candles, provisions, and all the clothing necessary to their journey, which Cassy had arranged into bundles of an astonishingly small compass.

“There,” said Cassy, as she fixed the lamp into a small hook, which she had driven into the side of the box for that purpose; “this is to be our home for the present. How do you like it?”

“Are you sure they won’t come and search the garret?”

“I’d like to see Simon Legree doing that,” said Cassy. “No, indeed; he will be too glad to keep away. As to the servants, they would any of them stand and be shot, sooner than show their faces here.”

Somewhat reassured, Emmeline settled herself back on her pillow.

“What did you mean, Cassy, by saying you would kill me?” she said, simply.

“I meant to stop your fainting,” said Cassy, “and I did do it. And now I tell you, Emmeline, you must make up your mind not to faint, let what will come; there’s no sort of need of it. If I had not stopped you, that wretch might have had his hands on you now.”

Emmeline shuddered.

The two remained some time in silence. Cassy busied herself with a French book; Emmeline, overcome with the exhaustion, fell into a doze, and slept some time. She was awakened by loud shouts and outcries, the tramp of horses’ feet, and the baying of dogs. She started up, with a faint shriek.

“Only the hunt coming back,” said Cassy, coolly; “never fear. Look out of this knot-hole. Don’t you see ’em all down there? Simon has to give up, for this night. Look, how muddy his horse is, flouncing about in the swamp; the dogs, too, look rather crestfallen. Ah, my good sir, you’ll have to try the race again and again,—the game isn’t there.”

“O, don’t speak a word!” said Emmeline; “what if they should hear you?”

“If they do hear anything, it will make them very particular to keep away,” said Cassy. “No danger; we may make any noise we please, and it will only add to the effect.”

At length the stillness of midnight settled down over the house. Legree, cursing his ill luck, and vowing dire vengeance on the morrow, went to bed.

CHAPTER XL.
The Martyr

“Deem not the just by Heaven forgot!
    Though life its common gifts deny,—
Though, with a crushed and bleeding heart,
    And spurned of man, he goes to die!
For God hath marked each sorrowing day,
    And numbered every bitter tear,
And heaven’s long years of bliss shall pay
    For all his children suffer here.” BRYANT.


The longest way must have its close,—the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning. An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night, and the night of the just to an eternal day. We have walked with our humble friend thus far in the valley of slavery; first through flowery fields of ease and indulgence, then through heart-breaking separations from all that man holds dear. Again, we have waited with him in a sunny island, where generous hands concealed his chains with flowers; and, lastly, we have followed him when the last ray of earthly hope went out in night, and seen how, in the blackness of earthly darkness, the firmament of the unseen has blazed with stars of new and significant lustre.

The morning-star now stands over the tops of the mountains, and gales and breezes, not of earth, show that the gates of day are unclosing.

The escape of Cassy and Emmeline irritated the before surly temper of Legree to the last degree; and his fury, as was to be expected, fell upon the defenceless head of Tom. When he hurriedly announced the tidings among his hands, there was a sudden light in Tom’s eye, a sudden upraising of his hands, that did not escape him. He saw that he did not join the muster of the pursuers. He thought of forcing him to do it; but, having had, of old, experience of his inflexibility when commanded to take part in any deed of inhumanity, he would not, in his hurry, stop to enter into any conflict with him.

Tom, therefore, remained behind, with a few who had learned of him to pray, and offered up prayers for the escape of the fugitives.

When Legree returned, baffled and disappointed, all the long-working hatred of his soul towards his slave began to gather in a deadly and desperate form. Had not this man braved him,—steadily, powerfully, resistlessly,—ever since he bought him? Was there not a spirit in him which, silent as it was, burned on him like the fires of perdition?

“I hate him!” said Legree, that night, as he sat up in his bed; “I hate him! And isn’t he MINE? Can’t I do what I like with him? Who’s to hinder, I wonder?” And Legree clenched his fist, and shook it, as if he had something in his hands that he could rend in pieces.

But, then, Tom was a faithful, valuable servant; and, although Legree hated him the more for that, yet the consideration was still somewhat of a restraint to him.

The next morning, he determined to say nothing, as yet; to assemble a party, from some neighboring plantations, with dogs and guns; to surround the swamp, and go about the hunt systematically. If it succeeded, well and good; if not, he would summon Tom before him, and—his teeth clenched and his blood boiled—then he would break the fellow down, or—there was a dire inward whisper, to which his soul assented.

Ye say that the interest of the master is a sufficient safeguard for the slave. In the fury of man’s mad will, he will wittingly, and with open eye, sell his own soul to the devil to gain his ends; and will he be more careful of his neighbor’s body?

“Well,” said Cassy, the next day, from the garret, as she reconnoitred through the knot-hole, “the hunt’s going to begin again, today!”

Three or four mounted horsemen were curvetting about, on the space in front of the house; and one or two leashes of strange dogs were struggling with the negroes who held them, baying and barking at each other.

The men are, two of them, overseers of plantations in the vicinity; and others were some of Legree’s associates at the tavern-bar of a neighboring city, who had come for the interest of the sport. A more hard-favored set, perhaps, could not be imagined. Legree was serving brandy, profusely, round among them, as also among the negroes, who had been detailed from the various plantations for this service; for it was an object to make every service of this kind, among the negroes, as much of a holiday as possible.

Cassy placed her ear at the knot-hole; and, as the morning air blew directly towards the house, she could overhear a good deal of the conversation. A grave sneer overcast the dark, severe gravity of her face, as she listened, and heard them divide out the ground, discuss the rival merits of the dogs, give orders about firing, and the treatment of each, in case of capture.

Cassy drew back; and, clasping her hands, looked upward, and said, “O, great Almighty God! we are all sinners; but what have we done, more than all the rest of the world, that we should be treated so?”

There was a terrible earnestness in her face and voice, as she spoke.

“If it wasn’t for you, child,” she said, looking at Emmeline, “I’d go out to them; and I’d thank any one of them that would shoot me down; for what use will freedom be to me? Can it give me back my children, or make me what I used to be?”

Emmeline, in her child-like simplicity, was half afraid of the dark moods of Cassy. She looked perplexed, but made no answer. She only took her hand, with a gentle, caressing movement.

“Don’t!” said Cassy, trying to draw it away; “you’ll get me to loving you; and I never mean to love anything, again!”

“Poor Cassy!” said Emmeline, “don’t feel so! If the Lord gives us liberty, perhaps he’ll give you back your daughter; at any rate, I’ll be like a daughter to you. I know I’ll never see my poor old mother again! I shall love you, Cassy, whether you love me or not!”

The gentle, child-like spirit conquered. Cassy sat down by her, put her arm round her neck, stroked her soft, brown hair; and Emmeline then wondered at the beauty of her magnificent eyes, now soft with tears.

“O, Em!” said Cassy, “I’ve hungered for my children, and thirsted for them, and my eyes fail with longing for them! Here! here!” she said, striking her breast, “it’s all desolate, all empty! If God would give me back my children, then I could pray.”

“You must trust him, Cassy,” said Emmeline; “he is our Father!”

“His wrath is upon us,” said Cassy; “he has turned away in anger.”

“No, Cassy! He will be good to us! Let us hope in Him,” said Emmeline,—“I always have had hope.”

The hunt was long, animated, and thorough, but unsuccessful; and, with grave, ironic exultation, Cassy looked down on Legree, as, weary and dispirited, he alighted from his horse.

“Now, Quimbo,” said Legree, as he stretched himself down in the sitting-room, “you jest go and walk that Tom up here, right away! The old cuss is at the bottom of this yer whole matter; and I’ll have it out of his old black hide, or I’ll know the reason why!”

Sambo and Quimbo, both, though hating each other, were joined in one mind by a no less cordial hatred of Tom. Legree had told them, at first, that he had bought him for a general overseer, in his absence; and this had begun an ill will, on their part, which had increased, in their debased and servile natures, as they saw him becoming obnoxious to their master’s displeasure. Quimbo, therefore, departed, with a will, to execute his orders.

Tom heard the message with a forewarning heart; for he knew all the plan of the fugitives’ escape, and the place of their present concealment;—he knew the deadly character of the man he had to deal with, and his despotic power. But he felt strong in God to meet death, rather than betray the helpless.

He sat his basket down by the row, and, looking up, said, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit! Thou hast redeemed me, oh Lord God of truth!” and then quietly yielded himself to the rough, brutal grasp with which Quimbo seized him.

“Ay, ay!” said the giant, as he dragged him along; “ye’ll cotch it, now! I’ll boun’ Mas’r’s back ’s up high! No sneaking out, now! Tell ye, ye’ll get it, and no mistake! See how ye’ll look, now, helpin’ Mas’r’s niggers to run away! See what ye’ll get!”

The savage words none of them reached that ear!—a higher voice there was saying, “Fear not them that kill the body, and, after that, have no more that they can do.” Nerve and bone of that poor man’s body vibrated to those words, as if touched by the finger of God; and he felt the strength of a thousand souls in one. As he passed along, the trees and bushes, the huts of his servitude, the whole scene of his degradation, seemed to whirl by him as the landscape by the rushing ear. His soul throbbed,—his home was in sight,—and the hour of release seemed at hand.

“Well, Tom!” said Legree, walking up, and seizing him grimly by the collar of his coat, and speaking through his teeth, in a paroxysm of determined rage, “do you know I’ve made up my mind to KILL YOU?”

“It’s very likely, Mas’r,” said Tom, calmly.

“I have,” said Legree, with a grim, terrible calmness, “done—just—that—thing, Tom, unless you’ll tell me what you know about these yer gals!”

Tom stood silent.

“D’ye hear?” said Legree, stamping, with a roar like that of an incensed lion. “Speak!”

“I han’t got nothing to tell, Mas’r,” said Tom, with a slow, firm, deliberate utterance.

“Do you dare to tell me, ye old black Christian, ye don’t know?” said Legree.

Tom was silent.

“Speak!” thundered Legree, striking him furiously. “Do you know anything?”

“I know, Mas’r; but I can’t tell anything. I can die!”

Legree drew in a long breath; and, suppressing his rage, took Tom by the arm, and, approaching his face almost to his, said, in a terrible voice, “Hark ’e, Tom!—ye think, ’cause I’ve let you off before, I don’t mean what I say; but, this time, I’ve made up my mind, and counted the cost. You’ve always stood it out again’ me: now, I’ll conquer ye, or kill ye!—one or t’ other. I’ll count every drop of blood there is in you, and take ’em, one by one, till ye give up!”

Tom looked up to his master, and answered, “Mas’r, if you was sick, or in trouble, or dying, and I could save ye, I’d give ye my heart’s blood; and, if taking every drop of blood in this poor old body would save your precious soul, I’d give ’em freely, as the Lord gave his for me. O, Mas’r! don’t bring this great sin on your soul! It will hurt you more than ’t will me! Do the worst you can, my troubles’ll be over soon; but, if ye don’t repent, yours won’t never end!”

Like a strange snatch of heavenly music, heard in the lull of a tempest, this burst of feeling made a moment’s blank pause. Legree stood aghast, and looked at Tom; and there was such a silence, that the tick of the old clock could be heard, measuring, with silent touch, the last moments of mercy and probation to that hardened heart.

It was but a moment. There was one hesitating pause,—one irresolute, relenting thrill,—and the spirit of evil came back, with seven-fold vehemence; and Legree, foaming with rage, smote his victim to the ground.

Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart. What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear. What brother-man and brother-Christian must suffer, cannot be told us, even in our secret chamber, it so harrows the soul! And yet, oh my country! these things are done under the shadow of thy laws! O, Christ! thy church sees them, almost in silence!

But, of old, there was One whose suffering changed an instrument of torture, degradation and shame, into a symbol of glory, honor, and immortal life; and, where His spirit is, neither degrading stripes, nor blood, nor insults, can make the Christian’s last struggle less than glorious.

Was he alone, that long night, whose brave, loving spirit was bearing up, in that old shed, against buffeting and brutal stripes?

Nay! There stood by him ONE,—seen by him alone,—“like unto the Son of God.”

The tempter stood by him, too,—blinded by furious, despotic will,—every moment pressing him to shun that agony by the betrayal of the innocent. But the brave, true heart was firm on the Eternal Rock. Like his Master, he knew that, if he saved others, himself he could not save; nor could utmost extremity wring from him words, save of prayers and holy trust.

“He’s most gone, Mas’r,” said Sambo, touched, in spite of himself, by the patience of his victim.

“Pay away, till he gives up! Give it to him!—give it to him!” shouted Legree. “I’ll take every drop of blood he has, unless he confesses!”

Tom opened his eyes, and looked upon his master. “Ye poor miserable critter!” he said, “there ain’t no more ye can do! I forgive ye, with all my soul!” and he fainted entirely away.

“I b’lieve, my soul, he’s done for, finally,” said Legree, stepping forward, to look at him. “Yes, he is! Well, his mouth’s shut up, at last,—that’s one comfort!”

Yes, Legree; but who shall shut up that voice in thy soul? that soul, past repentance, past prayer, past hope, in whom the fire that never shall be quenched is already burning!

Yet Tom was not quite gone. His wondrous words and pious prayers had struck upon the hearts of the imbruted blacks, who had been the instruments of cruelty upon him; and, the instant Legree withdrew, they took him down, and, in their ignorance, sought to call him back to life,—as if that were any favor to him.

“Sartin, we ’s been doin’ a drefful wicked thing!” said Sambo; “hopes Mas’r’ll have to ’count for it, and not we.”

They washed his wounds,—they provided a rude bed, of some refuse cotton, for him to lie down on; and one of them, stealing up to the house, begged a drink of brandy of Legree, pretending that he was tired, and wanted it for himself. He brought it back, and poured it down Tom’s throat.

“O, Tom!” said Quimbo, “we’s been awful wicked to ye!”

“I forgive ye, with all my heart!” said Tom, faintly.

“O, Tom! do tell us who is Jesus, anyhow?” said Sambo;—“Jesus, that’s been a standin’ by you so, all this night!—Who is he?”

The word roused the failing, fainting spirit. He poured forth a few energetic sentences of that wondrous One,—his life, his death, his everlasting presence, and power to save.

They wept,—both the two savage men.

“Why didn’t I never hear this before?” said Sambo; “but I do believe!—I can’t help it! Lord Jesus, have mercy on us!”

“Poor critters!” said Tom, “I’d be willing to bar all I have, if it’ll only bring ye to Christ! O, Lord! give me these two more souls, I pray!”

That prayer was answered!